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Podcast: Guantanamo Prisoner’s Attorney on Importance of Public Seeing Videos of His Forced-Feedings

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I speak with Cori Crider of Reprieve about the ongoing torture of her client, Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab. During the discussion portion, we chat about the outrageous police violence and brave activism we witnessed in St. Louis during Ferguson October. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More details from Kevin:

Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab has been pursuing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s administration to force the government stop using force-feeding to punish him while he is on hunger strike and protesting against his continued indefinite detention, even though he has been cleared for release.

There were legal proceedings in recent weeks, where a federal judge heard testimony about his treatment. The lawyers filed a “post-trial brief” on October 17, which argued that Dhiab has suffered an “unacceptable and unconstitutional degree of cruelty and incompetence” by authorities who have “sought to suppress” Dhiab’s “peaceful protest by causing him gratuitous pain.”

Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered that videos of Dhiab’s force-feedings and forcible removal from his cell for those sessions be released to media organizations for the public to see. But the government requested a 30-day delay to prepare and file an appeal and have, as of now, managed to stall the disclosure of videos to the press.

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast the guest is Cori Crider, a director for Reprieve and a counsel representing Dhiab. She describes the kind of treatment Dhiab has suffered in Guantanamo and why he decided to bring a lawsuit against the United States government. She highlights the significance of 32 videos of Dhiab’s force-feeding and forced removal from his cell, which a federal judge has ordered be released (although the government is appealing). She also discusses the critical role she plays as an attorney who can publicly advocate for Dhiab while he remains in indefinite detention.

During the discussion portion, Gosztola and Khalek debrief and reflect on “Ferguson October,” since they were both there in St. Louis last weekend to cover the “weekend of resistance.” Then, the show highlights plans by the Obama administration to build a new rebel force for battle in Syria, a bill that passed in Pennsylvania which will make it possible for inmates and former offenders to be silenced if they want to engage in speech and a report that only 4% of US drone strike victims in Pakistan have been al Qaeda.

St. Louis police pressured me “to snitch on my friends,” says Palestinian-American protester

A Palestinian-American activist says police in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, put pressure on him to inform on others taking part in protests against violence by that force earlier this week.

Bassem Masri, a 27-year-old self-described “pissed off citizen” from St. Louis, was arrested on Monday with around a dozen other demonstrators, including the hip-hop artist Tef Poe, while protesting at an area Walmart.

It was the third Walmart store that protesters shut down that evening in a series of actions demanding justice for Black lives cut short by police violence.

Walmart was targeted to bring attention to the police killing of John Crawford III, a 22-year-old Black man shot dead in August by a white police officer in an Ohio Walmart while talking on his cell phone and holding a toy gun. In September a grand jury decided against indicting the officers involved.

Every protester arrested at Walmart was released a few hours later, except for Masri, who was held until Tuesday night and charged with third degree assault for allegedly spitting at an officer at a protest last week. Masri has denied the charge.

“Extortion”

Masri told The Electronic Intifada that during his jail stay, St. Louis City police pressured the Palestinian-American to become a collaborator against his fellow protesters in exchange for leniency.

After being held overnight at the Richmond Heights police station, police transferred Masri to the St. Louis Justice Center on Tuesday morning. It was there, he says, that they tried to recruit him as a collaborator.

According to Masri, he was taken into an interrogation room and told to give an official statement about spitting at the officer.

“I just remained silent,” he recounted. “Then they said that there was a video of me doing it, so I asked to see my lawyer. But they didn’t even let me contact my lawyer. So I said, ‘What are y’all really bringing me in here for? You got me here for a reason. So come out with it.’”

It was then that the officers told Masri that the third degree assault charge would be taken under advisement, or put on hold, in exchange for information about protesters.

“They wanted me to put names to faces on protesters and to let them know where we be going,” recalled Masri. “It’s like extortion. I have to snitch on my friends. If I don’t snitch on my friends, they’ll re-arrest me on the [third degree assault] charge.”

Masri refused their offer and demanded he be taken back to his cell.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Podcast: ‘Ferguson October’ & How Community Continues to Stand Up to Police Aggression

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with Montague Simmons, the chair of the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) and founder of Hands Up United, about the latest developments in Ferguson, Missouri, where police continue to harass and arrests protesters and journalists in the aftermath of the execution of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More from Kevin’s blog:

Police action against protestors in Ferguson escalated again this past week. According to those who continue to organize for justice in the aftermath of Mike Brown being gunned down by a Ferguson police officer, the police are now engaging in a process similar to hostage-taking, where they arrest people and agree to release those individuals if protests are stopped. It seemed police arrested 13 people, including a CNN freelancer, to discourage people from protesting.

Also, it was reported on October 3 that the St. Louis County Police are once more in charge of policing protests. The handover of control comes a week ahead of an upcoming weekend of resistance, “Ferguson October,” that will take place October 10-13. St. Louis County police will be in charge of handling arrests and communicating to news media about events on the ground.

And, on Saturday night, people interrupted the St. Louis Symphony in the middle of Brahms Requiem to unfurled banners from the balcony while singing a “Requiem for Mike Brown.”

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast the guest is Montague Simmons, the chair of the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) and founder of Hands Up United. He provides an update on recent aggressive action by police against protestors in Ferguson. He talks about helping community residents feel they will be secure when they participate in actions and how “jail support” is being handled. Simmons also shares a preview of what to expect with “Ferguson October.”

During the discussion portion, Gosztola and Khalek talk a bit about Ebola (they don’t have it). Then, the war in Syria and Iraq is highlighted, particularly how Obama has abandoned the “near-certainty” standard, which was developed to prevent civilian casualties in the administration’s covert drone war. We talk NSA spying and how the government has its own definition of “collection” that does not mean what you might think. And the show wraps with Khalek reflecting on a hashtag she and journalist Max Blumenthal started, which garnered quite a bit of attention: #JSIL.

Podcast: Obama the ‘Reluctant Warrior’ & Other Myths in Media Coverage of War in Iraq & Syria

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with Peter Hart, the activism director for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), about the corporate pro-war media’s shameful portrayal of Obama’s bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

Kevin has the details:

US news media were excited this past week. US-led military forces began to launch air strikes in Syria, which is what they had been anxiously waiting to see happen for weeks.

But with that eagerness to get on with another US war, there have been a set of myths. One fundamental myth involves President Barack Obama being cast as the “Reluctant Warrior.” He did not choose this war. The war chose him. How could Obama shirk from his duty to defend the “homeland”?

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast the guest is Peter Hart, the activism director for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Hart discusses these myths in media coverage of the escalated war in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. He talks about Obama being treated as a “Reluctant Warrior” and the effect that has on news reports. He also addresses the fear mongering that has been ongoing and the absence of antiwar voices on television.

The discussion segment highlights Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation and how Holder presided over a Justice Department that is still investigating antiwar activists. Then, an Alabama judge suspending the First Amendment for a newspaper for a little over a week is highlighted. And, finally, the show covers what has been happeningin Ferguson with an escalation in police targeting community organizers

Podcast: As Congress Buys Into More War, CODEPINK Becomes the Conscience of America

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with retired Army colonel and former US diplomat Ann Wright of CODEPINK Women for Peace about the group’s protests against the Obama administration’s ISIS bombing campaign.  (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More about the episode from Kevin:

The past week was filled with officials coming before members of Congress to sell President Barack Obama’s strategy for escalating war in Iraq and Syria. It worked. Congress approved the arming and training of rebel forces in Syria to fight ISIS. However, this did not take place without members of Congress hearing some voices of dissent loud and clear.

CODEPINK Women for Peace managed to convince a group of people to be at almost all of the hearings on combating ISIS. They held up pink signs that could be seen behind officials like Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry. The group even provoked a lecture from Kerry, who scolded them for protesting the administration’s war plans.

It has been much more difficult to get people to protest than in 2005, when liberals were willing to flock to Washington, DC, to protest President George W. Bush’s administration. Although Obama’s war plans risk some of the same dangers Bush risked, there has been no massive demonstration in the streets.

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast retired Army colonel and former US diplomat Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in 2003 in protest against the Iraq War, is the show’s guest. She discusses her organizing with CODEPINK, which spent the past week demonstrating in congressional hearings on Capitol Hill on the Obama administration’s plans to combat ISIS. She reacts to Secretary of State John Kerry calling out CODEPINK and also discusses an op-ed written by Chelsea Manning on what the US should do to fight ISIS.

During the discussion portion of the show, we acknowledge the votes in Congress giving Obama the go-ahead to train and arm Syrian rebels. Co-host Rania Khalek highlights a story she wrote this week on an Israeli drone conference. We talk about Israel’s NSA scandal with Unit 8200 members blowing the whistle on spying against innocent Palestinians. Then, we move on to the Justice Department invoking the state secrets privilege to protect an anti-Iran advocacy group and wrap up our show covering the US responseto the spread of Ebola in north African countries.

Israeli drone conference features weapons used to kill Gaza’s children

Less than one month after killing more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza, including over 500 children, Israel is hosting its annual drone conference.

Organized in partnership with the US embassy in Tel Aviv, “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” offers Israeli military firms an opportunity to flaunt the performance of their products, many of which were tested on Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip this summer.

Palestine has long served as a laboratory for Israel’s ballooning “homeland security” industry to test and perfect weapons of domination and control, with disenfranchised and stateless Palestinians serving as their lab rats.

Speaking to the German magazine Der Spiegel last month, Avner Benzaken, head of the Israeli army’s “technology and logistics” division — a unit “comprised largely of academics who also happen to be officers” — explained the benefits of this occupation.

“If I develop a product and want to test it in the field, I only have to go five or ten kilometers from my base and I can look and see what is happening with the equipment,” said Benzaken. “I get feedback, so it makes the development process faster and much more efficient.”

Easy access to a captive population to experiment on allows Israeli weapons manufacturers to market their products as “combat-proven,” a coveted label that gives Israel a competitive edge in the international arms trade. Israel’s suppression technology is then exported to regimes that are similarly invested in subjugating the poor and marginalized.

This dystopian arrangement has paved the way for Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, to rank among the globe’s top five largest arms exporters and to become the world’s number one exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

“Combat-proven”

One of the sponsors of this year’s drone conference is G-NIUS. Formed as a joint venture between two of Israel’s largest arms companies — Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) — G-NIUS develops unmanned ground vehicles for the Israeli army.

Thanks to the Gaza assault, G-NIUS can now add “combat-proven” to the resumé of its unmanned Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), which was deployed operationally in Gaza this summer, marking the first time a remote controlled and unmanned APC has ever “participated in combat,” according to Israel Defense.

Those attending the drone conference were scheduled to visit G-NIUS on Monday 15 September to get a first-hand look at the machines used to assist in Gaza’s destruction.

They were also scheduled to visit Israel’s largest developer of military technology, Elbit Systems, which benefited enormously from the summertime offensive.

Elbit’s stock jumped to its highest level since 2010 during the Gaza slaughter, a phenomenon Bloomberg Businessweek attributed to investor speculation that the Haifa-based company would see increasing demand for its products from governments impressed by its blood-soaked performance.

One product likely to use the Gaza bloodshed as a selling point is Elbit’s Hermes 900, which was deployed operationally for the first time during Operation Protective Edge.

The Hermes 900 is a larger and more advanced version of the Hermes 450, an aerial attack and surveillance drone that was used by the Israeli army to deliberately target civilians in Gaza during Israel’s 2008-2009 onslaught, according to Human Rights Watch.

Elbit drones were also used to kill civilians in Israel’s war on Lebanon in 2006, including Red Cross workers, ambulance drivers and dozens of people fleeing their homes for refuge from relentless Israeli bombardment.

Even before it helped Israeli soldiers reduce Gaza to rubble, the Hermes 900 was winning lucrative contracts.

In July, the Swiss government purchased the Hermes 900 system for $280 million. And earlier this year, the Brazilian government purchased a fleet of Hermes drones, including the Hermes 900, to help crush the massive protests that erupted across Brazil against the World Cup.

After participating in Israel’s 51-days of terror on Gaza this summer, the Hermes 900 can join its predecessors in the “combat-proven” camp, which is sure to boost demand.

Also likely to profit from its role in turning Gaza into a graveyard is Elbit’s Skylark mini-UAV, a hand-launched surveillance drone. Though it’s been used in Gaza in the past, Operation Protective Edge was the first time the Skylark was deployed in large numbers to assist the invading ground forces.

Roy Riftin, a general and chief artillery officer in the Israeli army, told Defense Newsthat the Skylark was instrumental in “serving up targets of opportunity” for Israeli gunners.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Podcast: ‘Urban Shield’ & the Ramping Up of Police Militarization in the United States

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with Shane Bauer, a reporter with Mother Jones, about Urban Shield, an annual police gathering that epitomizes the militarization of US law enforcement. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here)

More about the episode from Kevin:

One week ago, Alameda County in California hosted an annual major police gathering supported by corporations and law enforcement and security agencies from the local, state and federal level. Corporations displayed their military-grade equipment available for police departments to purchase, and training exercises or competitions played out in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anyone observing the gathering called “Urban Shield” could see clearly how police militarization has been ramping up in recent years.

The annual police gathering took on additional significance in the aftermath of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, with police deploying military-grade equipment against a community of mostly people of color to control protest against a white police officer who gunned down an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.

Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer had media credentials and used his access to go around to vendors and ask them their thoughts about Americans who believe this country is becoming or has become a police state. He tried to get people to talk to him about Ferguson and asked about why they would need some of the equipment being shown at the expo. Bauer and a Mother Jones filmmaker also observed some of the training exercises, many which involved scenarios that sound like they came from Michael Bay movies because they’re so implausible and overwrought.

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast Bauer is the show’s guest. He discusses what he saw at “Urban Shield,” what he learned about police, and how he came to understand the culture of policing that convinces officers they need this military-grade equipment even if they are simply a university police department. He also recounts how he had his media credentials revoked by police for supposedly recording in an “unauthorized location” and gives a preview of what is to come in his feature story, which will be in a forthcoming issue of Mother Jones.

During the discussion portion, we talk about going to President Barack Obama’s announcement that America is going to war against ISIS—and how the Obama administration won’t call it a a war on ISIS. Khalek highlights a report she wrote on a religious zealot Israeli general, who ordered a lethal strike against an Israeli soldier so he would not be captured by Hamas. The episode concludes with some talk about District Attorney Sam Sutter. Sutter stunned environmental activists this past week when he had criminal charges against two men who engaged in direct action dropped because he sympathizes with their view that climate change is a serious crisis.

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