Chelsea Manning released amid growing attacks on democratic rights in the US

18 May 2017

Chelsea Manning walked out of the US military’s maximum security prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in the early morning hours Wednesday after serving a sentence of more than seven years, marked by brutality and ill-treatment tantamount to torture.

Manning’s supposed “crime” was that of exposing to the people of the United States and the entire planet the criminal atrocities carried out by the US government in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Washington’s conspiracies around the world.

It is ironic that the release of the US Army private imprisoned for leaking classified documents received minimal coverage from the corporate media, even as it churned out endless stories covering President Donald Trump’s alleged exposure to Russian officials of classified secrets.

The political crisis in Washington is the product of a bitter internecine struggle between rival factions within the ruling political establishment and the US state apparatus, which are equally hostile to the democratic principles and antiwar sentiments for which Chelsea Manning sacrificed her freedom and nearly lost her life.

Days after her sentencing in August 2013, Manning came out as a transgender woman, but the military held her in an all-male prison, subjecting her to sexual humiliation and denying her treatment for her well-documented gender dysphoria. Much of her imprisonment was spent in punitively imposed solitary confinement. The predictable result was extreme mental anguish, depression and attempted suicide.

Manning’s seven years of imprisonment and torment at the hands of the US military represented the most draconian punishment ever imposed for leaking classified documents in the United States. She was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison in a drumhead military court martial, in which the prosecution pressed for a “treason” conviction, a charge that carries the death penalty.

Whom did Manning “betray”? Certainly not the American people, to whom she helped expose crimes being carried out behind their backs. Rather, her actions cut across the interests of the American capitalist ruling class, which is waging endless predatory wars and building up a police-state apparatus to suppress social unrest and popular resistance at home.

Working as a 22-year-old military intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning became increasingly opposed to the US war and occupation in that country. In early 2010, she provided WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified documents exposing Washington’s crimes.

Among the first pieces of this classified material to catch the attention of a wide public was the chilling “Collateral Murder” video. Viewed by millions, the video, recorded through the gun sight of a US Apache helicopter, provides a gut-wrenching exposure, not only of a deliberate massacre of over a dozen unarmed civilians, including two Iraqi reporters working for the Reuters news agency, but of the criminal character of the US war as a whole.

Other documents provided by Manning made it clear that the US was vastly underreporting the number of civilians being killed and wounded in Afghanistan. Manning also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world, which exposed official US lying, efforts to subvert governments, and dossiers on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, showing most of them had no significant role in terrorist operations.

The exposure of these crimes provoked a vindictive reaction from the Obama White House and the State Department, then headed by Hillary Clinton. The persecution of Manning was part of a broader crackdown on whistleblowers—the Obama administration prosecuted more individuals under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all previous administrations combined. This crackdown went hand-in-hand with the buildup of a state repressive apparatus that extended from the massive spying on the US and world population to the president’s invoking of the power to order the drone missile assassination of anyone, anywhere in the world.

If Obama commuted Manning’s sentence on his final day in office (adding 120 days onto her time served), it was not out of any last-minute sympathy for the imprisoned soldier’s suffering, or any newfound democratic convictions. It was a calculated political act, aimed at sanitizing the filthy record of his administration and currying favor for the Democratic Party. The conviction and the draconian sentence remain on the books, a brutal warning to anyone thinking of following in the persecuted private’s footsteps.

During the seven years that Manning spent enclosed behind cement and iron bars, the government’s witch-hunt and persecution against those daring to expose its crimes has only intensified.

Julian Assange has been trapped in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012, threatened by a US federal grand jury. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated last month that Assange’s arrest was a “priority,” adding that the US government was “stepping up our efforts on all leaks … whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.” This was accompanied by an extraordinary speech by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who branded WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” He declared that Assange “has no First Amendment freedoms” and that anyone who reveals the secrets of the US government is an “enemy” guilty of “treason.”

Edward Snowden, who exposed the NSA’s illegal wholesale spying operations, has been turned into a man without a country, living in forced exile in Moscow. Both Trump and Pompeo have publicly called for his execution.

If Manning, Assange and Snowden are compelled to face the threat of imprisonment and even death for lifting the lid on Washington’s dirty secrets, it is in large measure because the corporate media in the United States is fully complicit in these crimes, functioning more and more openly as a propaganda arm of the US government.

In a revealingly hostile response to Manning’s pending release, the New York Times buried an article deep inside its printed addition Wednesday under the headline “Manning Is Set to Be Freed 28 Years Ahead of Schedule.” Presumably the newspaper of record would have preferred she serve her full term.

The Times’s former executive editor, Bill Keller, expressed his attitude toward the WikiLeaks revelations in 2010, while Manning was being brutalized in a Marine Corps lockup in Quantico, Virginia. He described himself as “uncomfortable” with the notion that the Times “can decide to release information that the government wants to keep secret,” a practice that in an earlier period was regarded as the most essential function of the so-called Fourth Estate. He made the Orwellian declaration that “transparency is not an absolute good” and that “Freedom of the press includes freedom not to publish, and that is a freedom we exercise with some regularity.”

Today, the Times’s editorial pages are under the direction of James Bennet, a figure with the closest ties to the state apparatus and the top echelons of the Democratic Party. (His father is a former head of USAID, a front for the CIA, and his brother is the senior senator from Colorado.) The Times churns out war propaganda, while news coverage is, by the paper’s own admission, vetted by the US intelligence agencies. These practices set the tone for the corporate media as a whole.

The suppression of freedom of the press and free speech in the US—epitomized by the relentless persecution of Manning, Assange and Snowden—is driven by the needs of America’s ruling oligarchy, as it seeks to extricate itself from deepening economic and political crises by means of ever more dangerous acts of military aggression abroad, while confronting rising hostility and anger from masses of working people in the US and around the world.

The defense of these rights and the fight against state repression can be waged only as part of the struggle for the independent political mobilization of the working class against the capitalist system.

Bill Van Auken

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/18/pers-m18.html

Why the CIA is for Hillary Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli,  Libya October 18, 2011.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR2ST4W

6 August 2016

In an op-ed column in Friday’s New York Times, former top CIA official Michael Morell publicly endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In the article, Morell branded Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump, as a pawn of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Morell retired from the CIA in 2013 after a 33-year career, having spent two decades in high-level positions in Washington. His duties included preparing the President’s Daily Brief for George W. Bush. For three years he was deputy director, running the agency day-to-day, and he had two stints as acting director, for three months in 2011 and for four months in 2012-2013.

The crimes with which Morell is associated are legion. He was a top official throughout the period of CIA kidnappings (renditions) of victims who were then held in secret prisons and tortured. He helped lead the CIA when it was carrying out drone missile assassinations and other forms of covert state terrorism. Throughout his tenure in Langley, Virginia, the CIA was engaged in war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria and many other countries.

After Morell left the agency, Obama appointed him to the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which prepared a whitewash of National Security Agency spying following the revelations by Edward Snowden. He then moved seamlessly to a position as a well-paid media commentator for CBS News, while joining the campaign of former CIA officials to block the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.

That such an individual comes out publicly in support of Hillary Clinton says a great deal about the nature of the Democratic presidential campaign and the type of administration Clinton will head in the event that she wins the November election.

Morell’s op-ed column appears under the headline: “I Ran the CIA. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton.” As far as the New York Times is concerned, support for Clinton from an organization that is identified around the world with torture and murder should be shouted from the rooftops. It is something to be proud of, a positive credential for the Democratic presidential nominee.

The former CIA official declares Clinton “highly qualified to be commander in chief,” praises “her belief that America is an exceptional nation that must lead in the world,” and notes that in the internal discussions over US intervention in the Syrian civil war, “she was a strong proponent of a more aggressive approach.”

Morell denounces Trump as unqualified to be president, in part because of his volatile personality and lack of national security experience, but mainly because of his supposed connection to Russia.

He writes: “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated…

“Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests—endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States. In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

This extraordinary allegation adds fuel to the campaign launched by pro-Clinton pundits like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, portraying Trump as a “Siberian candidate” whose campaign represents a Russian intervention into the US elections.

The Clinton campaign has embraced and promoted these McCarthyite smears, issuing a video Friday posing the question, “What is Donald Trump’s connection to Vladimir Putin?” The video, available on YouTube, consists of clips of right-wing media figures, including Joe Scarborough, Charles Krauthammer and George Will, denouncing Trump for his praise for Putin, interspersed with questions suggesting that Trump has secret business ties to Russia and is being financed by Russian oligarchs.

In style and political content, the video recalls the ravings of the John Birch Society, the anticommunist organization of the 1950s and 1960s that claimed leading US political figures, including President Eisenhower, were Soviet agents.

This underscores the drastic shift to the right in the political orientation of the Democratic Party. It does not oppose Trump on the basis of his militarism or his authoritarian contempt for democratic rights. Instead, the Clinton campaign is presenting itself as the authoritative party of the military-intelligence complex and the political establishment, appealing to billionaires, the military brass and the intelligence agencies.

In the form of Trump vs. Clinton, the US electoral system has provided working people the “choice” between an openly fascistic demagogue and an avowed representative of the Pentagon, the CIA and the financial establishment hell-bent on launching new imperialist wars.

The barrage of claims by the corporate media that Trump, as distinct from “normal” US politicians, is deranged deserves only contempt. Both Trump and Clinton are deadly enemies of the working class. They may be opposed to one another in the election campaign, but that is no argument for working people to take sides. Rather, workers and youth must draw the conclusion that the entire political system is deeply dysfunctional and should be swept away.

The Democratic Party is appealing, not to the mass opposition and disgust with Trump on the part of working people, but to the opposition to Trump within the US ruling elite, whose main concern is that the Republican candidate’s friendly gestures towards Putin, his open questioning of the value of NATO, and his expressed reservations about US wars in the Middle East are cutting across the bipartisan foreign policy consensus in Washington.

This poses immense dangers to the working class. The logic of the Democrats’ anti-Trump campaign is to channel mass opposition to Trump behind preparations for war with Russia, a nuclear-armed power. In the event of a Democratic victory—increasingly likely according to polling this week—Clinton will claim a mandate for war policies that can be carried out only through a frontal assault on the living standards and democratic rights of American workers. This demonstrates that the differences between Clinton and Trump are purely tactical: how best to subordinate the working class to the war drive of American imperialism.

As the WSWS has previously pointed out, Trump did not crawl out of the Manhattan sewers or a Munich beer hall. He emerged from the well-heeled, corrupt circle of real estate speculators in New York City, where he had the closest ties with the Democratic Party machine. He was molded and promoted for decades by the corporate-controlled media and the political establishment. He and the Clintons are old friends: he invited them to one of his weddings; they asked for his money for their political campaigns and bogus charities.

If Trump is suddenly branded as a monster who must be kept out of the White House, it is only because the US financial aristocracy and the military-intelligence apparatus have a different monster in mind, one they consider more dependable: Hillary Clinton. She’s the monster who is on message—on Ukraine, Russia, NATO and the anti-Chinese “pivot to Asia.” She knows which generals to salute and which billionaires to flatter. She’s a “safe pair of hands,” which means she can be relied on to kill the right people.

That is the meaning of Clinton’s endorsement by the CIA’s Michael Morell and, more generally, the wave of support for her campaign from billionaires, Republicans, generals and the media.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/08/06/pers-a06.html

Silencing America as It Prepares for War

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Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention.  The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.”  So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented precision”. The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened …Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter … “. Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

On Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us. For them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands. In its mammoth war game in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.

Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation. A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.

Clinton, the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia. It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland — that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s ten biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.

Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq. He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.

The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.

“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.

In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?

The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief  of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.

This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.

In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia”. In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.

History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.

The equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate. I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House. No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels.  Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump. That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com

counterpunch.org

White House spearheads assault on cell phone encryption

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By Andre Damon
23 February 2016

The Obama administration on Monday escalated its drive to undermine encryption with the announcement that a lawyer for unspecified victims of the San Bernardino mass shooting would, at the behest of the federal government, file a legal brief in support of a court order to compel Apple Inc. to create a “backdoor” to its popular iOS mobile operating system.

The move is the latest step in a carefully orchestrated campaign by the Obama Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to use the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino attack, one of more than 300 mass shootings that took place last year, to turn public opinion against the defense of privacy rights and weaken, or even criminalize, encryption.

Stephen Larson, a former federal judge who now practices privately, told Reuters he had been approached by the Justice Department two days before the filing of its case against Apple to represent victims of the San Bernardino shooting. He refused to give any details about the brief, including the number of victims he is representing.

The announcement follows by just three days the Justice Department’s filing of a separate brief demanding that Apple comply with a federal judge’s ruling handed down February 16 that the company create a fake operating system for the FBI capable of extracting encrypted data stored on its smartphones.

Apple has refused to comply with the court’s ruling and is preparing to appeal the decision.

It is clear that the Obama administration deliberately provoked a public confrontation with Apple over access to the cell phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters in a cynical effort to play on emotions and fears of terror attacks and cast defenders of privacy rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights as disloyal, unpatriotic and selfish laggards in the so-called war on terror.

The administration had been preparing to introduce legislation to enable the government to disable encryption programs, but pulled back last year in the face of broad popular opposition and resistance from telecommunications and social media companies. The latter, including Apple, have collaborated for years with the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI in their illegal and unconstitutional mass spying operations, but felt obliged, following the revelations by former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, to draw the line at openly handing over to the state the private communications of customers who use encryption precisely to prevent the state from snooping on them.

Apple and other major telecom and Internet firms have been involved in private negotiations with the Justice Department for months over the issue. It appears that after the attack in San Bernardino, which came less than a month after the mass terror killings in Paris, the Obama administration decided to use the attacks to set up a very public confrontation with Apple, hoping to overwhelm and intimidate popular opposition to yet another step in the direction of a police state.

Following the Snowden revelations, the White House had sought to posture as a defender of civil liberties and an advocate of a “reasonable balance” between privacy rights and national security, while in practice fully supporting the mass spying operations. But since the federal court ruling against Apple, the White House has fully endorsed the efforts of FBI Director James Comey to undermine encryption methods on the pretext of preventing terror attacks.

The FBI claims it needs full access to the cell phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, who was shot dead by police following the attack, in order to determine if he was in contact with ISIS figures. This is an obvious pretext, since the NSA and other intelligence agencies already have access to so-called metadata, including the telephone numbers of incoming and outgoing calls.

The contradictions in the FBI’s official narrative of the case continue to mount. In a statement issued Monday, the FBI admitted that law enforcement officials had changed the password associated with Farook’s smartphone in Apple’s “iCloud” data syncing service. Apple insists that had they not done so, the FBI would have been able to extract all data from the phone simply by plugging it into a power source in the vicinity of a known wireless network, such as that in the attacker’s home.

The phone was owned by San Bernardino County, which employed Farook as a food inspector. It is doubtful that Farook would have kept anything of relevance to the attack in the phone, given that his employer had access to its contents. The attackers had destroyed other hard drives and phones, but made no effort to destroy the phone in question.

On Sunday, Comey issued a statement in which he declared the “San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.” Instead, he claimed, the FBI is concerned only with “the victims and justice.”

Contrary to the assertions of Apple and the nearly unanimous opinion of leading public security experts, Comey said the case applied only to the phone in question, declaring, “We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land.”

These are barefaced lies.

Despite the government’s efforts, there are indications of broad public support for Apple’s position, and protests are planned Tuesday at dozens of the company’s retail locations.

Apple flatly contradicted Comey’s claims Monday, declaring that “the order would set a legal precedent that would expand the powers of the government, and we simply don’t know where that would lead us. Should the government be allowed to order us to create other capabilities for surveillance purposes, such as recording conversations or location tracking?”

In his statement Sunday, Comey declared that the case highlights the “tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living.”

Comey, backed by President Obama, asserts that a question with vast implications for democratic rights should be decided by an intelligence agency that, together with the NSA, operates outside of the law and is aggressively erecting the infrastructure of a police state.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/23/cell-f23.html

Stop the persecution of Julian Assange!

UN panel condemns detention of WikiLeaks founder

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5 February 2016

More than five years after first being detained under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Sweden in relation to fabricated allegations of sexual misconduct, and after more than three and a half years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been vindicated by a United Nations human right panel. This body has ruled that his persecution by the Swedish and British governments amounts to “arbitrary detention” and constitutes a violation of international law.

Assange’s sole “crime” is making public secret documents detailing the real and murderous war crimes carried out by the US government in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the conspiracies hatched by the US State Department and the CIA in countries around the world.

For exposing its criminal operations, Washington is determined to silence and punish Assange, using the lies concocted by Swedish prosecutors and the complicity of the British government to achieve its aims.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry Thursday acknowledged that the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) will today issue its findings that Assange has been “deprived of his liberty in an arbitrary manner for an unacceptable length of time.”

The UN panel could only have reached such a decision based on overwhelming evidence that the charges against Assange constitute a legal frame-up mounted for political purposes.

Even before the findings of the UN working group were made known, Assange issued a statement from the Ecuadorian embassy accepting the decision as the culmination of his final legal appeal. He declared that, were the panel to rule against him, he would leave the embassy on Friday “to accept arrest by British police.” He went on to insist that if it found that the Swedish and British governments were acting in violation of international law, “I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me.”

Neither London nor Stockholm, however, have shown any similar inclination to allow international law and the human rights treaties to which both are signatories to guide their actions.

A spokesman for the government of Prime Minister David Cameron issued a cynical statement insisting that Julian Assange “has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy.” Only last October did British police end a round-the-clock siege of the embassy, announcing that they were pursuing “covert” methods in seeking Assange’s capture. At one point, the British government indicated that it would ignore international law protecting embassies and send security forces to storm the building.

As for the Swedish government, the foreign ministry in Stockholm issued a brief note asserting that the UN’s ruling “differs from that of the Swedish authorities” and would not alter its legal vendetta against the WikiLeaks founder.

The British and the US governments have regularly invoked the findings of the UN panel on arbitrary detentions when they could be used to lend a “human rights” pretext to imperialist operations against countries like China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba. That the actions taken by London and Washington themselves should be subject to international law, however, is rejected out of hand.

What they find impermissible is the exposure of their crimes, which have killed and wounded millions, while turning many millions more into homeless refugees. This is why they have not only hounded Assange, but placed Private Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning in prison for 35 years.

Manning was convicted by a drumhead military tribunal in 2013 on charges of “aiding the enemy” for providing WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including the “collateral murder” video showing an Apache helicopter’s gun sight view of the 2007 massacre of 12 Iraqi civilians. Also leaked were the “Afghan war diary” and the “Iraq war logs,” exposing multiple war crimes committed by the US military, and over 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables revealing Washington’s counterrevolutionary intrigues around the globe.

Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed the NSA’s wholesale collection of every form of data on the planet, from US and non-US citizens alike, in open violation of the US Bill of Rights and international law, has been turned into a man without a country, living in forced exile in Moscow.

There are a number of other such cases, including that of ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou, the only person punished in connection with the CIA’s torture of detainees—sent to prison for publicly exposing it. The Obama administration has prosecuted more individuals under the Espionage Act for leaking secret information to the media than all other US presidents combined.

Assange can expect even worse if he falls into the clutches of the British police and the Swedish authorities, who are acting as the agents of the US military and intelligence apparatus. He has been the subject of a secret grand jury investigation for over five years and is undoubtedly charged in a sealed indictment with espionage and other crimes against the state that could bring him life in prison or even the death penalty. Meanwhile, leading political figures in the US have openly called for his assassination.

Assange, Manning, Snowden and others have faced relentless persecution for daring to lift the lid on the secret operations of the US government.

This witch hunt is driven by the deepest needs of the American state, which functions as the instrument of a financial oligarchy. It defends this ruling layer’s vast wealth and monopoly on political power against the masses of working people in the US and around the world, while seeking to offset the economic decline of American capitalism by waging ever-more dangerous wars of aggression. Given the criminal character of these operations, a regime of secrecy and increasingly dictatorial methods is indispensable.

The only genuine constituency for the defense of democratic rights is the working class. Working people must come to the defense of Assange, Snowden, Manning and other victims of state conspiracies and repression.

Any attempt to arrest or extradite Assange must be answered with mass demonstrations and work actions in the UK, the US and all over the world.

This campaign in defense of Assange and the other victims of state repression can go forward only as part of the struggle of the international working class against the capitalist system, whose historic crisis threatens humanity with both world war and police state dictatorship.

Bill Van Auken

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/05/pers-f05.html

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

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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.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/11/18/encr-n18.html