Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Information Wars

"He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither" - Benjamin Franklin

Asked the other day about the whereabouts of and official policy toward NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, US Secretary of State John Kerry hit us with a doozy: "I would urge them (Russia and China) to live by the standards of the law because that's in the interest of everybody". Laudable words: strict commitment to the rule of (just) law is an essential component of any democratic system. Let us examine such US commitment.

This 2010 Mark Weisbrot article summarizes a few examples (from a list of many) of US 'interventions' in South America (until 1996 here, and another more recently updated list here).

From Weisbrot's article (see original for sources):

They care enough about Haiti to have overthrown the elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide not once, but twice. The first time, in 1991, it was done covertly. We only found out after the fact that the people who led the coup were paid by the US Central Intelligence Agency. And then Emmanuel Constant, the leader of the most notorious death squad there – which killed thousands of Aristide's supporters after the coup – told CBS News that he, too, was funded by the CIA.

In 2004, the US involvement in the coup was much more open. Washington led a cut-off of almost all international aid for four years, making the government's collapse inevitable. As the New York Times reported, while the US state department was telling Aristide that he had to reach an agreement with the political opposition (funded with millions of US taxpayers' dollars), the International Republican Institute was telling the opposition not to settle.

In Honduras last summer and autumn, the US government did everything it could to prevent the rest of the hemisphere from mounting an effective political opposition to the coup government in Honduras. For example, they blocked the Organisation of American States from taking the position that it would not recognise elections that took place under the dictatorship. At the same time, the Obama administration publicly pretended that it was against the coup.


The US actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organising a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula's Workers' party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the US government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington. There are many other interventions taking place throughout the hemisphere that we do not know about. The United States has been heavily involved in Chilean politics since the 1960s, long before they organised the overthrow of Chilean democracy in 1973.

In October 1970, President Richard Nixon was cursing in the Oval Office about the Social Democratic president of Chile, Salvador Allende. "That son of a bitch!" said Richard Nixon on 15 October. "That son of a bitch Allende – we're going to smash him." A few weeks later he explained why:

"The main concern in Chile is that [Allende] can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success ... If we let the potential leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble."

This lawlessness that is perfectly acceptable when the US does it extends in all directions to all areas of society. Allow the excellent Matt Taibbi to explain (long, but a must-read) the stunning criminality of the major US credit rating agencies here, intentional illegality that allowed the banks to impoverish millions through house foreclosures and other calamities while greatly enriching themselves. Note that almost every single person who committed these crimes is still extremely rich and breathing free air.

Does John Kerry really expect anyone to take him seriously about the rule of law after his own nation has spent more than a century making a mockery of it? No, he doesn't; he says it because he can.

However, it is the NSA leak facilitated by whistleblower Edward Snowden that has most vividly exposed US lawlessness and hubris. Caught in the act, the US is incredibly attempting to convince everyone that it has the right to spy on the private communications of anyone on the planet, an attempt that has inspired widespread condemnation and derision. Those supporting the view of the Obama administration and its poodles in the UK are people sufficiently confused and brainwashed by the media, a corporate-owned media that has a vested interest in depicting Mr. Snowden as a traitor and keeping the focus firmly on his personality and behavior (and therefore off the actual crimes he revealed).

One major problem with the privacy issue is perspective. If one were to ask people in the Snowden-is-a-traitor camp to wear a camera (equipped with a microphone) on their head to record all their online behavior and communications for perusal and storage by the authorities, it is likely they would feel a lot more uncomfortable about this obvious invasion of privacy. Going back a couple of decades to the era of letter-writing, how would these same people feel about all their letters being read before they are sent (and received)?

There would be an outcry - probably open civil disobedience - and yet this is precisely what the US and UK governments are doing, the only difference being the methodology of doing it without people noticing it...or indeed being notified of it.

And there are many who believe that the authorities are essentially benign, that if you are not involved in criminal behavior, you have nothing to worry about: nothing to hide, nothing to fear. This view demonstrates an ignorance of history, not to mention extreme naivete. A shocking recent example of abuse by authorities, in this case the London Metropolitan police force, was detailed this week by George Monbiot in The Guardian.

From the article:

'If you are a law-abiding citizen of this country, going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear." That's how William Hague, the foreign secretary, responded to the revelations of mass surveillance in the US and the UK. Try telling that to Stephen Lawrence's family.

Four police officers were deployed to spy on the family and friends of the black teenager murdered by white racists. The Lawrences and the people who supported their fight for justice were law-abiding citizens going about their business. Yet undercover police were used, one of the spies now tells us, to hunt for "disinformation" and "dirt". Their purpose? "We were trying to stop the campaign in its tracks."

The two unfolding spy stories resonate powerfully with each other. One, gathered by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans, shows how police surveillance has been comprehensively perverted. Instead of defending citizens and the public realm, it has been used to protect the police from democratic scrutiny and stifle attempts to engage in politics.

The other, arising from the documents exposed by Edward Snowden, shows that the US and the UK have been involved in the mass interception of our phone calls and use of the internet. William Hague insists that we should "have confidence in the work of our intelligence agencies, and in their adherence to the law and democratic values". Why?

Here are a few of the things we have learned about undercover policing in Britain. A unit led by a policeman called Bob Lambert deployed officers to spy on peaceful activists. They adopted the identities of dead children and then infiltrated protest groups. Nine of the 11 known spies formed long-term relationships with women in the groups, in some cases (including Lambert's) fathering children with them. Then they made excuses and vanished.

They left a trail of ruined lives, fatherless children and women whose confidence and trust have been wrecked beyond repair. They have also walked away from other kinds of mayhem. On Friday we discovered that Lambert co-wrote the leaflet for which two penniless activists spent three years in the high court defending a libel action brought by McDonald's. The police never saw fit to inform the court that one of their own had been one of the authors.


If the state is prepared to abuse its powers and instruments so widely and gravely in cases such as this, where there is a high risk of detection, and if it is prepared to intrude so far into people's lives that its officers live with activists and father their children, what is it not prepared to do while spying undetectably on our private correspondence?

Already we know that electronic surveillance has been used in this country for purposes other than the perennial justifications of catching terrorists, foiling foreign spies and preventing military attacks. It was deployed, for example, to spy on countries attending the G20 meeting the UK hosted in 2009. If the government does this to other states, which might have the capacity to detect its spying and which certainly have the means to object to it, what is it doing to defenceless citizens?

We can also go back in history to see what British officials did when they had power over the Mau Mau people in Kenya in the 1950s:

From another article by Mr. Monbiot:

Interrogation under torture was widespread. Many of the men were anally raped, using knives, broken bottles, rifle barrels, snakes and scorpions. A favourite technique was to hold a man upside down, his head in a bucket of water, while sand was rammed into his rectum with a stick. Women were gang-raped by the guards. People were mauled by dogs and electrocuted. The British devised a special tool which they used for first crushing and then ripping off testicles. They used pliers to mutilate women's breasts. They cut off inmates' ears and fingers and gouged out their eyes. They dragged people behind Land Rovers until their bodies disintegrated. Men were rolled up in barbed wire and kicked around the compound.

There goes the benign authorities defense. The situation, era and perpetrators don't matter in the slightest. Anyone, anywhere and any-when...abuse will occur - often horrific abuse - when one subset of humans is granted power (via knowledge of personal data or otherwise) over another...and then they'll try to cover it up, as the British did in Kenya.

The US (and UK) excuse for the blanket surveillance carried out by the NSA and GCHQ is terrorism, its miniscule threat in terms of numbers killed notwithstanding. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of 'foiled' terrorist plots in the US were fake: planned, set up and funded by the FBI itself.

Terrorism is a threat, but it can be defeated more surely by altering foreign policy so that the US and other Western nations stop interfering in the affairs of other countries. Nations which mind their own business and try to be responsible world citizens without exception suffer a negligible threat from terrorism, with the only real (but very rare) danger coming from militant homegrown groups with extreme ideologies or mentally ill 'lone wolves'.

Speaking of lone wolves, see how the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg responded to the horrific mass shooting perpetrated by Anders Breivik in 2011:

"The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation."

Compare and contrast with the paranoia and secrecy of the NSA and US/UK government officials. Note also that Norway has not suffered any further attacks.

Given therefore that the media has failed to inform the public on the true significance of the NSA programs with regard to privacy and freedom and instead focused on trivial personality and behavioral concerns; given that we know that authorities are not benign and that they inevitably abuse their knowledge of and power over the civilian population; given that terrorism is a threat that can be negated by altering the murderous (and extremely costly) foreign policies of the US and its allies; and given that it is certain that even blanket surveillance can never completely eradicate the threat of terrorism or other violent crime (recent mass school shootings, Boston bombings)...given all these things, this deadly farce must end now.

In a truly democratic society, everyone has an obligation to break unjust laws when simply highlighting them is ignored by those in power. Segregation of different races and slavery have all been legal in human history. What if no one had challenged those laws? History has shown without exception that the establishment will react negatively - often violently - when such unjust laws are challenged. Naturally, Obama, Feinstein and their short-sighted, authoritarian ilk have little choice but to react the way they do when one understands that they are essentially paid employees of the financial elites who fund their campaigns and power trips. This does not excuse them, but it should provide an object lesson as follows: our focus should be on the elites, not their political fronts; just as our focus should be on the NSA leaks, not the character or whereabouts of Edward Snowden.

Instead of criminally charging and launching a global manhunt for a brave and idealistic man who is risking his life for the freedom of his fellow citizens, any entity with the power and means to do so must instead bring charges of treason against those officials who have so shredded the US Constitution they swore to protect. This may be an important step towards bringing down those truly responsible for this stripping of our freedoms...and they must always remain the ultimate target.

Simon Wood (Twitter: @simonwood11) is the author of 'The 99.99998271%: Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy' and the founder of The Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice and democracy. Please follow and support The Movement on Twitter: @1themovement as it strongly urges all progressive movements to unite and pool their resources in the common goal of removing the cancer of corruption that threatens us all. You can also follow Simon Wood on Facebook and at his blog.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lieutenant Obama, the NSA, and the Global Coup d'Etat

"I will provide our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war; no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. It is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists" - Candidate Barack Obama (1st August 2007)

Noam Chomsky once famously said: "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." This lively debate within the corporate-owned mainstream media (MSM) on the NSA scandal is still ongoing, rekindled yesterday with a surprise Q&A session with Edward Snowden hosted by The Guardian online news site. With further NSA disclosures promised by Glenn Greenwald, the debate is likely to dominate front pages for the foreseeable future.

Public figures and the MSM as a whole have already branded Snowden a traitor, smeared him as a spy, shed distracting light on his youth, and - predictably - run pictures of his attractive girlfriend.

Straight from the propaganda playbook: distract from the key issue with personal smears and sensationalism.

Glenn Greenwald has not escaped the backlash. Marvel here at torture apologist Marc Thiessen - a former speechwriter for George W Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and columnist (since March 2010) for The Washington Post - writing that Greenwald broke the law by publishing these leaks and therefore offering support for Rep. Peter King's assertion that Greenwald should be arrested.

First, given Mr. Thiessen's support for torture, an illegal and - more importantly - immoral action that is condemned by neurobiologists as wholly unreliable, we should not take his opinions seriously. Second, one wonders what else Mr. Thiessen believes governments should be permitted to do in the name of 'national security', no matter how illegal and secretive, if he thinks journalists - members of the adversarial press - should be locked up for doing their job, even after going to extraordinary lengths - with many other journalists - to ensure only information in the public interest is released. Third, as any reasonably aware schoolkid will tell you, just because something is legal does not make it right. Slavery used to be legal, as did any number of morally repugnant things; would an eighteenth century Marc Thiessen similarly criticize a journalist leaking secret documents in order to highlight the evils of slavery? Fourth, given that torture is illegal, would Mr. Thiessen argue that any American authorizing or actually using torture be arrested on the same ground that publishing information on secret 'national security' surveillance data methods is also illegal? Thought not.

This two-minute video of Candidate Obama in 2007 versus President Obama in 2013 on surveillance and civil liberties is very illuminating, not only because of the contrast between an (ostensibly) young confident idealist and pragmatic (and very shifty - see video) realist. In the video, the present incarnation of Obama makes it clear that that the justification for blanket NSA surveillance is the need to protect the nation from terrorism.

This blog has discussed the actual threat of terrorism on several occasions, and various commentators have pointed out that more Americans drown in bathtubs than die in terrorist attacks. Edward Snowden himself commented yesterday that US police officers kill more Americans than terrorists do. It is irrefutably clear that in terms of lives lost, terrorism is a miniscule threat. Nevertheless, the intelligence agencies like to claim that the sacrifice of privacy and other civil liberties has prevented multiple terrorist attacks on the homeland and is therefore worth it. This crucial claim must be examined.

Since 9/11, dozens of Islamic terrorist 'plots' have been foiled. Backed up with numerous convictions, this has provided excellent cover for the Bush and Obama administrations as they have attempted to justify the enormous scope and costs of the war on terror, simultaneously allowing officials to boast that they are keeping America safe while providing justification for ever more intrusion of privacy. Terrorism, like its predecessor Communism, is the perfect, intangible, indefinable, fear-inducing enemy.

The word 'plot', however, is inaccurate. 'Sting operation' is the term you are looking for. From a 2010 article on the CBS News site:

Mohamed O. Mohamud appeared to have discovered an unusually compassionate pair of terrorists.

They told him he did not have to kill to be a good Muslim. He could just pray. A bomb was a very serious matter, they said. Kids might be killed. Time and again, they offered a way out.

At a hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon, in July, the two undercover FBI agents listened as Mohamud explained his dream of detonating a car bomb during the city's Christmas celebration. They offered to help, if Mohamud was sure he wanted to go through with it.

"You always have a choice," one of the agents said, according to court documents. "You understand? With us, you always have a choice."

It was not an offhand remark. It was part of a carefully scripted routine the FBI has been perfecting since the September 2001 terror attacks. Sting operations, choreographed by FBI and Justice Department officials in Washington, have included plots against skyscrapers in Dallas, Texas, Washington subways, a Chicago nightclub and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

All the plots have been fictional. The intent, the FBI says, has been real. And the government has a string of convictions to back that up, a track record that has made undercover stings one of the government's go-to strategies in terrorism cases.

But the tactic is not without its critics. Each arrest has been followed by allegations of entrapment and claims that the government is enticing Muslims to become terrorists, selling them phony explosives, then arresting them.

Entrapment: 'The act of government agents or officials that induces a person to commit a crime he or she is not previously disposed to commit'.

Entrapment is illegal. Are you reading, Mr. Thiessen?

More from the article:

No terrorism case since Sept. 11, 2001, has been thrown out because of entrapment. Just last month, the tactic passed its latest test when a New York jury convicted four men of trying to blow up synagogues. Jurors rejected the argument that the FBI enticed the men into a plot they never would have come up with otherwise.

"When the government supplies a fake bomb and then thwarts the plot, this is insanity. This is grandstanding," Susanne Brody, one of the defense attorneys in that case, said Monday when asked about the FBI's use of undercover stings.

Brody said the tactic requires extraordinary amounts of time and money and can ensnare hapless people, not hardened terrorists.

"The people they repeatedly come up with continue to be people who have no ability to do something on their own," said Samuel Braverman, another defense attorney in the New York case who said he is skeptical of a strategy that amounts to "picking off the dumbest we have to offer."

So the FBI, presumably in a program called 'Operation Dumbass', goes out looking for young Muslim men who are angry with the West (I wonder why), but who have no serious intention or capability whatsoever to carry out a terrorist attack, and then encourage, advise and supply them right up to the last moment when - just like the movies - the cavalry moves in just in the nick of time to stop them setting off their fake bombs with their fake detonators.

The pretext, therefore, for this blanket surveillance apparatus is a bunch of fake plots in which bumbling, incompetent idiots are led by the nose to commit actions they would never have done if left alone.

The US government knows damned well that no serious terrorist would ever communicate plot details with electronic communications, knowing full well that they are monitored, and indeed have been for decades - long before Edward Snowden and William Binney arrived on the scene. It knows therefore that blanket surveillance is extremely unlikely to turn up any useful data of this variety.

Think about that for a second. All this spying on everyone...justified by manufactured plots and lies. Most genuine plots are exposed with traditional detective work, informants (often within the Muslim community itself), and sometimes just blind luck. Are we to sacrifice our most sacred rights for such meager rewards?

The true purpose of PRISM and whatever other programs the NSA has is NOT anti-terrorism. It is in fact a very useful tool to crush meaningful dissent against the system of government, the status quo so essential for the continued existence of the commercial entities which dominate the globe. With the ability to read private communications, detailed profiles of dissident leaders can be compiled, allowing various tactics to be easily deployed against them: for example, blackmail, bribery and smear campaigns. For more serious offenders - the biggest threats - persecution and imprisonment can be threatened and even implemented: one needs only to look at the cases of Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond, John Kiriakou, and Julian Assange to see that.

Indeed, this tactic of entrapment is is not only for Islamic terrorism. The Occupy movement, at first a serious threat to the establishment, was effectively smeared as a danger to the public in an operation, organized by an FBI informant, to blow up a bridge.

From the article:

This past October, at an Occupy encampment in Cleveland, Ohio, "suspicious males with walkie-talkies around their necks" and "scarves or towels around their heads" were heard grumbling at the protesters' unwillingness to act violently. At meetings a few months later, one of them, a 26-year-old with a black Mohawk known as "Cyco," explained to his anarchist colleagues how "you can make plastic explosives with bleach," and the group of five men fantasized about what they might blow up. Cyco suggested a small bridge. One of the others thought they’d have a better chance of not hurting people if they blew up a cargo ship. A third, however, argued for a big bridge – "Gotta slow the traffic that's going to make them money" – and won. He then led them to a connection who sold them C-4 explosives for $450. Then, the night before the May Day Occupy protests, they allegedly put the plan into motion – and just as the would-be terrorists fiddled with the detonator they hoped would blow to smithereens a scenic bridge in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park traversed by 13,610 vehicles every day, the FBI swooped in to arrest them.

The guy who convinced the plotters to blow up a big bridge, led them to the arms merchant, and drove the team to the bomb site was an FBI informant. The merchant was an FBI agent. The bomb, of course, was a dud. And the arrest was part of a pattern of entrapment by federal law enforcement since September 11, 2001, not of terrorist suspects, but of young men federal agents have had to talk into embracing violence in the first place. One of the Cleveland arrestees, Connor Stevens, complained to his sister of feeling "very pressured" by the guy who turned out to be an informant and was recorded in 2011 rejecting property destruction: "We're in it for the long haul and those kind of tactics just don't cut it," he said. "And it's actually harder to be non-violent than it is to do stuff like that." Though when Cleveland's NEWS Channel 5 broadcast that footage, they headlined it "Accused Bomb Plot Suspect Caught on Camera Talking Violence."

Unsurprisingly, Barack Obama has come out strongly in defense of the NSA and its secret programs, repeating the usual mantra of keeping America safe and so on. This is because he is a good employee, an invaluable lieutenant, of the financial elites who put up the cash for his electoral campaigns of hope and change. The lieutenant is doing a great job; indeed, he has achieved - among many other things - the feat of making the same Democrats who screamed blue murder at GW Bush for his illegal wiretapping program now support it, proving once and for all that a huge percentage of the population identify with 'teams', not policies...however dangerous and undemocratic those policies may be.

And what will the next disclosures be? Given that PRISM is extremely intrusive, what further horrors await? One thing is clear: the NSA wants a global system that will allow it to access all data, real-time if necessary, and perhaps even build profiles of people likely to commit crimes in the future...pre-crime. If so, the public reaction is likely to dwarf that seen so far, as anyone could potentially be arrested simply for expressing an idea outside the acceptable mainstream.

Lieutenant Obama is the benign public face of a global coup d'etat for the financial elites, one fascist in nature, which tolerates dissent only in the strictly limited 'spectrum of acceptable opinion', enough dissent to create the illusion of democracy, but not enough to actually allow real change. This coup is already complete, with traditional protest now extremely hazardous due to violent police suppression tactics. Indeed, reports of G8 protesters recently being arrested in London before actually doing any protesting suggest likely escalation of anti-democratic police tactics in the future. The only routes to real change would be a counter-coup by benign police or military officers, or a massive grassroots uprising by the people. The military option is extremely unlikely, thanks to the (intentional) worship of all things military throughout the US media and political establishment (and to a lesser degree in the UK and other Western nations). This leaves the grassroots option. We are already seeing signs of this growing in the last few years with huge, often violent demonstrations and social unrest in many nations, most recently Turkey and Brazil.

These grassroots movements are growing but remain splintered. All progressive movements...ALL OF THEM...must unite, must pool their resources in tackling a cancer that is vastly superior in power and influence except in two areas: strength of numbers and depth of humanity. It is vital at this stage to spread awareness, to encourage activism, and to ensure everyone understands that this now affects all of us, as the NSA leak so clearly demonstrates.

Written by Simon Wood


Monday, June 10, 2013

We Steal Freedom II - Defending Edward Snowden

An update to yesterday's article.

The NSA whistleblower has now been identified as Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant who, until the leak, worked in Hawaii for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. His identity was made public at his own request.

There can be no doubt that Mr. Snowden is a classic example of a whistleblower, a true hero of democracy. An examination of his own words makes this obvious.

From the Guardian articles here and here which revealed his identity:

"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong." (Bravery and idealism)

"I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions." (Awareness of consequences of actions against a corrupt and abusive state with global reach, as well as self-sacrifice: a willingness to give up his freedom, family, girlfriend, home and $200,000-per-year job for the common good)

"I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant." (Desire for justice and awareness that someone has to act, and that if no one acts - even to provide a glimpse past the walls of secrecy 'for an instant' - the abuses of power will continue)

"I know the media likes to personalize political debates, and I know the government will demonize me." (No desire for publicity or self-promotion; in fact, the opposite: concern that inevitable media focus on him personally will distract from the larger debate)

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."

"I'm willing to sacrifice all of that [family, job, girlfriend, life etc.] because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building." (Demonstration of conscience, a desire for the world to be open and just)

"I am not afraid, because this is the choice I've made."

"All my options are bad." (Awareness of the likely consequences of standing up to the US)

"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets." (A chilling reminder of the capabilities of the sociopathic US machine, from a man who knows better - due to his work experience - than almost all of us)

"The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won't be able to help any more. That's what keeps me up at night."

"You can't wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act."

"I don't see myself as a hero because what I'm doing is self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."

"What they're doing [poses] an existential threat to democracy"

"There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich."

"The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to."

"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is." (A desire to protect individuals from being harmed by the leak)

"I do not expect to see home again."

"I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets."

The Obama administration has a problem here in that it will be far more difficult to smear this principled, intelligent and idealistic man. Bradley Manning was an easy target - all they had to do was repeatedly mention the fact that he was gay and that he 'didn't fit in', was 'seeking attention' or was prone to erratic behaviour etc. Here we have a man who has demonstrated not only a clear-minded and selfless motive, but also mind-boggling courage and self-sacrifice. Mr. Manning possesses these qualities, too, but the public perception is different because he was turned in by Adrian Lamo, while Mr. Snowden requested that his identity be made public. As clear as day, anyone reading about him or seeing him talking on video will understand that he did this not for profit, not for attention, but to enable the entire world to comprehend the nature and scope of the illegal and immoral threat being raised against them in secret and with no accountability.

This reality, combined with the fact that - thanks to the rise in social media and corresponding decline of the influence of traditional purveyors of news - the world really is waking up to abuses at all levels of power and in all arenas...this reality is an explosive mix, and few will be of a mind to tolerate or pay any heed to millionaires in suits smearing this man as a traitor on television, particularly not after the steady diet of lies and slimy evasions people are accustomed to. Large demonstrations and even serious unrest could result from this as social justice activists around the world follow the example of this exceptional and inspirational person and put their lives on the line.

The spin machine has a bona fide hero on its hands. While we should be in no doubt that ways will be found to smear him nonetheless, it will not be as easy as before. For this reason, vigorous support not only for Mr Snowden but also for all whistleblowers, whose 'outing' was not as well 'stage-managed', is absolutely vital.

Not all the documents passed to The Washington Post and The Guardian have been published yet, and indeed Glenn Greenwald says that more revelations are coming. It is the duty now of these newspapers to release all this data, with redactions where necessary to protect sources. Mr. Snowden himself said that he examined each document meticulously to determine whether it was legitimately in the public interest and it is important to honor his sacrifice by carrying out his wishes to the letter. The full nature of this sinister and dangerous spying apparatus must be made public knowledge, not only to allow ordinary citizens everywhere to better protect their privacy, but also to 'send a message' to officials (so fond of 'sending a message' themselves mafia-style by persecuting whistleblowers), who never appear to learn with regard to the irrepressible nature of the human spirit for freedom, that secret actions intended to assert control over the world and its inhabitants can never succeed; not while people of the exceptional moral caliber of Edward Snowden remain breathing.

Let us conclude with two messages:

To the US authorities: Given that this leak has exposed beyond any doubt that complete secrecy is impossible to maintain, and that the recent Boston bombings prove that even blanket surveillance is no deterrent to terrorist attacks, it is time to end this insanity, to allow the people to install the truly democratic systems they crave, and to release all whistleblowers with sincere apologies, gratitude, ample compensation, and as many medals and awards as they can carry.

To potential whistleblowers and other social justice activists: More than anything, Edward Snowden has shown the incredible things that can be achieved with just one person's courage, honesty and integrity. We must all strike now as the authorities are reeling. Act! Sun Tzu said something about striking when your enemy is reeling! Come forward with more information and bring this evil Empire crashing down by demonstrating to the world its illegality, immorality and inhumanity. They can't silence or arrest everyone. Force even the mainstream media to cover the information you reveal and the actions you take. Nelson Mandela's grave illness or even some engineered celebrity scandal will be milked to death to distract everyone, but that can be made impossible if your actions are powerful and sustained enough. You will not be alone: the unprecedented outpouring of support for Edward Snowden demonstrates this. Don't let his sacrifice go to waste, buried by media spin and smears; he deserves better. You know perfectly well what will happen to this great man if the US gets its hands on him...and you know that they will if we do not act. This must not be permitted. If tears do not well up in your eyes on considering his hopeless plight, you're not human; you're a victim of induced sociopathy, a mental state brought on by a devastatingly shallow society with all its intentionally-wrought ills.

Time to step up and be counted.

Author's note: in order to protect people like Edward Snowden and bring about the just, democratic systems he so obviously believes in, we need to act ourselves and take power back now. Please follow and actively support The Movement as detailed below.

Simon Wood (Twitter: @simonwood11) is the author of 'The 99.99998271%: Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy' and the founder of The Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice and democracy. Please follow and support The Movement on Twitter: @1themovement as it provides a manifesto and strongly urges all progressive movements to unite and pool their resources in the common goal of removing the cancer of corruption that threatens us all. You can also follow Simon Wood on Facebook and at his blog.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

We Steal Freedom

"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare" - Mark Twain

For those tired of being dismissed as 'conspiracy theorists' for the crime of paying attention and digging deeper than a Yahoo.com news headline, this has been a week of vindication. An unidentified whistleblower trusted the journalist Glenn Greenwald enough to send him documents concerning PRISM, a top-secret US government surveillance program that directly taps into the servers of nine tech giants (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple and PalTalk). Potentially all forms of media can be and have been monitored, with anyone in the world a viable target. General information can be found here, while Darker Net provides a typically excellent and detailed rundown here of what we know so far.

While, officials assure us, the actual content of phone calls cannot be tapped without special legal permission, the PRISM program allows the NSA to access so-called phone 'metadata', which is basically who called whom when and from where, along with any other available data about the call. Government officials have assured Americans that they have nothing to worry about because only this metadata is accessed, but as this informative article by Jane Mayer at The New Yorker explains, Metadata can in fact allow extremely private information to be inferred, rendering actual call content unnecessary.

From the article:

So how bad could it be?

The answer, according to the mathematician and former Sun Microsystems engineer Susan Landau, whom I interviewed while reporting on the plight of the former N.S.A. whistleblower Thomas Drake and who is also the author of “Surveillance or Security?,” is that it's worse than many might think.

"The public doesn't understand,” she told me, speaking about so-called metadata. “It's much more intrusive than content.” She explained that the government can learn immense amounts of proprietary information by studying “who you call, and who they call. If you can track that, you know exactly what is happening - you don't need the content.”

For example, she said, in the world of business, a pattern of phone calls from key executives can reveal impending corporate takeovers. Personal phone calls can also reveal sensitive medical information: “You can see a call to a gynecologist, and then a call to an oncologist, and then a call to close family members.” And information from cell-phone towers can reveal the caller’s location. Metadata, she pointed out, can be so revelatory about whom reporters talk to in order to get sensitive stories that it can make more traditional tools in leak investigations, like search warrants and subpoenas, look quaint. “You can see the sources,” she said. When the F.B.I. obtains such records from news agencies, the Attorney General is required to sign off on each invasion of privacy. When the N.S.A. sweeps up millions of records a minute, it's unclear if any such brakes are applied.

Metadata, Landau noted, can also reveal sensitive political information, showing, for instance, if opposition leaders are meeting, who is involved, where they gather, and for how long. Such data can reveal, too, who is romantically involved with whom, by tracking the locations of cell phones at night.

The reaction to this leak from the intelligence community, administration officials and associated lackeys has been predictable. Quote sources here and here.

Karl Rove on Fox:“I'm not going to defend the Obama administration. I will defend the intelligence community. To identify patterns of phone calls between individuals here and individuals abroad, and then you identify the patterns of phone calls inside this country...that allows the intelligence agencies to identify connections between people abroad and people at home.”

Democratic Senator for California and Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein: "It's called protecting America."

Republican Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham: "I don't mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States."

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the program as "important and entirely legal" and said the leak of a document describing it was "reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans."

Regarding the phone-tracking program, Mr. Clapper said the unauthorized disclosure "threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation."

Senator Ron Wyden asked Mr. Clapper about NSA data collection at a Senate hearing back in March:

Wyden: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

Clapper: "No, sir."

Wyden: "It does not?"

Clapper: "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect -- but not wittingly."

Mr. Clapper expanded on these remarks this week in light of the revelations:

"What I said was, 'the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens' e-mails.' I stand by that."

[Aside: lying to Congress is a crime punishable by up to five years imprisonment.]

Are Americans targeted?

A White House official has an answer:

"The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch and Congress." It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons."

In its latest article on this topic, The Guardian today revealed the existence of the NSA's secret tool for tracking global surveillance data, known as 'Boundless Informant'.

[Aside: what is it with the US and its creepy names for tools, operations and missions???]

From the article:

The disclosure of the internal Boundless Informant system comes amid a struggle between the NSA and its overseers in the Senate over whether it can track the intelligence it collects on American communications. The NSA's position is that it is not technologically feasible to do so.

Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: "NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case."

Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts[,] which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.

IP address is not a perfect proxy for someone's physical location but it is rather close, said Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist with the Speech Privacy and Technology Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "If you don't take steps to hide it, the IP address provided by your internet provider will certainly tell you what country, state and, typically, city you are in," Soghoian said.

That approximation has implications for the ongoing oversight battle between the intelligence agencies and Congress.

Glenn Greenwald himself put his finger on the exact problem exposed by this leak in a recent article:

The way things are supposed to work is that we're supposed to know virtually everything about what they do: that's why they're called public servants. They're supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that's why we're called private individuals.

This dynamic - the hallmark of a healthy and free society - has been radically reversed. Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That's the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable.

That's it in a nutshell. We have officials elected via fake elections in fake democracies building walls of secrecy to protect and consolidate their own power (and wealth), all the while working to ensure that the status quo is maintained for the entities which support their political careers (and revolving-door retirements) financially - the banks, corporations, various big-money lobby groups and rich donors.

The pretext for mass NSA surveillance is, of course, the 'War on Terror'. Putting aside the fact that the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack in the US are around one in twenty million, there are other ways to ensure the legal requirements of probable cause or reasonable suspicion are satisfied. Given the enormous financial resources set aside for the war on terror, it would be a simple matter to have, for instance, a cadre of specialist judges on call twenty-four hours a day to instantly review official requests from law enforcement officials (who may be working on time-sensitive cases) who suspect (using whatever powers legally permitted - for example, keyword detection software that does not show ALL content of a communication but merely flags it as suspicious) a particular individual of plotting a terrorist attack and require legal permission to probe their private communications. This would negate the need for blanket surveillance at a stroke.

[Note: I do not believe the answer to terrorism is surveillance - for example, the keyword detection software cited above. It is suggested here merely as a possible legal alternative to blanket surveillance in the context of this specific issue. One potent answer to terrorism is to stop invading, bombing and generally interfering in foreign sovereign nations...but that's an assertion for another article.]

Instead of expanding this power (that it already possessed) in such a legal manner, the US government has given the NSA free rein to violate the privacy of anyone it sees fit to. That it has chosen such a path is clear proof that the purpose of such a program is not surveillance to prevent terrorism, but instead surveillance of the world population in general; surveillance which will allow the targeting of any potential threat to its dominance in any arena, along with valuable data on human behavior patterns, including in the commercial field, which can be traded. Further, with a targeted person's private data in its possession, the NSA may then enable that particular threat (a meddling journalist, for example) to be dealt with in various ways where necessary: blackmail, bribery, smear campaigns and so on.

What to do. The first step is to move all your communications away from the companies named in the leak. This very useful article details how you can use the Internet without using PRISM companies. It is also vital to spread awareness on this issue, and in particular to vigorously challenge any fool raising the 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' defense.

However, these are only short-term measures. While extremely important, this leak highlights just another in a very long line of abuses of power by an out-of-control elite who believe they can do anything they wish, and who see you, a citizen, merely as a commodity. In order to end this orgy of abuse, incompetence, greed and corruption, which could literally kill us all when one considers the inaction on catastrophic climate change, it is necessary for you and anyone you can convince to become active in support of progressive movements that seek to bring about truly democratic systems which prioritize human rights and social justice over capital and power.

This leak highlights the extent of the ambitions of the elites; they seek nothing less than total control, making themselves unassailable to any conceivable challenge to their dominance. Government officials will play down this leak, assuring 'us' that it is legal and that 'we' really have nothing to worry about, but there will be no contrition or backing down: they are in for a penny, in for a pound.

One thing we can be certain of is this: Glenn Greenwald will face serious flak - possibly more than that - and the leaker will be extremely fortunate to escape the inevitable witch hunt. As the mafia are wont to say, a message must be sent, and that - as we have seen from the barbaric persecution of whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and John Kiriakou etc. - is the true face of those who claim power over us.

Simon Wood (Twitter: @simonwood11) is the author of 'The 99.99998271%: Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy' and the founder of The Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice and democracy. Please follow and support The Movement on Twitter: @1themovement as it strongly urges all progressive movements to unite and pool their resources in the common goal of removing the cancer of corruption that threatens us all. You can also follow Simon Wood on Facebook and at his blog.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Open Letter to US Armed Forces

"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. (So help me God)" - United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office

"An individual who breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in fact expressing the highest respect for the law" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear all members of the US armed forces:

"Thank you for your service."

Any talking head or 'chickenhawk' politician who values his or her career reminds the nation on a regular basis of the unquestioning gratitude and reverence one must display toward the military. The sincerity of such people, however, is suspect when one considers the reality of life for many US veterans.

Some facts about veterans from the article:

45 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness.

500,000 veterans experience homelessness each year.

1 in 3 homeless males are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

76 percent of veterans experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems.

If they really cared about you, would the situation revealed by these shocking statistics be permitted? Or are they full of shit, giving lip service for self-promotion purposes? You decide.

Every single serviceman and woman has their own reasons for joining up, and most undoubtedly feel an urge to serve and protect the homeland. However, few soldiers would describe themselves as 'heroes', and this forces us to confront an unpleasant reality about the motives behind this media beatification of all things military.

From a Guardian article about Veteran's Day:

When someone is declared a hero for lacing up combat boots, no matter how far from harm's way, what does that say about those who patrol the Nuristan Province under constant threat from Taliban ambush? And what does it say about the soldier who darts into the open to attend to a fallen comrade?

Are they all equally heroes? Or have we devalued the word?

This growing "cult of the military" would be vexing if it were, indeed, the result of the society acting spontaneously to expiate past sins. But the truth probably has more to do with manipulation. Think back to the invasion of Iraq, a stupid, costly, trumped-up war that divided the nation. When the public finally began to wonder what in the world deposing a Gulf dictator had to do with 9/11 or our national security (answer: absolutely nothing), suddenly the bumper stickers began to appear:

"Support Our Troops."

And with that, skepticism about George W Bush's invented threat, not to mention the abominable expenditure of blood and treasure, was conflated with undermining our heroes.

To question the war was somehow to question them. It was unpatriotic. It was a betrayal. And thus did the worship of the uniform serve the interests of the government. Reduced to the role of poster children, our heroes easily won our sympathy – at the expense of our reason, and ultimately their own dignity.

With this unyielding pressure to live up to the status of a 'hero', only confusion in comprehending the true role of a soldier can result. Wearing the uniform does not mean blindly obeying orders, whatever they may be. As demonstrated most notably in the 1945-6 Nuremberg Trials, there is a moral responsibility to uphold international law (enshrined in treaties the US has signed in good faith like the Geneva Conventions and so on) and also to report abuse and crimes committed by one's own military.

US military field guides since World War II have made it clear that any soldier has a responsibility to report such abuses or crimes through the chain of command. The US soldier's manual (1984), for example, states:

You must report crimes immediately through your chain of command. If the crime involves your immediate superiors, report to their superior. You may also report violations of the laws of war to the inspector general, provost marshal, chaplain, or judge advocate. In any case, the law requires that you report actual or suspected violations immediately so that evidence will not be misplaced or disappear.

Reality, however, bites. A culture of abuse within the military, legitimized by the criminal actions of those at the very top of the chain of command, has led to a breakdown, a pole-reversal of morality. It is now the norm for soldiers or officials who authorize or commit terrible abuses to get off lightly, while those who shed light on those abuses get shafted with the full force of the law.

From an earlier article on this blog:

This week a CIA whistleblower, Jack Kiriakou was sentenced to two years in prison for informing the world of the CIA's torture rendition program (known as the Rendition, Detention, Interrogation (RDI) Program). On the other hand, the head of the program, Thomas Fletcher, a man who allegedly oversaw and actually took part in horrendous abuse of detainees is free to enjoy his retirement in Virginia.

Torture is illegal under international law.

Bradley Manning, the young US private who allegedly passed hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, has been detained for two and a half years in conditions described as 'torture' by both Amnesty International and Juan Mendez, the UN's top torture official. The perpetrators of the multiple criminal acts detailed in the cables remain free of even a whiff of investigation.

These are but two examples of literally thousands of cases of human rights abuse, political persecution and gross injustice, but from them the message is crystal clear: act in good conscience in order to inform your fellow citizens of corruption, illegality or criminality on an industrial scale and you will be punished and persecuted; actually commit the crimes and you will be left alone; indeed, you may be rewarded.

The world is upside-down. The level of dysfunction is such that true justice, democracy, equality and freedom for all is now a distant ideal, a romantic concept espoused by the naive, contemptuously dismissed by the Machiavellian advocates of realpolitik.

So what is a hero? Certainly, the soldier who braves enemy fire to rescue a wounded comrade fits the bill. Lost in our upside-down morality, however, is the less obvious definition of a hero as someone who bravely steps outside the paradigm in an act of pure conscience (not for profit, as many appear to believe), knowing full well that a holy shitstorm will ensue. Bradley Manning, whose trial begins today, June 3 2013, is such a man.

This blog has written extensively on Manning, and it is recommended that those readers wishing to understand the background of the case and reasons why he is not a traitor read the links here, here and here.

Many US servicemen and women have expressed support for Private Manning, saying (correctly) that his actions in leaking evidence of vast US criminality led to the Iraq withdrawal and therefore without doubt saved many of the lives of his (and their) fellow soldiers. Many others, however, have swallowed the corporate media propaganda of Manning 'breaking the rules' and therefore being a 'traitor'.

To those who believe this is true, please consider the following scenario:

1. If you saw evidence of war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial executions, illegal spying on UN officials etc., would you remain silent? If so, as demonstrated earlier in this article, you are breaking both army rules and international law by not reporting these transgressions to a superior.

2. If you found yourself unable to remain silent, would you report the transgressions to a superior officer? Manning also tried this but was told to shut up and get on with his job.

3. What would you do then? You know that under the Nuremberg Defense, soldiers can also be punished (albeit to a lesser degree than their superiors) for refusing to disobey orders that clearly cover up war crimes. Sadly, you also know that recent history offers an escape: the abusers in the Abu Ghraib scandal and others got light sentences or were simply discharged without punishment. This gives you a choice: keep your mouth shut and accept the tiny punishment you may get if found guilty of covering things up, or see the bigger picture and become a classic whistleblower, just as the revered Daniel Ellsberg did when he sent the Pentagon Papers to the media. Note also that the Pentagon Papers were designated 'top secret', while none of the files exposed by Manning were.

Putting yourself in Manning's shoes likes this helps one understand that he made a conscious moral decision to do the right thing, something our parents and teachers (rightly) teach us to do from early childhood. As a result he has been imprisoned awaiting trial for three years, spending much of that time in conditions described by Amnesty and the UN's top torture official as torture. With this in mind, members of the US military (and public) should re-examine their reflexive urge to label this man a traitor when an honest look at the facts demonstrates the opposite to be true.

Leading to a larger point - the role of the US soldier:

Are you really 'defending the homeland' when your drones blow up kids in Pakistan, Yemen and other nations? Or are you in fact endangering the homeland by creating thousandfold the rage only a parent can feel when their child is murdered by a foreign power in a so-called 'signature strike' (strikes based on 'suspicious' patterns of behavior instead of hard intelligence) or 'double-tap' strike (where one missile is fired, followed by a second when rescuers arrive on the scene - a clear war crime), with that murder justified by lame propaganda you know to be false. Surely you can imagine how you personally would react if a powerful foreign government - China, say - bombed an area where your own children happened to be and justified it under the terms of their own 'war on terror'. Quite clearly, hatred and the urge to retaliate would dominate your emotions until the day you died.

Are you defending the homeland by having bases in more than 150 nations around the world, with covert military operations ongoing in at least seventy? Nations with negligible military forces suffer no problems from terrorism; nations far freer than the US. Please do not continue to believe the ludicrous refrain: 'They hate us for our freedoms', as indeed freedom in the US is fast disappearing, with the provisions of the NDAA allowing indefinite detention of anyone designated 'a threat' (note, any critical or dissident journalist could easily be labeled in such vague terms). Add to this ubiquitous cameras; the uber-creepy Trapwire system (revealed by Wikileaks via the Stratfor leak for which Jeremy Hammond is now facing federal criminal charges); and the NSA surveillance network that now stores every single communication by American citizens. To many, these are clear signs of a US falling inexorably into fascism. Obvious proof that the US is already a police state was made clear by the ludicrously overstated response to the recent Boston bombings.

Begging the question: who are you really defending? The answer is simple: you defend the status quo for the corporations who want the world to stay exactly as it is. The reasons they wish to maintain the status quo are two-fold: first, it is ideal for the tiny corporate, political and financial elite to keep the vast majority of the world's wealth and resources flowing into its hands; and second, under the current system of control enforced by US military power, it is harder for alternative visions of civilization - ones that prioritize human rights and well-being over the acquisition of capital - to gain a foothold. Thus we see the elevated persecution of whistleblowers like Manning and (non-profit) transparency organizations like Wikileaks: entities that present a true threat to their hegemony as they shine unwelcome light on their real activities, activities ordinarily hidden by walls of extreme secrecy.

A silent revolution is occurring: one of thought. The rise of social media has corresponded with a global awakening to the true role of nation states, their governments and - critically - their corporations, which care nothing for national borders. Damning statistics flit around the ether - regurgitated by ordinary people with exponentially increasing outrage - as they discover one by one, ten by ten, in their hundreds...thousands...multitudes...the extent to which democracy has been subverted to serve special interests.

This corrupt, bloated, corporate-controlled empire is only kept in place because you, the soldiers, enforce order: in many ways you are the Roman centurions, patrolling the outer districts of a monstrous entity of control founded on violence and debt, there simply because you are 'supposed to' be and paid to be there.

But ask yourself: where is the good in what you are doing? Do you want to be defined by the fact that you defend not a nation and its people, but a tiny group of mega-rich elites who have hoodwinked the US population - with the help of aggressive marketing of the concept by the corporate-owned media - into believing that terrorism is an existential threat, when you know full well that in terms of numbers, terrorism is in fact a miniscule danger in comparison to other far more pressing and damaging issues like gun crime, health crises, disease, drug abuse, organized crime and poverty.

US armed service members of conscience - the vast majority - must re-examine their motives for serving in the military, must educate themselves on how the world really works, and recognize their crucial role in allowing this deeply corrupt and criminal global system to continue to exist. Consider also that you might have judged Bradley Manning harshly - look into the case and find out the facts. Think about his actions from an objective viewpoint - not from the assumptions you have always held - because those assumptions are likely to have been formed under heavy assault by the media, which has a vested interest in confusing you.

Barring a popular global uprising of mind-blowing proportions, the only hope of overturning the corrupt system we all suffer is the men and women in uniform who enforce it coming to their senses. Recall the oath you took on entering the service, and remember that you swore to protect us from enemies both foreign and domestic. There is an enemy within and deep down you know it. You also know that the world does not belong to a few mega-rich white guys in suits (who so often somehow manage to keep themselves and their kids safely away from active military service); it belongs to all of us - including you.

Simon Wood (Twitter: @simonwood11) is the author of 'The 99.99998271%: Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy' and the founder of The Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice and democracy. Please follow and support The Movement on Twitter: @1themovement as it strongly urges all progressive movements to unite and pool their resources in the common goal of removing the cancer of corruption that threatens us all. You can also follow Simon Wood on Facebook and at his blog.

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Note: Due to spam, only members of this blog can now comment. If you wish to make a comment and would like it published, please contact me via Twitter and I'll sort it out.