Thursday, June 6, 2013

  • NSA Whistleblowers: "All U.S. Citizens" Targeted by Surveillance Program, Not Just Verizon Customers

    Smart_phones

    A leaked court order has revealed the Obama administration is conducting a massive domestic surveillance program by collecting telephone records of millions of Verizon customers. The Guardian newspaper published a classified order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court directing Verizon’s Business Network Services to give the National Security Agency electronic data, including all calling records on an "ongoing, daily basis." The order covers each phone number dialed by all customers, along with location and routing data, and with the duration and frequency of the calls, but not the contents of the communications.

    We discuss the news with three guests: Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and two former National Security Agency employees turned whistleblowers: Thomas Drake and William Binney. In 2010, the Obama administration charged Drake with violating the Espionage Act after he was accused of leaking classified information to the press about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The charges were later dropped. "Where has the mainstream media been? These are routine orders, nothing new," Drake says. "What’s new is we’re seeing an actual order. And people are somehow surprised by it. The fact remains that this program has been in place for quite some time. It was actually started shortly after 9/11. The PATRIOT Act was the enabling mechanism that allowed the United States government in secret to acquire subscriber records from any company."

    Binney, who worked at nearly 40 years at the NSA and resigned shortly after the 9/11 attacks, says: "NSA has been doing all this stuff all along, and it’s been all the companies, not just one. And I basically looked at that and said: If Verizon got one, so did everybody else. Which means that they’re just continuing the collection of this kind of information of all U.S. citizens."

  • Obama-Backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Expands Corporate Lawsuits Against Nations for Lost Profits

    Privatization_protest

    The Obama administration is facing increasing scrutiny for the extreme secrecy surrounding negotiations around a sweeping new trade deal that could rewrite the nation’s laws on everything from healthcare and Internet freedom to food safety and the financial markets. The latest negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were recently held behind closed doors in Lima, Peru, but the Obama administration has rejected calls to release the current text. Even members of Congress have complained about being shut out of the negotiation process. Last year, a leaked chapter from the draft agreement outlined how the TPP would allow foreign corporations operating in the United States to appeal key regulations to an international tribunal. The body would have the power to override U.S. law and issue penalties for failure to comply with its rulings.

    We discuss the TPP with two guests: Celeste Drake, a trade policy specialist with the AFL-CIO, and Jim Shultz, executive director of the Democracy Center, which has just released a new report on how corporations use trade rules to seize resources and undermine democracy. "What is the biggest threat to the ability of corporations to go into a country and suck out the natural resources without any regard for the environment or labor standards? The threat is democracy," Shultz says. "The threat is that citizens will be annoying and get in the way and demand that their governments take action. So what corporations need is to become more powerful than sovereign states. And the way they become more powerful is by tangling sovereign states in a web of these trade agreements."

  • Civil Rights Veteran Chokwe Lumumba Elected Mayor of Jackson, Miss., Once a Center of Racial Abuses

    Lumumba

    Just days before the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the city’s voters have elected longtime black nationalist organizer and attorney Chokwe Lumumba to become mayor. Describing himself as a "Fannie Lou Hamer Democrat," Lumumba surprised many political observers by winning the Democratic primary, despite being outspent five to one. He went on to easily win this week’s general election.

    Over the past four decades, Lumumba has been deeply involved in numerous political and legal campaigns. As an attorney, his clients have included former Black Panther Assata Shakur and the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur. As a political organizer, Lumumba served for years as vice president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization which advocated for "an independent predominantly black government" in the southeastern United States and reparations for slavery. He also helped found the National Black Human Rights Coalition and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. "People should take a note of Jackson, because we have suffered some of the worst kinds of abuses in history," Lumumba says. "But we’re about to make some advances and some strides in the development of human rights and the protection of human rights that I think have not been seen in other parts of the country."