The Intercept

Quem ainda aguenta a Lava Jato?

25 March 2017 - 6:00am

São três anos de Lava Jato. Três anos de uma panela de pressão em fogo alto, provocando frequentes disenterias verbais e reiteradas desmoralizações da autoridade pública. É tensão demais para uma pátria só. Contam-se nos dedos os políticos que podem dormir sem medo de que algum policial, de tornozeleira ou não, lhes venha acordar com a notícia de que os próximos cafés da manhã serão em Curitiba.

Aí, não dá mais. Há um limite pra tudo nessa vida. Por isso não são poucas as vozes de Brasília que sussurram alternativas a essa história desagradável de investigar propinas, caixas dois e outros busílis que sempre fizeram parte da política nacional. Há até quem veja uma espécie de operação abafa, sendo moldada numa estratégia de motoboy na hora do rush: onde houver brecha, ele se enfia.

Claro que, no heterogêneo caldeirão de Brasília, há sempre um ou outro espírito mais ingênuo e menos dado a sutilezas, daquele tipo que liga pro aniversariante pra perguntar o que levar na festa surpresa. Ou, no caso, que afirma, numa entrevista à Folha de S.Paulo, não ver nenhum problema em simplesmente absolver a politicada toda e tocar a bola pra frente.

O leitor desavisado poderá supor que essa largada precoce tenha sido obra daquele assessor que sugeriu ao Conde Temer discursar sobre o importante papel feminino na escolha do supermercado. Mas, não. A célebre pensata partiu do deputado petista Vicente Cândido que é, vejam só, o relator da reforma política na Câmara.

“Temos de ter pensamento estratégico. O que é melhor para a sociedade nesse momento?”

Para ele, a proposta é uma forma de “distensionar o país”. “Temos de ter pensamento estratégico. O que é melhor para a sociedade nesse momento? Até aprovar uma anistia, seja criminal, financeira, tudo é possível”, afirmou o brilhante congressista.

A despeito dos arroubos, contudo, a coisa costuma ser mais discreta e surge de onde não se espera. Foi assim, por exemplo, com a súbita polemização dos vazamentos à imprensa. A barafunda começou no domingo (19), quando a Ombudsman da Folha de S.Paulo, Paula Cesarino Costa, revelou uma nova e inusitada prática jornalística: a coletiva em off. Para quem não sabe, off é uma informação fornecida por uma fonte que não quer se identificar, em geral a um jornalista de confiança. Nesse caso, contudo, o processo foi ligeiramente diverso.

Tudo indica que a Procuradoria Geral da República reuniu representantes de um punhado de veículos de comunicação para uma espécie de suruba jornalística. No bacanal, foram vazados 16 nomes da famigerada segunda lista de Janot, que tinha 83 pedidos de abertura de inquérito. Os coleguinhas, felizes pela informação semi-exclusiva, publicaram todos juntos praticamente a mesma reportagem, sem se perguntarem por quê.

Homem usa camisa com montagem durante manifestação em Copacabana em Dezembro de 2016.)

AFP/Getty Images

A vida seguiu, mas os vazamentos voltaram à tona na terça-feira (21) quando, em mais um episódio clássico da série “seria cômico se não fosse trágico”, o todo poderoso juiz Sérgio Moro mandou prender um blogueiro. O objetivo seria  investigar a ligação do profissional com o responsável por vazar informações sobre a condução coercitiva do ex-presidente Lula. A estranha ação  foi perpetrada pela PF, com direito a autoritarismos como o tradicional horário impróprio (no caso seis da matina), confisco de equipamentos e interrogatórios sem advogado de defesa.

Qual um trailer de 1968, abriu um precedente perigoso. Primeiro porque quebrou na marra o direito do sigilo da fonte, algo que deveria ser sagrado em qualquer democracia. Segundo porque foi um ato aparentemente voltado a um setor específico da imprensa.

Os vazamentos fazem parte da Lava Jato. Eu vazo, tu vazas ele vaza. Até Moro vaza.

Afinal, se tirássemos os vazamentos, gotejamentos e infiltrações das reuniões de pauta de Veja, o resultado seria uma versão reacionária da revista Boa Forma: “Bela, recatada e sarada – a dieta de Marcela”. Os vazamentos fazem parte da Lava Jato. Eu vazo, tu vazas ele vaza. Até Moro vaza. Vazou publicamente ao divulgar, fora do prazo permitido, conversas telefônicas entre Lula e a então presidente Dilma Rousseff, jogando lenha no Impeachment e lançando o pobre Bessias à fama instantânea.

O estrelato repentino, aliás, foi um dos efeitos colaterais da prisão do blogueiro. De uma hora pra outra, ficamos sabendo da existência de Eduardo Guimarães e do Blog da Cidadania. Dizem as más línguas, inclusive, que há um número considerável de jornalistas independentes procurando uma informaçãozinha para vazar. Não está fácil pra ninguém e nada como uma manhã na PF para turbinar o número de visitantes únicos.

Outro efeito colateral, claro, foi respingar na Lava Jato. Afinal, sempre que o ilibado juiz de Curitiba mete os pés pelas mãos, algo que não é assim tão raro, a operação como um todo sai arranhada.

Mas, de todas as pancadas que a famigerada operação levou ao longo da semana, a mais forte certamente veio do Excelentíssimo Ministro do Supremo Gilmar Mendes. O magistrado, um dos mais ágeis motoboys do abafa Lava Jato, viu a brecha aberta com a história dos vazamentos e entrou chutando espelhinhos retrovisores. Disse que a divulgação das informações sigilosas eram uma “desmoralização da autoridade pública” e sugeriu que todo “material vazado” fosse desconsiderado pela Justiça.

É ou não é muita tensão pra pouca verba de gabinete?

Diante da suprema psicodelia do magistrado, o procurador geral da República, Rodrigo Janot, que teima em querer processar Deus e o mundo e parece não entender a necessidade de um respiro aos engravatados da pátria, resolveu atacar.  Respeitando a liturgia do cargo e tomando o cuidado de não citar o nobre colega, sugeriu que o ministro sofria de “disenteria verbal”.

Então diga, caro leitor, é ou não é muita tensão pra pouca verba de gabinete? Mas tenhamos calma que as coisas hão de mudar. Tanto que tem até gente pensando no que fazer para que esse pessoal enlameado pela Lava Jato, mas quiçá nunca condenado, possa continuar a representar a sociedade no Congresso Nacional. Ao menos foi mais ou menos isso que muita gente viu na ideia de voto em lista fechada, uma das estrelas da proposta de reforma política.

Nela, em vez de escolher uma pessoa de carne e osso, os eleitores dão seus votos a um partido, que os distribui de acordo com uma lista previamente determinada. O sistema, ao menos na visão de certas mentes mais pessimistas,  permitirá que figuras como Angorá, Índio, Boca Mole, Todo Feio, Mineirinho e companhia possam se esconder atrás das siglas partidárias e continuem sendo eleitos por outros 500 anos.

Por outro lado, a proposta vai na direção daquele tão desejado relaxamento nacional. Nas redes sócias por exemplo: quando a coisa encrencar e os gastos congelados agravarem ainda mais a miséria do povão, o eleitor engajado vai poder postar selfie de camiseta da seleção com a frase do momento: “A culpa não é minha, eu não sei em quem votei”.

*Atenção alérgicos: contém sarcasmo e ironia.

The post Quem ainda aguenta a Lava Jato? appeared first on The Intercept.

Apple diz corrigiu há anos vulnerabilidades reveladas por WikiLeaks

24 March 2017 - 3:30pm

Nesta quinta-feira (23), o site WikiLeaks lançou sua nova remessa de material vazado da CIA: cinco documentos que descrevem softwares maliciosos que podem assumir o controle de MacBooks e iPhones da Apple, e escreveu em um post que “a CIA tem infectado a cadeia de fornecedores do iPhone de seus alvos”, levando leitores preocupados a se perguntarem se seus iPhones ou MacBooks teriam vindo infectados de fábrica. Em uma declaração oficial, a Apple afirmou que esse, quase que certamente, não é o caso.

Conforme indicado nos documentos, os métodos de ataque descritos datam, em alguns casos, de 2009, quando a linha do iPhone estava em sua infância. A declaração da Apple, feita ao The Intercept e outros veículos de mídia, mostra que, a menos que você esteja usando um modelo relativamente antigo, como o iPhone 3G, o seu smartphone não poderia sequer ser hipoteticamente vulnerável aos ataques específicos publicados pelo WikiLeaks, e o seu Mac deve ser seguro se foi fabricado nos últimos quatro anos.

“Avaliamos de forma preliminar o que foi revelado pelo WikiLeaks nesta manhã. Baseado na nossa análise inicial, a suposta vulnerabilidade do iPhone afetou apenas o modelo iPhone3G e foi corrigida em 2009, quando o iPhone 3GS foi lançado. Além disso, nossa análise preliminar mostrou que supostas vulnerabilidades do Mac foram corrigidas em todos os computadores da linha lançados depois de 2013.”

Embora não seja incomum utilizar uma versão de laptop mais antiga e cada vez mais desatualizada – celulares tendem a circular mais rapidamente – é pouco provável que muitas pessoas em qualquer lugar no mundo, sejam elas alvos potenciais da CIA ou não, ainda estejam usando o iPhone3G.

Ainda assim, é notável que a CIA obteve sucesso em comprometer produtos da Apple que eram atuais na época em que os documentos foram publicados. O ataque ao iPhone foi descrito em janeiro de 2009, seis meses antes do iPhone 3G ser substituído. Os ataques a MacBooks foram descritos em documentos datados até 2013, ou sem data, e descrevem modelos em uso até meados desse ano. Conforme The Intercept noticiou em 2015, a CIA tem mantido uma campanha contra os produtos da Apple desde 2010, pelo menos.

No Twitter, o WikiLeaks descreveu os ataques ao MacBook como um meio de atingir vulnerabilidades “sistêmicas” e disse que a declaração da Apple era “dúbia”.

Ainda nessa declaração, a Apple adicionou uma nota enfática sobre a alegação do WikiLeaks de que o site poderia entregar, sob certas condições, as informações sobre vulnerabilidades de software a empresas de tecnologia como Apple, Google e Microsoft, cujos produtos foram citados nos documentos da CIA:

“Nós não negociamos informações com o WikiLeaks. Demos instruções a eles para que forneçam qualquer informação que desejarem por meio do nosso processo normal, nos nossos termos padrão. Até o momento, não recebemos nenhuma informação deles que não seja de domínio público. Somos defensores incansáveis da segurança e privacidade de nossos usuários, mas não compactuamos com roubo, nem cooperamos com aqueles que ameaçam prejudicar nossos usuários.”

A Apple se recusou a comentar sobre a afirmação de que “a CIA tem infectado a cadeia de fornecedores do iPhone de seus alvos”. Um documento publicado pelo WikiLeaks fazia referência a um malware (software mal-intencionado) da CIA cuja “instalação é ideal para a cadeia de fornecedores”, mas a alegação de que a cadeia de fornecedores esteja de fato comprometida não parece ser comprovada por nada mais nos documentos que o WikiLeaks publicou até agora. Assim como sua afirmação, no início deste mês, de que a CIA teria desenvolvido um método para “contornar” aplicativos encriptados como o Signal e ler seu conteúdo, o WikiLeaks está estendendo os fatos além do que é publicado; continua sendo completamente possível que agências de espionagem norteamericanas tenham se infiltrado na cadeia de fornecimento da Apple, mas não baseado no que foi descoberto aqui. Como de costume, os documentos fornecidos aqui são bastante interessantes, mas não valem a preocupação que o WikiLeaks gerou pelos seus comentários em público.

Tradução: Beatriz Felix

The post Apple diz corrigiu há anos vulnerabilidades reveladas por WikiLeaks appeared first on The Intercept.

Direto da prisão, impressões sobre a guerra ao terror: americano explica o que o levou ao extremismo

24 March 2017 - 12:16pm

Em 2010, Shaker Masri, 26 anos, cidadão americano natural do Alabama, foi preso sob a acusação de terrorismo por ter  planejado, junto com um agente infiltrado do governo, deixar o país e aderir ao grupo militante Shabab, da Somália. Masri passou meses conversando com o informante sobre o desejo de viajar para o exterior e lutar. Depois de Masri expressar a vontade de partir para a Somália, os dois começaram a juntar recursos. Masri foi preso logo no início dos preparativos para a viagem.

Após a prisão, os promotores do caso descreveram Masri como defensor de “uma ideologia extremista e violenta”. A literatura jihadista encontrada no computador dele e o entusiasmo com que falava em lutar e morrer no exterior foram considerados como provas de sua periculosidade.

Acusado de tentar dar suporte material a uma organização terrorista, Masri se declarou culpado em 2012.

Uma foto de Shaker Masri em 2006, aos 22 anos.

Foto: Arquivo pessoal

Ele foi condenado a quase 10 anos de prisão. Ao anunciar a sentença, o juiz argumentou que circunstâncias atenuantes, como a morte recente da mãe de Masri e sua relativa pouca idade, tinham contribuído para reduzir a pena. Hoje, ele cumpre o que resta de sua sentença numa prisão federal no estado de Minnesota.

Masri conta que estava comprometido com a ideologia jihadista no momento da prisão. Mas, depois de mais de cinco anos de encarceramento, diz que suas opiniões mudaram. Antes um fanático por grupos extremistas, ele agora diz que quer ajudar outros jovens a manterem distância do caminho que tomou e explicar para os americanos o que leva tanta gente a apoiar essas organizações.

A entrevista com Masri foi feita por telefone e e-mail. Da prisão, ele comenta seu caso, expõe suas opiniões sobre radicalização e fala do que acredita que precisa ser feito para minar o apoio a grupos terroristas. Para fins de clareza, a entrevista foi editada.

Fale um pouco das suas origens e da sua criação.

Meus pais são originalmente da Síria, mas se mudaram para a Nigéria nos anos 1970 para escapar do serviço militar obrigatório. No início dos anos 80, meu pai passou para o programa de Engenharia de uma escola do Alabama. Eu nasci nessa época, mas passei a maior parte da minha infância na Nigéria. Tive uma criação muito tranquila. Meus pais me proporcionaram uma qualidade de vida muito boa, mesmo para os padrões ocidentais. Na nossa casa em Jos (cidade na região central da Nigéria), tive um computador com acesso à Internet desde pequeno. Meu pai também me dava dinheiro para comprar e cuidar de vários animais de estimação. Morei na Nigéria até os 18 anos, quando voltei para os Estados Unidos para fazer faculdade.

Quais eram suas convicções religiosas quando jovem?

Eu odiava figuras de autoridade em geral, mas odiava especialmente as pessoas religiosas que frequentavam a mesquita. Na Nigéria, quase todas as crianças com quem eu convivia eram expatriadas sírias como eu. E me sentia traído cada vez que uma das meninas entrava na puberdade e começava a usar o hijab, porque sabia que isso significava uma separação entre nós dali em diante. Meus pais me mandavam para um curso sobre o Islã nos fins de semana. Eu tinha horror dessas aulas que exigiam de nós uma certa disciplina e nos faziam desperdiçar tempo decorando coisas que não compreendíamos. Ensinavam para nós que qualquer insubordinação seria considerada um pecado, era tudo muito opressivo. Tentei, muitas vezes e sem sucesso, ser um muçulmano devoto. Depois de um tempo, simplesmente desisti. Eu ainda acreditava em Deus e queria ter esse abrigo da fé, que eu via em outras pessoas, mas tudo isso exigia um grau de comprometimento para o qual não estava pronto.

Como você começou a formar sua visão política de mundo?

Eu sou do mundo árabe, e lá todo mundo se interessa por questões globais. É uma região muito afetada por acontecimentos do mundo todo. Tivemos televisão por satélite em casa durante toda minha infância e adolescência. Muitos canais mostravam notícias de pessoas da minha etnia ou da minha religião sendo perseguidas mundo afora. Lembro de assistir a um documentário sobre a guerra civil no Líbano, o assunto era o massacre em Sabra e Chatila. Fiquei traumatizado nesse dia. Depois do programa, fui até a casa dos vizinhos palestinos e perguntei para as crianças, que eram minhas amigas, se já tinham ouvido falar do massacre. Quando me disseram que não, fiquei furioso com eles. Para mim, ignorar aquilo era trair a memória das vítimas.

A história da minha família na Síria e os medos inerentes à vida de lá também influenciaram muito minhas opiniões. Nas férias de verão, costumávamos voltar da Nigéria para a Síria para visitar o resto da família. Antes de embarcar, meu pai pedia que minha mãe fizesse o necessário para garantir que, quando o avião pousasse em Damasco, meu irmão e eu não perguntássemos nada sobre política, nem fizéssemos comentários sobre os milhares de retratos de Hafiz al-Assad espalhados por todo canto. Quando alguém começava a falar sobre política nos jantares de família, lembro que as vozes iam baixando, ficava só uma tensão silenciosa no ar. Nas conversas, a impressão era que as pessoas estavam sempre pisando em ovos. Para mim, meu pai era sinônimo de segurança. Nessas viagens à Síria, no entanto, lembro de olhar para ele e ter medo de que me separassem dele sem motivo nenhum. Sentia uma pressão no peito que só desaparecia quando voltávamos para a Nigéria.

Como o início da guerra ao terror influenciou suas convicções?

No 11 de Setembro, eu estava nos Estados Unidos, fazia faculdade em Illinois. Como a maioria dos muçulmanos, achava que o que tinha acontecido era errado. Mas também não me parecia certo me desculpar por algo que não tinha nada a ver comigo. Quando Osama bin Laden divulgou aquelas fitas, até entendi as críticas dele aos ditadores árabes e à situação palestina, mas achava o modo de atuação errado. Na mesquita, o imam só ficava dizendo que o Islã significava paz e que o Islã era contra o que tinha acontecido. Conheci alguns estudantes muçulmanos que tinham passado a vida toda nos Estados Unidos. Eu observava as discussões que eles tinham com outros estudantes sobre esses assuntos. Aprendi as linhas gerais dos argumentos deles, mas, depois disso, aprendi praticamente sozinho tudo o que precisava saber sobre religião e política.

Se você quer combater o jihadismo, precisa enxergar nessas pessoas seres humanos movidos por estímulos humanos e normais.

Depois da invasão americana no Iraque, passei a acessar sites islâmicos e a acompanhar as notícias sobre os insurgentes que lutavam contra os Estados Unidos. Na época, eu acreditava em toda aquela propaganda, achava que era tudo verdade, e os apoiava porque estavam combatendo o opressor. Mas eu continuava não sendo religioso, pelo menos não praticante. Quando eu era estudante, apoiei o Partido Verde porque eles também eram contra a guerra, sentia que estavam bem mais alinhados com os meus valores.

Como se desenvolveu seu interesse pela ideologia jihadista?

Em 2007, procurando fóruns de discussão online, achei uns grupos religiosos. No início, fiquei impressionado pelo conhecimento que tinham da religião. Mas quando começavam a falar de política, diziam basicamente que todos os regimes árabes tinham que ser obedecidos e que era contra a religião se revoltar contra eles. Fiquei chocado quando disseram isso, porque todo mundo sabe como esses regimes são brutais e corruptos. Comecei a pesquisar mais informação na Internet para poder contestar esses argumentos. Daí, passei a entrar em chats que defendiam a criação de um estado islâmico – o que me parecia uma boa solução.

Em última instância, o que me levou à ideologia jihadista foi a péssima situação do Oriente Médio e do mundo islâmico de maneira geral. Para mim, um estado islâmico significava a libertação dos povos e a destituição de regimes corruptos. Eu nem me importava tanto com a parte da Charia; para mim, o Islã era sinônimo de justiça e independência, era isso que eu queria. Eu comecei a ler literatura jihadista na Internet, em especial o que foi produzido nos anos 80, 90 e no início dos anos 2000. Comecei a ficar entendido desses assuntos e participava de debates online com gente que partilhava da mesma ideologia. Eram pessoas muito abertas ao debate e à troca de ideias. Isso me atraiu muito. Elas davam abertura para serem questionadas; eram muito ligadas nas notícias e tomavam o tempo que fosse necessário para explicar seus pontos de vista. Não tinham nada a ver com os jihadistas de hoje em dia, que parecem ser muito intolerantes em relação a opiniões divergentes.

Você disse que só queria justiça e independência. Mas, ao longo da investigação do FBI, você também disse para um informante do governo que queria morrer como um mártir.

Eu sabia que estava indo para um lugar perigoso, a Somália. E também acreditava que não havia sucesso sem sacrifício. Para mim, era uma luta do tipo Davi contra Golias, e sacrifícios tinham de ser feitos. Além disso, como eu estava difundindo argumentos jihadistas pela Internet, me dei conta de que seria hipócrita não seguir o que eu mesmo estava pregando. Eu sempre pensei muito em como os movimentos nacionalistas árabes acabaram criando estados totalitários no Oriente Médio. Eu era a favor da igualdade e acreditava que um estado islâmico poderia proporcionar isso. Também achava que os defensores de um estado nesses moldes seriam muçulmanos honestos e sinceros. Naquela época, eu era um idealista, não levava em conta as motivações e os fatores humanos.

O que fez você mudar de opinião na prisão? 

Durante os primeiros anos na prisão, estudei bastante o Islã. Quanto mais eu estudava, mais eu me dava conta de que são textos abertos a múltiplas interpretações dentro de um espectro bem amplo, e que os jihadistas sempre os interpretavam de maneira oportunista para promover seus próprios interesses. Foi aí que me dei conta: quem começa a achar que fala por Deus se torna muito fatalista, como um robô sem remorso e sem empatia. Subordinam a própria consciência à interpretação que fazem do texto. Eu sou contra um estado governado por teólogos porque eles justificariam qualquer ação – inclusive matar pessoas – como uma ordem vinda de Deus. Hoje eu só quero um lugar onde todo mundo possa praticar sua religião e ter liberdade de expressão e de associação, sem que ninguém seja perseguido.

Ironicamente, um grupo se legitima quando uma superpotência mundial reconhece sua existência ao declarar guerra contra ele. A experiência da prisão também me impactou muito. Conheci muita gente, estou rodeado de pessoas o tempo inteiro. Eu sou um curioso da psicologia humana. Quanto mais eu observo as pessoas à minha volta, mais me dou conta de que algumas delas são capazes de coisas terríveis – e depois fazem todo um trabalho de se convencer de que, na verdade, estão fazendo algo bom. Eu participei de um programa organizado pelos funcionários daqui que consistia em discutir temas entre nós. Eu sempre levantava questões sociais ou políticas e sentia que grande parte da equipe me desprezava por conta disso, eles achavam que eu estava sendo anti-americano ao culpar “o sistema”. Mas nunca tentaram me calar ou me tirar do programa. Respeitavam muito o fato de que, neste país, todos têm o direito de se expressar, especialmente os mais fracos e vulneráveis. Acho que eu fui ficando mais maduro. Aquela história de criança, de não confiar em autoridades, acabou saindo pela culatra.

Você estava disposto a morrer por um grupo militante estrangeiro. O que você acha que torna alguns jovens suscetíveis a esse desejo?

Quando jovens muçulmanos ligam a TV em qualquer lugar do mundo e vêem gente do Oriente Médio e da comunidade muçulmana sofrendo e morrendo, eles não consideram essas pessoas como “o outro”. São pessoas que se parecem com seus irmãos, suas irmãs, mães, avós. Poderiam ser eles. Não é nada incomum cidadãos de uma nação quererem tomar parte em um conflito em outro país. A História está cheia de exemplos. Esses jovens não são só um monte de solitários que sentem que não pertencem à comunidade em que vivem. Se você quer combater o jihadismo, precisa enxergar nessas pessoas seres humanos movidos por estímulos humanos e normais. Temos que tomar muito cuidado para não enxergar apenas o lado patológico do problema ou tratá-lo como algo totalmente fora da normalidade.

A maioria dos que aderem a essas causas é de jovens inexperientes com um desejo muito grande de fazer parte de algo maior. Os jihadistas conseguem convencer jovens ingênuos de que é só seguir o programa deles que todos os problemas que afligem o mundo muçulmano vão desaparecer e todos viverão felizes para sempre. É assim que atuam pessoas como Anwar al-Awlaki, que traduziu a ideologia jihadista para línguas ocidentais.

Você acha que é possível afastar as pessoas do extremismo apenas com argumentação?

Sim, mas para isso é importante que possamos conversar sobre religião e política num ambiente livre e franco. Os jihadistas não percebem que a maioria dos muçulmanos não os rejeita por medo da autoridade e da coerção, ou por falta de devoção religiosa, mas sim porque deplora a ideologia e a estratégia que usam. Os jovens vulneráveis ao extremismo têm que entender os reais motivos pelos quais estão sendo repudiados. Eles também precisam ouvir gente falando de maneira realista sobre os problemas que existem no nosso mundo. Mas para isso é necessário tratá-los como humanos abertos ao diálogo, e não simplesmente como monstros. Isso também significa que comunidades muçulmanas devem ser tratadas pelos governos como parceiras, e não como inimigas. Só assim os jovens vão conseguir conversar sobre política sem medo de estarem sendo espionados ou vigiados. Um aspirante a jihadista começa a rever suas convicções quando vê que outros jovens rechaçam o extremismo como solução sem banir a questão política da conversa.

Você acha que a estratégia do atual governo tem sido eficaz?

A estratégia atual de combate ao extremismo não está nem um pouco preocupada em ser eficaz. O governo coloca milhares de informantes e espiões nas comunidades muçulmanas e, ao mesmo tempo, pede que essas comunidades sejam parceiras na luta contra o terrorismo. Isso acaba com qualquer possibilidade de diálogo franco e aberto, que é a única maneira de lidar com o problema da ideologia jihadista. Além disso, o governo tem feito muitos jovens muçulmanos se sentirem como o inimigo. Promotores e agentes da lei estão muito mais interessados em prender gente e se promover do que vencer essa batalha por corações e mentes. Punições devem ser ferramentas para desestimular o crime, e não para saciar o desejo de vingança das pessoas, principalmente nos casos em que não há vítimas. Na minha opinião, em vez de deter, essa estratégia cria mais terroristas.

O que o levou a falar sobre suas experiências?

Quando o ISIS ganhou poder em 2014, acabaram-se as últimas ilusões que eu tinha em relação ao jihadistas. Eles têm todos os sintomas de psicopatia: são manipuladores, não sentem remorso nem empatia, são incapazes de aprender com os próprios erros. Eles fazem questão de matar as pessoas da maneira mais espetacular possível. Oprimem populações locais até se voltarem contra eles. Não são guerreiros, são gângsters. O movimento jihadista atual está controlado por grupos como esse, com uma visão apocalíptica de mundo. O intuito não é ajudar a população síria ou qualquer outra população em dificuldade. Para eles, esses conflitos são só oportunidades para conseguir recursos e voluntários. Alegam que defendem uma causa quando, na verdade, são defensores apenas de si mesmos. O jihadismo é a própria causa.

Espero que minha experiência e minhas observações possam servir para desestimular jovens a aderir a grupos como o ISIS e a se tornar jihadistas. Estou convencido de que a luta contra o jihadismo não será vencida nos campos de batalha. Desde o começo da guerra ao terror, trilhões de dólares foram gastos e centenas de leis foram aprovadas com o objetivo de combater o terrorismo, mas não estamos nem perto de uma resolução para o conflito. Na verdade, a situação piorou. Enquanto uma nova estratégia não for montada, vai continuar havendo “loucos” dos dois lados que vão continuar se matando em nome de crenças religiosas, cultos de personalidade, nacionalismo e orgulho racial.

Tradução: Carla Camargo Fanha

The post Direto da prisão, impressões sobre a guerra ao terror: americano explica o que o levou ao extremismo appeared first on The Intercept.

Apple Says It Fixed CIA Vulnerabilities Years Ago

24 March 2017 - 11:07am

Yesterday, WikiLeaks released its latest batch of pilfered CIA material, five documents describing malicious software for taking over Apple MacBooks and iPhones, and wrote in an accompanying post that “the CIA has been infecting the iPhone supply chain of its targets,” prompting concerned readers to wonder if their iPhone or MacBook had been infected on the factory floor. In a statement, Apple says that is almost certainly not the case.

As indicated in the documents, the attack methods described date in some cases back to 2009, when the iPhone line was in its infancy. Apple’s statement, provided to The Intercept and other media outlets, indicates that unless you’re still using a relatively ancient model like the iPhone 3G, your smartphone could not even be even hypothetical vulnerable to the specific attacks published by WikiLeaks, and your Mac should be safe if it was made in the last four years.

We have preliminarily assessed the WikiLeaks disclosures from this morning. Based on our initial analysis, the alleged iPhone vulnerability affected iPhone 3G only and was fixed in 2009 when iPhone 3GS was released. Additionally, our preliminary assessment shows the alleged Mac vulnerabilities were previously fixed in all Macs launched after 2013.

Although it’s not uncommon to use an older and increasingly out of date laptop model — phones tend to rollover faster — it’s unlikely that many people anywhere in the world, potential CIA targets or not, are still using the iPhone 3G.

Still, it’s noteworthy that the CIA had success compromising Apple products that were current at the time the documents were published. The iPhone attack was described in January 2009, a full six months before the iPhone 3G was replaced. The attacks on MacBooks were described in documents dated up through 2013, or undated, and describe models current up through the middle of that year. As The Intercept reported in 2015, the CIA has mounted a sustained campaign against Apple products going back to at least 2010.

On Twitter, WikiLeaks described the MacBook attacks as hitting “systemtic” vulnerabilities and called Apple’s statement “duplicitous.”

Also in its statement, Apple added a strongly worded note on WikiLeaks’s  claim that it would conditionally hand over information about software vulnerabilities to  tech companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, whose products have been singled out in the CIA documents:

We have not negotiated with WikiLeaks for any information. We have given them instructions to submit any information they wish through our normal process under our standard terms. Thus far, we have not received any information from them that isn’t in the public domain. We are tireless defenders of our users’ security and privacy, but we do not condone theft or coordinate with those that threaten to harm our users.

Apple declined to comment on the WikiLeaks claim that “the CIA has been infecting the iPhone supply chain of its targets.” One document published by WikiLeaks  referenced CIA malware whose “install is ideal for supply chain,” but the claim that the supply chain is actually compromised does not appear to be borne out by anything in documents WikiLeaks has published so far. As with its claim earlier this month that the CIA had developed a method to “bypass” encrypted apps like Signal and read their contents, WikiLeaks is stretching the facts beyond what it has published; it remains entirely possible that American spy agencies have infiltrated Apple’s supply chain, but not based on what’s furnished here. Per usual, the documents provided here are deeply interesting, but not worth the concern WikiLeaks generated by its public comments.

The post Apple Says It Fixed CIA Vulnerabilities Years Ago appeared first on The Intercept.

A Louisiana Town Plagued by Pollution Shows Why Cuts to the EPA Will Be Measured in Illnesses and Deaths

24 March 2017 - 10:56am

When the Environmental Protection Agency informed people in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, last July that the local neoprene plant was emitting a chemical that gave them the highest risk of cancer from air pollution in the country, the information was received not just with horror and sadness but also with a certain sense of validation.

For years, many of the people living on this little square of land between the train tracks and the Mississippi River levee have felt they suffered more than their share of illnesses. Troyla Keller has a rash and asthma that abate every time she leaves the neighborhood and worsen when she returns. Augustine Nicholson Dorris had breast cancer and seizures. And David Sanders has trouble breathing, a tumor on his thyroid, and neurological problems. “It took a lot away from me,” said Sanders, whose speech is slurred, when I visited the area a half-hour west of New Orleans in February. Several people spoke of shuttling their children and grandchildren to the nearby ER for asthma treatments. And many residents also frequent the neighborhood’s two busy dialysis centers. A third is under construction.

“Everybody felt there was too much sickness,” said Robert Taylor, 76, whose wife had breast cancer and is now struggling with multiple sclerosis. Taylor’s daughter Raven suffers from gastroparesis, a relatively rare autoimmune disorder that has left the 48-year-old unable to digest food and bedridden, after an attempt to treat the condition surgically led to a staph infection. But there were plenty of other unusual conditions, too. Trollious Harris, who has spent most of her life a few blocks from the Taylors, suffers from myasthenia gravis, another autoimmune condition, which has caused her muscles to weaken. Kellie Tabb has a rapid heartbeat and recently met two other people in the area who have the same condition.

“Everybody has had someone that has died of cancer,” said Taylor’s daughter Tish as she stood in the doorway of the family’s home on East 26th Street. To an outsider like me, the neighborhood looked festive, with kids playing on neatly mown lawns and Mardi Gras beads adorning many of the doors. But when Tish, who is 53 and has lived on the block since she was 4, looked at the nearby houses, she saw the people who had fallen ill. “Mr. Henry died of cancer, and he had two sons who were diagnosed with it, too. And Miss Sissy, who lives down the block toward the river, she had pancreatic cancer and died this month. Ms. Diane died of cancer, too,” Tish said, ticking off the casualties on her fingers.

“Something is clearly not right with this area,” said Lydia Gerard, whose husband developed kidney cancer at age 64 that recently metastasized and spread to his chest. Gerard herself suffers from sudden bouts of diarrhea and anemia as well as vitiligo and other autoimmune problems. Her lips and eyes often swell inexplicably and she has itchy welts on her arms and legs that get better when she goes to work 30 miles away — and come back with a vengeance when she returns home. While I was interviewing Gerard and her husband in their two-story home, I also broke out in hives.

Besides being a likely human carcinogen, chloroprene, the gas the plant has been releasing into this community for 48 years, is known to weaken immune systems and cause headaches, heart palpitations, anemia, stomach problems, impaired kidney function, and rashes. So the EPA’s news, bad as it was, provided a form of relief. After all these years, a government agency was helping to explain the residents’ strange predicament. The people living next to the plant might be sick, but at least they weren’t crazy.

The Dupont/Denka plant as seen from a levee wall on the opposite side of River Road in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 24, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

The air pollution crisis in St. John the Baptist may be the best illustration of why we need the EPA — and how the imminent slashing of the federal agency’s budget will be measurable in illnesses and deaths. Since 2002, the EPA has periodically published a report estimating the expected number of cancers per million people in every census tract based on airborne emissions from industry. For most of the country, the expected number of cancers due to this pollution is somewhere between zero and one. The national average is .968.

But for the people living in the census tract within St. John the Baptist that is home to the Taylors, Kellers, Sanders, and Gerards, the risk is dramatically higher. According to the EPA’s most recent National Air Toxics Assessment, which was published in December 2015, the lifetime risk of cancer from air pollution in this area, which is less than 2 square miles, is a staggering 777 per million people, by far the highest in the country and more than 800 times the national average. Other census tracts near the plant had risks that were more than 200, 300, and 400 times higher.

No one I spoke to in this patch of the parish seemed surprised by the idea that the synthetic rubber plant just over the chain link fence from their houses might have a role in the community’s health problems. DuPont opened the factory on a former sugar plantation called Belle Point in 1964, and its smokestacks have been pumping out chloroprene over this mostly African-American neighborhood since 1969. Many of the people living here can trace their roots back to slavery, when their ancestors worked on nearby plantations, and some of their homes are former slaves’ quarters. And now the giant property next door looms over their lives in other ways. Most can see the stacks from their windows. And the residents I spoke with said that at times, odors wafted from the factory that smelled “pungent and rotten,” “almost like a singed plastic” — or, as Mary Hampton put it simply, “like poison.”

Hampton said she gets sinus attacks when the chemicals are at their smelliest — and she is not alone. Although there has been no formal study of health effects in the area, Wilma Subra, a consultant who has been working with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network to help the residents of St. John the Baptist respond to the news about chloroprene, recently surveyed 150 people who live near the plant about their symptoms after what she calls “odor events.” Eighteen reported having sinus problems, 31 reported burning eyes, 25 reported headaches, and 14 stomachaches. Others reported diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and rashes.

Lois Frank, who is 65 and has lived within a few blocks of the plant since it opened, said that at first, the intense smells threw many people in the neighborhood into a panic. “My mother would call the plant and say, ‘You must have a leak,’ and they’d send somebody in the truck. And then they would always tell us, ‘We don’t smell anything,’” Frank remembered recently. “After a while, people got tired so they just stopped calling. What’s the point in calling if they ain’t going to do nothing about it?”

Almost 50 years later, the fumes remain, along with the sense of being powerless to stop them. On a mild evening a few months ago, when Robert Taylor arrived home from a trip to New Orleans, the smell was “so bad, you couldn’t even walk, you had to run inside.” He called 911 to report it. When a fire official arrived a few minutes later, his response was validating, if not helpful. “He got out of his vehicle and he said, ‘Oh my God, do they really expect you people to live in this? You understand you got a problem here?’” Taylor recalled. The problem the fire official was referring to wasn’t the smell, according to Taylor. “He said, ‘You know this is one of the biggest taxpayers in the parish!’”

Until recently, Lois Frank thought of the smelly cloud from her powerful neighbor as just a nuisance. “We knew we were getting emissions,” said Frank. Her husband, who died of leukemia at age 52, was one of four people in her immediate family to get cancer. “We just didn’t know how bad it was. We didn’t know about the chloroprene.”

A young boy walks home from school along Robinet Drive, one block from the fence of the Dupont/Denka plant in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 20, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

A little-known division of the EPA called the Integrated Risk Information System helped quantify exactly how bad chloroprene is. IRIS evaluates the toxicity of chemicals and in 2010 concluded that the colorless chemical that is the building block of neoprene, one of 28 the plant releases into the air, was a likely human carcinogen. The classification was based in part on research showing that the rats and mice exposed to the stuff developed cancers of the thyroid gland, lung, kidney, liver, mammary gland, and fore-stomach. The 2010 report referred to studies showing that chloroprene increased the risk of cancers in people, too. Studies of four different human populations around the world showed that exposure to the chemical increased the risk of liver cancer, in one case by more than 700 percent. Other studies IRIS reviewed showed a link to lung cancer. In one study of Russian shoe factory workers exposed between 1960 and 1976, chloroprene increased rates of leukemia and kidney cancer as well as liver cancer. The study also showed chloroprene elevated the risk of colon cancer and deaths from a combination of all cancers.

It took too long for the EPA to get the research on chloroprene to the people who needed it most. Although the agency published its air toxics data, which included a map that clearly showed the risk in St. John the Baptist in December 2015, it wasn’t until the following May that John Vandenberg, director of the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, wrote to the regional office to point out the elevated cancer risk in the parish, which houses the U.S.’s only neoprene-manufacturing plant and is the major source of chloroprene emissions in the country.

Vandenberg’s letter, which identified chloroprene as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” revealed how slowly the critical information made its way through government. The National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens described chloroprene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in 2005, as the letter noted, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer had classified chloroprene as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 1999, 17 years before the letter was sent.

Still, the dangers chloroprene poses to particular communities would likely not have been quantified at all if not for IRIS, which has been a frequent target of industry in the years it has assessed the toxicity of chemicals. And the knowledge of these health effects wouldn’t have been combined with data on the release of hazardous chemicals to calculate the localized risks of cancer from air pollution if not for another branch of the federal agency: the EPA’s Air Toxics Assessment Group. That information made it from the obscure report to the people of St. John the Baptist Parish thanks to yet another division of the agency, the regional office, which met with a local environmental organization, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, in June and has since helped arrange for air monitoring around the plant.

Local youth play basketball after school in the driveway of a home located one block from the fence of the Dupont/Denka plant in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 20, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

The EPA was created in 1970 in large part to right the power imbalance between industry and residents of polluted communities like St. John the Baptist. Richard Nixon was president at the time and appointed William Ruckelshaus, or “the enforcer,” as he came to be called, to lead the agency. Among Ruckelhaus’s victories was getting companies to comply with the newly passed law to curtail air pollution, the Clean Air Act. Ruckelshaus even managed to get Union Carbide, then a powerful chemical company, to reduce emissions at its plant in Marietta, Georgia, after the company initially threatened to fire workers if it was forced to comply with the EPA’s new pollution emissions schedule.

Forty-seven years later, our current scandal-ridden Republican president is handling environmental enforcement differently. Donald Trump, who threatened to eliminate the EPA entirely during his campaign, has instead installed as its administrator former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who built his career trying to undermine the agency. “Polluting Pruitt,” as some call him, has already begun making cuts that will eviscerate the EPA’s ability to protect Americans from dangerous industrial pollution.

The EPA declined to answer questions about specific cuts, but the new administration is likely to shrink or eliminate every branch of the agency that helped convey the risks of chloroprene to the people of St. John the Baptist. Leaked versions of the agency’s budget show that the administration plans to zero out funding for local air pollution monitoring. And cuts are expected to the regional offices.

Trump’s proposed budget also cuts most funding for the Office of Environmental Justice, which was devoted to protecting communities like the one in St. John the Baptist, according to Mustafa Ali, one of the founding members of that office. I spoke with Ali the morning he resigned from the agency he served for 25 years, most recently as the senior adviser for environmental justice and community revitalization. He told me he chose to leave because he has “a different set of values and priorities” from the new administration and that low-income communities and communities of color contend with disproportionate environmental pollution because, “lots of times, people don’t put as much value on their lives.”

IRIS, the only division of the agency that independently assesses the toxicity of industrial chemicals, is almost certain to fall victim to the cuts as well. The proposed budget calls for $2.6 billion in cuts to the EPA, including $233 million from the Office of Research in Development, which includes IRIS. Republicans on the House Science Committee had already made it clear at a hearing in February that elimination of IRIS was one of their three priorities for the EPA. And the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the think tank run by Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s EPA transition team, identified IRIS as “top on the list” of environmental programs to cut.

“I’m sure it’s a key thing they want to get rid of, IRIS, because of how influential it is,” one EPA staff member told me. “If they kill that, they kill the ability to regulate. The whole world looks at an IRIS evaluation. It really does draw the line in the sand and tells people where the risk is. Once that’s defined, you can go back to the water concentration and the air concentration and show that you have to do something. Without IRIS, you might be able to measure something in the air or water, but you won’t have any proof that it’s a problem.”

Republicans have also targeted funding for both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Institute for Environmental Health, which publishes the National Report on Carcinogens, the two other governmental bodies that recognized the cancer risk of chloroprene years ago. Together with IRIS, these two programs provide the only significant counterweight to industry’s own research. As we’ve seen many times before, that science is often biased by companies’ interest in maintaining the profitability of their products.

Cows graze on land bordering the Dupont/Denka plant in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 24, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

DuPont’s long history of keeping troubling scientific research about its products secret underscores the need for independent scientists to evaluate chemicals — and make those findings public. Indeed, while the people of St. John the Baptist didn’t know which chemical they were inhaling, let alone the dangers it posed, DuPont was well aware that chloroprene presented health risks even before the company started neoprene production at the plant in St. John the Baptist in 1969.

DuPont introduced neoprene — a flexible substance that would go on to be used to make everything from gaskets and hoses to mouse pads, fly-fishing waders, and wetsuits — in 1931. As it did with PFOA, a chemical used to make Teflon, the company carefully studied the effects of chloroprene. As far back as 1938, DuPont scientists conducted experiments with the chemical used to make the new synthetic rubber, and by 1941, they expressed concerns about its safety.

That year, John Foulger, who was then head of DuPont’s in-house toxicology unit, Haskell Laboratory, issued a report called “Toxicity of Chlorabutadiene,” which is another name for chloroprene. The report, which DuPont submitted to the EPA in 1992, more than 50 years after it was written (and which I accessed through the EPA’s website), detailed a list of complaints made by DuPont workers exposed to the chemical that is eerily similar to the list of problems now plaguing the people of St. John the Baptist: dizziness, headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, diarrhea, and rapid pulse.

Foulger, who labeled the report “personal and confidential” in 1941, also summarized Haskell studies showing that dogs exposed to chloroprene developed the same type of problems the neoprene workers had. Foulger recommended re-examining workers who experienced abnormal pulse or blood pressure after being exposed to chloroprene within a few days and if the symptoms continued, then lowering their exposure “to avoid the production of definite tissue damage.”

DuPont scientists also exposed guinea pigs to chloroprene and according to the 1941 report found that when there was more than 50 parts per million of the chemical in the air, “there may occur circulatory abnormality.” Prolonged exposure, Foulger noted, “may produce serious circulator abnormality, and even lead to collapse.”

Even back then, the scientists worried about how ongoing exposure to chloroprene might affect people. “It has been our general experience with other compounds producing this same type of circulatory abnormality that the longer the man is exposed to concentrations of toxic chemical capable of producing circulator abnormality, the less rapidly does he recover when removed from exposure,” Foulger wrote 76 years ago.

Despite the concerns, DuPont began making neoprene in an industrial neighborhood called Rubbertown in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1941, and began production at its St. John the Baptist plant in 1969. Two years later, Haskell scientists performed another chloroprene experiment, exposing 10 rats to chloroprene gas. Several of the animals developed head tremors and “incoordination of legs” and three of the animals died after the exposure, according to a 1971 document that DuPont sent to the EPA in 1992.

The company appears to have alerted at least one other part of the government to the risks. In 1974, John Zapp, who was then the director of Haskell Labs, sent a letter to the acting director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, expressing concern over the potential carcinogenicity of chloroprene. At that point, there was already ample evidence to suggest the chemical was a health hazard. “The primary responses to chloroprene appear to be central nervous system depression and significant injury to lungs, liver, and kidneys,” stated a bulletin the CDC published in January 1975. The bulletin referenced the Russian study that showed elevated rates of lung and skin cancer among workers exposed to the chemical and noted that animals exposed to chloroprene had a decreased number of white blood cells, which play a central role in immune function.

Elva Cook Perrilloux at home in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 20, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

But this information never made it to the people in St. John the Baptist, who by then were already smelling the emissions from the plant. By 1988, according to internal DuPont documents obtained by The Intercept, the company was concerned enough about the dangers of chloroprene to set its own limit for round-the-clock exposure at 0.5 parts per million (ppm). Exposure above that limit would “not necessarily result in any adverse affects,” according to a 1994 document marked “for DuPont use only.” In 1988, the company also set an “acceptable exposure limit” for workers exposed to the chemical for 12 hours: 10 ppm. By 1999, the company had lowered that limit to 2 ppm, presumably based on new discoveries it had made about the health effects of chloroprene.

By 2002, people living near Rubbertown, Kentucky, where the DuPont neoprene facility was one of more than a dozen chemical plants, had begun to complain about cancer and other health problems. That year, DuPont scientists embarked on their own study of workers at the company’s neoprene plants in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Ireland. While researchers around the world had found that chloroprene exposure elevated the risks of various cancers, the DuPont study, which was funded by the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers and published in 2006, found almost no evidence that it increased the risk of developing cancer. That year, the company cited the study in an effort to get scientific groups to reclassify chloroprene so it was no longer a potential human carcinogen, according to Rubber & Plastics News.

Under pressure from workers and environmental groups in Kentucky, DuPont closed its Rubbertown plant in 2008. The year before, the United Steelworkers, who had called attention to the health risks of chloroprene, wrote to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to warn that consolidating neoprene production at the St. John the Baptist plant would cause “added pollution and a higher risk of cancer.”

Nevertheless, DuPont did consolidate its neoprene operation at the Louisiana plant, where it made the chemical until November 2015. Then, six weeks before the EPA published the National Air Toxics Assessment — which combined emissions data with the health information in the IRIS report to calculate that the risk of cancer from air pollution near the plant was hundreds of times higher than in other parts of the country — DuPont announced the sale of the neoprene division of the plant to a Japanese company called Denka Performance Elastomers. Under new ownership, the production and emissions continued.

Although DuPont sold the division, it could still potentially be liable for the 46 years in which it produced neoprene at the plant. And at least as far back as 2009, it had enlisted a science-for-hire consulting company, now known as Ramboll Environ, to represent its interests on chloroprene. Ramboll Environ, which has also represented Phillip Morris, met with the EPA in August 2016 to challenge the agency’s finding that chloroprene is a likely carcinogen.

Although the EPA did not change its classification of the chemical, DuPont continues to maintain that its plant posed no risk to the community in St. John the Baptist. In response to a list of questions regarding the plant and the company’s knowledge of the dangers of chloroprene, DuPont provided the following statement:

While DuPont operated the Pontchartrain site, we protected our workers from chloroprene exposure applying standards that were up to 125 times more stringent than U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards. DuPont also took great care to protect the health and safety of community-area residents operating under an air permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), which established chloroprene emission limits and met the Louisiana Toxic Air Pollutant Ambient Air Standard for chloroprene. We believe there was no community risk associated with chloroprene.

In response to a list of questions about its awareness of the risks associated with chloroprene, Denka Performance Elastomers consistently challenged the EPA’s assessment. “EPA’s 2010 Toxicity Review of Chloroprene characterizes chloroprene as a likely human carcinogen. The epidemiological studies do not support that conclusion, and St. John the Baptist Parish, where the DPE facility is located, has one of the lower cancer incidence rates in Louisiana,” a company spokesperson wrote in a statement, adding: “The epidemiological data does not demonstrate a credible link between human exposure to chloroprene and the incidence of cancers in chloroprene workers, who are exposed to much higher concentrations of chloroprene than members of the community.”

Denka also stated that it was not aware of the forthcoming EPA air toxics assessment until several days after it acquired the neoprene division of the plant on November 1, 2015.

Denka emphasized that its operations are in compliance with its air permits, which is true. When the company purchased the facility in 2015, it came with a permit that allows Denka to emit 403,580 pounds of chloroprene per year, which is more than 100,00 pounds above what it actually emits. But the permit was first issued in 1994, well before the EPA recognized the chemical as a likely human carcinogen.

Portraits of Elva Cook Perrilloux’s son Bryant Joseph Perrilloux and her sister Leander Cook Jack hang on the wall of her home in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 20, 2017. Both died of cancer.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

The EPA generally strives to keep the risk of cancer from air pollution to less than one for every million people. But a May 2016 memo about chloroprene from Kelly Rimer of the agency’s Air Toxics Assessment Group acknowledged that such a low rate isn’t always obtainable and offered instead as the “upper limit of acceptability” a risk of 100 in a million. To stay below that higher level, chloroprene emissions would have to be kept to no more than .2 micrograms per cubic meter.

While Denka indicated it would try to reduce its chloroprene emissions by 85 percent, the company has not committed to meeting any particular level.

Though the numbers from IRIS are officially “risk estimates” and not enforceable limits, the EPA can use them to create binding rules and regulations. But that process, which takes years under the best of circumstances, is very unlikely to move forward while Trump is in office.

States can also use the IRIS numbers to set their own rules. But that seems unlikely in Louisiana. Chuck Carr Brown, the head of Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality, told me that the .2 micrograms level is “just a guidance.” Instead of aiming to keep emissions below the recommended level, Brown said he is working with Denka to improve leak detection and repair and install various technologies that, he said, should reduce the level of chloroprene emissions by the end of 2017.

Although the EPA document that set the level indicates that its confidence in its calculations is “medium/high,” Brown, a former industry consultant, also said that “nobody is standing behind that number” and that “there are folks that are challenging IRIS.” When I asked which folks Brown was referring to, he didn’t respond. At a December meeting with residents of St. John the Baptist Parish, Brown suggested there was no cause for “fearmongering.”

Brown pointed to the state’s cancer registry, which he told me “doesn’t show any elevated levels of cancer at all in any group of people.” It is true that the Louisiana Tumor Registry fails to show an elevated rate of all cancers in the parish as a whole, compared to the rest of the state, which has the fourth highest rate of cancer deaths in the country (only Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia have higher rates). But it’s impossible to tell from that data whether there is any increase in liver cancer, which is the type of cancer most clearly linked to chloroprene. The tumor registry doesn’t report cancers at all if there are fewer than 16 cases or deaths, according to Lauren S. Maniscalco, the registry’s liaison. The registry withholds data for smaller areas to protect the confidentiality of patients, Maniscalco said.

Reporting data at the parish or county level, however, instead of the zip code or census tract, makes it virtually impossible to see hotspots within the county. Because liver cancer is rare — there are only 7.6 cases for every 100,000 people in the U.S. — you would expect to find about three cancers in the entire parish. According to county level data from the CDC and National Cancer Institute, St. John the Baptist Parish has three or fewer cases of liver cancer. But even one case in the small census tract next to the factory, which has just 1,966 residents, would represent a rate more than six times what’s expected.

“Parish-level data is not going to tell you anything about locale-based health problems,” said Barbara Allen, a sociologist who has studied the Louisiana Tumor Registry, which has been sued by at least one researcher for its refusal to share data. The registry was also paid by the Louisiana Chemical Association to produce a study of links between industry and cancer in 1989. “By collecting the data and only releasing it at the parish level, the tumor registry and other interested parties know that there is no way to show a correlation between living near industry and disease,” Allen said.

Two air-quality monitoring devices are mounted on public land near the Dupont/Denka plant in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 24, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

While the hard cancer statistics are either inconclusive or disputed, no one has even attempted to tally the autoimmune diseases or other problems that have been reported both in the scientific literature on chloroprene and in the neighborhood. But thanks to spherical metal air monitors that have been hanging at six points near the neoprene factory since May, the level of the chemical in the air is becoming increasingly clear.

When we spoke, Brown told me that the improvements at the plant had already brought about a significant reduction in emissions. “I won’t take a victory lap too soon, but the numbers are looking good,” Brown said. But monitoring data on the EPA website show that there is still plenty of chloroprene in the air by the plant.

In November, a monitor by the intersection of Acorn Street and Highway 44, which runs alongside the river, was 765 times higher than the level the EPA calculated would have a 100-in-a-million cancer risk from air pollution. By the clinic, where many residents go for treatment, the level was more than 330 times higher. And on a Saturday in January, the level of the likely carcinogen in the air by the Fifth Ward Elementary School was 370 times above what the EPA described as the upper limit of acceptability. That is more than 37,000 times higher than the level of chloroprene the EPA calculated would bring the risk of cancer down to one in a million.

The Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish hold a meeting with community members at the St. John the Baptist Parish Clerk of Court in Edgard, Louisiana, Feb. 20, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

Whether the pollution is hundreds or thousands of times what it should be, the knowledge that children are being exposed to elevated levels of a likely carcinogen would be enough to spark widespread outrage and immediate action in many places around the United States. But not in this part of Louisiana.

In October, Robert Taylor, along with his neighbors living near the plant, founded a group called Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist. Taylor, a retired general contractor and bass player, remembers drinking from “colored” water fountains and playing in bars where he had to walk through a separate entrance because “that’s where we made our living.” After the factory a few blocks away began making neoprene, he watched stoically as his nature-loving son mourned the plants and insects that seemed to retreat from the neighborhood. Even when the Taylors “lost outdoor air,” because the odors made it too unpleasant to be outside, he was resolute. “It was just subtle and gradual,” Taylor said, “like they were turning up the temperature a few degrees at a time.”

But the recent news that the chemical his family has been inhaling for so many years might have contributed to their illnesses has changed something in Taylor. “It’s too much,” he told me, while his wife rested on the couch next to us. In recent weeks, Taylor has been organizing meetings with Wilma Subra, the technical consultant who has worked with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, discussing how they might be able to get the chemical out of their air.

Robert Taylor, 76, stands in the front yard of his home on East 26th Street in Reserve, Louisiana, on Feb. 24, 2017. Taylor is the president of the Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist, a community organizing group.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

But the local parish council and the school board have yet to address the issue. And in an area where churches guide much of public life, few religious leaders have spoken openly about the pollution problem. Steve Perrilloux, who leads the congregation at the Riverlands Christian Center in the parish and grew up two blocks from the plant, invited 15 pastors to a meeting in January to discuss supporting the community there, but since the meeting, only one has stepped forward to help.

“They’re looking at dollars and cents and not recognizing that they have to stand for righteousness rather than an economic benefit,” Perrilloux said of the other pastors. “Sometimes people don’t want to get on the wrong side of the political leaders.”

Many people fear being seen as a threat to the chemical industry, which is one of the biggest local employers. Two hundred and fifty people work at the plant, though few members of the African-American community living right next door have managed to get any of the coveted jobs there. The two I heard of, Bryant Perrilloux and Nathan Duhe, also happened to die premature deaths from cancer. Duhe, who was an operator at the plant for more than two decades, died in his early 60s. And Perrilloux, a distant cousin of the pastor who began doing janitorial work at the plant after school when he was 17, died of stomach cancer when he was just 18.

Still, many local residents defend the plant. Pastor Perrilloux has already heard from people who see him as attacking a valued source of local income. “One even raised his voice and he even cursed at me,” he said.

I got a taste of how local authorities treat potential threats to industry when I took a walk along the Mississippi River on a Sunday morning while reporting this story. Setting out on a public walkway not far from the neoprene plant, I came to a mammoth industrial facility that runs along both sides of the road parallel to the river. Minutes after I used my phone to snap a photo of the tangled pipes that snaked above my head, a security vehicle and two sheriff’s cars arrived. A uniformed officer emerged from one and told me he would report me “to Homeland Security.” After I gave the officers my name and drove away, one of the cars followed me and pulled me over with sirens blaring, accusing me of using the wrong blinker and calling for backup.

Others who challenge the industry face worse hostility. In the more than two decades that she’s been providing technical assistance to residents of polluted areas in the South, Wilma Subra has had her office broken into more than 20 times. Someone even shot at the office once. Subra, who also helped the community living near the neoprene plant in Rubbertown, now does her work behind bulletproof glass.

John Cummings at the Whitney Plantation in Edgard, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 20, 2017.

Photo: William Widmer for The Intercept

The people living alongside the plant in St. John the Baptist Parish will be relying on Subra and one other person who is protected from the vagaries of the local economy as they move forward. John Cummings, a dapper 80-year-old trial lawyer who owns 6,000 acres in the parish, recently brought together a number of attorneys to “address the situation” near the plant, as he told me when we spoke amid the live oak trees on the Whitney Plantation. Cummings, who transformed the old sugar plantation into the state’s only museum of slavery and is clearly outraged by the pollution, described himself as “a bad guy to ignore.”

It’s easy to see how a person who has made and spent many millions in the area would expect people to listen to him. Robert Taylor and the others living near the neoprene plant have no such expectations. They’re used to being ignored.

For years, their fears about the plant hung over the neighborhood like the toxic gas. But the residents’ collective sense that they were being harmed wasn’t enough to get a response. It took the work of several divisions of the EPA over the course of many years to prove that people were in danger. And that was under administrations that at least nominally supported the agency’s mission.

Under the best of circumstances, the agency designed to protect public health can give communities like the one in St. John the Baptist a shot at vanquishing the pollutants that affect their health. Without it, they might not even have that.

 

Top photo: Nine-year-old residents Jaden James, left, and Lance Bovie pause on Robinet Drive, less than a block from the fence of the Dupont/Denka plant in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, on Feb. 20, 2017.

The post A Louisiana Town Plagued by Pollution Shows Why Cuts to the EPA Will Be Measured in Illnesses and Deaths appeared first on The Intercept.

Florida Governor Rick Scott Is Punishing a Prosecutor for Opposing the Death Penalty

24 March 2017 - 10:27am

The top prosecutor in Orlando, Florida, took to a podium outside the Orange County courthouse last week to outline a new policy: Her office would no longer seek the death penalty in any capital case.

The prosecutor, State Attorney Aramis Ayala, told assembled reporters that seeking the death penalty is “not in the best interests of this community or in the interest of justice.” After considerable research, she said, she had concluded that capital punishment offers no empirical benefits to society: It is not a deterrent, it neither enhances public safety nor protects law enforcement officers from violence, and it costs millions more — in litigation and housing — to kill a defendant than it does to confine them behind bars for life.

And in Florida in particular, she said, the death penalty system has been the “cause of considerable legal chaos, uncertainty and turmoil.”

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court last year found the state’s capital sentencing scheme unconstitutional. Florida’s highest court subsequently concluded that more than 200 of the 381 inmates on death row in the state could be eligible for new sentencing hearings as a result of the Supreme Court ruling.

Even with the system in such disarray, Ayala decision to stop seeking the death penalty was bound to be controversial. But the announcement has kicked off a fire storm — especially due to its impact on a high-profile murder case, in which a man named Markeith Loyd is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and, perhaps more politically potent, an Orlando police officer.

The controversy sets Ayala, the first black elected state attorney in Florida, who campaigned last year on a promise to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system, against Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott, and the knee-jerk “tough-on-crime” politics still prominent in the state.

Accused murderer Markeith Loyd looks toward family members during court proceedings in Orlando, Fla. on Feb. 22, 2017.

Photo: Red Huber/The Orlando Sentinel/AP

Loyd opened fire on his ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and her brother last December, killing Dixon and critically injuring her brother before fleeing the scene. Several weeks later he shot and killed police Lt. Debra Clayton when she approached him in a parking lot. He was finally arrested after a nine-day manhunt. At a press conference with Ayala standing behind him, Orlando Police Chief John Mina expressed relief that Loyd had finally been apprehended. “I was extremely happy that this dangerous person was off the street,” he said.

Last week Mina told the Orlando Sentinel that he is now “furious” with Ayala’s decision not to seek death for Loyd. “If there was [ever] a case for the death penalty, this is the case.”

The Loyd case prompted Governor Scott, to intervene. On the same day that Ayala announced her new policy, Scott asked her to recuse herself from prosecuting the case, and then, when she declined to do so, issued an executive order to forcibly remove and replace her by bringing in a prosecutor from another jurisdiction.

“She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case,” he said in a press statement.

Scott’s decision has prompted its own backlash, with more than 130 legal scholars — including two former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court — signing on to a letter to the governor challenging the legality of his interference.

Notably, Dixon’s mother has said she supports Ayala’s decision not to seek the death penalty for her daughter’s murderer. Lt. Clayton’s family has not commented publicly on the matter.

 

Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., holds a press conference in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Sept. 13, 2016.

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

Policy Versus Politics

Ayala was among a number of progressive prosecutors who trounced old-school hardliners in 2016 elections.

“Prosecution has been known as, ‘We have evidence, we proved [the] case. Done,’” Ayala said last year. “The mindset of the people who just wanted more integrity, more transparency, more consistency, higher levels of justice, they opened their arms to my campaign.”

Given the tenor of her campaign, it is not entirely surprising that Ayala would decide that Florida’s death penalty scheme is untenable. In announcing her decision last week, Ayala stressed that she was approaching the matter dispassionately. She had not arrived at her decision “arbitrarily or emotionally.” Rather, she said, it was an “evidence-based policy decision.”

Scott’s split-second reaction to oust Ayala suggests a different approach — and one that is legally questionable.

It is true that a Florida statute provides the governor with a mechanism to replace a state attorney, when that prosecutor is “disqualified” from representing the state or “for any other good and sufficient reason.” Exactly what that means is unclear, said Karen Gottlieb, co-director of the Florida Center for Capital Representation at Florida International University School of Law.

“It’s very vague, frankly,” Gottleib said. She notes that state law also requires Ayala to be elected by the people in the district she represents, and to uphold their values and priorities. She is also charged with using discretion in carrying out her duties. Scott’s actions step on her ability to represent for the voters who elected her, Gottlieb argues. If the death penalty were a mandatory punishment, that might be one thing, but it is not — the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed the death penalty as a mandatory punishment — and choosing when and if to seek death is an entirely discretionary matter.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s any possible assertion that [Ayala’s decision] is in bad faith or that she is refusing to exercise her discretion, which would be a different situation, or if it were mandatory and she said, ‘I’m not going to do it,’” Gottlieb said. Instead, it is simply a situation of Scott “substituting his views with her exercise of discretion. And I think that’s a dangerous precedent.”

That same point is made in the letter that judges, prosecutors and law professors sent to Scott this week. Not all of the signatories agree with Ayala’s decision. However, they wrote, “we do agree that she had the authority and discretion to make it.”

“The governor picking and choosing how criminal cases are prosecuted, charged or handled in local matters is troubling as a matter of policy and practice,” the letter continues.

Ayala has signaled that she will fight back; on Monday she filed a motion seeking to stay the Loyd case until the matter is sorted out. In the document, Ayala says Scott called her just hours after she made her announcement to ask her to leave the Loyd case. After refusing to step aside, she “asked Governor Scott if I could explain all that had gone into my decision,” she wrote. “Scott said he was only interested in my recusal and refused to have a detailed conversation.”

The motion also states that the governor does not have the power to remove her, “a popularly elected State Attorney.” Under the Florida Constitution, Ayala argues, “I retain complete authority over charging and prosecution decisions.”

It’s not just the governor’s office that has gone after Ayala.

A finance director in the Seminole County courts office, Stan McCullars, was suspended after he posted racially charged messages on Facebook. “Maybe SHE should get the death penalty,” he wrote. “She should be tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree.”

Other elected state’s attorneys felt the need to issue a statement saying they would certainly continue to seek the death penalty in qualified cases. State lawmakers have proposed slashing the budget for Ayala’s office as punishment. And Republican Congressman Scott Plakon has suggested Scott should permanently remove Ayala from office.

“In responding to lawlessness, I think that the Governor should use the laws as they are in every way to stop lawlessness if it is possible,” Plakon said.

In direct contrast to the histrionic response of Scott and others, Ayala has articulated her decision in a plain and reasoned way.

“An analysis of [the] death penalty must be pragmatic, it must be realistic and not simply theoretical, impulsive or emotional,” she said last week. “I am prohibited from making the severity of sentences the index of my effectiveness.”

Top photo: Aramis Ayala, Florida state attorney, in Windermere, Fla., Oct. 31, 2016.

The post Florida Governor Rick Scott Is Punishing a Prosecutor for Opposing the Death Penalty appeared first on The Intercept.

Activists Worry That Social Media Vetting of Visa Applicants Could Quietly Expand Trump’s Muslim Ban

23 March 2017 - 6:51pm

Human rights activists are expressing concern that a new State Department directive requiring consular officials to look through social media accounts of some visa applicants will effectively expand President Trump’s Muslim ban — and be used to exclude people with certain political viewpoints.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that even as some key parts of Trump’s Muslim ban executive order are being held up by legal challenges, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered “mandatory social media checks” on visa applicants who have ever spent time in territory controlled by ISIS. He also directed embassies and diplomatic missions to identify other “populations warranting increased scrutiny,” whose visas would receive increased scrutiny.

Amnesty International sent a letter to the State Department, requesting that the memoranda and instructions related to the new measures be made public. “These implementation memos should be disclosed because they are a matter of public concern,” the letter reads. “Thousands of people apply for visas to travel to the United States—for urgently needed medical care, to escape persecution, to reunite with their families.”

Naureen Shah, a director at Amnesty International, told The Intercept that if the directive is applied with limited oversight, it could even further broaden Trump’s Muslim ban.

“This is a plan to go beyond the letter of the executive order in ways that the public doesn’t have notice of, and Congress doesn’t either,” she said.

“I read these in the context of an executive order that is premised on the notion that people are presumptively dangerous based on who they are – not on what they’ve done,” said Shah. “I’m not saying that the officials are going to act on that, but that’s implicit here in what’s coming from the State Department at the highest level.”

Shah also expressed concern that the social media vetting will allow the State Department to bar admission to people because they have expressed certain political viewpoints. “The first thing that occurred to me when I read the Reuters story was that this could enable the Trump administration to block people from entering the country who had been on the ground in Iraq and Syria, people like our researchers.

“There are people who have done this work, who have travelled in ISIS-controlled territory, that come into the United States because they have something to say. They have information to provide. It puts such huge amounts of discretion in the hands of these officials based on the presumption that people are dangerous because they’ve been there. We’re really worried about the ways that could be used.”

The U.S. has a long history of banning entry to people based on ideology. At the height of McCarthyism, Congress passed a law allowing the State Department to ban anyone who acted “prejudicial to the public interest.” The law was promptly used to bar entry to leftist novels, poets, writers, and activists. The government even used the law to block Pierre Trudeau – who would go on to become the Canadian prime minister decades later.

Similarly, the Patriot Act — passed in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks — allows the State Department to ban anyone who it determines “undermines the United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities.” Under Presidents Bush and Obama, that led to blocking of visas for anti-Apartheid academic Adam Habib, Greek economist John Milios, and hip-hop artist M.I.A.

The Bush administration in 2004 denied entry to Tariq Ramadan – an internationally-renowned professor of Islamic studies and Iraq War critic. The ACLU filed suit on his behalf  and won, after the government failed to show a connect to terrorism. But the court, not ruling on whether the law is unconstitutional, did not strike down the law.

Top Photo: The Facebook logo is reflected in the eye of a girl surfing the internet in 2008 in London.

The post Activists Worry That Social Media Vetting of Visa Applicants Could Quietly Expand Trump’s Muslim Ban appeared first on The Intercept.

Reporters Uncritically Repeat Trump Administration Claims on Laptop Ban

23 March 2017 - 4:26pm

Prominent members of the elite Washington journalism community are publicly grappling with how to respond to the Trump administration’s lack of credibility, but when it comes to terror threats, the mainstream media is still breathlessly passing along unsupported statements from anonymous official sources, asking for no evidence and demanding no accountability

The Trump administration’s Muslim laptop ban — new restrictions on bringing laptops and other large electronic devices aboard planes leaving from 10 different airports in eight Muslim-majority countries — has now been justified several times in several different ways, with those justifications accepted on face value by credulous reporters.

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security put out a Q&A about the ban that cited a recent “trend” of bombings of airplanes in Egypt and Somalia. (Mogadishu airport, the point of entry for the 2016 laptop bomb cited as an example, is not covered by the Trump administration’s restrictions.)

This narrative was repeated in an Associated Press story published on Tuesday, which also summarized the view of unnamed U.S. officials saying that the “decision to bar laptops and tablets from the cabins of some international flights wasn’t based on any specific threat but on longstanding concerns about terrorists targeting jetliners.”

On Tuesday evening, the narrative changed, and the media dutifully followed. The Daily Beast, citing “three intelligence sources,” claimed that the Muslim laptop ban was prompted by intelligence recovered following a U.S. military raid on an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) camp in Yemen in January. The sources claimed that the raid yielded intelligence that al Qaeda was developing small bombs that can fit inside laptops and must be manually activated, thus the ban on laptops in airplane cabins.

But the outcome of the raid in Yemen — which cost the lives of dozens of Yemeni civilians and a Navy SEAL — has become a highly politically charged issue. President Trump used his address to Congress to claim that it “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy.” Anonymous officials asserted that that there was no intelligence produced. Trump presented no evidence to support his position; Iona Craig, reporting for The Intercept from the village that was destroyed in the raid, found evidence to the contrary.

So Trump loyalists had an obvious, overt political motive to claim that the raid produced useful intelligence — and reporters had every reason to be skeptical.

The New York Times then reported that four anonymous U.S. officials told Times reporters that the ban was prompted by intelligence showing that ISIS, not AQAP, is developing bombs that can be hidden in portable electronic devices. In that story, the raid in Yemen is not cited as justification.

That makes three different and distinct sets of justifications provided by the Trump administration in one day — all relayed by reporters with little skepticism.

CNN informed viewers on Tuesday night that “tonight sources tell CNN the electronic ban was not prompted by a specific plot, but in part by new intelligence. A U.S. official tells CNN that al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen was perfecting techniques for hiding explosives in the batteries of electronic devices. The information was obtained over recent weeks and months.” 

CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo noted on Wednesday that “sources … have said that information they picked up in the Yemen raid a while back indicated that AQAP bomb-makers have been training others to replicate the attack that was made on the plane one year ago,” presumably referring to the attempted 2016 Somalia airliner bombing.

Meanwhile, NBC’s Ken Dilanian on Wednesday reported that his sources, two anonymous intelligence officials, told him that there was no connection between the laptop ban and the raid in Yemen.

NBC’s Early Today told viewers on Thursday that “a senior law enforcement official tells NBC News ISIS may be getting help from al Qaeda, a disturbing development following the new electronics ban. It affects flights into the U.S. from eight majority-Muslim countries, and was ordered after intelligence discovered ISIS operatives sought to plant explosives in laptops and other electronics.” A moment later, the network offered a caveat: “Calling the intelligence ‘extremely sensitive,’ intelligence officials would not confirm if ISIS was developing an explosive that could be hidden in a laptop.”

What all these stories have in common is not only their competing claims from anonymous officials, but a lack of any tangible evidence to support them.

This media regurgitation of anonymous government official claims comes even after the Trump administration has repeatedly and deliberately misled Americans on a wide variety of issues — ranging from the number of people who attended President Trump’s inauguration to the bombastic false claim that former President Obama personally wiretapped Trump.

In fact it’s possible that all of those anonymous officials were wrong — and that the laptop ban had nothing to do with security at all. It could simply be a protectionist scheme concocted by Trump to ingratiate himself to the CEOs of the U.S. airlines who have long complained that Gulf-based air carriers are unfairly subsidized by their national governments.

Top photo: TSA officers inspect airline passengers at Lambert St. Louis International Airport in 2016.

The post Reporters Uncritically Repeat Trump Administration Claims on Laptop Ban appeared first on The Intercept.

Senate Republicans Just Sold You Out to Advertisers

23 March 2017 - 4:20pm

In a 50-to-48 vote along party lines, the U.S. Senate decided to kill FCC rules blocking your ISP from selling your browsing history to the advertising industry without permission. Should the change pass the House, as is expected, the likes of Comcast and Verizon will be able to make money disclosing what you buy, where you browse, and what you search from your own home, all without asking permission.

In an immediate signal that the vote will only benefit monied corporate interests and not the roughly 70 percent of Americans with a home broadband connection, the Internet & Television Association trade group gloated over their congressional victory:

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

It’s unclear how the broadband industry could be “committed” to user privacy while backing regulatory changes that would permit the sale of users’ private data. NCTA spokesperson Joy Sims returned a request for comment and explanation with a link to an unrelated section of the NCTA website. The Electronic Frontier Foundation decried the vote as putting “ISP profits over your privacy” and a potential “crushing loss for online privacy”:

ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn’t be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent.

The EFF further warned that without the FCC protections, ISPs would not only be able to commodify your browser history, but “[hijack] their customers’ search queries and [redirect] them to a place customers hadn’t asked for” and “inject ads into your traffic based on your browsing history.” Should Republicans succeed in dismantling the Obama-era rules through this action sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, the FCC would be barred from ever reestablishing such consumer protections in the future.

The post Senate Republicans Just Sold You Out to Advertisers appeared first on The Intercept.

Sérgio Moro quebrou sigilo telefônico de Eduardo Guimarães antes de ordenar condução coercitiva

23 March 2017 - 4:16pm

O sigilo telefônico do jornalista Eduardo Guimarães foi quebrado pela força-tarefa da Lava Jato para revelar a fonte que vazou a ele dados sigilosos sobre a ação da PF contra Lula, em março de 2016. Guimarães foi levado coercitivamente para depor na superintendência da Polícia Federal, na terça-feira (21). A revelação foi feita numa decisão do Moro em que levantou o sigilo sobre o caso.

A ação quebra o direito de sigilo de fonte, um direito garantido pela Constituição ao exercício do jornalismo. Moro argumentou que Guimarães não é jornalista para justificar a quebra de sigilo. Em sua decisão ele voltou atrás, porém, o direito de Guimarães já havia sido violado.

A ação é um típico ataque à liberdade de imprensa pelo Estado, e ações similares já tinham sido veementemente criticadas por jornalistas e ONGs como a Repórteres Sem Fronteiras.

Trecho da decisão de Sérgio Moro.

De acordo com o inquérito, a que The Intercept Brasil teve acesso, a fonte soube antecipadamente da operação contra Lula por meio de uma servidora da Receita Federal. Para chegar até ela, os agentes listaram todas as pessoas que tiveram acesso à decisão judicial sigilosa que determinou a ação coercitiva contra Lula.

Para os agentes, a motivação do vazamento poderia ter residido em alguma espécie de simpatia ou alinhamento à posição ideológica do ex-presidente, “circunstância que faria um agente em posse de uma ordem que restringia, a partir de decisão judicial devidamente fundamentada, o direito ao sigilo bancário e fiscal de Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, vir a torná-la pública, de maneira criminosa, com a intenção de que isso auxiliasse o investigado a se defender, ocultar e até mesmo destruir provas que pudessem lhe incriminar”.

Com base em tais premissas, os agentes chegaram até a auditora fiscal da Receita Federal Rosicler Veigel através de um fato sui generis: nas redes sociais, ela era seguidora do escritor Fernando Morais – segundo a ação, “jornalista e político, induscutível (sic) crítico deste Juízo e da OPERAÇÃO LAVAJATO e aliado ideologicamente a LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA”.

O inquérito incluiu, assim, postagens de Fernando Morais, parte delas crítica ao juiz Sérgio Moro – como, por exemplo, uma capa da revista CartaCapital – para embasar as suspeitas.

“Sem adentrar no mérito das convicções de FERNANDO GOMES DE MORAIS – afinal, isto, por si só, não guardou qualquer pertinência para esta investigação –, é notório que muitas de suas externalizações são feitas de maneira desrespeitosas para com as instituições e as autoridades públicas envolvidas na condução da assim denominada OPERAÇÃO LAVAJATO”, diz o inquérito.

Com a servidora na mira, a força-tarefa encontrou a ligação dela com a fonte de Guimarães alegada pelo inquérito, identificada como Francisco José de Abreu Duarte – cujas postagens e curtidas em publicações pró-PT foram consideradas relevantes para as investigações.

Os agentes concluíram que Abreu Duarte, em posse de informações sigilosas indevidamente violadas por Rosicler Veigel, “deliberadamente e com finalidade de embaraçar as investigações contra Lula, transmitiu o conteúdo da decisão”.

“O mero fato de alguém ser titular de um blog na internet não o transforma em jornalista automaticamente.” – Sérgio Moro

Para chegar a essa conclusão, porém, tiraram do blogueiro o direito ao sigilo de fonte, a base das contestações do mandado de busca, apreensão e ação coercitiva assinado por Sergio Moro, e cumprido pela PF na terça-feira (21), quase um ano após o vazamento dos dados da operação.

Após a polêmica, Moro assinou um despacho, nesta quinta-feira 23, dizendo não desconhecer que a profissão de jornalista possa ser exercida sem diploma de curso superior na área:

“Entretanto, o mero fato de alguém ser titular de um blog na internet não o transforma em jornalista automaticamente. No caso, a avaliação do conteúdo do blog, contendo inclusive propaganda político­-partidária, como banner para campanha do próprio titular do blog para vereador em São Paulo pelo PCdoB, levou à conclusão de que, como o conteúdo do blog não seria eminentemente jornalístico, então o investigado Carlos Eduardo Cairo Guimarães não exerceria a profissão de jornalista, utilizando o blog somente para permitir exercício de sua própria liberdade de expressão e veicular propaganda político partidária.”

Para Moro, embora a liberdade de expressão e as preferências partidárias devam ser respeitadas, elas não abrangem sigilo de fonte.

No despacho, Moro diz ainda que Guimarães, ao chegar à superintendência da PF, revelou de pronto o nome da fonte, conduta considerada por ele “distante ao profissional do jornalismo”. “Um verdadeiro jornalista não revelaria jamais sua fonte”, julgou.

Segundo Moro, entretanto, o objetivo da investigação não era propriamente o de identificar a fonte da informação do blog, “mas sim, principalmente, apurar se de fato o seu titular havia comunicado a decisão aos investigados previamente à própria divulgação no blog e a à diligência de busca e apreensão”.

Criticado por supostamente obrigar o blogueiro a revelar sua fonte, o magistrado disse não ter intenção de colocar em risco a liberdade e o sigilo de fonte. “É o caso de rever o posicionamento anterior e melhor delimitar o objeto do processo”, disse.

Determinou, assim, o prosseguimento da investigação em relação às condutas de violação do sigilo funcional pela funcionária pública – e, após todo o embaraço, mandou excluir do processo e do resultado das quebras de sigilo de dados, sigilo telemático e de busca e apreensão de Eduardo Guimarães, qualquer elemento probatório relativo à identificação da fonte da informação. “Caso demonstrado que também Francisco José de Abreu Duarte exercia a profissão de jornalista, estenderei tal exclusão a ele”, reiterou.

The post Sérgio Moro quebrou sigilo telefônico de Eduardo Guimarães antes de ordenar condução coercitiva appeared first on The Intercept.

Traições em votação de projeto de terceirização preocupam o Planalto

23 March 2017 - 2:50pm

O placar que confirmou a aprovação do projeto que permite a terceirização sem restrições nas empresas (231 votos favoráveis, 188 contra e 8 abstenções), demonstra que o governo terá dificuldade para aprovar as reformas Trabalhista e da Previdência no plenário da Câmara dos Deputados. Nos bastidores, a avaliação é que o total de votos desprendidos na terceirização compromete especialmente a aprovação da Reforma da Previdência, que já mobiliza a sociedade em protestos contrários a ela.

Isso porque, para que se aprove um projeto de lei, como é o projeto da terceirização, é preciso uma maioria simples, ou seja, os votos favoráveis da maioria dos presentes no plenário. Nos casos de emenda à Constituição (PEC), caso das duas reformas, a votação ocorre em dois turnos e, em cada um deles, são necessários votos de 3/5 dos deputados  (308 votos, 77 votos a menos do que os que aprovaram o projeto de terceirização).

Levantamento feito pelo site Congresso em Foco sobre a votação de ontem evidencia o tamanho da resistência não só na oposição, mas também na base do governo: dono da maior bancada da Câmara, com 64 deputados, o PMDB teve apenas 33 votos para aprovar a proposta. O PSDB, tido como fiel da balança, cedeu apenas 68% dos votos, ou seja, dos 43 parlamentares da bancada presentes, 11 votaram contra. No Democratas, o racha também foi expressivo: dos 25 presentes, 7 votaram contra e 2 se abstiveram de votar.

Atenção: Camara aprova projeto que regulamenta terceirização no Brasil. Placar: 231 x 188. Veja como votou cada parlamentar: pic.twitter.com/VjXnQpNaK2

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) March 22, 2017

 

No The Intercept Brasil, noticiamos a manobra que envolvia o presidente da Câmara, Rodrigo Maia, e o Palácio do Planalto, para que a proposta de terceirização fosse aprovada ainda esta semana na Câmara. Pelo visto, faltou articulação política.

Para o deputado e líder do Solidariedade, Áureo Ribeiro (RJ), o governo precisa manter abertos os canais de diálogo com o Congresso, para que não seja surpreendido novamente, como ocorreu com os votos na terceirização. “Em relação à Reforma da Previdência, nós do Solidariedade apresentamos uma alternativa a alguns pontos, porque da forma que está não passa. Idade de 60 anos para homens e 58 para mulheres, além de uma taxa de transição de 30% para todos”, afirmou.

A deputada Maria do Rosário (PT/RS) avalia que, “quanto mais próximo estiver da eleição [2018], mais força terão as mobilizações contra as reformas do governo”. Segundo ela, “a base do governo prometeu, mas na hora H não deu os votos” ontem à noite. “A pressão da sociedade foi essencial para essa mudança de postura dos parlamentares”, disse a deputada.

De acordo com Rosário, a votação da terceirização é um segundo marco que evidencia um provável enfraquecimento do governo. “A primeira derrota ocorreu ao final do ano passado, após o governo perder na discussão das renegociação da dívida dos estados. Naquela época, o projeto passou sem as contrapartidas que o Planalto queria”, contou. “Agora, o que está no radar do Planalto é a Reforma da Previdência. Com a quantidade de votos que teve ontem, Temer não conseguirá aprová-la”.

A quantidade de votos recebida no projeto, abaixo do esperado pelo Planalto, justifica-se em dois eixos centrais. O primeiro é o próprio governo, que detém o poder de oferecer cargos em troca de votos, mas não conseguiu obter a fidelidade de sua base de apoio (houve deputados que prometeram, mas não votaram). O segundo é a pressão da sociedade, que em ano pré-eleitoral inibe os deputados, receosos de ter que explicar para o povo como estão se posicionando em matérias polêmicas. Desconfiados, alguns políticos migraram para o lado da pressão popular.

Governo recua para assegurar reforma

Definida inicialmente pelo Planalto como uma proposta imexível, a Reforma da Previdência já sofreu diversas baixas desde que foi enviada ao Congresso em dezembro do ano passado. Primeiro, o governo decidiu excluir os militares das Forças Armadas, bombeiros e policiais militares das regras propostas. Esta semana, Temer recuou mais uma vez e excluiu servidores estaduais e municipais do projeto.

Pelo andar da carruagem, de recuo em recuo a reforma da Previdência terminará tão desconfigurada que sairá do Congresso mais capenga do que chegou. No meio desse fogo cruzado, grande parte dos políticos priorizou no dia de ontem ir até ao enterro, mas não se jogar à cova.

The post Traições em votação de projeto de terceirização preocupam o Planalto appeared first on The Intercept.

Terceirização é elogiada por empresários, mas o que o trabalhador acha disso?

23 March 2017 - 2:08pm

Enquanto a opinião pública ainda debatia a Operação Carne Fraca, o Congresso votou e aprovou na noite de ontem a terceirização ampla em todas as atividades das empresas privadas e alguns setores das estatais. O que se viu foi uma manobra do presidente da Câmara, Rodrigo Maia, em sintonia com Michel Temer e empresários.

De acordo com o texto do PL 4302, que tramitava no Congresso desde o governo Fernando Henrique Cardoso, os trabalhadores terceirizados não têm nenhum tipo de vínculo com a empresa para qual prestam serviço. Outra mudança importante, diz respeito aos contratos temporários, que passam a ser de seis meses, podendo ser estendidos por mais três.

 

Federações, sindicatos patronais e entidades como o Sebrae comemoram o resultado da votação. Os apoiadores do projeto acreditam que haverá um aumento da produtividade e uma facilitação na contratação de trabalhadores temporários.

Os comentários dos nossos leitores mostram que os trabalhadores não nutrem o mesmo sentimento dos empresários.

Henrique Junior

É uma desgraça em qualquer lugar do mundo. Sou funcionário terceirizado numa empresa de informática na Irlanda e não vejo nenhuma vantagem. A terceirização só beneficia as empresas que contratam o serviço e a que presta o serviço. Os salários são mais baixos para o mesmo tipo de função, os direitos não são os mesmos e, se eu for tratado mal na empresa que eu trabalho, nem o RH eu posso acionar pois sou funcionário terceirizado

Érika

Sou advogada trabalhista, sei bem os prejuízos que a geração que está entrando no mercado de trabalho vai amargar pelo resto de suas vidas, com salários baixíssimos, sem a garantia de seus créditos trabalhistas (FGTS, férias, 13º), posto que as empresas com patrimônios, irão terceirizar tudo, e a empresa contratada não terá patrimônio a garantir os trabalhadores.

Braúlio

Quando vi que a mídia batia na “carne fraca” até sair sangue sabia que estavam aboiando, ou seja, tocando a boiada para um rumo só [hoje se diz, focar, não é? focar de foco ou foca?], enquanto isso… o Moraes foi empossado no STF, o Eduardo levado “coercitivamente” para prestar depoimento etc.

Marcia Pacheco Chaves

Vejam a lista e guardem bem esses nomes e partidos para se lembrar nas próximas eleições de quem votou contra os seus interesses, condenando os trabalhadores ao retrocesso.

Junior Remoli

Direitos Trabalhistas, Previdenciários e Educacionais sendo suprimidos pelos deputados! Segundo Dieese, trabalhador ganhará 25% menos.

Pedro Geber

Terceirização sem debate com o trabalhador e com a conivência da grande imprensa, que se manteve quieta até a aprovação.

João Alberto

Este projeto visa acabar com o funcionalismo público e voltar a antes da constituição. Cabides de emprego.

 

E, você, trabalhador? O que acha das mudanças da lei da terceirização?

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Video: Tijuana Is a Hub of Exile and Hope for Deportees and Migrants

23 March 2017 - 10:47am

Video produced with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a journalism nonprofit covering economic inequality in America.

Tijuana is an international city. It doesn’t enjoy the prestige of rich global hubs like New York, London, or Hong Kong, but like them, it is shaped by the aspirations of people who travel to it from cities, villages, and countries hundreds or thousands of miles away. It is rarely, however, the intended destination. For those headed north from Mexico, Central and South America, it is a point of entry — in many cases, a foiled one. For those who have been deported from the other side of the border fence, it is a site of exile. Tijuana is less a place where people go to live than a place where people end up.

Every night, deportees arrive there from the United States by the dozens. There are Americans everywhere, even if they don’t have documents from the U.S. government; one Mexican university graduate told us that the street sweeper spoke better English than she did. People forced to seek refuge in Tijuana find an infrastructure of support awaiting them to assist in their survival and their transition into their new, unwanted lives. In the shelters, they mix with migrants trying to make the journey in reverse, filled with hope and desperation. In recent years, many of these arrivals have come from Haiti, by way of Brazil. You can now hear Creole in the streets, and eat Haitian fried chicken — “poul fri” — for lunch alongside your tacos and pupusas.

With such a vast displaced population, Tijuana is a place where people who did not intend to live there learn to become a community.

The post Video: Tijuana Is a Hub of Exile and Hope for Deportees and Migrants appeared first on The Intercept.

The Life and Death Issue Ignored at Judge Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearings

23 March 2017 - 10:07am

As Donald Trump stood in the East Room of the White House on January 31, congratulating himself for delivering “the very best judge in the country” for the U.S. Supreme Court, a man in Missouri was lying on a gurney, with lethal injection drugs entering his veins. The man, 37-year-old Mark Christeson, was declared dead minutes later, at 7:05 Central time. In Washington, Trump continued to speak, with Judge Neil Gorsuch and his wife now standing behind him. With much of the country tuned in to watch Trump’s much-hyped announcement that night, the execution in Missouri flew under the radar.

Convicted of a brutal rape and triple murder committed in 1998, Christeson was not someone likely to inspire widespread concern on any given evening. Yet his execution was a reminder of the kinds of cases Gorsuch would review if confirmed to the Supreme Court. Christeson — a lifelong victim of sexual abuse whose IQ hovered as low as 74 — was abandoned by his own post-conviction attorneys, who missed a crucial deadline to file his federal habeas appeal in 2005. When outside lawyers tried to step in to correct their gross neglect, courts blocked them at every turn. As Christeson’s execution approached, a group of former state and federal judges raised alarm about his case, filing multiple amicus briefs to his petitions before the Supreme Court. They warned that Christeson had received no “meaningful federal review” of his sentence. “When the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the legitimacy of the judicial process,” the judges wrote. Christeson won a last-minute stay of execution in 2014, with the justices remanding his case back to the lower court. But the reprieve was fleeting. As with many on death row who turn to the Supreme Court for relief, Christeson was ultimately executed, the deep flaws with his case barely addressed, let alone corrected.

Over two long days before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, Gorsuch was never asked his views on the death penalty. More time was spent discussing fly-fishing and rodeos, along with more serious (if redundant) questioning on life and death issues like abortion and euthanasia. This was not particularly surprising; confirmation hearings are mostly political theater — and Gorsuch’s record on criminal justice has stirred little controversy compared to other hot-button issues. Many lawyers and experts expressed a measure of relief when Trump announced Gorsuch as his Supreme Court pick. “I don’t think he’s a fire-breathing, law and order, pro-prosecutor guy,” said Tejinder Singh, the appellate and Supreme Court litigator who won a stay of execution for Mark Christeson in 2014.

Yet Gorsuch seeks to join the Supreme Court at a time when the death penalty is in a state of chaos and decline. The issue has sparked some of the most contentious public moments on the bench in recent memory, and with good reason. For all the layers of legal precedent enveloping capital punishment, it is a tradition that has become increasingly hard to uphold, at least in any intellectually honest way. The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on lethal injection, Glossip v. Gross, was simply embarrassing: After a heated oral argument in which the Oklahoma brazenly misled the justices, the 5-4 decision upheld an execution protocol that is the sloppiest of inventions, rooted in junk science, and peddled by a state notorious at the time for having recently carried out a dramatically botched execution. Glossip’s legacy has been short but grim. Oklahoma’s incompetence and deceit has been further exposed. Botched executions have continued apace. More surreal, the ruling has put people challenging their upcoming execution by lethal injection in the perverse position of having to propose better ways for the state to kill them, from the firing squad to the gas chamber. Add to this the fact that the named plaintiff in the case, Richard Glossip, is almost certainly an innocent man, and the result is a perfectly hideous portrait of our modern-day death penalty system. It was Glossip that inspired Justice Stephen Breyer’s extraordinary dissent listing the myriad the death penalty itself is constitutionally intolerable. More recently, Justice Sonia Sotomayor has questioned whether lethal injection is “our most cruel experiment yet.”

Glossip came up just once during Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, in a brief question from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Does Glossip deserve the respect of precedent, he asked? “It does,” Gorsuch said, and that was it. That no senator thought to probe any further was a missed opportunity. In his 10 years serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch presided over cases that embodied the pitfalls of capital punishment, and even helped pave the way for Glossip. A recent report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund highlighted two particular areas of concern. One is his complicity in upholding Oklahoma’s disastrous lethal injection regimen, which became the law of the land in Glossip. And the other is complicity in a more systemic problem throughout the criminal justice system: a pattern of favoring finality over fairness. Gorsuch, the LDF warns, has proven all too willing to apply the most rigid barriers for those seeking to challenge unfair sentences, including in capital cases. “Winning federal habeas relief from any judge is a challenge,” the LDF report notes. “Winning federal habeas relief from Judge Gorsuch is a near impossibility.”

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch arrives for a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 2, 2017.

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

It would be unfair to hold Gorsuch individually responsible for the death penalty debacles in Oklahoma. Plenty of others have contributed more to the state’s reputation for dysfunction, deceit, and cruelty in carrying out capital punishment. Yet as a 10th Circuit judge, Gorsuch joined important decisions in Oklahoma cases that showed “a disturbing lack of concern about extreme and needless pain and suffering” during executions, in the words of the LDF report.

In 2014, Oklahoma famously tortured a man named Clayton Lockett to death. Witnesses to his execution described how he writhed in agony during the bloody ordeal; one official compared it to a horror film. The state hastily revised its lethal injection protocol, then swiftly assigned new execution dates to four men on Oklahoma’s death row. The men challenged the state’s new lethal injection formula, arguing that it put them at risk of “severe pain, needless suffering, and a lingering death,” in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

At the center of their argument was midazolam, the first in the three-drug cocktail used to kill Lockett. The drug had replaced the barbiturate sodium thiopental, relied upon for decades by death penalty states. Sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, was traditionally followed by a paralytic agent, in Oklahoma’s case, vecuronium bromide, and then potassium chloride, which caused cardiac arrest. But sodium thiopental had became unavailable years before, in part due to an international anti-death penalty campaign to cut off supplies. States rushed to find a replacement, tinkering with their formulas. For those hoping to mimic the traditional three-drug cocktail, midazolam eventually became the drug of choice. The problem was that midazolam, a benzodiazipane, was primarily an anxiety medication. Pharmacologists warned that its ceiling effect meant that upping the dosage, as Oklahoma did in its revised protocol, made no practical difference; it could not ensure a person would remain unconscious over the course of an execution. As the other drugs took hold, the result would be an excruciating death, a person would be paralyzed, while suffering a sensation akin to being burned alive.

Yet Oklahoma forged ahead. Like many states, it turned to dubious pharmaceutical sources for its drug supplies, while insisting that the origins of its execution drugs must be kept secret. Seeking an injunction from a District Court before his scheduled execution in early 2015, Charles Warner and his fellow death row plaintiffs argued that “by attempting to conduct executions with an ever-changing array of untried drugs of unknown provenance,” the state was pursuing “a program of biological experimentation on captive and unwilling human subjects.”

The District Court denied the challenge. On January 12, 2015, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court affirmed, rejecting an emergency motion that would have stayed Warner’s execution. Judge Gorsuch joined the decision. Warner was executed three days later. Witnesses reported his last words were “my body is on fire.”

In a cruel twist, Warner had sought a stay from the Supreme Court on the night he was killed, but was rejected, 5-4. In a dissent, Justice Sotomayor criticized the denial, pointing out that the justices were poised to take up the legal challenge to Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. “I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions,” she wrote. Indeed, just days later, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case, too late to spare Warner’s life. A man named Richard Glossip was now the named plaintiff.

Oral arguments in Glossip v. Gross took place on April 29, 2015. They were ugly and heated. Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia railed against anti-death penalty activists for making it harder for states to get better execution drugs. Justice Sotomayor interrupted the Oklahoma solicitor general to say she was “substantially disturbed” by his claims about midazolam’s effectiveness, for which she found zero supporting evidence. The drug had clearly been chosen for its availability rather than its efficacy; state experts used sources like Drugs.com, a website that warns it is “not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.” An amicus brief from 16 pharmacologists warned the justices that midazolam was not capable of rendering a person unconscious for the purpose of execution. And a key piece of evidence submitted by the state to explain why it chose midazolam was later proved to be false. Nevertheless, in June 2015, the Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma’s protocol, 5-4. Justice Alito authored the opinion, with the circular reasoning that, because the Supreme Court has held the death penalty to be constitutional, there must be a method to carry it out. In her dissent, Sotomayor disagreed. A state “does not get a constitutional free pass simply because it desires to deliver the ultimate penalty,” she wrote. “Its ends do not justify any and all means.”

In a perverse postscript to the legal saga over midazolam, autopsy records would later reveal that Oklahoma killed Charles Warner using the wrong drug, a discovery made public only after Oklahoma came close to doing the same with Richard Glossip later that year. Executions have been on hold in the state ever since. Judge Gorsuch may be a bit player in this sorry legal episode, but that does not entirely excuse him.

In fact, Gorsuch had an opportunity to weigh in on the mess in 2016, when a lawsuit brought by the family of Clayton Lockett came before the 10th Circuit. As BuzzFeed noted after Trump announced his nomination, Gorsuch joined the panel of judges who rejected the suit, dismissing the botched execution as an “innocent misadventure.” Legal experts pointed out that the phrase, while stunningly callous in context, is nonetheless specific to Supreme Court precedent dating back to 1947, which essentially holds that since executions inevitably go wrong from time to time, individual cases of botched executions do not violate the Eighth Amendment. Such an age-old concept could hardly be blamed on Gorsuch. Nor could a judge so loyal to legal precedent flout the holding.

Yet if joining the majority did not distinguish Gorsuch as uniquely craven or cold, nor did it prove him particularly brave or independent. Other decisions have inspired reflection in Gorsuch. He is hailed for thoughtful opinions; he once wrote a concurrence to a ruling he authored himself, a fact brought up repeatedly during his confirmation hearings. Yet he had nothing to say about Lockett’s torturous death. His was simply a vote for the status quo — a measure of how normalized such cruelty has become.

The ruling that spawned the notion of a botched execution as an “innocent misadventure” shows us how long states have been torturing condemned people to death, then using the law to explain it away. It came from Louisiana, circa 1946, when a black teenager named Willie Francis survived an attempt by prison officials to kill him in the electric chair. A book on the case recounts how witnesses heard Francis scream, “I am n-n-not dying!” as the current failed to kill him. Francis was removed from the chair and successfully executed several days later. The Supreme Court dismissed his ordeal; today it is a legal footnote. Almost 50 years later, in Baze v. Rees, Chief Justice John Roberts cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1947 case to uphold lethal injection.

Like Scalia, the man he was picked to replace, Gorsuch is described as a textualist, a judge who strictly abides by the law as it is written. “I will apply the law,” Gorsuch often intoned during his confirmation hearings this week. Legal precedent is so precious to Gorsuch, he wrote an 800-page book on the subject, joking repeatedly that  it “makes a great doorstop.”

Staunch adherence to precedent is rarely good news for people facing execution, whose challenges can be easily waved away on procedural grounds, even when the facts of their case are objectively egregious. “As it is now, in capital cases, prisoners have a heavy lift if a case makes its way to the Supreme Court,” says Assistant Federal Defender Dale Baich, who has litigated the lethal injection issues in Oklahoma. “I would expect Gorsuch to carefully follow precedent. At the same time, I have to believe that if he sees a constitutional violation, he will call out the government for its conduct.”

Around the same time that the controversies over lethal injection were playing out in Oklahoma, Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in a capital case called Eizember v. Trammell. The plaintiff, Scott Eizember, had challenged his sentence based on evidence that his jury had been unfairly biased in favor of his execution from the start, an argument rejected by a lower court. While acknowledging that his concerns were “hardly trivial,” Gorsuch rejected Eizember’s argument. As one recent summary of the ruling notes, “Gorsuch’s opinion hinged mostly on the simple question of whether his court could second-guess the state court’s decision.”

At the heart of this question was the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, otherwise known as AEDPA. Signed in 1996 by Bill Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the sweeping legislation severely curtailed the rights of people in prison to challenge their sentences. It imposed a strict one-year deadline on federal habeas petitions, while barring successive petitions, with very few exceptions. More significantly, AEDPA shifted the balance of power in the judiciary, demanding far more deference from federal judges to state court rulings.

Under AEDPA, petitioners are not entitled to habeas relief unless they can show that a state court decision was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,” or “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.” This is an exceedingly high bar, one Gorsuch has a habit of emphasizing. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly reminded us that ‘AEDPA’s requirements reflect a “presumption that state courts know and follow the law,”’ he wrote in Eizember, replying to a dissenting judge. “This presumption demands that federal judges ‘afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong.’”

AEDPA has been especially devastating for the wrongfully convicted. “I suspect that there may well have been innocent people who were executed because of the absence of habeas corpus,” former D.C. Circuit Judge Abner Mikva told me last year, recalling his days in the Clinton White House, where he tried to stop efforts at “habeas reform” that would culminate in AEDPA. This danger has proven all too real in Oklahoma, where Richard Glossip has faced the execution chamber multiple times. Gorsuch is among the judges who have rejected Glossip’s appeals, in a ruling peppered with AEDPA citations. It is cases like Glossip’s that have prompted 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski to call AEDPA “cruel,” complaining that the deference it demands from federal courts leaves egregious miscarriages of justice uncorrected. “We now regularly have to stand by in impotent silence, even though it may appear to us that an innocent person has been convicted,” he wrote in 2015.

It is true that AEDPA’s language leaves little freedom of interpretation. But there are judges who “take it a little too far,” says Singh, the lawyer who represented Mark Christeson, the man executed on the night Gorsuch’s nomination was announced. Some judges see AEDPA as meaning that “nobody ever gets relief, ever,” Singh says. “But to be fair, if someone was reading the statute faithfully, they would take a pretty harsh view of most death penalty cases.”

Gorsuch has adhered loyally to AEDPA in capital and non-capital cases alike. While he insists that he is merely being faithful to federal statute, a law review article published days before his nomination probed a highly technical case, Prost v. Johnson, to show how Gorsuch used AEDPA to sidestep the “difficult interpretive questions” that arise in cases during post-conviction review. The result was a decision that “overvalues proceduralism relative to substantive rights in a way that will have the effect of eroding litigants’ access to courts.”

Gorsuch’s habeas decisions are heavily criticized in a report by the Alliance for Justice, which has vehemently opposed his nomination. It provides several examples, including a number of instances where he dissented from majority opinions finding ineffective assistance of counsel. In Wilson v. Workman, a man on death row argued that his defense attorney failed to present evidence of his mental problems; the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied an evidentiary hearing, along with his claim of ineffective assistance. In an en banc ruling, the 10th Circuit found that the state court was wrong, and that it did not merit the deference afforded by AEDPA. Gorsuch disagreed. “This case requires us to interpret the words of a federal statute,” he wrote in his dissent. “That statute says writs of habeas corpus ‘shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings’ unless the state court’s decision is contrary to a Supreme Court precedent, or unless it rests on an unreasonable application of the court’s cases or an unreasonable reading of the facts before it. … This language seemingly brooks no exception.”

Gorsuch’s handling of such cases came up briefly on Tuesday, in an exchange with Sen. Dick Durbin. “Have you ever written an opinion finding that a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated?” Durbin asked. “Oh, I’m sure I have, senator,” Gorsuch replied. In fact, Durbin said, citing an article from the Stanford Law Review, out of 52 cases in which there was a question of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights, Gorsuch found no violations. In fairness to Gorsuch, Durbin was incorrect: the article actually cites two cases where Gorsuch granted relief in opinions he authored. Durbin “slightly misstated the findings of our article,” one of the authors wrote in an email, noting that one of the cases involved ineffective assistance specifically, while another touched on a different part of the Sixth Amendment.

Nevertheless, the article concludes that if Gorsuch is confirmed, criminal defendants with Sixth Amendment claims “can fairly expect an uphill battle to win his vote.” Durbin brought up the the example Williams v. Jones, in which a prosecutor offered a defendant a plea deal in a second-degree murder case. The defense attorney threatened to quit if his client took the deal, absurdly claiming that he would be committing perjury by pleading guilty. The defendant was tried, convicted, and given life without parole. After his sentenced was reduced to life with the possibility of parole on direct appeal, the defendant turned to the 10th Circuit, which found that he was entitled to further relief. “You were the lone dissent,” Durbin told Gorsuch.

At one point in his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch was lauded for his capital habeas work, suggesting that he is invested in addressing the problem of bad lawyering in death penalty cases. Yet as a judge, his rare findings of error in such cases have been generally followed by the conclusion that the error was ultimately harmless. This tendency among judges is dramatized in the case of Mark Christeson — “a very, very vivid illustration of some deeply seeded problems with death penalty defense,” as Singh said. Among the few safeguards built into AEDPA was the assurance that people like him would get post-conviction attorneys to navigate the law’s myriad provisions. Yet many lawyers have not been up to the task. Christeson’s court-appointed lawyers missed the AEDPA deadline by 117 days. When his federal habeas petition was inevitably dismissed as untimely, the attorneys did not bother to tell Christeson, leaving him under the impression that his appellate proceedings were still underway. Christeson, who has severe cognitive impairments, remained unaware of his attorney’s failure for seven years. In the end, state intransigence and procedural roadblocks kept his new attorneys from saving his life.

 

We cannot know how Gorsuch might have handled the case of the man executed on the night of his nomination. And while his record certainly suggests he might have waved it through on procedural grounds, this would hardly differentiate him from judges who have spent their careers doing the same. This includes Merrick Garland, whose nomination was so shamelessly derailed by Republicans last year. Indeed, like Gorsuch, Garland dutifully applied AEDPA’s “rigid barriers to relief,” the American Civil Liberties Union observed last year, while noting that this “approach is not surprising.” The LDF echoed the ACLU’s findings, noting that Garland “rarely granted relief to defendants who have presented a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.”

Garland, of course, never got a hearing. As Democratic senators decried the stolen nomination this week, it nevertheless seemed likely that Gorsuch will be confirmed in the end. That he was never questioned about his complicity in upholding lethal injection or in his rigid application of AEPDA is a shame, but again, not surprising. “A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge,” Gorsuch said the night his nomination was announced, a constant theme throughout the hearings. With the death penalty’s cruelest excesses so plain to see, it would have been worth asking whether he has any misgivings about this part of his record.

With Gorsuch yet to turn 50, he stands to be a conservative force on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Yet Singh points out that Supreme Court justices have very different experiences with death penalty cases. “Because almost every capital case eventually makes its way to the court, the justices are exposed to the ins and outs of the death penalty in ways that circuit judges simply are not,” he said. They see the arbitrariness, the flaws embedded in the system. “Many justices find over time that their beliefs about the death penalty change, almost always toward skepticism. So it’s possible that Judge Gorsuch, if confirmed, would eventually become more sympathetic to capital defendants — but it’s far too early to tell.”

The post The Life and Death Issue Ignored at Judge Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearings appeared first on The Intercept.

Fé não deve ser posta à frente do debate, dizem religiosas sobre aborto

23 March 2017 - 6:25am

Quando se fala em aborto, a perspectiva religiosa costuma se sobrepor à da saúde pública. A posição de políticos que se identificam como religiosos é majoritariamente contra a legalização. No entanto, segundo a última Pesquisa Nacional de Aborto, mais da metade das mulheres que abortam são católicas ou evangélicas, justamente as religiões desses políticos que militam contra a interrupção legal da gravidez.

Grupos progressistas começam a se fortalecer dentro das religiões usando como principal bandeira a liberdade e a consciência individual. The Intercept Brasil falou com expoentes destes grupos; uma espírita, uma evangélica, uma umbandista e uma católica. Essas mulheres divergem na fé, mas apoiam uma causa comum: a legalização do aborto.

A antropóloga Christina Vital da Cunha, autora do livro “Religião e Política”, afirma que há uma reação à imagem dos políticos identificados como religiosos entre as pessoas que compartilham da mesma fé:

“Em paralelo à grande expressão desse segmento extremista na política, vemos um segmento progressista disputando espaço e discursos nas religiões, fruto de uma geração que questiona isso tudo. Oferecem diferentes leituras, dentro do mundo moderno, sobre o que é ser religioso. Eles apresentam uma interpretação que possibilita, sob o ponto de vista da religião, a acolhida nesses momentos de dificuldade. Porque o aborto nunca é uma situação confortável.”

“Somos uma coletividade, mas a decisão é sua.”

Lúcia Xavier é candomblecista, ekedi do terreiro Ilê Omi Oju Arô, no Rio de Janeiro, e também coordena uma organização de mulheres negras chamada Criola. Ela explica que as religiões de matriz africana têm uma perspectiva de liberdade e responsabilidade individual, e que no candomblé não há um dogma em torno do aborto: “Cada situação será avaliada com Pai ou Mãe de Santo, e cada um poderá, então, encontrar solução para esse problema partindo do princípio de que a pessoa tem a liberdade de tomar as decisões sobre a sua vida”.

Xavier também conta que existem lideranças defendendo abertamente a legalização do aborto, o que representa um avanço na flexibilização dos líderes:

“Na nossa ação política, nós não saímos à frente com essa bandeira contra o aborto. O que saímos sempre é a favor dos direitos sexuais e dos direitos reprodutivos. E cada casa vai lidar com isso a partir da sua experiência. Isso é super importante, porque cada casa é uma nação e cada nação é um reino. E os pais de santo e as mães de santo compreendem cada vez mais que esses são aspectos da vida que precisam ser tratados, mas não necessariamente definidos como certo ou errado a partir dessa ótica. Nesse ponto, a perspectiva individual está presente. Somos uma coletividade, mas a decisão é sua. Há posicionamentos de ialorixás que são a favor do aborto e nenhuma delas foi discriminada. Ao contrário, continuaram participando das atividades. E, se você fez um aborto, ninguém vai te botar porta a fora. Ao contrário, vão te proteger, vão cuidar de você.”

Já a paulista Rosângela Talib é coordenadora executiva do grupo Católicas pelo Direito de Decidir. Ela conta que, apesar dos posicionamentos conservadores dos parlamentares que se identificam como católicos, o aborto não é um dogma na igreja católica e que o livre-arbítrio se sobrepõe nestes casos:

“Existem teólogos morais que defendem a possibilidade de a mulher decidir livremente sobre a sua maternidade. A gente tem o que se chama de teoria do probabilismo, está no magistério da igreja, que faculta aos fiéis a possibilidade de usar sua própria consciência para decidir, o seu livre-arbítrio. Não é uma instituição que vai poder dizer que elas estão certas ou erradas, é só a consciência. E, para aquelas fiéis que acreditam, é no juízo final que elas vão prestar conta. É Deus que vai dar a ela a possibilidade de saber se ela agiu certo ou errado. E nada, nenhuma instituição, nenhum homem, mesmo tendo um cargo institucional na igreja, pode se sobrepor à consciência do seu fiel. Sou eu e Deus. Não é possível que uma instituição possa se interpor entre a minha relação com o divino se, assim, eu acredito.”

“Me dei conta que não posso impor minhas crenças religiosas a outras mulheres”.

Juliana Grabois cresceu em uma família evangélica de pastores e missionários e congrega na Igreja Batista do Caminho, no Rio de Janeiro. Ela afirma que dentro da sua religiosidade não cabe julgar o que é certo ou errado para as pessoas:

“Nós cristãos definimos a vida como corpo e alma. Mas é difícil mensurar a partir de que momento o corpo passa a ter alma. Até porque a gente não estabeleceu apenas uma visão da bíblia, a bíblia tem várias interpretações, por isso, dentro do protestantismo, existem diferentes congregações. Na minha espiritualidade, eu não faria um aborto. Ao mesmo tempo, preciso assegurar a vida daquela mulher. As mulheres não são apenas ventre, elas têm uma vida para além daquilo.”

A vida das mulheres também fez com que Thaís Vinha, nascida em uma família kardecista, mudasse sua ideia quanto à descriminalização do aborto, até então baseada apenas nos ensinamentos da doutrina espírita:

“Mudei de ideia quando me dei conta que não posso impor minhas crenças religiosas a outras mulheres. Vivemos em um Estado laico. Mudei também quando vi dados oficiais que apontam para a redução no número de abortos nos países onde há a legalização. Outro motivo é que a proibição não impede o aborto – o Brasil continua sendo um país onde se aborta muito.”

“Tentaram me impor uma culpa e medo das consequências espirituais”.

Por irem contra a criminalização, estas mulheres acabam acabam sofrendo consequências dentro das comunidades religiosas das quais fazem parte. Grabois sentiu isso no convívio familiar: “Pelas coisas que falo e que posto nas redes sociais, recebo algumas mensagens dos parentes. Já ouvi muita coisa, até mesmo que eu deveria ter sido abortada. Hoje a minha família é um pouco afastada por conta do meu posicionamento político”.

Segura de sua posição, Vinha também revela que sofreu retaliação de outros kardecistas por seu posicionamento:

“Há um consenso sobre a proibição do aborto no meio espírita. E é muito difícil questioná-lo. Depois que tornei pública minha posição, me acusaram de desconhecer a doutrina, tentaram me impor uma culpa e medo das consequências espirituais nessa e na outra vida, fui até acusada de não ser kardecista. Ao mesmo tempo, também recebi apoio de outros espíritas que revelaram pensar como eu. O que mostra que o tema incita dúvidas e deveria ser debatido nas casas espíritas de forma mais aberta para a divergência de opinião.”

“As pessoas continuam abortando e sofrendo risco.”

Independentemente do posicionamento dos grupos religiosos, a jovem evangélica Grabois sabe: “as pessoas continuam abortando e sofrendo risco”. A católica Talib concorda: “As pessoas exercem a sua liberdade, seu livre-arbítrio, independentemente do que as igrejas propõem”.

A candomblecista Xavier explica que não faz “defesa intransigente do aborto”, mas que defende o direito das mulheres. E que, a partir da decisão de dar seguimento ou não à gestação, que elas tenham total apoio:

“Somos a favor da legalização e a favor da descriminalização porque são as mulheres que pagam o pato sobre isso. Elas que são condenadas, elas que são maltratadas, elas que são responsabilizadas por um ato feito por duas pessoas. E, sobretudo, são elas que pagam, que carregam a culpa de algo que elas tomaram a decisão e que, por causa daquela situação de vulnerabilidade, passam a ser responsáveis por tudo o que acontecer daqui pra frente, inclusive se morrerem.”

Para Talib, o aborto não é uma decisão fácil, mas é também uma possibilidade de a mulher pensar sobre a sua vida e sobre a maternidade com responsabilidade. E, falando em responsabilidade, provoca: “A gente ouve muito é dizer: ‘ah, se ela não queria ter o filho, por que ela não se cuidou? Por que ela não se preveniu?’ E por que o homem não se preveniu? Uma gestação é responsabilidade de ambos: homens e mulheres”.

“São conservadores, ultraconservadores ou reacionários.”

Para a socióloga Maria José Rosado Nunes, coordenadora do Grupo de Pesquisa Gênero e Religião da PUC/SP, há parlamentares que fazem da religião parte de sua identidade política, mas isso não é comum a todos os políticos religiosos:

“O religioso não deixa de ser religioso quando sai de casa. Há uma distinção entre aqueles/aquelas que são simples fiéis, sem caráter militante, e os que formam uma bancada e atuam como elementos da religião. Esses são conservadores, ultraconservadores ou reacionários.”

No Congresso mais conservador eleito desde 1964, as bancadas evangélica e católica se unem quando o assunto é a descriminalização do aborto. Após a decisão do Supremo Tribunal Federal – STF, em novembro de 2016,  que revogou a prisão de cinco pessoas detidas em uma clínica clandestina, magistrados kardecistas fizeram coro.

“Nada justifica a liberação do aborto até o terceiro mês, quando os direitos do nascituro estão salvaguardados desde a concepção pelo ordenamento jurídico brasileiro”, alegam os parlamentares cristãos, em nota.

Em coro com evangélicos e católicos, a Federação Espírita do Brasil publicou um texto em que afirma que a vida se inicia a partir do momento da concepção. “Qual o primeiro de todos os direitos naturais do homem? – O de viver”, escreveu a organização, citando um trecho do Livro dos Espíritos, obra básica da doutrina de autoria de Allan Kardec.

Pena que nenhuma das organizações políticas supracitadas parece se dar ao trabalho de perguntar sobre os direitos das mulheres.

 

The post Fé não deve ser posta à frente do debate, dizem religiosas sobre aborto appeared first on The Intercept.

Congressman’s Trump Surveillance Claims Have an Obvious, Mundane Explanation

22 March 2017 - 10:08pm

Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed Wednesday that “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition” between President Trump’s election and his inauguration.

Nunes then headed to the White House to brief Trump. White House press secretary Sean Spicer read Nunes’s statement at a press conference and called it “startling information,” implying that it justified Trump’s recent claims that Trump Tower was wiretapped on former President Obama’s orders.

The underlying reality is likely significant but far less exciting: That Trump transition staffers were picked up by standard U.S. surveillance as they arranged for Trump to receive standard post-election calls from world leaders.

If so, what Nunes was describing would not vindicate Trump’s claims, and would also be a separate matter from reported contacts by Trump associates with Russian intelligence officials before the election.

A key goal of the National Security Agency is to monitor the communications of foreign leaders and their staffs. As documents leaked by former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed, this includes the leaders of allied countries like German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Friendly countries in turn spy on us just as enthusiastically.

Meanwhile, world leaders try to speak to newly-elected U.S. presidents as often as possible during the transition period, first to congratulate them and then to get a read on the incoming president and to influence their views on global politics.

But Trump’s transition, as reported at the time, was extremely chaotic; the president-elect’s team apparently went outside normal procedures to arrange many such calls, an approach that involved many staffers and others in Trump’s orbit.

For instance, former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole played a role in setting up Trump’s precedent-breaking call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. President Mauricio Macri of Argentina said that he spoke with Ivanka Trump during his call with Trump. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull got Trump’s phone number from professional golfer Greg Norman. The governments of Japan and China found it difficult to build contacts within Trump’s transition team and spent a great deal of time trying to do so.

So what would truly be “startling” would be if the U.S. intelligence apparatus hadn’t picked up many Trump staffers speaking with foreign targets of surveillance. This also means that comments like those of Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who said on Twitter that Trump “officials were either talking to agents of a foreign power, or people suspected of crimes,” are not meaningful. The people with whom Trump’s transition team would be speaking would of course be agents of a foreign power, and there would be nothing wrong with that.

All that said, Trump absolutely will have a legitimate complaint if Nunes was correct when he claimed that “details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration with little or no intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting [and] additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked.”

Privacy advocates have long been concerned about exactly this type of scenario. When the communications of U.S. persons are swept up in spy agency surveillance, their identities can be used in queries against intelligence databases, but must eventually be masked through a process known as minimization. However, many identifying characteristics remain available to intelligence agents, both before and after minimization, allowing the government to engage in something akin to spying on Americans without a warrant. Moreover, NSA staff may decide to unmask Americans’ identity on their own, or be asked to do so by their superiors. This almost certainly is how it was possible for anonymous “current and former U.S. officials” to know that Michael Flynn discussed sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador, and then leak it to the Washington Post.

The best outcome now would be for Trump use his power as president to declassify anything he wants, and make as much information public as possible about this “incidental collection.” If in fact any surveillance was conducted on his transition team that was improper by the government’s own standards, he has the power to prove it. If it wasn’t, he owes it to the U.S. not to hide what happened behind the classification curtain. Moreover, releasing everything would be an extremely valuable education for the American public about how much the government collects on its citizens even when it’s following its own rules.

In a recent conversation at the SXSW conference with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill, Snowden explained in more detail how the communications of Trump or his staff could have been picked up — and why Americans should be concerned not about Trump’s vulnerability to such wiretapping, but about their own:

SNOWDEN: Now, if you are an American citizen and they say, “I want to look at your communications, I want to listen to this person’s phone calls and everyone they contacted,” this in theory is supposed to require a warrant. But the actual reality here is that they can do something different, and they do do this without a warrant… if they look at the other side of that communication, right? The communication that went overseas or involved a non-U.S. person in any way, that’s entirely legal. That happens without a warrant. …

If anybody at the NSA, if anybody at the FBI, wanted to review communications about President Obama, right? Like me, sitting at the NSA, I could do that simply by typing in an IP address that doesn’t even have to be the president’s IP address, right? Or if I want to search for his private email address or something like that, all I have to do is type it in the system, hit ‘enter,’ and say, “show me U.S. results for this.” This is entirely legal, so long as I’m not targeting him officially. So, I’m saying, I’m not interested in Obama, right? I’m interested in this known system that’s affiliated with Chinese cyber espionage or whatever, that just happens to be Obama’s Blackberry…

I think it is possible, based on everything we see and what we hear, there may be some indication that something like this happened on the backend, right? Where there’s been some searches that implicate not Donald Trump directly, right? Because if he had that, he’d be up on the stage waving it around on TV. …

That’s the problem. It’s not so much that this actually happened here, there, or the other, because we don’t have evidence for that. If Donald Trump wants to take this seriously, right, he needs to fix the problem that everyone in America’s communications are being collected right now without a warrant, and then going into the bucket. And they’re protected by very lax internal policy regulations, right? And this simply is not enough. If he’s worried about the fact that somebody could have been wiretapping Trump Tower, that this could have happened without a warrant, or even with a warrant, right, the problem is not, oh, you know, poor Donald Trump. You’re the president, right? You should be asking questions about, “Why was this possible in the first place, and why haven’t I fixed it?”

Top photo: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., gives reporters an update about the ongoing Russia investigation adding that President Donald Trump’s campaign communications may have been “monitored” during the transition period as part of an “incidental collection,” Wednesday, March 22, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The post Congressman’s Trump Surveillance Claims Have an Obvious, Mundane Explanation appeared first on The Intercept.

War Correspondents Describe Recent U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen

22 March 2017 - 5:58pm

Sentiment in Washington may not reflect that the U.S. is at war, but two war correspondents described the astonishing extent and toll of recent U.S. military strikes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen on Intercepted, the weekly podcast by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill.

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In Iraq, U.S. forces are helping Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers in their months-long battle to drive ISIS out of western Mosul. As many as 600,000 civilians are trapped there, amid widespread hunger and destruction, and more than 1,000 civilians were killed or injured last month in Iraq.

“There are American special forces on the ground but much more important than that is U.S. airpower, without which the Iraqi forces would not be able to get very far,” explained author and journalist Anand Gopal.

“And they’ve been hitting pretty much everything in sight and there’s been an extraordinary number of civilian casualties — just kind of gone through the roof in the last couple of months especially coming into Mosul.”

Gopal explained that the western half of the city, where the fighting is now, is the older part, with densely packed neighborhoods.

The “houses are really close together and so you can have a case where an ISIS sniper is on a house and the Americans are dropping bombs on the house and killing everybody inside including families that are cowering in the basement, people who are being shot on the street in sight. It’s a real humanitarian disaster that’s unfolding as we speak.”

The United States is also building up its own troop strength in Syria. “There the U.S. is allying with Kurdish forces — with the YPG — in the push towards Raqqa, and then if you look at the pattern of where the U.S. is deploying — where its airstrikes are hitting in Syria — what you see is the entire U.S. effort in Syria is to attack the enemies of [President] Bashar al-Assad,” Gopal said.

In Palmyra, for instance, U.S. warplanes in February carried out 45 strikes to help the Syrian government forces — the only forces on the ground — recapture the city from ISIS.

“You know, we tend to think that the U.S. is supporting regime change in Syria but on the ground it’s not the case,” Gopal said. “In fact, the U.S. has been avoiding doing anything to antagonize the Syrian regime and instead has been really focusing its fire on ISIS or on other enemies of the Assad regime.”

To complicate matters further, the United States has been also fueling a Saudi Arabian campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, and is now attacking alleged al Qaeda targets there directly. This month, independent war reporter Iona Craig covered a tragically botched Navy SEAL raid in Yemen for The Intercept. Craig interviewed survivors of the raid, which Trump called a success despite the death of one Navy SEAL, at least six women, and 10 children under the age of 13.

Craig said that a spate of airstrikes followed the raid. “In the space of 36 hours [the U.S.] carried as many strikes as they had done in the whole of last year [across] three provinces,” she said. One of the targets was the same village, Ghayil, where the raid had taken place.

Craig said the U.S. strikes killed two more children and three more adults, some of whom she had met while reporting her story. “They saw it as revenge — a revenge for killing a Navy SEAL basically — that the Americans were coming back to destroy their village entirely and to make sure that everybody was gone.”

Both Craig and Gopal said that the U.S. risks getting sucked into domestic and geopolitical dramas in the region in a way that could be disastrous.

Craig said the U.S. is already “being seen as very much taking one side” in Yemen. “That could get even worse if now the Trump administration decides to conflate the Houthis with Iran.”

Gopal said  that the United States harbors a “fantasy” of creating a Sunni force to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while reducing reliance on Iranian-backed forces in the region.

“There’s this idea in some quarters that you can raise this almost like a second-awakening and this would be your proxy force. How realistic that is, is another question,” said Gopal, referencing the Iraq war based Iraqi “awakening” councils that fought al Qaeda. “Already it’s a bloodbath in the Middle East and already there [are] hundreds of different forces fighting,” he said. “Any attempt to try to either create Sunni proxy force or push onto Iran would be just an even greater disaster, and there we’re talking world war three level of disaster.”

Craig said the only winner is the defense industry. “Well, it’s good business,” she said. “In the first year of the war [in Yemen], the U.S. sold $20 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia has been buying more and more weapons as a result of this war, and the same goes for the British government as well,” she said. “Really it all boils down to financial gain and that’s the greatest win really for the U.S., but it’s an extremely costly one obviously for the civilian population of Yemen.”

Top photo: Smoke rises from ISIS positions after U.S.-led coalition’s airstrike over east of Bashiqa town in Mosul, Iraq on Nov. 7, 2016.

The post War Correspondents Describe Recent U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen appeared first on The Intercept.

Aid Officials Beg Congress to Help Yemen, While Trump Sends More Bombs

22 March 2017 - 5:25pm

As the Trump administration resumes weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia for its devastating bombing campaign in Yemen — including precision-guided weapons the Obama administration had suspended on human rights grounds — a State Department official told Congress that the two-year-long conflict has led to the largest starvation emergency in the world.

Gregory Gottlieb, an acting assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday that the conflict — which the U.S. is a silent partner to — has left the majority of the Yemeni people struggling to find food.

“In Yemen, more than 17 million people — an astounding 60 percent of the country’s population — are food insecure, including 7 million that are unable to survive without food assistance,” said Gottlieb. “This makes Yemen the largest food security emergency in the world.”

Gottlieb was testifying at a Senate hearing on foreign aid funding and humanitarian crises in Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia.

USAID is the foreign assistance arm of the State Department — the same department that signs off on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Since Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, the U.S. has approved more than $20 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia — and looked the other way as the Saudi-led coalition has bombed civilian infrastructure, hospitals, and children’s schools.

Last week the UN warned that the majority of Yemen’s population is suffering and on the brink of famine. Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, criticized both sides of the conflict for restricting the flow of aid, but said that the Saudi-imposed naval blockade was particularly devastating for the desert country, which imports most of its food.

The Saudi-led coalition has persistently attacked fisherman, who account for another major food source in Yemen.

The situation has worsened as the Saudi-backed forces prepare to retake the Western port city of Hodeida, once the waypoint of 70 percent of Yemen’s food and aid imports. Near the beginning of the war, Saudi Arabia bombed the cranes that port workers use to unload ships — slowing the pace of work to a crawl. Since then, airstrikes by the coalition have made it virtually impossible for aid to reach the port.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Yuris Dassard, the director-general of the Red Cross, urged the U.S. to help clear access to the port. “You can ensure access to the port. You make sure ensure that the blockade is done with a humanitarian exception.”

He continued: “It will make a lot of difference for a lot of people. … There is no choice. There is no market anymore in Yemen. So the blockade needs to cease, or needs to be managed.”

Last week, 52 members of Congress sent a letter to the State Department, urging it to pressure Saudi Arabia into making the port accessible. “Right now, the U.S. must act urgently to avert famine and employ our diplomatic clout with the Coalition members to ensure that humanitarian goods can get into the port of Hodeida,” the letter read. “The lives of hundreds of thousands of children are at stake.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the leading Democrat on the committee, acknowledged the port was a “major entry point for humanitarian assistance,” and said it was “unclear as to the current abilities to get current humanitarian aid into Yemen.”

Last year, USAID gave Yemen $56 million in humanitarian aid, but it is unclear if aid will continue at all under Trump. According to a budget outline released last week, Trump wants to slash 28 percent of USAID’s funding.

The Obama administration supported Saudi Arabia’s air war for more than a year, supplying weapons and intelligence, and helping refuel Saudi aircraft.

But after the Saudi Arabia bombed a funeral in Yemen’s capital city in October, the Obama administration put a hold on a transfer of precision-guided weapons, citing “systemic, endemic” concerns about their targeting. The Trump administration greenlighted the transfer in March.

In addition, the Trump administration has intensified its military operations against al Qaeda in Yemen, loosening counterterrorism rules and accelerating the pace of bombings and drone strikes.

Top photo: Yemeni volunteers provide food items for displaced families who fled Saada province, northwest of Sanaa, during a food distribution by Yemeni volunteers in Sanaa, Yemen, on Dec. 17, 2015.

The post Aid Officials Beg Congress to Help Yemen, While Trump Sends More Bombs appeared first on The Intercept.

O medo sempre nos traz algo de familiar, que é o nosso preconceito

22 March 2017 - 4:31pm

Tentando entender o que há por trás das políticas de controle da população, a socióloga Vera Malaguti Batista desenvolveu um trabalho interessante sobre o que ela chama de “discursos do medo”. São aqueles discursos que transformam o povo em um “grande outro”, diferente e perigoso. O discurso do medo geralmente é impulsionado pelos que estão mais protegidos, enquanto o risco real e iminente de sofrer violência recai sobre os que se acredita que ofereçam perigo (as minorias, os periféricos etc.).

Trabalho aqui com o conceito do “grande outro”, ou do “estranho/estrangeiro”, como no livro “Strange Encounters: Embodied Others In Post-Coloniality”, de Sara Ahmed. O Outro, na verdade, não é aquele que desconhecemos, mas aquele que representa o perigo do desconhecido.

Mesmo que não convivamos com ele, sabemos imediatamente quem é este Outro, nas suas mais variadas representações, e projetamos sobre ele todo o perigo que acreditamos habitar o desconhecido. Ou seja: o que percebemos nem é a forma exterior, o que está visível aos olhos, mas algo que, em torno de si, traz algo que nos parece familiar, que é o nosso preconceito.

Penso, por exemplo, nos mapas utilizados pelos viajantes nos tempos das grandes descobertas e, sobretudo, naqueles sobre o continente africano. No espaço que ainda não havia sido explorado, no grande vazio, eram projetados os medos do aventureiro ou do colonizador: figuras nas quais até podíamos reconhecer o traço humano, mas que também eram dotadas de características bestiais, como rabos, olhos a mais, chifres, genitálias avantajadas e outras anomalias que poderiam colocá-los alguns passos abaixo do que era considerado humano.

Como bestas, poderiam e deveriam ser abatidos ou domesticados, salvos do atraso e da involução. Esta era uma das justificativas para o acontecimento que moldou o mundo moderno: a escravidão negra. Cara a cara com este “grande outro”, com este “estranho”, os brancos europeus podiam até mesmo reconhecê-lo como igual na forma, apesar da cor da pele, mas interiormente ele já vinha carregado de projeções animalísticas. E foi assim que atravessaram tanto o oceano quanto a História, com o medo branco tomando novas formas de acordo com o contexto social e político do Novo Mundo, até chegarmos ao momento atual.

Estava, oficialmente, instaurada a despolitização das manifestações contra o regime escravocrata e a criminalização dos rebeldes

Segundo Vera Malaguti Batista, foi nas décadas posteriores à Independência, com as várias rebeliões escravas acontecendo país afora, apoiado no racismo científico, que o medo se intensificou. Ameaçador da ordem e portador do caos, o africano, o negro da terra, o escravo, o fujão, o rebelde e o desobediente eram os inimigos a temer, conter, castigar ou eliminar. Para lidar com ele, foi criado o Corpo de Polícia, embrião da Polícia Militar. Estava, oficialmente, instaurada a despolitização das manifestações contra o regime escravocrata e a criminalização dos rebeldes, da mesma maneira que acontece hoje com os movimentos sociais.

Naquela época, já se escrevia nos jornais que “precisamos ter uma polícia que a nós inspire confiança e, aos escravos, infunda terror”. Escravos e libertos eram proibidos de circular pelo espaço público, a não ser quando no exercício de uma função autorizada e pré-determinada. Ainda hoje, a juventude negra, principalmente, ao circular no espaço público, é alvo constante de blitzes, batidas, sacodes, humilhações, ameaças e autos de resistência. E o “nós” aí acima são os que, hoje em dia, se chamam de “cidadão de bem” ou “humanos direitos”. Aqueles que se colocam na posição de defender um dos produtos mais insidiosos da criminalização da cor e da pobreza: a desqualificação jurídica do negro e do pobre.

Para eles, assim como para a mulher de César, não basta serem honestos, precisam parecer. E como é que se parece honesto não tendo o controle sobre a própria representação? Neste caso, quase sempre será suspensa a presunção de inocência, e ele poderá ser condenado – muitas vezes à pena de morte – não por algo que tenha cometido, mas por algo que, obedecendo à projeção de perigo e medo que a sociedade impõe sobre ele, pode vir a cometer. É o ideal lombrosiano aplicado na construção de uma sociedade que internaliza o autoritarismo e se acha no direito de traçar uma linha entre o “nós” e o “eles”.

No vídeo disponível neste link, depois de analisar mais de mil processos de jovens que foram parar no universo das drogas e estavam internados em instituições como FEBEM e FUNABEM, a professora Vera analisa os diferentes tratamentos recebidos por jovens brancos de classe média e por jovens negros pobres: quando o primeiro é pego com certa quantidade de droga, é encaminhado para tratamento domiciliar, com auxílio psicológico; quando um jovem pobre e negro é pego com a mesma quantidade, é imediatamente enviado para o sistema correcional ou prisional.

Ela nos conta também de um laudo que leu sobre um desses meninos pobres e pretos, preso já havia algum tempo, com a seguinte avaliação psicológica: “pelo brilho no seu olhar, eu pude perceber como ele ainda desejava coisas que não se coadunam com a vida de um salário mínimo: guloseimas, roupa nova, garotas; e então, ele ainda está fascinado pelos ganhos fáceis”. E, segundo a professora Vera, “o garoto ganha mais dois anos só pelo brilho no olhar, porque – ela [a psicóloga] achava, pelo brilho no olhar – [que] ele ainda desejava todas aquelas coisas que qualquer garoto da idade dele também deseja“.

É uma avaliação lombrosiana, segundo a qual um criminoso poderia ser reconhecido por suas características físicas. Como também é a seguinte fala do ministro da Justiça, Osmar Serraglio: “Existem bandidos e bandidos, como em qualquer circunstância. Os bandidos de menor gravidade precisam de outro tratamento. Um exemplo que eu tenho dado é do usuário e do traficante. Um grupo de estudantes viciados, usuários. Na hora que te pegarem, você vai preso como um traficante. Outros são aqueles que você olha nos olhos e quer passar longe. É um potencial assaltante, criminoso. A gente não quer isso nas ruas”.

Na avaliação do Ministro, quem seriam os “estudantes” e os “potenciais” (importante frisar: potenciais) “traficantes”, “assaltantes” e “criminosos” que ele, com um golpe de vista, consegue diferenciar? Quem é o “isso” que o ministro não nomeia, não humaniza e não quer nas ruas? Arrisco dizer que o “isso” tem raça, sexo e classe social bastante definidos em seu imaginário. Caso contrário, como conseguiria ele circular entre os pares, olhando-os nos olhos, em tempos de Lava Jato?

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Trump Wants to Cut Public Broadcasting — Where Mike Pence’s Daughter Got Her Start as a Filmmaker

22 March 2017 - 3:23pm

One of the more shocking elements of President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget is his suggestion to eliminate all $455 million in federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides support for public television and radio stations across the country.

This has been widely depicted as a threat to Sesame Street. But the real losers would be local stations in areas outside big coastal cities, which wouldn’t be able to make up for the budget hit with private support.

Viewers would lose out on public affairs and local programming — while creative professionals who ply their trade outside of New York or Los Angeles would no longer have an outlet for their unique skills.

A good example of someone who used public broadcasting to support early career development is the daughter of Vice President Mike Pence.

In 2013, Charlotte Pence, then a college student, obtained an internship at WFYI, a public broadcasting station in central Indiana. She worked in the television production department and received an associate producer and co-writer credit for “Fleeced: Speaking Out Against Senior Financial Abuse,” a documentary co-produced by WFYI Productions and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

It’s common at smaller public broadcasting stations for interns to be tasked with important responsibilities. “Certainly there is ample opportunity for people to cut their teeth or bring in a project,” said Andy Klotz, director of marketing for WFYI.

“Fleeced” highlighted the stories of seniors who have been scammed by financial predators. As Charlotte Pence explains on her website, “It is meant to shed a light on this injustice happening, and to work as a lesson for seniors in deciding who to trust with their information.”

Charlotte Pence, daughter of United States Vice President Mike Pence, in Waregem, Belgium on Feb. 20, 2017.

Photo: Olivier Matthys/AP

John Taylor, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, called WFYI’s contribution to the project indispensable. “They’re a good partner because they’re viewed by most people as nonpolitical,” Taylor said. “They got the word out in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own.”

The film became the third most widely circulated documentary in WFYI history, with distribution on over 225 PBS stations and screenings at dozens of other locations, including regional Federal Reserve banks. “Fleeced” won a 2014 Emmy Award for the Lower Great Lakes region. And Taylor said it made a real difference in awareness about elder financial abuse. “Every single time it aired, it got a lot of praise. It helped us talk about elder abuse and having age-friendly banking products and services.”

WFYI has been a fixture for news and information in central Indiana for decades. Founded in 1970 with a staff of nine, the station now employs 80 people and is Indiana’s leading PBS and NPR member station, with partnerships with cable companies to carry programming throughout the state. WFYI regularly wins local Emmys and other awards for its work. The newsroom had been expanding, with three health care journalists recently hired. But that funding runs out in two years.

In 2015, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting supplied $412,213 in funding for WFYI, according to the station’s annual report. That is roughly 13 percent of its budget, according to marketing director Andy Klotz.

“We would have to find ways to make up for the loss in funding,” Klotz said. He described “Fleeced” as precisely the kind of long-form documentary project that would be difficult for WFYI to sustain without federal support. “We have a fairly successful track record of doing really great, in-depth documentaries that resonate with people. The ability to produce long-form projects would be severely hampered.”

That would be a blow to young professionals like Charlotte Pence, who received key experience and training while working on the documentary in 2013. She has since graduated from DePaul University with a double major in digital cinema and English, and worked on several documentary and short film projects. In her bio for “For the Records,” a documentary about young adults with mental health issues, Pence wrote, “She believes in the philosophy that every filmmaker has a responsibility to tell important and uplifting stories through the art of cinema… She hopes to pursue a career in writing for film and documentaries after college.”

Long-form local affairs programming at WFYI and other public media outlets is unique, particularly with cutbacks to newsroom resources. “These are stories that just don’t get told otherwise,” Klotz said. “It’s irreplaceable stuff, in the climate of media right now.”

The vice president himself has publicly acknowledged the role of public broadcasting in highlighting under-covered issues like the ones raised in “Fleeced.” While governor of Indiana, Pence attended the film’s premiere at the University of Indianapolis and made introductory remarks before the film. “Pence loved the documentary and knows the story quite well,” said John Taylor.

While governor of Indiana, Pence increased state funding for public broadcasting. In 2014, he received the “Champions of Public Broadcasting” award from the Association of Public Television Stations. “The Hoosier state has now and will continue to find the resources to support public media efforts in our state,” Pence said at the ceremony.

The vice president’s office would not make Charlotte Pence available for comment, and has not responded to a list of questions about public broadcasting, including whether Pence supports the proposed zeroing out of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting budget.

Stations other than WFYI would be hit even harder by the loss of federal funding. For some rural outlets, federal support equals as much as 50 percent of their budgets. If those stations cannot survive, the remaining outlets like WFYI would likely see the national programming they purchase from PBS and NPR become more expensive. So even the stations that stay in business will be affected by the ones that don’t. “If we lose 100 stations, that has to be made up for,” said Andy Klotz. “It will drive up programming costs for the rest of us.”

Taylor never met Pence during the production of the documentary, but confirmed that she was an asset to the film.

“One less tank would probably pay for the entire CPB budget,” he said. “And what we get for that is a cumulative, positive impact on all of us citizens to be able to be informed about issues and items that really matter. It’s short-sighted to not recognize the valuable contribution they make to the American populace.”

Top photo: A program is produced for PBS KIDS Sprout in a studio in Paulsboro, N.J. in 2006.

The post Trump Wants to Cut Public Broadcasting — Where Mike Pence’s Daughter Got Her Start as a Filmmaker appeared first on The Intercept.

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