NSA Whistleblower: Everyone in US under virtual surveillance

Petition to close Guantanamo Bay

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is currently gathering signatures for a global petition to close Guantanamo Bay.

Sign the petition, “10 years on: Close Guantánamo Bay”, here.

Amnesty International writes:

Sign our global petition calling on President Obama to take action to close Guantánamo by ending indefinite detention. It’s been ten years too long.

On 11 January 2002 the first detainees were transferred to Guantánamo Bay. Since then, the US detention facility has made headlines with allegations of torture, enforced disappearances and illegal detention.

A decade on and 171 detainees remain at Guantánamo Bay. At least 12 arrived as part of the original group first transferred ten years ago. Most have never been charged with a crime and don’t know when they will face trial, if at all. Those who have been charged face unfair trial by military commission.

Indefinite detention without trial violates international human rights law and must end now.

We call on the United States President Barack Obama to address the detentions at Guantánamo Bay as a human rights issue that requires urgent attention.

  • Guantánamo detainees should either be charged and prosecuted in fair trials or released to countries that will respect their human rights, including into the USA if that is the only available option;
  • The US military commissions, which do not meet international fair trial standards, should be abandoned, as should any pursuit of the death penalty;
  • Former or current US officials responsible for human rights violations must be held to account, including in respect of crimes under international law such as torture and enforced disappearance by bringing them to justice. Victims of human rights violations must be provided genuine access to effective remedy
  • The USA must recognise the applicability of, and fully respect international human rights law, when conducting counterterrorism operations, including detentions in Guantánamo, detention facilities at Bagram in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

14 Signs of Fascism (Laurence W. Britt)

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

United Nations Human Rights Council Logo (Image via Wikipedia)

I saw a post on Latent Existence‘s blog which detailed a list of the “warning signs of fascism”, written by Laurence W. Britt in 2003 and published in Free Inquiry Magazine.

Analysing the regimes of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia, Britt extracted a list of 14 common threads that linked them all together. He wrote that “they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power,” each containing these 14 common characteristics. It is a quick, interesting read, and it is worth correlating such characteristics with Western democracies today, such as in the US or the UK, and noting if you find any characteristics below that you can relate to our democracies, surely far removed from the threads of fascism?


1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.

From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights

The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause

The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

4. Supremacy of the military/avid militarism

Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

5. Rampant sexism

Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

6. A controlled mass media

Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.

7. Obsession with national security

Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together

Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected

Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated

Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts

Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment

Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption

Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

14. Fraudulent elections

Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections wit

h candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

You can read the full article here.

UK Met Police to use lethal “hollow point” bullets that are banned in warfare

.45 ACP Federal HST 230gr hollow point cartrid...

Image via Wikipedia

The Metropolitan Police is to arm all of its firearms officers with a lethal type of ammunition known as “hollow point” bullets which flatten and expand upon penetration, causing maximum damage to tissues and vital organs. The use of these rounds are prohibited in warfare under the Hague Convention.

Wikipedia describes hollow point rounds as being “intended to cause the bullet to expand upon entering a target in order to decrease penetration and disrupt more tissue as it travels through the target.”, “maximizing tissue damage and blood loss or shock.”

The Met says that the rounds are less likely to harm bystanders, as the bullets are less likely to over-penetrate and harm others when used in crowded spaces. These special rounds were used in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian who was falsely identified as being a suicide bomber, and was shot dead in 2005. The BBC says: “After it emerged he was killed with the ammunition, cousin Alex Pereira said: “I am shocked and angry. I had no idea. How can the police in the UK use bullets that the Army is not allowed to use?”

According to Channel 4 news, “talks have begun with other police forces to make this type of bullet standard issue in time for the 2012 Olympics.” The head of the Met’s Firearms Unit, Commander Jerry Savill, said he was confident that it will be standard among all UK police forces by next summer.

These special rounds are already standard issue in France, though whilst being used in police ammunition, hollow point rounds are prohibited in warfare under the Hague Convention, due to their being seen as inhumane to opposing soldiers.

David Dyson, a barrister and ballistics consultant, commented on the use of the ammunition. Asked whether the rounds were unsurvivable, he said: “Yes. They don’t use these bullets in the anticipation that people will survive. They expand, so you get the mushroom effect when the bullet hits the body.”

“Much more energy is being imparted into the victim.”

Mr Dyson added that deer stalkers are compelled to use them because they do not go right through the animal.