New York City police deploy new counterterrorism unit


By Sandy English
23 November 2015

The political establishment in New York City is using the November 13 attacks in Paris to justify the further militarization of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

At a media event last Monday, the city’s Democratic Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and Police Commissioner William Bratton announced the formation of the new counterterrorism unit called the Critical Response Command (CRC), comprised of more than 500 officers. De Blasio emphasized “how critical it is to have our own capacity to deal with each and every situation.” The creation of the new unit has been in the works for months.

About 100 CRC cops will be on duty at all times. The unit will be headquartered at Randall’s Island, which offers quick access to all five of the city’s boroughs. Randall’s Island is also where the NYPD conducted riot training during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.

CRC teams will be equipped with special cars that can hold Colt M4 semiautomatic long rifles. The CRC, as the New York Times noted, will also be trained to “conduct undercover ‘hostile surveillance’ to detect those who might be gathering information about potential targets, and the use of new devices.”

On Thursday the new unit held training maneuvers in the city’s subway system with other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. The mock scenario included terrorists with automatic weapons and suicide vests. One hundred CRC cops will be present at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.

In line with a number of officials and former officials in the federal military-intelligence apparatus, Bratton also called last week for eliminating restrictions on police surveillance in New York. “The [offensive] in our case is intelligence, the gathering of intelligence, nobody does it better than the NYPD and our partnership with the FBI,” he told the media. Promoting the campaign against the use of encryption software he noted: “We encounter that all the time. We’re monitoring and they go dark. They go on to sites that we cannot access.”

The CRC joins other specialized heavily armed NYPD units, such as the 800-member Strategic Response Group comprised of patrol officers, and the 700 cops in the Emergency Service Unit, the NYPD’s SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. In the last few months, the NYPD has roughly tripled the number of officers armed with high-powered semi-automatic rifles.

The NYPD also operates a massive spying apparatus of thousands of cops that includes the Intelligence Division and the Counterterrorism Unit. The notorious Demographic Unit that spied on Muslims at mosques, restaurants and other businesses after the terrorist attacks of 2001 was a part of the Intelligence Division. Combined, these units have offices in 11 cities worldwide.

This year the de Blasio administration supported several increases in funding for the NYPD, one of which included the hiring of 1,000 more cops, “that will be focused on counter-terrorism and crowd management,” as Bratton told NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday.

Bratton’s reference to “crowd management” is significant, and hints at the real purposes behind the increasing militarization of the NYPD.

During the frequent and sometimes massive protests against police violence late last year and early this year—provoked by longstanding grievances with the police that had been building for years, and especially by the refusal of a grand jury to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who choked to death Staten Island resident Eric Garner in July 2014. Demonstrators have noted the presence of NYPD officers wearing jackets that identified them as members of special counterterrorism units.

In January Bratton confirmed the NYPD’s intention to deploy militarized police against these and other peaceful protesters when he announced plans to form a heavily armed counterterrorism unit to “deal with events like our recent protests.”

This was entirely in line with the character of NYPD intimidation against the non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters in lower Manhattan in late 2011. Demonstrators were besieged by hundreds of police every day, who filmed them, pepper-sprayed them, used sound cannons to disperse them, and eventually expelled them from their encampment in Zuccotti Park.

The reemergence of thousands of protesters on the streets of New York City in the last few years has been brought about by increasingly precarious social conditions for millions of New Yorkers. Rents have skyrocketed, wages have declined, real unemployment remains in the double digits, and the behavior of the NYPD itself has only increased the social volatility.

Last week the New York Times and Siena College conducted a survey of New Yorkers, which noted that half of those polled “say they are struggling economically, making ends meet just barely, if at all, and most feel sharp uncertainty about the future of the city’s next generation.”

Thirty-three percent of residents in the Bronx and 25 percent of residents in Brooklyn, the two poorest boroughs, said, “the prospects for finding a job are poor,” and 44 and 36 percent in each borough respectively said, “the chance that a family member will be incarcerated is very likely or almost certain.”

Twenty-one percent citywide said that there had been times in the last 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their family, and 66 percent citywide said that local government’s responsiveness to the needs of their neighborhood was fair or poor. Even in the less socially polarized borough of Staten Island, 46 percent of respondents said that life was getting worse.

Such sentiments will produce a response by millions, and the NYPD and other police agencies are arming and training elite and specialized forces to protect the privileges of the handful of multimillionaires and billionaires who rule the city.

Anonymous are now ‘rickrolling’ Isis

The best way to fight terrorism? The world’s oldest meme, apparently

Rick, rollingvia YouTube

And so, the cyber war between Isis and Anonymous rages on. After shutting down over 5000 of the militant group’s social media accounts, and publishing a handy “how to” hacking guide against them, Anonymous are well into the midst of their “biggest” ever terrorist takedown. The online activists are apparently more determined than ever to destroy Isis – and now, they may have just unleashed their most powerful weapon yet.

According to a recent tweet from the #OpParis account, Anonymous are now flooding all pro-Isis hashtags with “Rick Roll” videos. That means; whenever any Isis account tries to spread a message, or get something trending, the topic will instead be flooded with countless videos of Rick Astley circa 1987.

“Rickrolling”, the internet meme where you trick people into watching the Rick Astley classic “Never Gonna Give You Up”, was started on 4chan way back in 2007. It’s been used in viruses, protests against Scientology and Internet tax, and on countless lolz April fool’s days videos. If you’re a hacker with a penchant for the past, it’s the obvious choice.

For those of you that don’t remember the meme, don’t worry. I don’t blame you. It’s easily over eight years old – which, in internet time, basically means it’s prehistoric. It probably stopped being funny around that time too. But oh well. Just appreciate the effort, everyone.

US officials seize on Paris attacks to press for “back door” to encryption


By Joseph Kishore
18 November 2015

US officials are moving rapidly to exploit the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday to push forward with already existing plans to undermine encrypted communications and vastly expand the powers of the state.

The Obama administration, which created the conditions for the tragedy in Paris with its war policy that has laid waste to much of the Middle East, is now using it to further its criminal operations. The campaign is being led by John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, who has been personally implicated in both the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional spy programs and the CIA’s torture program.

In remarks delivered Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Brennan blamed insufficient spying capacities for the terrorist attacks. “A lot of technological capabilities that are available right now… make it exceptionally difficult, both technically as well as legally, for intelligence and security services to have the insight they need,” he claimed.

As with responses to other attacks, there is no effort to reconcile claims that insufficient “intelligence” allowed the attacks in Paris to happen with the fact that the individuals who carried out the shootings were known to intelligence agencies, with several being actively monitored. One of the alleged attackers, Omar Ismaïl Mostefai, had been flagged by French police for suspected “radicalization” but had been allowed to travel to and from Syria unhindered. Warnings from Turkish officials were ignored.

Brennan went on to denounce NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for exposing the blanket surveillance of communications all over the world. “[I]n the past several years because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of handwringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging.”

In other words, the CIA and NSA must be given the power to spy on all communications, and any challenge to these powers (“handwringing”) provide aide and comfort to terrorists. By “legal” actions, Brennan is referring to a handful of court decisions that have ruled some aspects of the vast NSA spying apparatus illegal, prompting Congress to pass the “USA Freedom Act” last year. Far from undermining the NSA programs, however, the act—which Brennan supported—gives a pseudo-legal cover for unconstitutional spying to continue.

Michael Morell, Obama’s former CIA deputy director, also blamed encrypted communications for the attacks on Monday. “I now think we’re going to have another public debate about encryption, and whether government should have the keys, and I think the result may be different this time as a result of what’s happened in Paris,” he said on CBS’s “This Morning” program.

The US Congress had considered but has not yet adopted a law that would require private companies to allow “backdoor” access by the state to any encrypted communications. This legislation will likely now be revived.

Both Democrats and Republicans have joined in denouncing Snowden and insisting that the powers of the state must now be vastly expanded. Former press secretary for George W. Bush, Dana Perino, expressed the thinking of the ruling class most crudely, tweeting on Friday night, “F Snowden. F him to you know where and back.” Perino is currently a pundit for Fox News.

Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, denounced telecommunications companies on Monday, saying: “I have asked for help and I haven’t gotten any help. If you create a product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead children, to strike innocents, whether it’s at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, [to] take down an airliner, that’s a big problem.”

US spy agencies have spent vast resources in the effort to gain access to all communications, including emails, Internet records and phone records. The aim is to be able to monitor the political activities and associations of all individuals, in the United States and internationally. The September 11 attacks were used to expand these powers enormously, but intelligence officials have long complained that encryption technologies have undercut their efforts, allowing individuals to “go dark” and avoid surveillance.

A Justice Department memorandum from November 10, three days before the Paris attacks, stated that “among the greatest challenges the department faces in [the area of cybersecurity] is that malicious actors are increasingly relying on encryption and other technological advances to remain elusive and thwart the government’s efforts to isolate and mitigate cyber threats.”

In September, the Washington Post obtained an email from Robert Litt, general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence complaining that the climate in Congress of a law to require a backdoor to encrypted communications was “hostile” but that this could change “in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.” The intelligence agencies now have their attack, and they are determined to use it to the full.

On Tuesday, Bill Bratton, the police commissioner for New York City’s Democratic Party Mayor Bill de Blasio, added his own denunciation of encrypted communications after announcing the deployment of 500 “counter-terrorism” police officers who will be given “shoot to kill” orders in the event of a terrorist attack. These heavily-armed police forces throughout the city have been accompanied by the deployment of National Guard troops.

“One of the most fruitful avenues, which was our ability to potentially listen in, has been closed in a very significant way,” Bratton complained on Tuesday.

New York has been a center of protests over police violence over the past year, particularly after police strangled to death Eric Garner in July 2014. Earlier this year, when the city unveiled a new counterterrorism “Strategic Response Group”, Bratton let slip that one of the main aims of the new police unit would be to “deal with events like our recent protests.”

The principal driving force behind all of these measures is not the threat posed by terrorism, but the state of social relations in the United States. In the face of growing social inequality and widespread public opposition to war, the American corporate and financial aristocracy is using the tragic events in Paris as an opportunity to shift the framework of discussion further to the right, intensifying the attack on the democratic and social rights of the working class and accelerating the implementation of police-state forms of rule.

How Western Militarists Are Playing Into the Hands of ISIS

After Paris, politicians and pundits clamor for more force and repression—just as ISIS wants them to.

Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) – Sunni jihadist group. Self-proclaimed as a caliphate, it claims religious authority over Muslims worldwide. Al-Qaeda is a global militant Islamist organization.
Photo Credit: Steve Allen

The Islamic extremists who killed over 125 Parisians on November 14 were heartless murderers, but they were also political operators implementing a carefully conceived strategy. A February 2015 article in Dabiq, the official magazine of ISIS, offers a clear window into their agenda. Published in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the essay was titled, “The Extinction of the Grayzone.”

“The presence of the Khilafa [Islamic Caliphate] magnifies the political, social, economic, and emotional impact of any operation carried out by the mujahadin [freedom fighters] against the enraged crusaders,” Dabiq stated. “This magnified impact compels the crusaders to actively destroy the grayzone themselves, the zone in which many of the hypocrites and deviant innovators living in the West are hiding….”

Here, ISIS revealed its intention to unravel the fabric of Western civil society — what it calls the “grayzone” — by provoking governments into carrying out disproportionate military reprisals and adopting draconian security measures.

Once repression and Islamophobia in Western societies reaches sufficiently unbearable levels, the author wrote, “The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufri [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffar [infidels] without hardship, or they perform hijrah [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.”

In the mind of the Dabiq author, who appeared to be among the ideological vanguard of ISIS, the West’s descent into full-blown fascism would force Muslim immigrants to flee for the sanctuary provided by the Islamic State.

To bring this scenario to fruition, IS has aimed to cultivate favorable terrain for the Western political elements most likely to incite against Muslims, campaign for repressive surveillance laws, and ultimately play out an apocalyptic clash of civilizations. Indeed, IS is doing everything in its power to propel the militarists also seeking to extinguish the grayzone.

The reactions to the Paris attacks by influential political actors across the West suggest that ISIS may have gotten exactly the result it wants. Vowing a “pitiless war,” French President Francois Hollande ordered a series of airstrikes around the ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa. To convince himself that another bombing run over the smoldering ruins of Syria would do anything to improve France’s security, Hollande clearly ignored the final words of one of the gunmen who massacred theatergoers in Paris: “Hollande should not have intervened in Syria!” But with mainstream French conservatives like Laurent Qauquiez calling for placing thousands of terror suspects in an internment camp, Hollande may have had no political space to act rationally.

Suggesting the surveillance laws rammed through parliament this year were not sweeping enough, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve proposedthe dissolution of French mosques where “hate is preached.” As Poland abruptly pulled out of the EU refugee resettlement plan, neo-fascists Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen called for ending all immigration to Europe.

In the U.S., where Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder suddenly rescinded plans to take in Syrian refugees, right-wing pundits exploited the Paris attacks to lash out at everyone from gun control advocates to college students demonstrating for racial justice. Major pro-Israel lobbying organizations andnews outlets seized the opportunity to link the massacre in Paris to Palestine solidarity activism, even though no such connection exists.

Among the most disturbing reactions to the attacks is neoconservative writer David Frum’s call to “repatriate the Middle Eastern mass migration of the last two years…because unemployed and alienated 2nd generation populations are so susceptible to radicalization and violence.”

With his demand for the expulsion of millions of Muslims from Europe back to the moonscape of Syria, Frum was unwittingly agitating for the same goal ISIS outlined in Dabiq — “they will perform hijrah to the Islamic State.”

Frum has been much more than a passive observer of the rise of the Islamic State. As a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, he crafted the notorious “Axis of Evil” phrase Bush deployed in his 2002 State of the Union address to link Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to Al Qaeda. A year later, America invaded Iraq on pretenses fabricated by Frum and his neoconservative fellow travelers, transforming a formerly stable Arab state into a sectarian meat grinder and setting the stage for the rise of ISIS.

After leaving the Bush administration, Frum published An End To Evil with Richard Perle, the neoconservative former Pentagon official who pushed for regime change in Iraq. The book reads like a mirror inverse of Dabiq, arguing for the application of total violence to purge the world of evil. Frum and Perle demanded regime change in North Korea, the toppling of the Iranian regime, an invasion of Libya and the termination of the Palestinian bid for statehood. (So far, only two of their radical fantasies have been fulfilled.) On the homefront, they urged the creation of a panopticon-style surveillance regime and implementation of political criteria for denying citizenship to immigrants. The only regret the two expressed over the failed invasion of Iraq was that the disgraced con artist Ahmed Chalabi had not been installed as the country’s provisional leader.

Neither Frum nor Perle nor any of the Bush administration figures behind the war on Iraq faced any consequences for the destruction they wreaked. Instead, they have been rewarded with cushy fellowships at think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, or been called on to advise Republican presidential candidates. Others made fortunes on reconstruction contracts, took prestigious academic posts and led international financial institutions. Frum was eventually hired as senior editor at the putatively liberal Atlantic Magazine. In March, the Atlantic published a widely read cover story glowingly portraying the criminal mafia of ISIS as an authentic embodiment of orthodox Islamic theology — exactly as it has marketed itself.

Billions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the global war on terror. At every step of the way, Western governments played directly into the hands of Islamic extremists, falling for their ploys and fueling their ambitions. As Osama Bin Laden tauntingly proclaimed back in 2004, “All that we have to do is to send two mujahadin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al-Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”

For the handful of ideologues guiding the forever war, those personal and political benefits justified the price of failure. After the latest assault on Paris, it’s not surprising to see them clamoring for more force, more surveillance, more silence from progressives and more airtime for themselves. As they occupy the political center, the grayzone fades to black.

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Find him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

U.S. imperialism was the real winner of the presidential debate

The idea that the U.S. must impose its authority on the world with violence goes largely unquestioned by candidates

U.S. imperialism was the real winner of the presidential debate
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/Vlad Butsky)

Journalists have a peculiar tradition of selecting a “winner” in presidential debates, as if such an adjudication were objective, and not a politically motivated evaluation. Marco Rubio was declared by many to be the “winner” of the fourth GOP presidential debate, on Nov. 10.

The real winner of the debate, however, was not any individual, but rather a system: U.S. imperialism.

The Republican presidential candidates — and the widely proclaimed “winner” Rubio in particular — are absolutely enamored of U.S. imperialism. The candidates may disagree on some policies, but there is one issue (aside from the minimum wage, which they all refuse to raise) everyone save for Rand Paul agrees on: American empire is a good thing, and it must be maintained through violence.

Rubio asserted multiple times “I believe the world is a safer — no, no, I don’t believe, I know that the world is a safer place when America is the strongest military power in the world.”

Jeb Bush added “We’re not going to be the world’s policeman, but we sure as heck better be the world’s leader.”

Carly Fiorina maintained “we have the strongest military on the face of the planet, and everyone has to know it.” She said she “would start rebuilding the Sixth Fleet right under [Putin’s] nose, rebuilding the military,” and “would conduct very aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States.” (Fiorina has brought up the Sixth Fleet multiple times in the debates; this is one of her go-to talking points to show off her militarism and desire for the projection of American power.)

Ben Carson and Donald Trump both proposed seizing the oil of countries the U.S. invades — reminding the audience that plunder is an important part of imperial conquest.

All of the candidates were foaming at the mouth over the military — excluding Rand Paul, a right-wing libertarian whose poll ratings are among the lowest. Paul, who wants to abolish numerous government agencies and supports using drones to kill people who rob liquor stores, was the only person mildly resembling a voice of reason in the debate; this is how extreme the Republican Party has gotten.

John Kasich, along with most of the other candidates, forcefully defended the idea of imposing a no-fly zone on Syria. Paul called the policy “naive to the point of being something you might hear in junior high,” warning it could lead to an escalation of violence with Russia and even another war in Syria and/or Iraq.

“Can you be for unlimited military spending and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to make the country safe?’” Paul asked. “No, we need a safe country, but we spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined.”

DNA Data From California Newborn Blood Samples Stored, Sold To 3rd Parties

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This might come as a surprise to California natives in their 20s and early 30s: The state owns your DNA. Every year about four million newborns in the U.S. get a heel prick at birth, to screen for congenital disorders, that if found early enough, can save their life. However, when those tests are done, the leftover blood isn’t simply thrown away. Instead, they’re taken to an office building and the DNA data is stored in a database. It’s a treasure trove of information about you, from the color of your eyes and hair to your pre-disposition to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.  And that’s not the end of it:  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is not the only agency using the blood spots. Law enforcement can request them. Private companies can buy them to do research – without your consent.

Obama backs $607 billion Pentagon bill that bars Guantanamo closing


By Bill Van Auken
12 November 2015

The White House indicated Tuesday that President Barack Obama will sign into law a Pentagon spending bill that significantly raises the base budget of the US war machine while prohibiting the shutdown of the prison camp at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba or the transfer of its detainees to US facilities.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides for a base Pentagon budget (excluding expenditures on active military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria) of $548 billion, larger than any year since the end of the Cold War.

On top of the base budget, the funding bill includes $50.9 billion for “overseas contingency operations,” that will pay for ongoing military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, down from $64.2 billion in the last fiscal year. Together with a few smaller increments, this brings the total in military spending to $607 billion for the fiscal year that began October 1.

Over the past 15 years, the base Pentagon budget has risen by 42.7 percent, growing steadily as Obama replaced Bush, the Iraq war was wound down and then restarted, and the Afghanistan war was escalated and then scaled back.

The White House indicated that Obama would approve the legislation. “I would expect that you would see the president sign the NDAA when it comes to his desk,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news briefing.

The fiscal year 2016 military budget sent to the White House was passed by the US Senate in an overwhelming 91-3 vote on Tuesday, following the passage of a similar bill by the House of Representatives last week by a margin of 370-58, allowing Republican congressional leaders to claim clear bipartisan support for keeping Washington’s infamous offshore detention camp open.

Last month, Obama vetoed an earlier incarnation of the bill, citing budgetary considerations as his first concern, insufficient reforms to military procurement his second and the ban on Guantanamo’s shutdown only third.

The Republican leadership had attempted to keep in place spending caps imposed in a 2011 budget-cutting measure known as the sequester, while still raising the Pentagon’s real budget by shifting increased appropriations into an overseas contingency operations (OCO) slush fund used to pay for ongoing American military interventions abroad.

Under a two-year budget deal worked out between the White House and the Congress, the caps were raised on both areas of spending, allowing for an increase in the Pentagon’s base budget of nearly 7.7 percent, raising it from $496 billion to $548 billion in fiscal year 2016.

The increase in military spending is being driven overwhelmingly by the procurement of new weapons systems aimed at preparing for war against another major power; in the first instance, Russia and China.

The budget provides $5.7 billion for the Air Force to buy another 44 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from Lockheed Martin, continuing the most expensive arms acquisition program in US history.

The Navy is moving ahead with a program to build 12 new nuclear missile-firing submarines at the cost of $6 billion each. The overall plan for building battle force ships presented by the Navy calls for the spending of over a third more in the next 30 years than was spent in the last 30, with estimated annual costs at over $20 billion.

The Pentagon budget also includes nearly $11 billion for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, comprising some 71,000 commandos deployed in some 80 countries. To augment the reach of these killer squads, the budget includes funding for the purchase of a new generation of Reaper armed drone aircraft used in “targeted killings,” i.e., assassinations.

Also included in the NDAA is another $300 million in military aid to the right-wing, anti-Russian regime in Ukraine for the continued US training of security forces, including battalions drawn directly from neo-fascist forces, and the provision of “lethal assistance such as anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition.”

Significantly, the Pentagon funding bill includes provisions that shift substantial control over weapons programs and acquisitions from the secretary of defense to the uniformed chiefs of the armed services, further eroding civilian control over the military.

The rise in the Pentagon’s budget is being initiated under conditions in which US military spending is already nearly three times as much as China’s and more than seven times as much Russia’s. In 2015, Washington spent more on its military than the next seven countries—five of them US allies—combined.

The only explanation for such a build-up is that US imperialism is preparing for a major escalation of military aggression on a world scale.

This eruption of US militarism goes hand-in-hand with the assault on basic democratic principles and rights, making the provisions to maintain the Guantanamo prison camp a logical corollary to the Pentagon legislation.

Much has been made in the media about Obama confronting a challenge to his “legacy” in failing to remove the Guantanamo provisions from the spending bill.

On his first full day in office, the Democratic president announced an executive order promising to close down the prison camp within one year. This will be the sixth Pentagon budget in a row that he has signed precluding such a shutdown. The restrictions were first put in place by a Democratic-controlled House and Senate.

The latest legislation not only bans the transfer of prisoners to the US, but also prohibits their being sent to third countries, including Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

Approaching the end of his second term, Obama has yet to present any plan to Congress for closing Guantanamo, and there is speculation that he could issue an executive order claiming the power as “commander in chief” to determine the fate of the detainees without congressional approval.

Given that Obama has submitted to congressional restrictions for the past seven years, it is questionable whether the courts would uphold such an order. Federal courts recently blocked his executive order limiting deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Obama would do anything regarding Guantanamo in the run-up to the November 2016 election.

There are still 112 detainees held in Guantanamo’s cells. Over 800 men have been incarcerated in the prison camp since it opened in 2001 as an offshore facility where those abducted by the US military and intelligence agencies could be arbitrarily held without charges or trials and subjected to interrogation under torture.

Only ten of those currently held are facing criminal charges before military commissions. The other 102 have never been charged, while some have been held for 13 years. Of them, 53 have been cleared for release for the last five years, most of them Yemenis, but they remain imprisoned even though Washington admits they pose no security threat.

Among the others are the so-called “forever prisoners,” whom the US cannot bring to trial in any civilian court because the alleged evidence against them was gained through torture and other illegal methods.

Obama’s proposal is to transfer these prisoners to a US maximum security prison, effectively a “Guantanamo North.” Alternative sites have been indicated in Leavenworth, Kansas, Colorado and elsewhere.

Obama’s claims that such a transfer would somehow be consistent with American “values” are utterly hypocritical. In reality, it would have the effect of further institutionalizing an illegal system of arbitrary imprisonment on US soil, setting the precedent for the indefinite detention of American citizens as well.