Facebook Badge

11 July 2008

The Nation Joins the ACLU's Suit Against FISA 2008

Here is the ACLU's page on FISA 2008 and the suit. And here's Chris Hedges' statement on FISA, from the LAT.

Forget Retroactive Immunity, FISA Bill is also about Prospective Immunity

By Matt Rothschild of The Progressive. Full text of the bill here.

Leave it to George Bush to point out a little-noticed aspect of the FISA bill that he likes, but you should hate.

In his chortle over the Democratic cave-in on FISA, Bush said, “It will ensure that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will, themselves, be protected from lawsuits for past—or future—cooperation with the government.”

The news lies between those dashes.

Opponents of the FISA bill, from the ACLU to Russ Feingold, have been focusing on retroactive immunity for AT&T and Verizon and the other telecom companies.

But what may be even more alarming is the prospective immunity that telecom companies and Internet service providers and others are guaranteed by this bill.

Here are some of the relevant passages:

“The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may direct, in writing, an electronic communication service provider to a) “immediately provide the Government with all information, facilities, or assistance necessary . . . b) maintain under security procedures approved by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence any records concerning the acquisition or the aid furnished. . . .”

And here’s the kicker: “No cause of action shall lie in any court against any electronic communication service provider” for providing this information.

Thus we have the Congress granting to the Executive Branch and the private sector enormous new powers to violate our privacy.

In essence, the government can now conscript the private sector to do its dirty work. But don’t pity the companies; the government will pay them for coughing up our secrets, the bill says. “The government shall compensate, at the prevailing rate, an electronic communication service provider for providing information, facilities, or assistance.”

It gets worse.

The prospective immunity extends beyond telecom companies and ISPs to include even landlords and custodians, and it is not limited to the provision of communication contents or records.

Check out Title VIII: “Protection of Persons Assisting the Government.” A “person” is defined as “an electronic communication service provider” or “a landlord, custodian, or other person who may be authorized or required to furnish assistance. . . .” Note how wide open is the category of “other person.”

And “assistance” is defined as “the provision of, or the provision of access to, information (including communication contents, communications records, or other information relation to a customer or communication), facilities, or another form of assistance.” Notice how wide open is the category of “another form of assistance.”

All of these “persons” providing “assistance” are now immunized by this bill for their future actions so long as the Attorney General certifies them in court.

Look what’s happening here: The combined powers of the Executive Branch and the private sector are now arrayed against the individual.

This is not what our Founders had in mind.

TRNN: Democrats Lose on FISA

MEDIA ALERT: NEWS INTERNATIONAL THREATENS MEDIA LENS WITH LEGAL AND POLICE ACTION

This is what you call a backhanded compliment: clearly, MediaLens is having an effect.

On June 28 and July 3, Media Lens received repeated threats of both legal and police action from Alastair Brett, legal manager of News International’s Times Newspapers.

Noam Chomsky described the threat, pithily, as “pretty sick.” (Email, June 28, 2008) David Miller, professor of sociology at the University of Strathclyde and founder member of Spinwatch (www.spinwatch.org), commented:

“The response from the Times is an absolutely outrageous attempt to bully and censor you. It is not - unfortunately - surprising though, as the Murdoch empire is determined to attempt to snuff out those voices which try to bear witness to the truths of our age. Those that unmask naked power will be targeted by the Murdoch empire and its hench people. Maddox is the latest in a long line and is evidently a well networked member of the political elite - being a governor of the shadowy Ditchley Foundation. It is simply laughable that sending emails to complain about her distorted coverage constitutes harassment. Frankly, the drumbeat for war with Iran, to which she adds her voice, is much more like harassment, but of a whole nation. Its consequences are already more deadly serious for the people of Iran than any amount of emails from Medialens readers.” (Email, July 8, 2008)
Brett claimed Times journalist Bronwen Maddox had been subject to “vexatious and threatening” emails from Media Lens readers, which constituted “harassment”. If this did not stop, Brett told us, he would notify the police who might wish to investigate the matter with a view to bringing a criminal prosecution. As former New Statesman editor, Peter Wilby, noted in his Guardian article on the Times threat, this was no joke - prosecution for criminal harassment “can lead to six months' imprisonment or, if a court order is breached, up to five years”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/07/pressandpublishing.advertising1)

Maddox claimed to have received "dozens of emails, many abusive or threatening". (Ibid)

Beginning with our very first media alert, published seven years ago yesterday, we have always advised our readers to treat journalists with respect (http://www.medialens.org/alerts/01/010709_US_UK_politicians_crimes.html):

“The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.”

As usual, many emails were copied or forwarded to us. We saw precisely one that could conceivably be described as “vexatious and threatening”. The email read:
"You have know [sic] idea who you are dealing with here. But I do like to help. I suggest that you read this [an inaccessible Facebook website entry] very, very carefully and fully. You have until 4pm Monday to respond to my original email or I will deem you to be fired."
This was also the only email offered up as evidence to Wilby for his Guardian piece. Unprompted by us, the offending emailer had earlier written to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, informing one executive:
“If you take more than 1 working day to reply to this email without a reason that I consider acceptable you can consider yourself fired.”
He also wrote to around 40 senior UK editors and journalists in June describing Media Lens as “a pack of absolute tossers”.

Ironically, we have been subject to far worse abuse than Maddox and Brett, and at the hands of mainstream journalists. Before becoming editor of the Independent, the former Observer editor, Roger Alton, asked one of our readers:
“Have you just been told to write in by those c*nts at medialens?” (Email forwarded, June 1, 2006 - original uncensored. Changed here to avoid triggering spam filters)
An online Observer article by Peter Beaumont described Media Lens as “a curious willy-waving exercise... Think a train spotters' club run by Uncle Joe Stalin.” (Beaumont, ‘Microscope on Medialens,’ June 18, 2006; http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1800328,00.html)

We have always found these insults more chucklesome than vexatious. Chomsky was once asked for his reaction to the abuse he receives:
"Man: ‘Noam... You've been called a neo-Nazi, your books have been burned, you've been called anti-Israeli - don't you get a bit upset by the way that your views are always distorted by the media and by intellectuals?’

“Noam: ‘No why should I? I get called anything, I'm accused of everything you can think of: being a Communist propagandist, a Nazi propagandist, a pawn of freedom of speech, an anti-Semite, liar, whatever you want. Actually, I think that's all a good sign. I mean, if you are a dissident, typically you are ignored. If you can't be ignored, and you can't be answered, you're vilified - that's obvious: no institution is going to help people undermine it. So I would only regard the kind of things you're talking about as signs of progress.’" (Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, The New Press, 2002, pp.204-5)
Questions Of Copyright

Brett also claimed that we would be acting unlawfully by publishing an email from Maddox without permission. We sought advice and one legal expert told us:
“The Times has no case over the confidentiality of email correspondence. Email correspondence, in itself, is not considered confidential - unless the precise contents of an email are confidential.”
Another suggested that the law is less clear and that the Times might carry out its threat. Another reminded us:
"Added weight to your cause is that the statements expressed and reproduced on your site represent important ‘political commentary’ (as opposed to artistic or commercial commentary). Political commentary is the most heavily protected type of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (via the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK)."
Another lawyer cited a barrister friend who nutshelled his view of the credibility of the Times’s case: "Tell them to f*ck off.”

Douwe Korff, Professor of International Law at London Metropolitan University and an expert on the European Convention on Human Rights, commented:
"I find the stance of the Times appalling in moral terms and flimsy at best in law. Their legal position, if endorsed by the courts, would severely limit freedom of the press over issues of major public concern. Is that what they want? I have little doubt their arguments would be kicked out by the UK courts if they pursued them here; they would certainly not be upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This is simply an attempt by a heavy-weight corporation to brow-beat a small freelance news operation that dares to be critical of its editorial line. It is quite scandalous. The Times should be ashamed of itself." (Email to Media Lens, July 8, 2008)
Having minimal resources for fighting a court case, either in terms of time or money, we decided to delete Maddox’s email from our media alert, ‘Selling The Fireball’, as demanded. You can see the amended version here:

http://www.medialens.org/alerts/08/080625_selling_the_fireball.php

We also published a message on our website emphasising the need for respectful communication with journalists. Coincidentally, we had previously discussed the issue at length in ’Compassionate Media Activism,’ an interview with former Buddhist monk, Matthew Bain, published this week on the new Elephant Skin website: http://www.elephantskin.org/2008/07/06/compassionate-media-activism-by-media-lens/

The happy result of this episode is that a number of high-powered legal minds have offered us their services free of charge should the need arise in future.

Peter Wilby wrote about the Times’ threat in the Guardian:
“We journalists are accustomed to dishing it out, but have the thinnest of skins. At the merest hint of criticism, we are apt to turn to our lawyers. One reason for this professional sensitivity, I suppose, is that journalists are insecure egotists who like to occupy the high moral ground. Criticism assaults their sense of self-worth and, since their colleagues and potential employers are assiduous consumers of print, it may damage their future prospects.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/07/pressandpublishing.advertising1)
Wilby quoted from the banned email, perhaps thereby indicating his own feelings on the matter. But his piece was ’balanced’. He criticised us for not providing a link to Maddox’s original article, for not urging readers to always read journalists’ work before writing, and for not making clear to Maddox who we were when we wrote to her. He contrasted these “failings” with the Times’s “professional sensitivities”, which he suggested were over-developed.

There was something missing from Wilby’s article, however: the human catastrophe that provides the moral backdrop to the entire debate. George Monbiot alluded to it in 2004 when he wrote: "the falsehoods reproduced by the media before the invasion of Iraq were massive and consequential: it is hard to see how Britain could have gone to war if the press had done its job.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/jul/20/media.pressandpublishing)

Like the rest of the British media, the Times played a vital role in selling the public a pack of outrageous government lies that presented a totally non-existent and obviously risible ‘threat’ as somehow serious, plausible, and even (god help us!) urgent.

Many of the most sophisticated philosophies of human culture contend that rational understanding is the result, not just of wisdom, but also of compassion. This is certainly true of the current discussion. Brett’s complaints that our actions caused distress to one of his journalists, and Wilby’s ’balanced’ response, can seem almost reasonable, until we focus our minds and hearts (if we are able) on a single overwhelming fact. In significant part as a result of the actions of the British media, more than one million human beings are now lying dead in Iraq. In fact, the entire country has been subject to unrelenting destruction and slaughter by two decades of Western policy rooted in selfish greed. All of this has been buried in official propaganda, media silence and compromised ’balance’ - it barely exists for the public.

And of course there is more and worse. Almost unbelievably, the media’s Iran focus 2008 is near-identical to the media’s Iraq focus 2002-2003. It is entirely possible that hundreds of thousands of people will soon be lying dead in Iran as a result of sanctions and war, just across the border from Iraq.

The point is that we are unable to perceive the obscenity of the media silence surrounding this mass slaughter if we are unable to perceive the truth of those one million Iraqi deaths. And we cannot experience the truth of those deaths unless we have some compassion for our victims.

To understand what we have done to the Iraqi people, to feel something of their torment, casts the media silence in a very different light. It transforms, utterly, the actions of people like us trying to break that silence, as it does the actions of those who seek to stop us on the grounds that emailing journalists is “not proper behaviour” and makes “a mess of their inboxes”. (Brett)

In truth, the steps we have suggested are pitiful in their timidity. We have always seen media activism as a small, energising contribution intended to inspire much wider, much more profound, political organisation and activism.

What we have done to Iraq is not a video game; it is not a Hollywood invention. We really have destroyed an entire nation and brought misery to millions. About that, this whole country should not be writing a few emails; it should be in uproar.

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to the Times letters page:
Email: letters@thetimes.co.uk

Please send a copy of your emails to us
Email: editor@medialens.org

Please do NOT reply to the email address from which this media alert originated. Please instead email us:
Email: editor@medialens.org

Noam Chomsky Extras from The Corporation

Not well synched; who cares?

American News Project Gets Rove's Side of the Story

The American News Project just launched in May, and they are the real deal; worthy of support!

10 July 2008

The Real Operation to "Rescue" Ingrid Betancourt and US Mercenaries

I know it ruins the movie, but apparently, not all was as staged. Btw, did you know Uribe is trying to change the Colombian constitution so he can run for a third term? Gee, I don't see pronouncements of "dictatorship" resounding from the rafters in the US, as opposed to reactions to Chávez.

In order to understand the "rescue operation" of Ingrid Betancourt and the Northrop Grumman Corporation mercenaries who were released with her, it is necessary to piece together articles published in the media, filter the content and out of this is formed a true understanding of the facts of what happened here.

  1. On June 3rd, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba revealed that she possessed information that the government of Colombia was negotiating a deal with FARC to trade money for the release of Betancourt and the mercenaries. The official policy of the United States is that they don't "negotiate with terrorists," even as many leaders of Latin American countries accuse President Uribe of supporting the AUC paramilitary death squads and accuse the United States of providing safe harbor to known terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.

  2. Careful observers began to question the strange circumstances under which the "dramatic rescue" of Ingrid Betancourt happened. Some guys with Che Guevara t-shirts simply showed up and redirected them into another helicopter? If it were that easy, why didn't they do that years ago? The French media also found strange the fact that Betancourt didn't resemble the gaunt and hungry images we have been seeing in the media -- she seemed well-fed and healthy, as if she were being prepared for release.
  1. More confusion came when the capitalist media seized this opportunity to hack up Betancourt's press conference, keeping in the parts that glorified Uribe and the United States and excluding the parts that talked about Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Ecuador's Rafael Correa and their important efforts in finding a diplomatic, peaceful solution to the crisis. The press conference was broadcast in its entirety on the Latin American news network, Telesur, but only bit and pieces were shown on CNN (english channel), Fox News and other northern news channels. For instance, excluded from the edited version is Betancourt's comments that she felt used by the whole situation and that the operation put the lives of the hostages at risk while a diplomatic solution, like the one pursued by President Chavez, would ensure their safety.

  2. The capitalist media, without any shame, immediately began to use the situation to promote their own political objectives: everywhere in the corporate media, Uribe was lauded as a hero, FARC's days are numbered and Chavez's successful and peaceful diplomacy that freed other FARC-held prisoners was downplayed.

  3. However, on Friday, information began to be revealed that, in reality, the government of Colombia had secretly paid $20 million USD to FARC in exchange for the release of Betancourt and the US mercenaries, confirming what Senator Cordoba had said a month before. This story was broken by MediaPart in France and Radio Suisse Romande. MediaPart also reported that France and Colombia guaranteed safe asylum for some members of FARC as part of the deal.

  4. Dominique Moisi, one of France's most prominent foreign policy experts, said that it was "probable" that FARC was given money in exchange for the prisoners. "They were bought in order to turn them around, like Mafia chiefs," he said on French state television.

  5. In light of all these events, the government of Ecuador has suspended diplomatic relations with Colombia.

  6. The report of the $20 million pay-off is now rapidly circulating throughout the corporate media as it struggles with a way to spin this news. The confusion caused by this bizarre operation makes a lot more sense when viewed as a pre-arranged, money-for-prisoners exchange. And, the true face of the Latin American right-wing is once again exposed.

  7. It is worth repeating that along with Betancourt, also released were private military contractors from the United States who were captured when their surveillance plane went down in FARC-controlled territory during a Plan Colombia operation. Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and arms manufacturing firm, was awarded a $60 million contract to provide logistical support to the US and Colombian military, on the ground in war zones there. Between 1990 and 2002, Northrop Grumman contributed $8.5 million to federal campaigns. Coincidentally, at least "seven former officials, consultants or shareholders of Northrop Grumman" have held posts in the Bush administration, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby (who was convicted on obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and making false statements to federal investigators for his role in illegally "outing" CIA agent Valerie Plame). In addition, Plan Colombia has been repeatedly criticized by international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, for maintaining close relationships with right-wing death squads, providing direct assistance to illegal right-wing terrorist organizations as well as directly and indirectly participating in massacres and atrocities. Many of the right-wing terrorists operating in Colombia are former members of the Colombian military, like paramilitary commander "Yair," who openly support Plan Colombia and publicly offer their support to Plan Colombia operations.

  8. Finally, it should be noted that the Colombian government under Uribe, who has enjoyed widespread celebration by the corporate press in the last few days, is routinely condemned as having one of the worst human rights records of any country in the world. More than 60 members of President Uribe's congressional coalition are under investigation for election fraud or collaborating with right-wing groups classified as "terrorist organizations" by the United States. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for labor union organizers, with the world's highest rate of assassinations and extra-judicial executions of trade unionists. Since Plan Colombia began, the United States has provided over $4.7 billion to the government of Colombia, described by Senator Cordoba as a "democracy that governs through fear and terror." Senator Cordoba, herself, was kidnapped by 12 heavily-armed government-affiliated terrorists. Senator Cordoba says that the operations of Plan Colombia are only partly used to fight the so-called "war on drugs": "It's also used to silence those of us who speak out against the government. They try to silence us by kidnapping, disappearing and even killing many of us." Unlike many other Latin American countries, who overthrew the brutal US-backed dictatorships which ruled the continent during much of the 20th century, Colombia is an active reminder of what life used to be like throughout all of South America -- fiercely repressive dictatorships which terrorize the population with money and weapons provided by the United States in exchange for support of U.S. policies. How can a government like this receive the kind of tributes and congratulations that have been showered on them by the capitalist press in the last few days since they traded $20 million for the release of Ingrid Betancourt and U.S. mercenaries? How can a supposedly free and democratic media uncritically praise a government like this?
Today, Fidel Castro made one of the most sensible declarations about this situation: the imprisonment of civilians is wrong but what is worse is that the United States and the western, capitalist press are exploiting this situation to obscure and justify the genocidal horrors that they have imposed on Latin America for hundreds of years, up to and including this very day.

Even now, the soldiers of Plan Colombia and their right-wing death squads continue murdering union leaders in cold blood, continue terrorizing the civilian population of Colombia, and continue protecting terrorists who hunt down and kill anyone seeking social justice in the region, a cause that threatens the profit and power of the dominant, ruling class.

Even when the United States and their Latin American allies attempt to create a spectacle of positive public relations for themselves, their hands are so bloody and their crimes are so deep that, in the end, their fabrications do little to change the reality on the ground. Like all dictatorships in human history, their lies are so transparent, their brutality is so brazen and their lifespan is so limited.

homepage:: http://midiaindependente.org/pt/blue/2008/07/423820.shtml

Stalling on Impeachment: Vets Against the War Meet with Conyers

Pretty much speaks for itself. Conyers has been muzzled. I'd like to see his "surprise," but I think we'll see the second coming first.

The Audacity of Imperial Airbrushing: Barack Obama’s Whitewashed History of U.S. Foreign Policy and Why it Matters, Paul Street

It's the Oil, stupid! by Noam Chomsky, 7/8/08

09 July 2008

National War Powers Commission (Baker-Christopher) Report

Um, the Congress has the unambiguous power to declare war. Full stop. It gave this power up after 1941. The 1973 rule didn't go nearly far enough in reining in the bipartisan imperial project. That's the main problem. The solution is not to assume that the President controls war power. He doesn't. He's commander in chief once a war starts. That's it. Defense of the country from attack or imminent (i.e., really imminent, not propaganda-based) attack is not at issue. Go and defend and send a message to Congress to declare war. Non-state actors? Not a fatal problem. Any and all parsing should start from the obvious and utterly crystal clear delegation of war-making powers to the Congress. Read the debates, the Federalist. Clear as day.

Update: Here's another take on the War Powers Act, from the Constitution Project.

Senate Passes Unconstitutional Spying Bill And Grants Sweeping Immunity To Phone Companies

My suggestions:

  1. Give as much money as you can to the ACLU who will challenge this in court.
  2. Check your senators' and rep's vote; if for this Nazi bill, tell 'em that under no circumstances will you vote for him or her ever again.
  3. Don't vote for McCain or Obama. McCain supported the bill but didn't vote for it (too busy campaigning); Obama supported it and voted for it. Two scumbags.
More info here:


Stauber Interviews Sirota: The War, Dems, MoveOn and The Uprising

More here: From Uprising to Movement: Five Ideas

Ralph Nader discusses the Telecom Immunity Bill

IRAN: Did IAEA Revive Uranium Paper Issue Under Pressure? by Gareth Porter, IPS

07 July 2008

Iran-Contra's 'Lost Chapter', Robert Parry, 6/30/08

Key quote:

As historians ponder George W. Bush’s disastrous presidency, they may wonder how Republicans perfected a propaganda system that could fool tens of millions of Americans, intimidate Democrats, and transform the vaunted Washington press corps from watchdogs to lapdogs.

To understand this extraordinary development, historians might want to look back at the 1980s and examine the Iran-Contra scandal’s “lost chapter,” a narrative describing how Ronald Reagan’s administration brought CIA tactics to bear domestically to reshape the way Americans perceived the world.

Interview on Anti-War Radio:


One journalist's story: from triumph to torture, John Pilger

In an article for the Guardian, John Pilger describes presenting a top journalism award to a young Palestinian, Mohammed Omer, and how, on his return home to Gaza, he was seized by the Israelis, who demanded the prize money and tortured him.

Two weeks ago, I presented a young Palestinian, Mohammed Omer, with the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Awarded in memory of the great American war correspondent, the prize goes to journalists who expose establishment propaganda, or “official drivel”, as Martha called it. Mohammed shares the prize of £5,000 with the fine war reporter Dahr Jamail. At 24, Mohammed is the youngest ever winner. His citation reads: “Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. His homeland, Gaza, is surrounded, starved, attacked, forgotten. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless.” The eldest of eight children, Mohammed has seen most of his siblings killed or wounded or maimed. An Israeli bulldozer crushed his home while the family were inside, seriously injuring his mother. And yet, says a former Dutch ambassador, Jan Wijenberg, “he is a moderating voice, urging Palestinian youth not to court hatred but seek peace with Israel.”

Getting Mohammed to London to receive his prize was a major diplomatic operation. Israel has perfidious control over Gaza’s borders, and only with a Dutch embassy escort was he allowed out. Last Thursday, on his return journey, he was met at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan by a Dutch official, who waited outside the Israeli building, unaware that Mohammed had been seized by Shin Bet, Israel’s infamous security organisation. Mohammed was told to turn off his cell phone and remove the battery. He asked if he could call his Dutch embassy escort and was told forcefully he could not. A man referred to as Avi stood over his luggage, picking through his documents. “Where’s the money?” he demanded. Mohammed produced some US dollars.

“Where’s is the English pound you have?”

“I realised,” said Mohammed, “he was after the award stipend for the Martha Gellhorn Prize. I told him I didn’t have it with me. ‘You are lying’, he said. I was now surrounded by eight Shin Bet officers, all armed. The man called Avi ordered me to take off my clothes. I had already been through an x-ray machine. I stripped down to my underwear and was told to take off everything. When I refused, Avi put his hand on his gun. I began to cry: ‘Why are you treating me this way? I am human being’. He said, ‘This is nothing compared with what you will see now’. He took his gun out, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. He then made me do a concocted sort of dance. Another man, who was laughing, said, ‘Why are you bringing perfumes?’ I replied, ‘They are gifts for the people I love’. He said, ‘Oh, do you have love in your culture?’

“As they ridiculed me, they took delight most in mocking letters I had received from readers in England. I had now been without food and water and the toilet for twelve hours, and having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror.”

An ambulance was called and told to take Mohammed to a hospital, but only after he had signed a statement indemnifying the Israelis from his suffering in their custody. The Palestinian medic refused, courageously, and said he would contact the Dutch embassy escort. Alarmed, the Israelis let the ambulance go. The Israeli line, as reported by Reuters, is familiar; it is that Mohammed was “suspected” of smuggling and “lost his balance” during a “fair” interrogation.

Israeli human rights groups have documented the routine torture of Palestinians by Shin Bet agents with “beatings, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation”. Amnesty has long reported the widespread use of torture by Israel, whose victims emerge as mere shadows of their former selves. Some never return. Israel is high in an international league table for its intimidation and murder of journalists, especially Palestinian journalists who receive barely a fraction of the kind of coverage given to the hostage-taking of the BBC’s Alan Johnston.

The Dutch government says it is shocked by Mohammed Omer’s treatment. Former ambassador Jan Wijenberg said, “This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life... I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.”

While Mohammed was receiving his prize in London, the new Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Proser, was publicly complaining that many Britons no longer appreciated the uniqueness of Israel’s democracy. Perhaps they do now.

06 July 2008

Ralph Nader on C-SPAN, 7/2/08

Click here.

Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader visits C-SPAN today for an interview. Mr. Nader, who has run numerous times as the Green Party candidate, received more than 2.8 million votes in the 2000 election.

Washington, DC : 31 min.

Free For All: Free, Online Documentary on our Elections [sic]

With Greg Palast, among others.