Tag Archives: Police State

‘We Need Answers’: House Dems Demand Probe Into US Military Purchases of Location Data From Muslim-Focused Apps

“We cannot pick and choose who the Constitution applies to,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib. “Our government cannot continue to violate the privacy of Americans.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-18-2021

More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers concerned about possible violations of civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Thursday for more information about how and why the U.S. military is buying “access to large quantities of personal data” collected from cellphone applications targeted toward Muslim users.

The letter (pdf) requesting an investigation into U.S. military purchases of private location data was led by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Continue reading

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#ReleaseDishaRavi: Global Outrage After India Arrests Climate Activist Over Farmer Protest Toolkit Shared by Greta Thunberg

Ravi’s arrest “is an unprecedented attack on democracy,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “Supporting our farmers is not a crime.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-15-2021

Disha Ravi leaving her court hearing. Photo: Harteerath Singh/Twitter

Public figures within and beyond India are demanding the release of Disha Ravi, a climate campaigner accused of sedition for allegedly editing and distributing an activist “toolkit” in support of the ongoing farmers’ protest that was tweeted by Fridays for Future founder Greta Thunberg.

petition calling for Ravi’s release has over 12,100 signatures. Activists, actors, politicians, and others have condemned her weekend arrest, which followed months of farmer-led demonstrations against agricultural reforms and other policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist government. Continue reading

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Warnings of Growing ‘Surveillance Empire’ as AI Van Cameras Give Amazon ‘Roaming Eyes in Every Neighborhood’

“Amazon will have the perfect panopticon in place to sweep up unprecedented amounts of data en masse,” says Fight for the Future.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-4-2021

An Amaazon Prime van making a delivery in Queens. Photo: Tdorante10/CC

In what one leading digital rights advocate is calling “the largest expansion of corporate surveillance in human history,” Amazon has begun installing artificial intelligence-equipped cameras in some of its partners’ delivery vehicles to monitor drivers while they work, a move that is raising broader concerns about privacy and corporate power.

CNBC reported Wednesday that Amazon’s AI-powered, four-lens cameras—called Driveri—are being tested in a handful of contracted delivery vehicles. The cameras are manufactured by Netradyne, a San Diego-based startup, and record 100% of the time while vans are operating. They watch and record not only the drivers, but also the road and what’s happening around the vehicles. Continue reading

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Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence

This unassuming spy may look and sound like your favorite college professor, but that facade masks a ruthless wolf in sheep’s clothing who enabled murder by remote control and wielded a thick black pen to cover-up CIA torture.

By Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd. Published 12-29-2020 by MintPress News

Avril Haines speaks during a session on “The Rise of Techno Nationalism” at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2019. Ciaran McCrickard | WEC | CC

Even before President-elect Joe Biden sets foot in the White House, the Senate Intelligence Committee may start hearings on his nomination of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

Barack Obama’s top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 followed by CIA Deputy Director from 2013 to 2015, Haines is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. She is the affable assassin who, according to Newsweek, would be summoned in the middle of the night to decide if a citizen of any country, including our own, should be incinerated in a U.S. drone strike in a distant land in the greater Middle East. Haines also played a key role in covering up the U.S. torture program, known euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included repeated waterboarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, dousing naked prisoners with ice-cold water, and rectal rehydration. Continue reading

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Could the Next Standing Rock Be Brewing in Northern Minnesota?

The tension is palpable in northern Minnesota where a Native-led protest movement is getting ready to square off with Enbridge over the massive Line 3 oil pipeline being built to carry crude from Canada to the Great Lakes.

By Alan Macleod  Published 12-22-2020 by MintPress News

Water Protectors in Palisades, MN on December 14, 2020. Photo: Marian Moore/MN350/Facebook

Despite sub-zero winter temperatures, a conflict over a controversial new pipeline is threatening to boil over in rural Minnesota, turning it into the next Standing Rock. 22 people were arrested last week during protests in Aitkin County, around 120 miles north of Minneapolis, for trespassing against the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. The pipeline project would carry more than 750,000 barrels of fracked Alberta tar sand oil through the United States.

Activists from environmental and indigenous groups are braving the snow to form a barrier to the construction of a pipeline that will traverse the Mississippi and pass through a number of delicate ecosystems, threatening many of the state’s famous rivers and lakes. Continue reading

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What If Jesus Had Been Born in the American Police State?

Today, Jesus’ anti-government views would certainly have resulted in him being labeled a domestic extremist by law enforcement agencies.

By John Whitehead. Published 12-22-2020 by MintPress News

A church is Southern California put up a nativity display that shows Jesus, Mary, and Joseph being detained at the border.

The Christmas story of a baby born in a manger is a familiar one. The Roman Empire, a police state in its own right, had ordered that a census be conducted. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled to the little town of Bethlehem so that they could be counted. There being no room for the couple at any of the inns, they stayed in a stable (a barn), where Mary gave birth to a baby boy, Jesus. Warned that the government planned to kill the baby, Jesus’ family fled with him to Egypt until it was safe to return to their native land

Yet what if Jesus had been born 2,000 years later? Continue reading

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Director of National Intelligence Admits Government Used Section 215 to Track Browsing History

After initially denying the practice, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe admitted the government engaged in activity “that could be characterized” as tracking website visits.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-3-2020

Protesters march in a demonstration demanding an end to government mass surveillance in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 2013. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

The Trump administration recently used one of the most controversial surveillance provisions in U.S. history to record an unidentified person or group’s visit to an unspecified website, the New York Times revealed Thursday.

The Times reports Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe wrote to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on November 6 to inform him that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act had not been used to collect internet search terms, and that none of the 61 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders issued in 2019 involved “web browsing” records. Continue reading

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France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment

Sparked by a new bill that would make publishing photos of police illegal and a viral video soon after that shows French police brutally beating a black man, it appears that France may be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment.

By Alan Macleod. Published 11-30-2020 by MintPress News

Screenshot: EuroNews

Award-winning Syrian photographer Ameer Alhalbi lies dazed on the ground. His head is heavily bruised and bandaged, blood covers his face, arms, and much of his body. Lengths of cotton wool have been stuffed up his broken nose, giving him an almost comical appearance. Alhalbi has been badly beaten by police. But this is not Syria, it is Paris, where he was covering — ironically — huge, nationwide protests against police brutality this weekend.

Perhaps even more concerning is that new laws pushed through by the government of Emmanuel Macron and passed by France’s National Assembly (akin to the U.S. House of Representatives) mean that sharing images of Alhalbi or other victims of police brutality might soon be considered illegal.

Article 24 of the country’s new national security bill, which now only needs to be ratified by the Senate, specifically outlaws the publishing and dissemination of images of police that undermine their physical or psychological “integrity,” and is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 and up to one year in jail. The bill specifically states that filming police in such a manner would be against the law, but questions have been raised about how liberally authorities would interpret the nebulous language of the new edict. Media unions and human rights groups warn that it could prevent journalists from documenting police abuses.

The National Assembly’s decision to approve the law last week sparked large protests in many major cities around France, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, and Nantes. However, an incident caught on camera on Saturday threw large amounts of fuel on the fire of resentment, drastically increasing the demonstrations’ size and intensity.

Images from mobile phones and closed-circuit television showed an unprovoked police attack on a young black music producer at his place of work. A group of four officers can be seen chasing after Michel Zecler, following him from outside into his studio, where they kick, punch and beat him with truncheons. Zecler also alleges they shouted racial abuse while they assailed him.

Before the videos went viral on social media, the officers testified that Zecler had, in fact, attacked them, and was resisting arrest. The officers have now been charged with “deliberate violence” and with “falsifying statements.” Two of the gang of four, including a 44-year-old senior officer with the rank of brigadier, remain in custody, while two others have been released.

The viral images provoked a storm of condemnation across the country this weekend, and propelled as many as 500,000 people into the streets, with demonstrations in dozens of cities. Protestors marched through the streets, setting light to cars, damaging buildings, and clashing with police, of whom a reported 98 were injured nationwide. Many of Paris’ iconic boulevards resembled a war zone as thousands of demonstrators pitched battle with lines of police in riot gear.

President Macron said he was “very shocked” by the footage of the police attack on Zecler, yet continues to be a driving force behind the new security law, under which many have noted that the images might never have come to light, given as they essentially identify the Parisien officers and clearly undermine their integrity or authority. Without the footage, it is possible that Zecler would have been facing prosecution himself.

Although the bill and the protests against it are dominating French politics, the story has been covered sparsely in the American corporate press, with no coverage whatsoever in MSNBCCBS News, or CNBC. Fox News, meanwhile, reprinted one Associated Press article, featuring an egregious, uncorrected error in its subheadline, asserting that protestors were shooting tear gas at themselves.

While foreign desks have been seriously cut in recent years, huge demonstrations in central Paris should not have been too difficult to cover. Lebanese political commentator Sarah Abdallah suggested that if the rallies had been happening in countries antagonistic to the United States, they would have been front-page news. Certainly, similar protests in Iran and Hong Kong dominated the news cycles last year, prompting constant reaction from Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is yet to comment on the events in France, suggesting that they are not at the front and center of his thoughts.

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, and has attempted to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. Almost immediately after gaining the presidency, however, his average approval rating tumbled and has not risen above 40% since.

Indeed, the 42-year-old former investment banker has faced almost constant resistance to his agenda from the general public. His attempts to increase the cost of fuel in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement across the country. Meanwhile, his plans to raise the age of retirement and reform France’s pension system was met with a months-long general strike that paralyzed the country last winter. Despite losing over 50,000 people to the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen his popularity increase this year due to the government’s financial response to the virus, which included aid to small businesses and paying employees to stay home. Despite this, it appears possible that France might be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment, where its racial injustices are finally reckoned with.

This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

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Following Outcry, US Government Halts Deportations of Women Who Allege Medical Abuse in ICE Detention—At Least for Now

“ICE and others at Irwin thought they could silence these women… But the women have organized and had the audacity to speak out.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-24-2020

Screenshot: WFAL

Women who have spoken out about alleged abuse by a gynecologist while in U.S. custody won a reprieve Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to halt their deportations until President Donald Trump is nearly out of office.

The motion filed by the DOJ must still be approved by a federal judge, but the department reached an agreement with the lawyers of several women who say Dr. Mahendra Amin abused them and subjected them to invasive procedures without their consent while they were being held at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. Under the agreement, the government will not deport the women until at least mid-January. Continue reading

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From Police Violence at Home to Killing Civilians in Unending Wars Abroad, US Faces Human Rights Reckoning at UN

An ACLU leader urged the incoming administration to “take bold actions on day one to reverse President Trump’s harmful policies.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-9-2020

The United States on Monday faced criticism over its human rights record from allies and adversaries alike at the United Nations as the country submitted to its first Universal Periodic Review of the Trump administration.

All 193 U.N. member states must undergo UPRs, which are held at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC)—from which the U.S. withdrew in 2018 over alleged anti-Israel bias—in Geneva, Switzerland every five years. Continue reading

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