The Intercept

Esquerda exclui minorias de debate “promissor” sobre a nação brasileira

3 May 2017 - 3:23pm

Não vejo nada de novo nem de promissor em um projeto de nação no qual as minorias, que formam mais de 50% da população brasileira, estão representadas por apenas duas pessoas em um universo de 217.

Encabeçado pelo ex-ministro da Economia Antônio Carlos Bresser Pereira, o Projeto Brasil Nação já foi assinado por milhares de pessoas. Lançado no último dia 27 de abril, nas dependências do Centro Estudantil 11 de Agosto, da Faculdade de Direito do Largo de São Francisco (USP), ele foi elaborado por um grupo de convidados de diversas áreas que se reuniram durante mais de três meses. As primeiras assinaturas, 217 no total, são dos que eles chamam de “signatários originais”, que participaram das reuniões ou que foram convidados por estes, entre os quais não há nenhum indígena e apenas dois negros*. O que não é novidade, aliás: a esquerda continua excluindo os excluídos de sempre. E é claro que a cerimônia de lançamento do manifesto reflete esta exclusão, com uma presença 100% branca.

Segundo o manifesto, em uma sociedade que “se divide e se radicaliza, abrindo espaço para o ódio e o preconceito”, a missão do “Projeto Brasil Nação é pensar o Brasil, é ajudar a refundar a nação brasileira, (…) não apenas do ponto de vista econômico, mas de forma integral: desenvolvimento político, social, cultural, ambiental; em síntese, desenvolvimento humano”.

Os intelectuais que o elaboraram e o assinam dizem que “cabe a nós repensarmos o Brasil para projetar o seu futuro”, baseados em cinco pilares: autonomia nacional, democracia, liberdade individual, desenvolvimento econômico, diminuição da desigualdade, segurança e proteção do ambiente. “Para voltar a crescer de forma consistente, com inclusão e independência, temos que nos unir, reconstruir nossa nação e definir um projeto nacional. Um projeto que esteja baseado nas nossas necessidades, potencialidades e no que queremos ser no futuro. Um projeto que seja fruto de um amplo debate”, dizem eles. Complementando que “precisamos garantir às mulheres, aos negros, aos indígenas e aos LGBT direitos iguais aos dos homens brancos e ricos”.

Não acredito neste projeto de país que não refaça o pacto social.

Não acredito neste projeto de país que não refaça o pacto social. Não vejo nada de novo nem de promissor em um projeto de nação no qual as minorias, que formam mais de 50% da população brasileira, estão representadas por apenas duas pessoas em um universo de 217; ou seja, menos de 1%. O que vejo, na verdade, é o futuro da maioria sendo planejado por uma minoria formada majoritariamente por homens brancos e ricos, que se colocam como mentores, articuladores, protetores, aqueles que sabem o que é bom para os que nunca são chamados para uma discussão horizontalizada sobre as próprias necessidades.

É triste ver a jornalista Eleonora de Lucena, de frente para um mar de branquitude (veja uma panorâmica interessante no minuto 31:07), agradecer a acolhida do centro acadêmico e dizer que é emocionante estar naquele lugar que já viu tanta luta, no qual brasileiros de todas as matizes deram vazão ao movimento abolicionista. O discurso desancorado da prática se torna ainda mais problemático quando faz parecer que a abolição foi um movimento colocado em prática pelos intelectuais, diminuindo a importância das rebeliões negras, dentro de uma faculdade que rejeitou o advogado e abolicionista Luiz Gama pelo fato de ele ser negro.

Lançamento do Projeto Brasil Nação, em São Paulo.

Reprodução

Eleonora de Lucena cita também o centro acadêmico como local de abrigo da campanha “O petróleo é nosso”, popularizada pelo racista e eugenista Monteiro Lobato, provando que um povo que não conhece e não respeita a sua história tende mesmo a repeti-la.

O discurso que segue é do jurista Fábio Konder Comparato, que diz que o coração de uma nação é o povo. Ele conta que, em 1549, Tomé de Souza chegou à Bahia para inaugurar o governo geral acompanhado de 1.200 funcionários civis e militares e 3 jesuítas. Mas para que o regimento geral de governo pudesse funcionar, faltava o que ele chama de “uma espécie de assombração”: o povo. Sem citar os indígenas e os africanos escravizados – estes povos que as máquinas dos sucessivos governos continuam silenciando e engolindo e que, segundo ele, deveriam ser o coração –, Comparato pula para 1822, falando da independência, e terminando por dizer que o povo precisa ser “educado”, precisa ser “organizado”, sendo esta a missão daquele grupo que se reunia.

A questão de “educar” o povo é lembrada a todo instante por vários oradores que afirmavam o título de “intelectuais” dos organizadores do Projeto Brasil Nação, o que, para mim, funciona mais como uma carteirada do que chamado ao debate que eles dizem que precisa acontecer. Todos intelectuais, todos vindos da universidade, como fez questão de frisar em sua fala a presidente da União Nacional dos Estudantes, Carina Vitral. O senador Lindbergh Farias (PT/RJ) diz que aquele é um manifesto que vai ter que olhar para o passado, ver os erros e os acertos. Não deveria antes, fazer o famoso “teste do pescoço” e olhar simples e honestamente para o lado?

É um “projeto de intelectuais; somos todos intelectuais”, deixa bem claro o homem à frente do projeto, o ex-ministro Bresser Pereira.

O ex-ministro Celso Amorim parece ter pescoçado algo que faltava no manifesto, pois diz que “a gente podia ter falado um pouco mais dos indígenas”. Mas não vai além da necessidade da elite brasileira de sempre estar falando por, falando sobre o que ela chama de povo, que sempre é chamado a “se juntar” a algo que ele nunca é chamado para construir, para ser ouvido, para pensar e falar junto.É um “projeto de intelectuais; somos todos intelectuais”, deixa bem claro o homem à frente do projeto, o ex-ministro Bresser Pereira.

Deixo então algumas perguntas aos intelectuais signatários, aos que não conheço e também aos amigos e conhecidos, gente de quem gosto e a quem respeito e que, muitas vezes vejo na mídia e nas redes sociais denunciando casos de racismo e de abusos inúmeros contra a população negra e indígena: é este mesmo o projeto de país de vocês defendem? Negros e índios não devem mesmo ser chamados para as mesas dos “pensadores”? “Pode o subalterno falar?”

* Procurei pela identificação fotográfica de todos os signatários que não conheço, e entre eles há apenas os dois negros facilmente identificáveis. Há ainda cinco dos quais não consegui encontrar referências, mas que, somados aos dois, não fariam tanta diferença no problema que quero levantar: uma esquerda que quer continuar pensando o país levantando a bandeira da inclusão sem se importar em incluir.

The post Esquerda exclui minorias de debate “promissor” sobre a nação brasileira appeared first on The Intercept.

Felipe Melo, Rodrigo Caio e Lei de Gerson: o que o futebol ensina sobre os afetos políticos?

3 May 2017 - 9:51am

Rodrigo Caio, zagueiro de 23 anos do São Paulo, campeão olímpico pela seleção brasileira e um dos atletas mais promissores de sua geração, foi do céu dos justos ao inferno dos inocentes em menos de uma semana durante as semifinais do Campeonato Paulista.

No domingo, 16 de abril, dia do clássico contra o Corinthians, o árbitro Luiz Flávio de Oliveira tinha acabado de dar cartão amarelo para o atacante Jô por um pisão no goleiro Renan Ribeiro, do São Paulo. Quem pisou no arqueiro são-paulino, porém, foi Rodrigo Caio, que alertou o juiz sobre a confusão.

O erro tiraria o melhor atacante do time adversário da segunda partida da semifinal do Campeonato Paulista. Por ironia, foi dele o gol que classificou o Corinthians no domingo seguinte.

Embora boa parte da imprensa tenha aplaudido a atitude do atleta são-paulino, o Fair Play custou caro e foi motivo de polêmica nos dias seguintes (dois jornalistas chegaram a bater boca ao vivo ao tentar concluir se o atleta fora honesto ou simplesmente “bobo”). Aparentemente assustado com a repercussão do gesto, Rodrigo Caio falhou em jogo no meio da semana, contra o Cruzeiro, pela Copa do Brasil, e ouviu um companheiro dizer, em uma crítica indireta, que preferia ver a mãe dos rivais chorarem, em vez da dele.

O mal-estar ficou evidente na semana seguinte, quando um outro atleta rival, o volante Felipe Melo, espécie de anti-Rodrigo Caio do futebol, foi alçado a exemplo a ser seguido pelos integrantes da maior torcida organizada do São Paulo.

Notabilizado tanto pelo talento como pela agressão que custou sua expulsão e a consequente eliminação do Brasil na Copa de 2010, contra a Holanda, Felipe Melo, ao ser apresentado ao Palmeiras, declarou, entre outras platitudes, que se precisasse não hesitaria em dar tapa na cara de uruguaio durante a disputa da Libertadores, o prestigiado torneio sul-americano de futebol.

Falou em pátria, Deus e porrada. A mistura parecia explosiva, e era.

Na mesma entrevista, atacou a imprensa, falou em pátria, Deus e porrada. A mistura parecia explosiva, e era.

Na partida contra o Peñarol, em 26 de abril, ofereceu não um tapa, mas dois murros no rosto de um adversário uruguaio após ser provocado (e, verdade seja dita, acuado e ameaçado) em uma partida em Montevidéu que já incorporava todos os predicados de uma batalha, e não de um evento esportivo.  Pouco antes, Melo acusou um jogador do Peñarol de ofensas racistas, mas minimizou a questão dizendo que a companheira do atleta deveria tê-lo traído com “algum negão”.

Os socos colocaram a equipe em maus lençóis, com a suspensão do atleta e o risco de punição para o clube. Ainda assim, Felipe Melo voltou ao Brasil como uma espécie de herói da batalha no Uruguai.

“Enquanto Rodrigo Caio faz Fair Play, Felipe Melo sai na porrada para defender seu time. Futebol raiz. Isso é libertadores”, escreveu a página da torcida Independente, do São Paulo, para seus milhares de seguidores no Twitter.

No tweet seguinte, os torcedores organizados lamentaram que Felipe Melo não atuasse pela equipe, e ironizaram quem ainda defendia “Cainho”, àquela altura, já no diminutivo, alçado a responsável pela eliminação da equipe.

A paz e a honestidade são sempre motivos de louvor, desde que não joguem contra o nosso patrimônio

Para quem gosta de observar no futebol os sintomas de uma sociedade de vícios naturalizados, o recado estava dado: a paz e a honestidade são sempre motivos de louvor, desde que não joguem contra o nosso patrimônio – o time, no caso, mas podemos expandir a ideia para outros campos, como o deputado que usa verba de gabinete para se lançar candidato a presidente fora do período eleitoral ou a patrocinadora do clube que oferece uma camisa ao papa e usa a imagem para fazer propaganda sem autorização. A lei de Gerson, segundo a qual o importante é levar vantagem, nasceu no esporte, mas suas propriedades são universais.

De volta ao seu país e às redes sociais, Felipe Melo seguiu jogando para a torcida com mensagens sobre garra e religião (uma de suas frases favoritas é a de que Deus o capacitou para as vitórias; os adversários, aparentemente, não rezam o suficiente) até que, no feriado de 1º de Maio, dia do Trabalhador, declarou: “Deus abençoe todos os trabalhadores e pau nos vagabundos. Bolsonaro neles”.

reprodução Instagram: @felipemelo

Ele não identificou quem eram os vagabundos ao usar a mesma expressão do prefeito de São Paulo, João Doria (PSDB), para se referir aos manifestantes que dias antes promoveram uma greve geral contra as reformas trabalhista e previdenciária do governo Temer, dois projetos no mínimo polêmicos sobre os direitos dos trabalhadores, alguns dos quais violentamente agredidos nos atos.

A manifestação causou indiferença a quem vê na apologia à violência uma mera opinião política, euforia em quem observa no posicionamento do atleta uma quebra no modelo de declarações insossas no futebol e preocupação em quem assiste atento à expansão do discurso de ódio dentro e fora de campo.

Tanto em um como no outro, vencer é o que importa, não importa como; ainda que às custas da eliminação, física ou simbólica, do adversário. Para bons entendedores, meia inclinação fascista basta.

Em uma comunidade de torcedores, uma carta de repúdio foi redigida e compartilhada na página de campanha online Avaaz. “As atitudes do atleta ofendem grande parte da coletividade palmeirense, composta por torcedores de todos as matizes políticos, gêneros e etnias, incluindo gays, negros, perseguidos pela ditadura civil?militar, aqueles alinhados com a esquerda do espectro ideológico ou simplesmente progressistas que repudiam as atitudes racistas, homofóbicas e misóginas como as do deputado Jair Bolsonaro”, escreveram.

Outros textos críticos à atitude do volante passaram a ser compartilhados ao longo do feriado – um dos autores teve o perfil vasculhado e foi acusado, nos comentários, de ser “esquerdista” por condenar a incitação à violência, por aqui já suficientemente confundida com opinião política.

Bolsonaro, é claro, agradeceu a manifestação do atleta. O episódio ajuda a explicar o fascínio produzido por um defensor da tortura, acusado de apologia ao estupro, entre os que veem nas botinadas de Felipe Melo, ou mesmo do próprio volante, um exemplo de virilidade.

Não são poucos. Na última pesquisa Datafolha, Bolsonaro já figurava em segundo lugar em alguns cenários de uma eventual disputa presidencial. Leva o Ministério da Casa Civil quem sabe citar de cabeça alguma proposta de relevância na Câmara ou algum esboço de projeto de governo além da ofensa e do ataque ao chamado “politicamente correto”.

Neste cenário, de vitória a todo custo e inimigos em cada esquina, não é estranho que o Fair Play de Rodrigo Caio, que deveria ser uma atitude corriqueira, tenha sido tão falado quanto debochado entre colegas e torcedores.

No futebol como na vida, cada um tem o mito que o represente.

The post Felipe Melo, Rodrigo Caio e Lei de Gerson: o que o futebol ensina sobre os afetos políticos? appeared first on The Intercept.

Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War.

3 May 2017 - 7:32am

“WHY DO they hate us?”

It’s a question that has bewildered Americans again and again in the wake of 9/11, in reference to the Arab and Muslim worlds. These days, however, it’s a question increasingly asked about the reclusive North Koreans.

Let’s be clear: there is no doubt that the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) both fear and loathe the United States. Paranoia, resentment and a crude anti-Americanism have been nurtured inside the Hermit Kingdom for decades. Children are taught to hate Americans in school while adults mark a “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” every year (it’s in June, in case you were wondering).

North Korean officials make wild threats against the United States while the regime, led by the brutal and sadistic Kim Jong-un, pumps out fake news in the form of self-serving propaganda, on an industrial scale. In the DPRK, anti-American hatred is a commodity never in short supply.

“The hate, though,” as long-time North Korea watcher Blaine Harden observed in the Washington Post, “ is not all manufactured.” Some of it, he wrote, “is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.”

Forgets as in the “forgotten war.” Yes, the Korean War. Remember that? The one wedged between World War II and the Vietnam War? The first “hot” war of the Cold War, which took place between 1950 and 1953, and which has since been conveniently airbrushed from most discussions and debates about the “crazy” and “insane” regime in Pyongyang? Forgotten despite the fact that this particular war isn’t even over — it was halted by an armistice agreement, not a peace treaty — and despite the fact that the conflict saw the United States engage in numerous war crimes which, perhaps unsurprisingly, continue to shape the way North Koreans view the United States, even if the residents of the United States remain blissfully ignorant of their country’s belligerent past.

For the record, it was the North Koreans, and not the Americans or their South Korean allies, who started the war in June 1950, when they crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the south. Nevertheless, “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings writes in his book “The Korean War: A History,” “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.”

How many Americans, for example, are aware of the fact that U.S. planes dropped on the Korean peninsula more bombs — 635,000 tons — and napalm — 32,557 tons — than during the entire Pacific campaign against the Japanese during World War II?

How many Americans know that “over a period of three years or so,” to quote Air Force General Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, “we killed off … 20 percent of the population”?

Twenty. Percent. For a point of comparison, the Nazis exterminated 20 percent of Poland’s pre-World War II population. According to LeMay, “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea.”

Every. Town. More than three million civilians are believed to have been killed in the fighting, the vast majority of them in the north.

An elderly woman and her grandchild wander among the debris of their wrecked home in the aftermath of an air raid by U.S. planes over Pyongyang, the Communist capital of North Korea, circa 1950.

Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

How many Americans are familiar with the statements of Secretary of State Dean Rusk or Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas? Rusk, who was a State Department official in charge of Far Eastern affairs during the Korean War, would later admit that the United States bombed “every brick that was standing on top of another, everything that moved.” American pilots, he noted, “were just bombing the heck out of North Korea.”

Douglas visited Korea in the summer of 1952 and was stunned by the “misery, disease, pain and suffering, starvation” that had been “compounded” by air strikes. U.S. warplanes, having run out of military targets, had bombed farms, dams, factories and hospitals. “I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe,” the Supreme Court justice confessed, “but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea.”

How many Americans have ever come across General Douglas MacArthur’s unhinged plan to win the war against North Korea in just 10 days? MacArthur, who led the United Nations Command during the conflict, wanted to drop “between 30 and 50 atomic bombs … strung across the neck of Manchuria” that would have “spread behind us … a belt of radioactive cobalt.”

How many Americans have heard of the No Gun Ri massacre, in July 1950, in which hundreds of Koreans were killed by U.S. warplanes and members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry regiment as they huddled under a bridge? Details of the massacre emerged in 1999, when the Associated Press interviewed dozens of retired U.S. military personnel. “The hell with all those people,” one American veteran recalled his captain as saying. “Let’s get rid of all of them.”

How many Americans are taught in school about the Bodo League massacre of tens of thousands of suspected communists on the orders of the U.S.-backed South Korean strongman, President Syngman Rhee, in the summer of 1950? Eyewitness accounts suggest “jeeploads” of U.S. military officers were present and “supervised the butchery.”

Millions of ordinary Americans may suffer from a toxic combination of ignorance and amnesia, but the victims of U.S. coups, invasions and bombing campaigns across the globe tend not to. Ask the Iraqis or the Iranians, ask the Cubans or the Chileans. And, yes, ask the North Koreans.

For the residents of the DPRK, writes Columbia University historian Charles Armstrong in his book “Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992,” “the American air war left a deep and lasting impression” and “more than any other single factor, gave North Koreans a collective sense of anxiety and fear of outside threats, that would continue long after the war’s end.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not pretending that Kim’s violent and totalitarian regime would be any less violent or totalitarian today had the U.S. not carpet-bombed North Korea almost 70 years ago. Nor am I expecting Donald Trump, of all presidents, to offer a formal apology to Pyongyang on behalf of the U.S. government for the U.S. war crimes of 1950 through 1953.

But the fact is that inside North Korea, according to leading Korea scholar Kathryn Weathersby, “it is still the 1950s … and the conflict with South Korea and the United States is still going on. People in the North feel backed into a corner and threatened.”

If another Korean war, a potentially nuclear war, is to be avoided and if, as the Czech-born novelist Milan Kundera famously wrote, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” then ordinary Americans can no longer afford to forget the death, destruction and debilitating legacy of the original Korean War.

Top photo: U.S. troops bring in North Korean prisoners of war, Oct. 7, 1950.

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Rio de Janeiro toma conhecimento da guerra na Cidade Alta após cinco meses de confronto

2 May 2017 - 6:57pm

O Rio de Janeiro começou o dia pegando fogo – literalmente. Foram oito ônibus e dois caminhões queimados. As principais vias expressas da cidade foram interditadas, causando quilômetros de congestionamento e deixando 3 mil crianças sem aula, além de saques e arrastões. A cidade entrou em estágio de atenção às 10h50 da manhã por conta das complicações no trânsito.

O clima tenso retratado ao vivo hoje faz parte do cotidiano dos moradores da comunidade da Cidade Alta, em Cordovil, Zona Norte do Rio de Janeiro – a origem de todo o conflito –, mas só hoje a situação chegou ao conhecimento de todos. Desde novembro do ano passado, as facções Terceiro Comando Puro e Comando Vermelho disputam o controle da região.

Relatos de moradores dão conta de que o confronto que parou parte da cidade teve início por volta das 2h da manhã, quando, com a ajuda de traficantes de outras comunidades, homens do Comando Vermelho tentaram retomar seu antigo território. O reforço teria partido de pelo menos outras sete comunidades dominadas pela facção, afirmou segundo o Secretário de Segurança do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Roberto Sá, em coletiva de imprensa às 16h – cinco horas depois de a cidade entrar em estágio de atenção.

Foto: Reprodução Whatsapp

A ação, segundo o Chefe da Polícia Civil, Carlos Leba, na mesma coletiva,foi orquestrada da cadeia por chefes do Comando Vermelho e executada por homens que estiveram presos recentemente.

“Em dois fins de semana, o TCP ocupou a Cidade Alta perto das festas de fim de ano. Desde então, o CV vem tentando voltar. Com a ajuda de outras favelas, hoje foi o confronto mais pesado até agora. Foram muitas bombas e tiros de diferentes calibres. O tiroteio aconteceu a madrugada toda. A gente está trancado dentro de casa”, conta um dos moradores entrevistados por The Intercept Brasil que, por segurança, não serão identificados..

Várias pessoas não conseguiram sair para o trabalho. “Eram muitas bombas e tiros. Começamos a receber mensagens de amigos que estavam deitados no chão, se escondendo na cozinha, para tentar se proteger. De manhã, já fui falando com outras pessoas que saem cedo que nem, eu e ninguém tinha ido pro trabalho”, contou outro morador.

Ao longo do dia, vários outros moradores se manifestaram a respeito do confronto nas redes sociais.

O peso do confronto se reflete nos números da operação policial que aconteceu nesta manhã para tentar controlar a guerra na comunidade. Segundo o divulgado pela PMERJ, 45 pessoas foram presas, 32 fuzis apreendidos– todos do CV –, 11 granadas e 4 pistolas. Números que que só se comparam aos de países em guerra e demonstram o poder de fogo do tráfico carioca.

Atualização do saldo parcial da Operação da #PMERJ na Cidade Alta.#ServireProteger pic.twitter.com/kwSQqBAaU9

— PMERJ (@PMERJ) May 2, 2017

Na coletiva da cúpula do Estado, o secretário de segurança afirmou que “foi evitado um banho de sangue”. E, ao ser questionado sobre uma possível falha na inteligência, ressaltou os números da operação. De acordo com Sá, nunca houve uma apreensão tão grande de armas em uma operação. E, segundo ele, não há como evitar a comunicação entre os traficantes.

Cidade Alta

A Cidade Alta  fica entre rodovias que ligam o Rio a outros estados, como a Washington Luiz (Minas Gerais) e a Via Dutra (São Paulo),  além das principais vias de ligação da cidade: a Avenida Brasil, que liga o centro a Zona Oeste e corta a Zona Norte da cidade, e a Linha Vermelha, principal via de acesso ao Aeroporto internacional Tom Jobim. A localização estratégica é uma das principais razões de disputa pela Cidade Alta.

A cidade saiu do estágio de atenção no início da noite. O dia terminou com dois traficantes mortos e três policiais feridos. Moradores entrevistados por The Intercept Brasil acreditam que as prisões de hoje não serão suficientes para dar fim à disputa. “Ficamos um tempo sem confrontos, mas sempre com medo de algo acontecer. Eles não vão parar”, relata moradora.

The post Rio de Janeiro toma conhecimento da guerra na Cidade Alta após cinco meses de confronto appeared first on The Intercept.

Private Prison Corporation Wrote Texas Bill Extending How Long Immigrant Children Can Be Detained

2 May 2017 - 3:52pm

A bill written by a private prison operator to assist their immigration detention business could advance through the Texas state Senate this week, despite vocal protest from civil rights groups. The legislation would allow family detention centers to be classified as childcare facilities, enabling Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain women and children for longer periods.

The bill aligns with the Trump administration’s punitive immigration policies, and helps them navigate a challenge to federal detention policy.

During the migrant influx of 2014, the Obama administration contracted the construction of two giant family detention centers in south Texas — one for each of America’s biggest private prison companies – to hold women and children seeking asylum. CoreCivic runs the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, and the Geo Group manages the Karnes County Residential Center.

However, because of multiple judicial rulings dating back to 1997, no undocumented child can be held for over 20 days in anything but a licensed “non-secure” childcare facility.

Almost nothing about these detention centers meets that definition. Grassroots groups have given them the grim nickname “baby jails,” and a survivor of a WWII-era Japanese internment camps said the facilities “triggered distressing associations of my own experience as a child.” Reports of inadequate medical care, sexual abuse, improper solitary confinement, and permanently stunted child development proliferate. Most of all, the presence of locks on the doors contradicts the idea of a non-secure facility. “They’re not allowed to leave. That’s jail,” said Mary Small of the Detention Watch Network, a national coalition working on immigration issues.

The Texas Department of Family Protective Services granted the facilities childcare licenses, but last year a state judge blocked the designation. So Geo Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison operator, went to work assembling legislation that would countermand the judicial ruling. The bill would lower state childcare standards for family detention centers, excluding the facilities from regulations such as ones that prohibit housing children and unrelated adults in the same room.

Republican State Rep. John Raney admitted to the Associated Press that Geo Group officials wrote the legislation. “I’ve known the lady who’s their lobbyist for a long time … That’s where the legislation came from,” said Raney. “We don’t make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help.” There’s companion legislation in the state House and Senate.

A new temporary detention center for immigrants awaits new arrivals on Jan. 3, 2017 in Donna, Texas.

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

If the bill, which cleared a Senate subcommittee last week, passes, women and children could be held at Karnes or Dilley indefinitely while awaiting deportation. Without the bill, the facilities would likely have to shut down, said the bill’s Senate sponsor, Bryan Hughes. The Karnes facility earns about $55 million per year for the Geo Group. But in part because of the standing judicial order, the population is only about 100 in an 830-bed facility.

Grassroots Leadership, the immigrant rights group whose lawsuit successfully blocked the childcare order last year, is urging Texas legislators to vote down the bill. It was initially supposed to come up in the Senate yesterday, but has been delayed.

Because Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has promised that families caught in border crossings would not be separated, keeping these detention centers open and available for long stays is crucial to the Trump administration’s deportation strategy. Advocates would rather asylum seekers be released while they await trial, rather than be forced into confinement.

Geo Group has a lot riding on expanding immigration detention. They run the federal case management system for family detention, and have committed significant resources to adult detention facilities, which don’t house women or children. The Trump administration just granted Geo Group a $110 million contract to build a 1,000-bed detention facility in Conroe, a small town outside of Houston. The mayor of Conroe, already home to a 1,500-bed Geo Group facility, didn’t know about the new contract until he read about it in press reports.

Geo Group made what appears to be an illegal $225,000 donation to a Trump-supporting Super PAC during the 2016 presidential election. Government contractors are barred from political donations of this type. The company also spends heavily in Texas, including $320,000 to lobby the state legislature in the first four months of this year.

Immigrant rights demonstrators in Texas also occupied the state capitol on May Day, opposing a separate bill that would bar so-called “sanctuary cities” in the state.

Top photo: Detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border, in Karnes City, Texas, on Sept. 10, 2014.

The post Private Prison Corporation Wrote Texas Bill Extending How Long Immigrant Children Can Be Detained appeared first on The Intercept.

NYPD Refuses to Disclose Information About Its Face Recognition Program, So Privacy Researchers Are Suing

2 May 2017 - 1:36pm

Researchers at Georgetown University law school filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit against the New York City Police Department today for the agency’s refusal to disclose documents about its longstanding use of face recognition technology. The NYPD’s face recognition system, which has operated in the department’s Real Time Crime Center since at least 2011, allows officers to identify a suspect by searching against databases of stored facial photos.

Records pertaining to the NYPD’s program were requested in January 2016 by researchers at Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology as part of The Perpetual Line-Up, a year-long study on law enforcement uses of facial recognition technology. After receiving public records from more than 90 agencies across the country, the study found that one in every two American adults is enrolled in a criminal face recognition network and that “few agencies have instituted meaningful protections to prevent the misuse of the technology.”

Despite the fact that numerous agencies disclosed similar information about policies, procedures, training, audits, contracts, and agreements relating to their use of facial recognition technology, the NYPD determined in January 2017 that it was unable to find any records responsive to the Center’s detailed records requests.

Instead, the NYPD sent the researchers a single memo outlining how officers should use the results of a facial recognition search, which confirms that the department has a specific unit, staffed with analysts, actively conducting facial recognition searches. The department also acknowledged that it located records relating to the purchase of facial recognition technology, but it denied access to those records in their entirety, according to the lawsuit filed today.

Clare Garvie, one of the co-authors of Georgetown’s report and an expert on face recognition technology, described the NYPD’s lack of transparency as a “very worrying prospect” given the technology’s potential for invasive surveillance, including in real time. Georgetown’s research, among others, has shown that the technology can make mistakes, meaning that innocent people may be investigated and charged for crimes they did not commit. In 2015, a spokesperson for the NYPD that the technology had “misidentified” five people.

No federal laws currently regulate law enforcement’s use of face recognition systems. Because the NYPD’s own policies, manuals, and documents are “the only controls” on its own system, their disclosure is in the public interest, Garvie explained.

“If no records exist, that means that there are no controls on the use of face recognition technology and we ought to worry about that. If there are records, then why did the Police Department say that it couldn’t find them?” said David Vladeck, a member of Georgetown’s law faculty, in a press release.

Publicly available information has repeatedly indicated not only that the department’s program exists, but that corresponding documentation exists as well. The department’s own personnel have boasted of the program’s specific statistics to media, international experts have published on the department’s practices, LinkedIn profiles explicitly describe employee training protocols, and two of the agency’s vendors have revealed that they supply the NYPD. For instance, a document disclosed to Georgetown researchers by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department revealed that the vendor DataWorks Plus also provides “a fully integrated facial recognition solution for the New York City Police Department … for over 2 million records and 12,000 web users.” All of these descriptions, the lawsuit contends, suggest the presence of records responsive to the Georgetown Center’s request.

“We have no idea whether a certain legal standard is required prior to a face recognition search, or if it is used to investigate certain crimes,” Garvie said. “We similarly have no idea what databases are searched — who is in the NYPD’s perpetual lineup; what level of training the analysts conducting the searches receive; whether there are any quality controls on the images submitted for search.”

The NYPD’s secrecy is especially concerning given that the department is currently in the process of expanding its face recognition program. In October, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to use face recognition technology to identify up to 80,000 drivers traveling in and out of New York City daily: “At structurally sensitive points on bridges and tunnels, advanced cameras and sensors will be installed to read license plates and test emerging facial recognition software and equipment.”

While experts like Garvie concede that the technology can greatly benefit police investigations, they are concerned that New York City’s latest expansion is being rolled out, like the rest of the department’s face recognition system without oversight, accuracy testing, or public debate.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

Top photo: A security camera is mounted on the side of a building overlooking an intersection in midtown Manhattan, on July 31, 2013.

The post NYPD Refuses to Disclose Information About Its Face Recognition Program, So Privacy Researchers Are Suing appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From it

2 May 2017 - 1:13pm

Since at least the end of World War II, supporting the world’s worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: in a world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests.

Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policy makers to ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed. None of this is remotely controversial or even debatable. U.S. support for tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets.

The foreign policy guru most beloved and respected in Washington, Henry Kissinger, built his career on embracing and propping up the most savage tyrants because of their obeisance to U.S. objectives. Among the statesman’s highlights, as Greg Grandin documented, he “pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan”; “began the U.S.’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran”; and “supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America.” Kissinger congratulated Argentina’s military junta for the mass killings it carried out, and aggressively enabled the genocide by one of the 20th Century’s worst monsters, the Indonesian dictator and close U.S. ally Suharto.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. under President Reagan, was regarded as a top-flight conservative intellectual because of her explicit defense of pro-western, right-wing dictators, heaping praise on U.S.-supported savage oppressors such as the Shah of Iran and Nicaragua’s military dictator Anastasio Somoza on the ground that “they were positively friendly to the U.S., sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost.” Unsurprisingly, U.S. foreign policy in the Reagan years, like the decades that preceded and followed it, was defined by economic, military and diplomatic support for pro-U.S. dictators, death squads, and even terrorists.

Leading U.S. media outlets have long openly celebrated this pro-dictator stance. Upon the 2006 death of Augusto Pinochet – the military dictator imposed on Chile by the U.S. after it overthrew that country’s democratically elected left-wing president – the Washington Post Editorial Page heaped praise on both Kirkpatrick and Pinochet. While conceding that the Chilean tyrant was “brutal: More than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured,” the Post hailed “the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle,” concluding that like Pinochet, “Kirkpatrick, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.”

When a right-wing coup in 2002 temporarily succeeded in removing Venezuela’s elected left-wing President, Hugo Chávez, the New York Times editorial page cast it as a victory for democracy: “With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader.”

[As I documented several years ago: In the same editorial, the Times announced that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably thereafter revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a vital role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez,” though the paper failed to note that it had not only denied that this happened but had itself celebrated that coup].

In 1977, Jimmy Carter attended a State Dinner in Tehran for the Shah of Iran, the savage U.S.-supported despot that ruled that country for decades after the CIA overthrew its democratically elected leader. It took place shortly after Carter hosted the Shah at the White House. The U.S. President hailed the Iranian tyrant with a long toast, that began this way:

THE PRESIDENT. Your Majesties and distinguished leaders of Iran from all walks of life:

I would like to say just a few words tonight in appreciation for your hospitality and the delightful evening that we’ve already experienced with you. Some have asked why we came to Iran so close behind the delightful visit that we received from the Shah and Empress Farah just a month or so ago. After they left our country, I asked my wife, “With whom would you like to spend New Year’s Eve?” And she said, “Above all others, I think, with the Shah and Empress Farah.” So we arranged the trip accordingly and came to be with you.

As Carter spoke, his praise for the homicidal Iranian despot became more flowery and obsequious: “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.” Two years later, those same people whom Carter claimed revered the Shah overthrew him and, to this day, loathe the U.S. because of the decades of support and praise they heaped on their dictator.

U.S. devotion to the world’s worst dictators did not end, or even recede, upon the end of the Cold War. Both the Bush and Obama administrations continually armed, funded, supported and praised the world’s worst dictators.

In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said of the murderous Egyptian dictator supported by the U.S.: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” When Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew that country’s first elected government, Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, hailed him for “restoring democracy,” and as Sisi became more brutal and repressive, the Obama administration lavished him with more weapons and money. The U.S. Government did the same for the human-rights abusing dictators in Bahrain.

The U.S. gave at least tacit approval, if not outright encouragement, to the 2009 military coup against Honduras’ elected left-wing government. The Clinton-led State Department then repeatedly denied abundant evidence that the coup government it was supporting was engaging in an assassination program of critics and anti-government activists. Last year, the Washington Post’s Karen Attiah examined “how [Clinton’s] State Department’s role in undemocratic regime changes has contributed to violence and political instability in Honduras and Haiti today,” particularly documenting the various steps Secretary Clinton took to protect the military leaders who engineered the Honduran coup.

And then there is Saudi Arabia, long one of the most repressive regimes on the planet and one of the U.S.’s most cherished allies. U.S. devotion to the Saudi tyrants by itself negates virtually every plank of U.S. propaganda about spreading freedom and democracy, given that one administration after the next has worked tirelessly to maintain and strengthen that regime.

Obama, like Bush before him, repeatedly hosted Saudi despots at the White House. When the monstrous Saudi King died in 2015, Obama terminated his state visit to India in order to fly to Ryaidh to pay homage to the close U.S. partner, where he was joined by a bipartisan cast of U.S. political stars. As the Guardian put it: “Obama has been forced to defend his unwillingness to challenge Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers as he led a US delegation to shore up relations with its new king, just hours after lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights.”

Upon the Saudi King’s death, Obama said of a despot who killed and imprisoned dissidents: “At home, King Abdullah’s vision was dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world.” Obama’s gestures of admiration were mild when compared to those of the U.K. Government, which ordered all flags be flown at half-mast to honor the deceased monarch, but Obama was not remotely shy about publicly lavishing the Saudi regime with praise.

In sum, the post-World-War-II foreign policy of the U.S. – independent of its own massive human rights violations committed over and over around the world – has been predicated on overthrowing democratically elected governments and, even more so, supporting, aligning with and propping up brutal dictators. This policy has been applied all over the world, on multiple continents and by every administration. It is impossible to understand even the most basic aspects of the U.S. role in the world without knowing that.

 

All of this history is now being erased and whitewashed, replaced with jingoistic fairy tales, by the U.S. media and leading political officials. Despite these decades of flagrant pro-dictatorship policies, the U.S. media and leading political officials have spent months manufacturing and disseminating a propagandistic fairy tale that casts Donald Trump’s embrace of dictators as some sort of new, aberrational departure from the noble American tradition.

They have repeatedly claimed that the pre-Trump U.S. was devoted to supporting and spreading democracy around the world, while condemning and opposing tyranny. This is rank revisionism of the worst kind: jingoistic propaganda that should shame anyone endorsing it.

Like U.S. support for dictators, these recent bouts of propaganda are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. Some of the more influential instances will have to suffice.

In February, the New York Times editorial page – writing under the phrase used by Jeane Kirkpatrick to demonize 1984 Democrats as unpatriotic: “Blame America First” – attacked Trump with this propagandistic garbage: “Since taking office, Mr. Trump has shown little support for America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.” Imagine what a shock it would be to the people of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Chile, Bahrain, Iran, Argentina, Brazil and the countless other countries which lived under a U.S.-supported dictator to hear about “America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.”

Perhaps the worst example yet came yesterday in a Washington Post article by its White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker, who made this claim: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.” He added: “In an undeniable shift in American foreign policy, Trump is cultivating authoritarian leaders.”

Cultivating authoritarian leaders is everything except a “shift in American foreign policy.” Nonetheless, this propagandistic lie has now become commonplace among über-patriotic journalists eager to tell the world that the U.S., before Trump, has been devoted to liberating the oppressed peoples of the world from tyranny. Here’s the New York Times’ political reporter Maggie Haberman – in a widely shared tweet – endorsing these jingoistic falsehoods from Rucker:

Trump, fundamentally uninterested in spreading small-d democracy in dramatic break w predecessors. @PhilipRucker https://t.co/5jqHwJiBBz

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 1, 2017

How can someone possibly be a journalist and believe that Trump’s being “uninterested in spreading small-d democracy” is a “dramatic break” from his predecessors? Yet this is now standard fare for the U.S. media, as evidenced by this segment from CNN this morning pronouncing Trump’s praise of rogue leaders to be “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

CNN took a policy that has been standard U.S. posture for decades and told its viewers that it represented “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

One would be remiss to omit this blatantly false propaganda from one of the Democrats’ most beloved members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, who – in a predictably viral tweet – yesterday chided Trump for inviting to the White House the mass murdering ruler of the Philippines and thus defacing noble U.S. traditions:

There was a time when the U.S. condemned extrajudicial killings, not rewarded them with WH visit. That time was 103 days ago. https://t.co/gCa0BL6kNx

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) May 1, 2017

Aside from the fact that the U.S. has spent decades supporting tyrants and despots whose calling card is “extrajudicial killings” – including many who were feted at the White House – the central War on Terror approach of the Obama presidency was exactly that. For years, Obama bombed multiple Muslim countries in order to kill people – including his own citizens – who his administration suspected, but never proved, had connections to terrorism. In other words, he killed thousands of people extrajudicially. It takes a special kind of propagandist to claim that this is a new Trumpian innovation.

 

What’s really going on here is self-evident. Nobody remotely rational, nobody with even a fleeting understanding of U.S. history, believes that the U.S. only began supporting and heaping praise on dictators upon Trump’s inauguration. Responding to criticisms, the Post yesterday edited Rucker’s patriotic tribute to the U.S. by adding the italicized words: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office at least occasionally to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.”

But that claim is still false. Can anyone possibly believe that – even when U.S. leaders paid lip service to human rights improvements – there was anything remotely genuine about it? Condemning human rights abuses is an instrument that the U.S. cynically uses to punish adversaries. And they admit this when being candid, as this extraordinary passage from a 2013 Washington Post article revealed:

Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

The Post article went on to note that the Bush administration “took the same approach,” and that while “many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy … that has not happened.” In fact, “’There’s pretty much been no change at all,’ the official said. ‘In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.’”

That’s how the U.S. uses human rights advocacy: as a weapon to “ream” uncooperative countries to punish them for their disobedience. For regimes that “cooperate” with U.S. dictates, they get “at least a free pass” to abuse human rights as extensively as they want, if not outright support and funding for doing so.

What’s really infuriating those attacking Trump for doing what the U.S. government has been doing for decades – supporting and praising heinous tyrants – is that he’s denying them the ability to maintain the myths they desperately tell themselves about their own country. Being able to claim that the U.S. is devoted to spreading freedom and democracy in the world is central to their internal monologue. From the Washington Post newsroom to the corridors of the State Department, this is the fairy tale that they tell themselves every day in order to justify their position as global arbiters of the behavior of other countries.

Once that veneer is removed, once that fairy tale is dispensed with, then the harsh reality stands nakedly exposed: what they are defending is nothing more than the illegitimate and arbitrary exercise of imperial power. The loss of this fiction imperils their entire moral framework. They aren’t angry that Trump is hugging dictators, obviously. All the other presidents whom they revere did the same. It goes without saying that a political culture that admires Henry Kissinger has no objection whatsoever to embracing tyrants.

They are furious that Trump isn’t as effective or as willing to pretend that he’s not doing this. That means they can no longer pretend that the violence, the wars, the coercion, the interference, the dictator-support that they routinely condone has a moral purpose to it.

The reality is that even the fiction, the pretense, of the U.S. as some sort of defender of human rights and democracy is being wildly overstated. As the above examples (and so many others) demonstrate, U.S. officials, including U.S. Presidents, have openly feted and praised despots at least as monstrous as Duterte.

Just as it’s comforting to believe that Trump is the by-product of a foreign villain rather than an American phenomenon, it’s also comforting to believe that his embrace of despots is some sort of novelty. But, especially for journalists, the fact that it feels good to believe a myth does not justify disseminating it.

Watching the U.S. media tell everyone that Trump’s predecessors were devoted to spreading democracy, and that supporting tyrants is a “dramatic break” from the U.S. tradition, is such an obvious break from reality that it is staggering to see, even for those who already view the U.S. media as principally devoted to spreading patriotic state propaganda about the U.S. Government.

The post Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From it appeared first on The Intercept.

Le Pen Aides Claim Lifting Words From Defeated Rival’s Speech Is Not Plagiarism

2 May 2017 - 11:13am

The morning after Marine Le Pen was caught using stirring language in an address to supporters that was copied straight from a speech given two weeks ago by François Fillon, a defeated rival, her campaign aides claimed that the uncredited “reprise” was not plagiarism but a form of tribute to the eliminated candidate’s ideas about French identity.

Florian Philippot, the deputy leader of Le Pen’s National Front, said in a radio interview that the candidate had recited whole passages, copied word for word from Fillon’s April 15 speech, at her May Day rally in Paris because she wanted to “launch a real debate” about what it means to be French.

The lifted passages — including poetic references to the borders of France that both the center-right Fillon and the far-right Le Pen pledged to reclaim from the European Union and fortify against Muslim immigrants — were edited into a side-by-side comparison by Ridicule TV, which is run by Fillon supporters. (It is not necessary to understand French to hear how precise the copying was.)

Pour parler de la France, Marine Le Pen est obligée de plagier MOT POUR MOT un discours de Fillon … ? #Imposture pic.twitter.com/BasTJsgLWf

— Ridicule TV (@RidiculeTV) May 1, 2017

In a series of interviews on Tuesday morning, Le Pen aides echoed the words of her campaign manager, David Rachline, who said that the “borrowed” language was a way of nodding in the direction of Fillon’s voters, who “appreciated” and understood the reference.

That was certainly true for the nationalist writer Paul-Marie Coûteaux, who told the French newspaper Le Monde that the original speech was based on notes he had provided to Fillon. Coûteaux pronounced himself thrilled to hear his words used again by Le Pen, whose candidacy he now supports.

Following his elimination in the first round of France’s presidential elections last month, Fillon had urged his supporters to vote against Le Pen and for Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister, in order to block the extreme right from power.

Le Pen’s attempt to rally supporters of the defeated mainstream conservative candidate around her comes as her aides are also doing their utmost to suppress turnout in the run-off among the 7 million French leftists who voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a candidate of the far left who was also narrowly eliminated in the first round.

As Nicholas Vinocur reports for Politico, Le Pen campaign strategists no longer hope to win over many Mélenchon supporters after the defeated candidate explicitly urged his voters not to support the National Front. “Do not make the terrible mistake of putting a vote for the National Front into the ballot box,” Mélenchon said in a television interview on Sunday, “because you will be pushing the country toward an inferno that could lead anywhere.”

Still, inspired by efforts from the Trump campaign to drive down turnout among disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters, Le Pen aides told Vinocur that they are going all out to encourage Mélenchon’s anti-capitalist supporters to abstain or cast a blank protest ballot instead of voting for Macron, a former banker.

To counter that effort, Macron has taken every opportunity to remind voters that Le Pen, whose campaign posters do not feature her last name, is the leader of an extremist party founded by her anti-Semitic father that still harbors neo-Nazis. Further evidence of that emerged on Tuesday in the form of an investigation by the French news site Rue 89, which revealed that a young National Front photographer who often accompanies Le Pen on the campaign trail is an active member of Facebook groups dedicated to praising Nazi ideology and sharing images of “Aryan beauty” and anti-Semitic jokes.

Décidément, on aime beaucoup le 3e Reich autour de Marine Le Pen… Belle enquête de @nleblevennec @juliettemntlly https://t.co/aZNoGtZJLB

— pierre haski (@pierrehaski) May 2, 2017

As Nabil Wakim of Le Monde noted, Le Pen’s rally was enthusiastically covered by one visiting Trump supporter, the alt-right video blogger Lauren Southern, who also made it clear she shares the candidate’s antipathy for immigrants.

.@MLP_officiel in Paris ?? pic.twitter.com/or8mOb9kB9

— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) May 1, 2017

I'm playing spot the European in Paris right now. ?? pic.twitter.com/2RQTvsX5jt

— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) May 1, 2017

Following the rally, Southern filmed clashes between far-left protesters and the police and complained about having been harassed by the demonstrators. “It’s so weird here in Europe — why do they hate the press so much?” Southern asked later in a YouTube account of the unrest. “Why are they after us and not just the police?”

It was left to another video blogger on the scene, Luke Rudkowski, to explain to Southern that she might just have telegraphed her own political views to the protesters by showing up to film them wearing a helmet with a giant “Make America Great Again” sticker on it.

The post Le Pen Aides Claim Lifting Words From Defeated Rival’s Speech Is Not Plagiarism appeared first on The Intercept.

Ensaio: Novo gasoduto invade o frágil ecossistema de Everglades, na Flórida

2 May 2017 - 10:49am

Enquanto a construção do gasoduto Sabal Trail, que vai transportar gás natural para a Flórida, entra em sua etapa final, o governo Trump ameaça acabar com os programas federais de restauração e proteção das águas de Everglades. A nova rede vai levar o gás de uma estação coletora no Alabama para outra na região central da Flórida. De lá, o gasoduto Southeast Connection, que deve ficar pronto em 2019, vai transportar o gás até novas usinas elétricas do sul da Flórida. A região de Everglades será, portanto, o ponto final do longo caminho a ser percorrido pelo gás extraído por fraturamento hidráulico na Pensilvânia.

“Nas horas difíceis, ela era nosso refúgio, nos dava abrigo e comida, nos protegia”, conta a The Intercept Betty Osceola, membro da tribo Miccosukee. “Ela” é a região de Everglades. “Agora é nossa vez de protegê-la. É por isso que nossa tribo está fazendo tudo isso”.

A fotógrafa Rose Marie Cromwell, de Miami, se interessa pelo que chama de “linha tênue entre o político e o espiritual”. Ela fotografou Osceola na reserva indígena de Tamiami Trail, durante o trabalho de levantamento da qualidade da água, que a tribo realiza duas vezes por ano. Cromwell também acompanhou um protesto contra o gasoduto Sabal Trail ao lado de Bobby C. Billie, membro do Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal People, grupo indígena que rejeita a apelação federal de tribo.

Betty Osceola participa do levantamento semestral da qualidade das águas de Everglades na reserva de Tamiami Trail, Condado de Miami-Dade, Flórida (12/10/2016).

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

No início do século XX, a parte sul da Flórida, que começa logo abaixo de Orlando, ainda era uma região tomada por pântanos tropicais, que a população Miccosukee costumava percorrer de canoa, de uma margem a outra. Após várias invasões por parte do exército americano, muitos membros da tribo Seminole, que, na época, ainda incluía os Miccosukee, foram forçados a se mudar para Oklahoma. Mas um grupo resistiu e se instalou mais ao sul, nas profundezas de Everglades, onde o exército não poderia alcançá-los.

Área de Everglades mais preservada, porém ainda bastante poluída, dentro da reserva indígena de Tamiami Trail.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

Área de Everglades muito devastada.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

No fim das contas, os colonizadores acabaram se instalando na região – e seus descendentes continuam o movimento até hoje. Só no ano passado, a população da Flórida teve um aumento de 367 mil habitantes, ou seja, mais de mil novos moradores por dia. O Corpo de Engenheiros do exército americano construiu um complexo sistema de canais e barragens para drenar o terreno e abrir caminho para a produção de cana-de-açúcar e o loteamento de terras. O Parque Nacional de Everglades foi instituído para preservar uma parcela do ecossistema. Só que a configuração da rede de canais fez com que todo o resíduo fosforoso acabasse sendo escoado para o território Miccosukee, que fica nas imediações do parque. Com isso, ervas daninhas e outras espécies invasoras proliferaram nas águas da tribo, e partes do território se tornaram inabitáveis por conta das frequentes inundações.

Barcos usados por voluntários para realizar o levantamento da qualidade das águas.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

Estudante colhe uma flor durante o levantamento realizado pela tribo Miccosukee.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

Frustrada com a atuação dos governos estadual e federal, a tribo de Osceola decidiu tomar as rédeas da proteção de Everglades. Anos atrás, conseguiram convencer a Agência de Proteção Ambiental (EPA) a atribuir um padrão de qualidade mais alto para as águas dos pântanos. Duas vezes por ano, Osceola põe sua frota de aerobarcos à disposição para o controle de qualidade. Os dados obtidos servem muitas vezes de argumento para combater as persistentes tentativas do governo de reduzir os esforços de restauração hídrica.

No riacho Fort Drum, a margem por onde o gasoduto não vai passar tem a vegetação preservada.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

Trecho do riacho Fort Drum preparado para receber o gasoduto Sabal Trail.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

A desconfiança dos Miccosukee não é à toa. Sob o comando do governador Rick Scott, o estado da Flórida tem reduzido a fiscalização da qualidade da água, mas acelerado a emissão de licenças para empreendimentos. Agora, o governo Trump está propondo diminuir ainda mais o apoio federal a Everglades, acabando, por exemplo, com a South Florida Geographic Initiative, um projeto da EPA para coletar dados sobre os níveis de contaminação por fósforo e mercúrio na região. Em 2012, esses dados embasaram uma grande ação judicial contra o estado da Flórida, que ficou obrigado a pagar 880 milhões de dólares para limitar o escoamento de resíduos agrícolas.

Bobby C. Billie e Shannon Larson guardam o bastão sagrado usado em cerimônias tradicionais no Flager Park, na cidade de Okeechobee.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

Canteiro de obras do gasoduto Sabal Trail, às margens do riacho Fort Drum (15/10/16). 15, 2016.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

Enquanto Osceola e muitos outros continuam o longo trabalho de restauração dos cursos d’água, um movimento itinerante contra o gasoduto de Sabal Trail vem tentando parar o projeto à base de ações jurídicas, acampamentos e manifestações organizadas. O combate ao oleoduto da Dakota Acess deu fôlego à batalha da Flórida. Para abrir caminho para a obra, que está quase pronta, trechos inteiros de florestas exuberantes foram derrubados e muitos cursos d’água, interrompidos.

Para Bobby C. Billie, lutar contra o gasoduto está profundamente ligado à identidade. “Ele entende a destruição do meio-ambiente como uma forma de autodestruição”, explica Cromwell.

À esquerda: Bobby C. Billie nas imediações das obras do gasoduto Sabal Trail. À direita: Betty Osceola participa do controle de qualidade das águas de Everglade na reserva indígena de Tamiami Trail.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

Para Osceola, a batalha para impedir que os resíduos destruam Everglades e a luta contra o gasoduto de Sabal Trail são uma coisa só. No fim das contas, o projeto vai fornecer energia para sustentar as incríveis taxas de crescimento e desenvolvimento do estado, o que, por sua vez, significa mais destruição da região pantanosa. Significa também mais anos de dependência do gás natural, em vez de uma transição para uma política energética sustentável, com alternativas solares e renováveis.

O metano que se desprende da combustão do gás vai piorar o aquecimento e, consequentemente, a elevação do nível do mar na costa da Flórida. A água salgada, que já se infiltra pela terra porosa dos pântanos drenados, vai avançar ainda mais. É a mais nova invasora da ponta sudeste dos Estados Unidos.

Antigo posto avançado de pesca em Tree Islands, na reserva indígena de Tamiami Trail, que se tornou poluído demais para o uso.

Foto: Rose Marie Cromwell

O reverendo Houston R. Cypress, do Otter Clan, colaborou com esta reportagem fotográfica.

Tradução: Carla Camargo Fanha

The post Ensaio: Novo gasoduto invade o frágil ecossistema de Everglades, na Flórida appeared first on The Intercept.

Former Texas Prosecutor Probably Sent Innocent Man to His Death. Now He’s on Trial for Misconduct.

2 May 2017 - 9:57am

The courthouse in Corsicana, Texas, roughly 60 miles southeast of Dallas, has been meticulously restored to its original 1905 glory, a time when the county was awash in oil money. Its main courtroom has soaring, two-story pink walls and gold-flecked architectural details that frame the judge’s bench, witness stand, and jury box. For more than three decades, John Jackson worked this room (though during those years it was a far more utilitarian space), first as a prosecutor with the Navarro County district attorney’s office and later as an elected judge, until his retirement in 2012.

Last week he returned, this time as a defendant, facing charges brought by the State Bar of Texas, whose lawyers argue that Jackson violated basic legal ethics in connection with his conduct in prosecuting the county’s most notorious case, the death penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted and ultimately executed for what the state insists was the December 1991 arson-murder of his three young children in the home they shared just over a mile away.

Specifically, the state’s lawyers contend that Jackson made a deal with a jailhouse snitch who agreed to testify against Willingham and then hid that deal from Willingham’s defense attorneys — a clear violation of both law and ethics. They say that Jackson took extraordinary measures over the next two decades to conceal his deceitful actions.

“It is a duty of the prosecution — an ethical obligation — to turn over that evidence,” state bar lawyer Kristin Brady told jurors in her opening arguments last Wednesday afternoon. “For years he protected this snitch; for years. It wasn’t for [the snitch’s] protection, it was for his own protection.”

The prosecution of Willingham has been widely reported and litigated, in part because his conviction was secured on twin pillars of evidence known to wreak havoc in the criminal justice system: junk science and incentivized snitch testimony.

Where the junk science is concerned, there is now little question that the fire that killed Willingham’s children was not arson — caused, as the state claimed, by Willingham spreading lighter fluid around his house and setting it ablaze. Leading fire scientists have weighed in to say that the evidence the Corsicana Fire Department and Texas fire marshal investigator relied upon in fingering Willingham as the cause of the deadly blaze was based on outdated, discredited fire-science folklore.

It is the second basis of the prosecution, however, that underlies Jackson’s current civil disciplinary trial.

In short, lead prosecutor Jackson called a man named Johnny Webb to testify at Willingham’s 1992 trial to say that while he was locked up in the county jail on an aggravated robbery charge, his fellow inmate, Willingham, randomly, and in detail, confessed to Webb his alleged crime. Under questioning by Jackson, Webb asserted that he did not expect any benefit in exchange for his incriminating testimony.

In the years since Willingham’s 2004 execution, significant evidence has come to light indicating that was untrue. Records amassed by the bar association and the Innocence Project — including lengthy correspondence between Jackson and Webb spanning roughly a decade — strongly suggest not only that it was at least implied to Webb that he would receive a reduced sentence for his testimony, but also that Jackson went to great lengths to make that happen. Moreover, Webb now insists that his trial testimony was false and compelled by Jackson.

On the witness stand on April 27, Jackson vehemently denied the allegations.

Lawyers for the bar’s Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel have tried to make clear that they are not here to re-litigate the question of Willingham’s guilt or innocence, which they say is irrelevant. The sole issue at hand, they argue, is whether Jackson’s actions as they relate to his dealings with Webb violated legal ethics — so far to seemingly thin effect.

Indeed, where the bar attorneys have toed that straight-line, Joseph Byrne, Jackson’s attorney, has done his best to conflate the issue of Willingham’s guilt with Jackson’s innocence: The bar, he has suggested, is motivated only by an interest in tarring Jackson in order to demonstrate that his client — and the state of Texas — hastened the execution of an innocent man.

John Jackson, the prosecutor in the 1992 trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, poses for a photo in Austin, Texas.

Photo: W. Gardner Selby/AP

The Shoulders of a Jailhouse Snitch

It was roughly 10:30 a.m. on December 23, 1991, when the fire broke out in the five-room wood frame house on West 11th Ave. in Corsicana that Willingham shared with his wife, Stacy, and their three young daughters. The bodies of Willingham’s twin 1-year-old girls were found amid the charred remains of the house. They had perished in the fire. First responders later carried out the 2-year-old, who was still alive. She died at the hospital shortly thereafter, of smoke inhalation.

According to the local newspaper, Willingham was distraught at the scene. Sitting on the back of a fire truck, he was sobbing and screaming, “I want to see my babies!” He was taken to the hospital as well, where he was treated for first- and second-degree burns on his face, back, and hands, according to the Corsicana Daily Sun. At the time of the fire, Stacy was picking out Christmas presents for the kids at the local Salvation Army.

The heartbreaking tragedy brought a groundswell of local support. Firefighters and cops pledged to help the family make it through the holiday season. But the goodwill quickly disappeared. On January 8, 1992, Willingham was arrested, booked into jail, and charged with three counts of murder.

In the 16 days between the fire and Willingham’s arrest, things had changed significantly, primarily because of the assessment of the fire marshal investigator, Manuel Vasquez. According to Vasquez, there were telltale signs — among them, burn marks on the floor and so-called crazed glass — telling him this was no innocent blaze.

Meanwhile, witnesses at the scene — and people who observed Willingham in the days just after the fire — concluded that he wasn’t appropriately distraught and was seemingly unconcerned about what had happened. The elected district attorney announced that his office would seek death for the 23-year-old father.

After a two-day trial led by Jackson that summer, Willingham was found guilty and sent to death row. He was executed in February 2004, despite serious questions about the validity of the fire science that sent him there. In the intervening years, a number of experts reviewed the case, concluding that there was no evidence of arson. Instead, experts suggest the fire was more likely caused by a space heater or faulty wiring. In the absence of evidence of arson, the integrity of Willingham’s conviction rested squarely on the shoulders of a jailhouse snitch.

In the spring of 1992, Johnny Webb had just pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated robbery; according to the plea, Webb had tried to rob a woman of her purse at knifepoint.

While he was awaiting transfer to prison, Webb met Willingham, who had been arrested and charged with murder roughly two months before. Webb was a jail trusty at the time, meaning he was allowed more freedom than a typical inmate and was tasked with daily chores — in this case, keeping the floors in the common area of the cellblock clean. That put him in daily contact with any number of inmates, including Willingham.

According to Webb’s account at Willingham’s trial, for the first month that Webb was around him, Willingham didn’t say much — only that he was having a difficult time sleeping and that he did not kill his children. One day that changed: Out of nowhere, Webb said Willingham confessed that he had set the fire in order to kill the kids — or, rather, to ensure that the authorities wouldn’t find out that one of them had been grievously injured, presumably by his wife Stacy, earlier that morning. Webb said that Willingham came home to find one of the children injured and set the fire to cover the abuse.

There was immediate reason to be suspicious of Webb’s account: None of the children showed any signs of abuse and Stacy wasn’t even at home when the fire broke out. There was but one detail in Webb’s story that dovetailed with the state’s theory of the case, the notion that Willingham had used an accelerant to start the blaze.

Under Jackson’s questioning, Webb testified that he was not coaxed by anyone to provide this story about Willingham nor promised anything in return for his testimony in the case. “As a matter of fact, I told you there is nothing I can do for you,” Jackson followed up.

“You said there was nothing that no one can do for me,” Webb affirmed.

A letter from John Jackson to Johnny Webb.

Document: Jackson complaint appendices

The Pivotal Witness Recants

Sitting nervously on a wooden bench outside the courtroom on the opening day of Jackson’s trial was Webb, a slight 47-year-old man with piercing eyes and a thinning wash of light-colored hair. Decades of drug use and repeated incarceration have done little to curb his youthful appearance. Still, he looked wary, repeatedly working his hands together as if at any moment he might need to flee.

As it turns out, Houston District Judge David Farr, the visiting judge tasked with overseeing Jackson’s trial, had ordered Webb to check in with him at the courthouse every morning at 8:30 until he was called as a witness. The purpose, Farr noted to the lawyers before the trial started, was to ensure that if Webb did get a hankering to flee before testifying, he wouldn’t be more than 24 hours ahead of the law that would find him and bring him back.

Certainly, there are plenty of reasons for Webb to be nervous, not least of which is that he has told many stories over the years — and not only about what Willingham supposedly told him back in 1992.

On that point alone, Webb first said that Willingham confessed; then, shortly after allegedly relating that story to Jackson but before testifying at Willingham’s trial, he supposedly called the FBI from the jail to say that he was going to be forced by the state to testify about something — Willingham’s confession — that never happened. When the FBI showed up, Webb allegedly turned them away, saying he’d never made the call in question. He then testified at the August 1992 trial and said he was given no deal in exchange for doing so.

Once shipped off to prison, Webb engaged in extensive correspondence with Jackson, imploring the prosecutor — who took the bench as the county’s district judge in January 1997 — to do something to ease his time in prison. Beginning in October 1992 — less than two months after Willingham was convicted and just after Webb testified a second time, at a hearing where Willingham unsuccessfully sought a new trial — Jackson did just that, according to attorneys for the state bar.

Jackson wrote numerous letters — to prison officials, to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and even to Gov. Rick Perry — where he lauded Webb’s role in the Willingham case. He told prison officials that Webb was a “pivotal” witness. In court last week, Jackson testified that he didn’t really think Webb was all that important but said otherwise in the hope that it would get favorable attention from authorities.

Eventually, Jackson tried to get Webb out of prison by retroactively changing his aggravated robbery charge to a charge of simple robbery, which would reduce Webb’s 15-year sentence and make him immediately eligible for parole. He was ultimately successful, availing himself of a legal process reserved for correcting purely clerical issues arising from a legal judgment.

According to Jackson, there was a legitimate issue in his mind about what charge Webb had actually pleaded guilty to back in 1992, and he was simply trying to resolve the discrepancy. Reducing Webb’s charge would be a matter of “justice,” Jackson intimated during testimony last week.

The problem, however, is that there’s no doubt Webb was charged with and pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery — something Jackson should know since he not only represented the state at Webb’s plea hearing back in 1992, but also questioned Webb about his conviction during Willingham’s trial — making his use of this particular process highly improper, according to the bar.

Ultimately, Jackson testified that he was trying to assist Webb and was “hoping I’d be able to find a way” to do it. But it wasn’t because he had any deal with Webb, he insisted, though he did say that “I guess it’s possible” that he had told Webb he would try to reduce his charge.

Jackson said his true motivation for helping Webb was to ensure his safety in prison. As a snitch, he would be a potential target of violence, and Jackson felt he was obligated to protect his witness. Letters from Webb described being abused by members of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, which particularly despised snitches and allegedly had ties to Willingham’s half-brother, who was serving a life sentence for murder. “It was a special case and I tried to do everything I could to prevent violence against Johnny Webb,” Jackson testified.

Importantly, though, Jackson never alerted Willingham’s attorneys to any of the actions he took over the years to aid the snitch.

The house in Corsicana, Texas, shown Sept. 9, 2009, where Cameron Todd Willingham’s three children died in a December 1991 fire.

Photo: Mike Graczyk/AP

Trial and Tribalism

By 8 a.m. on April 26, the day Jackson’s trial commenced, the Corsicana courthouse was crawling with security — including cops in army green flak jackets patrolling the exterior and interior of the building. One deputy said the extra show of force was deemed necessary simply because of the high-profile nature of the case. Others have intimated it was because of possible threats, presumably to Jackson and/or Webb, by members of the Aryan Brotherhood, allegedly hostile to the state’s case against Willingham.

The county’s law enforcement machine was ready for any eventuality — and regardless of whether the threats were legitimate, it made for a significant show of force for the jurors required to march in and out of the courtroom past the armed officers.

Byrne, Jackson’s attorney, played the security to good effect. In asking Jackson about other actions he took to help Webb — notably, issuing two bench warrants to bring Webb back to the county jail to serve out part of his sentence — he gestured to the deputies in the courtroom. Of course Jackson would want to bring the vulnerable Webb back to the county where he would be guarded by sheriff’s employees, people Jackson trusted, who worked every day to keep residents of the county safe — including, he noted, the jurors currently sitting in judgment. Jackson, now 66, who has slightly stooped shoulders, a lispy Texas drawl, and a face that rests in a half-smile, nodded knowingly.

Much of Byrne’s trial strategy seemed to be based in this kind of tribalism: Jackson worked to keep the county safe from child murderers such as Willingham and bent over backward to help a troubled young man, Johnny Webb, who helped to put a monster in prison. Why would such a man do anything unethical or illegal to make that happen?

Byrne spent much of his opening argument focused on the years of litigation in the Willingham case — at one point even suggesting that current fire science is actually unreliable, bought and paid for by out-of-state forces like the Innocence Project (which filed the initial ethics complaint with the bar in 2014 on behalf of Willingham’s relatives), whereas the investigation that fingered Willingham for murder was solid. The message was clear: Outside forces are using the state bar and its trumped-up ethics charge to try to bring down a good man.

Indeed, Byrne has worked hard to get Judge Farr to allow into evidence as much of the grisly detail of the children’s deaths and negative evidence regarding Willingham’s character as possible, much to the consternation of bar lawyer Kristin Brady, who was clearly exasperated by Byrne’s histrionics. Almost all of the trial’s third day was spent with the lawyers arguing this issue outside the presence of the jury, whose 15 members spent the day cooling their heels.

The details are necessary to show how strong a case Jackson had against Willingham, Byrne argued — so strong that he didn’t even need to call Webb as a witness, let alone make and then conceal a deal with him. But the case details aren’t “relevant to anything,” Brady argued, “because [Jackson] still used Webb.” The grim details would serve only to prejudice the jury.

Byrne later retorted, “I hope it’s prejudicial.”

But Byrne’s approach obfuscates one of the core missions of the Texas State Bar: to police its members, enforcing basic ethical principles that are key to safeguarding the public from deceitful attorneys.

Since 2011, the bar has sought sanctions — which range from public reprimand all the way up to disbarment — against more than 2,000 attorneys. Since 2013, it has had roughly 10 cases against prosecutors that ended in sanctions — including two notable examples.

In 2015, former District Attorney Charles Sebesta was disbarred for withholding evidence from attorneys working to defend a man named Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison, 12 of them on death row, before finally being exonerated. (Graves was friends with Willingham during the years that both of them were on the row.) And in 2013, a former DA and elected judge, Ken Anderson, was forced to give up his law license after he agreed to plead guilty to prosecutorial misconduct for his role in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton. (Anderson was also sentenced to 10 days in jail.) Morton spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife before DNA evidence linked her killing to another man. Anderson, like Sebesta, also hid exculpatory evidence from Morton’s attorneys — the action Jackson now stands accused of in the Willingham case.

That Jackson’s trial is happening in public, his fate in the hands of a common jury, is something of an anomaly. Lawyers charged with ethical infractions are given a choice of how they want to proceed. They can have their case heard in District Court, as Jackson has opted, or considered in private by a panel made up largely of other attorneys. Since 2013, just three prosecutors have chosen the public option.

There is clearly a calculus involved in the decision. “Getting in front of a panel is quicker, but if you feel like you’re not going to do well there, you take it to trial court,” Houston criminal defense attorney John Floyd told the Corsicana Daily Sun. It would seem Jackson chose wisely; Byrne’s attempts to retry the Willingham case are likely an easier lift in front of a jury than before a panel of lawyers.

Johnny Webb, posing in his mother’s back yard, on July 23, 2014, in Corsicana, Texas.

Photo: Michel du Cille/The Washington Post/Getty Images

“I Thought I Could Change Things”

On a breezy Tuesday morning before the trial began, I went in search of Johnny Webb. I’d read all about the various stories he’d offered regarding his testimony against Willingham, and about his alleged deal with Jackson, and I wanted to see if I could find the truth.

In some of his correspondence with Jackson, Webb complained that he was being bullied into recanting his trial testimony. In one letter, he wrote that members of the Aryan Brotherhood had put out a hit on him and the only way to save his life would be to recant his statements. In another letter, he wrote that he’d been “ambushed” in prison by two journalists. Webb wrote that the reporters said he and Jackson together had “murdered” Willingham. He said he told them only what Willingham had told him, “and I sure didn’t lie.”

Webb has also said that Jackson coerced him into concocting a false story about Willingham in order to secure a conviction. That narrative started in 1992 and has resurfaced over the years, including in two interviews that attorneys working with the Innocence Project conducted in 2014.

“He said, well, let’s go over [what] I think needs to happen,” Webb recalled of his conversation with Jackson. “He says I’ve got this guy Willingham who did this. We know he did it. We know he’s guilty. We just can’t prove it.” In exchange for his help, Webb said Jackson told him that his robbery case would disappear. “He says, even if you’re convicted now, I can get it off of you later. And a matter of fact, he did try.”

In depositions taken in anticipation of Jackson’s trial, Webb apparently reiterated his claim of coercion, admitting that he’d perjured himself at Willingham’s trial — a crime for which Webb could still be prosecuted.

It was late morning by the time I parked across the street from the house I would later find out belongs to Webb’s mom. The crumbing bungalow had seen better days. A broken windowpane was haphazardly covered from the inside. A sign on a screen door warned that because of the rise in the price of ammo, there would be no warning shot. Two cats slept on the porch next to a half-eaten bowl of kibble. No one answered the door. As I turned to walk back to the car, I spotted a man across the street smoking a cigarette and watching me. I recognized him. “Are you Johnny Webb?” I called out. “I don’t know,” he said. “Am I?”

Indeed, he was. I introduced myself as a reporter and he recoiled, looking at me suspiciously. “I can’t give any interviews,” he said. I understand, I replied. But then he began talking. I asked him if he was prepared to testify in court; yes, he said, but he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Did that mean that what he’d said about being coerced was untrue, I asked him. He said that talking to the Innocence Project, “trying to fix things,” had cost him. He’s lost work — the contractor he worked with had to let him go, he said, once his boss’s well-connected clients found out Webb was on the crew — and wants nothing more than to get this behind him, get out of Corsicana, and start his life anew. “I thought I could change things,” he lamented about his involvement in the Willingham case. “I’ve learned that one man can’t.”

Jackson’s trial continues this week.

Top photo: The scene outside the Navarro County Courthouse on July 23, 2014, in Corsicana, Texas.

The post Former Texas Prosecutor Probably Sent Innocent Man to His Death. Now He’s on Trial for Misconduct. appeared first on The Intercept.

Cybersecurity for the People: How to Keep Your Chats Truly Private With Signal

1 May 2017 - 10:36am

Video by Lauren Feeney

Whether your private conversations are personal, professional, or political, what you say or type into your phone may be of interest to snooping governments, both foreign and domestic. Criminals might be interested as well, especially when you send someone a password or credit card number. There are others you might worry about too: You might want to apply for a job without your current employer finding out. You might discuss something with a lawyer. You might talk to your friends about attending a protest, getting an abortion, or buying a gun. You might send private selfies to your partner that you don’t want anyone else to see. You might be dating someone new and not want your coworkers to find out. The list goes on.

Fortunately, privacy is a fundamental human right.

Unfortunately, most ways that people communicate with their phones — voice calls, SMS messages, email, Facebook, Skype, Hangouts, etc. — are not as private as you might think. Your phone company, internet provider, and the corporations that make the apps you use to communicate can spy on what you say. Your chats can be accessed by police, the FBI, and spy agencies like the NSA. They can also be seen by anyone who can pick up your phone and sift through it. Some of them can even be read by anyone in a position to simply glance at your phone’s lock screen and read the notifications displayed there.

But it’s possible to make sure that your private conversations are actually private. It starts with installing an app known as Signal, and getting your friends to install it too. Then you’ll want to tweak the settings to lock everything down.

The Signal app is easy to use, works on both Apple’s mobile operating system iOS and on Google’s Android, and encrypts communications so that only you and the people you’re talking to can decipher them. It also has open source code, so experts can verify its security claims. You can download Signal from the Android Play Store and the iPhone App Store.

Although Signal is well-designed, there are extra steps you must take if you want to maximize the security of your most sensitive conversations. (I outlined some of these steps last year, but Signal has changed significantly since then.) There are also some useful features in Signal that you might not know about.

I discuss these at length below — and in the video above, created with Lauren Feeney.

If you wish to jump ahead to a specific section, you can click the appropriate link:

Get Your Friends to Use Signal

You can only send encrypted messages, and make encrypted calls, to other people who are on Signal. There’s not much point in having Signal if all of your most private texts are still going over unencrypted SMS, so get your friends to install the app, too.

If you’re an activist, get everyone at your next meeting to install the app. If you’re a journalist, tell your sources and editors. If you’re running for office, consider using Signal to communicate with your campaign staff.

Lock Down Your Phone

Signal uses strong end-to-end encryption, which, when properly verified, ensures that no one involved in facilitating your conversation can see what you’re saying — not the makers of Signal, not your cellphone or broadband provider, and not the NSA or another spy agency that collects internet traffic in bulk.

But Signal’s encryption can’t stop someone from picking up your phone and opening the app to read through your conversations. For that, you need to configure your phone to require a passcode, or some other form of authentication, to unlock. You should also make sure that the storage on your phone is encrypted and that you update your phone’s operating system and apps promptly, which makes it significantly harder for anyone to remotely hack into your phone.

If you’re using Android:

  • Set up screen lock, which requires you to draw a pattern, type a numeric PIN, or type a password to unlock your phone. You can do this from the Settings app under Security > “Screen lock.” Try to make your pattern or passcode random, and avoid using anything obvious such as birthdates. Don’t tell anyone how to unlock your phone unless you’re OK with them reading all of your encrypted messages – and everything else on your phone.
  • Encrypt your phone’s storage. A screen lock is not much use if a thief can copy your phone’s data to a different device. Encrypting the flash memory on your phone blocks such an attack by scrambling your data so that it can only be unlocked using the same pattern, PIN, or password used to unlock your phone. You can do this from the Settings app under Security > “Encrypt phone.” Note that you need to have a full battery before Android lets you encrypt your phone, and you may have to wait up to an hour while your phone is encrypting.
  • Install all updates promptly. Updates fix security bugs, so every day you haven’t installed them is a day you’re vulnerable to attack. You can check for Android updates by opening the Settings app, and under System tap “About phone” > “System updates.” You should also update all of your apps from the Play Store promptly.
  • Lock your Signal app with a passphrase. The Android version of Signal lets you lock down the whole app, requiring a separate passphrase to access it. If you followed the steps above (set up a lock screen and encrypted your phone), this isn’t necessary. However, if you ever let others use your phone, you may want to enable it anyway. Open the Signal app, tap the menu icon in the top-right and go to Settings. Tap Privacy, and then tap “Enable passphrase” to set a passphrase. Important caveat: If you lose your passphrase, you’ll have to delete all of your Signal data and start over to keep using the app.

If you’re using an iPhone:

  • Set a strong passcode. iPhones automatically have encrypted storage, but this encryption only protects your data if you lock your device with a passcode. Everyone should use at least a six-digit passcode, and you should up that to 11 digits if you’re concerned that your phone might fall into the hands of a powerful attacker like a government. Avoid using anything obvious such as birthdates. I wrote about this in detail last year – skip to the bottom of that article for instructions on changing your passcode, and for considerations about using Touch ID.
  • Install updates promptly. Updates fix security bugs, so every day you haven’t installed them is a day you’re vulnerable to attack. You can check for iPhone updates in the Settings app under General > Software Update. You should also update all of your apps in the App Store app under the Updates tab.
Hide Signal Messages on Your Lock Screen

Signal’s encryption won’t necessarily help you if other people can see incoming messages displayed on your lock screen. Displaying messages on the lock screen is Signal’s default behavior, but you should change this if your phone is frequently in physical proximity to people who shouldn’t see your Signal messages — roommates, coworkers, or airport screeners, for example.

Left: Signal notification on locked iPhone. Right: Signal notification on locked Android phone.

Here’s how to lock down your Signal notifications.

If you’re using Android:

  • Open the Settings app, and under “Device” > “Sound & notification” select “When device is locked.”
  • The options are “Show all notification content,” “Hide sensitive notification content,” or “Don’t show notifications at all.” I recommend you choose “Hide sensitive information content” — this way you’ll still be notified when you get a Signal message (or any other sensitive notification), but you’ll have to unlock your phone to see who it’s from and what it says.

If you’re using an iPhone:

  • Open the Signal app and click the gear icon in the top-left to get to Signal’s settings. Under “Notifications” > “Background Notifications,” tap “Show.”
  • The options are “Sender name & message,” “Sender name only,” or “No name or message.” I recommend you choose “No name or message” — this way you’ll still be notified when you get a Signal message, but you’ll have to unlock your phone to see who it’s from and what it says.
  • To completely remove Signal notifications from your iPhone’s lock screen, open the Settings app, tap “Notifications,” scroll down to the list of apps, and tap Signal. From here you can turn off “Show on Lock Screen.”
  • You may also wish to poke through the settings for any other apps that display sensitive notifications on your lock screen and disable them.

Left: Hidden Signal notification on locked iPhone. Right: Hidden Signal notifications on locked Android phone.

Don’t Retain Your Messages Forever

After your encrypted Signal message is sent to someone, copies of the plaintext message exist in only two locations: on your phone and on the recipient’s phone. (Unlike other messaging apps, the Signal server never has access to your plaintext messages, and only stores your encrypted messages on the internet for a short amount of time.) This means that if you delete the message from your phone, and the recipient deletes it from their phone, the message will no longer exist. It’s a good idea to regularly delete old messages, especially if they’re part of a sensitive conversation. This way, if your phone ever gets searched, the conversations you don’t even remember having from a year ago – as well as the sensitive conversations from last week – won’t get compromised.

Signal lets you send messages that disappears from both your phone and the recipient’s phone after a specified amount of time (between 5 seconds and 1 week). This is useful when you and a friend both want to retain messages from your conversation for a short period of time. But keep in mind, nothing stops the recipient from recording the messages anyway before they disappear (like, by taking screenshots).

If you have contacts or Signal groups (more on that below) that you regularly send private text messages to, I recommend setting disappearing messages to 1 week. It’s also easy to temporarily enable disappearing messages and then disable it when you’re done, for example when you need to send someone a password.

If you’re using Android:

  • Open the Signal app and tap on a conversation to open it.
  • Tap the menu icon in the top-right and select “Disappearing messages”, and choose the amount of time after the message has been seen before it disappears.

If you’re using an iPhone:

  • Open the Signal app and tap on a conversation to open it.
  • Tap the name of the person you’re talking to at the top of the screen to get to Conversation Settings.
  • Turn on “Disappearing Messages”, and choose the amount of time after the message has been seen before it disappears.

Messages are set to disappear after 5 minutes.

You can also manually delete individual messages, or whole conversations, from your own phone. Of course, this won’t delete them from the recipient’s phone – only disappearing messages will do that.

If you’re using Android:

  • To delete an individual message: Within a conversation, long-press on the message you’d like to delete to select it. Then tap the trash can icon at the top to delete it. You can also delete records of Signal calls within your conversation the same way.
  • To delete an entire conversation: From the list of Signal conversations, long-press on a contact to select it. Then tap the trash can icon at the top. This will delete all of the messages you’ve ever traded with that contact from your phone.
  • Enable “message trimming”: The Android version of Signal has a feature that lets you automatically delete messages in conversations that exceed a specific length. For example, you choose to retain the newest 200 messages with each contact, and automatically delete everything older than that. From the list of Signal conversations, tap the menu icon in the top-right and go to Settings. Tap “Chats and media”, and under “Message trimming” turn on “Delete old messages.” You can then adjust the conversation length limit, which defaults to 500 messages per conversation.

If you’re using an iPhone:

  • To delete an individual message: Within a conversation, long-press on the message you’d like to delete to select it. Then tap the “Delete” option to delete it. You can also delete records of Signal calls within your conversation the same way.
  • To delete an entire conversation: From the list of Signal conversations, swipe to the left on a contact and choose “Delete.” This will delete all of the messages you’ve ever traded with that contact from your phone.
  • To delete all messages in your Signal app: The iPhone version of Signal includes a nuclear option. To delete all of the messages you’ve ever sent or received, from the list of Signal conversations, tap the gear icon in the top-left to go to Settings. Tap “Privacy,” then “Clear History Logs.”
Send and Receive Private Photos and Videos

Signal makes it simple to send people encrypted photos and videos (including animated GIFs!). While you’re in a conversation with someone, just tap the paperclip icon to browse your photo library, or access your camera directly.

But Signal also includes a subtle security feature: If you take photos or video with your camera from within the Signal app itself, these won’t automatically save to your phone’s library. Likewise, when you receive a Signal message containing a photo or video, this also won’t automatically save to your phone’s library. If you’d like to save a photo to your library, you can long-press the photo and choose to save it.

Why does this matter? Many people automatically sync all of the photos and videos on their phones to iCloud, Google, or other cloud services. And people often allow other apps on their phone, such as Facebook or Instagram, to access their photo library as well. While convenient, this means that, after you’ve uploaded your photos to a cloud service provider, that provider can access them as well. And by extension, so can anyone who can convince the provider to hand over your data, like a law enforcement agency, or who hack your account, as in 2014, when nude photos of female celebrities were published online after their iCloud accounts were compromised.

So, if you’re taking a photo of a top secret document to send to a journalist, or if you’re taking a sexy selfie to send to your bae, make sure to take these photos directly from within the Signal app – this way, they’ll have the same level of encryption and privacy as the rest of your Signal messages.

Have Secure Group Discussions

One of the most useful features of Signal, in my experience, is the ability to create encrypted group chats. Anyone can create a Signal group and add as many people as they’d like, and everyone in the group can send encrypted messages to everyone else. As with one-on-one Signal conversations, group chats support disappearing messages as well as photos and videos. Here are a few cases where Signal groups can prove useful:

  • Communicating as a team on work projects that are too sensitive for non-encrypted tools like Slack or HipChat
  • Keeping track of your friends and colleagues at a conference
  • Keeping track of your affinity group at a protest
  • Organizing a weekly TV watching night
  • Running a rogue Twitter account as a team

Here’s how to use Signal groups.

If you’re using Android:

  • From the list of Signal conversations, tap the menu icon in the top-right and choose “New group.”
  • Give your group a name, and pick which of your contacts you’d like to be a part of your group. Optionally, you can tap the circle to the left of the name field to choose an avatar for your group. Then tap the check in the top-right to create the group.
  • From within a group, you can click the people icon in the top-right to see a list of everyone else in the group.
  • From within a group, you can click the menu icon in the top-right for various options. You can click “Edit group” to change the group’s name or add new contacts. You can click “Leave group” to leave it yourself. You can also click “Mute notifications” if this is a noisy group and you don’t care to get notified for now.

If you’re using an iPhone:

  • From the list of Signal conversations, tap the pen icon in the top-right to start a new message. Then tap the people icon in the top-right to start a new group.
  • Give your group a name, and pick which of your contacts you’d like to be a part of your group. Optionally, you can tap the circle to the left of the name field to choose an avatar for your group. Then tap the plus in the top-right to create the group.
  • From within a group, you can tap the icon in the top-right corner for various options. From there, you can choose “Edit Group” to edit the group name or add new contacts to the group. You can choose “Leave Group” to leave the group yourself. And you can choose “List Group Members” to see who else is in the group with you.

While Signal groups are useful, they’re not without problems. Hopefully these will improve in the future, but as of this writing:

  • Anyone in the group can add new members, and it’s impossible to kick someone out of a group. People have to manually leave groups themselves. If someone who shouldn’t be in the group won’t leave it, you just have to make a new, separate group without them, and invite everyone else.
  • It can be annoying when someone in a group switches phones and their “safety numbers” change. (See more about safety numbers in the section below about verifying that the encryption isn’t under attack.)
  • There is a bug where, after you switch phones yourself, you’ll be able to receive incoming messages from groups you’re a part of, but you won’t be able to send messages to them yourself. There is a workaround: If another member edits the group, such as by changing its name, it will refresh the group settings and you’ll be able to post to it again.
Make Secure Voice and Video Calls

In addition to enabling secure text messaging, Signal can also be used to make encrypted voice and video calls. While you’re in a text conversation with someone, just tap the phone icon to call them. When they answer, you can just start talking to them like on a normal call, but with the assurance that the Signal call is end-to-end encrypted. If you’d like to start a video call, tap the video camera icon on your phone during a voice call to turn on your camera. That’s it.

When you make a voice or video call, it’s possible for the person you’re calling to see what your IP address is, which could be used to learn your location. This probably doesn’t matter most of the time, but occasionally it might — for example, maybe you’d like to have a secure call with someone, but without letting them have any way of knowing what country you’re currently in. Signal has a feature that allows you to relay your calls through their server so that the person on the other end of the call can only see the Signal server’s IP address, and not yours. If you enable it, it will slow down your connection slightly, which might reduce the call quality. Here’s how to enable it:

If you’re using Android:

  • Open the Signal app, tap the menu icon in the top-right and choose “Settings.”
  • Go to Advanced, and turn on “Always relay calls.”

If you’re on an iPhone:

  • Open the Signal app and click the gear icon in the top-left to get to Signal’s settings.
  • Go to Privacy, and turn on “Always Relay Calls.”
Send Messages to Numbers Without Adding Them to Your Contacts

Most people sync their phone contacts to iCloud, Google, their employer, or other cloud services. This can be very convenient: If you lose your phone and buy a new one, you don’t lose all of your contacts. But this means that your contact list is accessible to the service providers you sync to – and by extension, it’s also accessible to law enforcement that can send data requests to those service providers.

You might have some contacts that you need to talk to securely, but don’t want those phone numbers ending up in your contact list. For example, if you want to leak something to a journalist without becoming a suspect in a leak investigation, you’ll need to avoid having the journalist’s phone numbers in your contacts that get synced to the cloud.

Signal allows you to start conversations with people that aren’t in your contact list. To do this, open the Signal app, tap the pen icon to start a new conversation, and type a phone number in the search field. If that phone number has a Signal account, you can then send an encrypted message – without adding the phone number as a contact in your phone.

Verify That the Encryption Isn’t Under Attack Using Safety Numbers

Sorry if this section is confusing for you – the inner-workings of encryption are always somewhat confusing. The important part is that you learn how to verify safety numbers below.

I said earlier that Signal ensures your communications stay private when it is properly verified. Using Signal properly involves verifying that your communications are not subject to a “man-in-the-middle attack.”

A man-in-the-middle attack is where two parties — Alice and Bob, for example — think they’re speaking directly to each other, but instead, Alice is speaking to an attacker, Bob is speaking to the same attacker, and the attacker is connecting the two, spying on everything along the way. In order to fully safeguard your communications, you have to take extra steps to verify that you’re encrypting directly to your friends and not to impostors.

You and each of your Signal contacts share a unique “safety number.” For example, Alice has one safety number with Bob, but she has a different safety number with Charlie. When Alice compares the safety number she sees on her phone with the number Bob sees on his, if the numbers are the same, that means the encryption is secure. But if the numbers are different, something is wrong: Maybe Alice is seeing a safety number between her and an attacker, or Bob is seeing a safety number between him and an attacker, and this is why they don’t match.

Because it’s unlikely that anyone is trying to attack your encryption the very first time you send a contact a message, Signal automatically trusts the first safety number that it sees for each contact. (If you discuss anything sensitive, you might want to confirm anyway).

To verify that your encryption is secure, first navigate to the verification screen:

  • Open the Signal app and tap on a conversation to open it.
  • Tap the contact’s name at the top of the screen.
  • Tap “Verify Safety Number.”

Left: Safety number verification screen on an iPhone. Right: Safety number verification screen on Android.

There are different ways to verify with a friend that your safety numbers match. It’s easiest to do when you’re in the same room, but it’s also possible to verify remotely.

Verifying a Contact In Person

If you’re able to meet up in person, one of you simply needs to scan the other’s QR code. Android users tap the QR code circle to scan, and iPhone users tap the “Scan Code” camera icon at the bottom to scan. Point your camera at your friend’s QR code to scan it, and if it’s successful, that means your encryption is secure.

Verifying a Contact Remotely

If you can’t meet up in person, you can still verify that your safety numbers match remotely — however, it’s kind of annoying.

You need to share the safety numbers you see with your contact using some out-of-band communication channel — that is, don’t share it in a Signal message. Instead, share it in a Facebook message, Twitter direct message, email, or phone call. You could also choose to share it using some other encrypted messaging app, such as WhatsApp or iMessage. (If you’re feeling paranoid, a phone call is a good option; it would be challenging for an attacker to pretend to be your contact if you recognize their voice.)

Once your contact gets your safety number, they need to navigate to the verification screen and compare, digit by digit, what you sent them with what they see. If they match, your conversation is secure.

For both Android and iPhone, you can tap the share icon in the top-right corner of the verification screen to share your safety numbers using other apps, or to copy them to your phone’s clipboard.

Verifying a Contact Who Gets a New Phone

From time to time, you might see a warning in a Signal conversation that says “Safety number changed. Tap to verify.” This can only mean one of two things:

  1. Your Signal contact switched to a new installation of Signal, most likely because they bought a new phone, or,
  2. An attacker is trying to insert themselves into your Signal conversations.

The latter is less likely, but the only way to rule it out completely is to again go through one of the verification processes for text contacts described above.

Using Signal on Your Computer

While you need to install Signal on your phone to begin with, there’s also a desktop app you can install on your computer. It doesn’t have all of the features that the mobile app has – you can’t make calls or modify groups yet. But it can make using Signal much more convenient, especially if you’re like me and are in front of your computer all day long, and rely on Signal for work.

The desktop version of Signal is a Chrome app. So first, you need the Chrome web browser on your computer. Then you can install Signal from the Chrome web store. When you first set up Signal on your desktop, follow the instructions to connect it to the Signal on your phone.

Keep in mind that, by setting up Signal on your computer, you’re opening up new avenues for attackers to read your private Signal conversations. Think of it like this: When you just use Signal on your phone, if someone wants to read your private conversations, they have to hack your phone. But if you use it on both your phone and your computer, they have to hack either your phone or your computer, whichever is easier – and, because of the differences in how desktop and mobile operating systems are designed, chances are it’s easier to hack into your computer.

Your Signal data is also stored more securely on your phone. On Android and iOS, your Signal messages — and your encryption key — are stored within the app, and no other apps have access to it. But on Windows, macOS, and Linux, this same data is stored in a folder on your hard drive, and nearly all of your apps have access to it. So, in some situations, it might be prudent to choose not to use Signal on your computer at all.

The post Cybersecurity for the People: How to Keep Your Chats Truly Private With Signal appeared first on The Intercept.

Barack Obama Is Using His Presidency to Cash In, But Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter Refused

1 May 2017 - 10:00am

Defenders of Barack Obama’s decision to do things like accept a $400,000 check for a speech to a Wall Street brokerage house argue that the former president might as well cash in — everyone else does.

That was Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s defense of Obama. “People are like why doesn’t he not accept the money? No, f*** that,” Noah said. “So the first black president must also be the first one to not take money afterwards? No no no my friend. He can’t be the first of everything! F*** that, and f*** you. Make that money, Obama!”

This argument, while common, is based on historical ignorance. It assumes that presidents have always found a way to leverage their political connections post-presidency to make money from interest groups and wealthy political actors.

But that isn’t the case.

It used to be the norm for presidents to retire to ordinary life after their stint in the White House — just ask Harry Truman.

When the Democratic president was getting ready to leave the White House in 1953, he was approached by many employers. The Los Angeles Times noted that if he was “unemployed after he leaves the White House it won’t be for lack of job offers … but [he] has accepted none of them.”

One of those job offers was from a Florida real estate developer, asking him to become a “chairman, officer, or stockholder, at a figure of not less than $100,000” — the sort of position that is commonplace today for ex-politicians. Presumably, had Truman taken the position, it would have been a good deal for both parties: the president’s prestige and connections would also enrich the company.

Truman declined. “I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency,” he wrote of his refusal to influence-peddle.

Although he had access to a small pension from his military service, Truman had little financial support after leaving office. He moved back into his family home in Independence, Mo., and insisted on being treated like anyone else. He would tell people not to call him “Mr. President,” and settled on a fairly ordinary routine once he was back in Independence. He would take a morning walk through the town square. He kept an office nearby where he would answer mail from Americans. He chose to engage with just about anyone who walked into his office — not only people who wrote him big checks, or invited him onto their private yachts and private islands.

“Many people,” he once said, “feel that a president or an ex-president is partly theirs — they are right to some extent — and that they have a right to call upon him.” Indeed, his office number was even listed in a nearby telephone directory.

He eventually agreed to write a memoir for Life magazine, but it was a lengthy project that provided far from luxurious stipends.

Truman’s modest life post-presidency moved Congress in 1958 to establish a pension system that provides an annual cash payout as well as expenses for an office and staff.

Gerald Ford nevertheless shattered precedent when he joined the boards of corporations such as 20th Century Fox, hit the paid speech circuit, and was made an honorary director by Citigroup.

But his successor, Jimmy Carter, who grew up in a modest home in Plains, Georgia, did not follow Ford’s example. He refused to become a professional paid speaker or join corporate boards. He moved back to Plains, and was welcomed home by a crowd of neighbors and supporters.

He quickly made himself busy as a nonprofit founder and a volunteer diplomat. He did make money post-presidency — but by serving ordinary people, not elites.

He wrote dozens of best-selling books bought by millions of people across the world — the post-presidency equivalent of small donors.

Carter explained his thinking to the Guardian in 2011, telling them that his “favorite president, and the one I admired most, was Harry Truman. When Truman left office he took the same position. He didn’t serve on corporate boards. He didn’t make speeches around the world for a lot of money.”

The presidents who came after did not choose the same path. At a time when Japan was a major trade rival with the United States, Ronald Reagan flew to Japan for a series of paid speeches after he left office. He accepted $2 million for a pair of 20-minute speeches to the Fujisankei Communications Group. An additional $5 million was arranged for expenses related to the visit.

Both Bushes also joined the paid speech circuit, and the Clintons made over $100 million from banks and other corporations, shortly after the Clinton presidency deregulated Wall Street. “I never made any money until I left the White House,” Bill Clinton lamented to a student group in 2009. “I had the lowest net worth, adjusted for inflation, of any president elected in the last 100 years, including President Obama. I was one poor rascal when I took office. But after I got out, I made a lot of money.”

Obama was hardly facing poverty. He already has a $65 million book deal and that $200,000 annual pension.

By joining the paid speech circuit — his spokesperson Eric Schultz told the press that paid speechmaking will be a fixture for the former president — Obama was making a conscious choice.

Obama could have been like Truman or Carter, but instead chose to be like Bush and Clinton.

Top photo: Former President Barack Obama listens as participants speak during a forum at the University of Chicago, on April 24, 2017.

The post Barack Obama Is Using His Presidency to Cash In, But Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter Refused appeared first on The Intercept.

Taser Will Use Police Body Camera Videos “To Anticipate Criminal Activity”

30 April 2017 - 9:29am

When civil liberties advocates discuss the dangers of new policing technologies, they often point to sci-fi films like “RoboCop” and “Minority Report” as cautionary tales. In “RoboCop,” a massive corporation purchases Detroit’s entire police department. After one of its officers gets fatally shot on duty, the company sees an opportunity to save on labor costs by reanimating the officer’s body with sleek weapons, predictive analytics, facial recognition, and the ability to record and transmit live video.

Although intended as a grim allegory of the pitfalls of relying on untested, proprietary algorithms to make lethal force decisions, “RoboCop” has long been taken by corporations as a roadmap. And no company has been better poised than Taser International, the world’s largest police body camera vendor, to turn the film’s ironic vision into an earnest reality.

In 2010, Taser’s longtime vice president Steve Tuttle “proudly predicted” to GQ that once police can search a crowd for outstanding warrants using real-time face recognition, “every cop will be RoboCop.” Now Taser has announced that it will provide any police department in the nation with free body cameras, along with a year of free “data storage, training, and support.” The company’s goal is not just to corner the camera market, but to dramatically increase the video streaming into its servers.

With an estimated one third of departments using body cameras, police officers have been generating millions of hours of video footage. Taser stores terabytes of such video on Evidence.com, in private servers to which police agencies must continuously subscribe for a monthly fee. Data from these recordings is rarely analyzed for investigative purposes, though, and Taser — which recently rebranded itself as a technology company and renamed itself “Axon” — is hoping to change that.

Taser has started to get into the business of making sense of its enormous archive of video footage by building an in-house “AI team.” In February, the company acquired two computer vision start-ups, Dextro and Fossil Group Inc. Taser says the companies will allow agencies to automatically redact faces to protect privacy, extract important information, and detect emotions and objects — all without human intervention. This will free officers from the grunt-work of manually writing reports and tagging videos, a Taser spokesperson wrote in an email. “Our prediction for the next few years is that the process of doing paperwork by hand will begin to disappear from the world of law enforcement, along with many other tedious manual tasks.” Analytics will also allow departments to observe historical patterns in behavior for officer training, the spokesperson added. “Police departments are now sitting on a vast trove of body-worn footage that gives them insight for the first time into which interactions with the public have been positive versus negative, and how individuals’ actions led to it.”

But looking to the past is just the beginning: Taser is betting that its artificial intelligence tools might be useful not just to determine what happened, but to anticipate what might happen in the future.

“We’ve got all of this law enforcement information with these videos, which is one of the richest treasure troves you could imagine for machine learning,” Taser CEO Rick Smith told PoliceOne in an interview about the company’s AI acquisitions. “Imagine having one person in your agency who would watch every single one of your videos — and remember everything they saw — and then be able to process that and give you the insight into what crimes you could solve, what problems you could deal with. Now, that’s obviously a little further out, but based on what we’re seeing in the artificial intelligence space, that could be within five to seven years.”

As video analytics and machine vision have made rapid gains in recent years, the future long dreaded by privacy experts and celebrated by technology companies is quickly approaching. No longer is the question whether artificial intelligence will transform the legal and lethal limits of policing, but how and for whose profits.

“Everyone refers to the Minority Report … about how they use facial recognition and iris recognition,” said Ron Kirk, director of the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, which uses both technologies, in an interview with Vocativ. “I actually think that that is the way of the future.”

A police officer wears a body camera on during an anti-Trump protest in Cleveland, Ohio, near the Republican National Convention site July 18, 2016.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Reinforcing Bias

Taser’s corporate ethos has long been inspired by cinematic science fiction. The company’s LinkedIn page describes its Seattle headquarters as “a mix of Star Wars, James Bond, Get Smart and Star Trek.” It even boasts eye-scanners and sliding-doors lifted from “Men in Black.”

But the company took its sci-fi references to the next level in a little-publicized Law Enforcement Technology Report released earlier this year. In one of the interviews featured in the report, Arizona State University scientist George Poste explains that while artificially intelligent policing has yet to realize “the fully futuristic dimension of RoboCop where you essentially have someone wearing an exoskeleton linked to advanced artificial intelligence capabilities,” or “the Tom Cruise ‘Minority Report’-level of cognitive prediction. … patterns of individual behavior will become increasingly informative in revealing the probability that an individual will act in a particular fashion.”

Page from Taser’s 2017 Law Enforcement Technology Report.

Document: Taser

Overall, the report sells departments on how Taser will leverage its cloud of data “to anticipate criminal activity” and “predict future events.” “Imagine,” the report tells officers, that “you can find out if someone has a criminal record instantly — or be notified if someone’s demeanor has changed and may now be a threat.” While a tool like emotion detection is more marketing hype than imminent reality, such goals reveal the ambitions of Taser’s long-term blueprint.

The report repeatedly compares Taser’s repurposing of its video data not just to pre-crime, but to the efforts of Walmart, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, all of which scrape their respective user data to anticipate purchases, tailor text, monitor activities, and optimize search results. Taser’s AI unit is using the same cutting-edge technique as these major technology companies: deep learning.

Deep learning works by teaching computers to recognize patterns. The system is not given if-then rules; instead it’s asked to infer associations from the large batches of data. Whereas a rule-based algorithm learns that a “cat equals two ears, narrow body, and a tail, but isn’t a rat” — and incrementally makes progress as it’s given increasingly specific rules — a deep learning system ingests a training set of hundreds of thousands of images that have been labeled as cats, lynxes, wolves, and so on. Layers of “neural networks” mimic the structure of a human brain to strengthen or weaken associations based on each correct association. But exactly how the deep learning system ultimately grasps the essence of a cat is not known; as with the juridical system for obscenity, it just knows it when it sees it.

But while the complex associations of a deep learning system are opaque even to its programmers, the training labels for its datasets are human-generated. They can also be subject to bias. Many neural networks have already been found to reveal the geographical, racial, and socio-economic positions of their human trainers even as their complexity lends them an appearance of greater objectivity. Studies show that facial recognition neural nets trained on white faces, for instance, have trouble recognizing the faces of African Americans.

This is why artificial intelligence experts fear that the human decisions that shape the way the data is collected, labeled, and perceived might not just reinforce the racial biases of the criminal justice system, but automate them. Dextro’s deep learning system, for instance, learns to pick out objects, like stop signs, guns, and license plates, and to discern actions, like the difference between a jogger and a suspect fleeing the police.

This raw data fed into video analytics systems is itself captured and created by the police, said Elizabeth Joh, a law professor and policing expert at the University of California–Davis. “If you think about it,” she said, “some of the factors that algorithms use are products of human discretion. Crime reporting, contact cards, and arrest rates are not neutral. … You get analog facts transformed into unassailable, objective truths and we have to be pretty skeptical about that.” Teaching the machine to look for “hoodies” may already be a reflection of human assumptions, not criminal propensity.

Taser responded that it believes body camera “video represents an important step closer to what happened at an event.” When asked about racially disparate policing practices, the spokesperson said that the “huge gain in information fidelity and transparency in video (versus text) is something that we believe can identify such bias.”

Yet body-worn cameras show the police point of view by design; additionally, their footage will likely be labeled by officers, rather than civilians, meaning that systems could be taught to classify the behaviors of certain civilians as aggressive if such categorizations helped to support the officer’s narrative in a use of force encounter.

When it comes to programs like stop and frisk in New York City or traffic violations in Ferguson, Missouri, courts have determined that decisions about who, what, and where to police can have a racially disparate impact. In her book “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy,” Cathy O’Neil argues that unjust decisions are reinforced when they’re programmed into computer systems that make claims to objectivity. She discusses the example of PredPol, the controversial predictive policing software first used in Los Angeles in 2009. PredPol is careful to advertise the fact that it uses geographic, rather than demographic, inputs to predict where nuisance crimes like loitering will occur. But because such crimes are already over-policed in black neighborhoods, the data fed to the algorithm is already skewed. By then sending more police to the computer-generated “loitering hotspots,” the system reinforces what O’Neil calls a “pernicious feedback loop,” whereby it justifies the initial assumptions it was fed. Any crime-predicting algorithm, O’Neil emphasizes, has the power to bring into being the world it predicts.

Taser’s investments in artificial intelligence, she added, seem like a more “scientific-sounding version of broken windows policing.” The expectation of finding crime may influence what the officers end up finding.

When questioned about the potential for predictive policing discussed in other interviews and advertised at several moments throughout the company’s 34-page report, a Taser spokesperson was more circumspect and said the company would only be using machine learning to improve “workflow” at this time. The spokesperson stated, contrary to the 2017 Taser technology report’s detailed speculations, that “Axon is not building predictive policing and will not make predictions on behalf of our customers. In addition, all Axon machine learning work is under the oversight of our AI Ethics Board that we are finalizing.”

“The RoboCop narrative,” said Marcus Womack, Taser’s executive vice president for software and services, “doesn’t align with our mission and is a poor example of how technology can impact policing. In particular, we are not using AI technology to make decisions for officers. We see the real impact being that this technology will make police officers more human.”

Police stand guard as demonstrators, marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, protest along West Florrisant Street on August 10, 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Automating Suspicion

Taser isn’t the only company selling agencies on its powers of speculation. A spokesperson for the Russian company Ntechlab told me that its high-performing facial recognition algorithm is able to detect “abnormal and suspicious behavior of people in certain areas.” Several major face recognition companies have already been teaching their systems to detect anomalous behaviors in crowds. Earlier this year, IBM, which has spent over $14 billion on predictive policing, advertised that its Deep Learning Engine can pinpoint the location and identity of suspects in real time. And for the last several years, researchers funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have been developing “automated suspicion algorithms” to predict and analyze behavior from videos, text, and online images. But as the market leader for video recording hardware, having relationships with an estimated 17,000 of the country’s 18,000 police departments, Taser’s research investments have an outsized influence on law enforcement tactics.

In an interview in Taser’s future of policing report, a senior data architect at Microsoft envisions a future in which officers receive alerts when “an individual has a known criminal record, or propensity to violence. Even if [the suspect] has not yet adopted a threatening posture, it heightens the overall threshold of awareness.”

Taser CEO Rick Smith discussed a similar vision in a recent FastCompany profile, explaining that real-time artificial intelligence technology could have aided the officer who killed Philando Castile, the 32-year-old African American man driving with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter, by alerting him to the fact that Castile had a gun license and no violent criminal record.

Legal experts and surveillance watchdogs caution, however, that any company that automates recommendations about threat assessments and suspicions may transform policing tactics for the worse.

Hamid Khan, lead organizer for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, contends that feeding police information in real time about an individual’s prior records may only encourage more aggressive conduct with suspects. “We don’t have to go very far into deep learning,” he said, for evidence of this phenomena. “We just have to look at the numbers that already exist for suspicious activity reporting, which doesn’t even require [advanced] analytics.” He noted that when the LAPD’s Suspicious Activity Reporting program, which relied on analog human tips, was audited by the city’s Inspector General, it determined that black women residents were being disproportionately flagged.

The problem with any suspicious activity reporting, automated or not, is that suspicion always lies in the eye of the beholder. As The Intercept reported in February, the Transportation Security Administration’s own research showed that the agency’s program to detect suspicious behavior in travelers was unscientific, unreliable, and dependent on racial stereotypes.

Christoph Musik, an expert in computer vision from the University of Vienna, has written extensively about the human assumptions built into such systems. Hunches are always subjective, he points out, unlike evaluating the proposition of whether or not an object is a cat. “It is extremely difficult to formulate universal laws of behavior or suspicious behavior, especially if we focus on everyday behavior on a micro level,” Musk wrote in an e-mail. “‘Smart’ or ‘intelligent’ systems claiming to recognize suspicious behavior are not as objective or neutral as they [seem].”

Predictions aside, the mere ability to trawl for evidence from body-worn camera footage also widens the range of “potentially suspicious persons” who can be contacted by law enforcement, according to Joh, the legal scholar of policing. “It’s a pretty radical expansion of the kind of discretion law enforcement has.” At such an indiscriminate scale, all kinds of insights and individuals get swept into an automated investigation process. “Once you’ve created a giant video database it’s possible to search and re-search it, it’s not clear that there are any legal limits,” she said, since the fourth amendment focuses on the point of collection. “Generally speaking, there aren’t too many rules on what the police can do after they collect the information.”

Baltimore City police commissioner Kevin Davis, at podium, shows a sample of footage from a body camera worn by a police officer during a news conference at police headquarters on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015.

Photo: Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS/Getty Images

Private Predictions

Despite prominent civil rights groups highlighting the need for comprehensive policies, state and local level legislation has lagged in regulating who can access body-worn camera footage, how long it is stored, and who gets to see it. But the biggest impediment to making sure body worn camera footage remains accountable might be the manufacturers themselves.

Non-disclosure agreements allow private companies like Taser to defend their proprietary computing systems from public scrutiny, Joh explained. “Typically we think we have oversight into what police can do,” said Joh. “Now we have third party intermediary, they have a kind of privacy shield, they’re not subject to state public record laws, and they have departments sign contracts that they are going to keep this secret.”

As privately-owned policing tactics become increasingly black-boxed, citizens would have no recourse to uncover how they ended up on their city’s list of suspicious persons or the logic guiding an algorithm’s decisions. In “RoboCop,” for instance, a secret rule prohibits the robot from arresting any of the owner-corporation’s board members.

Or take the case of the criminal justice consulting firm, Northpointe. A ProPublica investigation of Northpointe’s algorithm used to calculate the risk of recidivism was shown to be twice as likely to incorrectly decide black defendants were at a higher risk of committing future crimes. But while reporters were able to analyze the questionnaires used by the company, which disputed ProPublica’s findings, they were unable to analyze Northpointe’s proprietary software.

Because the algorithms for these systems are often not disclosed, a judge would have no way of evaluating the likelihood of a false match when presented with investigative evidence about a suspect’s crime. Civil liberties experts find this especially disconcerting given the fact that machine learning systems make probabilistic, rather than binary, judgements. Amazon mistakenly predicting that you desire more toilet paper has vastly different implications for individual liberty than a private technology company’s cloud mistakenly telling an officer, with indefinite certainty, to react lethally to a seemingly aggressive suspect.

“Body cameras are really just a story about private influence on public policing,” Joh said. “Whoever captures the audience first, wins. And Taser is capturing the entire market. They get to shape the language that we use, they get to set the agenda, they get to say ‘this is possible’ and therefore the police can do it.”

The post Taser Will Use Police Body Camera Videos “To Anticipate Criminal Activity” appeared first on The Intercept.

Os números não mentem: rolo compressor midiático trabalha em favor das reformas

30 April 2017 - 8:54am

Em junho do ano passado, Otávio Frias Filho, diretor editorial e um dos herdeiros da Folha de S.Paulo, participou de uma conferência em Londres em que se discutiu o papel da mídia na crise política brasileira. Uma das convidadas era a jornalista britânica Sue Branford, que criticou a falta de pluralidade da imprensa e apontou o maciço apoio dos grandes veículos de comunicação ao processo de impeachment de Dilma. Irritado, Frias tentou desqualificá-la ao dizer que sua visão correspondia à da “militância do PT” e completou dizendo que a “mídia não manipula ninguém”. Em outro momento da conferência, defendeu a Folha ao dizer que a empresa tratou de forma igualmente crítica os governos FHC, Lula e Dilma – e que o mesmo aconteceria com Temer.

Quem acompanha o noticiário com um mínimo de atenção e está com as faculdades mentais em ordem, sabe que essa é uma grande falácia. A cobertura da grande mídia é tendenciosa e alinhada aos interesses das forças políticas conservadoras, do mercado financeiro e à agenda ultra neoliberal hoje representada por PMDB e PSDB.

Essa semana foi lançado o novo site do Manchetômetro – uma iniciativa do cientista político e coordenador do Laboratório de Estudos de Mídia e Esfera Pública (LEMEP) João Feres Jr, da UERJ – que faz um monitoramento diário da cobertura dos principais veículos da grande mídia (Folha, Estadão, O Globo e Jornal Nacional) sobre temas como política e economia. É uma ferramenta que traz dados importantes para o debate político e ajuda a compreender o papel da mídia no processo democrático. Na nova versão do site, os visitantes podem produzir seus próprios gráficos escolhendo temas, veículos, partidos e período desejado.

É uma ferramenta fascinante para confirmar as nossas percepções. Criei alguns gráficos que demonstram a mudança de postura repentina da grande mídia em relação ao governo federal. Este aqui avalia a cobertura do jornal dos Frias em relação ao governo federal de 2015 até hoje:

Fonte: Manchetômetro

Percebam como as notícias desfavoráveis ao governo federal começam a cair a partir de abril, mês em que Michel Temer assume o poder.

O gráfico do Jornal Nacional é o mais impressionante. O número de matérias contrárias ao governo federal despenca vertiginosamente logo após o impeachment.

Fonte: Manchetômetro

O próximo gráfico mostra como foi a cobertura de todos os veículos analisados (O Globo, Folha, Estadão, Jornal Nacional):

Parece que a frase ”imprensa é oposição, o resto é armazém de secos e molhados”, de Millor, tão repetida por Noblat durante o governo Dilma, foi completamente esquecida pelas principais empresas de jornalismo. A cobertura pitbull do governo federal foi abandonada para dar lugar à cobertura poodle.

Agora vejamos como a mídia se comporta em relação aos três maiores partidos do país:

Fonte: Manchetômetro

Os números derrubam a tese de que o PT sempre teve uma cobertura mais crítica por estar no poder e, por isso, naturalmente seria o mais fiscalizado. No mês que antecede o impeachment, houve um pico de matérias contrárias ao partido. PMDB e PSDB, mesmo tendo assumido o governo federal e estando tão enrolados na Lava Jato quanto o PT, continuaram desfrutando de maior complacência da grande imprensa.Parece que a frase ”imprensa é oposição, o resto é armazém de secos e molhados”, de Millor, tão repetida por Noblat durante o governo Dilma, foi completamente esquecida pelas principais empresas de jornalismo.

O apoio midiático à reforma da previdência proposta por Temer também foi identificado por um estudo da Repórter Brasil, que analisou os três principais impressos (Estadão, Folha, O Globo) e os dois maiores telejornais (Jornal Nacional e Jornal da Record).

O levantamento chega à conclusão de que quase não há espaço para opiniões contrárias à reforma. A Globo, claro, foi a empresa que melhor estendeu o tapete para o governo Temer desfilar. 90% dos textos sobre o assunto no jornal O Globo foram favoráveis à mudança. Folha e Estadão não ficaram muito atrás: 83% e 87%.

No Jornal Nacional, apenas 9% do tempo dedicado a fontes ou dados contrários à reforma. Foram 29min54s de cobertura favorável, contra apenas 2min 47s de cobertura crítica – uma reportagem que questionava a exclusão dos militares da reforma. A Rede Globo de televisão, que deveria usar a concessão pública para ampliar o debate em torno de um tema complexo que afetará profundamente a vida da maioria do povo, coloca o jornal de maior audiência do país como militante do projeto que limita os direitos previdenciários.

O G1, também da Globo, compartilhou nas redes sociais essa manchete:

Doria defende reformas do governo Temer e diz que ‘maioria da população’ é favorável https://t.co/iMYYIr8dYM #G1 pic.twitter.com/TRrU8DdjKP

— G1 (@g1) 25 de abril de 2017

Em nenhum momento da reportagem o leitor é informado que é incorreta a informação de que a “maioria da população é favorável” às reformas. Diferentes pesquisas (1, 2, 3)  indicam exatamente o contrário, mas nem precisaríamos delas, já que até o próprio governo federal sempre admitiu a impopularidade das reformas. O jornalismo que permite que o prefeito da maior capital do país minta sem contestá-lo com a realidade dos fatos não é jornalismo. É assessoria de imprensa. Do prefeito-presidenciável e das reformas impopulares de Temer.

O SBT não entrou na análise, mas Michel Temer foi pessoalmente falar com Sílvio Santos para pedir seu apoio. No dia seguinte ao encontro, o SBT passou a veicular em sua programação algumas mensagens pintando o apocalipse caso a reforma não seja aprovada. Aprecie o terrorismo dessas duas peças:


O apresentador Ratinho também foi escalado para ser garoto-propaganda das reformas.

Depois de conseguir aprovar a reforma trabalhista, Temer conta com o rolo compressor midiático para a reforma previdenciária, que terá mais dificuldades para ser aprovada. Os números não mentem. Diferente do que prega Frias Filho, os oligopólios de mídia têm lado claro no jogo político e não vão medir esforços para implantar a agenda neoliberal que foi rejeitada nas urnas pela maioria da população por quatro vezes seguidas.

The post Os números não mentem: rolo compressor midiático trabalha em favor das reformas appeared first on The Intercept.

Here’s Why We Shouldn’t Laugh at Donald Trump’s 100-Day Faceplant

29 April 2017 - 11:52am

It’s tough to imagine any two human beings more different than Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

One’s black. One’s white. One writes books. One doesn’t read books and may not be sure what books are. One grew up on the periphery of the U.S. empire and it made him deeply cosmopolitan. One grew up in New York City and it made him a provincial hick.

One has the self-control of a 1,000-year-old Zen monk. One responds to any stimulus like an amoeba. One’s a slender athlete. One’s a fleshy endomorph with whorls and folds in his face like a Shar Pei.

But their elections have one critical thing in common: They both came out of NOWHERE to become president, with characteristics that previously would have throttled their chances before they delivered their first speech in Iowa.

There’s no need to recount everything from Trump’s florid life and campaign that sensible people were sure disqualified him. But we’ve forgotten how the sensible people at first saw Obama in much the same way, and for reasons that went far beyond him being African American. He’d been a senator for just two years when he started running and would have to beat the entire party establishment. His father was Muslim. He wasn’t just not named Henry Smith, his middle name was Hussein. He’d even used cocaine, and openly admitted it.

Yet both Obama and Trump vaulted over everyone and everything into the White House. Tens of millions of Americans were willing to place their lives in the hands of political anomalies whose central pitch was that they would deliver profound change. The rise of Bernie Sanders, who’s proven that you can become the most popular politician in the country without owning a comb, demonstrates the same thing.

What does this mean?

I’d say it means that something has gone incredibly wrong with this country’s political system, that large numbers of us are desperate, and are willing to hand over power to absolutely anyone. That’s brings us to the peculiar reality that it’s not just Obama and Trump’s elections that had something significant in common, it’s likely their presidencies.

Obama said American healthcare was in crisis and that “plans that tinker and halfway measures now belong to yesterday.” Obama was also outraged by pharmaceutical companies gouging Medicare.

According to Trump, “People all across the country are devastated” by the healthcare system, but if we put him in charge, “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” Trump was also infuriated by Big Pharma and just like Obama vowed to crush them.

Yet Obama delivered a halfway measure that tinkered with the problem, and never went after drug manufacturers. Trump is now poised to give America … literally the same thing.

Obama called NAFTA “devastating” and “a big mistake” in 2008. In 2016 Trump said NAFTA had caused “devastation” and was “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed.” But Obama didn’t renegotiate NAFTA. Trump just announced he’s not going to pull out of it, and it seems clear the odds of any real renegotiation are slim.

Obama attacked Wall Street, and so did Trump. Both then stocked their administrations with bankers.

And Obama and Trump both ran against the Iraq War, and both of their constituencies understood them to mean they would rethink our entire policy toward the Middle East. Both Obama and Trump then faithfully continued the Afghanistan War, bombed Syria, and helped Saudi Arabia starve Yemen.

This doesn’t make Obama and Trump the same, of course. Obama’s policies made life better for many regular people at the edges. Trump’s will unquestionably make them worse — and that’s the best case scenario, in which he doesn’t accidentally terminate human civilization.

But it does mean that on the core issues of politics — the ones about which the one percent/globalists/Bilderbergers/disguised space lizards truly care — Obama did not produce genuine change. And, it now seems more and more likely, neither will Trump.

Given Trump’s atrocious methods and goals, it’s impossible not to take joy in this. “Now that we have vanquished the Dhimmicrats and cuckservatives,” Steve Bannon proclaimed, “we shall —” and then tripped on his shoelaces and fell down 97 flights of stairs.

We can’t enjoy this for long, though. If left unaddressed, the anguish that Americans demonstrated by voting for both Obama and Trump will not evaporate. I once believed there could never be a worse, lazier, more frightening president than Ronald Reagan. Then I was sure of the same thing about George W. Bush. Now I’ve learned my lesson. We have to get busy creating a place for this country’s anger and despair to be used constructively, or it will eventually birth something even worse than Trump.

What happens to an American dream deferred? We lucked out once when it elected Obama. We may survive it electing Trump. But if we keep deferring it, it is absolutely certain that one day it’s going to explode and take the whole world with it.

Top photo: President Donald Trump arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on March 20, 2017.

The post Here’s Why We Shouldn’t Laugh at Donald Trump’s 100-Day Faceplant appeared first on The Intercept.

Water Protectors from Polluted Communities Lead People’s Climate March

29 April 2017 - 9:22am

Thousands of people will gather in Washington, D.C., Saturday for a march to demand action on climate change and rejecting the Trump administration’s promise to overturn or scale back the federal efforts on climate. The People’s Climate March comes one day after President Donald Trump announced yet another executive giveaway to the fossil fuel industry, an order that will begin a legally contentious attempt to cancel President Barack Obama’s bans on offshore drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast. The order could eventually open for drilling additional new waters in the Gulf of Mexico, or even in the Pacific, where hardly any new drilling has taken place since a massive spill coated beaches in the 1960s and helped launch the environmental movement.

Trump has framed his promises to push forward energy infrastructure projects and to deregulate industry as a jobs program, with residents of industry towns as beneficiaries. But climate march attendees from centers of fossil fuel production, transportation, and processing tell a different story. They come from places where creeks run orange, where the air smells like tar, where a depleted water table causes the land to crack and cave in.

The climate march follows the Women’s March, the Native Nations March, the Tax March, and last weekend’s March for Science. But as with past marches, demonstrators with the most at stake will face their biggest battles not in the nation’s capitol, but in small communities that few have heard of.

On Wednesday, Remy, an artist who goes by one name, was working out of a pop-up art space in a vacant restaurant in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Cleveland Park, building a massive covered wagon that will lead the march. The wagon will be pierced with arrows printed with words like “sovereignty” and will emit simulated fire and smoke. To Remy, the project’s references to colonialism, racism, and greed speak to the root causes of the climate crisis. He said making it a spectacle is important, because “it’s sometimes hard for us to get our messages across inside these NGO- and non-profit-led spaces.” He reflected on the event, “Are we just marching to march? Are we having photo ops to build our brand? Because if that’s what we’re doing I’m busy; my community needs me.”

Remy, center, an artist from the Navajo Nation in Black Mesa, Arizona, and Wiyaka Eagleman, who is from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, work on a covered wagon on April 27, to be used in Washington, D.C., during the People’s Climate March on Saturday.

Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Intercept

Remy and his partner on the project, Wiyaka Eagleman, were away from home much of the past year. Eagleman joined the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline early on, back in April 2016 when the first anti-pipeline camp, called Sacred Stone, was constructed. The year before, he’d been involved in a different camp in South Dakota, near the Rosebud Sioux Reservation where he’s from. There, he and other tribal members occupied land on the Keystone XL pipeline’s path.

Remy soon joined Eagleman in North Dakota and both stayed for months, participating in direct actions against the Dakota Access pipeline that were violently repressed by police. Within days of his inauguration, Trump issued an executive action cancelling an expanded environmental impact study on the project and fast-forwarding the project’s completion. The camps were forcibly closed.

An order on the same day revived the Keystone XL. Now oil is flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline, and Eagleman has been on the road, visiting other sites of dissent in Iowa and Oklahoma. He sees the Dakota Access fight as one that has now dispersed to new oil and gas infrastructure construction sites in places including Louisiana and Nebraska.

But for Remy growing up, coal was the dirty neighbor. He’s from the Navajo Nation in Arizona, “canyons within canyons,” as he describes it. Remy grew up in the shadow of Peabody Coal’s Kayenta mine and its sole client, the massive Navajo Generating Station, a quarter of which is owned by the federal government. The plant and the mine together employ 750 people and pay the Navajo Nation about $40 million annually in royalties and lease payments.

When Peabody built the mine in 1967, it uncovered a village that included nearly 200 sets of human remains, which were sent to Southern Illinois University and have never been returned. The huge plant is one of the most polluting in the nation, casting a murky haze over the Grand Canyon.

For years, the coal mine’s owners fought to expand the project, clashing with local people like Remy’s uncle, Marshall Johnson. By last February, persistently low natural gas prices convinced the plant owners it no longer made economic sense to keep burning coal. They announced it would close by 2019 – a huge victory for Remy’s uncle.

Signs in the likeness of politicians, including President Trump, are prepared on April 27 in Washington, D.C., for the People’s Climate March taking place Saturday.

Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Intercept

But under Trump, even that victory, driven by market forces, is at risk. Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently attended meetings aimed at exploring options for keeping the plant open. And Peabody Coal executives reportedly pledged to “turn over every rock” in search of a way to avoid closure.

For veteran environmental justice organizers that have been fighting polluting fossil fuel projects in their communities for decades, that boomerang feeling has been particularly painful this election cycle. On Thursday, many longtime organizers began arriving in time for an annual environmental justice forum in advance of the march. For the second year in a row, the forum included a direct action training, reflecting a movement-wide turn toward more confrontational strategies.

“I used to try really hard not to feel hard at my neighbors and feel hard at people who voted for certain people,” said Teri Blanton, who grew up and raised children in Kentucky coal country’s Harlan County and has been a key figure in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining. But, she said, “I’m carrying the same signs I carried when Clinton went into office, when Bush went into office, and when Obama went into office.”

Blanton lost a brother to a coal mining accident and her father to black lung disease. She recalled a creek that ran behind her old house that was destroyed by strip mining. The “little woman that was the creek-watcher,” too nervous to report problems herself, would notify Blanton when the creek had changed to black or was running orange. Blanton fought for more than a decade to get a stream protection rule passed that would prevent coal companies from dumping strip mining waste near creeks. Obama finally signed such a rule last December, but in February Congress used the Congressional Review Act, in effect only after a new president takes office, to cancel it.

Explaining what she sees as the importance of the march, Blanton said, “I think it gives me some energy and some will, to know that I’m not alone in this belief that we have to stand up and do something.”

Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, Texas, in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 2016. Kelley is in D.C. for the People’s Climate March.

Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Intercept

The EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice is in line to close as well, according to a Trump administration budget proposal. Goldman Prize winner Hilton Kelley worked closely with the office for years to push industry in the mostly African-American refinery town of Port Arthur, Texas, to prevent accidents that cause clouds of chemicals to periodically waft through his neighborhood.

“The moment you relax regulations, what these guys have a tendency to do is to operate those units until they break down and spend money only when they have to,” Kelley said.

The community is home to many of the chemical manufacturers and petroleum refineries that absorb the nation’s oil and gas boom. Oil carried by the Dakota Access pipeline will end up there, and tar sands oil that may eventually be carried by the Keystone XL is already arriving in Port Arthur by rail. Community members suffer from widespread respiratory problems and cancers. Since a study of the cumulative impact of inhaling various chemicals has never been undertaken, “We shoulder the burden of proof,” said Kelley. “It’s another game that the system plays to keep corporate America one step ahead of us.”

Refinery communities like Kelley’s dot Texas’s Gulf Coast, but at the Southern tip of the state’s coastline, Brownsville has largely avoided fossil fuel industry development. That may soon change.

Back at the pop-up art space, Bekah Hinojosa, who’s from a town near Brownsville called Weslaco, constructed giant puppets on sticks depicting EPA head Scott Pruitt, Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and President Trump. Her community is under threat of being hit by both Trump’s obsession with border security and his push to expand the fossil fuel industry.

Brownsville, a mostly Latino community that is one of the most impoverished in Texas, is already bisected in places by a border wall that leaves land owned by U.S. citizens on the southern side of the structure — a zone referred to as “No Man’s Land.” Trump would fill the remaining gaps in the area’s wall.

Bekah Hinojosa, 26, from Weslaco, Texas is in Washington, D.C., on April 27, ahead of the People’s Climate March on Saturday.

Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Intercept

Meanwhile, three Liquid Natural Gas export facilities have been proposed in the city’s port, meant to expand the market for gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to decide next year whether the facilities will go forward. For now, her community awaits the results of a space rocket collision analysis, exploring the likelihood that a rocket from the nearby SpaceX facility will collide with one of the new plants.

Hinojosa has little faith that her community’s objections will resonate with the commission, which has long been considered a rubber stamp for natural gas projects. Trump is expected to appoint industry-friendly regulators to vacant commission positions, further reducing the chances FERC will say no. Hinojosa is also painfully aware of the fact that her community abuts the coast. Any new offshore development that comes out of Trump’s latest order makes her home that much more vulnerable to spills in the Gulf.

Now that the Dakota Access fight has died down and the Keystone XL fight is only beginning to ramp up, Remy and Eagleman are planning to spend time at home. After the march, Remy said he plans to head back to help with his family’s ranch in the Navajo Nation. Eagleman will go back to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.

“I think I need to start fighting in my own homeland against things like drugs, alcohol. Just being away this whole month, I could be home at this hearing for uranium mining or I could be helping my family,” said Eagleman. He’s preparing for a renewed Keystone XL fight, but the events of the last year have weighed on him. “I’m trying to find my own space, trying to heal.”

Top photo: Remy, left, an artist from the Navajo Nation in Black Mesa, Ariz., and Wiyaka Eagleman, who is from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, are in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 27 for Saturday’s People’s Climate March.

The post Water Protectors from Polluted Communities Lead People’s Climate March appeared first on The Intercept.

Photo Essay: A New Pipeline Encroaches on Florida’s Fragile Everglades

29 April 2017 - 8:37am

Construction of a new natural gas project in Florida, the Sabal Trail pipeline, is nearing completion as the Trump administration threatens to eliminate federal Everglades restoration and water protection programs. The pipeline will transfer natural gas from a pipeline hub in Alabama to a hub in Central Florida. From there another pipeline, the Southeast Connection, scheduled to finish construction in 2019, will bring the gas to new power plants in South Florida. The Everglades region will become the end of the line for gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing as far north as Pennsylvania. 

“In our time of need she hid us, she provided us shelter, she provided us food, and she protected us,” said Betty Osceola, a member of the Miccosukee tribe, referring to the Everglades. “Now it’s our turn to protect her. That’s why our tribe does what we do.”

Rose Marie Cromwell, a Miami-based photographer, is interested in what she calls “the tenuous space between the political and the spiritual.” She photographed Osceola on the Tamiami Trail Reservation, as Osceola helped conduct the tribe’s bi-annual survey of water quality. And Cromwell attended an action against the Sabal Trail Pipeline with Bobby C. Billie, a member of the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal People, which rejects federal recognition as a tribe.

Betty Osceola during her tribe’s bi-annual survey of the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail Reservation, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, on Oct. 12, 2016.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

At the turn of the 20th century, the southern portion of Florida, starting just below Orlando, was still a sprawling system of tropical wetlands, where the Miccosukee people could travel coast to coast by canoe. After multiple invasions by the U.S. army, many members of the Seminole Nation, which at the time included the Miccosukee, were forced to move to Oklahoma. But a core of holdouts went south, deep into the Everglades, where the army wouldn’t follow them.

A healthier, though still polluted, area of the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail Reservation.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

A very unhealthy area of the Everglades.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

Eventually, the settlers came anyway, and their ancestors continue to come. Last year alone, Florida’s population grew by 367,000 people, on average more than 1,000 people added every day. The Army Corps of Engineers built a complex system of canals and levees, draining the land to make way for sugar cane production and subdivisions. Everglades National Park was established to preserve a sliver of the larger Everglades ecosystem. The layout of the canals means phosphorous-laden runoff ends up flowing into Miccosukee territory, much of which sits at the edge of the protected national park, encouraging the growth of weeds and invasive species in the tribe’s waters and regularly flooding land that has become uninhabitable.

Survey boats for volunteers.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

A student picks a flower during the Miccosukee Tribe’s survey.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

Today, Osceola’s tribe, underwhelmed by the efforts of the state and federal governments, has taken the health of the Everglades into its own hands. Years ago, the tribe forced  the EPA to recognize a heightened water quality standard on tribal wetlands. Osceola uses her fleet of airboats to help the tribe conduct a twice-yearly water quality survey used at times to fight persistent government efforts to cut corners on water restoration efforts.

Healthy foliage located on the side of Fort Drum Creek without a pipeline.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

A section near Fort Drum Creek cleared in preparation for the Sabal Train Pipeline.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

Their lack of trust is for good reason. Under Governor Rick Scott, the state of Florida has rolled back water quality enforcement and sped up permitting processes for developers. Now the Trump administration is proposing to further reduce federal support for the Everglades by eliminating, for example, the EPA’s South Florida Geographic Initiative, which collects data on phosphorous and mercury contamination in the Everglades. That data was used in a major lawsuit that forced Florida to spend $880 million to reduce agricultural runoff in 2012.

Bobby C. Billie and Shannon Larson wrap a sacred Eagle Staff in Flager Park in the city of Okeechobee.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

Construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline near Fort Drum Creek, north of Okeechobee, on Oct. 15, 2016.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

As Osceola and others carry on the slow work of restoring the water, a roving movement against the Sabal Trail pipeline has combined legal efforts, encampments, and direct protest actions to stop the project. The Dakota Access pipeline fight helped breath life into the ongoing Floridian fight. To make way for the project, lush forest landscapes have been cleared, and many streams disrupted. The project is nearly complete.

For Bobby C. Billie fighting the pipeline is deeply connected to identity. As Cromwell put it, “He sees the destruction of the natural environment as a form of self-destruction.”

Left: Bobby C. Billie at the Sabal Trail pipeline construction site near Fort Drum Creek. Right: Betty Osceola during her tribe’s survey of the Everglades in the Tamiami Trail Reservation.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

For Osceola, the fight to keep runoff from poisoning the Everglades and the fight against the Sabal Trail pipeline are one and the same. Ultimately, the Sabal Trail pipeline will supply power meant to feed the state’s incredible growth and the development and wetlands destruction that comes with it. It will lock in additional years of reliance on natural gas at a time when a climate-safe energy policy requires a faster switch to solar and renewables.

Methane released by burning the gas will feed the warming pattern that is encouraging sea levels on Florida’s coastline to rise. Saltwater, already washing into the porous land left behind by drained wetlands, will encroach further, a new invader to the United States’ southeastern tip.   

An old fishing outpost in the Tree Islands, now too polluted for use, on the Tamiami Trail Reservation.

Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell

Top photo: The Miccosukee Tribe conduct their bi-annual survey of the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail Reservation, Water Conservation Area 3-A, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, on Oct. 12, 2016.

Rev. Houston R. Cypress of the Otter Clan contributed to the photography reporting.

The post Photo Essay: A New Pipeline Encroaches on Florida’s Fragile Everglades appeared first on The Intercept.

Greve nacional impulsionada pela conhecida dinâmica global de corrupção e impunidade da elite

28 April 2017 - 9:14pm

Há pouco mais de um ano, a presidenta eleita do Brasil, Dilma Rousseff, sofreu impeachment – supostamente por descumprimento da lei orçamentária – e foi substituída pelo seu vice-presidente centrista, Michel Temer. Desde então, praticamente todos os aspectos da crise política e econômica da nação – especialmente a corrupção – pioraram.

Os índices de aprovação de Temer despencaram para um dígito. Seus aliados políticos mais próximos – as mesmas autoridades que arquitetaram o impeachment de Dilma e o puseram na presidência – tornaram-se recentemente os alvos oficiais de uma investigação criminal em larga escala. O próprio presidente foi acusado por novas revelações, salvo apenas pela imunidade legal da qual goza. É quase impossível imaginar uma presidência implodindo mais completa e rapidamente do que essa não eleita imposta pelas elites à população brasileira, na esteira do impeachment de Dilma.

O desgosto validamente causado por todas essas falhas finalmente explodiu essa semana. Uma greve geral e protestos tumultuosos em diversas cidades paralisaram grande parte do país, bloqueando e parando estradas, aeroportos e escolas. É a maior greve ocorrida no Brasil nas últimas duas décadas. Os protestos foram em sua maior parte pacíficos, mas algumas violências pontuais aconteceram.

A causa imediata da revolta é um conjunto de reformas que o governo Temer está introduzindo, que limitará os direitos dos trabalhadores, aumentará a idade da aposentadoria em muitos anos e cortará inúmeros benefícios de pensão e previdência. Essas medidas austeras estão sendo impostas em um momento de grande sofrimento, com a taxa de desemprego crescendo dramaticamente, e com as melhorias sociais da última década, que tiraram milhões de pessoas da linha da pobreza, se desconstruindo. Assim como o New York Times mencionou hoje: “A greve revelou fissuras profundas na sociedade brasileira em relação ao governo Temer e suas políticas”.

Brazil paralyzed by national strike. Unemployment rate climbs to 13.7%. 14m out of work-Increase of 1.8m since 12/16 https://t.co/4B4JqBMV6b pic.twitter.com/U0nFP46O3x

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 28, 2017

Mas a causa real é mais ampla, e conhecida muito além do Brasil. Durante os últimos três anos, os brasileiros foram submetidos a uma revelação atrás da outra sobre a corrupção extrema que permeia as classes econômicas e políticas do país.

Inúmeros executivos corporativos e líderes partidários de longa data estão presos, incluindo o chefe da gigante construtora Odebrecht; o presidente da Câmara, que conduziu o impeachment de Dilma; e o ex-governador do Rio de Janeiro. Os atuais presidentes da Câmara e do Senado, nove dos ministros de Temer, bem como inúmeros governadores são agora alvos de investigação criminal por suborno e lavagem de dinheiro.

Photo: Erick Dau/The Intercept Brasil

Em suma, a grande maioria da elite política e econômica de alto nível provou ser radicalmente corrupta. Bilhões e mais bilhões de dólares foram roubados do povo brasileiro. As gravações recentemente divulgadas com confissões judiciais de Marcelo Odebrecht, descendente de uma das famílias mais ricas do Brasil, retratam um país governado quase inteiramente por meio de subornos e crimes, independentemente da ideologia ou partido dos líderes políticos.

Ainda assim, mesmo depois de vir à tona essa corrupção incomparável da elite, o preço que está sendo pago cai intensamente sobre as vítimas – os brasileiros comuns – enquanto os culpados prosperam. Os mesmos políticos brasileiros envolvidos nessa empresa criminosa continuam a reinar em Brasilia, enquanto gozam da imunidade da lei. Pior ainda, continuam a se isentar da austeridade que impõem a todos os outros.

Imagine ser um trabalhador brasileiro, vivendo na pobreza, passando anos ouvindo histórias sobre como os executivos de empresas subornaram políticos com milhões de dólares para vencer corruptamente contratos do Estado – suborno que esses políticos eleitos usaram para adquirir iates, carros de luxo e fazer compras na Europa – para então ser comunicado de que não há dinheiro para a sua aposentadoria ou pensão, e que você terá de trabalhar muito mais anos, com menos benefícios, para salvar o país. Essa é a história que está sendo empurrada goela abaixo dos brasileiros. O único aspecto desconcertante é que esse tipo de protestos demorou até agora para emergir.

 

Mas essa perversão moral – na qual as vítimas, cidadãos comuns, são as únicas a carregar o fardo dos crimes da elite –  é conhecida por povos bem longe do Brasil. De fato, um dos principais autores do sofrimento econômico brasileiro – a crise econômica de 2008 causada por Wall Street – foi pioneiro nessa fórmula odiosa.

Os magnatas imprudentes e os assistentes financeiros sociopatas responsáveis pelo colapso econômico de 2008 praticamente não pagaram pelo mal que causaram. Até hoje, nenhum deles foi processado pela falcatrua financeira que o gerou. Pior ainda: o governo dos EUA rapidamente agiu para proteger os interesses dos culpados – resgatando-os com fundos públicos, protegendo-os da nacionalização ou da desintegração, preservando sua habilidade de lucrar com poucos riscos para si.

Photo: Erick Dau/The Intercept Brasil

Ao mesmo tempo, as vítimas dessa imprudência – norte-americanos comuns – foram forçadas a suportar todo o peso das consequências. Milhões encararam despejo, desemprego e sofrimento econômico generalizado com pouca ou nenhuma ajuda do governo dos EUA, que estava ocupado protegendo os responsáveis. Acima de tudo, foi essa inequidade que gerou movimentos de protesto como Occupy Wall Street e Tea Party e, sem dúvida, lançou as bases do ressentimento e um colapso de confiança que resultou na presidência de Trump.

A controvérsia desta semana sobre o pagamento de $400.000,00 feito por uma empresa de Wall Street a Obama por um único discurso ressoou, mas não porque sugeria que ele teria agido ilegalmente ou de forma antiética. Pelo contrário, simbolizou, de maneira particularmente flagrante, o caráter oligárquico da política cultural dos EUA: o mesmo presidente que agiu repetidamente de forma a proteger a indústria financeira, depois de ela ter destruído a economia global, e que blindou seus líderes de um processo criminal, estava sendo beneficiado com recompensas.

A mesma dinâmica prevalece por toda a Europa. Eleitores indignados do Reino Unido ratificaram a Brexit, enquanto as populações antes liberais da Europa ocidental estavam abertas de forma alarmante a partidos ultranacionalistas e xenófobos. Grande parte disso também é impulsionada pela crença frequentemente válida de que instituições de elite são completamente indiferentes à sua privação e sofrimento, e agem repetidamente de forma a promover os interesses de um pequeno grupo de poderosos atores política e economicamente às custas de todos os outros. É claro que essa crença vai provocar instabilidade, ressentimento e raiva coletiva.

A austeridade e a privação que estão agora sendo impostas aos brasileiros comuns não são secundarias ou imprevistas. Pelo contrário, foi o objetivo principal e central do impeachment da presidenta no ano passado.

O partido de esquerda que governou o Brasil desde 2002, o PT, tornou-se cada vez mais neoliberal e acomodou a classe oligárquica do país, muitas vezes às custas de sua própria base de sindicalistas e trabalhadores pobres. Até mesmo os dois líderes do partido – Lula e Dilma – começaram a defender a necessidade de medidas de austeridade. Isso, ao menos em parte, explica por que a própria base do partido começou abandoná-lo, levando a uma queda no apoio a Dilma, o suficiente para permitir um impeachment.

Dilma estava determinada a ir longe com a austeridade – mas não tão longe quanto as elites brasileiras desejavam. Em um momento de rara franqueza, seu substituto, Michel Temer, admitiu a um grupo de gestores de fundo de cobertura e elites da política externa em Nova Iorque, em setembro passado, que a recusa de Dilma a aceitar uma austeridade mais severa foi uma das reais razões de seu impeachment (a outra real razão foi revelada em uma gravação do mais íntimo aliado político de Temer, o senador Romero Jucá: parar a investigação de corrupção que estava em curso antes que ela consumisse os defensores do impeachment).

Em outras palavras, as elites brasileiras – tendo saqueado o país até o ponto de deixá-lo à beira do colapso – decidiram que a única solução viável era forçar a já sofrida população brasileira de trabalhadores e desempregados pobres a sofrer mais ainda, retirando deles as medidas de proteção e segurança das quais gozavam. Eles arquitetaram o impeachment cataclísmico da presidenta para alcançar tal feito.

O substituto de Dilma – a mediocridade clássica e maleável que ele é – foi incumbido de uma tarefa abrangente: impor austeridade dura, mesmo que isso significasse tornar-se alvo de ódio público e generalizado. O político de carreira, de 75 anos de idade – literalmente proibido de concorrer ao cargo por 8 anos devido à sua violação das leis eleitorais – não tinha nenhuma intenção ou perspectiva de concorrer mais uma vez, então concordou alegremente em cumprir suas tarefas atribuídas, em troca de receber o manto de poder que ele nunca poderia ter ganhado por conta própria.

Então é esse o espetáculo indigesto da corrupção e impunidade da elite e do sofrimento em massa que alimenta o protesto nacional de hoje. Tal como aconteceu nos Estados Unidos e na Europa, essa injustiça flagrante ameaça alimentar um movimento revanchista e nacionalista da extrema-direita no Brasil: um movimento que, de fato, faz com que seus equivalentes norte-americanos e europeus pareçam amenos no que diz respeito ao seu extremismo ameaçador.

A perda da confiança em toda a classe política criou uma abertura genuinamente assustadora na disputa presidencial de 2018 para o congressista evangélico de extrema-direita Jair Bolsonaro, que anseia pela restauração de uma ditadura militar, elogia os torturadores como heróis patrióticos e rotineiramente canaliza uma retórica fascista em uma ampla gama de pautas.

O que é mais desconcertante em tudo isso é que, não importa quantas vezes as elites globais vejam o fruto podre de seu comportamento asqueroso – instabilidade, extremismo e rejeição coletiva de sua própria autoridade – elas continuam a persegui-lo, aparentemente acostumadas às suas consequências. O Brasil é apenas o exemplo mais recente, mas deveria ser conhecido pelas pessoas em todo o planeta.

Tradução: Fernando Fico

The post Greve nacional impulsionada pela conhecida dinâmica global de corrupção e impunidade da elite appeared first on The Intercept.

Greve Geral toma conta do país, polícia reage com violência no Rio, e governo minimiza

28 April 2017 - 7:32pm

Manifestações pelo país  reuniram pessoas insatisfeitas com as reformas trabalhista e da previdência, além de medidas com a Lei da Terceirização. Mesmo com paralisações no o transporte público,  aeroportos, bancos, escolas e comércio, governo federal e bloqueios nas estradas pelo país, o governo não assume a existência de uma greve. Em nota, Michel Temer afirmou que os atos que acontecem durante todo dia são ações de pequenos grupos “para impedir o direito de ir e vir do cidadão, que acabou impossibilitado de chegar ao seu local de trabalho ou de transitar livremente”.

Temer também lamentou os atos de violência ocorridos no Rio de Janeiro. A manifestação na capital carioca teve pontos de concentração na Assembléia Legislativa e na Cinelândia. De acordo com relato de manifestantes, a Polícia Militar dispersou a manifestação pacífica com violência, o que acabou dando início a um confronto nas ruas do centro da cidade. A OAB-RJ se repudiou o ocorrido em nota assinada pelo presidente da entidade, Felipe Santa Cruz: “Nada justifica a investida, com bombas e cassetetes, contra uma multidão que protestava de modo pacífico. Se houve excessos por parte de alguns ativistas, a Polícia deveria tratar de contê-los na forma da lei. Mas o ataque com métodos de tocaia e a posterior perseguição por vários bairros a pessoas que tão-só exerciam seu direito à manifestação representa grave atentado à Constituição e ao Estado democrático de Direito”.

O ataque com métodos de tocaia e a posterior perseguição por vários bairros a pessoas que tão-só exerciam seu direito à manifestação representa grave atentado à Constituição.

Em São Paulo, os manifestantes se concentraram no Largo da Batata durante o dia e, `a noite, partiram em marcha em direção a residência da família do presidente Michel Temer, no Alto de Pinheiros.  Já em Brasília, as manifestações se concentraram na Esplanada durante a manhã.

Selecionamos algumas fotos dos atos  que aconteceram no Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo e Brasília. Tem imagens de protestos em outras capitais do país? Envie para The Intercept Brasil ou poste em suas redes com a hashtag #TheInterceptBrasil.

Brasília Rio de Janeiro São Paulo

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NSA Backs Down on Major Surveillance Program That Captured Americans’ Communications Without a Warrant

28 April 2017 - 6:06pm

The National Security Agency on Friday suddenly announced it is curtailing one of its major surveillance programs.

Under pressure from the secret court that oversees its practices, the NSA said its “upstream” program would no longer grab communications directly from the U.S. internet backbone “about” specific foreign targets — only communication to and from those targets.

This is a major change, essentially abandoning a bulk surveillance program that captured vast amounts of communications of innocent Americans – and turning instead to a still extensive but more targeted approach.

“This change ends a practice that could result in Americans’ communications being collected without a warrant merely for mentioning a foreign target,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “For years, I’ve repeatedly raised concerns that this amounted to an end run around the Fourth Amendment. This transparency should be commended. To permanently protect Americans’ rights, I intend to introduce legislation banning this kind of collection in the future.”

The “upstream” surveillance program is one of two controversial programs authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is scheduled to expire in December unless it is reauthorized by Congress. It was among several programs whose existence was a secret until being revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Until now, upstream was examining every Internet communication that traveled on the huge telecommunication cables going in and out of the U.S., searching through every word, grabbing sometimes very big chunks of data that included even a single mention of a specific target, and then putting everything into a database for NSA analysts to look through.

Communications between people, including Americans, was being captured and examined not because they were suspected of anything, but because of what they were saying. And the program wasn’t even efficient at limiting it to that.

The NSA statement on Friday said the move came “after a comprehensive review of mission needs, current technological constraints, United States person privacy interests, and certain difficulties in implementation.”

But reading between the lines, it wasn’t voluntary.

In a companion statement, the NSA acknowledged that it had failed to follow the rules the FISA court established for “about” collection in 2011: “NSA discovered several inadvertent compliance lapses,” is how they put it.

“NSA self-reported the incidents to both Congress and the FISC, as it is required to do. Following these reports, the FISC issued two extensions as NSA worked to fix the problems before the government submitted a new application for continued Section 702 certification. The FISC recently approved the changes after an extensive review.”

In other words, after giving the NSA two extensions, the court refused to reauthorize the wider program until it stopped “about” searches entirely.

That is less surprising considering that the 2011 FISC decision establishing the new rules came after a judge was shocked to learn that the 702 program wasn’t just snatching communications to and from targets, but was in fact looking through everything. Judge John Bates wrote at the time:

Based upon the government’s descriptions of the proposed collection, the Court understood that the acquisition of Internet communications under Section 702 would be limited to discrete “to/from” communications between or among individual account users and to “about” communications falling within [redacted] specific categories that had been first described to the Court in prior proceedings.

The independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded in its 2014 report that “certain aspects of the Section 702 program push the program close to the line of constitutional reasonableness.” One of those aspects: “the use of ‘about’ collection to acquire Internet communications that are neither to nor from the target of surveillance.”

Laura K. Donahue, the director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University – and now an amicus for the FISC – wrote in a seminal 2015 law review article that the “about” collection “significantly expands the volume of Internet intercepts under Section 702.” She noted that “to obtain ‘about’ communications, because of how the Internet is constructed, the NSA must monitor large amounts of data” and was “not just considering envelope information (for example, messages in which the selector is sending, receiving, or copied on the communication) but the actual content of messages.”

And she said it was clearly unconstitutional. “While the targeting procedures and the interception of information to or from non-U.S. persons located outside the United States meet the Fourth Amendment’s standard of reasonableness, when looked at in relation to Section 702, the inclusion of communications ‘about’ targets or selectors and the knowing interception of entirely domestic conversations shift the program outside constitutional bounds.”

Privacy activists expressed delight over the change Friday, although they retained their mistrust of the NSA and their demand that Congress refuse to reauthorize Section 702 as is.

“The NSA should never have been vacuuming up all of these communications, many of which involved Americans, without a warrant. While we welcome the voluntary stopping of this practice, it’s clear that Section 702 must be reformed so that the government cannot collect this information in the future,” said Michelle Richardson, Deputy Director of the Freedom, Security, and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, in a statement.

“As a baseline, this makes a statutory ban on ‘about’ collection much more feasible. It becomes much harder for the NSA to justify the necessity of something they’re not doing,” said Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Constitution Project.

The change does not affect the other major program that operates under Section 702, called Prism. That program warrantlessly harvests communications to and from foreign targets from major Internet companies like Facebook and Google. But like upstream, Prism “incidentally” sweeps up innocent Americans’ communications as well. Those are then entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer once described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.” Critics call those “backdoor searches” of warrantless surveillance.

Wyden and other members of Congress have been trying to understand the scope of 702 surveillance for years, but the government has refused to provide even a ballpark figure.

Security fences surround the National Security Agency’s Utah data collection center in Bluffdale, Utah near Salt Lake City on April 12, 2017.

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