Pre=deployment training at Tier 1 Group. Photo: T1G/Facebook
When the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government in 2018, it caused an international scandal. Now, it turns out that his killers were trained in the US. In June, The New York Times reported that four Saudis involved in the killing had received paramilitary training from Tier 1 Group, a private security company based in Arkansas.
This was no renegade operation, however. Tier 1 Group, whose training had approval from the US State Department, is part of a burgeoning global industry. Corporate mercenaries – or, more properly, private security and military companies – are increasingly taking over functions that were once carried out by states, with grave implications for human rights and democracy worldwide. It’s big business, too: Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity fund that owns Tier 1 Group, also owns a string of arms manufacturers. In April 2010, Cerberus merged with DynCorp International, one of the world’s largest corporate mercenary companies. Continue reading →
Responding to the Biden administration’s opposition to the International Criminal Court’s investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes in Palestine, Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Wednesday defended the probe while reminding the administration that “no one is above the law.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. “firmly opposes” the ICC investigation while vowing to “continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.” In addition to alleged Israeli crimes, the probe will also examine war crimes allegedly committed by the militant Palestinian resistance group Hamas. Continue reading →
Cellphone tower | Picture by Peter Bjorndal / pixabay.com. Public Domain
Regime-directed surveillance has taken new forms within the Middle East as governments have been forced to adapt to new technological and social environments. While government surveillance of its citizens is not new to the region, this old authoritarian impulse has been revamped in the attempt to subvert opposition and monitor dissidence amid widespread use of social media and access to smartphones within the region.
New forms of targeted hackings and espionage have therefore become commonplace throughout the region, and often extend across borders into the international arena. Western companies, governments, and individuals have provided extensive assistance to the surveillance efforts of these governments, often by supplying them with the necessary technology and expertise needed to conduct such sweeping operations. However, regional countries – particularly Israel – have increasingly constructed and exported their own indigenous operations and platforms designed to surveil their publics. Conducted on a mass scale and bolstered by western technological support, these new and sophisticated forms of surveillance have supplied these governments with the tools necessary to go on the offensive against all who seek to challenge the status quo. Continue reading →
Journalists and advocates for free expression and information celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay Friday. (Image: RSF)
As the international community celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay on Friday, a leading global nonprofit warned that only 9 percent of humanity lives in countries with good or satisfactory levels of press freedom.
Journalism advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières—also known as RSF, or Reporters Without Borders—highlighted the detail from its annual World Press Freedom Index, published last month. Based on the report’s findings, the journalism group produced a color-coded map that shows how each country on Earth generally regards free expression and information. Continue reading →
The U.S. slid down a yearly list ranking press freedom in nations around the world, falling three places to number 48. (Image: Reporters Without Borders)
An annual accounting of press freedoms around the world describes an “intense climate of fear” in which reporters are being forced to work, calling out world leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for their attacks on the media.
Trump’s repeated statements that journalists are “the enemy of the people” and his threats to roll back their right to report political news have been a contributing factor in the United States’ descent to 48th place in the Press Freedom Index, which was released Thursday by Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF). Continue reading →
Already seven of the 10 countries in the world with the highest military budgets are in the Middle East. The development of nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia has many speculating that it could mark the beginning of an even more dangerous era for the war-torn region.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, has secretly approved the sale of nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, Reutersrevealed this week. Saudi Arabia is reportedly attempting to construct at least two nuclear power plants as part of its effort to diversify its energy sector and its economy as a whole. As part of this plan it has accepted bids from Russia, South Korea and the U.S. for the lucrative contract. Perry’s approval is known as a Part 810 authorization, which allows energy companies to begin the process of planning and starting preliminary work in anticipation of the closing of a formal deal in the future.
While the Saudi proposals are presented as civilian and do not mention nuclear weaponry, U.S. approval and sale of nuclear technology has been seen by many as a prelude to the development of a Saudi nuclear weapon, which could potentially spark a nuclear arms race in the region. Riyadh has long coveted atomic weaponry and has considered developing its own in its quest to maintain military dominance in the region. “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit” Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to the United States, told the Guardian in 2011, noting that the kingdom may feel “compelled” to pursue the option in the future, if tensions with Iran remain high. Continue reading →
Eman Al-Nafjan and Loujain Al-Hathloul—along with Nouf Abdulaziz, not shown for privacy and safety reasons—are recipients of the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. (Photo: PEN America)
Three women’s rights activists on trial in Saudi Arabia this week because of their efforts to expand human rights in the infamously oppressive kingdom are this year’s recipients of an award “designed to honor a writer imprisoned for his or her work.”
PEN America, which works to defend free expression globally through the advancement of literature and human rights, announced Thursday that imprisoned writers Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan will be honored with the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at the PEN America Literary Gala in May. Continue reading →
“An arrogant tirade extolling the U.S. as a liberator not an occupier, a defender not an aggressor—a depiction that runs totally counter to the sordid U.S. history of invasions and occupations all over the world.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressing students at the American University in Cairo on Thursday. Photo:@SecPompeo/Twitter
A speech delivered by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Cairo, Egypt on Thursday was immediately chided by critics as bellicose and ahistorical “hogwash” that did more to reveal the incoherence and dangers of the Trump administration’s foreign policy than anything else.
In his remarks, Pompeo said while Trump remains committed to withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria, the administration would not rest until “every last Iranian boot” was also removed from the country. The U.S. government, he added, will “not ease our campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world.” Continue reading →
Comedian Hasan Minhaj responded Wednesday to Netflix’s decision to take an episode of his show “Patriot Act” off its platform in Saudi Arabia after the government complained it was critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Photo: @Complex/Twitter)
Taking advantage of the recent attention brought to his Netflix series “Patriot Act” by the Saudi government’s objection to an episode that criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comedian Hasan Minhaj called on supporters to contribute to aid efforts in Yemen while mocking the prince’s insistence that the episode be banned in Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, on Saudi orders, Netflix removed from its Saudi platform a “Patriot Act” episode released shortly after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents—which the CIA concluded was ordered by bin Salman, often called MbS—because Minhaj discussed the need for the U.S. to cut ties with the Saudis in light of the murder. However, the episode remained on YouTube in the country and is still available on Netflix outside Saudi Arabia. Continue reading →
Jamal Khashoggi and some of the Capital Gazette staff were included in TIME magazine’s Person of the Year issue, which honored journalists who have been killed, imprisoned, and attacked in the past year. (Photo: TIME Magazine)
Capping off a year marked by accusations of “fake news,” hurled at journalists by President Donald Trump and other global threats to press freedom, TIME magazine selected as Person of the Year journalists who have spent the past year fighting increased hostility toward their work—including those who lost their lives as a result of their reporting.
Calling journalists under attack “guardians” of the truth, the magazine announced the selected Tuesday as it prepared to release four covers of the yearly issue. Continue reading →