Posts Tagged ‘Glenn Greenwald’

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Who is Private Bradley Manning? Mainstream Media Focuses on Wrong Subject in WikiLeaks Scandal

12.21.10

With people on one side calling Julian Assange a hero and others calling him a terrorist for his organization WikiLeaks publishing classified government documents online, it’s hard to determine where I stand.  Am I for his anarchistic, reveal the secrets, power to the people ideology?  Or are his actions putting lives in danger and a detriment to the free world?

Guest blogger Sean Brown wrote his take on this fiasco yesterday and you can read it here.

Considering the fact that we were misled into the war in Iraq under the guise of WMD which were never found and that the embarrassing revelation at Abu Ghraib informed us that America was torturing its war prisoners, it’s hard to trust the government these days — if it ever was trustworthy to begin with.  Assange’s goals with leaking these confidential documents is to bring transparency to governments, which will create justice.

A noble goal, indeed.

But at the same time, I don’t know that what he’s doing is all that productive.  In the short term, at least, he’s reinforcing the tight security measures and potentially liberty-busting new laws like the SHIELD Act. While the unauthorized release of classified information is already illegal, lawmakers are taking aim directly at publishers now with this new legislation, which could have some serious ramifications on the freedom of the press — all in the name of national security (pretty much the official conversation ender these days, regardless of party affiliation).

What’s interesting is how much face time Assange has gotten for all of this, when the reality is that someone else is leaking this information to him to publish.  Who is on the inside sending them the documents?  And why aren’t they the ones being scrutinized all over the mainstream media?  It seems that we’ve forgotten that old adage: don’t shoot the messenger.

Perhaps its even shadier than that.

It turns out that the accused culprit behind a leak was Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old Army Private, who has been held in solitary confinement for over seven months with no trail date even set. You won’t see his face on the main page of CNN or Yahoo or Fox News.  You’ll for sure see something about WikiLeaks or Assange’s rape charges (which, if legitimate, are serious crimes and nothing to be brushed aside) on them all, though, without having to look much beyond the top headlines.  MSNBC and CBS News have run stories about Manning, but they’ve not gotten the nationwide attention as the other two heavy hitters.  Not by a long shot.

How ridiculous that the mass media continues to fail miserably at exposing the injustices being done by our own government, whose own questionable actions are a direct result of Assange’s methods of exposing the injustices being done by governments. And instead of focusing on the real story that should be investigated — Private Manning — the media takes aim at WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, neither of whom are the real issues here.

There will always be another WikiLeaks.  Another rebel looking to spread secrets and gain notoriety.  Another insider looking to break the code of conduct.  Similar to the futile effort by the music industry to end piracy by demonizing Napster, the government’s knee-jerk reaction against WikiLeaks and Assange is a hollow attack all for show, focusing on his salacious rape charges instead of the stories that truly affect Americans.

Like why an American not yet convicted of a single crime is being held in a Supermax-like captivity with no trial in sight.

Image courtesy of Steve Rhodes’ Flickr Photostream.

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Please, Someone Explain Why Torture isn’t Morally Reprehensible if for American Security

11.20.10

For a myriad of reasons – whether its simply a misguided obsession with safety and national security or going so far as involving a dangerous level of xenophobia coupled with bloated American exceptionalism arrogance – Republicans overwhelmingly support torture. Or, at least (and arguably worse), they deny that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were even torture when we did them and that they were morally justified because of how “evil” the enemies are.

Brian Michael Jenkins has been studying terrorism since back when its perpetrators were called “urban guerrillas.”  He’s sought out for guidance by politicians on both sides of the political divide.  And Jenkins down for an incredible interview with LA Times’ Patt Morrison which is well worth your time to read.  Just an excerpt:

I don’t think torture belongs in the American arsenal. I think torture is illegal, is immoral, but I would go further and argue that it doesn’t work. These silly scenarios [in which] the terrorist knows where the bomb is that’s about to go off in 30 minutes — that’s not reality. Further, you have to judge what you get in information versus the strategic loss that you take when it is revealed, as it will be inevitably, that a country is employing torture…

Finally, you take into account that [using torture] changes the nature of our own society, and that is a tremendous cost.

Let’s break that down into ideas that everyone can understand:

  1. Homeland Security isn’t run by Jack Bauer
  2. Legalizing torture taints our collective moral fiber

Just the other day on Facebook I got into a discussion about George W. Bush’s new book Decision Points where someone said that he was “glad to see him so content.”  It evolved from there to the point where the same commenter ended up defending torture, saying: “I don’t fault him for a natural disaster [Hurricane Katrina] or using techniques on 3 top terror suspects to gain insightful information to save lives.”

To that I ask:

What insightful information?

What lives were saved?

The false narrative in people’s minds about how torture actually worked is debunked by the reality of what happens when these tortured terror suspects go to trial:

A federal jury in New York yesterday returned a guilty verdict against accused Terrorist Ahmed Ghailani on one count of conspiracy to blow up a government building, a crime which entails a sentence of 20 years to life, but acquitted him on more than 280 charges of murder and conspiracy relating to the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Last month, the federal judge presiding over the case, Lewis Kaplan, banned the testimony of a key witness because the Government under George Bush and Dick Cheney learned of his identity not through legal means but instead by torturing Ghailani.

I cannot understand the defense of torture.  That mentality must come from an out-of-control fear combined with an unfortunate misunderstanding and conflation of torture and justice causing a warped moral view.  What’s the most troubling is that moral view then considers itself to be the moral authority, trumping all other viewpoints.

But what makes us different than the Khmer Rouge?  Even if the people we torture are truly evil, while the Khmer Rouge were torturing some not truly evil people, don’t you realize that the morality of torture isn’t dependent on the quality of the person being tortured? If we’re so much better than the people we’re torturing, we wouldn’t be torturing them in the first place — not because they’re not bad people, but because we’re not bad people.

Unless we are.

But I don’t think we are.  We deal with serial killers, murderers, rapists, child molesters and all sorts of homegrown reprehensible creatures without resorting to torture. And until 9/11 and the absurd outrage against all Muslims as being inherently un-American, we didn’t torture our own terrorists: we didn’t waterboard Timothy McVeigh and we gave him the death penalty and caught his co-conspirators.  See also: Bomber, Una.

So, please, someone who disagrees with me, explain why:

  • Torture is necessary and acceptable in prosecuting terror suspects.
  • In defending our nation against those who want to destroy it with violence, it’s okay to destroy our own nation through the voluntary abolishing of our own civil protections.
  • The notion of smaller government only pertains to programs that help Americans but not when it means unprecedented power to spy on and torture Americans.

Anyone?

(H/T The Daily Dish)

Image courtesy of shalawesome’s Flickr Photostream.

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Obama’s ‘State Secrets’ a Bigger Threat to Our Free Society than Health Care Ever Will

09.26.10

Those in the Tea Parties like to rally against government getting too big and usually cite the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, and the health care reform as tell-tale signs that Obama and the Democrats are leading us into socialism.

It seems that the size of government, regardless of what those programs intend to do or why they were enacted in the first place, trumps the content of the policy.  It’s a simple numbers game for them.  In their mind, the government has peaked that curve that tips us from capitalism into socialism in their own view of the world and that’s that.

But what about the real issue of government getting too big: the deprivation of American civil liberties. And it’s already been happening.  First under Bush with the warrantless wiretapping and torture of terror suspects and now with Obama’s declared execution of an American citizen without any formal charges or due process:

Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s “too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation.  But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional Scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified.

What’s a more egregious act of a too-powerful government: making everyone have health insurance or the ability for the president to kill Americans with total impunity?  Why aren’t more people on all sides of the political divide beyond outraged at this?!

Is it because Anwar Awlaki – an American citizen – is an alleged (not even accused, because there haven’t been formal charges even) terrorist and traitor?  Unfortunately it seems that a large swath of Americans – including most, if not all, of the GOP – feel that once someone is deemed a terror suspect, they lose all human rights — as evidenced by the support of torture, rendition, and imprisonment for indefinite amounts of time without trial, even for American citizens.

How anyone could be in favor of smaller, less intrusive government yet support any of these powers that the President has given to the executive branch lacks any and all intellectual honesty.  It’s downright baffling and oxymoronic.

It must be problematic for those on the right because their fostered hatred for all things Islam has them believing that all Muslims are “the other,” they’re not truly American – even if they are U.S. citizens – which lets them be okay with this because, after all, it’s not like Obama is attempting to assassinate Bubba Joe Thompson from South Carolina or something.  It’s Anwar Awlaki from New Mexico.  With a name like that and the government saying that he’s a terrorist, well, that’s all the evidence I need!

Sigh.

It’s all good when the President is using those extra-constitutional powers to get the bad guys when the bad guys aren’t you.  But what happens when some radical in your social, ethnic, or religious group ends up doing something awful and all of a sudden you’re lumped in with them and targeted by the government?  What then?  By then it’ll be too far gone to stop.

This is why it’s so dangerous to conflate Islamic, murderous radicals with all Muslims, of which they constitute a tiny minority.  We get these knee-jerk reactions that toss away our civil liberties that we fought so hard to gain centuries ago, all under the guise of security and safety and protecting the American way of life.

Unfortunately, it seems that by having Obama – who was elected to clean up government and end these atrocious violations of the Constitution – continue and expand them, it may be too late to change already.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele.

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Getting Fired for Medical Marijuana Use: Why Should Employers Drug Test At All?

09.15.10

Many people are affected by the drug war.  Just take a look at our southern border.

But those aren’t the only ones.

While the states work the whole federalism angle on the legality of marijuana use, there’s bound to be some snags.  And in the case of some people, it’s costing them their jobs.

Glenn Greenwald:

In some cases, workers have been fired for failing drug tests despite having prescriptions saying, in effect, that what they are doing is legal according to the laws of their states.

Here’s the thing: for an employer, you want your employees to be efficient, dependable, and hard-working. If an employee can accomplish all of this while smoking weed — legally prescribed or not — then what’s the issue? If he’s a total wastoid (yeah, wastoid, I said it, bringing it back along with high-tops and snap braclets), then his piss-poor performance should be enough to warrant disciplinary action, regardless of its cause.

Now, I do understand that there are HR costs involved with the hiring of a new employee so companies will want to best determine whether or not this applicant will be a quality addition to their team before they hire him — but, why test current employees?  You already hired them! They already passed your rigorous interview process (so, if they’re sucking at work then you might want to look into revamping your HR department, not firing your employee cause he takes a few puffs to ease his anxiety).  They’re doing their jobs competently, otherwise you could just drag them onto the carpet for their poor job review and cut the dead weight that way.   It’s pointless.

The problem with drug testing is that – NEWS FLASH!!!not all wastes-of-office-space take drugs and not all druggies are inept at work, despite what our current drug war culture would like you to believe. (Total mindblow, I know.)  It’s the whole “well, some pot smokers are lazy and don’t get anything done at work so we’re going to punish them all regardless of their individual aptitude” way of using a gravity bong when a simple one-hitter would suffice.

But since companies fancy themselves as some sort of moral authority now, why stop at drug testing?

  • Why not require me to bring in my hard drive so they can scan it for pirated software and music?
  • Why not scour my glove box to make sure that I indeed have proof of car insurance?
  • Why not stop by my apartment to make sure I’m not illegally leeching some wireless Internet from my neighbors?

I mean, all of those morally questionable practices could affect my job performance, believe you me. Without loads of music to fill my iPod, I’ll go insane at my desk and take my co-workers with me, kicking and screaming. Without car insurance, I could get into an accident, not be able to get a new car, be stuck taking public transport, and consistently arriving late to work irritable and making everyone around my desk miserable as a result.

And without the Internet at home… well, let’s just not imagine that dark, dark world, okay? I just had a glimpse into that lifeless hell when WordPress glitched up, forcing me to re-write this blog, nearly leading me into a total meltdown at my desk — a complete over-reaction, sure, but I almost went social (the post-modern version of going postal).

But, hey. At least I’m not smoking medical herb for my migraines, right?

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Americans Not Just Forgetful; Much Worse

01.20.10

Glenn Greenwald reiterates exactly what I wrote about in my last post:

All that said, and as horrible as the Democrats have been all year, the most amazing — and depressing — aspect of all of this is how Americans have so quickly forgotten how thoroughly the Republicans, during their eight-year reign, destroyed the country.  Whatever the source of our national woes are, re-empowering that faction cannot possibly be the answer to anything.

His emphasis.

It’s not just that Americans have no memory of the Bush era: it’s that they’ve completely bought the story the Republicans are selling that blames Obama – who has been on the job for 365 days – and the Democrats for every single problem America faces today, which is not up for debate as a matter of partisan opinion.  The Republicans are dishing out revisionist history on a platter and Americans are eating it up without even bothering to ask what’s in it.

It’s not just forgetfulness; it’s a total lack of rational thought.