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Posts by Rania Khalek

Podcast: CCR Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei On Court’s Dismissal Of Lawsuit Against Drone Killings

On the this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I spoke with Pardiss Kebriaei, lead staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), about the recent decision by a federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the due-process-free drone killings of three US citizens. Kevin wrote a great summary of the interview here.

In the discussion portion Kevin and I share unverified and evidence-free claims that anonymous US officials have been whispering in our ears because that’s what serious journalists do.

Then we discuss the terrifying revelations about the FBI working with JSOC (the military’s not so secret assassination squad), the DOJ investigation finding Albuquerque police to blame for the majority of that city’s police killings, Cuban Twitter and the Obama administration’s out-of-control war on undocumented immigrants.

You can download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here.

 

Podcast: War On Palestine Activism Threatens Free Speech On Campuses Across The Country

This week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure is devoted exclusively to the intensifying war on college campuses against Palestine solidarity activism, where pro-Israel groups are using their vast resources and influence to curtail free speech and academic freedom of those advocating for equal rights for Palestinians. (You can listen to the episode here or you can subscribe for free on iTunes here.)

Kevin Gosztola and I spoke with several people on the frontlines of this battle, beginning with Iymen Chehade, a professor at Columbia College.

Chehade teaches a popular course on the Israel-Palestine conflict that has predictably attracted outrage from Zionist students. One of these students complained anonymously to the school that Chehade’s course was biased because he screened the Academy Award-nominated Palestinian film 5 Broken Cameras.

“When I asked why the student hadn’t come to me or why they hadn’t asked the student to come to me, the response was that when he was in college he had been intimidated by an African-American professor that apparently did not like the white students in the classroom,” explained Chehade, who is Palestinian-American.

The administration responded by canceling one of Chehade’s courses and schooling him in the need to be more “balanced.”

“There has been a push on campus to try to stifle and try to muzzle and try to create at the minimum what has been called ‘balance,’ which is a word that has been thrown around a lot,” Chehade told us. “And it’s a word that can be misleading because on the surface it sounds pretty. Balance as a word sounds pretty. But the reality of it is you cannot balance the Israeli-Palestinian conflict especially when you are dealing with a nation state that has all the power that is derivative of a state occupying millions of people who do not have civil rights. It’s like presenting the civil rights movement and those who were against rights against human beings as balance. It’s like giving them a forum to counter why African-Americans, for example, shouldn’t have rights and dignity and so forth.”

After investigating the incident, the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) determined that Chehade’s academic freedom had been violated and in a letter implored Columbia College to reverse course.

Next we spoke with Farah Erzouki and Suha Najjar, co-chairs of the University of Michigan Students Allied For Equality (SAFE). Last month, SAFE introduced a resolution for divestment from US companies profiting from Israeli occupation to the central student government but a well-coordinated campaign by Zionist groups managed to derail the vote indefinitely.

“We were all really frustrated because we came in there, ready to have the conversation, ready to have a discussion about divestment on our campus and we were just completely shut out. We were silenced by them and out of that frustration, out of that desire to hold them accountable we held a sit-in,” explained Erzouki.

The sit-in lasted a week until the student government agreed to vote on the resolution. In the end the resolution failed to pass but it was still a success for bringing attention to Israel’s horrific and decades long colonization of Palestine.

Journalist Max Blumenthal was at UM the night the resolution was being voted on and gave a powerful speech in favor of divestment. He later wrote about the racist smears and baseless allegations of anti-Semitism that SAFE students were forced to endure throughout the ordeal.

This did not deter Erzouki and Najjar from engaging in their activism but they are concerned by the lack of response from university administrators against the racist vitriol directed at them from Zionist students, one of whom was recently elected student government president. They also worry about the effect this could have on younger student activists.

“We don’t want [freshmen] to fear they are going to be called names like this,” said Erzouki. “We don’t want them to fear that they are not going to be able to freely express themselves without fear of this type of backlash.”

In our final interview, we spoke with Tori Porell, President of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northeastern University, where the most intense suppression efforts against Palestine activism have taken place.

At the behest of Northeastern’s Hillel, the university suspended SJP last month for distributing mock eviction notices in student dorms with information and statistics about Palestinian home demolitions routinely carried out by Israel.

“It’s a little exercise in giving people a small tiny taste of what it might be like to come home one day and find your entire residence and entire existence criminalized arbitrarily,” explained Porell, noting that the biggest text on the flyer specified that the notice was not real.

About a week later, SJP received a letter from the university informing them that they were suspended. “We could no longer access any university resources, bookrooms and this was effective through the end of the year and then they would think about potentially reinstating us in the future with none of the same members.”

SJP students faced police harassment as well.

“Two days after we did this leafleting, those of us that were involved started getting calls on our private cell phones from the Northeastern police,” said Porell. “Several students were pulled in for interrogations and the police showed up at some people’s homes unannounced. And they just had all kinds of questions about SJP, mostly as an organization, not even necessarily regarding the flyers. The students who were interviewed first and actually the only students interviewed have very obviously-sounding Arab-Muslim names whereas students without Arab or Muslim-sounding names were not interviewed, even though some of us are on record with the university as being leaders in the group.”

Suppression of Palestine solidarity activism isn’t necessarily working but that doesn’t mean it won’t have a lasting impact on academic freedom and free speech that goes beyond the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Bills have surfaced in state legislatures across the country (Illinois, New York, Maryland) seeking to punish university organizations that support the academic boycott of Israel. There is a similar bill in the US Congress.

So as you listen to this episode, consider the damage to free speech that the pro-Israel forces behind these efforts will leave in their wake if they have their way.

Podcast: Molly Crabapple On Trials As ‘Violent Theater’, ABC News Hires Ray Kelly And Obama Joins Buzzfeed

For this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I spoke with artist and writer Molly Crabapple about her most recent piece, “Theater of Justice”, which is a scathing indictment of the American courtroom and trial process that you should absolutely go read.

Molly writes that the courtroom is like a “violent theater.” “Most trials resemble not grand dramas but factory farms. The raw material is a person. The product is a prisoner.”

We also discuss the backlash Molly has received in response to her work around the issue of Syria as well as the mainstream media’s continued obsession was “objectivity,” which Molly agrees “is bullshit.”

In the discussion portion Kevin and I talk about ABC News hiring our good friend, former NYPD police commissioner Ray “stop and frisk and spy on Muslims” Kelly, as a consultant and expert on law enforcement issues, one of many recent developments in the establishment media’s race to the bottom.

We also discuss how the Obama administration has been wildly successful at controlling the message by avoiding any impromptu media exposure as much as possible and by using social media to write its own headlines, the most recent example being the White House’s launch of its own community channel on Buzzfeed to spread its message in the form of GIFs. And of course we couldn’t talk about Obama without tearing into his obscene Iraq war revisionism last week.

You can listen to the episode here or you can subscribe to it for free on iTunes here.

Below is a partial transcript of our interview with Molly who you can follow on twitter (if you don’t already) at @mollycrabapple. Read more

Podcast: British Citizens Are Being Stripped Of Citizenship, Then Killed In US Drone Strikes

This week marks our 10th episode of Unauthorized Disclosure. To celebrate, Kevin Gosztola and I spoke with independent journalist Aviva Stahl about her killer piece at The Nation on how the UK is stripping dual citizens of their British citizenship in an arbitrary and secretive process called citizenship deprivation.

Some of those subjected to citizen deprivation, often while out of the country, have subsequently been killed in US drone strikes, while others have been kidnapped, tortured, renditioned and imprisoned by the United States, suggesting a degree of collusion between the US and UK in what amounts to a clearly racist policy.  As Aviva points out, citizen deprivation “creates a two-tiered racialized system of citizenship…because only dual citizens can be deprived, either someone who is naturalized or someone who has foreign-born parents.” “It basically means that white so-called indigenous citizens kind of maintain all of their citizenship protections but people of color don’t,” she explained.

In the discussion portion, Kevin and I talk about how former RT anchor Liz Wahl’s on-air resignation was stage managed and continues to be exploited by a cadre of neoconservatives who want to reignite the Cold War. You can read more about these Cold War hawks in a piece I co-authored with journalist Max Blumenthal at Truthdig.

Keep in mind that these are the same people who crafted and pushed for the illegal Iraq war. These are the same people pushing for war with Iran. These are the same people who wanted to bomb Syria. And now, these same people are using Russia’s inexcusable belligerence in Ukraine to push for more US military involvement in Eastern Europe.

To understand why neoconservatives are so toxic, look no further than Iraq, which just marked the 11 year anniversary of the US invasion, a crime against humanity that transformed Iraq into the blood-stained hellhole that it is today.

You can listen to the episode here or you can subscribe to it for free on iTunes here.

Below is the transcript of our interview with Aviva: Read more

US Media Ignores 7 US Drone Strikes On Yemen In First 12 Days Of March

We already know that ignoring America’s extrajudicial killings of unnamed brown people halfway across the world is uninteresting to most US media outlets. But this month, the establishment press has really outdone itself.

On March 2, a US drone strike slammed into a vehicle parked near the town of Shebwan in the Marib province of Yemen, reducing the car and its two occupants to rubble. This due-process free assassination of a suspected militant sleeping in his car kicked off a series of US drone strikes across Yemen over the next ten days, most of which have been entirely ignored by the US news media.

Fortunately, details about each drone strike can be found at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which keeps a running list of US drone strikes as they happen.

While all recent drone strikes are potential war crimes that warrant attention and investigation, two in particular stood out to me.

On March 7, a suspected US drone strike killed 15 people15!! That’s not to say that drone strikes are excusable as long as only a handful of people are killed, just that 15 people is a really high number that at the very least warrants further investigation by news outlets that possess the resources to do so. But to date, as far as I can tell, not a single US or Western media outlet has bothered to report on this strike.

The same goes for a drone killing carried out days later.

According to The Yemen Times, the target of the drone strike that incinerated a vehicle on March 10 was a 16-year-old boy whose loved ones have also been targeted by drones:

Obad Abdulla Al-Shabwani, a young man from the Al-Shabwan tribe in Wadi Abeeda was killed in the strike, according to Brigadier Abdulkhaleq Mohammed Saleh, the operations director for the Third Military Region in Marib. Saleh said Al-Shabwani was a militant with suspected ties to Al-Qaeda.

Al-Shabwani’s relatives denied his involvement in the group and told the Yemen Times that 16-year-old’s friends and relatives have also been recently targeted by drone strikes.

Mujahid Jabir Al-Shabwani, from the same tribe as Obad Al-Shabwani and a friend of Obad’s, according to relatives, was killed on March 3 by an American drone in the same area in which Monday’s incident took place.

Mohammed Saleh Maiqan, an activist and resident in Marib, told the Yemen Times that drones have been heavily present in the governorate, particularly in Al-Wadi and Raghwan districts.

Residents of Wadi Abeeda said there has been increased panic in the district as a result. Reports that drones target individuals based on the monitoring of cell phone conversations has led some residents to turn off their phones.

If this is true, the US murdered a child for suspected links to Al Qaeda based on evidence no one, except for President Obama and his inner circle, is allowed to see. Meanwhile, the local community is living in a constant state of terror as they struggle to cope with possible death from the sky and the presence of Al Qaeda on the ground, who I imagine have an easier time recruiting new fighters in the aftermath of US bombings that kill children.

But don’t expect to hear about this from mainstream US outlets anytime soon. They’re far too busy obsessing over Russia’s invasion of Crimea because a foreign government’s violation of international law is far more newsworthy than possible war crimes being committed by one’s own government.

Podcast: Oakland Spy Center Has Setback (Yay!), Drone Strikes From Yemen to Gaza And CIA Torture

For this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure, my co-host Kevin Gosztola spoke with Nadia Kayyali, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), a surveillance hub being constructed in Oakland, California. (I was traveling last week, so I was unable to participate in the interview portion, but listen to it anyway!)

Funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security, DAC seeks to merge public and private surveillance systems (i.e. traffic cameras) from across the city to create a massive spying network with all kinds of potential for rights violations, especially given the Oakland Police Department’s atrocious police abuse record.

Fortunately, activists have been hard at work preventing the Oakland City Council from expanding the system beyond the city port and on March 4, their work paid off in what Nadia called “a perfect example of grassroots organizing and also privacy advocates stepping up to the plate.”

But the fight isn’t over, so be sure to keep your eye on this story going forward.

In the discussion portion, Kevin and I talk about Israel dropping bombs on Gaza (again), six US drone strikes in Yemen in the first 12 days of March, the Obama administration telling the UN human rights council that the US is above the law and the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee during its investigation of the CIA torture program.

You can listen to the episode here or you can subscribe to it for free on iTunes here.

Transcript of the interview with Nadia: Read more

Podcast: US-Installed Iraqi Government Is Slaughtering Civilians In Fallujah With US Arms

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure, Kevin Gosztola and I interviewed Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail about his latest article on the ongoing crisis in Fallujah, where the US-installed Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is slaughtering civilians.

Jamail, one of the only American journalists still reporting on Iraq, highlights the parallels between the current siege of Fallujah and the crimes committed by US military there in 2004.

US combat troops may have left Iraq, but the war is far from over. As Jamail explained, the sectarian divisions fueling the ongoing violence are a direct result of the US occupation, when America trained and armed Shia death squads to eradicate the predominantly Sunni armed resistance, a strategy that was executed by the same men responsible for training death squads in Latin America in the 1980s. “The sectarianism was brought in by the American tanks,” said Jamail. As a result, Iraq is far worse off than it ever was under Saddam Hussein. In fact, as Jamail explained, many Iraqis refer to Maliki—who’s private security forces torture, rape and kill Sunnis—as the “Shia Saddam.”

This comes on top of skyrocketing rates of congenital birth defects and rare cancers that are significantly worse than the rates documented in the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Jamail called this “one of the lingering ongoing war crimes that is residual from the US occupation.”

In the discussion portion of the episode, Kevin and I talk at length about the corporate media’s hypocritical reaction to the on-air resignation of RT anchor Liz Wahl compared to their smearing of Abby Martin, host of RT’s Breaking the Set, following her brave on-air declaration of journalistic independence in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Mainstream outlets love to label RT a propaganda network for toeing the Russian line on certain issues, but the truth is that the the establishment US press is no better. We also discuss the brutal treatment of CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin at the hands of Egypt’s military coup regime.

You can listen to the episode here or download it directly here. It’s also available on iTunes here.

Here is the transcript of our interview with Jamail: Read more

Jury: Police Killing Of Unarmed Anaheim Man Justified Because Victim Dressed Like Gang Member

Manuel Diaz with his daughter in undated family photo.

Manuel Diaz with his daughter in undated family photo. (OC Weekly)

On July 27, 2012, 24-year-old Manuel Diaz was shot in the back of the head by Anaheim police officer Nick Bennallack. Officers then stood over Diaz, who was unarmed, for three minutes, watching him twitch and bleed out before doing anything. It was an execution.

Almost two years later, a federal jury has rejected a lawsuit against the officer and the city filed by Diaz’s mother claiming police used excessive force. Why? Because it happened in a neighborhood where there are gangs and Diaz was, according to police, dressed like a “gang member”.

Read more

Hypocrisy of US Elites Over Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is Out Of Control

Isn’t it ironic how the architects and supporters of the illegal US invasion of Iraq are screaming the loudest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

One of the most laughable denunciations came from David Frum, the neoconservative Bush speechwriter who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” and till this day remains confident in the rightness of the Iraq war.

But the hypocrisy isn’t limited to neocons.

Lecturing Russia about its invasion of Crimea on Sunday’s Meet the Press, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “[Y]ou just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests.”

I agree. But where was this sentiment when Kerry, as a Senator in 2002, voted to authorize use of force against Iraq based on a “phony pretext”? Before you start pointing to his many criticisms of the Bush administration’s “shock and awe”, keep in mind that Kerry later admitted that in hindsight he would still vote yes.

So really, the only thing praiseworthy about Kerry’s condemnation of Russia is his ability to say it with a straight face.

In case we needed anymore proof that David Gregory, host of Meet the Press, is a hack rather than a journalist, it’s worth noting that he responded to Kerry’s brazen hypocrisy by demanding to know if the US was prepared to hit back at Russia with a “military option.”

It’s an embarrassment that no one in the mainstream media, which unquestioningly cheerled the Iraq war, has challenged Kerry on this.

At a news conference during his visit to Ukraine yesterday, Kerry proclaimed: “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not 21st-century, G-8, major-nation behavior.”

Again, what about Iraq? Unless I’m mistaken, the US invaded Iraq in the 21st century to do exactly that. Still, the New York Times said nothing about this blatant contradiction in its reporting.

Keep in mind that the Iraq war—which killed upwards of a million Iraqis, leaving in its wake 5 million orphans, 2 million widows and 4.5 million refugees—isn’t over, at least not for Iraqis.

As I write this, the US-installed Iraqi government is slaughtering civilians in Fallujah, a crime that has been largely ignored in the establishment press. But who cares about US-backed atrocities in Iraq when there is an anti-US superpower to vilify, right?

Meanwhile, President Obama—a man who extra judicially executes people abroad (including American citizens) based on secret evidence—has accused Russia of violating international law.

“When it comes to preserving the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked, we should be able to come up with a unified position,” said Obama on Monday.

If only he would preserve that principle in his own foreign policy, which just this morning resulted in a US drone strike that killed three “suspected militants” as they rode in a car in Yemen. (Media outlets should be required to add a disclaimer next to that phrase to make it clear to their readers that Obama labels all military-age males in a strike zone “suspected militants”)  

Drone strike supporters on twitter have been quick to criticize my comparison between Obama’s drone policy and Russia in Ukraine. But war crimes are war crimes, whether they take the form of an on-the-ground or sky invasion.

More importantly, the glaring contrast between the media’s obsession with Ukraine versus its collective apathy toward nations that have their sovereignty routinely violated by the US war machine (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, etc.) reveals a colossal double standard.

On Monday, even the local evening news in my area was talking about Ukraine. But not a word was said about the US drone strike that killed three Yemenis, including a man sleeping near his car, that very morning.

That’s because outrage over Russia has nothing to do with genuine concern about violations of international law and everything to do with maintaining US hegemony.

What US Media Isn’t Telling You About The Protests In Venezuela

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure, Kevin Gosztola and I speak with Eva Golinger—an American-Venezuelan lawyer and author of The Chavez Code—about what the US media isn’t telling you concerning the protests in Venezuela.

While the protesters we’ve been hearing so much about certainly have legitimate grievances, says Golinger, the opposition leaders at the helm of the protests are US Ivy League-educated elites who have been involved in past coup attempts and are hell bent on restoring Venezuela to the pre-Chavez era when a handful of wealthy families had all the power.

The opposition leaders, explains Golinger, are the equivalent of “tropical Tea Party” leaders. Their goal, fueled by a deep-seeded hatred of the poor and darker skinned, is the opposite of democracy and they are funded in large part by the US government, which has tried to undermine and even overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected government since it went socialist in the late 1990s.

Besides having the largest oil reserves on the planet, Venezuela is a prime target for US meddling because of the positive influence its participatory democracy and socialist policies have had on other Latin American countries, which the US no longer controls.

Contrary to popular US mythology, life in Venezuela has improved drastically for the masses. Under Chavez and now Maduro, everyone has access to free healthcare, education, housing and food subsidies…basically all the things neoliberals and free market extremists despise.

Golinger talks about all this in great detail in perhaps the most fascinating interview we’ve conducted to date.

In the discussion portion, which is shorter and lighter than usual, Kevin and I express our amusement at watching mouthpieces for US hegemony eat each other on twitter before moving on to the Oscar nominated films we’re rooting for.

You can listen to the episode here or download it directly here. It’s also available on iTunes here.

Below is a transcript of our interview with Eva Golinger, who you can follow on twitter at @evagolinger. Also, check out her recent piece in the New York TimesRead more

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