Thursday, February 27, 2014

Spying on Activists: New Document Shows Army Targeted Olympia Anarchists, War Protesters

Spying on Activists: New Document Shows Army Targeted Olympia Anarchists, War Protesters

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 09:50 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report
(Photo: EFF Photos / Flickr)

In 2007, John Towery attended a conference on domestic terrorism in Spokane, Washington. There he distributed "domestic terrorist" dossiers that appeared to place Brendan Maslauskas Dunn and Jeffery Berryhill, two young activists who were members of Students for a Democratic Society in Olympia, into a terrorism index.

Dunn and Berryhill were anti-war activists, not terrorists, but their names and personal information were shared with police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as part of a multi-agency effort to spy on anarchists and anti-war activists in Washington.

At the time, Dunn considered Towery to be his friend. Dunn knew Towery as "John Jacob," whom he would later describe as a "kind" and "generous" participant in the Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) campaign that protested military shipments to the Iraq war. In 2009, Dunn learned from a public records request he filed with the city of Olympia that "John Jacob" was actually John Towery, a criminal intelligence analyst on the payroll of the Army.

Towery, it turned out, had lied about his identity to infiltrate the activist community in Olympia and gather intelligence he shared with police departments, the FBI and a fusion center in Washington, according to documents obtained by activists and free speech advocates in a series of public information requests.
As wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the PMR campaign in Washington organized sit-ins and protests at military ports to block shipments of equipment and weapons overseas. Activists pledged to remain nonviolent and have said that their actions constituted civil disobedience at worst, but they were often met by aggressive police crackdowns that resulted in dozens of arrests.

At the time, Towery worked as a civilian "criminal information" analyst for the Force Protection Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. After attending the domestic terrorism conference in Tacoma, Towery sent an email to police officials and an FBI agent suggesting that they develop a "leftist / anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro." Towery offered to share "zines," "pamphlets" and online material that he used "on a regular basis" but warned that the material should not be distributed outside the group because that "might tip off groups that we are studying their techniques, tactics and procedures."

The email, which was released for the first time this week after an Olympia-based activist uncovered it through a public information request, could help the activists prove that they were illegally targeted for their political beliefs in upcoming civil trial against Towery, his Army superior Thomas Rudd and several police departments.
"The latest revelations show how the Army not only engaged in illegal spying on political dissidents, it led the charge and tried to expand the counterintelligence network targeting leftists and anarchists," said Larry Hildes, a National Lawyers Guild attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dunn, Berryhill and several other PMR activists in 2010. "By targeting activists without probable cause, based on their ideology and the perceived political threat they represent, the Army clearly broke the law and must be held accountable."

The lawsuit alleges that, under orders from the Army, Towery illegally infiltrated anti-war groups to disrupt activity protected under the First Amendment. The lawsuit also alleges that information Towery handed off to police officers led to the harassment and pre-emptive false arrest of several PMR activists, who were jailed in 2006 and charged with "attempted disorderly conduct" and criminal trespass after standing, singing and chanting outside on a street in front of the Port of Olympia entrance that had already been closed to traffic by police who were told by Towery that the activists would stage a sit-in.

The Army has denied the allegations routinely, and Towery originally claimed that he infiltrated anti-war groups in his spare time to help police officers. But troves of internal documents like the email released by activists this week have told a different story. An email released last year shows that Towery's Army superiors approved overtime pay for Towery after he attended a weekend meeting with activists at Evergreen State College.

The recent Edward Snowden revelations have left many Americans shocked by the massive intelligence dragnet operated by the National Security Agency, but for anyone involved in the anti-war movement of the past decade, the revelations may come as no surprise. During the Bush administration, the FBI and other law enforcement agents routinely spied on and infiltrated peaceful groups organizing protests against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the names of peaceful activists often ended up on terrorism watch lists.

Monitoring of activists continued under the Obama administration, notably during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, when a Truthout investigation confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security kept tabs on Occupy protests across the country. Homeland Security documents, however, revealed an internal debate over its role in monitoring the Occupy movement, and the agency apparently refrained from wholesale surveillance and infiltration because of First Amendment concerns.
The Obama administration tried to dismiss the lawsuit against Towery and the other defendants, but last year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that alleged violations of the Fourth and First Amendments were "plausible" and ordered the case to trial. The court threw out some of the activists' broader allegations but ruled that the Army and law enforcement agencies can be sued for damages for spying on activists. Hildes has argued that, under the little-known Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the military is prohibited from enforcing domestic laws on US soil. The trial is expected to begin in June.

Copyright, Truthout.

Mike Ludwig is a Truthout reporter. Follow Mike on Twitter @ludwig_mike.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Keystone XL Would Endanger Health of Americans, U.S. Senators Say

Published on Portside (

Keystone XL Would Endanger Health of Americans, U.S. Senators Say

By Meagan Fitzpatrick

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
CBC News - Radio Canada

The oil brought into the United States from Canada via the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would jeopardize the health of Americans, two U.S. senators said Wednesday as they called for a public health impact study.

Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat representing California, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, held a news conference in Washington along with Dr. John O'Connor, an Alberta physician.

O'Connor told the news conference that carcinogens get into the food chain, water and air in communities downstream from the oil sands and that those toxins are linked to cancers occurring in those areas. He said he has "no political agenda" and that he is only advocating for his patients.

O'Connor shared his concerns about higher than average cancer rates, and rare cancers, in Fort Chipewyan, and he told CBC News he is trying to shine a spotlight on the "callous indifference" to the health of those who live downstream from the oil sands.

"The opportunity to talk about it was a golden one," he said of his invitation to attend the news conference in Washington. O'Connor said he hopes the U.S. will pressure the Canadian and Alberta governments to do comprehensive studies on the health of people in communities near the oil sands. Past promises for studies have not been kept, he said.

Boxer, who calls Alberta's oil sands "tar sands," said the health effects of developing them have been ignored and that more attention needs to be paid before the State Department makes a recommendation to President Barack Obama on approving the Keystone XL project.

"Health miseries follow the tar sands from extraction to transport to refining to waste disposal," she said.

Senators want a health impact study

The TransCanada Corporation pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska, where it would link up with an existing pipeline that connects to refineries in Texas. Because it would cross the Canada-U.S. border it needs presidential approval.
Secretary of State John Kerry's department will determine whether it believes the pipeline is in the national interest and then it will be up to Obama to make the final decision. He has not said when he will make his decision.

"I ask today: how many more Americans with asthma will we see, and is that in the national interest? How are more Americans with cancer in the national interest?" said Boxer.

Boxer and Whitehouse have written to Kerry asking for a health impact study on the Keystone XL project.

"Children and families in the U.S. have a right to know now before any decision to approve the Keystone tarsands pipeline is made, how it would affect their health," Boxer said.

An environmental impact study [1] was released a few weeks ago by the State Department and a 90-day review period is now underway. But a Nebraska court may have disrupted the timeline for a decision. It ruled a week ago [2] that the governor didn't have the authority to approve the route through the state. It's unclear how this will affect the project or the White House's decision.

"This press conference is about waking up America to the fact more tar sands coming into this country, and right away with the Keystone pipeline you have 45 per cent [more oil], is a danger to the health of our people," Boxer warned while sharing stories about residents who suffered ill health after nearby oil spills.
Whitehouse said the U.S. should be making a decision with its eyes wide open to the potential health consequences.

A spokesman for TransCanada said in an email that a 2010 study by the Royal Society of Canada "concluded that there is currently no credible evidence that contaminants from the oilsands are boosting cancer levels in downstream communities."

Davis Sheremata said TransCanada shares the senators' concerns for the environment and public health and that it has invested millions of dollars in solar and wind energy. He also noted that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired plants in the U.S. would have a broad impact on the health of Americans.

The federal government in Ottawa is lobbying Obama's administration to approve the pipeline and the topic came up when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Obama met last week in Mexico. Obama has provided no hints publicly on what his decision will be.
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why We Need an Outright Ban on Fracking

Published on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by The Guardian

Why We Need an Outright Ban on Fracking

Convicted on Monday after supergluing herself to a fellow anti-fracking protester at Balcombe in the UK, activist says more people should stand up against the risks

by Natalie Hynde

Getting arrested for taking part in direct action at Balcombe was the most liberating experience I've ever had. Nothing I've ever done in my life has made me feel so empowered and alive.

Anyone can Google the "List of the Harmed" or look at the Shalefield Stories detailing what's happened to people in the US as a result of fracking – the nosebleeds, the cancers, the spontaneous abortions in livestock, the seizures and silicosis in the worker's lungs. Not to mention the farming revenue lost from sick and dying cattle. When you have exhausted all other channels of democratic process – written letters, gone on marches and signed petitions – direct action seems the only way left to get your voice heard.

In the US, this industry has buried people's stories and threatened their livelihoods if they dare to speak out. Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have found that a number of toxic, and carcinogenic, petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near fracking wells include benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene, which cause acute and chronic health problems for those living nearby.

In the UK we are told that it will bring energy prices down. Most people do not understand that the exploration wells that we are seeing at the moment are just the start. Unconventional gas will require tens of thousands of wells over huge areas of the country. Production will require pipelines, compressor stations and waste disposal on a massive scale. The tiny exploration companies will be replaced by massive firms when they sell the information and licences they have gathered.

Fracking releases methane into the Earth's atmosphere which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, between 20 and 100 times more so, than CO2. This is a time when we should be meeting our climate change obligations, not worsening the situation by injecting a chemical cocktail of carcinogens into the earth's crust.

A lot of us want the moratorium that was lifted in 2012 to be reinstated – due to new evidence and significant Royal Society/RIE recommendations not having been followed.

We've already had two earthquakes in Blackpool and the property market in the town has tanked as a result of the fracking. In the exploratory drilling process, the range of chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, pose a massive threat if they escape from the well. All wells leak eventually – 6% of gas wells leak immediately and 50% of all gas wells leak within 15 years.

Following on from the Lock the Gate protest in Australia, communities are being inspired to spread information and prepare for when fracking is introduced to their area. Taking part in nonviolent direct action will cause the investors to think twice – we need more people to get involved, even at the risk of getting arrested.

Nothing is in place in the UK at the moment to deal with all the radioactive toxic waste water that we're left with after the land has been fracked. In other words, they've said yes to fracking without having all of the necessary waste water treatment procedures in place. Some believe it won't be possible to treat it at all, in which case they will end up dumping it in estuaries and elsewhere. Once that water is contaminated it can't be reversed – it is in the water cycle forever.

Many people think UK shale gas would provide us with energy security, but what does that mean? People don't realise the Chinese have already invested in iGas and Cuadrilla. The environment is not considered at all. Do we want to leave this mess for the next generation? Why hasn't the public been informed of the risks? Why are they rushing it through? Why are they offering bribes to local communities? Why has France banned fracking? Why is the French company Total investing in fracking in the UK? Why is the French-owned EDF allowed to build nuclear power stations in the UK? We need an outright ban on fracking – or at the very least, a moratorium.

© 2014 Guardian News and Media

Natalie Hynde took part in the anti-fracking protest in Balcombe, West Sussex. She volunteers in a bookshop and homeless shelter

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

European Complicity in US Drone Strikes Must Be Stopped, MEPs to Warn

February 26, 2014
9:53 AM CONTACT: Reprieve

Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160 /

European Complicity in US Drone Strikes Must Be Stopped, MEPs to Warn

LONDON - February 26 - MEPs will this week vote on a resolution condemning EU Member

States’ complicity in the covert US drones programme.

A draft resolution sponsored by the Green group of MEPs and enjoying cross-party support will be debated today (Wednesday) and voted on tomorrow (Thursday) between 12 and 2pm.

The resolution condemns the extrajudicial killings resulting from drones strikes, notes an increase in strikes in recent years in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and demands full transparency from those Member States that possess drones technology (such as the UK).

The strikes represent both a violation of the sovereignty of targeted countries and spread terror among the civilian population, says the resolution; they are therefore illegal under international law. The text further criticises the “opaque and unaccountable” nature of drone strikes, concluding that they pose a grave threat to global peace and security.

Today’s move comes amid growing calls for greater scrutiny of the covert US programme, including the use of US bases in countries such as Germany and the UK to support the strikes. Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the

International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning NATO member states’ role in facilitating the drone programme in Pakistan. The complaint, which followed recent revelations that the UK and Germany support the drone strikes through intelligence-sharing, highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
Mr Khan has in recent days met with MEPs such as Sajjad Karim (Con) as well as UK, German and Dutch parliamentarians to discuss the impact of drone strikes on North Waziristan. The CIA campaign in the area is estimated to have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians including children.

Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said:

“Today’s debate is a welcome step towards greater accountability in the illegal drone war that is currently being waged by the US, with the full complicity of its European partners. The drone programme has killed thousands of civilians, and terrorised many more - in absolute secrecy and with a total lack of accountability, both at the international and domestic level. We hope that tomorrow, MEPs will recognise this wrong, and do what they can to right it.”
Kareem Khan said:

“The US’ secret drones programme has killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan alone – including my own son and brother – and continues to terrorise many more. Visiting Europe to tell MPs and MEPs about my experiences, I’ve been heartened by the understanding and sympathy of many. I urge MEPs voting tomorrow to think about the devastating impact of strikes in places like Waziristan, and recognise that Europe has real power to stop them.”


Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The Surrender of America’s Liberals

The Surrender of America’s Liberals
By Bill Moyers

In a Web-exclusive interview, political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. talks with Bill Moyers about his new article in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine – a challenge to America’s progressives provocatively titled, “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals.”

In the piece, Reed writes that Democrats and liberals have become too fixated on election results rather than aiming for long term goals that address the issues of economic inequality, and that the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama too often acquiesced to the demands of Wall Street and the right.

As a result, Reed tells Moyers, the left is no longer a significant force in American politics. “If we understand the left to be anchored to our convictions that society can be made better than it actually is, and a commitment to combating economic inequality as a primary one, the left is just gone.”

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Take a look at this cover of the March issue of Harper's Magazine. The headline of the lead story reads, "Nothing left. The long, slow surrender of American Liberals." And to illustrate those morose words, there's an exhausted knight, shield shattered, slumped backwards on an equally worn out donkey with a most disinterested demeanor.

This Don Quixote hasn't got the strength to tilt at windmills, much less the Democratic party. Now this picture will stun many people including Democrats in the House of Representatives who at their recent annual retreat put forth a united front on issues ranging from minimum wage to jobs and immigration reform. And Republicans will scoff at the notion that liberalism is flying the white flag of capitulation, at least while a socialist president from Kenya occupies the White House.

But the author of the Harper's article is onto something. He sees the populist, progressive wing of the Democratic Party giving up to the corporate wing putatively embodied in Hillary Clinton sailing forth surrounded by a mighty armada from Wall Street.

Adolph Reed, Jr., wrote that article and he joins me now. He's a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, a long-time student of American politics and a prolific author, editor, and columnist. Adolph, welcome back.

ADOLPH REED: Thanks. It's great to be back.

BILL MOYERS: Well, what do you mean nothing left?

ADOLPH REED: Well, what I mean basically is that if we understand the left to be anchored to a conviction that the society can be made better than it actually is and a commitment to combating economic inequality as a primary one, the left is just gone.

I mean, there are leftists around, certainly. There's no shortage of them. And there are left organizations, and there are people who publish left ideas and kind of think left thoughts. But as a significant force that's capable of shaping the terms of debate in American politics, you know, the left has gone and has been gone for a while.

I often note that, you know, working people in America got more from Richard Nixon than we got from Clinton or Obama. And it's not because he was our fan, right, it's because, you know, the labor movement and what has since been called the social movement of the '60s were dynamic enough forces in the society that even Nixon, who called himself a Keynesian, felt that there was a need to respond to them.

So that's how we got occupational health and safety, affirmative action like other stuff. So it's not, and, see, this is the key point, I think, right. Because one of the ways that our politics have been hollowed and a source of the collapse of the left is a forgetting, right? A kind of social amnesia about what movement building is and how and what social movements are and how they're constructed.

BILL MOYERS: In this piece you write, “If the left is tied to a democratic strategy that, at least since the Clinton administration, tries to win elections by absorbing much of the right's social vision and agenda, before long the notion of a political left will have no meaning. For all intents and purposes, that is what has occurred.”

ADOLPH REED: Look, I've never wanted to dismiss electoral action. But the problem is that it can only be a defensive engagement for us now. Because the way that the center of gravity in American politics has moved right, we're kind of dealt out of it.
So the only option that there is for us in the electoral realm is going to be finding the less bad candidate.
And what that means is in that there's no possibility of being able to push any of the sort of progressive, egalitarian ideas that would've popped up in FDR's campaign in 1944, right, or even Truman's campaign in 1948.

What we can do is try to have some influence on the least worst, right. But, I would never argue that we shouldn't pay attention to electoral politics. But I think we need to understand that that can't exhaust the scope of our political activity.

And we've sort of fallen into a groove of putting all of our political hopes into electing Democrats and just seem to have a lot of, you know, difficulty just getting off the dime of about trying to build around campaign issues, right.

Like, single payer health care, right, was a moment that's come and gone. I mean I've been pushing off and on over the years for universal free public higher education.

BILL MOYERS: You say that there're not many ideas, not much fight, not much dynamism on the left. But there are people fighting for immigration reform, for campaign finance reform, for environmental protections, for fair wages, for women's reproductive rights. I mean, aren't these important objectives and don't ultimately they add up to an agenda for change?

ADOLPH REED: 10:39:41:00 I'd say yes on the first question. Like, I'm not so sure about the second, right. Because, you know, the whole point of building a movement, right, is to unite the many to defeat the few.
I mean, like we can't compete with the money that the other side has.

BILL MOYERS: Organized people are the only answer to organized money?

ADOLPH REED: Exactly. Right. I mean, that's exactly right. So then the question becomes, well, how do we go about building the broadly based, mass movements that we need to try to have some effect on changing the terms of political debate, right? I mean, I'm a realist about this. I think that's what the goal has to be for the rest of my lifetime anyway.

You say "the left." Liberals, especially, are tied to the narrow strategy of electing at whatever cost, whatever Democrat is running. But, you know, Democrats won four of the last six presidential elections. Something's working for them.

ADOLPH REED: What exactly have we gotten out of the fact that they've won?

BILL MOYERS: Winning is not enough, you're saying.

I mean here's an illustration of the limits of it. President Obama in the speech he gave a couple weeks ago, the ballyhooed speech where he mentioned the word "inequality" a couple times.

He leaves the podium in effect and goes straight to try to, you know, strong arm his own party to support fast track for Trans Pacific Partnership.

So, I mean, what we've got is, like, a bipartisan neoliberalism, right, that's at the center of gravity of the American government. And to be clear, what I mean by neoliberalism is that, it's two things.

It's a free market, utopian ideology. And it's a concrete program for intensified upward redistribution. And when the two objectives conflict, I mean, guess which one gets put -- on the shelf? But both parties are fundamentally committed to this. And at this point, and I think we've seen this much more clearly since the 2008 election, the principal difference between Democrats and Republicans

Is the choice between a neoliberal party that is progressive on multicultural and diversity issues, and a neoliberal party that's reactionary and horrible on those same issues.

But where the vast majority of Americans live our lives and feel our anxieties about present and future and insecurity is not about the multicultural issues over which there's so there's so much fight. In the very realm of the neoliberal economic issues to which both parties are, in fact, committed.

BILL MOYERS: So, I hear you saying, Adolph, that while social and cultural factors are important to us, economic issues are the fundamental existential questions. And that the neo-liberal parties, both of them, devoted to promoting the interests of multinational companies and capitalism don't care what you think about cultural and social issues, as long as they control the process by which nothing interferes with markets.

ADOLPH REED: I think that's quite succinct.

BILL MOYERS: When Obama spoke about inequality and then a little bit later championed fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Aren't… Don't you take some encouragement from the fact that soon after Obama spoke, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, minority leader of the House and majority leader of the Senate both said, no deal. We're not for fast track.

ADOLPH REED: Right, right.

BILL MOYERS: You know why they did, apparently? Because 550 organizations in this country essentially representing the base of the Democratic Party said, no, Mr. President, we're not going with you. And so Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi responded. You must take some encouragement from that.

ADOLPH REED: Oh, absolutely. Totally.

BILL MOYERS: So it's not dead out there. It's not a cemetery.

ADOLPH REED: Well, it's not quite. But, I mean, the lesson I take from it, too, is that it's the organization that sort of brings them to where we'd like for them to be, right? It's a pressure from underneath. And, you know, and that's what largely hollowed out, right? I mean, except for you know, I mean, some issues.

BILL MOYERS: Why is that?

ADOLPH REED: Because Wall Street controls the agenda. I mean, I go back again to the primaries in '92. And I was calling friends of mine that I had, you know, long connections with, you know, again in the South, early on. And the word that came back was that Clinton's people had come through and had said from the outset, look, our guy's going to be the nominee. Don't ask for anything. If you don't get onboard, then you won't have any access later, after we win.
So access, which is a kind of crack cocaine, has become part of the problem.

BILL MOYERS: Is this, you say both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, heavily indebted to Wall Street, to financial interest, something that many people didn't pay much attention to when Obama ran in 2008. Is this why you suggest, not suggest, you in effect indict both of them for being nominal progressives?

ADOLPH REED: Well, it's not just that they got the Wall Street money. I assume that it's possible to get the Wall Street money and not do the Wall Street bidding. And you need to have, you know, money to win. But so I would say yes. It's the fact that they've done the Wall Street bidding that is what leads me to say that they're nominal neo-progressives.

BILL MOYERS: So does being on the left for you mean that it's not enough to do things that soften the consequences of inequality, but that we have to go beyond those reforms to change the system that produces inequality.

ADOLPH REED: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: And how do you change it?

ADOLPH REED: I'd say the first step has to be a focus on changing the terms of political debate. Because we've got to be able to put that issue back on the table, right? I mean, the issue of economic inequality, back on the table. I mean, even you know, the Democrats who raise it tentatively and back away as soon as they do.
Gore, with his odd little populist flirtation that he offered in the spring or the summer of you know, 2000, which provoked this torrent of outrage from the right wing. Saying that he's fanning the flames of class warfare, and that's not what we do in America, right? The same things happen, you know, with Obama. I can't even recall enough about the Kerry campaign, you know, to recall if he even made a gesture.

BILL MOYERS: You remind us of how leftist, progressive, liberals, a lot of everyday folks were swept up in the rhetoric and expectations surrounding Obama's campaign, his election, and his presidency. I'll bet you remember election night in Grant Park in 2008.

ADOLPH REED: Yeah, I do.

BILL MOYERS: Here it is.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids, to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one. That while we breathe, we hope.

And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes we can. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

ADOLPH REED: The clip is interesting, right? Because you think about the clip and his utterances, right, were a collection of evocative statements. But there was no real content there, right? I mean, he didn't say, I'm going to fight for X, and I have--

BILL MOYERS: Against inequality or for equality--

ADOLPH REED: Right, right.

BILL MOYERS: --or for wages, or--

ADOLPH REED: Right, right. So it was as he said himself in one or both of his books, his move is to encourage people to imagine a better world and a better future and a better life for themselves through identification with him.

BILL MOYERS: And you say in your article that his content, essentially, is his identity.


BILL MOYERS: I can imagine that if President Obama were sitting here talking with you or you were at the White House talking with him, he'd say, Adolph, I understand your diagnosis. But what you have to understand is that pragmatism can be and often is an effective agent or tool or weapon in the long-range struggle for social justice.

And I know you're impatient, I know you believe in this restructuring of society, but we're not going to get there with the wave of a wand. And it takes just as it did in the civil rights movement, a long time for me to get here to the White House, it's going to take a long time for this country to get where you would take it.

ADOLPH REED: Right. Oh, I am absolutely certain that he would say something like that. I admit that this is kind of treading maybe, into troublesome water, but among the reasons that I know Obama's type so well is, you know, I've been teaching at elite institutions for more than 30 years.

And that means that I've taught his cohort that came through Yale actually at the time that he was at, you know, Columbia and Harvard. And I recall an incident in a seminar in, you know, black American political thought with a young woman who was a senior who said something in the class. And I just blurted out that it seem, that the burden of what she said seemed to be that the whole purpose of this Civil Rights Movement was to make it possible for people like her to go to Yale and then to go to work in investment banking.

And she said unabashedly, well, yes, yes, and that's what I believe. And again, I didn't catch myself in time, so I just said to her, well, I wish somebody had told poor Viola Liuzzo, you know, before she left herself family in Michigan and got herself killed that that's what the punch line was going to be, because she might've stayed home to watch her kids grow up. And I think--

BILL MOYERS: This was the woman who on her own initiative went down during the civil rights struggle to Selma, Alabama to join in the fight for voting rights and equality, and was murdered.

ADOLPH REED: Right, exactly. I'm not prepared to accept as my metric of the extent of racial justice or victories of the struggles for racial justice, the election of a single individual to high office or appointment of a black individual to be corporate CEO. My metric would have to do with things like access to healthcare--

BILL MOYERS: For everybody.

ADOLPH REED: For everybody, right? And this is something else, by the way--

BILL MOYERS: Not just a symbolic victory for one person?

ADOLPH REED: Right. Because the way politics has evolved since the 1980s is that what we get now is the symbolic victory for the single person instead of, right, you know, the redistributive agenda.

And fact of the matter is, that, right, if you take the simple numerical standard, since the majority of black America is working-class like, you know, the majority of the country. And since black Americans are disproportionately part of the working class, then a redistributive program that secures and advances the interest of working-class people will disproportionately benefit black people.

BILL MOYERS: What do you tell your students? Obviously they must be concerned about the lowered expectations of the economy, about the high cost of their college, the loans they own, whether or not they can get a decent-paying job. What do you tell them to do about the future?

ADOLPH REED: The students who come to me who want to be activists, I mean, one thing I tell them is that, look, if you want to do this kind of stuff, we've got to approach it like a Major League Baseball player, where if you are successful three times in 10, then you go to the Hall of Fame, right? Because you get beaten a lot, right?

BILL MOYERS: As an organizer, as an activist--

ADOLPH REED: Yeah, right.

BILL MOYERS: --as a champion of a cause.

ADOLPH REED: Well, I mean, especially on the left, right?


ADOLPH REED: Right, because all the resources are kind of stacked up on the other side. So you lose more than you win. And I don't embrace, like, a cult of beautiful defeat. It's always better to win than it is to lose. But you've just got to, you know, not have expectations that are too high. And to just keep pushing, right? And trying to broaden the base, right? 'Cause that's a work that there is for us to do now.

BILL MOYERS: Your cover story in Harper's, "Nothing Left, The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals" is must-read. And I thank you for being here with me.

ADOLPH REED: Oh, thanks very much for having me.

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - Feb. 25-27, 2014

21] Israel Apartheid Week – Feb. 25 -27
22] Performance Oversight Hearing - Feb. 26
23] Tunisia's Democratic Transition - Feb. 26
24] Labor Rights in Colombia – Feb. 26
25] African Refugees in Israel – Feb. 26
26] The Futures Commission – Feb. 26
27] American Studies Association Academic Boycott – Feb. 26
28] Report Back from Palestine – Feb. 26
29] Music for Peace – Feb. 26
30] Middle East Dialogue 2014 – Feb. 27
31] Legacy of Hugo Chavez – Feb. 27
32] People-Centered Human Rights – Feb. 27
33] Race, Policing, and Criminal Justice Mayoral Forum – Feb. 27
34] Resisting the Keystone XL – Feb. 27
35] A Dream Foreclosed – Feb. 27
36] Greening Your Coffee Hour – Feb. 27
37] Film "Inequality for All" – Feb. 27
38] South African and Israeli Systems of Apartheid – Feb. 27

21] – The Students for Justice in Palestine is holding Israel Apartheid Week at Johns Hopkins University. On Tues., Feb. 25 from 7 to 8 PM, hear Palestinian Solidarity, Anti-Zionism and BDS," a panel discussion with members of SJP and the Baltimore chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace in Charles Commons MPR. Go to

On Wed., Feb. 26 from 7:30 to 8:30 PM, see a screening of “Two Schools in Nablus,” followed by a discussion about JHU and the academic boycott of Israel in Charles Commons MPR. Visit

On Thurs., Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 PM, Laila El-Haddad will be giving a talk on education under occupation in Charles Commons MPR. See
Call 972-598-346-809.

22] – The Department of Employment Services will hold a Performance Oversight Hearing on Wed., Feb. 26 at 10 AM at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 412. At this hearing, folks will have the opportunity to testify to make sure that the paid sick days and minimum wage laws are funded in the D.C. budget and to discuss the shortcomings of DOES. If you can't make it on the 26th, feel free to submit written testimony. Call Naomi at 202-645-5364 or e-mail

23] – Rached Ghannouchi will focus on Tunisia's Democratic Transition on Wed., Feb. 26 from noon to 1:30 PM at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy will host Ghannouchi, co-founder and president of Tunisia's Ennahda Party. Carnegie's Marwan Muasher will moderate the discussion. Contact Nadia Mughal at 202-939-2205 or

24] – Labor Rights in Colombia: Real Progress or Broken Promises? Get answers on Wed., Feb. 26 from noon to 1 PM at the Washington Office on Latin America, 1666 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 400. Three years after the signing of the U.S. - Colombia Labor Action Plan, the agreement that paved the way for the passage of a free trade agreement between the two countries, labor rights violations continue unabated in Colombia. Mass firings, illegal subcontracting, and anti-union violence continue to undermine Colombian workers’ rights to form unions and exercise their right to free association, and union leaders are regularly killed for their work. The event will be available via live stream at Contact Adam Schaffer at or 202-797-2171.

25] – African Refugees in Israel: The plight of non-Jews in the Zionist State will be examined on Wed., Feb. 26 from 12:30 to 2 PM at the Palestine Center, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW. Starting in 2006, out of the millions of sub-Saharan Africans that have fled ethnic cleansing, political persecution and environmental collapse on the continent, 60,000 have sought refuge in Israel. The Israeli government let most of them in, hesitant to be seen as outright forcing refugees back to the horrors they experienced. But to ensure that they would leave as soon as possible, the government conducted a campaign to incite racial hatred against them, passed laws to criminalize them and is now rounding them up off the city streets and incarcerating them in what can be accurately described as a desert concentration camp. The government openly admits that its objective is to "make their lives miserable" so that they will relent and agree to self-deport. Go to

26] – Tell your friends to make calls and write their state senators and delegates to express support for the bill (SB493/HB738) Economic Development: Commission on Maryland’s Future.” The Futures Commission is a first step towards creating a roadmap which will keep Maryland workers prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. Help reprioritize federal spending, away from military waste and towards our communities’ needs.

There is a House Hearing (Economic Matters) on Wed., Feb. 26 at 1 PM in Room 231 House Office Building. Contact Susan at susank@capconcorp. Go to the Fund Our Communities web site -

27] – Be at the discussion on the American Studies Association Academic Boycott on Wed., Feb. 26 at 5:30 PM at American University, Ward Building, Room 1, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Join American University Students For Justice in Palestine for a discussion with Craig Wills, George Mason University professor and American Studies Association member. Visit

28] – Report Back from Palestine will take place on Wed., Feb. 26 at 7 PM at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, 5301 North Capitol St. NE. Rev. Graylan Hagler and activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. will report back on their January trip to Palestine. Call 202.723.5330.

29] – Music for Peace takes place on the last Wednesday of the month at 7 PM at the HI Baltimore Hostel, 17 W. Mulberry St. Discover music as a means to communicate and connect across cultures. Listen, play, or learn. The event will feature an open mic forum, guitar lessons, and the chance to meet and connect with other musicians in the city. Call 410-576-8880 or visit

30] – Middle East Dialogue 2014: Strategies for Change in the Middle East is happening on Thurs., Feb. 27 from 8 AM to 5 PM at the Whittemore House, 1526 New Hampshire Ave. NW. The Policy Studies Organization, in association with the Digest of Middle East Studies, invites you to attend the Dialogue. This is a gathering of policy makers, scholars, civic, and business leaders, with a common interest on policy and social issues in the Middle East. Speakers from Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Germany, China, and across the U.S. will be present, ensuring generative and international dialogue. This year’s event focuses on issues such as educational, social, economic, and political reform, regime politics, interfaith dialogue, women's rights, peace initiatives, and other crucial matters during these critical times. Register at

31] – The Legacy of Hugo Chavez at Home and Abroad is hosted by Institute for Policy Studies. Board member James Early will moderate a timely and dynamic panel about Venezuela on the 1st anniversary, March 5, of the passing of the late Venezuelan President. Pay tribute to him and the legacy he left the world. A panel discussion will focus on the political, social and economic impact that this Latin American leader had on the poor, social movements and governments alike in the U.S., Venezuela and the region. The panelists are Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Dan Kovalik, adjunct professor of International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Venezuelan official. The event is on Wed., Feb. 26 from 7 to 9 PM at Bolivarian Hall, 2443 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC. Go to

32] – IPS Associate Fellow, Ajamu Baraka visiting from Colombia, South America on a U.S. tour will speak about "why the fight must be for people-centered human rights" on Thurs., Feb. 27 from 6:30 to 8 PM at the IPS Conference Room, 1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, WDC. A professional human rights industry has developed that shares a worldview informed by the assumptions of classical Western liberalism. What distinguishes the people-centered approach from prevailing schools of human rights theory?

Ajamu Baraka will share the component parts of the people-centered framework for human rights. He has taught political science at various universities and is currently editing “The Struggle for People-Centered Human Rights: Voices From The Field.” Call 202-234-9382, email or go to

33] – A Race, Policing, and Criminal Justice Mayoral Forum is happening at McKinley Technology High School, 151 T St. NE, WDC 20002, on Thurs., Feb. 27 from 7 to 9 PM. The co-sponsors of the event include the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, the DC National Lawyers Guild, et al. All of the mayoral candidates have been invited to this forum with an independent moderator. Contact Ed Elder at

34] – Resisting the Keystone XL: Fighting for Climate Justice on Thurs., Feb. 27 from 7 to 8 PM at La Casa Community Center, 3166 Mt. Pleasant St. NW. Join the D.C. branch of System Change not Climate Change (SCnCC) for a panel discussion on the Keystone XL Pipeline (panelists TBA). They will meet to both prepare for the rally on March 2nd and to discuss the next organizational steps after the rally takes place. See

35] – "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home" takes place on Thurs., Feb. 27 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201. Laura Gottesdiener, a Brooklyn-based investigative journalist, offers a thoroughly researched picture of the housing crisis within the context of the broader financial collapse, showing that the true cost is not in real estate value but in human tragedy—especially the mass displacement of American families and dreams.

Through real-life stories of four American neighborhoods fighting against foreclosure, "A Dream Foreclosed" gives voice to the silenced population most affected by the global economic crisis. What makes the book so compelling is that Gottesdiener profiles four heroic families who not only challenge the big banks when threatened with foreclosure and eviction—they organize their neighbors and win.

36] – Greening Your Coffee Hour is happening on Thurs., Feb. 27 at 7:30 PM EST. Join Interfaith Power & Light (D.C., MD. NoVA) for its first-ever green sheep webinar to learn from others who have helped their congregation switch to reusable dishware, purchased fair-trade coffee and more local, organic food, and composted their food waste! Register at

37] – Watch Robert Reich's award-winning film, "Inequality for All" at 9929 Woodburn Rd., Silver Spring 20901 on Thurs., Feb. 27 at 7:45 PM. Sec. Reich will join in for a special conference call to change the conversation on income inequality. Go to

38] – There’s a Panel on South African and Israeli Systems of Apartheid and the BDS Movements on Thurs., Feb. 27 at 8 PM at American University, Ward Building, Room 1, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Moorosi Mokuena, active against the South African apartheid regime, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, SIS professor and founder of Salam Peacebuilding and Justice Institute in D.C., and Ramah Kudaimi from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation will speak about apartheid and BDS. See

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

New Pentagon Plan: A Few Less Troops, Same Old Empire

Published on Portside (
New Pentagon Plan: A Few Less Troops, Same Old Empire

Lauren McCauley

Monday, February 24, 2014
Common Dreams

In a speech at the Pentagon on Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new budget plan that calls for the reduction of total soldiers across the U.S. military. But analysts say that although less troops on the ground in foreign countries would be a welcome development, the news highlights well-known plans for the U.S. to maintain its global military dominance by shifting to a more secretive, nimble, and technologically advanced force structure.

"In essence what you are seeing is the financial part of the changing face of empire," said Tom Englehardt [1], noted foreign policy expert and editor of, in an interview with Common Dreams.
Hagel's address follows a leak of the budget announcement published [2] in the New York Times over the weekend.

Phyllis Bennis [3], fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, also told Common Dreams that the budget—on the one hand—reflects the "pragmatic recognition" that our military costs are unsustainable, particularly in the midst of huge economic downturn. And, "on the other hand, is a highly ideologically-driven decision rooted in transformation of the nature of war. Wars are not ending [but they] are being transformed from large-scale invasions and occupations—Iraq and Afghanistan—to much smaller scale Special Ops- dominated wars."

Following "two disastrous interventions which have been very, very costly," Englehardt added that the cuts reflect "the perfectly obvious and brain-dead thinking in Washington."

During the address, Hagel detailed the Department of Defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 and beyond. The budget calls for troop reductions in every department of the U.S. military, including civilian personnel. The number of active duty Army soldiers will be slashed 13 percent from its current 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000, which would make it the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II.

However, special operations forces, he noted, will increase by 6 percent totaling roughly 69,000 personnel.
"Conceptually, what's being cut is the idea of large number of troops on the eurasian landmass," said Englehardt. In place of the kind of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added, we will be seeing more of a "different kind of intervention" with a "heavy emphasis on the 'secret military [4]' or special operations."

"CIA, NSA—you dont see any of that stuff going," Englehardt added. "I think that global surveillance and intervention state you see being built is going to stay."
In addition to the troop cuts, the budget recommends the retirement of a number of aging and outdated military vehicles. However, according to Englehardt, what is most "striking" is the Pentagon's decision to maintain the fleet of 11 aircraft carriers.

"That is a massive investment," he added, saying that it is "obviously excessive" for the U.S. to maintain roughly five times more the number of aircraft carriers than any other nation. The real message, he says, is that the U.S. has made the strategic decision to cede control of the land and instead "control the sea and sky."

According to Bennis, "Any cut back to the military spending and size should be celebrated. But we should celebrate it in the context of reaffirming our commitment to continuing to struggle against all forms of war, whether large-scale ground ops or special forces."

"As practiced by the U.S. they are all illegal, immoral, and do not make us or people in countries safer," she concluded.

Sarah Lazare contributed to the reporting in this piece.
Source URL:


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

A primer: Military nuclear wastes in the United States

24 FEBRUARY 2014
A primer: Military nuclear wastes in the United States

Research, development, testing, and production of US nuclear weapons occurred at thousands of sites in nearly every state, as well as Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, Johnston Atoll, and Christmas Island in the Pacific. Between 1940 and 1996, the United States spent approximately $5.8 trillion dollars to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. As a result, the nuclear weapons program created one of the largest radioactive waste legacies in the world¬rivaling the former Soviet Union's.

US nuclear weapons sites¬many of them under the aegis of the Energy Department¬constitute some of the most contaminated zones in the Western hemisphere, and attempts to remediate those sites are now approaching their fifth decade. It is the most costly, complex, and risky environmental cleanup effort ever undertaken, dwarfing the cleanup of Defense Department sites and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. Long-term liability estimates range from approximately $300 billion to $1 trillion. Site remediation and disposition of radioactive detritus are expected to continue well into this century. After that, long-term stewardship of profoundly contaminated areas will pose a challenge spanning hundreds of centuries.

Research, development, testing and production of nuclear weapons by the United States created:
• More than 3 billion metric tons of uranium mining and milling wastes.
• More than 1 million cubic meters of transuranic radioactive wastes.
• Approximately 6 million cubic meters of low-level radioactive wastes.
• Approximately 4.7 billion cubic meters of contaminated soil and groundwater (according to an Energy Department document unavailable online).
• More than 10,000 radiation-contaminated structures such as uranium processing and enrichment plants, radiochemical processing and storage facilities and laboratories.
• About 100 million gallons of high-level radioactive wastes, considered among the most dangerous, left in aging tanks larger that most state capitol domes. More than a third of some 200 tanks have leaked and threaten groundwater and waterways such as the Columbia River.
• Areas contaminated by more than 1,054 nuclear weapons tests, 219 of which involved aboveground detonations. As of 1992, underground shots released about 300 million curies of radioactive materials at the Nevada Test Site¬making it the most radioactively contaminated area in the United States. Areas in the Republic of the Marshall Islands remain uninhabitable from US aboveground tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
• More than 700,000 metric tons of excess nuclear weapons production materials, in addition to hundreds of tons of weapons-usable plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

The human health legacy of the US nuclear weapons program is also quite significant. As of February 2014, more than 100,000 sick nuclear weapons workers have received more than $10 billion in compensation following exposure to ionizing radiation and other hazardous materials.

Even today, the radioactive waste from the dawn of the nuclear age remains a significant challenge to public health in highly populated areas. For instance, in 1973 a large amount of uranium processing wastes, generated to make the first nuclear weapons at the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St. Louis, was illegally dumped in a municipal landfill in a nearby suburb. The landfill is experiencing the latest of at least two subsurface fires over the past 21 years and lies on a floodplain approximately 1.2 miles from the Missouri River.

The dump contains the largest single amount of thorium 230 in the country and possibly the world. With a half-life of more than 75,000 years, it is comparable in toxicity to plutonium. Even though these concerns were repeatedly raised with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the agency issued a Record of Decision in 2008 that allows for “in place disposal” of these wastes, subject to institutional controls and with a cap over radiologically contaminated areas. Lost in this process is an important warning by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences in 2000 that "engineered barriers and institutional controls¬are inherently failure prone.”

The radiological legacy of nuclear weapons will be with us for a very long time.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inside the Mind of James Clapper

Greenwald writes: "This process of pre-publication notice to the government of NSA stories has been wildly misreported in some places. I've long expressed contempt for this process."

National Intelligence Director James Clapper. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Inside the Mind of James Clapper

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
24 February 14

I’m going to have a story published later today about a new document, but until then, this new interview with (and profile of) Director of National Intelligence James Clapper by the Daily Beast‘s Eli Lake is worth spending a few moments examining. Last week, Lake published one excerpt of his interview where Clapper admitted that the U.S. Government should have told the American people that the NSA was collecting their communications records: as pure a vindication of Edward Snowden’s choice as it gets, for obvious reasons. But there are several new, noteworthy revelations from this morning’s article:

Thanks to rogue contractor Edward Snowden, the machinations of the shadow bureaucracy Clapper heads have for the last eight months been exposed one news story at a time. Clapper is often the guy who has to call newspaper editors to tell them not to print stories that they usually publish anyway.

This process of pre-publication notice to the government of NSA stories has been wildly misreported in some places. I’ve long expressed contempt for this process where it results in the suppression of information that should be public; where it essentially elevates U.S. officials into publication partners by engaging in protracted “negotiations” with them over what can and cannot be published; and especially where it means news organizations knowingly allow government officials to lie by withholding the actual facts.

For all the NSA stories published over the last eight months all around the world, the U.S. government was notified prior to publication (usually very shortly prior) by the news organizations’ editors (never, to my knowledge, by the journalists, at least not by me). News organizations do this for two reasons.

The first is legal: the U.S. Government insists that the publication of classified information, especially that which relates to “communications intelligence”, is a felony (see 18 U.S § 798), so every media lawyer vehemently argues that allowing the government an opportunity to make the case for why something shouldn’t be published is necessary to show a lack of criminal intent, i.e., to avoid criminal prosecution even while publishing top secret documents; the other is journalistic: it makes sense that journalists making choices about what to publish and what to say about documents would want more, rather than less, information when deciding.

I can’t speak for what The Washington Post or New York Times have done, but for the NSA articles on which I’ve worked – at the Guardian and with more than a dozen media outlets around the world - the government has argued in most cases that the story and accompanying documents should not be published. And in almost every single case – 99% if not more – those arguments have been rejected in their entirety and the stories and documents were published anyway. In fact, for the dozens and dozens of stories and documents on which I’ve worked, I can only recall a single case where anything the government said resulted in anything being withheld that we had decided to publish, and that was a trivial aspect of one part of one document which, unbeknownst to us, could have revealed the identity of an NSA employee (the Guardian and New York Times, without my involvement, both withheld some details on their story about NSA/GCHQ compromising of encryption standards, though primarily – as I understand it – because publishing the handful of compromised standards we knew about would mislead people into believing the other compromised standards (the vast majority of which weren’t revealed by the documents) were safe).

In every single other case, the government’s arguments for non-publication were rejected, usually because they were vague and unpersuasive. So while it’s true that the government’s input has been permitted prior to publication – just as journalists seek the input of anyone about which they’re writing – Lake is correct that in most cases (in my experience, almost all) that official input demanding suppression was rejected, exactly as it should have been.

To this day the U.S. government doesn’t know the full extent of what Snowden revealed or whether more documents that have yet to be published in the press have made their way into the hands of Russian or Chinese intelligence agencies.
It’s been rather amazing to watch not only the standard roster of government-loyal American journalists, but also those who fancy themselves some sort of cynical critics, uncritically regurgitate the government’s evidence-free assertion that Snowden took and then gave to journalists 1.7 million documents. It amazes me because: (1) anyone at this point who is willing to equate evidence-free government assertions with Truth is drowning in some extreme levels of authoritarianism, by definition; and (2) the government clearly has no idea what Snowden took, as report after report has made crystal clear.

Covering nearly an entire wall of the waiting area outside Clapper’s office is a wooden relief sculpture dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. It contains a flag, a rendition of the constitutional assembly, and a copy of the document itself. It also has a plaque that reads, “What is the magic of the Constitution? The magic is how it states: We, the people. For the first time in history, government was about the people, not about the leader.”

Yes, that’s right: James Clapper has converted the wall outside of his office into a flamboyant homage to the very same U.S. Constitution that he vandalizes on a daily basis. That is the greatest act of either deliberately overt contempt for the public or pathological self-delusion since Barack Obama advocated a legalized system of “preventive detention” in 2009 while he stood in front of the U.S. Constitution at the National Archive. Someone may want to explain to Clapper that a primary impetus for that Constitution, and for the American Revolution generally, was hatred of the King’s “general warrants” whereby people could be subject to searches without a whiff of evidence of wrongdoing.

Clapper also acknowledges that the very human nature of the bureaucracy he controls virtually insures that more mass disclosures are inevitable. “In the end,” he says, “we will never ever be able to guarantee that there will not be an Edward Snowden or another Chelsea Manning because this is a large enterprise composed of human beings with all their idiosyncrasies.”

That is indeed true, and it’s good news: more Chelsea Mannings and Edward Snowdens are inevitable, and there is nothing the U.S. Government can do to stop them. That’s good news because it means government officials will have to operate on the assumption that what they do in the dark will become public (an excellent deterrent) and because that type of transparency is inherently healthy in a political culture where secrecy is rampant and the institutions designed to check it (Congress, the media, the federal judiciary) have all profoundly failed.

This also underscores why the U.S. Government has been so vindictive in trying to punish the likes of Manning and other whistleblowers. Since they have no means of preventing these sorts of leaks, their only hope is to create a climate of fear and intimidation: if you are thinking about exposing our bad acts, look at what we did to Chelsea Manning or Tom Drake and think twice. That’s why it’s been so vital – and, for the U.S. national security state, so devastating – that Edward Snowden has remained out of their grasp: rather than getting to parade him in front of the world in an orange jumpsuit and shackles, U.S. officials are forced to watch as he is hailed as an international hero, receives award after award, and participates freely in the debate he triggered. That, in turn, allows the template he used to be a positive one, one that will undoubtedly inspire future whistleblowers.

[Democratic Sen. Ron] Wyden in a statement told The Daily Beast, “It’s true that no one knows what is going through a witness’s head when they are sitting at the witness table, other than the witness himself. Unfortunately, over the past several years a number of senior officials have repeatedly made misleading and inaccurate statements about domestic surveillance at congressional hearings and in other public settings.”

The lie Clapper criminally told to the U.S. Senate in March, 2013 has received the bulk of attention, but as Wyden makes clear, NSA and other senior officials have been repeatedly lying about U.S. surveillance to the Congress, to courts, and in public over and over about all sorts of things. That’s what makes the slavish equating by the U.S. media of “unproven NSA claims” with “truth” so embarrassingly subservient and irrational. It’s also what makes the eagerness of American journalists to demand Snowden’s imprisonment – contrasted with their fear of doing the same for Clapper – such a powerful illustration of their true allegiances and function.

Others are less charitable. Last month Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian Republican from Kentucky, said if Snowden was to face justice, he should “share a jail cell with James Clapper” for lying to Congress.

“Well Senator Paul says I should get to know [Snowden] by being in the same prison cell with him, which I don’t think is a good idea,” Clapper told The Daily Beast last week. “Probably wouldn’t be in Mr. Snowden’s best interest.”
This statement – half creepy prison fantasy and half threat – is unsurprising. The need for U.S. officials to publicly express a desire for violence when it comes to Snowden has asserted itself over and over.

Recall how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and former CIA/NSA chief Mike Hayden “joked” at a hearing that Snowden should be put on the U.S. government’s “hit list” and murdered. Last month, BuzzFeed quoted several anonymous Pentagon and intelligence community officials as they laid out their fantasies for how they would like to murder Snowden (“Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower”). Former CIA chief James Woolsey said “he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead” if convicted of treason, while former UN Ambassador John Bolton revealed an even more detailed fantasy: “My view is that Snowden committed treason, he ought to be convicted of that, and then he ought to swing from a tall oak tree.”

Not only does this underscore the warped pathologies among the glorious leaders of America’s National Security State, but it also highlights the inanity of believing that these kinds of people can and should be trusted with invasive spying powers to be exercised in the dark.

The charges against his integrity bother Clapper. “I would rather not hear that or see that,” he said. “It’s tough on my family, I will tell you that. My son is a high school teacher and he has a tendency, or he is getting over it, to internalize a lot of this.” Those who know and have worked with Clapper also say it’s unfair to call him dishonest. Rhodes said President Obama values Clapper because “he’s a straight shooter who doesn’t put any spin on the ball.”

It’s hardly surprising that President Obama regards a proven liar as a “straight shooter”. That’s the same President who regards torture-and-rendition-advocating John Brennan as his high moral priest when deciding who should be put on his “kill list”.
But what’s remarkable here is the self-pity on display from Clapper. He’s gone around the country over the last month branding journalists as “accomplices” for the crime of reporting on the NSA without the slightest regard for the effects that this thuggish behavior has on those journalists, their families, and the news-gathering process.

But what’s even more amazing is that Clapper considers himself some sort of victim rather than what he is: the completely undeserving beneficiary of a system of “justice” in which ordinary and powerless people are imprisoned for trivial offenses at greater numbers than any other nation in the world, while those who wield political power, like him, are free to commit crimes without even losing their powerful jobs, let alone being prosecuted for them. James Clapper should look in the mirror every morning and be extremely grateful for the corrupted political system that has shielded him from the consequences of his crimes even as he tries to criminalize others for doing things that the U.S. Constitution guarantees them the right to do.

Instead, he sees himself as the victim. He has medals on his chest and an important national security state position. It is simply outrageous that some people suggest that he has no right to commit felonies, and it’s infuriating that his adult son has to hear some people (almost none in the media) suggest that his criminal conduct should have the same consequences as when ordinary citizens commit less serious crimes. That’s the refusal to accept any personal responsibility, the view of powerful U.S. officials that they are and must be entirely above the law, the obsessive self-regard, that more than anything else has destroyed Washington’s political culture.

* * * * * *

Yesterday, the German paper Bild am Sonntag reported that after President Obama ordered the NSA to cease its eavesdropping on the communications of Chancellor Angela Merkel, they responded by increasing their surveillance of her closest ministers and advisers. Aside from providing yet another illustration of the out-of-control entitlement that drives the U.S. Surveillance State, note that the report is based on “a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany”, which means that this is yet another NSA source to come forward to disclose the agency’s once-secret acts.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, February 24, 2014

Snowden 2.0: Is There a New Active Duty NSA Whistleblower?

Published on Monday, February 24, 2014 by Common Dreams

Snowden 2.0: Is There a New Active Duty NSA Whistleblower?

Report in German paper cites "high level NSA employee," but it wasn't Snowden. Is there more where this came from?
- Jon Queally, staff writer

Perhaps one of the most striking and revelatory aspects about the latest NSA surveillance news story, this one published Sunday by The Bild am Sonntag newspaper in Germany, was that it was not based on leaked documents from the now famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

What the paper reported, based on information provided by a "high-ranking NSA employee in Germany," was that the U.S. spy agency—after being outed for spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel—responded to an order to refrain from spying directly on Merkel's phone by intensifying its monitoring of other high-level officals her government.

"We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor's communication directly," the source told the newspaper.

But, as journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his Monday column, the fact that the revelations are based on a "high-ranking NSA employee in Germany" means that whoever spoke to the paper "is yet another NSA source to come forward to disclose the agency’s once-secret acts."

And Seth Millstein, writing at the Bustle, explains why the importance of the Bild am Sonntag reporting is two-fold:

First, if this report is true, the NSA is apparently hell-bent on spying on Germany’s top officials. Tapping Merkel’s phone is one thing — a big thing, to be sure — but to tap her aides’ phones after the initial phone-tapping goes public, and after promising not to do so again, is another thing altogether. It’s borderline hostile, and communicates the U.S.’s true global priorities loudly and clearly to Germany. If the report is accurate, those priorities don’t include respecting Germany’s privacy as a supposed U.S. ally.

But the source of this leak is important, too. Bild am Sonntag said that the information came from a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany. Edward Snowden doesn’t work for the NSA anymore (duh), and by all accounts, he’s currently in Russia. This means that there’s another potential leaker within the agency’s ranks — or, at the very least, an NSA employee who feels comfortable coming forward to the press about the agency’s most secretive, controversial activities abroad.

Whether or not the source can be trusted or if the public will hear from he or she again is not yet clear, but if there is a new NSA whistlblower ready to step forward with even a fraction of what Snowden has, it could further shatter the guarded secrecy of the agency with a global reach.

Additionally, numerous commentators have suggested that one of the reasons why the U.S. government's focus on capturing and punishing Snowden is to dissuade other would-be whistleblowers—in the NSA or other government agencies—from following his example.
What "amazes" TechDirt blogger Mike Masnick about the latest revelations regarding the NSA's ongoing surveillance program of German politicians "is the fact that it's already leaked out."

The seemingly un-authorized disclosure, writes Masnick, comes "despite all the talk of cracking down on future leaks out of the NSA, the NSA already has another leaker releasing information that is clearly politically sensitive."

It's possible, writes Millstein, "that the overall success of Snowden’s dramatic reveal has inspired other NSA employees to spill the beans on aspects of U.S. surveillance with which they’re uncomfortable."

And as Masnick concludes: "So many folks like to point to Snowden as if he's the only leaker the NSA ever had or ever will have. But it's increasingly looking like there are others within the NSA who are equally uncomfortable with what's become of the intelligence community."
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Address by Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., to Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament

The Power of Parliamentarians in Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

Address by Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., to Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, "Climbing the Mountain" Conference, Washington, D.C., February 26, 2014

At first glance, the elimination of nuclear weapons appears to be a hopeless case.

The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has been paralyzed for many years. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is in crisis. The major nuclear weapons states refuse to enter into comprehensive negotiations for nuclear disarmament and are even boycotting international meetings designed to put world attention on the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the use of nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons states are giving the back of their hand to the rest of the world. Not a cheery outlook.
But look a little deeper. Two-thirds of the nations of the world have voted for negotiations to begin on a global legal ban on nuclear weapons. Two weeks ago, 146 nations and scores of academics and civil society activists assembled in Nayarit, Mexico to examine the staggering health, economic, environment, food and transportation effects of any nuclear detonation – accidental or deliberate. A UN High-Level International Conference on nuclear disarmament will be convened in 2018, and September 26 every year from now on will be observed as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

The march of history is moving against the possession, not only the use, of nuclear weapons by any state. The nuclear weapons states are trying to block this march before it acquires any more momentum. But they will fail. They can stall the nuclear disarmament processes, but they cannot obliterate the transformation moment in human history now occurring.

The reason that the nuclear disarmament movement is stronger than it appears on the surface is that it stems the gradual awakening of conscience taking place in the world. Driven forward by science and technology and a new understanding of the inherency of human rights, an integration of humanity is occurring. Not only do we know one another across what used to be great divides, but we also know that we need one another for common survival. There is a new caring for the human condition and the state of the planet evident in such programs as the Millennium Development Goals. This is the awakening of a global conscience.

This has already produced a huge advance for humanity:the growing understanding in the public that war is futile. The rationale and appetite for war are disappearing. That would have seemed impossible in the 20th century, let alone the 19th. The public rejection of war as a means of resolving conflict – seen most recently in the question of military intervention in Syria – has enormous ramifications for how society will conduct its affairs. The Responsibility to Protect doctrine is undergoing new analyses, including the threat posed by the possession of nuclear weapons, to determine the circumstances when it can be properly used to save lives.

I am not predicting global harmony. The tentacles of the military-industrial complex are still strong. Too much political leadership is pusillanimous. Local crises have a way of becoming catastrophic. The future cannot be predicted. We have lost opportunities before, notably the singular moment when the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended, that prescient leaders would have seized on and begun to build the structures for a new world order. But I am saying that the world, soured on the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, has finally righted itself and is on course to make inter-state wars a relic of the past.

Two factors are producing better prospects for world peace: accountability and prevention. We never used to hear much about governments accounting to publics for their actions on the great questions of war and peace. Now, with the spread of human rights, empowered civil society activists are holding their governments accountable for participation in the global strategies for human development. These global strategies, apparent in diverse fields, from genocide prevention to the involvement of women in mediation projects, foster the prevention of conflict.
This higher level of thinking is bringing a new potency to the nuclear disarmament debate. Increasingly, nuclear weapons are seen not as instruments of state security but as violators of human security. More and more, it is becoming apparent that nuclear weapons and human rights cannot co-exist on the planet. But governments are slow to adopt policies based on the new understanding of the requirements for human security. Thus, we are still living in a two-class world in which the powerful aggrandize unto themselves nuclear weapons while proscribing their acquisition by other states. We face the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons because the powerful nuclear states refuse to use their authority to build a specific law outlawing all nuclear weapons, and continue to diminish the 1996 conclusion of the International Court of Justice that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal and that all states have a duty to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons.

This thinking is feeding a movement now building up across the world to commence a diplomatic process for nuclear weapons abolition even without the immediate cooperation of the nuclear powers. The Nayarit conference and its follow-up meeting in Vienna later this year, provide and impetus to commence such a process.. Governments seeking comprehensive negotiations for a global legal ban on nuclear weapons must now choose between starting a diplomatic process to outlaw nuclear weapons without the participation of the nuclear weapons states or constrain their ambitions by working solely within the confines of the NPT and the Conference on Disarmament where the nuclear weapons states are a constant debilitating influence.

My experience leads me to choose starting a process in which like-minded states begin preparatory work with the specific intention of building a global law. This means identifying the legal, technical, political and institutional requisites for a nuclear weapons free world as the basis for negotiating a legal ban on nuclear weapons.It will undoubtedly be a long process, but the alternative, a step-by-step process, will continue to be foiled by the powerful states, which have connived to block any meaningful progress since the NPT came into force in 1970. I urge parliamentarians to use their access to power and introduce in every Parliament in the world a resolution calling for immediate work to begin on a global framework to prohibit the production, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons by all states, and provide for their elimination under effective verification.

Advocacy by parliamentarians works. Parliamentarians are well placed not only to lobby for new initiatives but to follow through on their implementation. They are uniquely placed to challenge present policies, present alternatives and generally hold governments accountable. Parliamentarians hold more power than they often realize.

In my early years in the Canadian parliament, when I served as chairman of Parliamentarians for Global Action, I led delegations of parliamentarians to Moscow and Washington to plead with the superpowers of the day to take serious steps toward nuclear disarmament. Our work led to the formation of the Six-Nation Initiative. This was a cooperative effort by the leaders of India, Mexico, Argentina, Sweden, Greece and Tanzania, who held summit meetings urging the nuclear powers to halt production of their nuclear stocks. Gorbachev later said the Six-Nation Initiative was a key factor in the achievement of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated a whole class of medium-range nuclear missiles.

Parliamentarians for Global Action developed into a network of 1,000 parliamentarians in 130 countries and branched out on an expanded list of global issues, such as fostering democracy, conflict prevention and management, international law and human rights, population, and environment. The organization was responsible for getting the negotiations started for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and supplied the muscle to get many governments to sign onto the International Criminal Court and the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty.

In latter years, a new association of legislators, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, has been formed and I am proud to have been its first Chairman. I congratulate Senator Ed Markey for assembling in Washington today this important gathering of legislators. Under the leadership of Alyn Ware, PNNDhas attracted about 800 legislators in 56 countries. It collaborated with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a huge umbrella group of parliaments in 162 countries, in producing a handbook for parliamentarians explaining the non-proliferation and disarmament issues. This is a form of leadership that doesn’t make headlines but is extremely effective. The development of associations like Parliamentarians for Global Action and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament is contributing significantly to expanded political leadership.

The voice of parliamentarians may in the future become stronger if the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly takes hold. The campaign hopes that some day citizens of all countries would be able to directly elect their representatives to sit in a new assembly at the UN and legislate global policies. This may not happen until we reach another stage of history, but a transitional step could be the selection of delegates from national parliaments, who would be empowered to sit in a new assembly at the UN and raise issues directly with the Security Council. The European Parliament, in which direct election of its 766 members takes place in the constituent countries, offers a precedent for a global parliamentary assembly.
Even without waiting for future developments to enhance global governance, parliamentarians today can and must use their unique position in government structures to push for humanitarian policies to protect life on earth. Close the rich-poor gap. Stop global warming. No more nuclear weapons. That is the stuff of political leadership.
David Swanson's wants you to declare peace at His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at and and works for He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

The Science of Solitary Confinement

Published on Portside (
The Science of Solitary Confinement

Joseph Stromberg

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Picture MetLife Stadium, the New Jersey venue that hosted the Super Bowl earlier this month. It seats 82,556 people in total, making it the largest stadium in the NFL.

Imagine the crowd it takes to fill that enormous stadium. That, give or take a thousand, is the number of men and women held in solitary confinement [1] in prisons across the U.S.

Although the practice has been largely discontinued in most countries, it's become increasingly routine over the past few decades within the American prison system. Once employed largely as a short-term punishment, it's now regularly used as way of disciplining prisoners indefinitely, isolating them during ongoing investigations, coercing them into cooperating with interrogations and even separating them from perceived threats within the prison population at their request.

As the number of prisoners in solitary has exploded, psychologists and neuroscientists have attempted to understand the ways in which a complete lack of human contact changes us over the long term. According to a panel of scientists that recently spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Chicago [2], research tells us that solitary is both ineffective as a rehabilitation technique and indelibly harmful to the mental health of those detained.
"The United States, in many ways, is an outlier in the world," said Craig Haney [3], a psychologist at UC Santa Cruz who's spent the last few decades studying the mental effects of the prison system, especially solitary confinement. "We really are the only country that resorts regularly, and on a long-term basis, to this form of punitive confinement. Ironically, we spend very little time analyzing the effects of it."

Exact numbers are hard to come by, but based on a wide swath of censuses, it's estimated that between 80,000 and 81,000 prisoners are in some form of solitary confinement nationwide. In contrast to stereotypes of isolated prisoners as the most dangerous criminals, Haney estimates that a third of isolated prisoners are mentally ill, and a disproportionate are minorities, partly because alleged gang membership is grounds for placing a prisoner in solitary indefinitely.

The physical details of an isolated prisoner's daily experience are worth examining. "Prisoners live in their cells, 80 square feet on average—a bit bigger than a king-sized bed. In this environment, you sleep, you eat, you defecate, you live all of your life," Haney said. Most prisoners spent at least 23 hours per day in this environment, devoid of stimuli (some are allowed in a yard or indoor area for an hour or less daily), and are denied physical contact on visits from friends and family, so they may go years or decades without touching another human, apart from when they're placed in physical restraints by guards.

This sort of existence takes a clear toll on prisoners, according to surveys and interviews Haney and colleagues have conducted with about 500 of those in isolation from four different states. Their work indicates that most of these prisoners suffer from severe psychological stress that begins when they're put in isolation and doesn't subside over time.

A majority of those surveyed experienced symptoms such as dizziness, heart palpitations, chronic depression, while 41 percent reported hallucinations, and 27 percent had suicidal thoughts—all levels significantly higher than those of the overall prison populations. An unrelated study published last week [4] found that isolated inmates are seven times more likely to hurt or kill themselves than inmates at large.

These effects, Haney says, don't only show how isolation harms inmates—they tell us that it achieves the opposite of the supposed goal of rehabilitating them for re-entry into society. "We are all social beings, and people who are in environments that deny the opportunity to interact in meaningful ways with others begin to lose a sense of self, of their own identity," he said. "They begin to withdraw from the little amount of social contact that they are allowed to have, because social stimulation, over time, becomes anxiety-arousing."

Huda Akil [5], a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, is interested in the neurological impacts of isolation, but is limited by the fact that no U.S. prison is willing to allow its otherwise isolated prisoners to take part in research. Instead, she and others must rely on more basic findings about how stimulation and social interaction affect the brain, and infer the potential impacts of isolation from that.
For one, there's the fact that a large amount of brain activity is driven by circadian rhythms, which are in turn set by exposure to the Sun. Autopsies on people who have committed suicide after suffering from depression have shown that, in their brains, gene expression is significantly less aligned with circadian rhythms; other research has shown that restricting exposure to sunlight (and thereby interfering with circadian rhythms) increases the prevalence of depression. Thus, if inmates are already prone to depression, solitary probably makes them more so, she says. The proper functioning of the brain depends on daily Sun exposure, potentially explaining some of the symptoms experienced by prisoners in isolation, many of whom rarely see the Sun.

There are also troubling neurological implications of long-term isolation that stem from the fact that brain architecture can change over time. The hippocampus [6], in particular, has been found to dramatically shrink [7] in the brains of people who are depressed or stressed for extended periods, a concern because it's crucially involved in memory, geographic orientation, cognition and decision-making. No one has performed an autopsy on a person who lived in isolation for decades, suffering from depression the whole time, but Akil believes that in keeping inmates in full isolation, authorities are "ruining a very critical component of the brain that's sensitive to stress."

Apart from scientists, the Chicago panel featured activist Robert King [8], who spent 29 years isolated in six-by-nine-foot cell in a Louisiana prison before his murder conviction was overturned in 2001. Although he endured solitary confinement more successfully than most, he says—he maintained a hopeful attitude and never considering hurting himself—he experienced unmistakable physiological changes.
Most dramatically, King gets has difficulty navigating open spaces. "I lost the ability to meet with a broader terrain. I had become acclimated to shorter distances," he said, attributing this change to the shrinkage of his hippocampus, "I cannot, even to this day, acclimate myself to broader distance. My geography is really shot." His eyesight also deteriorated to the point where he was nearly blind, though it's gradually improved since he was released.

It's impossible to say how isolated prisoners fare as a whole fare compared to King, because there's no systematic collection of data on their well-being in the U.S. prison system. But the researchers argue that just these hints of the damage wrought by solitary confinement—and the way it seems to make prisoners less-equipped to re-enter society after their sentence—indicate that it falls within a category of discipline banned by the eight amendment: cruel and unusual punishment. "It seems to me that it is time for us to have a serious discussion about the wisdom and humanity of this policy in the United States," Haney said.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs