Sick Sophistry – BBC News On The Afghan Hospital ‘Mistakenly’ Bombed By The United States

In Media Lens ALERTS 2015

One of the defining features of the corporate media is that Western crimes are ignored or downplayed. The US bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on the night of October 3, is an archetypal example.

At least twenty-two people were killed when a United States Air Force AC-130 repeatedly attacked the hospital with five strafing runs over the course of more than an hour, despite MSF pleas to Afghan, US and Nato officials to call off the attack. The hospital’s main building, which contains the emergency operating room and recovery rooms, was heavily damaged. Dave Lindorff noted:

‘the hospital was deliberately set ablaze by incendiary weapons, and the people inside not incinerated were killed by a spray of bullets and anti-personnel flechettes.’

Lindorff added:

‘The AC-130 gunship is not a precision targeting weapon, but a weapons system designed to spread death over a wide swath.’

Shockingly, MSF had already informed US military forces of the precise coordinates of the hospital in order to prevent any attacks. Indeed, the hospital is:

‘a well-known and long-established institution with a distinctive shape operating in a city that until recently was under full [Afghan] government control. That the US/NATO command did not clearly know the function of that structure is inconceivable.’

MSF were unequivocal in their condemnation of the American attack. The hospital was ‘intentionally targeted’ in ‘a premeditated massacre’.  It was, they said, a ‘war crime’. The organisation rejected US assurances of three inquiries – by the US, Nato and the Afghan government. Instead, MSF demanded an independent international investigation.

In the days following the attack, the US changed its official story several times. At one point, as Glenn Greenwald observes, the dominant narrative from the US and its Afghan allies was that the bombing had not been an accident, but that it had been justified because the Taliban had been using the hospital as a base; an outrageous claim that MSF vehemently rejected. It was even reported that an American tank had later forced its way into the hospital compound, potentially destroying evidence of the war crime that had just taken place.

Yes, the bombing was reported in the ‘mainstream’ media; sometimes with harrowing footage of ruined hospital corridors and rooms. Hospital beds were even shown where patients had burned to death. But the US bombing did not receive the extensive headline coverage and editorial outrage that it deserved.

If you are unsure of that, just imagine the response of the British media if it had been a Russian gunship that had bombed a hospital with the loss of 22 lives, despite pleas from doctors to call off the attack. Western leaders would have instantly condemned the Russian bombing as a ‘war crime’, and the corporate media would have taken their lead from the pronouncements coming out of the offices of power in Washington and London.

By contrast, we have not found a single editorial in any UK national newspaper condemning the US bombing of the hospital or calling for an independent investigation. This is one more example of the dramatic subservience of the corporate media to the state and indeed its long-term complicity in state crimes against humanity.

In the meantime, with nothing to say on Kunduz, the Guardian has found space to publish editorials onhoverboards and the Great British Bakeoff, as well as Guardian editor Katharine Viner’s ‘grilling’ of George Osborne at the Tory party conference. To compound the paper’s ignominy, it still proudly carries Tony Blair in its Comment section where it describes him merely as ‘a former British prime minister’, rather than the notorious and unpopular war criminal he so clearly is. That accurate description is only emphasised by the weekend’s revelations of a memo written by Colin Powell, then George Bush’s US Secretary of State, that Blair had pledged his support for a US invasion of Iraq fully one year in advance, even while telling Parliament and the country that a ‘diplomatic solution’ was still being sought.

 Sopel’s ‘Mistake’

On BBC News at Ten on October 15, 2015, BBC North America correspondent Jon Sopel told viewers over footage of the ravaged Kunduz hospital that it had been ‘mistakenly bombed by the Americans’. Not intentionally bombed, as MSF were saying, but ‘mistakenly bombed’. BBC News were thereby adopting the Pentagon perspective presented earlier by General John Campbell, the US senior commander in Afghanistan, when he claimed that:

‘A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility’.

In fact, the US has done so before, many times. In November 2003, the first target of the huge American ground assault on Fallujah, following several weeks of bombing, was the city’s General Hospital. This was a ‘war crime’, Noam Chomsky noted, and it was even depicted on the front page of the New York Times, but without it being labelled or recognised as such by the paper:

‘the front page of the world’s leading newspaper was cheerfully depicting war crimes for which the political leadership could be sentenced to severe penalties under U.S. law, the death penalty if patients ripped from their beds and manacled on the floor happened to die as a result.’

Going further back in time, US veterans of the Vietnam war have reported that hospitals in Cambodia and Laos were ‘routinely listed’ among targets to be struck by American forces. In 1973, Newsweekmagazine quoted a former US army intelligence analyst saying that:

‘The bigger the hospital, the better it was’.

And now, in the case of the MSF hospital in Kunduz, Associated Press reported that:

‘US analysts knew Afghan site was hospital’.

Moreover, it has since emerged that the American crew of the AC-130 gunship even questionedwhether it was legal to attack the hospital.

Our repeated challenges on Twitter to Sopel and his BBC News editor Paul Royall were ignored. Is this really how senior BBC professionals should behave when publicly questioned about a serious breach of impartiality? Simply deign not to answer?

However, one of our readers emailed Sopel and did extract a remarkable response from the BBC North America correspondent which was kindly forwarded to us.

Sopel wrote in his email:

‘At this stage whether the bombing of the hospital in Kunduz was deliberate or accidental is the subject of an investigation – and I know there are doubts about the independence of the inquiry – but what it most certainly WAS was mistaken. Given the outrage the bombing has provoked, the humiliating apology it has forced the US into, the PR disaster it has undoubtedly been, how can anyone describe it as anything other than mistaken? If I had used the word accidentally you might have had a point.’

But this is, at best, disingenuous nonsense from Sopel. Most people watching his piece, and hearing him say that the hospital had been ‘mistakenly bombed by the Americans’, would have assumed he meant that the Americans had not intended to bomb the hospital rather than that bombing the hospital was misguided.

As we saw above, the notion that US forces did not know the target was a hospital is the Pentagon propaganda claim, and is not the view of MSF. Moreover, it contradicts the evidence that was both available at the time of Sopel’s BBC News report and what has since come to light (that the US aircrew actually questioned the legality of the strike on a hospital). Christopher Stokes, general director of MSF, told Associated Press that the US bombing was ‘no mistake’.

‘The extensive, quite precise destruction of this hospital … doesn’t indicate a mistake. The hospital was repeatedly hit’.

The rest of Sopel’s remarks in the exchange are irrelevant (the bravery of war journalists), verging on cringeworthy (his proud support of MSF with a standing order).

Sopel’s attempt to exploit ‘the outrage’, ‘the humiliating apology’ and ‘the PR disaster’ to justify his use of ‘mistakenly bombed’ is desperate sophistry. Is he really trying to say that a war crime is ‘mistaken’ because it is a ‘PR disaster’, requiring a ‘humiliating apology’?

Perhaps the airstrike was a ‘mistake’ in much the same way that the killing of eight Afghan schoolboys by US-led troops in 2009 was a ‘mistake’? This was a ‘mistake’ that Nato brushed away with payments of $2,000 for each dead child, in a kind of macabre ‘fire sale’.

Perhaps the airstrike was a ‘mistake’ in much the same way as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in the eyes of Bridget Kendall, the BBC diplomatic correspondent. She declared on BBC News at Six:

‘There’s still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it justified or a disastrous miscalculation?’ (BBC1, March 20, 2006)

That the Iraq invasion was, in fact, an illegal and immoral war of aggression – indeed, the ‘supreme international crime’ judged by the Nuremberg standard of war crimes – was not a permissible description for BBC News.

But that is the ideological norm shaping corporate media output and ‘mainstream’ debate. Western political and military leaders may occasionally make ‘mistakes’ or ‘disastrous miscalculations’. But their essential intent is always honourable: to ‘keep the Taliban at bay’ (Sopel again), to destroy Islamic State or to ‘bring peace to the Middle East’.

We asked John Pilger to comment on Jon Sopel’s report for BBC News and his subsequent remarks on email. Pilger told us (via email, October 19, 2015):

‘Serious journalism is about trying to set the record straight with compelling evidence. What is striking about Jon Sopel’s report is that he offers not a glimpse of journalistic evidence to support his assertion that the US attack on the hospital was “mistaken” – thus calling into question facts presented by MSF: facts that have not been refuted and he makes no attempt to refute. Neither is the dissembling by the US military challenged by Sopel. Instead, he is “certain” the attack was mistaken. What is the basis of his “certainty”? He doesn’t say; and he clearly feels under no compulsion to say. Instead, in full defensive cry, he tells us what an experienced frontline reporter he is, implying that his word is enough. Well, I have reported more wars than Sopel has had White House briefings, and I know – as he knows – that journalism of this kind is no more than a feeble echo of the official line. He does reveal his agency by telling us – quite unabashed — that President Obama has “very little option” but to continue his campaign of destruction in Afghanistan. Some might call this apologetics; actually, it’s anti-journalism.’

Perhaps it is not surprising that the header photo at the top of Sopel’s Twitter page should show him listening respectfully to US President Obama. The tragic irony is that Obama, the 2009 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has just committed a war crime in bombing Médecins Sans Frontières, the 1999 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

DC

Suggested Action

If you decide to contact a journalist in response to our alert, please keep the tone civil. We do not condone abusive language.

Jon Sopel, BBC North America correspondent
Email: jon.sopel@bbc.co.uk
Twitter: @BBCJonSopel

Paul Royall, editor of both BBC News at Six and News at Ten
Email: paul.royall@bbc.co.uk
Twitter: @paulroyall

Please forward any replies to us:
editor@medialens.org

An investigation by the Bureau’s CIA Torture project.

REVEALED: The boom and bust of the CIA’s secret torture sites

In spring 2003 an unnamed official at CIA headquarters in Langley sat down to compose a memo. It was 18 months after George W Bush had declared war on terror. “We cannot have enough blacksite hosts,” the official wrote. The reference was to one of the most closely guarded secrets of that war – the countries that had agreed to host the CIA’s covert prison sites.

Between 2002 and 2008, at least 119 people disappeared into a worldwide detention network run by the CIA and facilitated by its foreign partners.

A mammoth investigation by the US Senate’s intelligence committee finally identified these 119 prisoners in December 2014. But its report was heavily censored, and the names of countries collaborating with the CIA in its detention and interrogation operations were removed, along with key dates, numbers, names and much other material.

In nine months of research, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Rendition Project have unpicked these redactions to piece together the hidden history of the CIA’s secret sites.

Although many published accounts of individual journeys through the black site network exist, this is the first comprehensive portrayal of the system’s inner dynamics from beginning to end.

Read the full report here.

One Secret Text Gives Any Police State Agency Total Control Of Your Phone – Even When It’s Off

snowden nsaBy Jay Syrmopoulos

Whistleblower Edward Snowden, in an interview with the BBC’s ‘Panorama,’ spoke in detail about a stunning array of cyber spying tools used by the U.K.’s GCHQ to hack smartphones with a single text message. The spyware package is named after the little blue cartoon characters; the Smurfs.

“It’s called an ‘exploit’,” Snowden said. “That’s a specially crafted message that’s texted to your number like any other text message but when it arrives at your phone it’s hidden from you. It doesn’t display. You paid for [the phone] but whoever controls the software owns the phone,” he added.

Smartphone users can do “very little” to stop security services getting “total control” over their devices, according to Snowden.

The “Smurf Suite” package arrives by text messages, without users ever being aware of the message or its payload, as the phone is not altered in any way, according to Snowden.

Dreamy Smurf: A power management tool, which allows the phone to be powered on and off without the user knowing.

Nosey Smurf: A ‘hotmic’ tool that allows the microphone on a phone to be turned on, even if the phone is powered off.

Tracker Smurf: A geo-location tool that tracks a person with much greater precision than the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.

Paranoid Smurf: Covers the tracks of the breach of phone security, as to not allow even a phone security expert to recognize that the device has been tampered with upon inspection.

Snowden said the spy agency could see “who you call, what you’ve texted, the things you’ve browsed, the list of your contacts, the places you’ve been, the wireless networks that your phone is associated with.”

“And they can do much more. They can photograph you,” he said.

According to a report in the Daily Dot:

The NSA, which Snowden said provided “tasking and direction” for GCHQ’s use of these tools, reportedly has comparable mobile surveillance capabilities, but it is unknown if the U.S. agency deploys it through a hidden text message like its British counterpart.

The NSA and its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance exploited flaws in a popular mobile app to gain access to phones running that software and searched for ways to hack into popular app markets. GCHQ and the NSA also tried for years to break into Blackberry devices, with an analyst celebrating their eventual success in March 2010 by writing “Champagne!”

Snowden, who has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013, has been charged by the U.S. with espionage and theft of government property after leaking documents to the media about widespread digital surveillance.

During the interview Snowden said that he would like to eventually return to the U.S., and would be willing to serve prison time for his massive data breach, but that he would not be willing to do so if he was being charged under the Espionage Act.

The heroic acts of Edward Snowden stand as a testament as to what it means to be truly willing to sacrifice for an ideal.

This little device delivers turnkey Internet privacy and security (Ad)

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Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism.

Finally, The CIA Admits Covering Up JFK Assassination

cialogoBy Sophie McAdam

Suspicions that the CIA covered up JFK’s murder have finally been confirmed, according to an explosive Politico report out this week.  Fifty-two years after the President’s death, declassified documents show that the CIA were in communication with alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before JFK’s murder in 1963, and they were monitoring his mail since 1959.

Not only that but John McCone, who was Chief of the CIA at the time, allegedly hid evidence from the Warren Commission, set up by Lyndon Johnson to investigate JFK’s assassination. The spymaster and other senior CIA officials are accused of withholding ‘incendiary’ information from the commission and therefore perverting the course of justice. The CIA has admitted this.

The Politico report is based on evidence given by CIA historian David Robarge. He has claimed the cover-up was intended to keep the Commission focused on “what the agency believed at the time was the best truth – that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.” McCone directed the CIA to provide only “passive, reactive and selective” assistance to the Warren Commission, meaning the investigation was severely compromised and did not follow up any other leads which may have been crucial in the search for truth.

Robarge also believes that John McCone, who died in 1991, withheld vital information relating to various CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro. The historian points out that these plots may well be linked to JFK’s assassination – there’s a strong chance his murder was a revenge attack for CIA operations in Cuba –  but McCone’s unwillingness to explore other potentialities outside of prime suspect Lee Harvey Oswald could have resulted in a grave miscarriage of justice.

JFK was America’s youngest ever and most charismatic President, and his death shocked the nation. Alternative murder theories are popular across the States: A 2013 poll found that only 30% of Americans believe Oswald shot JFK, and that he acted alone. 61% believed that others were involved in a conspiracy (see the embedded video to find out why).

David Robarge first published these exclusive claims in a secret internal CIA magazine in 2013. His claims have now been declassified and can be publicly accessed here on the George Washington University’s National Security Archive. Robarge has also written a biography of John McCone, but his book continues to be classified. What else might the historian have uncovered? Here’s hoping that the full truth of what happened in Dealey Plaza on that fateful day will very soon be common knowledge.

This article (Finally, The CIA Admits Covering Up JFK Assassination) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com

The Final Leaked TPP Text Is All That We Feared

thumb73By Jeremy Malcolm

Today’s release by WikiLeaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn’t survive to the end of the negotiations.

Since we now have the agreed text, we’ll be including some paragraph references that you can cross-reference for yourself—but be aware that some of them contain placeholders like “x” that may change in the cleaned-up text. Also, our analysis here is limited to the copyright and Internet-related provisions of the chapter, but analyses of the impacts of other parts of the chapter have been published byWikiLeaks and others.

Binding Rules for Rightsholders, Soft Guidelines for Users

If you skim the chapter without knowing what you’re looking for, it may come across as being quite balanced, including references to the need for IP rules to further the “mutual advantage of producers and users” (QQ.A.X), to “facilitate the diffusion of information” (QQ.A.Z), and recognizing the “importance of a rich and accessible public domain” (QQ.B.x). But that’s how it’s meant to look, and taking this at face value would be a big mistake.

If you dig deeper, you’ll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever.

Another, and perhaps the most egregious example of this bias against users is the important provision on limitations and exceptions to copyright (QQ.G.17). In a pitifully ineffectual nod towards users, it suggests that parties “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system,” but imposes no hard obligations for them to do so, nor even offers U.S.-style fair use as a template that they might follow. The fact that even big tech was ultimately unable to move the USTR on this issue speaks volumes about how utterly captured by Hollywood the agency is.

Expansion of Copyright Terms

Perhaps the biggest overall defeat for users is the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years (QQ.G.6), despite a broad consensus that this makes no economic sense, and simply amounts to a transfer of wealth from users to large, rights-holding corporations. The extension will make life more difficult for libraries and archives, for journalists, and for ordinary users seeking to make use of works from long-dead authors that rightfully belong in the public domain.

Could it have been worse? In fact, yes it could have; we were spared a 120-year copyright term for corporate works, as earlier drafts foreshadowed. In the end corporate works are to be protected for 70 years after publication or performance, or if they are not published within 25 years after they were created, for 70 years after their creation. This could make a big difference in practice. It means that the film Casablanca, probably protected in the United States until 2038, would already be in the public domain in other TPP countries, even under a life plus 70 year copyright term.

New to the latest text are the transition periods in Section J, which allow some countries a longer period for complying with some of their obligations, including copyright term. For example, Malaysia has been allowed two years to extend its copyright term to life plus 70 years. For Vietnam, the transition period is five years. New Zealand is the country receiving the most “generous” allowance; its term will increase to life plus 60 years initially, rising to the full life plus 70 year term within eight years. Yet Canada, on the other hand, has not been given any transition period at all.

Ban on Circumventing Digital Rights Management (DRM)

The provisions in QQ.G.10 that prohibit the circumvention of DRM or the supply of devices for doing so are little changed from earlier drafts, other than that the opposition of some countries to the most onerous provisions of those drafts was evidently to no avail. For example, Chile earlier opposed the provision that the offense of DRM circumvention is to be “independent of any infringement that might occur under the Party’s law on copyright and related rights,” yet the final text includes just that requirement.

The odd effect of this is that someone tinkering with a file or device that contains a copyrighted work can be made liable (criminally so, if wilfullness and a commercial motive can be shown), for doing so even when no copyright infringement is committed. Although the TPP text does allow countries to pass exceptions that allow DRM circumvention for non-infringing uses, such exceptions are not mandatory, as they ought to be.

The parties’ flexibility to allow DRM circumvention also requires them to consider whether rightsholders have already taken measures to allow those non-infringing uses to be made. This might mean that rightsholders will rely on the walled-garden sharing capabilities built in to their DRM systems, such as Ultraviolet, to oppose users being granted broader rights to circumvent DRM.

Alongside the prohibition on circumvention of DRM is a similar prohibition (QQ.G.13) on the removal of rights management information, with equivalent civil and criminal penalties. Since this offense is, once again, independent of the infringement of copyright, it could implicate a user who crops out an identifying watermark from an image, even if they are using that image for fair use purposes and even if they otherwise provide attribution of the original author by some other means.

The distribution of devices for decrypting encrypted satellite and cable signals is also separately proscribed (QQ.H.9), posing a further hazard to hackers wishing to experiment with or to repurpose broadcast media.

Criminal Enforcement and Civil Damages

On damages, the text (QQ.H.4) remains as bad as ever: rightsholders can submit “any legitimate measure of value” to a judicial authority for determination of damages, including the suggested retail price of infringing goods. Additionally, judges must have the power to order pre-established damages (at the rightsholder’s election), or additional damages, each of which may go beyond compensating the rightsholder for its actual loss, and thereby create a disproportionate chilling effect for users and innovators.

No exception to these damages provisions is made in cases where the rightsholder cannot be found after a diligent search, which puts the kibosh on ideas for the introduction of an orphan works regime that would cap remedies available against those who reproduce these otherwise-unavailable works.

One of the scariest parts of the TPP is that not only can you be made liable to fines and criminal penalties, but that any materials and implements used in the creation of infringing copies can also be destroyed (QQ.H.4(12)). The same applies to devices and products used for circumventing DRM or removing rights management information (QQ.H.4(17)). Because multi-use devices such as computers are used for a diverse range of purposes, this is once again a disproportionate penalty. This could lead to a family’s home computer becoming seized simply because of its use in sharing files online, or for ripping Blu-Ray movies to a media center.

In some cases (QQ.H.7), the penalties for copyright infringement can even include jail time. Traditionally, this has because the infringer is operating a business of commercial piracy. But under the TPP, any act of willful copyright infringement on a commercial scale renders the infringer liable to criminal penalties, even if they were not carried out for financial gain, provided that they have a substantial prejudicial impact on the rightsholder. The copying of films that are still playing in movie theaters is also subject to separate criminal penalties, regardless of the scale of the infringement.

Trade Secrets

The severity of the earlier language on trade secrets protection has not been abated in the final text. It continues to criminalize those who gain “unauthorized, willful access to a trade secret held in a computer system,” without any mandatory exception for cases where the information is accessed or disclosed in the public interest, such as by investigative journalists or whistleblowers.

There is no evident explanation for the differential treatment given to trade secrets accessed or misappropriated by means of a computer system, as opposed to by other means; but it is no surprise to find the U.S. pushing such a technophobic provision, which mirrors equivalent provisions of U.S. law that have been used to persecute hackers for offenses that would otherwise have been considered much more minor.

Top-Down Control of the Internet

ICANN, the global domain name authority, provoked a furor earlier this year over proposals that could limit the ability for owners of domain names to shield their personal information from copyright and trademark trolls, identity thieves, scammers and harassers.

The TPP has just ridden roughshod over that entire debate (at least for country-code top-level domains such as .us, .au and .jp), by cementing in place rules (QQ.C.12) that countries must provide “online public access to a reliable and accurate database of contact information concerning domain-name registrants.”

The same provision also requires countries to adopt an equivalent to ICANN’s flawed Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), despite the fact that this controversial policy is overdue for a formal review by ICANN, which might result in the significant revision of this policy. Where would this leave the TPP countries, that are locked in to upholding a UDRP-like policy for their own domains for the indefinite future?

The TPP’s prescription of rules for domain names completely disregards the fact that most country code domain registries have their own, open, community-driven processes for determining rules for managing domain name disputes. More than that, this top-down rulemaking on domain names is in direct contravention of the U.S. administration’s own firmly-stated commitment to uphold the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. Obviously, Internet users cannot trust the administration that it means what it says when it gives lip-service to multi-stakeholder governance—and that has ramifications that go even even deeper than this terrible TPP deal.

ISP Liability

The provisions on ISP liability (Appendix Section I), as we previously found in the last leaked text, are not quite as permissive as we hoped. It will still require most countries to adopt a version of the flawed U.S. DMCA notice-and-takedown system, albeit with a few safeguards such as penalties for those who issue wrongful takedown notices, and allowing (but not requiring) a Japanese-style system of verification of takedown notices by an independent body of ISPs and rightsholders.

It is true that Canada’s notice-and-notice regime is also allowed, but effectively only for Canada—no other country that did not have an equivalent system as of the date of the agreement is allowed to benefit from that flexibility. Even in Canada’s case, this largesse is only afforded because of the other enforcement measures that rightsholders enjoy there—such as a tough regime of secondary liability for authorization of copyright infringement.

Similarly Chile’s system under which ISPs are not required to take down content without a judicial order is explicitly grandfathered in, but no other country joining the TPP in the future will be allowed to have a similar system.

In addition, although there is no explicit requirement for a graduated response regime of copyright penalties against users, ISPs are still roped in as copyright enforcers with the vague requirement (Appendix Section 1) that they be given “legal incentives…to cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials or, in the alternative, to take other action to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyright materials.”

Good Points?

Quite honestly there are no parts of this agreement that are positively good for users. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s not improved over the earlier, horrendous demands of the U.S. negotiators. Some of the areas in which countries rightly pushed back against the U.S., and which are reflected in the final text are:

  • The exhaustion of rights provision (QQ.A.11) that upholds the first sale doctrine of U.S. law, preventing copyright owners from extending their control over the resale of copyright works once they have first been placed in the market. In particular, this makes parallel importation of cheaper versions of copyright works lawful—and complementing this is an explicit authorization of devices that bypass region-coding on physical copies of such works (QQ.G.10, though this does not extend to bypassing geoblocking of streaming services).
  • A thoroughly-misguided provision that would have extended copyright protection to temporary or “buffer” copies in a computer system was one of the earliest rightsholder demands dropped by the USTR, and rightfully so, given the damage this would have wreaked to tech companies and users alike.

But we have struggled to come up with more than two positive points about the TPP, and even then the absence of these tragic mistakes is a pretty poor example of a positive point. If you look for provisions in the TPP that actually afford new benefits to users, rather than to large, rights-holding corporations, you will look in vain. The TPP is the archetype of an agreement that exists only for the benefit of the entitled, politically powerfully lobbyists who have pushed it through to completion over the last eight years.

There is nothing in here for users and innovators to support, and much for us to fear—the ratcheting up of the copyright term across the Pacific rim, the punitive sanctions for DRM circumvention, and the full frontal attack on hackers and journalists in the trade secrets provision, just to mention three. This latest leak has confirmed our greatest fears—and strengthened our resolve to kill this agreement for good once it reaches Congress.

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‘Classified Speech’: Purdue Destroys Video Of Presentation On Snowden Documents

By

 What you see when you try to load Barton Gellman's wiped presentation

Published in partnership with Shadowproof.

There are numerous examples of American colleges or universities invoking “civility” to stifle free speech, especially speech around the issue of Palestinian human rights. Multiple instances exist where students have demanded particular speech or acts of expression, which make them uncomfortable, be controlled or suppressed. On a lesser scale, there also appears to be a trend toward constraining “classified speech.”

“Classified speech” is speech containing or relying upon information, which is public but the United States government has not declassified yet. Colleges or universities that are part of the American security industrial-complex have “facility security clearances” or other obligations they have agreed to follow so administrators can maintain the stature of being a place that conducts classified U.S. government research.

Yet, the result of such arrangements is what happened to Washington Post journalist Barton Gellman, who produced Pulitzer Prize-winning work on documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Gellman was invited to Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, to give a keynote presentation on Snowden and “national security journalism in the age of surveillance.” The presentation was part of a colloquium called “Dawn or Doom” on the “risks and rewards of emerging technologies.” It was live streamed, and Gellman was promised a link for sharing his presentation after the event.

Purdue University emphasized in its description of the event that Gellman would offer a “fresh account of the disclosures and their aftershocks, drawing upon hundreds of hours of work with the classified NSA archive and scores of hours of interviews with Snowden.”

As Gellman has recounted, Purdue “wiped all copies” of his video and slides from university servers on the grounds that Gellman “displayed classified documents briefly on screen.”

“A breach report was filed with the university’s Research Information Assurance Officer, also known as the Site Security Officer, under the terms of Defense Department Operating Manual 5220.22-M. I am told that Purdue briefly considered, among other things, whether to destroy the projector I borrowed, lest contaminants remain,” Gellman added.

Gellman recognizes under a Pentagon agreement Purdue had to appear shocked when “spillage” was discovered at his presentation. The university ultimately determined three slides, which covered about five minutes in his presentation, tainted the talk so much that the entire keynote had to be erased so no student at Purdue would ever see the “breach.”

In a statement provided to Inside Higher Education, the legal counsel for Purdue, Steve Schultz, defended the decision to wipe all copies of Gellman’s presentation:

We don’t view this episode as any sort of compromise of Purdue’s commitment to free and open inquiry. It was the university’s desire to raise awareness of Mr. Gellman’s area of expertise that brought him to campus in the first place. When the classified nature of some material was confirmed, Purdue’s security officer made a judgment call, based on a reading of regulations, that we shouldn’t disseminate it. Purdue’s DSS industrial security representative confirmed the propriety of this assessment. In the course of communicating the decision to the technical team, the entire speech was removed from the website. We have acknowledged that perhaps a better way to comply with the law would have been to block only the classified information in question. But we don’t make the laws; we only do our best to follow them.

This overzealous attitude was exhibited by attendees at Gellman’s presentation. Gellman was specifically asked if he had shown documents classified “TS/SCI” or “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.” No one asks a journalist that question unless they have a background in classified intelligence work and are concerned about protecting the sanctity of U.S. secrets.

The same questioner wanted to know if the NSA had declassified the documents in question. Gellman explained they were still classified and, for the most part, government employees have been informed they should not look at them. He added the government will not declassify information because it does not want someone else to decide what is classified and what is not. However, that ties them up in some “pretty bad knots.”

This was not a good enough answer. One post-doctoral research engineer asked a follow-up about whether documents were “unclassified.” Gellman answered, “No, they’re classified still.”

As became evident, a number of people in the audience (possibly “junior security rangers” on faculty and staff) had no interest in exploring the issue of over-classification or how the government absurdly claims to still have control over information after it has leaked. They were uninterested in debating the extent to which agencies fight to maintain an alternative reality among government employees.

This kind of zeal is not entirely new. It has been seen in response to the Snowden’s disclosures and the documents from Chelsea Manning, which were published by WikiLeaks.

A military defense university established by Congress and known as the Defense Acquisition Universityblocked access to the Post in order to prevent trainees and workers from exposure to “classified material being released.”

A State Department official reportedly warned students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) that students applying for jobs in the federal government could see their prospects jeopardized if they were found to be reading and sharing documents from WikiLeaks or talking about WikiLeaks on Facebook or Twitter. (The university later reversed its position.)

But, most often, the zeal has been reserved for personnel working inside government agencies, like the Defense Department, which blocked The Guardian to shield employees from NSA documents, or the Library of Congress, which blocked access to WikiLeaks.

In fact, one of the oldest research libraries in the country reacted in a manner very similar to Purdue. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made a recommendation, and the Library of Congress claimed to be following “applicable law” that required them to “protect classified information.” They went along with the notion that “unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.”

Such a posture toward information is less about security and more about loyalty. Students and faculty engaged in classified government research, who make up a very small part of the university, act as missionaries guarding against anyone who violates the blessedness of information marked classified by anyone from the vast security apparatus with such power.

Not only does a policy like this empower students and faculty to challenge a journalist for engaging in investigative journalism, but it makes it possible to take concrete action to effectively police speech.

As Gellman reflected, “Now the security apparatus claims jurisdiction over the campus (“facility”) at large. The university finds itself “sanitizing” a conference that has nothing to do with any government contract. Where does it stop? Suppose a professor wants to teach a network security course, or a student wants to write a foreign policy paper, that draws on the rich public record made available by Snowden and Chelsea Manning? Those cases will be hard to distinguish from mine.”

Or, take it a step farther. The documents are not classified to the government. The information contained in the document is classified.

If the policy is fully embraced by Purdue University is applied, when any of that information is discussed with a reporter and is published, it has now technically a “breach” that the university should protect itself from because the government did not classify the information. That means any major newspapers covering national security stories should probably be censored and/or removed entirely from campus.

Such a policy is incomprehensible and, contrary to the view of Purdue’s legal counsel, toxic to any institution claiming to value academic freedom and open inquiry. Nonetheless, it is what institutions think they must adopt in order to protect access and prestige, as a part of the American security industrial-complex.

The CIA in Guatemala: A chilling account of death and misery by a brave woman…

This is a video by Jennifer Harbury, an American whose late Guatemalan husband, a Mayan indigenous activist, was “disappeared” by the military. After hunger strikes and investigations, she learned that Efraín Bámaca Velásquez had been tortured and then killed — and that the CIA knew all about it. Her story is a powerful one..