Saturday, July 25, 2009
Victory for Freedom of Speech at Stanford: Student Graduates Despite Ed School Efforts to Revoke Admission, Investigate Private Blog, and Declare Stud
Stanford University’s Teacher Education Program (STEP) has finally let dissenting student-blogger Michele Kerr graduate. When Stanford tried to revoke Kerr’s admission after she voiced disagreement with “progressive” views held by STEP administrators, Kerr turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. Kerr sought FIRE’s aid a second time after Stanford School of Education administrators demanded the password to her private blog and threatened to expel her for her opinions and teaching philosophy. The shameful story of Kerr’s travails is featured online in The Washington Post today by education columnist Jay Mathews.
“From before even her first day of classes, the Stanford School of Education seemed to be trying every rationale it could think of to get rid of Michele Kerr,” said Greg Lukianoff, FIRE President and alumnus of Stanford Law School. “But Kerr fought back, and with help from FIRE and the intervention of senior administrators, Kerr was able to graduate in June. No student, however, should be put through this kind of ordeal in the first place.”
Kerr’s saga began in March 2008, when she attended an open house for admitted students and stated in public conversation that she did not entirely agree with what she perceived to be STEP’s “progressive” approach to education. Her promise to keep an open mind was not enough for STEP Director Rachel Lotan, who soon summoned Kerr to meet with her multiple times. Although Kerr had already accepted STEP’s offer of admission, Lotan ominously kept referring to Kerr’s admission as merely “potential.”
Kerr’s concern was further justified when a misdirected e-mail she received revealed that STEP officials were planning to “strategize” with the program’s lawyer, apparently to revoke Kerr’s admission. FIRE wrote Stanford President John Hennessy on May 23, 2008, outlining the situation and demanding that Kerr’s binding admission offer be honored. FIRE noted Stanford’s Statement on Academic Freedom, which states that “[e]xpression of the widest range of viewpoints should be encouraged, free from institutional orthodoxy and from internal or external coercion.” Senior University Counsel Lauren Schoenthaler responded on June 5, confirming Kerr’s admission.
Kerr’s trouble did not end there. Associate Dean of Student Services Eamonn Callan made repeated unique and unreasonable demands to investigate Kerr’s private, password-protected blog about her thoughts and experiences as a teacher. In a formal letter on December 16, Callan and Lotan also threatened to charge Kerr with “intimidation” for sending an e-mail to her fellow STEP students regarding her treatment by Stanford and her response to students in her program who had voiced complaints about her outspokenness. Callan’s and Lotan’s letter said they were following “the STEP Guidelines for Reviewing Concerns Regarding Suitability for the Practice of Teaching.”
“Stanford threatened Kerr with disciplinary action for publicly defending herself and unreasonably demanded to find out what Kerr was saying in a private forum,” said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “Unquestionably, administrators were attempting to build a case for throwing Kerr out of school because of her expression.”
In a second letter to Hennessy on January 26 of this year, FIRE outlined many additional steps that STEP officials had taken to try to rid themselves of Kerr by holding her to unique standards of expression and conduct. FIRE asked that Stanford “recognize its legal and moral commitments by immediately and unequivocally abandoning attempts to monitor Kerr’s blog, withdrawing threats to punish Kerr for ‘intimidation,’ and ceasing efforts to fail Kerr out of STEP because of her protected expression and her protected beliefs.” Kerr also submitted grievances going into detail about STEP’s actions.
In response to FIRE’s letter, more senior Stanford administrators intervened and guaranteed Kerr fair treatment. The School of Education put Kerr under a new set of supervisors, and she graduated successfully on June 14. Now that she has also found a job, Kerr’s travails at STEP are over. Her story is chronicled today in a 2,000-word article by Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews, who frequently disagrees with Kerr on educational issues but who was drawn to her story.
“Like STEP, too many education programs today are teaching by words and deeds that only one orthodoxy or ideology is acceptable in future teachers,” Kissel said. “This refusal to accept alternative views is no way to prepare teachers to cultivate effective citizens in our democracy. Fortunately, senior administrators stepped in to set things right for Michele Kerr.”
Revelations that the Central Intelligence Agency launched a world-wide assassination program, and then concealed its existence from the U.S. Congress and the American people for eight years, carries an implication that death squads may have been employed against political opponents.
The Wall Street Journal reported July 13 that “A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.
Investigative journalist Siobhan Gorman writes, “The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.”
The Washington Post however, revealed July 16 that the assassination plan was sanctioned by President Bush. Unnamed “intelligence officials” told the newspaper that “a secret document known as a ‘presidential finding’ was signed by President George W. Bush that same month, granting the agency broad authority to use deadly force against bin Laden as well as other senior members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
According to Post reporter Joby Warrick, Bush’s finding “imposed no geographical limitations on the agency’s actions” and that the CIA was “not obliged to notify Congress of each operation envisaged under the directive.” This implies that targets could be hit anywhere, including on the soil of a NATO ally or inside the United States itself.
According to the Los Angeles Times the program “was kept secret from lawmakers for nearly eight years at the direction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.”
Despite these reports and hand-wringing amongst congressional Democrats, there’s something fishy here. After all, isn’t the whole point of America’s “global war on terror” to “capture or kill” al-Qaeda suspects? What’s so secretive or controversial about that?
The descriptions of the operation that have so far emerged however, bear a striking resemblance to charges laid earlier this year when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that the Bush administration stood-up an “executive assassination ring.”
During a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota in March the veteran journalist told the audience: “After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.”
The program was allegedly shut down by Panetta on June 23, a day after leaning of the agency’s clandestine initiative. What make these revelations all the more significant is that the CIA Director only learned of the program fully four months after assuming office.
“The implications,” socialist analyst Bill Van Auken writes, “are clear. The CIA maintained the secrecy ordered by Cheney even after the latter had left office, and continued to conceal the existence and nature of the covert operation not only from Congress, but from the Obama administration itself.”
But was the program shut down? The Washington Post further revealed that the plan, allegedly “on the agency’s back burner for much of the past eight years, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight because of proposals to initiate what one intelligence official called a ’somewhat more operational phase’.”
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former top aide to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell hints that the program was in a “somewhat more operational phase” years earlier, despite repeated denials by CIA officials and congressional staffers.
Wilkerson told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show July 14, “What I suspect has happened is what began to happen while I was still in the government, and that was we’re killing the wrong people. And we’re killing the wrong people in the wrong countries. And the countries are finding out about it, or at least there was a suspicion that the countries might find out about it, and so it was shut down. That’s my strong suspicion.”
According to Wilkerson, the teams may have been dispatched under deep cover, using Joint Special Operations Command as a cut-out, a confirmation of charges made by Seymour Hersh in March. When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was queried by the State Department, “after some hemming and hawing, which was Rumsfeld’s forte, he finally admitted that he had dispatched some of these teams,” Wilkerson explained.
Powell’s former aide told Maddow, “It’s laughable that the CIA has never lied to Congress. “They lie to Congress on a routine basis.” Much the same can be said of General Powell who lied to the entire world “on a routine basis” during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
It must also be said there is precedence for the CIA’s alleged death squad activities during the Bush era. In Vietnam for example, the CIA and U.S. Special Forces jointly ran a secret assassination program that targeted Vietnamese dissidents. As author Douglas Valentine revealed in his definitive study, The Phoenix Program, Operation Phoenix “was a computer-driven program aimed at ‘neutralizing’, through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture, the civilian infrastructure that supported the insurgency in South Vietnam.”
Those programs never died and have since morphed into above top secret “Special Access Programs” used with deadly effect in Central- and South America during the 1980s and across the Middle East today.
The latest scandal comes on the heels of revelations that the Bush administration’s massive secret surveillance programs targeting the American people went far beyond well-publicized warrantless wiretapping.
A new 38-page declassified report issued July 10 by inspectors general of the CIA, National Security Agency, Department of Justice, Department of Defense and the Office of National Intelligence, collectively called the acknowledged “Terrorist Surveillance Program” and cross-agency top secret “Other Intelligence Activities” the “President’s Surveillance Program.”
The IG’s report failed to disclose what these programs actually did, and probably still do today under the Obama administration. Shrouded beneath impenetrable layers of secrecy and deceit, these undisclosed programs lie at the dark heart of the state’s war against the American people and perhaps, other regime opponents.
The CIA’s Office of Inspector General said that “the program was an additional resource to enhance the CIA’s understanding of terrorist networks and to help identify potential threats to the U.S. homeland,” and that the “PSP was one of many tools available to them, and that the tools were often used in combination.” However, “some officers told the CIA OIG that there was insufficient legal guidance on the use of PSP-derived information.” (pp. 33-34)
But with a thin reed provided by President Bush’s executive orders, presidential findings and 2001 congressional authorization for war against al-Qaeda, why would there be “insufficient legal guidance”? If “PSP-derived information” was used to target alleged al-Qaeda operatives there wouldn’t be need for additional legal guidance. If however, the CIA “was very deeply involved in domestic activities” as Seymour Hersh averred, and used NSA information for political dirty tricks it would be a violation of the CIA’s charter, one that comes with serious consequences including jail time.
Investigative journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who broke the NSA spy story in The New York Times in 2005, reported July 11 that intelligence officials “‘had difficulty citing specific instances’ when the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists.”
True enough as far as it goes, but perhaps these programs were highly efficacious in silencing those who were deemed politically suspect, even within the defense and security apparatus itself.
While major media in the United States insist that the Agency’s assassination program was meant to target al-Qaeda assets, one question inevitably raises its head: did the CIA and allied intelligence services murder political opponents? Were covert actions carried out by the CIA–at home or on the soil of America’s allies–”against people they thought to be enemies of the state,” as Hersh revealed?
More pointedly, was the British bioweapons expert Dr. David Kelly, who leaked information to the press that the British and American governments had falsified the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, murdered for exposing the fraudulent evidence for war or worse, planning an exposé on the West’s continued development of offensive biological weapons?
Dr. David Kelly was an unlikely dissident. In fact Kelly wasn’t a dissident at all, but a prominent figure in Britain’s bioweapons defense establishment.
The former head of the microbiology department at Porton Down, the UK’s secret biological and chemical warfare research facility, at the time of his 2003 death Kelly was a consummate insider, a trusted keeper of state secrets; dangerous and deadly secrets that could topple governments.
A civilian employee of Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), Dr. Kelly was a biological weapons expert and former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. His off-the-record conversations with journalist Andrew Gilligan about the British government’s fraudulent claim that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” set off a firestorm that continues to smolder.
While David Kelly wasn’t a spy, he did enjoy unprecedented access to the world of secret intelligence. Indeed, according to author Gordon Thomas, Kelly had helped orchestrate the defection of a top Russian microbiologist Vladimir Pasechnik (who turned up dead in 2001, allegedly from a stroke) and played a part in the FBI’s investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States by trying to identify the origin of the Ames strain used in the fatal mailings.
In 2008, the multiyear, multimillion dollar “Amerithrax” investigation was closed when the Bureau claimed that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the killer. Ivins, a top anthrax expert at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Ft. Detrick in Maryland committed suicide. According to the FBI version, the scientist killed himself just as the Bureau was about to arrest him for the crime.
Many were unconvinced that Ivins was the anthrax “lone gunman.” Indeed, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a target of the 2001 attacks, charged FBI Director Robert Mueller with staging a cover-up.
During 2008 hearings, Leahy angrily chided Mueller: “If he is the one who sent the letter, I do not believe in any way, shape or manner that [Ivins] is the only person involved in this attack on Congress and the American people. I do not believe that at all. I believe there are others involved, either as accessories before or after the fact, I believe there are others who can be charged with murder.”
Richard Spertzel, Ivins’ former boss at Ft. Detrick told investigative journalists Bob Coen and Eric Nadler, “He’s dead and they can close the case and he can’t defend himself. Nice and convenient isn’t it?”
Thomas claims that Kelly had worked with two American scientists, Benito Que and Don Wiley, who also turned up dead under highly suspicious circumstances.
It was originally claimed by authorities that Que was bludgeoned to death during an attempted carjacking in Miami. “Strangely enough,” The Toronto Globe & Mail reported in 2002, “his body showed no signs of a beating. Doctors then began to suspect a stroke.”
Wiley, according to the Canadian newspaper “was an expert on how the immune system responds to viral attacks such as the classic doomsday plagues of HIV, ebola and influenza.” After planning a trip to Graceland with his son police “found his rental car on a bridge outside Memphis, Tenn. His body was later found in the Mississippi River. Forensic experts said he may have had a dizzy spell and have fallen off the bridge.”
As it turned out, the pair were “engaged in DNA sequencing that could provide ‘a genetic marker based on genetic profiling’.” Thomas writes: “The research could play an important role in developing weaponized pathogens to hit selected groups of humans–identifying them by race. Two years ago, both men were found dead, in circumstances never fully explained.”
Coincidence, or something more sinister?
By summer 2003, it was obvious that Saddam Hussein’s regime did not possess WMDs and that the entire pretext for invading Iraq was based on a lie, concocted by the American regime, and in particular by Vice President Richard Cheney and the neoconservative mafia in control of America’s defense and security apparatus.
Tasked to the Defence Intelligence Staff, Kelly read a draft of the Joint Intelligence Committee’s (JIC) dossier on Iraq’s reputed WMDs. He was unhappy with many of the report’s conclusions, according to multiple press reports. He disputed the infamous claim that the Iraqi Army was capable of launching battlefield biological and chemical weapons within “45 minutes” of an order from Saddam. This dubious claim, one of many, was inserted into the report at the insistence of MI6 political masters acting through the JIC.
During a trip to Iraq in June 2003, Kelly inspected what were alleged by the Bush administration to be “mobile weapons laboratories,” a claim infamously made by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations in February 2003. The Observer reported that a British scientist, who turned out to be David Kelly, told the newspaper: “They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were–facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.”
One of the key pieces of evidence to emerge was the JIC’s, and Kelly’s, involvement with Operation Rockingham, a secret program for weapons inspections in Iraq.
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter told the Sunday Herald that Operation Rockingham was a “dirty tricks” unit “designed specifically to produce misleading intelligence that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction to give the UK a justifiable excuse to wage war on Iraq.”
Describing the unit as “dangerous,” Ritter told investigative journalist Neil Mackay, “Rockingham was spinning reports and emphasizing reports that showed non-compliance (by Iraq with UN inspections) and quashing those which showed compliance. It was cherry-picking intelligence.”
A political firestorm ensued, which threatened the viability of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour government. Heads would have to roll; one of those heads as it turned out, would be David Kelly’s.
After an appearance before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee on July 15, 2003, Kelly was visibly upset by his shoddy treatment by MPs. In an email to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a serial-fabricator who had stitched-up evidence that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, Kelly said there “were many dark actors playing games.”
During the whitewash known as The Hutton Inquiry, a British ambassador David Broucher reported a conversation he had with Kelly in Geneva. The ambassador asked Kelly what would happen if Iraq were invaded? The bioweapons expert replied, “I will probably be found dead in the woods.”
Two days after giving testimony before Parliament he was.
“A Wet Operation, a Wet Disposal”
In The Strange Death of David Kelly, Liberal-Democratic MP Norman Baker builds a strong case that the scientist was murdered. Despite Lord Hutton’s dubious findings that Kelly killed himself, several troubling facts intruded to upend the British government’s apple cart. To summarize:
The lack of fingerprints found on the knife allegedly used by the scientist to slit his wrists; the lack of blood found at the scene, despite a verdict that he had sliced open an artery; unexplained contusions on Kelly’s scalp; the position of the body discovered by searchers differed markedly from that alleged by detectives; bottled water, knife and wristwatch said to be found by detectives were not observed by the searchers who actually discovered the body; eight computers removed from Kelly’s home and office by MI6 agents; missing dental records; the level of painkillers found in Kelly’s stomach was “less than a third” of what is considered a fatal overdose by medical experts. On and on it goes…
One source told Baker that Dr. Kelly’s death was “a wet operation, a wet disposal,” a term used in intelligence circles to denote an assassination.
Six years after Kelly’s murder, a group of British doctors have announced that “they were mounting a legal challenge to overturn the finding of suicide,” The Mail on Sunday reports.
A 12-page opinion concludes: “The bleeding from Dr Kelly’s ulnar artery is highly unlikely to have been so voluminous and rapid that it was the cause of death. We advise the instructing solicitors to obtain the autopsy reports so that the concerns of a group of properly interested medical specialists can be answered.”
One motive which may have led to Kelly’s murder was that the scientist was writing a book “exposing highly damaging government secrets before his mysterious death,” The Sunday Express reported July 5.
According to published reports, Kelly intended to reveal that he had warned Prime Minister Tony Blair “there were no weapons of mass destruction anywhere in Iraq weeks before the British and American invasion.” Despite warnings that the book would breach Britain’s draconian Officials Secrets Act, Kelly sought advice on how he might bring his findings into a publishable form.
These reports also suggest that Kelly threatened to “lift the lid” on a larger scandal, “his own secret dealings in germ warfare with the apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Investigative journalists Bob Coen and Eric Nadler in their book Dead Silence: Fear and Terror on the Anthrax Trail and a companion 90-minute documentary, Anthrax War, provide startling evidence that Kelly’s death is linked to a secret world of germ warfare research.
Indeed, according to Coen and Nadler, David Kelly’s secret dealings included a connection with Dr. Wouter Basson, the cardiologist who was the former head of the South African apartheid regime’s clandestine biological and chemical warfare program, Project Coast.
During Basson’s 1999 trial and subsequent acquittal, evidence presented by some 150 witnesses, including operatives linked to South African snatch-and-kill squads, tied Basson to chemical and biological research used in extrajudicial executions by the apartheid regime. It was further alleged that Project Coast had conducted active research into the fabrication of “ethnic weapons” that would specifically target South Africa’s black population.
In Anthrax War, Basson states that his findings were shared with foreign scientists, including those affiliated with weapons research in Britain and the United States. According to a 2001 piece in The New Yorker,
Basson had already put the fear into American intelligence during his T.R.C. [Truth and Reconciliation Committee] appearance, where he handed over fourteen pages of notes from a visit to the United States in 1981. American Air Force officers had been eager to develop joint “medical projects” with South Africa, he wrote. … Basson says that in 1995 his life was threatened on the street by a C.I.A. agent. The American Embassy in Pretoria admits privately that the United States government is “terribly concerned” that Basson may start talking about his sources of information and technology. The Embassy hopes that an impression of “unwitting coöperation” is all that emerges in the way of an American connection. (William Finnegan, “The Poison Keeper,” The New Yorker, January 15, 2001)
Coen and Nadler uncovered evidence that Kelly had discovered a “Porton Down-South Africa connection” linked to a global bioweapons black market. The investigative journalists told the Express, “We have proved there is a black market in anthrax. David Kelly was of particular interest to us because he was a world expert on anthrax and he was involved in some degree with assisting the secret germ warfare programme in apartheid South Africa.”
Andrew Mackinlay, a British MP blamed for humiliating Kelly “to the point of suicide” started “asking questions in the House of Lords” after the scientist’s death “about Kelly’s relationship with these bad actors in Pretoria, even making inquiries about South African links to Pasechnik’s Regma firm.”
Founded in 2000 by the deceased scientist, Regma Bio Technologies was headquartered on the Porton Down campus and had signed a contract with the U.S. Navy for anti-anthrax research.
What Mackinlay discovered about the entire operation was highly disturbing to say the least. His inquiry sparked “the convening of an extraordinary ‘handling strategy meeting’ involving thirteen officials from different government agencies. But any and all information about UK-South African germ work was withheld from the MP.”
Mackinlay told Coen and Nadler, “This is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the British government.”
The question is, did David Kelly threaten to reveal these “closely guarded secrets” in the book he was preparing, and was this a motive for certain “dark actors” to eliminate a person now considered “an enemy of the state”?
These programs are not Cold War relics. Biological weapons research continues today and remain one of America’s most deadly secrets. As the 2001 anthrax attacks which employed a weaponized version of the bacteria to sow terror, and subsequent FBI cover-up illustrate, such programs remain fully operational.
The evidence suggests that Dr. David Kelly, as Norman Baker avers “may have signed his own death warrant” by threatening to reveal this secret underworld menacing all humanity with unimaginable horrors.
That an out-of-control agency like the CIA has the means, motives and opportunity to silence critics and that “no geographical limitations” were placed “on the agency’s actions,” should give pause to a society that considers itself a democracy.
Media revelations so far have suggested that the CIA and Special Operations Forces were assembling teams to “put bullets in [the al Qaeda leaders'] heads” as The Wall Street Journal reported.
But perhaps the Obama administration’s trepidation in exploring this and other Bush-era programs through congressional hearings or the mechanism of a special prosecutor has much to do with fear of opening a proverbial can of worms.
One never knows where such an investigation might lead.
Amnesty International says Israel cannot explain away murdering so many children, civilians in Gaza
Israel has enough clout in Washington to silence criticism. It is also adept at making its critics think twice about speaking out because they risk a withering condemnation from sections of the media and are likely to be branded as an anti-Semites. As a consequence, critics of Israel, even within universities, are increasingly reluctant to voice their opinions when Israel’s foreign policies threaten peace in the Middle East or promote military strategies that display a total disregard for civilian life.
But now an Amnesty International report has emerged accusing the Israeli government and its military chain of command of lacking a moral compass by showing a total disregard for international law and human life in Gaza.
Amnesty, like other groups that have looked at the Gaza death toll, reached the conclusion that you cannot, as Israel has tried to do, explain away the deaths of so many children by claiming they died in crossfire or were used as human shields. Amnesty said if civilians were used as human shields it was by the Israeli army, who put them in harm’s way and, in some cases, made them go into buildings they suspected were booby-trapped.
During the Gaza invasion—codenamed “Cast Lead”— Israel deployed weapons that Amnesty says should never have been used in civilian areas, including Hellfire missiles, phosphorus bombs, 120 mm mortar rounds and tank shells filled with thousands of metal darts that acted like shrapnel.
Hospitals were attacked and ambulance staff were killed and prevented from tending civilian wounded for days. Families were directed to homes that were then shelled and over 200 policemen were killed in a sustained bombardment of their facilities. Some civilian victims, including women and children, were clearly shot at close range. Others were terribly maimed when phosphorus bombs were used indiscriminately.
Amnesty drew attention to two families. The first was the Sammouni extended family that lost 31 of its members in southeast Gaza City on Jan. 5, 2009. The day before, Israeli soldiers moved dozens of the family’s members from one of their homes to another and then shelled the second home. Not everyone died immediately.
Some took days to die from their injuries. Ambulance personnel were not allowed to get to them. A few children who survived were found clinging to their dead mothers.
In other instances, Amnesty confirmed that bodies were left decomposing for days in parts of Gaza. A second example of a family tragedy occurred on Jan. 12, 2009 when a grandmother, mother and three children were sitting outside their home at 9 a.m.. They were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a drone. The missile and drone were supplied to the Israeli military by the U.S.
Amnesty concluded that the largest numbers of civilian fatalities and injuries resulted from long-range, high-precision weapons fired from helicopters, drones, tanks and mortars. The victims were not caught in crossfire, as Israel alleged, and were not used as human shields by
“Many were killed when their homes were bombed or as they slept. Others were going about their daily activities, sitting in their yard, handling the laundry on the roof when they were targeted in airstrikes or tank shelling.
Children were studying or playing in their bedrooms, or on the roof, or outside their homes when they were struck by missiles or tank shells. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while rescuing the wounded or recovering the dead,” said the report, adding it believed Israel failed to take steps required under international law to protect civilians. Amnesty also unequivocally dismissed Israel’s argument that the deaths of 300 children reflected “collateral damage” and the “panicked reactions of lone soldiers.”
Amnesty quoted an Israeli commander, who gave his men the following advice during a security briefing: “I want aggressiveness. If there is someone suspicious on the upper floor of a house, we’ll shell it. If we have suspicions about a house, we’ll take it down. There will be no hesitation. Nobody will deliberate. Let mistakes be over their lives, not ours.”
That strategy has led to tanks firing shells from a distance of five miles, with the result that they often collapsed more than one house. In the targeting of a mosque, the house next to it was hit and five girls ranging in age from 4 to 17 years were killed. When shells filled with 5,000 tiny metal darts were fired into Gaza, people in a 300 x 100 yard radius of an exploding shell were at risk of death or serious injury. Since the end of the Gaza operation Israel has refused to explain how high-precision weapons, whose operators could see the smallest details of a target, could kill so many women and children.
The indiscriminate use of phosphorus rated special condemnation by Amnesty, yet Gaza was not the first time Israel used the weapon against civilian targets. It fired phosphorus shells into Lebanon and, just as it had done during the Lebanon conflict, it reacted with public outrage when reporters accused it of using the weapon in Gaza. We now know the outrage was feigned as the evidence from Gaza is clear. The Israeli military repeatedly fired phosphorus shells over densely populated areas.
“Phosphorus was often launched from artillery shells in air-burst mode, which aggravated the already devastating consequences of the attacks. Each shell ejected over 100 felt wedges with highly incendiary white phosphorus, which rained down over houses and streets, igniting on exposure to oxygen and setting fire to people and property,” said Amnesty, which further accused the Israel military of preventing people from being properly treated for horrific phosphorous burns.
The very fact the Israeli Defense Forces did not come clean about using phosphorus meant many lives were not saved because surgeons did not know what had caused, and how to treat certain types of wounds. The Amnesty report added that white phosphorus and artillery shells were used in attacks that were indiscriminate and violated international law.
“The Israeli military could not have been unaware of the presence of civilians in locations, which were repeatedly attacked. . . . Israeli forces continued to employ the same tactics for the entire duration of the 22-day offensive. . . . Much of the destruction was wanton and deliberate. It was often the result of reckless and indiscriminate attacks which were seemingly tolerated or even directly sanctioned up the chain of command, and which at times appeared intended to collectively punish local residents for the actions of armed groups. . . . Children, women and elderly people were among those trapped and denied access to medical care,” were just some of the report’s conclusions.
Throughout operation “Cast Lead,” the Israeli military denied the international media and independent observers access to Gaza, and, since then, it has refused to speak to investigators. It has made no effort to launch an internal inquiry, and that testifies to a mindset that places scant value on the lives of Palestinians. At the very least, Congress should ask Israel to explain why it killed, injured and maimed so many civilians and particularly why it slaughtered 300 children.
On the other hand, if Congress and the American mainstream media are not prepared to address the issue, why should Israel? It is made to feel confident that its closest ally will stand by it no matter what crimes it commits.
In a very real sense, the American people, who constantly are told how great, humane and generous they are, and who finance Israel’s murder machine with their tax dollars, are guilty of these appalling atrocities.
Unlike the U.S., Britain has taken punitive action against Israel for its Gaza operation. The Israeli embassy in London was informed that Israel had violated current British and European laws that forbade the use of weapons for “internal repression.”
An all-party group of British parliamentarians welcomed the move and also a government promise to review all military export licenses to Israel. Meanwhile, Israeli promoters, such as the “Rev.” John Hagee, make millions of dollars with the support of the Israeli-controlled American media, holding rallies to support Israel and its murderous policies.
Source: American Free Press
Israel and its watchdogs have been on special alert regarding criticisms coming from Jews and Jewish organisations. It’s almost as if they want the world at large to believe that all Jews stand behind them and support their policies of genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Anyone who is a regular reader of this Blog knows that nothing is further from the truth.
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the largest Jewish Film festival in the world, will screen many films this year, many with discussion with filmmakers and others featured in the film. Some of these films will be controversial, there will be all sorts of issues explored.
None has generated more controversy than the film “Rachel”, a film by Jewish-Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton about the death of Rachel Corrie, the young woman killed by an Israeli-military bulldozer as she was protecting homes in the Rafah, Gaza. At the request of the filmmaker, they have invited Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother to speak. Big time controversy and condemnation by a weekly Jewish magazine and even from the local Israel Consul General.
Cindy Corrie has publicly advocated for ensuring “justice, freedom, security and economic viability for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Israel Consul General protests the presence of Cindy Corrie:
“The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival made a serious error in judgment in inviting Mrs. Corrie to the festival,” Israel Consul General Akiva Tor said via e-mail. “She is a propagandist who is immune from responsibility for the causes she supports because it was her daughter, Rachel, who was accidentally killed.
“So her staged presence becomes a kind of emotional grandstanding, rather than pursuit of a deeper insight.”
Propagandist? The Consul General has been busy supporting policies of expanding settlements in the West Bank, supporting the war on Gaza, supporting a brutal blockade, and now will be supporting a policy of muzzling Palestinians, and Jewish Israelis, who dare to commemorate the Nakba of 1948. The Foreign Minister, his boss, is seen by many (even Israeli diplomats) as extreme as fascist Haider of Austria… and this man is calling Cindy Corrie a “propagandist”? Cindy Corrie who wants justice, freedom, security and economic viability for both Israelis and Palestinians?
I think its a way of saying there is a point of view that the Consul General finds might disturb the status quo. Change might happen. Scary. Also a way to challenge the official narrative. “accidental” he says? That’s the official line. Not so fast. Maybe not an accident. as perhaps the deaths of hundreds of civilians in the war on Gaza of December/January is perhaps not an accident, or the continuing blockade that brings hunger to the people of Gaza is not an accident. Perhaps the latter atrocity is nothing more than a joke among its designers.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a national group based in the Bay Area, is one of the groups co-sponsoring this film, and they are to be commended for their courage, as well as the festival organizers. Compare this to the sometimes successful effort to not allow the staging of the play: “My Name is Rachel Corrie” at several theaters around the country (which helped tremendously, no doubt, with publicity and its success where it was produced).
There’s something so deeply, deeply depressing about the attack against Cindy Corrie by J Weekly, the Bay Area’s Jewish newspaper. True, it’s just one of countless examples of the moral malaise that plagues the institutional Jewish world when it comes to Palestinians, but on this day, this day when I am fresh back from Gaza, from Hebron, from Silwan, it has gotten to me.
I’m not sure which is worse- the possibility that the J’s editorial writer actually believes the morally groundless drivel he or she is writing? Or the possibility that they know full well that the moral outrage that is the Israeli treatment of Gazans is an affront to all Jews and feeling people, but that they care more about keeping advertisers happy.
Change is happening, both in the Jewish Community and the wider community, and the keepers of the status quo cannot shut it down. that’s not to say they are not trying. This should be seen in the wider context. In Israel, beyond the attempt to erase “Nakba” from the history books, (see assaf’s diary)there is also the arrest and detention of Jewish groups who desire a different future for Israel, not based on militarism and oppression. The government must resort to repression not just of Palestinians, which is widely-accepted Israeli tradition, but now even Jewish dissidents. It is the criminalization of dissent, by any means necessary.
It won’t work. Arrests will not work. Personal attacks will not work. Like the ones that will accumulate below, more likely than not, some based purely on the idea that most of my diaries deal with oppression of Palestinian rights… what if i were focusing on the Health Care debate… would there be this wild accusations without basis if i was consistently unfriendly to insurance company policies? Is there some mathematical formula to determine one’s “acceptable” criticism of Israel? It really is nothing less than a lame attempt to avoid dealing with substance, and diverting people’s attention.
This movement to demand justice in the Middle East is already too large, too diverse for that to work. They will call Rachel and her mother “terrorist sympathizers” who have no business going to Gaza. Like they say that Ezra Nawi has no business protect homes in the West Bank. Like others said that Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner had no business going to Mississippi to support the movement for justice there. Or like others said that Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan had no business in El Salvador.
It is our business to share in the struggle for human rights and peace.
Rachel will be shown on Saturday, July 25th, 1:30 pm at the beautiful Castro Theater in San Francisco. Cindy Corrie Will be there.
Here is the Statement from the organisors of the San Francisco Film Festival….on why they are screening Rachel
Why San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is showing Rachel, a film by Simone Bitton about
Rachel Corrie, and inviting Cindy Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s mother, to the Festival:
1. The film Rachel is directed by veteran filmmaker Simone Bitton, a dual citizen of Israel and
France. The documentary takes an unflinching look at the controversy surrounding the death of
an American activist who was protesting Israeli military actions in Gaza. In the film, Bitton,
through interviews with eyewitnesses, Israeli soldiers and spokespeople, and others close to the
tragedy, exposes new information about the incident which we believe makes for very
worthwhile viewing, from both a journalistic and an aesthetic perspective. The film has already
played in such prestigious festivals as the Berlin International Film Festival and Tribeca Film
Festival (New York).
2. The film Rachel includes the viewpoints of people with a variety of opinions on the events
which led to Ms. Corrie’s death. It includes interviews with Israeli army spokeswoman Avital
Leibovitch, as well as doctors, activists, soldiers, Israeli and Palestinian civilians, and Rachel
Corrie’s parents. The film also includes military video from the Israeli army.
3. As with all the films we show at SFJFF, we are presenting the views of the filmmakers and
their subjects in what we hope is an atmosphere that encourages free expression and public
debate. We regret that the filmmaker of Rachel could not be present to discuss the film
personally, although we invited her to be here. Cindy Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s mother, is a subject
of the documentary, and it is customary (and even expected by audiences) for documentary
subjects to participate in Festival screenings. This kind of exchange has occurred throughout our
Festival’s long history, and Cindy Corrie herself has addressed audiences at the Tribeca Film
Festival, presentations in New York theaters, and other cultural forums. We wish to provide our
audiences with the same opportunity. Her appearance at SFJFF is not intended to provide a
political platform but rather to deepen the dialogue around the film. Cindy Corrie has publicly
advocated for ensuring “justice, freedom, security and economic viability for both Israelis and
Palestinians.” We think it will be an illuminating conversation.
4. We are presenting the film as part of a wider series on social justice and activism, and want
our audience to have the benefit of a direct encounter with those who can help them
understand Rachel Corrie’s motivations ‐ even if they don’ agree with them ‐ from a very
personal standpoint. The filmmaker considers herself a film essayist rather than a reporter and
desires the film to be viewed as an artistic statement as well as an investigation.
5. SFJFF’ commitment to Israeli filmmakers and cinema is steadfast. We are proud that this
year we are showcasing 37 individual films from or connected to Israel –comedies, dramas,
documentaries, animation and shorts –which together form a very vibrant portrait of the
country and its complexity. Other political affairs documentaries besides Rachel include Gilad
Shalit: 2 Years in Captivity, a portrait of Gilad Shalit, the soldier captured by Hamas; and
Chronicle of a Kidnap, a portrait of Karnit Goldwasser, the widow of Ehud Goldwasser, an Israeli
soldier who was one of many victims of the Lebanon war.
6. The SFJFF supports the democratic exchange of ideas that great filmmaking provides. We
believe that the best artists, including documentary filmmakers, create work that makes us think
and sparks a dialogue both within the Jewish community and the greater community of the Bay
Area. We do not expect that the views of every film or speaker will be embraced by all of our
audiences, nor can every film represent the diverse views of SFJFF staff, board, members or
sponsors. We unanimously embrace the tradition of spirited debate that is a core element of
Jewish inquiry, and strive to provide a welcoming forum for the discussion of different
By Carlos Miller
Boise police already had the suspect handcuffed when they rammed a Taser gun into his anus and fired.
Then they placed the Taser gun against his genitals and threatened to do the same.
At the time, the domestic violence suspect was lying face down with three officers on top of him, according to the Idaho Statesmen.
He couldn’t even breathe.
It was all caught on tape. Here is the exchange that took place:
Cop: Do you feel this?
Suspect: Yes, sir.
Cop: Do you feel that? That’s my …
Cop: … Taser up your ass.
Cop: So don’t move.
Suspect: I’m trying not to. I can’t breathe.
Cop: Now do you feel this in your balls?
Suspect: I do, sir. I’m not going to move. I’m not gonna move.
Cop: Now I’m gonna tase your balls if you move again.
(A full minute goes by)
Cop: Okay, I’m gonna take this Taser out of your asshole now. Are you going to fight with me?
Suspect: No, not at all, sir.
Cop: (to another cop) So far, for the last two minutes, he’s been cooperative. But then my Taser’s in his ass.
Not only was the exchange documented on the cop’s own tape recorder, the suspect ended up with burns on the inside of his right buttock. These were evident in photographs taken ten and 13 days after the incident.
Also, another cop who taped an interview with the suspect at the jail later that night ended up erasing the taped interview.
So you would think the first cop would be prosecuted for sexual assault? Or maybe the second cop be charged with tampering with evidence?
After all, we have a case in Florida where a group of 14-year-old boys are going to be tried as adults because they sodomized one of their classmates with broomsticks and hockey sticks.
But the rules are different when you are a cop.
After an internal investigation, police determined that the first officer violated the department’s use-of-force policy. And the second officer also violated department policy when he erased the taped interview.
Both officers have been “disciplined”, according to police.
But details of the discipline were not released. And neither were the names of the cops.
After all, police say, this is an “internal personnel matter.”
That’s right, nothing to see here. Move along now.
In fact, we would probably not have even heard of this story if it wasn’t for Boise’s Community Ombudsman, Pierce Murphy, who happens to be a former cop. His job is to investigate complaints of misconduct against cops.
Although he never names the cops, he did provide an extensive and graphic 43-page report on his findings.
The officers all told Murphy that the suspect was fighting, resisting and using profanity the entire time they were dealing with him, yet he notes that none of this is evident in the audio recording.
The Complainant was not completely still in response to the orders from police to stop moving. The Complainant was moving his torso and his legs in a manner consistent with trying to breathe more easily. The Complainant’s movements were not consistent with trying to escape from the police, attempting to head butt them, trying to kick any officer, or assaulting the officers.
Discussion of Finding: Consistent statements from the Complainant, Officer #1, Officer #2, Officer #6, and Officer #7. Although Officer #4 described the Complainant as “fighting” with the officers, yelling profanities, not doing what was commanded, kicking, and attempting to head butt them, the audio recording does not support her contention. No yelling of profanity by the Complainant can be heard. When the officers first entered the residence, the Complainant exclaimed, “God damn it. What the fuck?” The Complainant used no profanity after this. Officer #3 also stated that the Complainant was kicking. However, no officer can be heard on the recordings telling the Complainant to, “Stop kicking,” or, “If you kick again, I’ll tase you.” Instead, between the two of them, Officer #3 and Officer #4 told the Complainant several times to, “Stop moving,”.
Murphy also determined that the officers could have killed the suspect by piling on top of him like they did.
In the course of this investigation, it was clear that the involved officers were familiar with the concept of Positional Asphyxia as it relates to prisoners who are hobbled. However, none of the officers seemed to be aware of the possible danger posed by Positional Asphyxia to the Complainant in this case. This was a situation where a heavy, not terribly physically fit, middle-aged man had engaged in heavy physical exertion at the door. He was then placed face-down on the ground and handcuffed with his hands behind his back and the weight of three officers on his body. This may have had the effect of restricting the expansion of the Complainant’s chest and diaphragm, thus inhibiting the ability of the Complainant to get adequate oxygen and exhale sufficient carbon dioxide to compensate for the physical exertion in which he had just engaged.
Around the nation, many in-custody deaths have been attributed to Positional Asphyxia. The following is taken from an article appearing in the June, 1995, National Law Enforcement Technology Center Bulletin produced by the US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
But despite the sodomy, the torture, the destruction of evidence and even the attempted manslaughter, Murphy’s recommendation was that these officers simply needed more training.
By Carlos Miller
By now you surely heard the story of the black Harvard professor who forgot his key, so had to break into his own house, which resulted in police being dispatched and him being arrested.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. didn’t get arrested for breaking and entering, but for disorderly conduct after he asked the cop for his name and badge number. We know they hate that.
And anybody who reads this blog knows that disorderly conduct is one of the most abused charges cops use against people. It is, in fact, the default charge when police can’t think of an actual crime being committed.
Disorderly conduct was one of the original nine charges I was slapped with after my arrest for photographing cops against their wishes two years ago. It was also one of the ones that were dropped.
Just as it was in Gates’ case.
Gates believed he was profiled because he is black and he may be right. He also believes that if he were a white professor, he would not have been arrested.
But if that white professor had asked for the cop’s name and badge number, there is a good chance he would have also been arrested.
After all, contempt of cop knows no color barriers.
But the thousands of stories that have been written on this incident so far have focused on the race issue.The media has turned this into a black vs white issue when it’s really more than that.
It’s actually a class issue. That dumb cop made the mistake of arresting a Harvard professor. One who is friends with the president of the United States.
Had it been any Joe Blow, whether he was white or black, life would have gone on as if nothing had happened.
Where was the national media and the president when a white guy getting a Taser gun stuck up his ass by a white cop?
Or when a white girl who got a gun pressed against her face by a Hispanic officer because she was involved in some minor fender bender with his son?
Or when a white grandmother got Tasered by a white cop because she refused to sign a speeding ticket?
Or when a white middle-aged lesbian who got beat up by a white cop because she hosted a liberal political fundraiser?
Or when the two white reporters who were arrested by a Hispanic cop for doing their job?
Or if that is not enough, just take a look at Police Misconduct News Feed compiled by Injustice Everywhere.
It’s true that black people get harassed on a much more disproportionally level than non-blacks. Anybody who denies that is naive.
Let’s not forget the black teenage girl who got attacked by a white cop because she flipped a shoe at him.
Or the black EMT who was strangled by a white cop (after the cop pulled over the white driver for not yielding to him).
Or the black motorist who was beat up by a white cop who had the audacity to lie about the whole thing, even though he knew it was recorded on a dash cam video.
And let’s not ever forget the black unarmed man who was shot and killed by a white cop earlier this year in an incident that was caught on a cell phone video.
But not even the Oscar Grant shooting generated this much response from the national media, much less a comment from the president. Granted, President Barack Obama had not taken office yet during the Grant shooting, but judging by the coverage it received outside of San Francisco, he probably would not have been asked his opinion on it by one of the beltway media whores.
Obama has been criticized for stating that this cop “acted stupidly,” mostly by white people and especially that white cop, for “interfering with a local issue” but he was asked his opinion and he gave it. He did not use his executive power to influence anything. Gates’ charges had already been dropped. I found his comments refreshing, but then again, I voted for him.
Nevertheless, Obama’s comments prompted the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, to insist that he is not racist and that he will not apologize for arresting Gates.
We will probably never know if he is racist or not, but what we do know is that he arrested Gates after the professor demanded his name and badge number.
He even admits that Gates could have avoided arrest by shutting his mouth and going back into his house.
Crowley also said that arresting Gates “was something I really didn’t want to do,” but that “the professor could have resolved the issue at any time by quieting down and going back into his house.”
And that is the real problem. The fact that we, as citizens, are expected to not question police officers. And if we do, then we should expect to be arrested, Tasered or even killed.
Source: Dessert Peace
Expansion Of Federal Death Penalty Counter To Furthering Civil Rights, Says ACLU
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate yesterday passed an amendment extending the death penalty for certain hate crimes. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), was added to the hate crimes amendment to the Defense authorization bill that passed last Thursday. In a letter sent to Senators, the American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to oppose this misguided and wrong expansion of the federal death penalty.
“The expansion of the federal death penalty stands in stark contrast to furthering the cause of civil rights in the United States,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “The death penalty is always wrong. Capital punishment has been proven to be such an expensive and discriminatory punishment that Congress should oppose any effort to expand its scope and reach. At a time when evidence is mounting that scores of innocent defendants have been sentenced to death, Congress should steer clear of expanding the death penalty.”
Problems, such as inadequate defense counsel and racial disparities, have always plagued the death penalty system in the United States. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 135 innocent people have been exonerated from death row since 1973, including five so far in 2009 alone.
In addition to this death penalty amendment, the ACLU also did not support the underlying hate crime provision in the defense authorization bill which would have a chilling effect on free speech and association. The U.S. House of Representatives has a welcome version of the hate crimes bill that protects speech and association as well as gives the federal government new authority to prosecute certain violent acts based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
The ACLU letter to Senators is available at: www.aclu.org/crimjustice/deathpenalty/40374leg20090720.html
For a copy of a letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to Senators, go to: www.aclu.org/crimjustice/deathpenalty/40375leg20090720.html
European court: Calls for Israel boycotts are unlawful discrimination
On Thursday, the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling that it was illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods, and that making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not constitute a violation of one's freedom of expression.With the court packed with members from Zionist occupied states like Germany, France and Denmark, the opinion of this kangaroo court was a foregone conclusion.
The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, has some 47 member states and is independent of the European Union. The court is made up of one judge from each member state, and the rulings of the court carry moral weight throughout Europe.
On Thursday the court ruled by a vote of 6-1 that the French court did not violate the freedom of expression of the Communist mayor of the small French town of Seclin, Jean-Claude Fernand Willem, who in October 2002 announced at a town hall meeting that he intended to call on the municipality to boycott Israeli products.
Jews in the region filed a complaint with the public prosecutor, who decided to prosecute Willem for "provoking discrimination on national, racial and religious grounds." Willem was first acquitted by the Lille Criminal Court, but that decision was overturned on appeal in September 2003 and he was fined €1,000.
His appeal to a higher French court was unsuccessful, and as a result he petitioned the European Court of Human rights in March 2005, saying his call for a boycott of Israeli products was part of a legitimate political debate, and that his freedom of expression had been violated.
The court, made up of judges from Denmark, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Macedonia and the Czech Republic ruled that interference with the former mayor's freedom of expression was needed to protect the rights of Israeli producers.
According to a statement issued by the court on Thursday, the court held the view that Willem was not convicted for his political opinions, "but for inciting the commission of a discriminatory, and therefore punishable, act. The Court further noted that, under French law, the applicant was not entitled to take the place of the governmental authorities by declaring an embargo on products from a foreign country, and moreover that the penalty imposed on him had been relatively moderate."
Between England mandating that Holocau$t™ specialists be in every secondary school, laws in at 11 European countries that forbid questions about the Holocau$t™ and now this, Europe is just another appendage of the ZOG.... Zionist Occupied Globe.
Source: The Truth Will Set You Free