The Intercept

New Evidence Undermines EU Report Tying Refugee Rescue Group To Smugglers

2 April 2017 - 8:50am

Last month, an Italian prosecutor opened an investigation into whether nonprofits working to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean had connections to smuggling operations.

“We want to know who is behind all these humanitarian groups that have proliferated in the last few years,” the prosecutor said, and “where all the money they have is coming from.”

The implication of the investigation is inflammatory: Why would humanitarian groups want to have anything do with human traffickers or smugglers?

But the idea that nonprofits are directly involved in smuggling people into Europe has swept through conservative media in recent months, fueled by a news report that the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, had “accused charities operating in the Mediterranean of colluding with people smugglers.” The report, which appeared in the Financial Times in December, didn’t name any particular charities and it quickly started to show holes; within a week, the paper issued a correction and Frontex distanced itself from the accusations.

Despite the walk-back, the story stuck, and the Italian prosecutor cited Frontex’s concerns about “collusion with smugglers” in announcing his investigation.

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The Intercept has obtained a full copy of the Frontex report on which the Financial Times story was based. The report, along with video evidence and interviews with rescue workers who witnessed the incident described in it, further undermine the allegations of collusion. In the report, Frontex does say that people were smuggled to Europe via an NGO ship. But the report provides little evidence for the allegation, and what it does contain is contradicted by the rescue crew.

The confusion shows the fraught conditions of rescue work in the Mediterranean — where smugglers and opportunists do take advantage of refugees and their rescuers, but where the situation is not always so cut and dry. In dire rescues, if a nonprofit accepts help from nearby Libyan boats, they may have no idea who they are working with.

“It’s not us that force the people on the boats and cause them to be out there. But once they are out there, we all have to apply maritime law,¨ said Ruben Neugebauer, who works with the group Sea-Watch. “If there is a boat in distress, we are obliged to help, but also a potential smuggler is also obliged to help.”

Neugebauer, echoing others who were unwilling to go on the record for fear of jeopardizing their relationship with Frontex, said he believes that the leak to the Financial Times is part of a deliberate effort to move nonprofits out of the search and rescue area near Libya.

“The accusation that comes from Frontex, it’s no coincidence,” says Neugebauer. “We think it’s the start of a new strategy to criminalize NGOs, and to make a public picture of NGOs cooperating with smugglers.”

Frontex has publicly put forward the position that rescue patrols near the Libyan coast encourage the business of smuggling, but a spokesman for the agency denied that it had accused nonprofits of working with smugglers. “No, we don’t [believe that] and we never said that,” said Ewa Monclure, a spokesperson for the agency, when asked about the leaked report.

Refugees sit on a rubber boat alongside a Libyan coast guard patrol. While the European Union is working to train the coast guard to catch people smugglers, Libyan authorities have also been implicated in smuggling.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

The Engine Fishers

The confidential report from Frontex’s intelligence-gathering arm, the Risk Analysis Unit, is dated December 9, 2016. It mentions only one nonprofit by name: LifeBoat, a small German organization dedicated to picking up refugees stranded at sea between Libya and Italy. The report describes one incident where two people were transferred to LifeBoat’s rescue ship, Minden, by “persons pretending to be fisherman” on a small boat flying the Libyan flag. It states that the two rescued migrants said that the crew of the Libyan boat were “people smugglers.” From this, Frontex asserts that this was “the first reported case where criminal networks directly approached an EU vessel and smuggled the migrants directly into Europe using the NGO vessel.” (The report never outright accuses LifeBoat of colluding with smugglers.)

The sourcing is vague; at one point, the report cites “Italian authorities,” but it is not clear who, whether Frontex or Italian investigators, or both, actually debriefed the migrants, and when. Advocates have complained that these debriefings sometimes take place in coercive situations, and refugees feel pressured to name smugglers or inform on other refugees, believing that it would help their asylum petitions.

Members of the LifeBoat crew told The Intercept that the Libyan men were more likely locals known as “engine fishers,” who make a living scavenging the engines from refugee rafts.

Susanna Salm-Hain, director of LifeBoat, said that it’s “quite a normal thing” to have engine fishers around during these rescues, most of which take place between 12 and 24 miles from the Libyan coast. The engine fishers wait for boats full of refugees to arrive in international waters and then steal their engines to sell back on land. (Traffickers don’t pilot the refugee boats themselves; usually, one of the passengers drives in exchange for a free ride.) According to crew from LifeBoat,Médecins Sans Frontières, Sea-Watch and other nonprofits working in the area, when there are no refugee boats to scavenge, engine fishers are also often just out fishing, for fish.

When a migrant boat is sinking, said Christian Brensing, captain of the Minden, the engine fishers generally arrive much faster than the larger boats. They have helped to distribute life vests and, in a handful of cases, pulled people out of the water and transferred them to rescue ships.

“It’s not about working with engine fishers. It’s about accepting that they are helping,” Brensing explains, “because they are only helping when the people in the water are in distress — when they are already in the water.”

Adam Marlatt, a LifeBoat crew member, remembers the incident described in the Frontex report clearly. It was November 22, and LifeBoat had just finished their sixth rescue of the day. Marlatt, out in an inflatable raft used to transfer people from sinking vessels to a main ship like the Minden, came across a small vessel with five people aboard, flying the Libyan flag. Marlatt told the The Intercept he recognized the three crew of the Libyan boat from previous rescues, and believes they are engine fishers.

In video from the camera mounted on Marlatt’s helmet, the crew of the Libyan boat flag him down, and the driver signals to two people sitting in the boat with him, looking huddled and wet. In broken English, he says that he found them in the water. Marlatt radios to the Minden for instructions and then takes the two men aboard his raft. Marlatt then drives off toward the Topaz Responder, the ship of another nonprofit, called Migrant Offshore Aid Station, or MOAS. Later in the video, the two men are seen boarding Topaz Responder — not the Minden, as the Frontex report claims. (It’s not clear how Frontex got the detail wrong; MOAS appears to have provided them with some information, as a photo sourced to them appears in the report. Asked for comment, a MOAS spokesperson said that they did not have any information about the incident or the report.)

Marlatt said the engine fishers had clearly just pulled two people out of the water. “You could tell, one because they were soaked in water and two, because one of the guys had a severely dislocated shoulder…They had been trying to swim for a while.”

Refugees disembark in Italy from a rescue ship run by a nonprofit. An average of 3,500 people have died each year while trying to make the journey to Italy from North Africa since 2014.

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Ambiguous Allies

Whatever happened in this particular incident, the nonprofits are in a bind. Some charities, as well as the Italian coast guard, regularly receive calls from the Libyan coast, presumably from smugglers, to announce the departure of refugee boats, and they base their rescue operations on that information. Engine fishers, fisherman and other locals will also often alert the nonprofits working at sea to refugee boats on their way from Libya.

In the sea near Libya, it’s not always clear who is who. Martlett has seen engine fishers armed with automatic rifles, and his colleague Salm-Hain remembered seeing one wearing a Libyan coast guard uniform. Neugebauer, of Sea-Watch, recalled an incident where armed members of the Libyan coast guard ordered them to take two Libyan men aboard. In that case, the transfer had been approved by the Italian coast guard; he called it the Libyan coast guard’s “luxury line to Europe.” The Frontex report also states that “Libya’s local authorities are involved in smuggling activities,” citing the testimony of migrants, the Italian coast guard, and European military forces, all describing smugglers in police uniforms.

In the case of a direct transfer from a Libyan boat, the nonprofits argue that it’s their duty to pick up all distress cases that they encounter, and that might mean working with whomever is nearby.

Neugebauer offered a hypothetical: ¨[Frontex] could then film us, or a smuggler boat, putting people on board of the Sea-Watch and they would have clearly cooperated with a smuggler,” he said. “But in the same moment, we would have broken the law if we had not [saved them].”

Frontex’s goals and those of charity operations off the Libyan coast are directly at odds. As The Intercept has reported, Frontex keeps its patrols closer to the Italian coast, far from the zone where most shipwrecks actually occur. Frontex maintains that humanitarian rescue operations near Libya encourage smugglers to send them out in in unseaworthy boats, counting on the fact that they will be picked up quickly.

Ewa Monclure, the Frontex spokesperson, argued that NGO presence increases migration flows.

“There were never more [NGO] boats closer to Libya,¨ she said, “and the numbers of deaths are higher this year, by thousands.”

Still, Monclure would not say whether Frontex wanted NGOs to stop patrolling the Libyan coast.

In its own operations, Frontex seems to face the same quandary as the NGOs. In December Frontex announced that they would begin training the Libyan coast guard to go after smugglers. At the same time, in the internal report dated just days before, Frontex was circulating allegations that Libyan authorities were working with those same smugglers they’re now teaching them to catch.

Indeed, at sea, it’s hard to know who you’re working with.

Top photo: Refugees sit on a rubber boat off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean, before being rescued by the ship Topaz Responder, run by the non-profit MOAS and Italian Red Cross.

The post New Evidence Undermines EU Report Tying Refugee Rescue Group To Smugglers appeared first on The Intercept.

João Doria, como prefeito, é um grande representante comercial

2 April 2017 - 8:50am

Alguns dos colunistas mais prestigiados (Elio Gaspari, Eliane Cantanhêde) estão muito preocupados com a possibilidade do mandato de Temer ser cassado no TSE. Os donos do Estadão também estão. Isso paralisaria o país e traria instabilidade política. Para quem vive no mundo encantado do chapabranquismo, não estamos paralisados e nadamos de braçada em estabilidade política. De fato, o Brasil não está paralisado, mas andando para trás em alta velocidade e atropelando em poucos meses os direitos sociais e trabalhistas conquistados através de décadas.

Pelo histórico recente de decisões judiciais favoráveis ao grupo político que tomou o poder, as chances de Temer ser derrubado do cargo que usurpou são remotíssimas. Quem tem Gilmar Mendes tem tudo. Há quem acredite na possibilidade do golpe dentro do golpe, com o PSDB articulando para derrubar o presidente. Duvido. Nem FHC conseguiu implantar o plano de governo tucano com tanta agilidade e maestria como Temer, não há motivos para desfazer esse casamento agora.

Independente do imbróglio no TSE, a corrida eleitoral de 2018 já começou. Depois de ficar meses à espreita, Marina da Silva saiu de uma longa hibernação e ressurgiu no horário político vendendo sua usual ladainha messiânica. Como sempre, ela diz não ter nada a ver com PSDB, PMDB e PT – mas se juntou a Aécio no segundo turno das últimas eleições e apoiou o impeachment capitaneado por Cunha e sua gangue.

Luciano Huck, o apresentador que vez ou outra tem sua candidatura ventilada, apareceu essa semana dizendo que não descarta a possibilidade de se candidatar. Numa entrevista para a Folha enfileirou uma série de bobagens que devem soar como música para seus fãs. Em uma delas, apontou João Doria Junior como inspiração:

“A hora em que aparecer uma liderança que faça as pessoas acreditarem que vai ter um novo capítulo de ética, de altruísmo, junta todo mundo. São Paulo é um bom exemplo.(…) João não é político tradicional, não tem os vícios nem coisas debaixo do tapete que a velha política teve. Isso faz diferença.”

Em tempos de negação da política e pós-verdades, não há nenhum nome mais sintonizado com o zeitgeist do que João Doria Jr, o prefeito que mal completou 3 meses de gestão e já se apresenta como presidenciável. Ao rebater as críticas de FHC sobre uma possível candidatura sua em 2018, o prefeito ficou bravo e disse que o ex-presidente costuma errar seus prognósticos. Difícil não enxergar nessa reação um anúncio da sua pré-candidatura.O que temos aqui? Um político com os mesmos “vícios e coisas debaixo do tapete da velha política” que Huck tanto despreza. Me ajuda, Luciano!Ao contrário do que Huck diz, Doria é, sim, um político tradicional no mais desqualificado sentido do adjetivo. Sua estreia no faroeste político brasileiro foi proporcionada pelo ex-presidente José Sarney, talvez o maior símbolo vivo da “velha política” do país. 

No comando da Embratur nos anos 80, a atuação de Doria no comando da estatal não poderia ser mais viciada. Segundo a Agência Lupa, especializada em checagem de fatos e dados, à época, ele foi investigado por uma estranha contabilização de um repasse de verbas, pelo pagamento de diárias de hotel e passagens aéreas feitos por uma empresa privada a servidores do órgão que já haviam recebido por elas, e outros “negócios ruinosos” – palavras do TCU. O que temos aqui? Um político com os mesmos “vícios e coisas debaixo do tapete da velha política” que Huck tanto despreza. Me ajuda, Luciano!

O auto-intitulado João Trabalhador já encarnou diversas profissões por alguns minutos para “dar o exemplo”, mas não consegue desencarnar da figura nada exemplar do playboy brigão. Ele bem que tenta se apresentar como um gestor sóbrio e corretinho, mas não é de hoje que tem exibido um destempero que não se encaixa no personagem. Como um garotinho mimado, Doria não aceita ser contrariado. Brigou nas prévias do PSDB, com folião no carnaval, com FHC, com Lula, com Ciro Gomes e briga com qualquer paulistano que se manifeste de alguma forma que o contrarie. É o nosso Trumpzinho mesmo! Essa semana ele brigou com a Amazon por causa de uma propaganda da empresa em que há uma crítica indireta à prefeitura, que pintou muros grafitados de cinza.

Mas brigar com empresas não é do feitio de Junior, pelo contrário. Sua influência no mundo dos negócios tem trazido várias empresas para ajudar a prefeitura com doações sem, claro, nenhuma contrapartida declarada. O prefeito teria tocado o coração desses empresários e subvertido aquela máxima capitalista: “não existe almoço grátis”.

Segundo a Agência Lupa, das 21 doações recebidas, apenas 9 disponibilizavam os valores arrecadados no Portal da Transparência. Algumas são muito curiosas. A parceria com a Microsoft, que doou R$ 15 milhões em softwares e serviços, aparentemente é uma coisa muito bonita. Mas quem decidiu que os programas usados pelo sistema de ensino público paulistano devem continuar amarrados à empresa? Houve debate? Por que não trocar por Linux? A escolha do tipo de licença que será usada é essencialmente política, mas Doria pinta como doação e, como se sabe, cavalo dado não se olha os dentes. Não se sabe se essa é a melhor decisão para o ensino público, mas é certo que a Microsoft se beneficiou muito de ter seu nome ligado ao altruísmo nas manchetes dos jornais.

E a propaganda do programa Cidade Linda durante jogo da seleção? Por que Sidney Oliveira, dono da Ultrafarma, pagaria (um valor não divulgado) para promover nacionalmente um programa municipal?

Sidney e o prefeito são amigos próximos. Certa vez, antes de começar uma reunião na prefeitura, Doria gravou um vídeo apresentando as vitaminas da marca. É possível ver sacolas estampadas com o logo da empresa em cima da mesa. Até o vice-prefeito aparece sorrindo e segurando um frasco de vitamina e fazendo jóinha. É claro que o Sidney compartilhou o vídeo em seu Facebook agradecendo o prefeito.  Parece que o João Trabalhador e seu secretariado perderam um tempinho do trabalho para serem garotos-propaganda da empresa de um amigo do prefeito. Doria ainda não se livrou do Show Business – o programa sobre negócios que apresentava na Band. 

Nessa semana, o prefeito reuniu presidentes dos principais bancos do país e pediu doações para o financiamento de creches. O objetivo é levantar R$ 120 milhões. Tudo muito lindo e fofo, não fosse o fato de que esses bancos têm dívidas bilionárias com a prefeitura. Dos 10 maiores devedores da prefeitura, 7 são bancos. Só Santander e Itaú devem quase R$ 7 bilhões. O prefeito deveria reunir as empresas para cobrar dívidas, que são infinitamente maiores que as doações. O problema é que isso não teria o mesmo efeito publicitário para os bancos. É muito mais bonito sair na foto fazendo doação do que pagando o calote, não é mesmo?

Bruno Covas (PSDB), vice-prefeito de São Paulo, apresenta vitamina da marca do amigo do prefeito


Todo mundo tem direito de ser ingênuo e acreditar nessa solidariedade toda, mas não dá pra cair nesse barulho. A Lide, empresa de lobby do prefeito, fazia a ponte entre governos e empresas. Parece que agora Doria só mudou de lado no tabuleiro.

A falta de transparência não se resume às doações. A tara privatizadora de Doria está tão agressiva que ele se recusa dar mais satisfações sobre a venda do patrimônio público. A Folha convidou a prefeitura e especialistas para debater o assunto, mas Doria optou por não enviar nenhum representante. A opinião unânime dos debatedores é a de que o projeto de privatização “vem sendo tocado de maneira pouco transparente e aparenta ter pressa pouco condizente com a realidade.”

Doria saiu da Lide, mas a Lide não saiu de Doria. Imaginem o que ele não vai negociar se chegar ao Planalto.

The post João Doria, como prefeito, é um grande representante comercial appeared first on The Intercept.

O Facebook não protegeu 30 milhões de usuários de terem dados acessados por uma das empresas da campanha de Trump

31 March 2017 - 2:49pm

Em 2014, as primeiras informações sobre uma pesquisa inusitada, ligada ao Facebook, começaram a aparecer na Internet, em fóruns acessados por freelancers da Mechanical Turk, a plataforma da Amazon que recruta pessoas para desempenhar “tarefas de inteligência humana”. Os turkers, como são conhecidos, realizam pequenos trabalhos repetitivos, como identificar imagens pornográficas ou procurar endereços de e-mail em resultados de mecanismos de busca. A maioria dos trabalhos paga entre 1 e 15 centavos. “Esse tipo de serviço ajuda a pagar o aluguel e as dívidas”, contou um turker ao The Intercept. Para outro, não passa de “trabalho escravo voluntário”.

À primeira vista, o trabalho anunciado pela Global Science Research parecia banal. A empresa pagaria       1 ou 2 dólares para quem completasse uma pesquisa online, mas sob duas condições: a Global Science Research só queria turkers americanos; e os recrutados tinham que fazer o download de um aplicativo do Facebook para receber o pagamento. A empresa dizia que o aplicativo teria acesso a “informações sobre você e sua rede de contatos (…), dados do perfil e likes de categorias, lugares, celebridades, etc., clicados por você e seus amigos”.

“Os termos de serviço proíbem claramente o uso inadequado de informações”, afirmou, por e-mail, um representante da Amazon Web Services. “Quando soubemos disso em 2015, suspendemos o solicitante por violação dos nossos termos.”

Em seus primeiros anos, o Facebook almejava formar redes fechadas e exclusivas em faculdades e universidades. Mas foi gradualmente arrebanhando usuários para termos de uso cada vez mais permissivos. A partir de 2014, qualquer coisa que os amigos de um usuário pudessem visualizar também já estava potencialmente acessível para os desenvolvedores dos apps que eles tinham baixado. Alguns turkers notaram que o aplicativo da Global Science Research parecia estar se aproveitando dessa porosidade do Facebook. “Dá para descobrir tudo sobre você a partir de centenas de fotos, mensagens, amigos e curtidas. Bem mais do que você imagina”, advertiu um deles em um fórum. Outros foram mais blasés: “eu não coloco informação nenhuma no FB, nem mesmo meu nome verdadeiro (…) Tá tudo errado, as pessoas põem um monte de informações no Facebook e depois reclamam de violação da privacidade”.

No final de 2015, começaram os relatos de que a Global Science Research havia encerrado a pesquisa da noite para o dia. O Guardian tinha acabado de publicar uma reportagem que mostrava para quem os turkers estavam trabalhando. Os dados estavam sendo coletados por Aleksandr Kogan, um jovem professor da Universidade de Cambridge. Kogan fundou a Global Science Research em 2014, depois que o departamento de psicologia se recusou a autorizá-lo a usar o banco de dados da universidade para fins comerciais. Kogan se descolou da universidade e passou a coletar informações em nome de um contratante da área militar, a Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL). De acordo com o departamento responsável pela parte de eleições, o envio de mensagens programadas a partir de dados coletados é parte da estratégia para “alcançar sucesso eleitoral”.

A SCL tem uma subsidiária bem próspera nos Estados Unidos, a Cambridge Analytica, que recebeu milhões de dólares da campanha de Donald Trump. Boa parte do dinheiro veio de comitês financiados por Robert Mercer, o bilionário dos fundos hedge. Conforme foi noticiado, Mercer é também um dos principais acionários da Cambridge Analytica. Além dele, Stephen K. Bannon, estrategista-chefe de Trump, também já trabalhou como executivo da empresa. No entanto, meses depois de Bannon afirmar que havia se desligado da companhia, boletos de pagamento da campanha de Trump para a Cambridge Analytica continuavam a ser entregues em um dos endereços de Bannon em Los Angeles.

“Pode dizer que o sr. Mercer não quis comentar”, afirmou, por e-mail, Jonathan Gasthalter, representante de Robert Mercer.

Panfletos eleitorais na área de imprensa da Arena Quicken Loans, em Cleveland, às vésperas do primeiro debate do Partido Republicano para as eleições de 2016 (06/08/2016).

Foto: John Minchillo/AP

The Intercept entrevistou cinco pessoas que conhecem bem o trabalho de Kogan na SCL. Todas pediram para não serem identificadas, para evitar qualquer risco de processo por conta de uma investigação que já está em andamento em Cambridge. Duas fontes bem informadas sobre o projeto contaram a The Intercept que Kogan tomou as providências necessárias para que mais de 100 mil pessoas participassem da pesquisa e baixassem o aplicativo. Uma terceira fonte com acesso direto ao projeto disse que a Global Science Research obteve dados de 185 mil participantes e de seus amigos no Facebook. Afirmou ainda que esse grupo de 185 mil foi recrutado por uma empresa de dados, não pela Mechanical Turk, o que possibilitou o acesso a 30 milhões de perfis de usuário. Nenhum dos 30 milhões sabe que suas curtidas e as informações básicas de seus perfis foram coletadas por agentes políticos contratados para influenciar eleitores americanos.

Kogan não quis comentar. No final de 2014, durante uma palestra em Cingapura, declarou ter acesso a “uma amostra de mais de 50 milhões de indivíduos sobre os quais poderia determinar qualquer característica”. Em 2015, o balanço da empresa apontava que a Global Science Research tinha 145.111 de libras em sua conta bancária. Desde então, Kogan mudou o nome para Spectre. Em uma publicação na Internet, atribuiu a mudança ao casamento. “Minha mulher e eu somos cientistas e bastante religiosos, e a luz é um símbolo forte dessas nossas duas dimensões”, explicou.

De acordo com um documento interno assinado por um funcionário da SCL, o objetivo da pesquisa de Kogan era desenvolver, como parte do trabalho voltado para as eleições, um algoritmo que aprimorasse “a capacidade de traçar o perfil dos cidadãos americanos em âmbito nacional”.

“Nós não trabalhamos com curtidas do Facebook”, escreveu, por e-mail, Lindsey Platts, representante da Cambridge Analytica. Segundo Platts, atualmente, a empresa “não tem qualquer relação com a GSR”.

“A Cambridge Analytica não comenta sobre clientes nem projetos específicos”, acrescentou, quando perguntamos se a empresa se envolveu com o trabalho da Global Science Research entre 2014 e 2015.

O Guardian foi o primeiro a noticiar a participação da Cambridge Analytica nas eleições. No final de 2015, o jornal observou que a empresa estava investindo em pesquisas “que abrangiam dezenas de milhões de usuários do Facebook, coletando intensamente dados sem permissão”. Kogan contestou a reportagem, dizendo que as pesquisas não tinham atingido mais do que “um par de milhares de respostas” para cada cliente. Não sabemos quantas participações foram obtidas via Mechanical Turk e quantas outras via empresa de dados. Mas todas as cinco fontes ouvidas por The Intercept confirmaram que o trabalho de Kogan em nome da SCL envolvia coletar dados da rede de amigos dos participantes – pessoas que não tinham dado consentimento direto à Global Science Research e que não sabiam que estavam sendo objetos do estudo de Kogan. Em setembro de 2016, Alexander Nix, diretor-executivo da Cambridge Analytica, afirmou que a empresa havia criado um modelo, baseado em “centenas e centenas de milhares” de testes de personalidade preenchidos por americanos, “capaz de prever a personalidade de cada um dos adultos vivendo nos Estados Unidos”.

Pouco depois da publicação do artigo do Guardian, em 2015, o Facebook entrou em contato com a Global Science Research e pediu que fossem deletados todos os dados que haviam sido tomados de seus usuários. A política do Facebook lhe garante o direito de apagar dados coletados por outros aplicativos sempre que julgar que isso “afeta negativamente a plataforma”. A empresa acredita que Kogan e a SCL cumpriram o pedido, feito durante as primárias republicanas, pouco antes de a Cambridge Analytica mudar o foco de Ted Cruz para Donald Trump. Ainda não está claro o que foi feito desses dados – e se os modelos e algoritmos derivados deles foram usados pela campanha de Trump.

Publicamente, o Facebook sustenta que o que aconteceu às vésperas da eleição não teve nada de anormal do ponto de vista dos negócios. “Até o momento, nossa investigação não descobriu nada que sugira indício de transgressão”, afirmou um representante do Facebook a The Intercept.

O Facebook parece não considerar a coleta de dados por parte da Global Science Research como um erro grave do ponto de vista ético. Tanto é assim que Joseph Chancellor, principal colaborador de Kogan no projeto da SCL e antigo coproprietário da Global Science Research, é hoje funcionário do Facebook Research. “O emprego anterior dele não tem nada a ver com o trabalho que está fazendo no Facebook”, afirmou um representante do Facebook ao The Intercept.

Chancellor não quis comentar.

A Cambridge Analytica se lançou no mercado como uma empresa capaz de classificar eleitores de acordo com o Modelo dos 5 Grandes Fatores (Abertura à experiência, Conscienciosidade, Extroversão, Amabilidade e Neuroticismo – ou OCEAN, no acrônimo em inglês). É o mesmo modelo usado por pesquisadores da Universidade de Cambridge para pesquisas da casa, sem fins comerciais. Se fez alguma diferença na eleição presidencial? Essa ainda é uma pergunta sem resposta. Alguns argumentam que a análise de megadados é a bala de prata para entender como funciona a mente dos eleitores, outros ainda estão céticos. Mas ninguém mais duvida dos poderes dos likes. Um estudo realizado em 2013 por três antigos colegas de Kogan na Universidade de Cambridge mostrou que, só com base em curtidas no Facebook, é possível determinar a raça de uma pessoa com 95% de certeza e seu partido político, com 85%. O que ainda não está tão claro é a capacidade dos likes de se tornarem uma ferramenta de persuasão direcionada. Para a Cambridge Analytica, as pontuações com base nos critérios OCEAN podem ser usadas para direcionar comportamentos de consumidores e eleitores através de “microssegmentação” ou “microtargeting” – ou seja, mensagens extremamente individualizadas. Nix afirma que eleitores neuróticos são mais sensíveis a argumentos “racionais ou que apelam para o medo” enquanto que os introvertidos e amáveis estão mais suscetíveis a “tradição, hábitos, família, comunidade”.

Dan Gillmor, diretor do Knight Center da Universidade do Estado do Arizona, se diz cético quanto ao impacto decisivo da análise de dados na campanha de Trump. No entanto, ele reconhece que essas técnicas devem se tornar cada vez mais eficazes. “É razoável supor que, mais cedo ou mais tarde, assistiremos a uma manipulação generalizada do processo de tomada de decisão, inclusive em relação às eleições. Ela será mais difundida e individualizada, e ainda mais difícil de ser detectada”, afirmou por e-mail.

Donald Trump joga chapéu para eleitores durante um comício em Los Angeles (15/09/2015).

Foto: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Os assessores de Trump têm sido bastante francos quanto ao uso do Facebook para influenciar votos. Joe Pollak, editor do Breitbart, escreveu no seu livro de memórias da campanha sobre “os exércitos de ‘amigos’ de Trump no Facebook (…), que passam por cima dos filtros da mídia tradicional”. Já Roger Stone, conselheiro de Trump de longa data, descreveu a estratégia de “geossegmentar” cidades inteiras para divulgar a informação, já desmentida, de que Bill Clinton tinha um filho fora do casamento. Para isso, ele afunilou o público-alvo “com base em preferências musicais, faixa etária, cultura negra e outros interesses urbanos”.

Claro que Hilary Clinton também concentrou esforços na análise de dados, afinal o marketing digital faz parte de qualquer campanha política. Mas a quantidade de informações pessoais compiladas durante o processo eleitoral foi impressionante. Alexander Nix, chefe da Cambridge Analytica, afirmou “ter uma vasta base de dados, com 4 a 5 mil itens sobre cada adulto americano”. Imediatamente após a eleição, a empresa tentou levar os louros da vitória republicana alegando que os dados contribuíram para definir o cronograma de viagens de Trump e para o posicionamento de publicidades online, que tiveram mais de 1,5 bilhão de visualizações. Desde então, a companhia vem tentando minimizar a importância dos perfis psicológicos no negócio.

O Information Commissioner’s Office, órgão do governo britânico responsável pela proteção da privacidade, está apurando se a Cambridge Analytica e outras empresas similares põem em risco os direitos dos eleitores. A investigação começou depois de reportagens do Observer sobre as ligações entre Robert Mercer, a Cambridge Analytica e a Leave.EU, campanha para convencer britânicos a votarem pela saída da União Europeia. Apesar de Nix já ter falado sobre a parceria com a Leave.EU, a Cambridge Analytica agora nega ter sido paga para fazer a campanha.

Cartaz da campanha Leave.EU em Londres (05/03/2016).

Foto: Rex Features/AP Images

Nos Estados Unidos, por conta de normas de privacidade mais frouxas, não há investigação. Dizem que a Cambridge Analytica está vendendo seus produtos para várias agências federais, inclusive para o Estado-Maior Conjunto. A SCL, a empresa-mãe, está com escritórios novos perto da Casa Branca. O Gen. Michael Flynn, ex-conselheiro de Trump para a segurança nacional, já teria prestado consultoria sobre como incrementar os negócios da empresa no plano federal. Um porta-voz de Flynn negou que ele tenha feito qualquer tipo de trabalho para a SCL.

Anos antes dos problemas com os turkers de Kogan, Mark Zuckerberg, o fundador do Facebook, tentou responder à apreensão pública quanto ao polêmico programa Beacon, que sorrateiramente direcionava dados de sites externos para o Facebook sem que os usuários estivessem a par do processo. Na ocasião, Zuckerberg atribuiu parte do sucesso do Facebook à política de dar às pessoas “o controle do quê e como compartilham informações”. Ele falou ainda do arrependimento de ter elaborado o Beacon como um “sistema em que o usuário tinha que declarar não querer participar (…). Se alguém esquecesse de dizer que não queria compartilhar alguma coisa, o Beacon ia lá e compartilhava mesmo assim”.

Sete anos depois, o Facebook cometeria o mesmo erro, com consequências ainda piores. Em meados de 2014, no entanto, foi anunciado um novo protocolo de revisão, para garantir que os novos aplicativos só pediriam acesso aos dados que fossem realmente necessários. “As pessoas querem mais controle”, declarou a empresa, na época. “E isso vai fazer muita diferença na hora de construir uma relação de confiança com os usuários do seu aplicativo”. Os aplicativos que já estavam no mercado tiveram um ano para se submeter à revisão do Facebook. Mas a essa altura, a Global Science Research já dispunha de tudo o que precisava

Foto do título: colagem de fotos de perfil formam o logo do Facebook sobre uma parede do data center da empresa em Forest City, N.C (2012).

Tradução: Carla Camargo Fanha

The post O Facebook não protegeu 30 milhões de usuários de terem dados acessados por uma das empresas da campanha de Trump appeared first on The Intercept.

GOP Lawmakers Now Admit Years of Obamacare Repeal Votes Were a Sham

31 March 2017 - 1:11pm

It is hard to overestimate the role of the Affordable Care Act in the Republican resurgence.

Over the last seven years, the GOP has won successive elections by highlighting problems with Obamacare, airing more than $235 million in negative ads slamming the law, and staging more than 50 high-profile repeal votes. In 2016 every major Republican presidential candidate, including Donald Trump, campaigned on a pledge to quickly get rid of it.

Now in total control of Congress and the White House, some GOP legislators are saying that the political assault on Obamacare was an exercise in cynical politics, and that an outright repeal was never on the table.

“We have Republicans who do not want to repeal Obamacare,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., on Sirius XM Patriot on Wednesday.

“They may have campaigned that way, they may have voted that way a couple of years ago when it didn’t make any difference,” Brooks continued. “But now that it makes a difference, there seems to not be the majority support that we need to pass legislation that we passed 50 or 60 times over five or six years.”

Listen to Rep. Brooks’s comments below:

Likewise, Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., one of the lawmakers who came into power by riding the anti-ACA Tea Party wave in 2010, and who once elected pledged to “repeal, defund, delay, and dismantle Obamacare,” recently conceded in a candid interview with the Delaware County Daily Times that previous repeal efforts were a sham.

Asked if the years of votes against the ACA were simply “ceremonial,” since Republicans knew that any serious repeal bill would be vetoed by President Barack Obama, Meehan responded “yes.”

“I don’t think anyone would quarrel with the idea that they were largely position votes,” Meehan continued. “They were as political as they were anything else because there was a recognition that those were unlikely to be moved.”

Republicans expected Hillary Clinton to win the election last year, and had not planned for being in a position to actually pass a repeal effort this year, said Meehan. But after Trump’s victory, the GOP leadership thought something had to be done on their campaign promises, and that’s why they attempted to move forward with the American Health Care Act.

Listen to Rep. Meehan’s comments below:

Other Republican lawmakers have made similar remarks in recent days.

“You know, I think maybe its easier to run on these platitudes, run on a platform like this,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., when asked by local radio station News Talk 1290 if Republicans ran on repeal “simply to get elected or re-elected.”

Bacon, admitting that he supports provisions of the law, including coverage for pre-existing conditions, noted that governing can be very different from campaigning. “Sometimes things sound easier when you’re running,” Bacon added.

Another candid comment came from Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who told reporters last Friday that the dozens of repeal votes were cast in the past without any plan for viable legislation.

“Sometimes you’re playing fantasy football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” Barton told Talking Points Memo.

“We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, shortly after his legislation to overhaul the health care system was pulled from a vote, said that Republicans weren’t ready to meet promises on repealing and replacing Obamacare — an implicit concession that previous repeal votes were merely symbolic.

“We were a 10-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do,” Ryan said, adding that his party wasn’t prepared to be the “governing party.”

“We will get there,” Ryan added, “but we weren’t there today.”

After the defeat of Ryan’s legislation last week, the speaker called Obamacare the “law of the land” that will remain “for the foreseeable future.”

Following the embarrassing admission, conservative donors and some White House officials have mounted a campaign to revive a repeal effort, though there are few details about the type of repeal effort would muster support among the hard-right conservatives and moderates who sank the last attempt.

Top photo: Members of the House Ways and Means Committee hold a markup hearing to begin work on the proposed American Health Care Act, the Republican attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 8, 2017.

The post GOP Lawmakers Now Admit Years of Obamacare Repeal Votes Were a Sham appeared first on The Intercept.

Europe Keeps Its Rescue Ships Far From the Coast of Libya — Where Thousands of Refugees Have Drowned

31 March 2017 - 1:10pm

The rescuers prepare for the calm days, more than the stormy ones.

On land in small towns near the Libyan coast, refugees from Africa and the Middle East are crowded into safe houses, waiting for good weather. When the sea quiets, the refugees pack onto rubber dinghies or large wooden fishing vessels and set off in the early morning toward Europe.

An average of 3,500 people have died each year while trying to make the journey to Italy from North Africa since 2014. Their vessels are overcrowded, unseaworthy, and have a near-nothing chance of making it to Europe. Most of the boats sink just 20 to 40 miles from the Libyan coast.

These are preventable deaths. Since 2014, the European Union has deliberately chosen to keep their coast guard patrol boats far from where the shipwrecks happen, a decision detailed in an internal letter obtained by The Intercept and other leaked documents. Saving more lives, the logic goes, will only encourage more refugees to come. The result is that rescue boats are kept away from where rescues are actually needed.

The Italian navy used to run patrols near the Libyan coast. Their operation, called Mare Nostrum — “our sea” in Latin — involved a large mobilization of ships, planes, and helicopters in international waters close to Libya, where boats carrying refugees regularly capsized and sank. Mare Nostrum was enormously successful — in the year it ran, it saved over 150,000 people. Still, on October 31, 2014, Italy announced it would phase out the program.

The following day, Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, took over with an operation called Triton. In a press release at the time, Frontex said its operation followed in the wake of Mare Nostrum and was intended to support the Italian authorities. There was one key difference from Mare Nostrum, however: Frontex would limit its patrols to just 30 miles off Italy’s coast, which was about 130 miles from Libya — at least a 12-hour sail. Frontex was deliberately not patrolling the area where most of the shipwrecks occurred.

What’s more, according to an internal letter obtained by The Intercept, the director of operations at Frontex privately told Italian authorities that his ships should not be called on to immediately respond to distress calls from outside their 30-mile patrol area.

“Frontex is concerned about the engagement of Frontex deployed assets in the activities happening significantly outside the operational area,” Frontex’s director, Klaus Roesler, wrote to the head of Italy’s Immigration and Border Police, Giovanni Pinto, on November 25, 2014. The letter has been referenced in Italian newspapers and released with redactions that covered detailed descriptions of how Frontex coordinated its assistance with rescue efforts. The Intercept is publishing the letter in full for the first time.

Italian marines rescue refugees from a capsized boat in the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy on May 25, 2016. Many refugees depart on overcrowded dinghies that have little chance of making it to Europe.

Photo: Italian Navy/Marina Militare/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Like any other vessels at sea, Frontex ships are obligated under maritime law to respond to distress calls when ordered by the relevant national authorities. For the Italians, an overloaded boat with an untrained captain was a distress situation by default. Typically, someone calls the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome by satellite phone from a boat or from the Libyan coast, and Italy initiates search and rescue.

But for Frontex, at the time, that was not enough proof.

“Frontex is of the opinion that a satellite phone call is not per se a SAR [search and rescue] event and strongly recommends that actions should be taken to investigate and verify and only afterwards, and in case of distress, activate other maritime assets,” Roesler wrote, referring to a distress call via satellite phone. “Frontex doesn’t consider the [Operational Patrol Vessel] for such initial investigations outside the operational area as necessarily operational and cost effective activities.”

He continued: “General instructions to move to an area outside [European Patrol Network] Triton operational area are not coherent with the operational plan and unfortunately will not be considered for the future.”

In other words, Frontex knew it had to respond to emergency calls. But it was deliberately patrolling in the wrong area and quibbling with definitions of distress, meaning that its ships would almost certainly arrive late, if at all.

Frontex’s press office did not answer repeated requests for comment on Roesler’s 2014 letter. The agency would not clarify if the letter still represented Frontex policy, nor if the agency still believed a distress call via satellite phone was not necessarily a search and rescue event. In mid-2015, the EU tripled Frontex’s budget for Triton, matching what had once been spent on Mare Nostrum, and Frontex moved patrols another 30 nautical miles to the south, extending farther from the Italian coast. A Frontex press release at the time hailed an “enlarged Triton helping rescue migrants.” But in reality, Frontex was still six to 10 hours away from where most shipwrecks take place.

The withdrawal is consistent with the European Union’s overall approach to dealing with refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, marked by a change in emphasis from search and rescue to border security. The shift has created a tension between official EU policy and the efforts of nonprofits still doing rescue work off of Libya.

The argument against proactive rescue operations is that they create a “pull factor” for migrants. With patrols running closer to the coast, smugglers can use cheaper boats, less fuel, and little food, because migrants only have to make it as far as the patrol boats, and not the Italian coast. In turn, this could cause prices to go down and create a perception that the route is safer.

Frontex’s director, Fabrice Leggeri, echoed this position in a recent interview with the German newspaper Die Welt. “We must prevent supporting the business of criminal networks and traffickers in Libya by picking up the migrants ever closer to the Libyan coast by European boats,” Leggeri said. Frontex’s press office would not explicitly state that the agency considers rescue operations a pull factor, but a spokesperson did link NGO presence to increased migration flows.

The pull factor thesis was one reason many European governments were reluctant to fund efforts like Mare Nostrum. “We do not support planned search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean,” a British foreign minister told parliament in 2014. “We believe that they create an unintended ‘pull factor,’ encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths.”

If proactive patrolling creates a pull factor for migration by making the route safer, then by the same logic, removing those patrols makes the route more deadly. Even Frontex’s own internal assessments predicted that when the patrol areas moved north, more people would drown. A Triton concept document from August 2014 states bluntly that it “has to be stressed that the withdrawal of naval assets from the area, if not properly planned and announced well in advance, would likely result in a higher number of fatalities.”

Refugees disembark in Naples, Italy, from the rescue ship Scirocco Pilot after being saved in the Mediterranean. European politicians and border officials have criticized proactive rescue operations, saying they encourage people to attempt the dangerous crossing.

Photo: Salvatore Laporta/LightRocket/Getty Images

Working to stop these deaths are rescue operations run by nonprofits, which are now the front line of response to the refugee crisis. They arrive first to the site of capsizing boats near the Libyan coast and call for backup from the Italians, who then call on Frontex if necessary. The European authorities, which patrol hours away, usually come later, transferring the refugees to their ships and bringing them to refugee camps in Sicily.

On a recent mission, it was clear that nonprofits are scrambling to fill the gaps left by reduced European Union patrols.

The rescue started with a phone call. It was 10 in the morning and the Golfo Azzurro, a 120-foot fishing trawler repurposed for sea rescue by the Spanish nonprofit Proactiva Open Arms, was in international waters some 30 miles north of Tripoli. Gerard Canals, the coordinator of the mission, received notice from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center of three rubber boats in distress near our position, each with over 100 people aboard, including young children.

The Golfo Azzurro lurched to the right as the captain changed course. Lifeguards clipped fins to their belts and donned helmets and life jackets. Others prepared the Golfo’s two RHIBs — small rigid-hulled inflatable boats with powerful engines. Crew threw large bags of bright orange life vests into the RHIBs and took off with a wave from the captains. As they planed across the sea toward the refugees’ reported position, the Golfo Azzurro faded off into the horizon.

After about an hour, the captains of the two RHIBs stopped to take their bearings. We were in the exact position given by the Italian authorities and there was nothing in sight: no rubber boats, no Libyan fisherman, no birds. Just 360 degrees of horizon.

“We’re all alone out here,” said Ani Montes, one of the RHIB captains. The waves had picked up slightly. The other RHIB captain suggested we go south, in case the distressed boats drifted. We took off again, jumping across small waves and landing each time with a heavy thud. A few minutes later, Montes spotted a dot on the horizon. “There,” she shouted. “There they are.”

As we neared the rubber boat, the lifeguards looked surprised: There were supposed to be three boats, but we could see only one. The rubber dinghy was about 30 feet long and overflowing with people. Men sat around the edge of the boat, and women and children huddled in the center. The people aboard looked agitated, crowded, and cold. As we approached in the RHIB, a few waved, but most just shivered and stared. The crew was handing out lifejackets to the refugees, who were mostly from West Africa, when a call came in by radio from the Golfo Azzurro — they had found the other two boats, each carrying another 120 people. The Italian coast guard was on its way to help, the captain said, but it would be some hours before its ship arrived.

One of the RHIBs stayed with the first boat, while we made our way back to the Golfo Azzurro. Floating aside the ship, the refugees aboard one of the rubber boats waited calmly. The other boat, however, had partially deflated and people were standing and nervous. They repeatedly called us over to point out the deflated parts of the boat, which sagged under the weight of the people aboard, barely above water. Too many people standing can cause the dinghy to tip, so one by one, the lifeguards pulled women and children from the deflated boat and transferred them to the Golfo Azzurro, hoping to take some weight off while waiting for the coast guard.

The lifeguards traded stories of past rescues. Faustino Marta, a lifeguard from Argentina, was struck by the sheer number of lives at stake. “Three boats — that’s over 300 people,” Marta said. “If we hadn’t come, that’d be like a full commercial jet crashing in the sea out here.”

Refugees wait to be rescued some 20 nautical miles off the coast of Libya on October 3, 2016. Despite the fact that the majority of boats capsize in waters close to Libya, Frontex has pulled back to patrol much farther from the coast.

Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Last summer, there were more than a dozen different nonprofits patrolling near Libya, but over the winter, it was just Proactiva Open Arms and a joint operation between Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS Méditerranée. Refugees keep risking the journey, hoping to be rescued, like a potentially deadly trust fall at sea. Canals and the other crew aboard the Golfo Azzurro said this is why they must patrol closer to Libyan waters.

“Independently of what happens afterwards, we’re here to make sure no one drowns,” Canals said.

Technically, each country in the Mediterranean has responsibility for coordinating its own search and rescue zone, or SAR Zone, but Libya’s coast guard is tiny and as decentralized as the rest of its wartime government, and unable to handle the numbers of boats departing its shores. What’s more, there have been reports that members of the Libyan coast guard are involved in trafficking migrants.

Canals said he sees an additional role for Proactiva in putting pressure on European authorities to do more to rescue refugees. While patrolling these waters, Proactiva and other NGOs often come across refugee boats in need of assistance for which no distress call has been made, as not all boats have satellite phones. By reporting the distress cases themselves, NGOs force the Italian and European authorities to initiate a rescue they would otherwise never have undertaken.

“After the Italians left the SAR area, it took the NGOs to get them to come back,” said Joey Timmerman, an engineer aboard the Golfo Azzurro who has worked with three different NGOs in the area. “Once it’s reported, it’s an emergency.”

Wrapped in blankets, refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa stand on the deck of the Golfo Azzurro rescue vessel after arriving at the Italian port of Messina in January. The more than 299 refugees aboard the ship had been rescued by members of Proactiva Open Arms.

Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP

Yet the pull factor thesis has strong adherents. A senior European border official with close knowledge of Frontex operations and decision-making in the upper ranks of the European Union confirmed that pull factors were the reason Frontex’s patrol zone was limited in 2014, and why Frontex and Italian ships still tend to stay far from Libya. (The official requested anonymity because he is unauthorized to speak to the press. Frontex did not respond to requests for comment on why it pulled back patrols.)

The official told The Intercept that, by his reading of the situation, Mare Nostrum created a pull factor for migration in 2013 and nonprofits have continued to act as a pull factor since the Italian operation was phased out. The border official is also critical of the practice of Frontex and European coast guards taking refugees from NGO ships, saying it turns them into a “ferry service” for migrants. He defends Frontex’s decision to keep its patrol zone farther north, even if it means more drownings. Roesler’s 2014 letter, he says, “was the correct policy.”

“In order to not create a pull factor, we are patrolling up to the SAR area of Malta. We don’t cover Libya,” said the border official, arguing that if the journey seems longer and more dangerous, refugees won’t “put their lives in risk, especially in winter, to travel all this distance to the south of Malta.”

But that argument is belied by recent statistics. According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 16,000 people have attempted this route since the beginning of this year, and there have been 477 recorded drownings. Beyond that, according to the nonprofit crews, it’s common knowledge that many refugee boats still go without rescue, floating off into the darkness. Their deaths are not always noticed.

A wooden boat carrying refugees and migrants waits to be escorted to a rescue ship belonging to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station in November. Over the winter, just a handful of NGO vessels were operating in waters near Libya.

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

There is one European operation that does patrol near Libya, where the nonprofits work: a joint European military force known by the hefty acronym EUNAVFOR Med. Its work, a spokesperson told The Intercept, is to “disrupt the business models of the smugglers” by identifying potential human traffickers and, after refugees are rescued, destroying their boats so they can’t be reused. In a leaked status report on the force from last year, EUNAVFOR Med says that its relatively small number of rescues — some 30,000 people since the operation began in 2015, according to the spokesperson — “has not contributed to increasing the flow of migrants” and “cannot be regarded as decisive in terms of a ‘pull factor.’” Implied is that the operation saves some lives at sea, but not too many.

The force does not appear to be coordinating actively with nonprofits, even though it maintains extensive surveillance capacity over the area between the Libyan cities of Zuwara and Misrata, where many refugee boats depart from, and its own reports bluntly state the lethal reality for refugees leaving Libya.

According to a similar December 2015 status report, originally published by WikiLeaks, the operation uses a combination of war ships, submarines, and air assets, including a drone, to maintain a “near persistent presence” over the departure points. The report from late 2016, originally leaked to the British privacy organization Statewatch, said that this surveillance provides “real time queuing for the surface elements that were tactically deployed to spot escorts or jackals, particularly during dawn hours when most launches from Libya take place.” (Escorts or jackals can refer to boats that load and tow the rafts of migrants at launch or serve as lookouts.)

The strategy of destroying wooden boats has worked, EUNAVFOR Med says in its 2016 report. But it adds that the use of less safe rubber boats has gone up, at least partially as a result. (The senior border official attributed the rise in rubber boats to rescue operations, saying that smugglers know the boats don’t need to go far before they’ll be picked up.)

The 2015 report acknowledges that these rubber boats have little if any chance of making it to Europe on their own. “Reaching European mainland, Malta or even Lampedusa [an island off of Italy] is very difficult for these boats,” it states. “Effectively, with the limited supply and degree of overloading, the migrant vessels are [distress] cases from the moment they launch.”

“The majority of migrants,” concludes the 2016 report, “still die inside or very close to Libyan territorial waters.”

Both reports explain that EUNAVFOR Med has close information-sharing relationships with Frontex and Italian authorities. The agency even “provides early maritime situational awareness to NGOs,” according to the 2016 report, though none of the four NGOs interviewed for this article said they have received such information.

European agencies know where and when refugee boats depart from, and acknowledge that the boats are incapable of making it to Europe. But with a calculated decision to withdraw the EU’s rescue resources from the Libyan coast, Italian authorities and nonprofits seemingly aren’t getting access to that information, and are left reliant on phone calls from distress cases to search for refugees at sea.

The results, I saw, can be deadly.

Refugees wrapped in thermal blankets sit on the deck of the Golfo Azzurro after a January rescue mission.

Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP

When the Italian coast guard finally arrived to assist the Gulfo Azzurro, the transfer of refugees between the boats went on late into the night. As the work proceeded, the coast guard ship lit up the last rubber dinghy with a single spotlight — over 100 people sat for hours, waiting, with their fluorescent orange life vests glowing against the dark. After the last of them were brought on board, I watched the Italian crew collect the two empty rubber boats, douse them in flammable fluid, and light them on fire. As the coast guard ship steamed off into the horizon, the two boats were left burning, and a thick black smoke floated off into the starry night sky.

The captain of the Italian ship had decided that Proactiva should take the majority of the refugees to Sicily aboard the Golfo — a trip that would take us 30 hours. En route, we hit a storm, with waves some 20 feet high that rocked the large fishing ship back and forth like a skateboard with loose trucks. Over 200 refugees crowded into a makeshift shelter in the center of the boat, shielding themselves against the crashing waves under thermal blankets and tarps.

But the weather on the Libyan coast was still calm, and that night another refugee boat left Misrata, Libya. The ships belonging to Proactiva and Médecins Sans Frontières were halfway to Sicily. The Italian coast guard vessel was already in port there. When the distress call came in, the rescue coordination center alerted Frontex, which sent a ship toward the endangered refugees. But the Frontex ship was far away, near the island of Lampedusa. By the time it arrived the following morning, the refugee boat had sunk, and there were only four survivors. Over 100 people were presumed drowned.

Top photo: Refugees and migrants sleep on the deck of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue vessel Golfo Azzurro after being rescued off Libyan coast north of Sabratha, Libya on February 18, 2017 at Sea.

The post Europe Keeps Its Rescue Ships Far From the Coast of Libya — Where Thousands of Refugees Have Drowned appeared first on The Intercept.

Aprovação de Temer cai para 10%, mesmo percentual de Dilma às vésperas do impeachment

31 March 2017 - 12:00pm

Às vésperas de o Tribunal Superior Eleitoral iniciar o julgamento que pode complicar a vida política do presidente Michel Temer, levantamento do Ibope, encomendado pela Confederação Nacional da Indústria (CNI), mostra que o presidente tem hoje a mesma ínfima aprovação que Dilma Rousseff tinha dias antes do impeachment: 10%. O percentual de brasileiros que avalia o governo como ruim ou péssimo saltou de 46% para 55% desde o último levantamento, feito em dezembro do ano passado. É o pior resultado obtido pelo presidente na série histórica da pesquisa desde que ele assumiu definitivamente o governo.

Segundo a pesquisa, para 79% dos entrevistados o governo Temer é igual ou pior que o de Dilma. Apenas 18% avaliam a gestão do peemedebista como melhor que a de sua antecessora. O levantamento mostra ainda que 73% dos brasileiros desaprovam a maneira de governar do presidente da República, que é aprovada por uma parcela de 20%.

A pesquisa foi feita com 2.000 pessoas em 126 municípios, entre os dias 16 e 19 de março, e tem uma margem de erro de dois pontos percentuais. De acordo com a CNI, os resultados negativos se justificam pelo alto custo das reformas em discussão no Congresso.

Pesquisa CNI/Ibope de avaliação do governo Temer.


A alta rejeição à atual gestão resume por si só a situação emparedada em que o governo se encontra: Temer vem tentando em diversas frentes lançar uma agenda positiva para tentar reverter o quadro de derretimento político. O que, se formos analisar pelos números da pesquisa de hoje, não tem surtido efeito prático.

No Congresso, os sinais de enfraquecimento começam a aumentar. Na votação da terceirização, o sinal amarelo acendeu no Planalto, após o governo conseguir aprovar a proposta com uma margem de votos menor do que esperava: 233 votos a favor e 188 contra. Partidos da base, entre eles PMDB, PSDB e DEM, estiveram entre os maiores traidores.

Ainda como reflexo do enfraquecimento político, esta semana o governo sofreu uma grande derrota no Congresso. De interesse do Planalto, a PEC 395/2014, que previa a cobrança de mensalidade para cursos de pós-graduação em universidades públicas, foi arquivada após arregimentar 304 votos. Para uma PEC ser aprovada é necessário o mínimo de 308 votos. Nos bastidores, já se começa a prever que o governo não terá mesmo condições de aprovar a Reforma da Previdência.

Renan ataca governo

Na incerteza se o atual governo conseguirá sobreviver aos sobressaltos da Lava Jato e do processo que avança no TSE, partidos começam a se distanciar da imagem corroída do governo e, principalmente, de Temer.

É importante observar que o governo vem implodindo em todas as frentes: de dentro pra fora e fora pra dentro. De fora, as ruas reclamam da pauta austera e de corte de direitos; de dentro, partidos e políticos da base aliada se rebelam contra o governo.

Com índices negativos em ano pré-eleitoral, a incerteza impera no terceiro andar do Palácio do Planalto. O dia de amanhã se mostra cada vez mais imprevisível. Aliado de primeira hora de Temer, o senador Renan Calheiros (PMDB/AL) dá sinais de insatisfação e que desembarcará do governo em breve.

— Renan Calheiros (@renancalheiros) March 30, 2017

Renan esteve à frente nesta semana de outra estratégia que visava enfraquecer o governo. Foi de autoria dele a articulação de uma carta contra o projeto de terceirização tal qual foi aprovado semana passada pela Câmara. Na texto, a bancada do PMDB, partido de Temer, afirma que o projeto precariza relações de trabalho, derruba a arrecadação, revoga conquistas da CLT e piora a perspectiva de aprovação da reforma da previdência.

Governo em crise: PMDB do Senado apresenta carta se posicionando CONTRA projeto de terceirização aprovado na Câmara:

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) March 28, 2017

The post Aprovação de Temer cai para 10%, mesmo percentual de Dilma às vésperas do impeachment appeared first on The Intercept.

Bernie Sanders Wants to Expand Medicare to Everybody — Exactly What Its Architects Wanted

31 March 2017 - 10:49am

Bernie Sanders doesn’t just want to play defense on health care — he’s introducing a bill that would expand the Medicare program to everybody in America, creating a single-payer health care system.

Such a system would wipe out inefficiencies in our current, private insurance-run system, and polls very well — yet it is opposed by the health care industry and the Democratic and Republican establishments that relies on them for campaign cash.

But creating a Medicare-for-All, single-payer health insurance system for all Americans would be fulfilling the dream of those who created the Medicare system in the first place in 1965.

Medicare’s architects ended up compromising with Congress and establishing a system that offered public-run health insurance just for the elderly, but they never intended for only retirees to benefit from the program.

Retired senior citizens carry pro-Medicare signs in an undated photo.

Photo: Bettmann Archive

Medicare’s Roots and a Vision Unfulfilled

Yale political scientist Theodore Marmore, commenting on Medicare, once wrote that no “other industrial democracy” other than the United States “has compulsory health insurance for its elderly citizens alone, and none started a program with such a beneficiary group.”

The reason Medicare was offered only to senior citizens is a tale of legislative compromise, not intellectual intent.

Since Theodore Roosevelt ran on a platform of health insurance for all industrial workers as a presidential candidate for the Bull Moose Party in 1912, offering government-backed health insurance to workers has been a progressive cause. Franklin Roosevelt proposed guaranteeing a right to health care shortly before his death; his successor Harry Truman worked hard to pass a form of single-payer health insurance, but was defeated in Congress after a smear campaign led by the American Medical Association that associated the president’s plan with the Soviet Union.

Thus reformers decided to focus on the most sympathetic part of the population, which the health insurance industry had the least interest in covering: the elderly.

Robert Ball was the commissioner of Social Security under presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and one of the officials who was involved in the push to create Medicare. In 1995, he wrote a short history of how the Johnson administration and its allies in civic society passed Medicare for the journal Health Affairs.

For persons who are trying to understand what we were up to, the first broad point to keep in mind is that all of us who developed Medicare and fought for it — including Nelson Cruikshank and Lisbeth Schorr of the AFL-CIO and [Under Secretary for Health, Education, and Welfare] Wilbur Cohen, [long-time Social Security administration official] Alvin David, [the Health Insurance Benefits Advisory Council’s] Bill Fullerton, [Social Security Administration officials] Art Hess, Ida Merriam, Irv Wolkstein, myself, and others at the Social Security Administration — had been advocates of universal national health insurance.  We all saw insurance for the elderly as a fallback position, which we advocated solely because it seemed to have the best chance politically. Although the public record contains some explicit denials, we expected Medicare to be a first step toward universal national health insurance, perhaps with “Kiddicare” as another step.

After the passage of the initial program, Johnson administration officials didn’t wait long before calling for expanding health coverage. Johnson explained to Congress in his 1968 State of the Union address that he wanted a “child health program to provide, over the next five years, for families unable to afford it, access to health services from prenatal care of the mother through the child’s first year.” Cohen was tasked by the president to design the program, which Ball refers to above as “Kiddie Care.”

The war in Vietnam and Johnson’s fraying political coalition made Kiddie Care a vision that remained unfulfilled. Today, the United States continues to have the highest infant mortality rate in the industrialized world.

All that Sanders is trying to do is fulfill the original promise of Medicare, by expanding it to everyone.

Top photo: Senior citizens gather to support the Medicare program at an Atlantic City, N.J. Convention Hall before the third session of the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

The post Bernie Sanders Wants to Expand Medicare to Everybody — Exactly What Its Architects Wanted appeared first on The Intercept.

Texas Can No Longer Fabricate Its Own Medical Standards To Justify Executions

31 March 2017 - 9:30am

In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday concluded that current medical standards must be considered when determining whether a defendant facing the death penalty is intellectually disabled and thus barred from execution under the Eighth Amendment.

The ruling was a strong rebuke, particularly to the state of Texas, which has long based such determinations on outdated science in concert with a set of subjective — if not simply stereotyping — standards that were largely based on a fictional character.

The high court’s decision also means that Texas inmate Bobby James Moore, who was originally sent to death row in 1980, will again have a chance to prove that he is ineligible for the death penalty. Moore’s lawyers say that his cognitive disabilities are so great that to execute him would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

“The Supreme Court has sensibly directed Texas courts to be informed by the medical community’s current diagnostic framework before imposing our society’s gravest sentence,” said Moore’s attorney, Cliff Stone.

Moore was 20 years old in 1980 when he was involved with two others in the botched robbery of the Birdsall Super Market in Houston that ended with the shooting death of a 70-year-old store clerk. Less than three months later Moore was sentenced to death for his role in the crime.

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows inmate Bobby Moore.

Photo: Texas Department of Criminal Justice/AP

His case has been plagued from the start. Moore’s trial attorneys floated a fake alibi defense and failed to present exculpatory evidence that suggested the shooting was accidental. A federal judge found the misconduct so egregious that he ordered that Moore be resentenced. But Moore’s attorneys still failed to do any investigation that might have mitigated their client’s culpability — at a hearing they presented nothing about his childhood abuse or his serious learning deficits, evidence that could have convinced a jury to spare his life — and in February 2001 Moore was again sentenced to die.

Just over a year later the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that while “mentally retarded persons who meet the law’s requirements for criminal responsibility should be tried and punished when they commit crimes,” as Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority, because of their “disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment, and control of their impulses … they do not act with the same level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct.” And such impairments “can jeopardize the reliability and fairness of capital proceedings.” Noting that a number of states already barred the practice, the court ruled that death must be taken off the table for the intellectually disabled.

But the court did not tell the states how to determine intellectual disability when making decisions about who should face capital punishment, which has led to some problems, notably in Texas.

Despite the court’s ruling in Atkins, Texas lawmakers have repeatedly failed to pass a statute that would codify that decision and outline the steps needed for courts to determine disability. Into that void walked the state’s highest criminal tribunal, the Court of Criminal Appeals. In a 2004 case involving a man named Jose Garcia Briseño, the court concluded that where legislators had failed to act, it had no choice but to impose some order.

“This Court must now deal with a significant number of pending habeas corpus applications claiming that the death row inmate suffers from mental retardation and thus is exempt from execution,” the court wrote. “Recognizing that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ to the inmate, to the victims and their families, and to society at large, we must act during this legislative interregnum to provide the bench and bar with temporary judicial guidelines in addressing Atkins claims.”

What the court came up with was a multi-pronged analysis for lower courts to use when considering appeals based on a claim of intellectual disability. While the court said the clinical definitions laid out by the American Association on Mental Retardation — now known as the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities — must be considered, there was also an open question as to how to determine the “level and degree of mental retardation at which a consensus of Texas citizens would agree that a person should be exempted from the death penalty.” To determine a cutoff level — where individuals with higher functioning would theoretically still be eligible for death — the court turned not directly to experts in the field, but instead cobbled together a set of standards based in part on the deficits demonstrated by the fictional character Lennie Small from John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

In other words, the CCA crafted a set of criteria that included things “professionals would never use” to determine intellectual disability in order to ensure that some individuals who may be clinically disabled would nonetheless still be eligible for the death penalty, said Jordan Steiker, a professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin. The move was “pretty much in direct defiance of what the Supreme Court had held.”

Under the court’s criteria, Briseño, who had been convicted of killing a county sheriff, did not qualify as intellectually deficient and his death sentence was upheld. After additional legal wrangling, nearly 10 years later Briseño’s sentence was reduced to life in prison.

Moore filed an appeal claiming that he was intellectually disabled not long after the Supreme Court handed down its Atkins decision, but it was not considered until 2014, when a district court judge held an evidentiary hearing on the matter. Ruling in Moore’s favor, the judge concluded that under the most current medical standards Moore was ineligible for execution. The court recommended that his sentence be vacated.

The CCA overruled that decision, however, finding that the judge had not adhered to its Briseño standard — in part because in Moore’s case the court had used the updated, 2011 clinical standards employed by the AAIDD and not the 1992 standards the CCA had relied upon. “Although the mental-health fields and opinions of mental-health experts inform the factual decision, they do not determine whether an individual is exempt from execution,” the court wrote.

In Moore’s case the court essentially ignored his serious, lifelong deficits — he failed the first grade twice and every grade thereafter until he dropped out in the ninth grade; he had to be drilled daily by teachers in order to understand concepts such as days of the week, months of the year and how to tell time — in favor of what they determined showed he was higher functioning — including that he mowed lawns for money and knew how to play pool and dominoes.

It is with the CCA’s conclusions that the Supreme Court has disagreed. Writing for the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that in a 2014 ruling in a Florida case that also affirmed its Atkins decision, the court had instructed that decisions about who is intellectually disabled should be “informed by the views of medical experts,” which “cannot sensibly be read to give courts leave to diminish the force of the medical community’s consensus,” as the CCA had done in denying Moore’s appeal.

Further, she wrote that the additional standards the court had devised in Briseño — those making up the so-called Lennie Standard — “are an invention of the CCA untied to any acknowledged source.” Refusing to rely on information from the medical community and employing these fictionalized standards creates an “unacceptable” risk that an intellectually disabled person would be executed.

Moore’s case now moves back to the CCA for further consideration; whether he will they will agree outright that he should be resentenced to life in prison is unclear. The court’s ruling could also prompt additional appeals by other Texas death row inmates whose claims of intellectual disability have been denied under the CCA’s unconstitutional Briseño standard.

Notably, there was at least one judge on the CCA, Elsa Alcala, who anticipated that the court’s standard was not sufficient to pass constitutional muster. “This Court is required to uphold the federal Constitution as it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court,” she wrote in a lengthy dissent in Moore’s case. “Doing what we have always done simply because the Legislature has not told us to do it otherwise is not the right answer.”

The post Texas Can No Longer Fabricate Its Own Medical Standards To Justify Executions appeared first on The Intercept.

Eduardo Cunha é condenado menos de um ano depois de pedir que Deus tivesse misericórdia da nação

30 March 2017 - 5:58pm

Em 17 de abril de 2016, por 367 votos favoráveis e 137 contrários, a Câmara dos Deputados presidida por Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ) aprovou a autorização para prosseguimento no Senado do impeachment de Dilma Rousseff. Na ocasião, após uma série de ameaças e uma negociação até hoje mal explicada para obter votos favoráveis no Conselho de Ética da Casa, onde era acusado de mentir sobre contas no exterior, quebrou o protocolo, pedindo misericórdia para a nação, e votou “sim”.

Foi aclamado pelos pares, entre eles Jair Bolsonaro, que previu: “seu nome entrará para a história pela forma como conduziu os trabalhos nesta Casa”.

De fato.

Menos de um ano depois, o agora deputado cassado foi condenado pelo juiz federal Sérgio Moro, responsável pela Lava Jato, a 15 anos e quatro meses de prisão por receber propina, segundo a denúncia da Procuradoria, em contrato da Petrobras para a exploração de petróleo na África. Ele está preso desde outubro.

Trecho da sentença de condenação de Eduardo Cunha.


Segundo Moro, durante a ação, o acusado “tentou justificar o injustificável” ao afirmar que os valores seriam devolução de empréstimo, mas não encontrou “um único elemento probatório documental”.

A confirmação da sentença deve elevar ainda mais a tensão no Planalto, que havia recebido da prisão uma série de recados de Cunha, que já foi considerado o parlamentar mais poderoso da história recente.

Arrolado como testemunha da defesa no processo, o nome de Michel Temer aparece 11 vezes na sentença – na maioria das vezes, para esclarecer como funcionavam as indicações do PMDB no governo.

Moro considerou as perguntas inapropriadas, o que gerou protestos do ex-deputado. Cunha alega ter havido cerceamento de defesa em razão do indeferimento, por parte do juiz, de parte das perguntas encaminhadas pelo ex-deputado ao presidente.


Prisão não diminuiu influência

Até pouco tempo, o ex-deputado tinha esperança de deixar o presídio e responder à acusação em liberdade. Tentou revogar ao menos três vezes a ordem de prisão preventiva. Ele chegou a dizer em depoimento possuir um aneurisma cerebral e que o complexo penitenciário não teria condições para atendê-lo caso precisasse. Pelo entendimento do STF, a sentença pode ser cumprida a partir da decisão da segunda instância – que, nos casos dos acusados da Lava Jato, tem acompanhado as sentenças de Moro e companhia.

Muito se falava da possibilidade de Cunha assinar um acordo de delação para minimizar a pena, algo que jamais se confirmou. A possibilidade de delação gerava apreensão no governo, que era acusado de ceder aos pleitos do detento.

A influência de Cunha no governo levou Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL), líder do governo no Senado, a se queixar. Segundo ele, um núcleo político ligado ao ex-deputado fluminense disputava espaço com o PSDB em torno do presidente.

Um dos representantes desse movimento seria o deputado Carlos Marun (PMDB-MS), que teria negociado nomeações no governo e em postos-chave do Congresso. Coincidência ou não, quem assumiu o Ministério da Justiça após a saída de Alexandre de Morais para o STF foi Osmar Serraglio, que chegou a defender publicamente a anistia para o ex-presidente da Câmara.

Para o deputado Alessandro Molon (Rede-RJ), a condenação deve elevar no Congresso as reações e as pressões para delimitar as ações da Lava Jato.

Cunha responde ainda a outras ações penais, mas não foi ainda julgado. Por isso, escreveu o juiz, “será considerado como tendo bons antecedentes”.

Após receber a notícia da condenação, Cunha escreveu, de dentro do Complexo Médico Penal do Paraná, que Moro não tem condições de julgar qualquer ação contra ele e razão de sua “parcialidade e motivação política”.

O peemedebista prometeu recorrer. “Essa decisão não se manterá nos tribunais superiores, até porque contém nulidades insuperáveis”.

The post Eduardo Cunha é condenado menos de um ano depois de pedir que Deus tivesse misericórdia da nação appeared first on The Intercept.

Após condenar Cunha, Moro aproveita ida à Câmara para criticar projeto que pune abuso de autoridade

30 March 2017 - 5:13pm

A fila para acompanhar a sessão começou a ser formada com duas horas de antecedência. Não era uma peça teatral ou um filme de ficção, mas uma sessão no plenário 1 da Câmara dos Deputados, que ouviria o juiz Sérgio Moro, responsável pela Operação Lava Jato. Justamente enquanto a fila aumentava, o magistrado divulgou sua decisão de condenar o ex-todo poderoso Eduardo Cunha (PMDB/RJ) a 15 anos e 4 meses de prisão pela prática dos crimes de corrupção, lavagem de dinheiro e evasão de divisas.

O juiz chegou ao Congresso rodeado por seguranças e circulou protegido por eles da abordagem de deputados, assessores e da imprensa. Moro foi recebido por Danilo Forte (PSB/CE), presidente da comissão que analisa mudanças no Código de Processo Penal (PL 8045/2010) e que convidou o magistrado para falar sobre o assunto. Mas a fala inicial dele recaiu sobre outro projeto que tramita no Congresso, o que pune o abuso de autoridade e que tem motivado uma crítica em coro do juiz e da força-tarefa da Lava Jato.

Tanto na sessão na Câmara como na sentença que condenou Eduardo Cunha, Moro aproveitou a atenção sobre sua voz para militar contra o projeto. “Sem as salvaguardas necessa?rias, [o projeto] tera? o efeito pra?tico de criminalizar a interpretac?a?o da lei e com isso colocara? em risco a independe?ncia judicial, subordinad­a ao interesse dos poderosos. Espera­-se e confia­-se que o Congresso sabera? proceder com sabedoria para a adoc?a?o de salvaguardas expli?citas e inequi?vocas”, defendeu o juiz na sentença.

Diante dos congressistas, o magistrado repetiu que o texto do projeto compromete a independência dos juízes, o que seria uma ameaça às liberdades fundamentais. “Ninguém é favorável a qualquer abuso, mas o que se receia é que, a pretexto de combater abusos, seja criminalizada a investigação e o cumprimento da lei”, disse.

Sérgio Moro fala sobre a preocupação da magistratura com aprovação do projeto de lei que pune o abuso de autoridades. (Com @GeorgMarques)

— The Intercept Brasil (@TheInterceptBr) March 30, 2017

Segundo o Moro, o projeto, se aprovado, poderá fazer com que os magistrados tenham medo de decidir sobre casos que envolvam pessoas “política e economicamente poderosas”. “Sem o juiz independente, não adianta ter um código excelente”, comentou.

“O senhor não perdeu a parcialidade após a foto divulgada pela Istoé ao lado do Aécio?”

Juiz Sergio Moro ao lado de Aecio Neves (PSDB) e Michel Temer (PMDB) durante a cerimonia de entrega do prêmio Brasileiro do Ano, da revista Istoé.

Foto: Diego Padgurschi /Folhapress

Na fase de perguntas, os deputados do PT partiram para o ataque. Paulo Teixeira (PT/SP) questionou Moro sobre a quebra de sigilo telefônico envolvendo a ex-presidente Dilma Rousseff e o ex-presidente Lula, medida que foi condenada à época pelo ministro Teori Zavascki. Para tentar constranger Moro, Teixeira relembrou a foto em que o magistrado aparece ao lado do senador Aécio Neves (PSDB/MG): “O senhor não perdeu a parcialidade após a foto divulgada pela Istoé ao lado do Aécio?”, questionou. “Nós aceitamos o combate à corrupção, mas não aceitamos a violação da Constituição”.

Ex-presidente da OAB/RJ e professor de direito, o deputado Wadih Damous (PT/RJ) também aproveitou o cara a cara com o juiz para criticar a sua atuação. “Aquilo que ensino aos meus alunos parece que não estou ensinando certo”. Segundo ele, há um direito em Curitiba e outro ensinado nas faculdades: “Os fundamentos do Estado de Direito estão sendo pulverizados. Vivemos a época de juízes celebridades que vieram para limpar o Brasil”, afirmou.

Para desanuviar o clima tenso, o deputado Pauderney Avelino (DEM/AM) criticou as perguntas dos deputados petistas e disse que o momento não era para tentar intimidar os convidados da audiência pública. Na verborragia que lhe é própria, Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSC/SP) disparou que “quem reclama de juiz que prende vagabundo é quem anda com vagabundo”.

Já ao final da comissão, Moro teve 15 minutos para responder aos questionamentos dos parlamentares. Olhando para o teto e evitando encarar os deputados petistas que sentaram à sua frente, emendou: “não cabe aqui ficar explicando aos parlamentares que fizeram perguntas ofensivas, então peço escusas que não irei respondê-las”, finalizou.

Cunha na cadeia

A condenação de Cunha teve pouca repercussão no colegiado. Segundo argumentou o juiz em sua sentença, o ex-deputado recebeu vantagem indevida no exercício do mandato. “A responsabilidade de um parlamentar federal é enorme e, por conseguinte, também a sua culpabilidade quando pratica crimes. Não pode haver ofensa mais grave do que a daquele que trai o mandato parlamentar e a sagrada confiança que o povo nele deposita para obter ganho próprio”, escreveu Moro.

Veja aqui a sentença na íntegra.

Cunha entrou para a história por diversos motivos, entre eles como um dos mais poderosos deputados a comandar a Câmara. Foi ele quem aceitou a abertura do impeachment contra a presidente Dilma Rousseff, naquele 02 de dezembro de 2015.

No currículo que mais parece um prontuário, o peemdebista fora acusado por parlamentares de embaraçar seu processo de cassação quando tramitava no Conselho de Ética. A manobra era denunciada, dia sim e dia também, pela imprensa e por parlamentares de oposição:

Dep @alessandromolon critica interferência de Temer na Câmara p/ tentar atrapalhar cassação de Cunha. Veja: ????????

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) August 8, 2016

No ímpeto de sua arrogância, Cunha chegou a afirmar que o processo de cassação contra ele era fruto de “perseguição política”. Relembre o momento:

Eduardo Cunha diz que processo contra ele é político e se faz de vítima de perseguição por causa do impeachment.

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) July 14, 2016

Após muitos esperneios para tentar atrasar sua punição, Cunha acabou cassado em 13 de setembro. Em 19 de outubro, Moro determinou sua prisão. O ex-deputado tentava a todo custo conseguir um habeas corpus no STF que determinasse sua soltura. Não deu. Hoje, com a determinação da sentença, Cunha terá muito tempo para refletir sobre suas condutas nada republicanas.

Clima de festa no Conselho de Ética após aprovação da cassação do mandato de Eduardo Cunha.

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) June 14, 2016

The post Após condenar Cunha, Moro aproveita ida à Câmara para criticar projeto que pune abuso de autoridade appeared first on The Intercept.

Larry Summers Had the Power to Punish Wall Street. Now He’s Slamming Obama’s Gentle Treatment.

30 March 2017 - 4:46pm

As head of Barack Obama’s National Economic Council during 2009 and 2010 at the height of the foreclosure crisis, Larry Summers broke many promises to help homeowners while simultaneously dismissing Wall Street’s criminality. Now, after the Obama Administration has left power and Summers has no ability to influence anything, he finds himself “disturbed” that settlements for mortgage misconduct are full of lies. Those of us who screamed exactly this for years, when Summers might have been able to do something about it, are less than amused.

In Wednesday’s Washington Post, Summers writes about a “large systematic overstatement” of the burden actually felt by banks in various mortgage settlements. Typically with these settlements, the Justice Department announces a headline dollar amount that the media uncritically prints in their headlines. But that number bears no relation to reality.

Indeed, large amounts of the settlements are directed for “consumer relief,” which banks have been from the beginning adept at gaming. Financial writer Yves Smith coined the phrase “bullshit to cash ratio” to describe the relationship between actual hard-dollar fines for banks and these non-cash consumer relief measures.

Summers highlights an agreement last April, where Goldman Sachs needed to supply $1.8 billion in consumer relief to homeowners to settle claims that they swindled investors with mortgage-backed securities. But Goldman Sachs didn’t own any mortgages. So it bought distressed mortgages in bulk on the open market, for as low as 50 cents on the dollar. Then it modified the balance to, say, 60 cents on the dollar, satisfying the consumer relief while earning profit.

In other words, Obama’s Justice Department sentenced Goldman Sachs to make money. A more recent Deutsche Bank settlement allowed the bank to invest in hedge funds that do the same purchase-and-modify loan scheme, getting credit for $4.1 billion in consumer relief simply from the investment. Deutsche Bank is even looking to earn credit for consumer relief by indirectly funding new subprime loans, also a moneymaking activity. This is like sentencing a bank robber to open a lemonade stand.

“While there may have been some encouragement to principle (sic) reduction through these settlements,” Summers writes, “neither the cost to banks nor the incremental benefit to consumers is remotely comparable to the consumer relief figures advertised by both the DoJ and the banks.”

Larry Summers should be the last person expressing outrage about any of this. It was his indifference to the suffering of homeowners after the financial crash that led to this fake justice-by-settlement scheme.

Former US treasury secretary Larry Summers speaks during a discussion at the IMF/WB Spring Meetings in Washington, on April 16, 2015.

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The week before Obama took office in 2009, when the incoming White House wanted the second half of the TARP bailout money released, Summers wrote a letter to Congress promising that “the Obama Administration will commit substantial resources of $50-100B to a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis.” He added that “we will implement smart, aggressive policies to reduce the number of preventable foreclosures by helping to reduce mortgage payments for economically stressed but responsible homeowners, while also reforming our bankruptcy laws.”

None of this happened. The ballyhooed $100 billion investment in mortgage mitigation ended up spending only $21 billion, and worse, was manipulated into a predatory lending program by mortgage servicers who had financial incentives to foreclose. The reform to bankruptcy laws Summers touted in his letter, which would have allowed judges to modify home mortgages, was something he actively opposed after Obama’s inauguration. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., publicly alleged that Summers “was not supportive of this,” and that he expressed doubts in private meetings.

Summers tries to separate himself from the Justice Department’s lies by saying, “Because of DOJ independence, my work in the White House gave me no window into specific cases.” But that’s completely untrue. When it was discovered that mortgage companies were using false documents to execute foreclosures, in violation of numerous legal statutes, Summers dismissed it.

As I reported in my book Chain of Title, Summers convened a presidential-level meeting about foreclosure fraud, and assured Obama that it represented no systemic threat to the economy. When Elizabeth Warren, then an assistant to the president, disagreed, laying out how it was a cover-up of a larger crime that deeply damaged homeowners, Summers made sure that Warren never showed up to subsequent meetings with the president.

The ignorance of the importance of this issue led directly to the Justice Department’s 2012 foreclosure fraud settlement, which uses the same obfuscation Summers laments in his editorial. That “$25 billion” settlement only cost banks $5 billion in hard dollars, the rest going to “consumer relief.” 1 million principal reductions were promised in this settlement; in the end, they went to just 83,000 homeowners, and banks paid much of the penalty with someone else’s money.

The very scheme that Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank are using to profit off of modifying home loans was something advocates for stronger intervention in the foreclosure crisis were pleading with the Obama administration to undertake when Summers worked there. The government could have bought up distressed loans and modified them to prevent foreclosures, something accomplished during the Great Depression through the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC). One million loans were purchased and modified to keep people in their homes back then, and when the program ended in the early 1950s, it had turned a small profit.

But Summers recommended nothing of the sort, turning instead to failed programs that put hardly a dent in a crisis that saw over 9.3 million American families lose their homes. And he ignored the potential leverage policymakers would have had for better outcomes for homeowners when mortgage companies were caught with massive legal exposure.

This same person now laments the public relations strategies Obama’s Justice Department used to pretend they got tough on banks, when he’s completely implicated in the policies that ruined homeowners and let banks skate. This fits a typical dynamic for Summers, waiting until he has no power to reverse himself on policies he endorsed when in power.

You would think someone who failed so utterly on this score would be ashamed to opine on anything related to foreclosures. But shame is a rare commodity in Larry Summers’s Washington.

Still, while it’s galling that Summers waited until Obama left office to criticize his Justice Department over this, he at least honestly explained his perspective to Elizabeth Warren when she entered government:

He teed it up this way: I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.

Top photo: People walk freely in front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, in 2011.

The post Larry Summers Had the Power to Punish Wall Street. Now He’s Slamming Obama’s Gentle Treatment. appeared first on The Intercept.

Facebook Failed to Protect 30 Million Users From Having Their Data Harvested by Trump Campaign Affiliate

30 March 2017 - 2:01pm

In 2014, traces of an unusual survey, connected to Facebook, began appearing on internet message boards. The boards were frequented by remote freelance workers who bid on “human intelligence tasks” in an online marketplace, called Mechanical Turk, controlled by Amazon. The “turkers,” as they’re known, tend to perform work that is rote and repetitive, like flagging pornographic images or digging through search engine results for email addresses. Most jobs pay between 1 and 15 cents. “Turking makes us our rent money and helps pay off debt,” one turker told The Intercept. Another turker has called the work “voluntarily slave labor.”

The task posted by “Global Science Research” appeared ordinary, at least on the surface. The company offered turkers $1 or $2 to complete an online survey. But there were a couple of additional requirements as well. First, Global Science Research was only interested in American turkers. Second, the turkers had to download a Facebook app before they could collect payment. Global Science Research said the app would “download some information about you and your network … basic demographics and likes of categories, places, famous people, etc. from you and your friends.”

“Our terms of service clearly prohibit misuse,” said a spokesperson for Amazon Web Services, by email. “When we learned of this activity back in 2015, we suspended the requester for violating our terms of service.”

Although Facebook’s early growth was driven by closed, exclusive networks at college and universities, it has gradually herded users to agree to increasingly permissive terms of service. By 2014, anything a user’s friends could see was also potentially visible to the developers of any app that they chose to download. Some of the turkers noticed that the Global Science Research app appeared to be taking advantage of Facebook’s porousness. “Someone can learn everything about you by looking at hundreds of pics, messages, friends, and likes,” warned one, writing on a message board. “More than you realize.” Others were more blasé. “I don’t put any info on FB,” one wrote. “Not even my real name … it’s backwards that people put sooo much info on Facebook, and then complain when their privacy is violated.”

In late 2015, the turkers began reporting that the Global Science Research survey had abruptly shut down. The Guardian had published a report that exposed exactly who the turkers were working for. Their data was being collected by Aleksandr Kogan, a young lecturer at Cambridge University. Kogan founded Global Science Research in 2014, after the university’s psychology department refused to allow him to use its own pool of data for commercial purposes. The data collection that Kogan undertook independent of the university was done on behalf of a military contractor called Strategic Communications Laboratories, or SCL. The company’s election division claims to use “data-driven messaging” as part of “delivering electoral success.”

SCL has a growing U.S. spin-off, called Cambridge Analytica, which was paid millions of dollars by Donald Trump’s campaign. Much of the money came from committees funded by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who reportedly has a large stake in Cambridge Analytica. For a time, one of Cambridge Analytica’s officers was Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s senior adviser. Months after Bannon claimed to have severed ties with the company, checks from the Trump campaign for Cambridge Analytica’s services continued to show up at one of Bannon’s addresses in Los Angeles.

“You can say Mr. Mercer declined to comment,” said Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesperson for Robert Mercer, by email.

Facebook Elections signs in the media area at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Aug. 6, 2015, before the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 election.

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

The Intercept interviewed five individuals familiar with Kogan’s work for SCL. All declined to be identified, citing concerns about an ongoing inquiry at Cambridge and fears of possible litigation. Two sources familiar with the SCL project told The Intercept that Kogan had arranged for more than 100,000 people to complete the Facebook survey and download an app. A third source with direct knowledge of the project said that Global Science Research obtained data from 185,000 survey participants as well as their Facebook friends. The source said that this group of 185,000 was recruited through a data company, not Mechanical Turk, and that it yielded 30 million usable profiles. No one in this larger group of 30 million knew that “likes” and demographic data from their Facebook profiles were being harvested by political operatives hired to influence American voters.

Kogan declined to comment. In late 2014, he gave a talk in Singapore in which he claimed to have “a sample of 50+ million individuals about whom we have the capacity to predict virtually any trait.” Global Science Research’s public filings for 2015 show the company holding 145,111 British pounds in its bank account. Kogan has since changed his name to Spectre. Writing online, he has said that he changed his name to Spectre after getting married. “My wife and I are both scientists and quite religious, and light is a strong symbol of both,” he explained.

The purpose of Kogan’s work was to develop an algorithm for the “national profiling capacity of American citizens” as part of SCL’s work on U.S. elections, according to an internal document signed by an SCL employee describing the research.

“We do not do any work with Facebook likes,” wrote Lindsey Platts, a spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica, in an email. The company currently “has no relationship with GSR,” Platts said.

“Cambridge Analytica does not comment on specific clients or projects,” she added when asked whether the company was involved with Global Science Research’s work in 2014 and 2015.

The Guardian, which was was the first to report on Cambridge Analytica’s work on U.S. elections, in late 2015, noted that the company drew on research “spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission.” Kogan disputed this at the time, telling The Guardian that his turker surveys had collected no more than “a couple of thousand responses” for any one client. While it is unclear how many responses Global Science Research obtained through Mechanical Turk and how many it recruited through a data company, all five of the sources interviewed by The Intercept confirmed that Kogan’s work on behalf of SCL involved collecting data from survey participants’ networks of Facebook friends, individuals who had not themselves consented to give their data to Global Science Research and were not aware that they were the objects of Kogan’s study. In September 2016, Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, said that the company built a model based on “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans” filling out personality surveys, generating a “model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.”

Shortly after The Guardian published its 2015 article, Facebook contacted Global Science Research and requested that it delete the data it had taken from Facebook users. Facebook’s policies give Facebook the right to delete data gathered by any app deemed to be “negatively impacting the Platform.” The company believes that Kogan and SCL complied with the request, which was made during the Republican primary, before Cambridge Analytica switched over from Ted Cruz’s campaign to Donald Trump’s. It remains unclear what was ultimately done with the Facebook data, or whether any models or algorithms derived from it wound up being used by the Trump campaign.

In public, Facebook continues to maintain that whatever happened during the run-up to the election was business as usual. “Our investigation to date has not uncovered anything that suggests wrongdoing,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept.

Facebook appears not to have considered Global Science Research’s data collection to have been a serious ethical lapse. Joseph Chancellor, Kogan’s main collaborator on the SCL project and a former co-owner of Global Science Research, is now employed by Facebook Research. “The work that he did previously has no bearing on the work that he does at Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept.

Chancellor declined to comment.

Cambridge Analytica has marketed itself as classifying voters using five personality traits known as OCEAN — Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism — the same model used by University of Cambridge researchers for in-house, non-commercial research. The question of whether OCEAN made a difference in the presidential election remains unanswered. Some have argued that big data analytics is a magic bullet for drilling into the psychology of individual voters; others are more skeptical. The predictive power of Facebook likes is not in dispute. A 2013 study by three of Kogan’s former colleagues at the University of Cambridge showed that likes alone could predict race with 95 percent accuracy and political party with 85 percent accuracy. Less clear is their power as a tool for targeted persuasion; Cambridge Analytica has claimed that OCEAN scores can be used to drive voter and consumer behavior through “microtargeting,” meaning narrowly tailored messages. Nix has said that neurotic voters tend to be moved by “rational and fear-based” arguments, while introverted, agreeable voters are more susceptible to “tradition and habits and family and community.”

Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center at Arizona State University, said he was skeptical of the idea that the Trump campaign got a decisive edge from data analytics. But, he added, such techniques will likely become more effective in the future. “It’s reasonable to believe that sooner or later, we’re going to see widespread manipulation of people’s decision-making, including in elections, in ways that are more widespread and granular, but even less detectable than today,” he wrote in an email.

Donald Trump throws a hat to supporters during a campaign rally on Sept. 15, 2015, in Los Angeles.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Trump’s circle has been open about its use of Facebook to influence the vote. Joel Pollak, an editor at Breitbart, writes in his campaign memoir about Trump’s “armies of Facebook ‘friends,’ … bypassing the gatekeepers in the traditional media.” Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, has written in his own campaign memoir about “geo-targeting” cities to deliver a debunked claim that Bill Clinton had fathered a child out of wedlock, and narrowing down the audience “based on preferences in music, age range, black culture, and other urban interests.”

Clinton, of course, had her own analytics effort, and digital market research is a normal part of any political campaign. But the quantity of data compiled on individuals during the run-up to the election is striking. Alexander Nix, head of Cambridge Analytica, has claimed to “have a massive database of 4-5,000 data points on every adult in America.” Immediately after the election, the company tried to take credit for the win, claiming that its data helped the Trump campaign set the candidate’s travel schedule and place online ads that were viewed 1.5 billion times. Since then, the company has been de-emphasizing its reliance on psychological profiling.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, an official privacy watchdog within the British government, is now looking into whether Cambridge Analytica and similar companies might pose a risk to voters’ rights. The British inquiry was triggered by reports in The Observer of ties between Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, and the Leave.EU campaign, which worked to persuade British voters to leave the European Union. While Nix has previously talked about the firm’s work for Leave.EU, Cambridge Analytica now denies that it had any paid role in the campaign.

Leave.EU signage is displayed in London on March 5, 2016.

Photo: Rex Features/AP Images

In the U.S., where privacy laws are looser, there is no investigation. Cambridge Analytica is said to be pitching its products to several federal agencies, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. SCL, its parent company, has new offices near the White House and has reportedly been advised by Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, on how to increase its federal business. (A spokesperson for Flynn denied that he had done any work for SCL.)

Years before the arrival of Kogan’s turkers, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tried to address privacy concerns around the company’s controversial Beacon program, which quietly funneled data from outside websites into Facebook, often without Facebook users being aware of the process. Reflecting on Beacon, Zuckerberg attributed part of Facebook’s success to giving “people control over what and how they share information.” He said that he regretted making Beacon an “opt-out system instead of opt-in … if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon went ahead and still shared it with their friends.”

Seven years later, Facebook appears to have made the same mistake, but with far greater consequences. In mid-2014, however, Facebook announced a new review process, where the company would make sure that new apps asked only for data they would actually use. “People want more control,” the company said at that time. “It’s going to make a huge difference with building trust with your app’s audience.” Existing apps were given a full year to switch over to have Facebook review how they handled user data. By that time, Global Science Research already had what it needed.

Top photo: A collage of profile pictures makes up the Facebook logo on a wall at a Facebook Data Center in Forest City, N.C., in 2012.

The post Facebook Failed to Protect 30 Million Users From Having Their Data Harvested by Trump Campaign Affiliate appeared first on The Intercept.

Na era do bom gestor, Luciano Huck é quem pode falar de política

30 March 2017 - 1:11pm

O dia 13 de março de 2016 ficou marcado na história do jornalismo brasileiro como o dia em que Kim Kataguiri, o jovem líder do MBL que abandonou a faculdade porque sabia mais de economia do que o professor, apelou para os Power Rangers na primeira página do maior jornal do país no que deveria ser o chamado à tomada popular do poder horas antes da maior das manifestações pelo impeachment de Dilma Rousseff. Estranhamente, o excerto não rendeu nenhum prêmio Esso, mas assim é a vida: tomada por vilões de seriados e injustiças, não exatamente nessa ordem.

Um ano e alguns ministros do governo da salvação decapitados depois – a maioria por suspeita de corrupção e um por denunciar um colega por tráfico de influência – parece claro, ou deveria estar, o risco de incensar a líderes das causas populares aqueles que têm por vivência ou referência teórica aquilo que aprenderam na TV. O rescaldo da revolução (sic) é a cota da vergonha alheia.

Em tempos de dissolução dos grupos tradicionais de representação, com oligarquias acuadas entre lupas e restrições sobre sistemas de financiamento de campanha, um caminho encontrado por quem sonha em mudar tudo para tudo permanecer como está foi lançar às disputas quem na largada possui rosto, público, dinheiro e amigos com dinheiro para bancar a aventura.

Sai o político, entra o gestor amigo dos políticos.

O tucano João Doria, empresário que conseguiu proezas como a engorda de anúncios da própria revista desde que virou prefeito em São Paulo, filho dileto desse novo modelo, já faz escola: a visibilidade como apresentador de reality show o inspira a voos mais altos e animou outros apresentadores a deixarem (?) o set para apresentar lições para salvar o mundo real com a experiência dos programas de auditório.

Se os aprendizes Donald Trump e João Doria conseguiriam, que dizer de quem tem um caldeirão inteiro de ideias para a tomada do poder e das consciências?

Quem tinha curiosidade não tem mais. Na edição desta quinta-feira na Folha de S.Paulo, Luciano Huck, deixou as colunas de entretenimento para ganhar no caderno de política uma página inteira – espécie de latifúndio para os padrões atuais de espaço editorial – para desenhar a sua análise da conjuntura.

Sai o cientista político, entra o apresentador de auditório.

Na entrevista, o apresentador atribui ao trabalho com o microfone o poder conquistado junto aos 40 milhões de seguidores das redes sociais e 18 milhões de espectadores do seu programa. Mal contém a empolgação ao ver que sua geração tomou as rédeas do dia a dia – um exemplo é a nomeação do insuspeito Alexandre de Moraes, aos 47 anos, ao Supremo Tribunal Federal. E define carisma, capacidade de implementação, ética e altruísmo como peças-chave para quem quer aproveitar o colapso político para, em vez de escrever livros de autoajuda, liderar um projeto novo de país.

Na deixa, Huck respondeu ao menos sete questionamentos, diretos ou indiretos, sobre a possibilidade de se apresentar como opção a este sistema combalido – um deles sem sequer ponto de interrogação: “a campanha de um nome da TV seria mais barata, por ser conhecido…”

Apesar das perguntas-convite, Huck garante que não é candidato, apesar da torcida de amigos como FHC e da proximidade com Aécio Neves, slogan das camisas “A culpa não é minha” e nome onipresente das delações da Lava Jato, o principal movimento, segundo Huck, para refazer e ressignificar as bases morais e éticas do Brasil.

Até 2018, o apresentador espera ver Michel Temer, o vice do grande acordo nacional, com Supremo, com tudo, mudar a história usando a impopularidade “para fazer o que precisa, para corrigir os erros da construção da nossa democracia”.

Para Huck, “o único jeito de arrumar esse país é se a gente conseguir fazer um pacto apartidário, sem revanchismo, sem revolta”. Se foi golpe ou não, alerta, “não importa”.

Para quem gosta de bordões, a próxima eleição, se houver, promete ser uma loucura, loucura, loucura.

The post Na era do bom gestor, Luciano Huck é quem pode falar de política appeared first on The Intercept.

House Republicans Launch a New Assault on the EPA

30 March 2017 - 12:10pm

A Russian loomed over the House of Representatives Wednesday. And it wasn’t Putin. Instead, the figure who came up in two different discussions among House members was Trofim Lysenko, a Soviet agronomist who manipulated data in ways that fit perfectly with the political agenda of Joseph Stalin. Lysenko’s theories, which rejected the now accepted ideas of genes and genetic inheritance, were so appealing to the Soviet dictator they became the only ones taught in the country in the 1940s as Soviet scientists were forbidden from contradicting his teachings. Yet the actual research behind Lysenko’s conclusions was so off base that the decision to exempt him from the standard scientific process ultimately helped lead to a famine.

The story of the man who imperiled his country with pseudoscience designed to please a politician seemed particularly relevant during a day filled with Republican efforts to provide scientific cover for a range of unscientific policies. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology began the day with a hearing called Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method. Held just two days after a Trump executive order killed federal efforts to address climate change, the hearing included testimony from three experts far out of the scientific mainstream whose careers have been boosted by promoting theories that benefit Republicans and the fossil fuel industry.

Expert witnesses Judith Curry, John Christy, and Roger Pielke Jr., who are frequently called on to present the Republican case for inaction on climate in Congress, all underscored the point that whatever is happening with the climate has been exaggerated and doesn’t warrant serious action, a message that may be particularly welcome to administration officials who have already decided to take just that path.

Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama who insists that extreme weather events are not related to climate change, asserted that while the earth may be warming, it’s not due to human activity. “Mother nature can cause such temperature changes on her own,” he said. Pielke, a science policy writer at the University of Colorado, said that he believes in climate change and suggested that a carbon tax might be a good idea, but stuck by his idea that there is no evidence to suggest that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or droughts are increasing. And Judith Curry, a former professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, insisted that humans might be responsible for less than 50 percent of climate change, a possibility that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has given a less than one in 10,000 chance of being true.

The focus on the convenient untruths of Curry, Pielke, and Christy was an after-the-fact attempt to justify the about-face by turning scientific reality on its head. Although 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate warming trends are “extremely likely due to human activity,” only one of four witnesses represented that point of view.

Michael Mann, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, pointed to a study he published earlier this week linking climate change to droughts, heat waves, and floods, and noted that the fires that recently devastated the Midwest are evidence of the need to respond to the phenomenon. Mann has been widely attacked for such mainstream views before. His email has been hacked. He’s received hate mail, death threats, and has been the subject of hostile congressional hearings. At Wednesday’s hearing, he invoked Lysinko to explain the current enthusiasm for climate denial and then withstood condemnation from Republicans who chastised him for referring to the other panelists as deniers. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher told him he should be “ashamed.”

In the upside-down world of the House science committee, Mann is the aggressor and those who have attacked his widely supported views are the aggrieved ones. “As a result of my analyses, I have been called a serial climate disinformer,” said Curry. “There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to confirm to the so-called consensus.”

Fog hovers over a mountaintop near a cut out of a coal miner at a memorial in Cumberland, Ky., in 2014.

Photo: David Goldman/AP

Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the committee, similarly flipped the script. Rather than admitting that the hearing had anything to do with protecting the fossil fuel industry, which has made more contributions to his campaigns than any other sector, he insisted the bitter back and forth between Mann and climate skeptics was meant as an investigation of scientific principles. “Far too often, alarmist theories on climate science originate with scientists who operate outside of principals of the scientific method,” said Smith. “Before we impose costly government regulations, we should evaluate uncertainties.”

Since has was named chair of the House science committee in 2013, a position in which he has at least partial jurisdiction over the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the U.S. Geological Survey, among other federal agencies, Smith’s scientific interests seem focused on attacking researchers whose work demonstrates the need to restrict the fossil fuel industry. Smith has particularly singled out scientists who have studied the dangers of air pollution and the contribution of fossil fuel burning to climate change and has tweeted out a Breitbart story about a nonexistent plunge in global temperatures.

.@BreitbartNews: Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists

— Sci,Space,&Tech Cmte (@HouseScience) December 1, 2016

After the science committee hearing ended, Smith moved on to another effort to roll back environmental regulations. After a brief discussion, the House passed a bill called the “Secret Science Reform Act” when it was first introduced in 2014 that has since been renamed the HONESTY Act. According to Smith, the bill, which would limit the EPA to using only data that can be replicated or made available for independent analysis, is an effort to make the EPA more transparent. “Why would anyone want to hide this information from the American people?” the chairman asked.

The dozens of health and environmental organizations that oppose the bill, including the American Public Health Association, the American Lung Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have an answer: Many studies are based on confidential health information, and the legislation would unreasonably limit the studies the EPA can use — and thus its ability to regulate. According to an analysis by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, had it been in place, the law would have prevented drinking water regulations, the identification of dangerous lead levels, risk management programs under the Clean Air Act, and the setting of certain air and water quality standards among other life-saving public protections.

Before the day was done, the House was involved in yet another effort to swap out independent environmental science with something more to industry’s liking. The EPA Science Advisory Bill Reform Act, which was introduced on Tuesday night and was passed by the House this morning, would limit the number of independent scientists who can serve on that body and allow people who have financial ties to the matters being discussed to serve on the board as long as they disclose their conflicts of interest.

The proposal got Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly thinking once again about Lysinko in Soviet Russia: “The last time a great power decided to deny science-based policy and to actually dictate politically what was science and what wasn’t was Stalin’s Soviet Russia. Famous scientist named Lysinko, who turned out to be a fraud and a con artist. But for 30 years, his thinking dominated soviet science.” That folly led to millions of deaths, said Connolly, who predicted that the U.S. government’s departure from established science would not end well.

Top photo: Firefighters from across Kansas and Oklahoma battle a wildfire near Protection, Kan., on March 6, 2017.

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Meet the Midwestern Contractor That Appears Hundreds of Times in the CIA WikiLeaks Dump

30 March 2017 - 11:49am

In a suburb of Cincinnati about 30 minutes north of the Ohio River, right down the street from the local Hooters, a little known subsidiary of defense giant Northrop Grumman works on contracts for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Xetron Corporation, whose products range from military sensors to communications systems to information security software, shows up in nearly 400 documents published earlier this month by WikiLeaks. Those documents describe some of the tools the CIA uses to hack phones, smart TVs, and other digital products to conduct espionage overseas — and some of the partners that help them do it, like Xetron.

Now Xetron employees are facing additional scrutiny in the wake of the WikiLeaks dump, according to one source familiar with the matter, with some of them suddenly pulled in to polygraph examinations. It’s unclear if the government is conducting an active investigation into the company as a potential source of the leaks or if the firm is simply responding to stepped-up security requirements on some of its projects.

According to the source, it typically takes months for contractors to schedule the polygraph examinations required on certain sensitive government contracts — sometimes up to a year. “But if it was really important for a mission it would happen immediately … or [if there’s] concern about the project,” the person said. Another source familiar with Xetron’s operations said being suddenly asked to sit for a polygraph in the context of normal project requirements is unusual. The sources requested anonymity to preserve their employability in the buttoned-up world of defense contracting.

The FBI, Xetron, and Northrop Grumman all declined to comment. “Thank you for reaching out to us.  At this time we’re not able to provide a comment on this matter,” Northrop Grumman spokesperson Matt McQueen wrote.

“We have no comment on the authenticity of purported intelligence documents released by WikiLeaks or on the status of any investigation into the source of the documents,” Heather Fritz Horniak, spokesperson for the CIA wrote in an email to The Intercept.

The material released by WikiLeaks show that Xetron provided the CIA with tools to gain unauthorized access to Cisco routers. In one document, Xetron engineers are shown working with “The Bakery” — an unidentified group, possibly a codename for a unit within the CIA — to create “Cinnamon”: a malicious implant for Cisco devices. Another document says that Xetron developed software that routes communications back and forth between computers compromised by the CIA and command servers also controlled by the agency.

Xetron has been sharing hacking techniques with the intelligence community going back to at least 2010, according to documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In that year, according to a top-secret schedule, a Xetron representative was slated to present malicious Windows software named “Orca” at one of the CIA’s annual “Jamboree” technology conferences for agency staff and contractors. Orca was designed to circumvent a security feature of Windows that prevented anyone from tampering with programs on a computer hard drive. Orca instead tampered with programs after they had been loaded from the drive into memory.

In a follow-on presentation at the 2011 Jamboree, another Xetron representative was scheduled to detail research into techniques to obscure the origins of malicious software like Orca. In 2012, a Xetron representative was slated to outline a technique for reverse engineering — that is, essentially re-creating — the “embedded” software used to operate real-world machines, according to a Jamboree conference schedule.

It’s not clear whether the CIA ever adopted any of the methods outlined in Xetron’s presentations. Asked about the Snowden documents, the agency wrote that “it is CIA’s job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad.  America deserves nothing less.  It is also important to note that CIA is legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and CIA does not do so.” The NSA did not comment.

Xetron’s proximity to the intelligence community has become particularly noteworthy in the wake of reports that federal investigators are focused on CIA contractors as the most likely sources of the documents published by WikiLeaks — although there is no evidence linking the company to that breach. The documents exposed details on many CIA capabilities, including a library of hacks against smartphones deemed “impressive” by digital security experts. Intelligence officials are taking the breach seriously; the CIA in a statement said the document release would “not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.” According to two sources working at major defense contractors, such employers are taking extra steps to remind employees about company ethics — giving speeches and posting fliers in the halls about appropriate data transfer procedures.

It’s highly likely the government knows where the leak came from, or has a good idea, said Nick Weaver, a senior staff researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley.

“I would be shocked if the investigators don’t already know when and by whom the data was accessed, by combining access logs on the server with the very narrow time range when this leak could have occurred,” he wrote in a text message. “If they don’t know this by now, it indicates that a huge amount of effort dealing with insider threats was wasted. Google was able to do this analysis for the data allegedly stolen from their autonomous car project. Why couldn’t the CIA?”

Despite claiming some 68,000 employees as of 2013, Xetron has maintained a relatively low profile over the years. One exception came in 2011, when the hacker collective Anonymous released email purloined from digital security firm HBGary; in one such email, HBGary reportedly discussed negotiating with Xetron to provide Xetron computer malware it could repurpose or re-sell.

Xetron began as a smaller “defense electronics” firm in 1972 and was purchased by Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1986. Both companies were acquired by Northrop Grumman in 1996. Xetron’s Ohio plant endured an expensive fire, which inflicted $15 million in damage, in the early 1990s.

This image shows a Google Maps street view of Xetron Corporation’s offices located in Cincinnati in July, 2016.

Photo: Google Maps

“Xetron specializes in providing solutions that meet operational needs or fill technology gaps,” reads a recent description of the company written by Northrop Grumman for potential government customers. One specialty includes “computer network operations” — expertise in encryption and intrusion detection as well as “reverse engineering and computer assault.”

“Our many repeat Government customers can attest to the reliability of the products we provide,” the description reads. “Click the links below to learn more about just some of the products and services we offer. Even if you don’t see it here, tell us what you need. Chances are we can help.”

The company draws a large number of students from nearby engineering schools; it has a partnership on “cyber informatics” with the University of Cincinnati where employees of the company can take classes alongside students. In September 2016, representatives of Xetron went to the University of Dayton to recruit engineers “to join their highly skilled Cyber and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance development teams,” according to a public Facebook post.

Multiple former employees described an office environment focused on beating rivals like Lockheed Martin for government contracts, but where it was not unusual to spend years on a proof-of-concept only to see it left unused.

“Morale was weak, to say the least,” one former employee said. Even so, few former employees were willing to discuss even banal details about working at Xetron; it’s not at all clear that the environment would push someone to leak sensitive work product. “I think a lot of them still believe in the mission, they were just overworked and underappreciated.”

Documents published with this article:

Top photo: Xetron Corporation appears in documents released by WikiLeaks that links them to tools the CIA uses to hack digital products to conduct espionage overseas.

The post Meet the Midwestern Contractor That Appears Hundreds of Times in the CIA WikiLeaks Dump appeared first on The Intercept.

Russia Investigation Heading Toward a Train Wreck Because Republicans Don’t Care What Happened

30 March 2017 - 11:20am

In a better, imaginary world, there would be no need for Thursday’s Senate hearings into whether and how the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Instead, a combined Justice Department and congressional investigation into the subject would have started last summer and could be wrapping up right about now.

This investigation would have been successfully carried out by the government’s normal mechanisms — because in this made up universe, politicians would care more about the country they live in than getting to the studio in time for their next appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight. For the same reason, they’d defy the instinctive secrecy of the intelligence world in order to declassify whatever evidence they uncovered so Americans could judge it for themselves.

Unfortunately, on this planet we’re on a trajectory to the worst possible outcome. It’s now easy to imagine a future in which Trump and Russia become the millennials’ equivalent of the John F. Kennedy assassination: A subject where no one can honestly be sure whether there was no conspiracy or a huge conspiracy, the underlying reality concealed by the thick murk of government secrecy, and progressives exhausting themselves for decades afterwards trying to prove what really happened.

Democrats were thrilled when FBI Director James Comey took the unusual step of revealing that the bureau is carrying out an “ongoing investigation” into whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. But as Hillary Clinton would strenuously tell you, the mere fact of an FBI investigation does not prove anything, and no one should believe it does. The FBI could easily close its investigation without filing any charges — especially since this is a counterintelligence inquiry rather than a criminal one — either because investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing, or because they did but believe they can’t seek an indictment without revealing classified surveillance programs. The FBI then might give no public explanation of its decision, and leave secret indefinitely whatever evidence was gathered.

What happens then? Democratic partisans will be infuriated, and rightfully point to the fact that Comey’s investigation was ultimately overseen by a Trump political appointee at the Justice Department. But they’d have no formal recourse. (The investigation began last year during the Obama administration and is now supervised by Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself on the subject. However, Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s nominee for Deputy Attorney General, will eventually be in charge.)

Meanwhile, there are several ongoing investigations in Congress, with the two most significant ones carried out by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

But these inquiries suffer from the same flaw: They are supervised by Republicans. The situation is especially dire with the House Intelligence Committee, now that the escapades of its chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, have revealed him to have a toddler’s sense of personal responsibility. Even worse, the ultimate authority in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan, has demonstrated his own lack of integrity by refusing to ask Nunes to recuse himself.

House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) talks to reporters on March 24, 2017 in Washington.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate Intelligence Committee has a somewhat stronger track record of conducting thorough, credible investigations, such as its reports on torture and the pre-war intelligence on Iraq’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction.

But even in these cases their work did not ask obvious questions and took years to complete. If they turn in a similar performance this time, we’ll be past the 2020 elections before they’re done.

Moreover, while the committee’s GOP chairman Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, and its ranking member Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, are making a public show of bipartisan resolve, Burr was a vociferous 2016 supporter of Trump — and at the request of the White House called media outlets to anonymously push back on their Russia stories.

So if the intelligence committees conclude there was no coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, it will understandably be impossible to persuade many Democrats that the investigations were legitimate. (On the other hand, Republicans would have good reason to be skeptical if they do not reveal surveillance of Donald Trump and his associates – both intelligence committees are notoriously loath to attack the agencies they’re supposedly overseeing, and members have made truly shocking statements about their general impotence.)

The solution now remains the same as it’s always been: A commitment by top Republicans to investigations that will not just be credible to them but to everyone else in the country.

In the case of the FBI, this will require the appointment of a special prosecutor by incoming Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to take management of the counterintelligence investigation out of the hands of Trump nominees like himself. Sixty-five percent of Americans support this course of action, including 43 percent of Republicans. Many Democratic senators have called for a special prosecutor, and former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina just did too, making the obvious point that one is needed “to get to the bottom of this in a way that everyone trusts.”

With Congress, the investigations should be conducted not by regular committees, all controlled by the majority Republican party, but by a well-resourced special select committee like the ones that investigated Watergate and intelligence agency abuses in the 1970s, Iran-contra in the 1980s, and alleged Clinton administration misconduct in the 1990s. Many Democrats support this, and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona joined them in the wake of the Rep. Nunes’s peculiar behavior. Ideally such a select committee would have an equal number of members from each party.

(Another possibility, something akin to the 9/11 Commission, with no current politicians, seems appealing at first glance but actually would likely be more time consuming and less effective than leaving it in the hands of Congress.)

Finally, the investigations must commit to making public as much of the evidence they uncover as possible. In fact, if Trump is confident that there is nothing to this story, he could pledge to make this happen himself, since as president he has the power to declassify anything he wants.

There’s no question that making any of this happen will be an uphill battle. But the Republican wall of opposition to different and better investigations is breaking. And Americans of any party or none may soon realize that it’s in everyone’s interest to settle this as quickly as possible, once and for all.

Top photo: People walk across Red Square, with the Kremlin’s Spasskaya (Saviour) Tower seen in the background, in central Moscow on Oct. 9, 2016.

The post Russia Investigation Heading Toward a Train Wreck Because Republicans Don’t Care What Happened appeared first on The Intercept.

Why Has Trust in Media Collapsed? Look at Actions of WSJ, Yahoo, Business Insider and Slate.

30 March 2017 - 9:06am

Last week, we published documents that definitively debunked and disproved a claim which numerous media outlets had circulated and affirmed for years: that Edward Snowden lied about where he was during his first 11 days in Hong Kong. Contrary to the fable these outlets dispensed to their readers – that Snowden did not check into the Mira Hotel on May 21 as he claimed but only did so on June 1: 11 days later – these new documents, obtained from the Mira, prove that Snowden arrived there exactly when he always said, rendering their published stories factually false. Many of these stories had even claimed that anonymous U.S. investigators were unable to find hotel or credit card records for Snowden during these 11 days – exactly the records we just published.

The same day our story was published, the New York Times reporter Charlie Savage – who had previously spent weeks documenting that this claim about Snowden never had any journalistic basis to begin with – confirmed the authenticity of the new documents. As Savage wrote: “the documents show [Snowden] stayed in both the Icon and then, starting on May 21st, the Mira, under his own name, using his own credit cards. So there is no mystery gap, and the credit card records obviously were readily available to American investigators all along.”

The concocted discrepancy was significant because these media outlets – and many commentators citing their false story – used it to strongly suggest that Snowden, during these “Missing 11 Days,” was doing something nefarious: such as meeting his Russian or Chinese handlers. Numerous outlets uncritically aired this false claim, including the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo News, Business Insider, Slate, Interpreter Magazine and Folha de S.Paulo (Brazil’s largest newspaper).

A WSJ op-ed writer, Edward Jay Epstein, released a book in February featuring this fraud as a linchpin in his innuendo that Snowden was a Russian spy, which he then aired on a Lawfare podcast with Benjamin Wittes. This fable was also adopted by several former intelligence community employees now embedded in the pundit class – such as former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden and NSA employee John Schindler – as well as cable personalities such as MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid. Both Yahoo News and Slate used this falsehood as part of their accusation that Oliver Stone’s film about Snowden was misleading.

Ahem… Snowden Won't Talk About His Time In Hong Kong — And Now We Know Why via @BI_Defense

— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) July 1, 2014

Even the best and most careful journalists get things wrong sometimes. But the minimal requirement for journalistic credibility and integrity is acknowledging and fixing mistakes. When the debate over Fake News first emerged, advocates of the term insisted that it was this attribute – a willingness to admit and correct errors – that distinguishes credible news outlets that sometimes err from fakes and frauds.

Yet in this case, only one of the media outlets that published what is now a significant and documented falsehood – Brazil’s Folha – has even acknowledged these new documents. In Folha’s case, they did so lamely and grudgingly: rather than add an editor’s note or correction to their original story by reporter Igor Gielow (which still stands uncorrected), they published a short news article about these new hotel documents, which merely noted that I claim that these new documents “resolve a mystery” about Snowden. The Folha article also neglects to note that they were one of the outlets originally publishing the false story. But at least they said something.

That stands in stark contrast to all the U.S. outlets that published this falsehood and yet, 10 days later, have said literally nothing, continuing to allow what they now know is a factually false story to remain online uncorrected. They have simply refused even to address or acknowledge this new evidence. That includes the newspaper that first printed this falsehood and then re-published it most frequently – the Wall Street Journal – but also outlets such as Business Insider, Yahoo News and Slate, as well as Hayden, Reid, and most amazingly, Edward Jay Epstein, whose book aggressively features this fraud.

That journalists and editors at these outlets are well-aware of these new documents proving the falsehood of their stories is beyond question. Beyond Charlie Savage, many of the nation’s most respected national security and surveillance journalists noted – in widely shared tweets – that these new documents prove the original stories to be false:

Newly obtained documents prove: key claim of @Snowden's accusers is a fraud by @ggreenwald

— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) March 21, 2017

Disturbing: how an easily disprovable myth about @Snowden as spy survived for years @ggreenwald @charlie_savage

— Scott Shane (@ScottShaneNYT) March 21, 2017

"Newly Obtained Documents Prove: Key Claim of Snowden’s Accusers Is a Fraud"

— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) March 21, 2017

"Missing days" in Hong Kong, the foundation of Epstein's risible claim that Snowden worked for China, Russia or (somehow) both, disproved.

— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) March 21, 2017

Last nails in @edwardepstein's Snowden "spy" story from @ggreenwald & @charlie_savage.

— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) March 21, 2017

This seems like an esoteric detail but it's a big deal and appears to gut a chief criticism of @Snowden detractors

— Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) March 21, 2017

Snowden himself repeatedly re-tweeted those to his 3 million followers. And along with Savage, I repeatedly and specifically directed tweets at the editors of these publications responsible for the false stories, asking why no correction or retraction had been made:

.@hblodget @serwer @michaeldweiss @JoyAnnReid @SERGIO_DAVILA @jacobwe As editors who published a debunked story, will you retract it?

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 22, 2017

48 hours later, none of the outlets publishing this false report – @Slate, WSJ, @YahooFinance, @businessinsider, @folha – have corrected.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 23, 2017

Right. And @YahooFinance published it, too. And so did @Slate. And an MSNBC host. And @Interpreter_Mag. No retractions/corrections so far.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 21, 2017

.@WSJopinion should correct false info. @jamestaranto @DanHenninger @StephensWSJ @FreemanWSJ

— Charlie Savage (@charlie_savage) March 23, 2017

@ggreenwald Q is now, will @businessinsider retract/correct @MichaelBKelley's garbage reporting? Like this BS piece:

— Ryan Gallagher (@rj_gallagher) March 21, 2017

The reporter who wrote the false stories for both Yahoo News and Business Insider, Michael B. Kelley, responded when pushed on Twitter by, first, trying to imply the documents may be forgeries, then deleting those tweets and instead telling Savage: “Glad that got sorted with docs.” Yet the outlets that printed Kelley’s false claims have left them standing uncorrected.

What could possibly excuse this behavior? It’s bad enough that they all printed significant claims that – as Savage documented – never had any journalistic basis in the first place. That’s journalistic recklessness. But now they know their stories are false, and have left them standing without comment. That’s deliberate deceit, journalistic fraud.

There has been a great deal of hand-wringing over the last several months about why Fake News has proliferated and why Trump views waging war on the media as a winning strategy. The reason for both is clear: trust in established media institutions has collapsed. Yet for all the concern expressed about these trends, there is very little effort expended to examine the media’s own role in this collapse of trust.

As these sorts of incidents demonstrate, they clearly bear a significant share of the blame. Why should any institutions as insular and unaccountable as these have any valid claim to credibility?

If you publish serious claims without any basis that mislead readers, and then refuse to acknowledge new evidence that disproves your original claims – all because you dislike the people you originally smeared with falsehoods too much to correct your error or because you hope the embarrassment will disappear faster if just you ignore it – why should anyone view you as being different than Macedonian teenagers or “alt-right” conspiracy sites? What are the cognizable differences?

A vibrant and powerful fact-checking media is supposed to be one of the great safeguards against demagoguing authoritarians and assaults on democratic institutions. That only works if they earn the trust that they need to fulfill that function.

The post Why Has Trust in Media Collapsed? Look at Actions of WSJ, Yahoo, Business Insider and Slate. appeared first on The Intercept.

Com 10 senadores investigados na Lava Jato, comissão analisa projeto que pune abuso de autoridade

29 March 2017 - 3:32pm

Reunidos na Comissão de Constituição e Justiça, um colegiado de senadores citados na Lava Jato começou a analisar o projeto de lei que pune o abuso de autoridades (PLS 280/2016). O projeto foi proposto no ano passado por Renan Calheiros (PMDB/AL) – réu no STF por peculato e emparedado em outros 11 inquéritos – e voltou à pauta da CCJ menos de duas semanas depois da deflagração da Operação Carne Fraca, que motivou discursos de parlamentares contra o suposto abuso da Polícia Federal na investigação de frigoríficos.

Assim como Renan, o presidente da CCJ, Edison Lobão (PMDB/MA), é investigado na Lava Jato e, para evitar ainda mais constrangimentos, transferiu para o vice-presidente, Antônio Anastasia (PSDB/MG), a responsabilidade de conduzir a reunião desta quarta-feira (29). O fato é que o projeto é visto como mais um recado ao Supremo Tribunal Federal e aos procuradores envolvidos nas investigações que avançam sobre o Congresso. Por isso, parte dos senadores ainda encara a análise do texto como inoportuna.

No início da sessão, o senador Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede/AP) apresentou um pedido de realização de audiência pública antes da leitura do relatório. Ronaldo Caiado (DEM/GO) corroborou o coro dos insatisfeitos e encaminhou um requerimento para adiar a sessão, a fim de que houvesse tempo hábil para audiências públicas, mas seu pedido foi rejeitado pela comissão. Concordando com ambos, Ricardo Ferraço (PSDB/ES) disparou que “a pressa é inimiga da perfeição” e pediu que a leitura fosse adiada.

Senadora Gleisi Hoffmann e o relator do projeto que pune abuso de autoridades, Roberto Requião, em reunião da CCJ.

Foto: Pedro França/Agência Senado

Ré no STF junto com o marido e ex-ministro Paulo Bernardo por suspeita de ter recebido de forma ilegal R$ 1 milhão para sua campanha, a senadora Gleisi Hoffmann (PT/PR) afirmou que a análise do relatório pela CCJ não impediria a realização posterior de uma audiência pública sobre o tema. Em ato falho, o senador Eduardo Braga (PMDB/PA) relembrou que já havia sido feita uma audiência com o “ministro Sérgio Moro”. Depois dessa, ninguém mais segura a vaidade do magistrado de Curitiba que conduz a Lava-Jato.

Defesa de liberdades ou retaliação?

Há uma ala do Senado que vê no projeto uma tentativa de frear a Operação Lava Jato. Para outros, a proposta é necessária justamente pela ameaça que operações como Lava Jato e Carne Fraca causariam às liberdades individuais.

“Está mais com cara de retaliação do que de projeto de lei”O PLS 280 prevê, por exemplo, a prisão de um a quatro anos para a autoridade que “decretar condução coercitiva de testemunha ou investigado manifestamente descabida ou sem prévia intimação de comparecimento ao juízo”. O projeto estabelece mais de 30 tipos penais para punir, por exemplo, o juiz que decretar prisão preventiva, busca e apreensão de menor ou outra medida de privação da liberdade, em desconformidade com a lei. Também considera crime fotografar, filmar ou divulgar imagem de preso, internado, investigado, indiciado ou vítima em processo penal, sem seu consentimento ou com autorização obtida mediante constrangimento ilegal.

“Está mais com cara de retaliação do que de projeto de lei”, atacou Randolfe, na saída da CCJ. Segundo argumentou, não havia sentido em apresentar um parecer para o projeto e só depois fazer a audiência pública. “Claramente é uma pressa para votar isso, ignorando inclusive a sugestão do procurador-geral, Rodrigo Janot”. Segundo o senador a discussão do projeto está sendo atropelada para retaliar o Ministério Público.

Diante do retorno do projeto à pauta, Janot entregou ontem ao Congresso uma proposta que ameniza o texto. Ela criminaliza o abuso de autoridade de membros dos Poderes Executivo, Legislativo e Judiciário, do Ministério Público, mas não a divergência na interpretação de lei ou na avaliação de fatos e provas. Para Janot, os agentes públicos não podem ser punidos pelo exercício regular de suas funções.

Mais tempo

O relator do texto que já tramita no Senado, Roberto Requião (PMDB/PR), disse que não há motivos para fugir do debate sobre abuso de autoridades no Brasil. Segundo ele, o projeto não se refere apenas a juízes e promotores, mas a todas as autoridades. “Amanhã um juiz de um município qualquer do Brasil pode determinar um depoimento coercitivo para um ministro do STF. Com a autonomia que eles têm, não será penalizado por isso”, argumentou.

Procurador-geral da República, Rodrigo Janot entrega proposta sobre abuso de autoridade ao presidente do Senado, Eunício Oliveira.

Foto: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

Por falta de consenso, ainda não há uma data definitiva para análise do relatório. Anastasia por fim concedeu mais tempo para a análise, e os senadores terão mais uma semana para ler o relatório. Com isso, a votação pode ficar para a próxima quarta-feira (5), e a proposta, se aprovada pela comissão, poderá ser incluída na pauta de votações do Senado.

De qualquer forma, chamou atenção a correria de Rodrigo Janot ao Congresso para se reunir com Rodrigo Maia, presidente da Câmara e reconhecido como o “Botafogo” na planilha da Odebrecht, e Eunício Oliveira, presidente do Senado e o “Índio“, na mesma planilha que indica propinas a políticos.

A presença do chefe do Ministério Público em negociatas com congressistas delatados e investigados pegou mal para a instituição. Ademais, salta os olhos que as autoridades eleitas e enroladas com a Justiça conduzam mudanças legislativas essenciais para a continuidade das investigações.

The post Com 10 senadores investigados na Lava Jato, comissão analisa projeto que pune abuso de autoridade appeared first on The Intercept.

Undocumented Victims of Domestic Violence Weigh Seeking Help Against Risk of Deportation

29 March 2017 - 1:50pm

M. and her former partner met in 2004 at the frozen food factory where they both worked in Los Angeles. Like M., he was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. When they started going out, he was generous. M. had a son from a prior relationship, and her partner would bring food to her house, as if he cared for both of them. In retrospect, M. recalls, it seemed like an act.

The couple went on to have two sons of their own, but the knowledge that M.’s oldest son was the child of another man threw her partner into fits of enraged jealously. He would come home drunk and beat M. and her oldest son, occasionally hurting the younger children as well. M. (who asked that her name be withheld for her safety) called the police over and over again. Her partner was arrested several times.

One day in 2013, when M.’s partner was jailed after an abusive incident, the godmother of one of her sons referred her to a local domestic violence shelter. A staff member at the shelter suggested she petition for a U Visa.

The U nonimmigrant visa was created in 2000 to protect noncitizen crime victims who agree to cooperate in the investigation or prosecution of the crimes perpetrated against them — including domestic violence. Abusive partners whose victims are undocumented often exploit their inability to legally work to control them financially or enforce obedience by threatening to betray them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. U visas, 10,000 of which are issued per year, take an instrument of control away from the perpetrators of domestic violence. They give noncitizen victims the authorization to work, so they can move out of the house and take their children with them. And they provide legal residency, so people like M. can collaborate with law enforcement to bring charges against their abusers without fearing that police will turn them over to immigration agents.

M. talks to her youngest son about his day at school as she looks over the work he brought home.

Photo: Melissa Lyttle for The Intercept

The detective assigned to M.’s case told her he would sign the certification that attested to her cooperation “with pleasure,” M. told me. It took a year for M.’s work permit to come through, then another two years for the U visa. (After his arrest, her partner served a four-month sentence and was deported to Mexico.)

“For me, the U visa is something beautiful in my life,” M. told me. Without it, she said, and with Donald Trump in the White House, she would have been afraid to drive anywhere, lest she make a mistake and get pulled over, deported, separated from her children, and returned to a country where her former abuser could find her.

The U visa is a provision of the reauthorized version of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, the law that made domestic battery a federal crime. It expanded on the protections offered by an earlier VAWA provision that allows undocumented immigrants who are victims of spousal abuse at the hands of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to “self-petition” for protected immigration status without informing their abusers, who might otherwise retaliate violently. When VAWA was reauthorized in 2013, congressional Republicans tried to strip undocumented immigrants of this confidentiality provision. They failed, and the VAWA self-petition, along with the U visa, survived intact.

But now, given a Congress controlled by a party fixated on cutting government spending and a president famous for his animus toward immigrants, noncitizen survivors of domestic violence may again find themselves in the crosshairs of politicians intent on weakening their protections under the law. Though Trump routinely invokes public safety as his justification for mass deportation, the immigration policies he has begun putting in place instead threaten to protect the perpetrators of violence by making their victims less likely to come forward and report them to the police.

In 2013, an employee at a domestic violence shelter encouraged M. to apply for a U visa.

Photo: Melissa Lyttle for The Intercept

Protections Under Threat

The day before President Trump’s inauguration, The Hill published an article claiming the incoming administration was planning to pursue “dramatic cuts” to government spending based on a “blueprint” budget drafted last year by the Heritage Foundation. The blueprint called for the elimination of all VAWA funding grants, sending immigration attorneys and advocates for domestic violence survivors into a panic.

“This is the first time in a very long time that there’s been even a whisper of cuts to VAWA programs,” Krista Niemczyk, public policy director for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, said. “Knowing that that’s even on the radar is a big deal.”

The alarm has subsided somewhat since, though not entirely. “We’re not hearing that it has much traction in Congress since funding for VAWA has always received strong bipartisan support,” Rosie Hidalgo, the public policy director of La Casa de Esperanza, a national domestic violence prevention group, told me. “But we continue to advocate.”

On March 16, the administration’s “skinny budget” — a preliminary, top-line version of the proposed budget — was released. The document is vague; it makes no specific mention of most of the services undocumented domestic violence survivors depend on, though it does propose to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to domestic abuse victims who are married to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. For other services, victims and their advocates will have to wait to see what’s proposed in the full budget.

But they are bracing for a tidal wave of cuts in 2018. “The looming storm is sequestration,” Hidalgo said. “We’re going to see a big hit to VAWA as well as funding for other federal programs that are very important to help survivors.”

“If they do across-the-board cuts, it would have huge impacts,” Niemczyk agreed. “These programs don’t have a lot of fat in their budgets.”

But even if programs authorized under VAWA and related legislation manage to survive these cuts, the Trump administration has the power to drastically weaken the protections they provide immigrant victims without congressional action.

In February, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a memorandum outlining who ICE considered to be its priority targets for deportation under the new regime. The breadth of the new focus was sweeping. Kelly proclaimed that, with the exception of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, ICE “no longer will exempt classes or categories of aliens from potential enforcement.” Among those hitherto exempted classes or categories are domestic violence victims.

The Kelly memo rescinded prior guidance that included a 2011 memo issued under the Obama administration that instructed ICE officers to employ “favorable discretion” when dealing with victims of domestic violence and other crimes — in other words, to use personal judgment and compassion when deciding whether to pursue a removal order against a battered spouse, and to err on the side of allowing them to stay. The 2011 memo asserted plainly, “It is against ICE policy to initiate removal proceedings against an individual known to be the immediate victim or witness to a crime.”

The message of the new memo couldn’t have been clearer: If you’re undocumented and you felt relatively safe under the rules prior to Trump, you are no longer protected. ICE officers and attorneys today are under no obligation to extend any sympathy to crime victims when deciding whether to deport them. Their discretion has been eliminated in favor of prioritizing nearly everyone without legal status for deportation.

The Kelly memo has potentially major implications for U visa applicants, though the specifics remain unclear. The application process for the U visa was crafted to accommodate the precarious circumstances of undocumented domestic battery victims, who are often coerced by their abusers into criminal activity and are frequently arrested and charged themselves when they fight back in self-defense. In recognition of this, applicants can apply for waivers for a broad range of factors that would be disqualifying under other kinds of visas, such as convictions for nonviolent crimes or prior removal orders.

The Kelly memo, however, specifically cites many of those same factors as the chief criteria by which ICE agents should prioritize cases for arrest and removal, and prohibits ICE lawyers from making exceptions to the rule. Because of the situations victims of domestic violence are often forced into, they could end up among ICE’s biggest targets for removal.

“If it takes over a year for your application to be processed, you technically have a case pending but no assurance that if someone falls into those enforcement priorities in the memo — since it’s not certain that there is still prosecutorial discretion guidance about victims — that that person won’t be detained and removed,” said Grace Huang, policy director at the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence. “They may have to wait for their application decision outside of the country.”

So far, ICE does not seem to be deporting immigrants whose U visa applications are in process, Jessica Farb, directing attorney at the Immigration Center for Women and Children, told me. She has heard about cases in New York and Chicago where providing a receipt for a U visa or VAWA self-petition application was enough to prevent deportation. “We always counsel applicants to carry their paperwork with them,” said Layli Miller-Muro, founder and executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center, which provides services to immigrants fleeing gender-based violence. But the protection the paperwork provides is not guaranteed to last.

M. picks up her youngest son and carries him outside to play at their Los Angeles home on March 24, 2017.

Photo: Melissa Lyttle for The Intercept

Personal Information at Risk

There is also reason for undocumented immigrants to question the privacy that is built in to the application process for U visas. When applicants petition for a U visa, the information they provide to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, another branch of DHS, is kept confidential by statute. What happens to that data after the process concludes, however, is not formally established policy.

Under the Bush and Obama administrations, after an application was rejected, the case would be closed. An undocumented applicant’s information was not typically then shared with ICE — but that was merely customary. Like other immigration enforcement practices under this administration, whether Trump’s DHS will continue to refrain from sharing this sensitive data or whether it will initiate removal actions against rejected U visa applicants at this point remains unknown. (Indeed, the Kelly memo declared the department’s intention to revise and loosen its privacy policies regarding the personal information of noncitizens.)

There is some cause for optimism. “We’ve had assurance from the Vermont Service Center that they’re using the same level of confidentiality,” Farb said, referring to the office where U visa applications are processed. “They won’t just turn the information over to ICE if the application is rejected.”

Julie Marzouk, a clinical professor at Chapman Law School, agreed that information from denied cases is not currently being handed over to ICE. But it remains a concern. “In other areas of immigration law, information is shared after a denial; such is the case with an asylum application or a green card petition,” she said. “Crime victims have been excluded from such referrals for enforcement in the past, but we’re not certain of the future.”

If rejected applications were handed over to ICE, of course, undocumented domestic violence victims would have real reason to fear applying for protection. “A change in the process would have an immediate chilling effect on the filing of victim-based immigration petitions,” Marzouk noted.

In the meantime, Farb’s organization provides as little personal information about clients as possible in their applications. “We provide no information on where the client lives, or their phone number,” she said. “We have our organization’s address and then write ‘confidential’ for their address.”

M. prepares dinner for her family on March 24, 2017, in Los Angeles.

Photo: Melissa Lyttle for The Intercept

An Impossible Dilemma

In the absence of clarity, the decision to come forward and apply for protected status becomes more complicated. Now, instead of simply pursuing the legal protections available to them, undocumented victims of domestic violence have to weigh the benefits of being shielded from abusive partners against the theoretical hazards of popping up on ICE’s radar. When children are involved, the potential cost of being exposed to ICE is not just deportation, but also being forced to leave one’s children alone in the custody of a violent parent. This dilemma is exactly what provisions like the U visa waivers and VAWA’s confidential self-petition process were designed to avoid.

These doubts and concerns are compounded by another provision of the Kelly memo calling for an expansion of the 287(g) program, which deputizes local police officers as federal immigration agents, undermining undocumented immigrants’ trust in local law enforcement. The 287(g) program “has a ripple effect on U visas,” Miller-Muro said. The U visa is predicated on the idea of undocumented crime victims collaborating with the police, as M. did. But under the Trump administration, “there’s a general disregard of the value of police being able to work with immigrants,” Miller-Muro explained.

If an immigrant seeking protection from the threat of domestic is reluctant even to call 911 for fear of deportation, it is unlikely they take the step of applying for a U visa or self-petitioning under VAWA. U visas require that members of law enforcement certify that the applicant is cooperating in an investigation; to the extent that local police are regarded as adjuncts of ICE, that cooperation is less likely to be forthcoming. “It undermines the value of U visas and creates a chilling effect on immigrants’ willingness to come forward,” Miller-Muro said.

That chilling effect extends to localities in which police forces have refused to collaborate with ICE — so-called sanctuary cities. Even within a single city, the rules can be unclear; they become even more so as one travels across jurisdictional lines. “The immigrant community is not going to ask, does my community have a 287(g) order?” noted Miller-Muro. “Or if I drive from this county to that, does the one I’m driving to have it? It’s a general sense of fear.”

In the months and years to come, as the Trump administration expands ICE’s capacity and puts political pressure on sanctuary cities — and in the not unlikely event that Congress slashes funding for VAWA programs — the situation for undocumented victims of domestic violence is likely to grow even worse.

In the meantime, rather than avoiding an uncertain remedy, some attorneys are doubling down on the tools that are available to protect their clients before those rights are eroded any further. “We are wanting to file for people more than we were before,” Jessica Farb said when asked about today’s climate. “Because of the potential risk of someone being detained, it’s even more important that people have at least the seed of a case.”

Top photo: M. consoles her youngest son outside their Los Angeles home on March 24, 2017.

The post Undocumented Victims of Domestic Violence Weigh Seeking Help Against Risk of Deportation appeared first on The Intercept.

I Spent a Week Trying To Make the Broadband Lobby Answer a Simple Question About Selling Your Data

29 March 2017 - 12:54pm

House Republicans last night voted to overturn an FCC rule that bars your internet provider from telling advertisers which websites you visit and what you search for in exchange for money; the Senate voted along the same lines last week. The decisions were immediately praised by lobbying groups like the NCTA, which represents broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast — and which for some reason framed the gutting of federal privacy regulations as good for privacy, a choice that the organization seemingly cannot explain, no matter how many times you ask.

The NCTA’s statement after last week’s vote read as follows:

“We appreciate today’s Senate action to repeal unwarranted FCC rules that deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality. … Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers. We support this step towards reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.”

Emphasis added. It should be immediately puzzling to anyone reading that statement how the broadband industry “remains committed” to personal privacy while also encouraging (and celebrating) a regulatory change that would allow your ISP to make a buck by telling a third party which websites you visit so that they can try to sell you things. Privacy is generally understood as a state defined by offering less disclosure about oneself, not more. Seeking clarity, I asked the NCTA to explain how it squares this commitment with its apparent antithesis. What’s ensued has been a week-long semantic maze navigated by myself and Joy Sims, a (very patient) spokesperson for the NCTA, reproduced below:

From: Sam Biddle
To: Joy Sims
March 23rd, 2017

Hi Joy—I’m wondering if you could provide some clarity on today’s NCTA statement on the FCC privacy vote. The statement reads:

“Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers.”

Can you explain just how this commitment squares with the ability to sell user data to advertisers, should the vote pass the House?

thank you,
Sam Biddle

From: Joy Sims
To: Sam Biddle
March 23rd, 2017

HI Sam,

For more explanation, I’ll direct you here:

Also, in late January, ISPs reaffirmed their commitment to continue protecting consumer privacy based on longstanding practices that are based on the FTC’s highly respected framework and have governed the marketplace for 20 years. The (above) release shows these specific privacy principles regarding transparency, consumer choice, data security and data break notifications.

Thanks for asking,

The link in the above email did not answer or even address the question.

From: Sam Biddle
To: Joy Sims
March 23rd, 2017

Thanks Joy. That doesn’t answer my question, though. How does the NCTA think that permitting the sale of user data to advertisers reflects a commitment to customer privacy? It seems to reflect the opposite.

From: Joy Sims
To: Sam Biddle
March 23rd, 2017

This might give you more background on our position:


Again, neither of these links answered the question of how sharing your browser history with shoe companies and McDonalds is a pro-privacy change.

From: Sam Biddle
To: Joy Sims
March 23rd, 2017

Let me put it more bluntly:

Does the NCTA believe that permitting ISPs to sell user browsing data will have a positive effect on customer privacy? If so, how?

From: Joy Sims
To: Sam Biddle
March 23rd, 2017

I hear your question, but our statements and releases speak for themselves.


From: Sam Biddle
To: Joy Sims
March 23rd, 2017

But your statements and releases don’t address this question whatsoever.

In the July 6th release, the NCTA states “Consumers expect to learn about new products and services through marketing or advertising based on non-sensitive data.”

But user browsing history, which under the pending FCC rule changes will now be available for sale to advertisers, is classified by the FCC as “sensitive,” not “non-sensitive” information.

The question remains unaddressed by the NCTA: How does the sale of FCC-defined sensitive user data to advertisers by ISPs reflect the NCTA’s commitment to user privacy?

From: Joy Sims
To: Sam Biddle
March 23rd, 2017

Let me try again to see if this helps answer your question…

NCTA’s member companies will not be selling “sensitive” customer data to advertisers. The companies have never challenged the recognized categories of sensitive data (health, financial, children’s information, precise geo-location, etc). That information has not and will not be used. 

Just like Google, Facebook and others use non-sensitive web browsing information to provide ads to consumers based on their browsing history/interests/search, ISPs will be able to do so as well. But sensitive information is off-limits under the FTC’s framework. We just want consistency with the FTC framework for all Internet entities with access to online data. 



Here, Sims was making reference to the FTC’s privacy framework, which doesn’t define the websites you visit while at home as “sensitive” information requiring your consent to share or sell, whereas the FCC has defined it as sensitive. It’s not a surprise the broadband lobby strongly prefers the FTC’s framework for this reason: Simply because it is weaker.

From: Sam Biddle
To: Joy Sims
March 24th, 2017

Assuming the rule change goes through, will NCTA member companies be permitted to sell user web browser history to advertisers?

From: Joy Sims
To: Sam Biddle
March 24th, 2017

As we understand it, it will give NCTA member companies the ability to function the same as other online entities.

 – Joy

From: Sam Biddle
To: Joy Sims
March 27th, 2017

So the answer to the question “will NCTA member companies be permitted to sell user web browser history to advertisers” is yes?

From: Joy Sims
To: Sam Biddle
March 27th, 2017

Could be worth your time dialing into this media call tomorrow.

ADVISORY:  Internet and Technology Leaders Press Call Tuesday re Internet Privacy and House Vote on FCC Regulations

 Please join a press call Tuesday morning with senior leaders from the internet, technology, and ad industries to discuss Tuesday’s planned House vote on broadband privacy regulations. These leaders will call for a consistent privacy framework to protect consumer privacy.

Last week, the Senate passed S.J. Res. 34, a Congressional Review Act resolution disapproving the FCC’s recently enacted broadband privacy regulations and the House is expected to vote tomorrow.  This press call will 1) provide context for the CRA procedure, 2) explain the strong protections that already exist for consumer data apart from these flawed and counterproductive regulations, and 3) describe how these regulations give consumers a false sense of consumer privacy. 

Withdrawing the FCC’s flawed two-tiered privacy regulations is a vital step towards developing a truly comprehensive and effective privacy framework for the entire internet based on the successful FTC approach.  The FCC rules abandon the longstanding bipartisan consensus in favor of technology neutral and comprehensive privacy regulation on the internet, and upends consumer expectations by abandoning the FTC’s longstanding “sensitivity based” framework for privacy. 


  • Jon Leibowitz, former FTC Chairman, Co-Chair 21st Century Privacy Coalition (moderator)
  • James Assey, Executive Vice President, NCTA – the Internet & Television Association
  • B. Lynn Follansbee, Vice President, Law & Policy, USTelecom
  • Jim Halpert, General Counsel, Internet Commerce Coalition
  • Julie Kearney, CTA
  • Emmett O’Keefe, Senior Vice President of Advocacy, DMA
  • Howard Waltzman, General Counsel, 21st Century Privacy Coalition

The conference was hosted by representatives from a variety of broadband lobbying groups, including the fascinatingly named 21st Century Privacy Coalition, which advocates for the weakening of privacy regulation. I posed my question — How does the sale of ISP browsing history to advertisers improve customer privacy? — to the entire group, and was answered only by Howard Waltzman, who replied, “I’d turn the question around a little bit: Today the norm for the entire rest of the internet ecosystem is that edge providers, advertisers are able to share non-sensitive information on an opt-out basis… The question is, why would you have different rules for ISPs in that regard?”

This response was akin to those provided by Sims and the NCTA, eager to point out that “edge providers” — content companies, in regulatory speak — like Facebook are already selling your information to advertisers, so why can’t your ISP, too? Which is a great point, actually, but not one that explains how you can reconcile a commitment to customer privacy with the commodification of that customer’s browsing habits.

I asked again, and this time Waltzman replied that “there hasn’t been a negative effect on consumer privacy” from working with advertisers in the case of content providers like Facebook or Hulu. With regards to the gutted FCC regulations, “what creates a positive effect on customer privacy is it will create uniformity” between how other companies are already selling your information to advertisers and your home internet provider.

That was as much of an answer as I got. The industry figures repeated again and again that the FCC change is a victory for “transparency” and “accountability,” and that in the words of Waltzman, consumer opposition to the rule change has been “ginned up” by “misinformation.” The only thing they didn’t say is how the change will improve your privacy. At this point, it’s probably best to assume it will not.

Top photo: People enter the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, DC, on December 11, 2014 .

The post I Spent a Week Trying To Make the Broadband Lobby Answer a Simple Question About Selling Your Data appeared first on The Intercept.