Journalists Face Most Deadly and Dangerous Period in Recent History

Originally published on April 29, 2015, at NationofChange.org

According to a report released on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that terrorist groups and governments have made recent years the most dangerous period to work as a journalist. Targeted by both terrorists and national security agencies, journalists across the world have been subjected to kidnapping, torture, murder, government surveillance, censorship, and imprisonment. As Islamic State continues releasing videos of beheaded reporters, the number of journalists detained in jails worldwide has more than doubled since 2000.

In its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press: Journalists caught between terrorists and governments, the CPJ reported that the incessant war on terror has escalated the risk to journalists’ lives as many of their murders remain unsolved. With the advent of mass electronic surveillance, journalists must now employ extreme countermeasures in order to protect the identities of their sources and often succumb to self-censorship while working in abject fear of arbitrary detention.

“From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information—an increasingly complicated effort, with higher and higher stakes,” wrote CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in the review’s foreword.

In the U.S., the National Security Agency (NSA) is attempting to gather every piece of electronic communication sent or received. With the government recording our phone conversations, email archives, cell-site location, metadata, online activity, and GPS, reporters also have to contend with roving bugs and surveillance cameras in order to protect their source’s identity. Without employing surveillance countermeasures such as encryption tools and clandestine meetings, journalists can no longer guarantee the anonymity of their sources. The Obama administration is also responsible for aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers that provide information to reporters.

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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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U.S. Government Threatened to Fine Yahoo $250,000/Day

Originally published on September 14, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Unsealed court documents reveal the U.S. government threatened Yahoo Inc. with $250,000 daily fines for refusing to hand over customer data to intelligence agencies in 2008. After losing in court, Yahoo and many major U.S. telecommunications corporations became complicit in the mass surveillance programs revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Taking desperate measures to ensure its secrecy, the government has rewritten the law to allow infringements upon the Fourth Amendment.

Instead of just requesting metadata, the Protect America Act of 2007 demanded telecom companies also provide full emails without a warrant. Although the law intended to target people outside of the U.S., the government admitted communications between Americans would likely be collected as well. After the Protect America Act lapsed, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 swiftly replaced it authorizing continued mass surveillance.

Contesting the order to provide the U.S. government with user data without a warrant, Yahoo waged a legal battle at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, FISC members hold secret sessions and often only hear from Justice Department and intelligence agency lawyers. Arguing that the Protect America Act was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, Yahoo lost the case and was ordered to pay $250,000 for each day they refused to turn over customer data. The fine would have doubled for each successive week.

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LinkedIn Pays Nearly $6 Million in Labor Violations and Damages

Originally published on August 6, 2014, at NationofChange.org

In violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, LinkedIn Corp. has paid $3,346,195 in back wages and $2,509,646 in damages to 359 former and current employees. An investigation led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division exposed LinkedIn’s failure to record, account, and pay all hours worked including overtime wages. LinkedIn agreed to pay the back wages and liquidated damages in order to prevent repeat violations.

“Off-the-clock hours are all too common for the American worker. This practice harms workers, denies them the wages they have rightfully earned, and takes away time with families,” said Susana Blanco, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco. “The department is committed to protecting the rights of workers and leveling the playing field for all law-abiding employers.”

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NSA Colluding with Abusive Saudi Arabian Secret Police

Originally published on July 27, 2014, at NationofChange.org

While the U.S. State Department denounces human rights abuse in Saudi Arabia, the NSA is secretly helping the oppressive state police to capture and torture political activists. A 2013 NSA memo exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals the NSA has been providing surveillance assistance to the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI) in exchange for signals intelligence on terrorists and “Maritime Force targets of mutual interest.”

According to the NSA memo, relations between the US and Saudi intelligence communities had become strained after the first Gulf War in 1991. The NSA experienced years of stagnation while attempting to work with the Saudi Ministry of Defense, Radio Reconnaissance Department. But in December 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper authorized sharing SIGINT with MOI’s Technical Affairs Directorate.

Influenced by the CIA’s successful relationship with the MOI’s General Directorate for Investigations, Mabahith (equivalent to the FBI), Clapper strengthened the NSA’s faltering relations with the Saudi state police. By providing technical assistance and decryption tools to the MOI, Clapper gave the Saudi government the ability to improve their surveillance systems and spyware against political dissidents, bloggers, and human rights activists.

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Lynne and Dick Cheney Publicly Called Out for Torture Program

Originally published on May 20, 2014, at disclose.tv

In this video Cassandra Rules questions Lynne and Dick Cheney at a recent rare public event in Los Angeles California. Cassandra asked why whistleblowers like John Kiriakou are in jail for exposing illegal activity while Dick Cheney the person who committed the illegal acts is still free. As you can see in the video Dick Cheney sat silent as his wife Lynne did all the talking. She also mentions Edward Snowden and calls him a traitor. Special thanks to WeAreChange camera man Andrew Emett for filming.

Lynne and Dick Cheney Confronted on Torture Program

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Originally published on May 21, 2014, at popularresistance.org

In this video Cassandra Rules questions Lynne and Dick Cheney at a recent rare public event in Los Angeles California. Cassandra asked why whistleblowers like John Kiriakou are in jail for exposing illegal activity while Dick Cheney, the person who committed the illegal acts is still free. As you can see in the video Dick Cheney sat silent as his wife Lynne did all the talking. She also mentions Edward Snowden and calls him a traitor. Special thanks to WeAreChange camera man Andrew Emett for filming.

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