US Journalist Sentenced to 5 Years and 3 Months for Posting a Link

Originally published on January 24, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Freelance journalist Barrett Brown, whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Vanity Fair, and The Huffington Post, was sentenced to 63 months in prison on Thursday for posting a hyperlink containing stolen credit card information. Initially facing a possible sentence of 105 years, Brown accepted a plea deal after prosecutors agreed to drop most of the charges against him. The judge also ordered Brown to pay $890,250 in restitution to several companies targeted by the hacker collective Anonymous.

In December 2011, Anonymous member Jeremy Hammond hacked into Strategic Forecasting, Inc. or “Stratfor” for short. A private intelligence contractor, Stratfor claims to provide governments and corporations with geopolitical analysis. After extracting Stratfor’s files, Hammond exposed several emails from Stratfor’s former CEO George Friedman revealing that Stratfor had been partnering with Shea Morenz, a former Goldman Sachs managing director, to profit from insider trading. Shea Morenz is now President and CEO of Stratfor.

More disclosures revealed that Dow Chemical hired Stratfor to spy on protestors and victims of the 1984 Bhopal disaster while maintaining surveillance on activist filmmakers, The Yes Men. Other emails exposed that The Coca-Cola Company hired Stratfor to spy on members of PETA during the 2010 Olympics. In a statement, The Coca-Cola Company responded to the emails by saying they “consider it prudent to monitor for protest activities at any major event we sponsor.”

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New GOP Chairman Suppresses Full CIA Torture Report

Originally published on January 22, 2015, at NationofChange.org

The new Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman sent a letter to the White House and several federal agencies last week demanding the return of every copy of the Committee’s entire classified CIA torture report. The new chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, also intends to return the notorious Panetta Review to the CIA. Critical of the agency’s false statements regarding the reliability of information obtained through torture, the Panetta Review’s release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been blocked by the CIA.

On December 9, 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released nearly 500 pages of the heavily redacted Executive Summary of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of torture committed and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the abusive backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information acquired through torture.

The CIA claims enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary to determine the secret locations of Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), but the Committee discovered these assertions are false. A CIA detainee provided the agency with information leading to bin Laden’s location before agents subjected him to torture. The detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques withheld and fabricated intelligence.

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3 Sheriff’s Deputies Charged with Beating Suspect on Camera

Originally published on January 18, 2015, at NationofChange.org

A federal grand jury in Cincinnati has charged three sheriff’s deputies with conspiring to deprive, and depriving, an arrestee of civil rights while acting under the color of law. Caught on surveillance video at the Lawrence County Jail, the corrections officers assaulted a handcuffed suspect and attempted to cover up the beating by allegedly falsifying incident reports. The sheriff immediately fired one of his deputies and placed the other two on paid administrative leave before obtaining warrants for their arrest.

According to the federal indictment, the victim identified as “L.K.” had been arrested on a disorderly conduct charge and taken to Lawrence County Jail. Between August 16 and 17, 2014, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Deputies Jeremy Hanshaw, Ronald Hatfield, and Jason Mays allegedly assaulted L.K. while he was restrained and not resisting or posing a threat to any officers. Deputies Hanshaw and Hatfield reportedly punched, kicked, and slammed L.K. to the ground restraining him in a chokehold while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

After restraining L.K. on a medical gurney, Hanshaw allegedly began choking him while striking the victim’s head with his elbow. Before attempting to block the beating from a surveillance camera, Mays punched L.K. in the neck as Hanshaw and Hatfield slammed the victim to the ground. In order to justify the brutal assault, the deputies reportedly falsified logs and incident reports to cover up their abusive actions.

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Four Secret Service Assistant Directors Demoted Amid Scandals

Originally published on January 17, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Due to a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report detailing misconduct and incompetency within the agency, the Secret Service has demoted four assistant directors and asked two more to retire. Although six out of eight assistant directors will be replaced, the acting Director and Deputy Director have no intention of resigning.

Calling for new leadership, taller fences, improved training, and holding agents accountable, a recent DHS report said the Secret Service was “starved for leadership” and recommended hiring an outsider as the new Director. In response, acting Director Joseph Clancy demoted Mark Copanazzi, the assistant director for technology; Paul Morrissey, the assistant director for investigations; Dale Pupillo, the assistant director for protective operations; and Jane Murphy, the assistant director for government and public affairs. Victor Erevia, the assistant director for training; and Gregory Marchio, the assistant director for professional responsibility, announced they are retiring while Faron Paramore, the assistant director for administration; and Craig Magaw, the assistant director for strategic intelligence and information, will remain at their posts.

Clancy has been serving as acting Director ever since former Director Julia Pierson resigned after lying to Congress last year. On September 30, 2014, Pierson testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. While reviewing the September 19 break-in at the White House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz discovered Pierson had neglected to inform President Obama about the CDC incident with the armed private contractor three days prior. During a visit to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention three days earlier, President Obama entered an elevator accompanied by an armed private contractor with three convictions for assault and battery.

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Albuquerque Cops Charged with Murdering Homeless Man

Originally published on January 13, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Two Albuquerque police officers were charged with murder on Monday for the shooting of a mentally ill homeless man captured on video. Accused of committing unjustified and unconstitutional police shootings by a Justice Department investigation, Albuquerque police officers often condone excessive use of force and escalate potentially hazardous situations. Since 2010, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has been involved in over 40 shootings resulting in 27 deaths; many were people with mental illnesses.

Bypassing the state grand jury process, Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg filed documents on Monday in the Second Judicial Court containing a count of open murder against Albuquerque Police Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez. Authorized by New Mexico state law, Brandenburg filed criminal information records allowing the prosecutor to present charges without an indictment from a grand jury.

“Unlike Ferguson, and unlike in New York City – some recent high profile cases – we’re going to know,” stated Brandenburg. “The public’s going to have that information, you’re all going to have seen the witnesses, heard the arguments, and you’ll understand, hopefully, perhaps why the judge made the decision he or she will make.”

On March 16, 2014, APD officers responded to a report of a homeless man, James Boyd, illegally camping in the Sandia foothills. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and armed with two small pocketknives, Boyd negotiated with police for four hours before agreeing to surrender. According to a helmet camera video released by the APD after the shooting, Boyd had been complying with their orders when an officer fired a flashbang grenade at him.

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Saudi Government Imposes Sentence of 1,000 Lashes Against Activist Blogger

Originally published on January 11, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Fearing a resurgence of the 2011 Arab Spring upheaval, the government of Saudi Arabia began a series of 1,000 public lashings against an activist blogger for expressing freedom of speech and religion. Sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Islam, Raif Badawi must endure 50 lashes a week for 20 weeks and pay a fine of one million riyals (approximately $266,600). Although Saudi Arabia publicly condemned the recent attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Saudi secret police regularly collude with the NSA to commit human rights abuses against activists and bloggers.

According to an eyewitness account, Badawi exited a police van in front of al-Jafali mosque in the coastal city of Jeddah just after midday on Friday. Escorted by eight or nine officers, Badawi stood in the middle of the crowded square handcuffed and shackled. An officer beat Badawi’s back and legs 50 times with a large cane. Badawi remained silent as his face contorted with anguish. After the flogging ended, the officers escorted Badawi back to the van and returned him to prison.

Detained since June 17, 2012, Badawi had initially been charged with apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed the charge. Accused of cybercrime and disobeying his father, Badawi was convicted of insulting Islam on a liberal online forum that he had created. The Saudi government shut down Badawi’s website and originally sentenced him to seven years and 600 lashes on July 29, 2013.

After reviewing an appeal on May 7, 2014, a judge extended Badawi’s sentence to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a ban from using the internet, and a fine of one million riyals. Following his arrest, Badawi’s wife fled the country with their children and moved to Canada. In July, Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abul-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison and barred from travelling for another 15 years after being convicted of inciting public opinion, insulting the judiciary, and undermining the regime and officials.

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Sen. Feinstein Introducing New Laws to Prohibit CIA Torture

Originally published on January 9, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Before stepping down as Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to President Obama enumerating her recommendations to prevent the CIA from committing further acts of torture. Sent on December 30, 2014, but made public on Monday, the letter acknowledges the existence of legislative loopholes allowing future administrations to reauthorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Although Feinstein urges stronger oversight of CIA programs and holding intelligence officials accountable, the GOP-led Senate is unlikely to enact her proposals.

Releasing the heavily redacted Executive Summary of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program on December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee detailed several acts of abuse and torture committed by the CIA during the incessant war on terror. According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of human rights violations and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the questionable backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information obtained through torture.

According to her letter to the president, Sen. Feinstein recommends closing all torture loopholes buried within the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the U.S. Army Field Manuel, and Executive Order 13491. She notes that the Office of Legal Counsel interpreted the Detainee Treatment Act to allow the CIA to use coercive and abusive interrogation techniques. Intelligence community personnel are not limited to conducting only the interrogation techniques listed in the U.S. Army Field Manuel. And although Obama’s Executive Order 13491 revokes Bush’s Executive Order 13440, a future president could just as easily revoke Obama’s order ensuring lawful interrogations.

Feinstein also recommends requiring the U.S. government to notify the Red Cross and provide timely access to captured detainees. According to the report, CIA officer Matthew Zirbel left black site detainee Gul Rahman beaten and half-naked from the waist down in an unheated cell overnight while shackled to a wall in November 2002. Rahman was found dead of hypothermia the next day. In a case of mistaken identity, German citizen Khalid El-Masri endured months of beatings and forced rectal suppositories before being released without charges.

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