Barack & Jinping

SUBHEAD: Will Obama ask Xi for some pointers on telecommunication surveillance and spying on American citizens?

By Curtis Ellis on 7 June 2013 for Huffington Post -

Image above: From (

President Obama meets with China communist boss Xi Jinping today. The administration tells us the purpose of the private talks is to build cooperation. We can now assume that means Obama will be asking Xi for tips on how to spy on American citizens more effectively.

While Silicon Valley techies helped build the machinery the Chinese Communist Party uses to keep tabs on its citizens, it turns out China was the testing ground for a security apparatus now deployed on our own soil by our government. Savvy arms merchants sell to both sides.

President Eisenhower warned of a military industrial complex threatening the body politic. At the time, Silicon Valley was growing missile launchers and avionics. The Valley now has other crops, but it's still very much part of the Pentagon plantation.

There's been speculation on what China's rising influence in the world will mean. We now have our answer: government surveillance of citizens is standard operating procedure, even in the nation once seen as the Shining City upon a hill, a beacon to the world of liberty and the rights of man.

The Shining City now follows the example set by the Middle Kingdom's Red dynasty.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: NSA monitors all telecommunications 6/6/13 
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama's Verizon Surveillance 6/6/13

Jet Fuel in the Future

SUBHEAD: Do we get to keep flying? An analysis of jet fuel alternatives that could be viable in the next decade.

By Amy Huve on 6 June 2013 for Read the Science -

Image above: Any other options? Photo by Amy Huva 2013. From original article.

James I. Hileman, Hsin Min Wong, Pearl E. Donohoo, Malcolm A. Weiss, Ian A. Waitz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
David S. Ortiz, James T. Bartis, RAND Corporation Environment, Energy and Economic Development Program

A feasibility study of alternatives to conventional jet fuel for aircraft.


Published on both the MIT website and RAND Corporation website

TITLE: Near-Term Feasibility of Alternative Jet Fuels
Last week, I looked at how our transport systems could be carbon free by 2100 and was intrigued by the comment ‘hydro-processed renewable jet fuel made from plant oils or animal fats is likely to be the only biomass-based fuel that could be used as a pure fuel for aviation, but would require various additives in order to be viable as an aviation fuel’.
It made me wonder what was being done for airplane fuel alternatives, or do we not have any alternatives and will I have to give up visiting my family in Australia?

Any other options? (photo: Amy Huva 2013)

I came across this technical report by MIT and the RAND Corporation (apparently RAND stands for Research ANd Development) and sat down to read all 150pages (you’re welcome) and see what our options for fuels that we could feasibly use in the next decade are.

The paper compared alternative fuels on the basis of compatibility with existing aircraft and infrastructure, production potential, production costs, lifecycle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, air quality emissions, merit of the fuel as jet fuel vs ground fuel and the maturity of the technology.
The researchers pointed out (quite rightly) that emissions from biofuels need to take into account the carbon emitted through land use changes because if you clear-fell a forest to plant a biofuel crop any carbon you’ve saved by not burning oil has just been invalidated by the carbon emitted from clear-felling the forest.

There were five different fuel groups looked at;
  1. Conventional Petroleum
  2. Unconventional Petroleum
  3. Synthetic fuel from natural gas, coal or biomass
  4. Renewable oils
  5. Alcohols
The standard fuel used in North America for aviation is called Jet A and was used as the benchmark for the study. So what did they find?

Conventional Petroleum Fuels
Almost all Jet A fuel comes from crude oil and is kerosene based. The emissions from Jet A are 87.5g of CO2e (CO2 equivalent) per megajoule (MJ) of energy created (g CO2e/MJ). Of that 87.5g, 73.2g comes from the burning of the fuel and there can be a 7% variation on the amount emitted from refining depending on the quality of the crude oil used and the refining process.

The world consumption of jet fuel is estimated at 5million barrels per day of oil. This number is really hard to wrap your head around, so let me quickly walk you through some math. A barrel of oil is 159L, which means 5million barrels per day is 795,000,000L of oil burned each day. To get that volume of water, you would have to run a fire hose (359L/minute) for 101 years (yes, YEARS). We burn that much in one day.

Given that a conventional fuel is already oil based and you can’t reduce those carbon emissions, the tweak for this paper was an Ultra Low Sulfur Jet A fuel, which would reduce sulfur emissions from burning the fuel.

While it’s a great to reduce sulfur emissions that cause acid rain, the extra refining needed upped the lifecycle emissions to 89g CO2e/MJ.

Unconventional Petroleum Fuels
Unconventional fuels are things like the Canadian tar sands (or oil sands if you’re their PR people) and Venezuelan Heavy Oil. These oils are dirtier and require more refining to be made into jet fuel. They also require more effort to get out of the ground, and so the lifecycle emissions are 103g CO2e/MJ (with an uncertainty of 5%).

The upstream emissions of sourcing and refining the fuel are what add the extra – burning the fuel has the same emissions as Jet A, and the upstream emissions range from 16g CO2e/MJ for open cut mining to 26g CO2e/MJ for in-situ mining.
You can also get shale oil through the process of fracking and refine it to Jet A. Shale based Jet A also burns the same as Jet A, but the extraction emissions are a whopping 41g CO2e/MJ which is double the tar sands extraction emissions, giving an overall 114.2g CO2e/MJ lifecycle emissions.

Fischer-Tropsch Synthetic Fuels
These are fuels derived through the catalysed Fisher-Tropsch process and then refined into a fuel. These fuels are good because they have almost zero sulfur content (and therefore almost zero sulfur emissions). They don’t work as a 100% fuel without an engine refit because of the different aromatic hydrocarbon content, and the energy density is 3% less than Jet A (meaning you’d need 3% more fuel in the tank to go the same distance as Jet A fuel). However, it does combine easily to make a 50/50 blend for planes.

You can make FT Synthetic fuel from natural gas which gives you 101g CO2e/MJ emissions, from coal which gives you between 120-195g CO2e/MJ and relies on carbon capture and storage as a technical fix, or from biomass, which has almost zero lifecycle emissions ONLY if you use a waste product as the source and don’t contribute to further land use changes.
Renewable Oils
These are biodiesel or biokerosene which can be made from soybean oil, canola oil, palm oil, coconut oil, animal fats, waste products or halophytes and algae.

Because this paper was looking at fuels that could be commercially used in the next 10 years, they looked at a 5% blend with Jet A fuel to meet freeze point requirements (most renewable oils freeze at too high a temperature for the altitude planes fly at). They found too many safety and freezing point issues with biodiesel or biokerosene, so didn’t calculate the emissions from them as they’re not practical for use.

Another renewable oil is Hydroprocessed Jet Fuel entertainingly sometimes called ‘Syntroleum’. This is made from plant oils, animal fats or waste grease. Soybean oil without land use emissions would have only 40-80% of the emissions of Jet A, while palm oil would have 30-40% the emissions of Jet A.
Alcohol Fuels
The paper looked at using ethanol (the alcohol we drink) and butanol as replacement fuels. They both had lower energy densities to Jet A, higher volatility (being flammable and explosive) and issues with freezing at cruising altitude. While butanol is slightly safer to use as a jet fuel than ethanol, the report suggests it’s better used as a ground transport fuel than a jet fuel (I assume the better use of ethanol as a drink is implied).

Options for jet fuel alternatives (from paper)

After going through all the options, the researchers found that the three main options we have for alternative fuels over the next decade that could be commercially implemented are;
  1. Tar sands oil
  2. Coal-derived FT Synthetic oil
  3. Hydroprocessed Renewable jet fuel
They recommended that when looking to reduce the emissions from the transport sector that aviation shouldn’t be treated any differently. While strongly recommending that land use changes be taken into account for the use of biofuels, they also pointed out that the use for aviation should also be looked at as limited biofuel resources may be more effective producing heat and power rather than being used for transport.

Personally, I don’t find the report very heartening given that the first two options involve either dirtier oil or really dirty coal when what we need to be doing is reducing our emissions, not changing the form they’re in and still burning them. I’ll be keeping my eye out for any new research into hydroprocessed renewable jet fuels that could use waste products or algae – given the speed that oceans are acidifying, there could be a lot of ocean deadzones that are really good at growing algae and could be used as a jet fuel.

But until then, it looks like there aren’t many options for the continuation of air travel once we start seriously reducing our emissions – they’ll be a really quick way to burn through our remaining carbon budget.

Paradise Lot

SUBHEAD: A 4,000sqft lot came close to providing for all of their fresh produce and some protein to boot.

By Lakis on 5 June 2013 for City of the Future -

Image above: Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates’ permaculture yard in 2011. Source: Permaculture Research Institute.

What is it with Permaculture these days? How has this one-time marginal and conspicuously misunderstood movement (a movement that was, not too long ago, almost exclusively associated with well-intentioned but sometimes naive hippie back-to-the-landers) become the conceptual sine qua non for modern environmentalism?

In case you think I am overstating the point: design thinking, whole-systems analysis, resilience planning, pattern languages, biomimicry, local food systems, agroecology, urban farming, rooftop gardening, green infrastructure, water catchment, carbon sequestration, bioremediation, distributed innovation, appropriate technology, community finance, peer-to-peer and distributed manufacturing — all of these increasingly-familiar concepts and movements have been embedded within permaculture since it’s early development in Australia in the 1970s and 80s–at time when almost no one else was talking about them. Even if you haven’t heard of permaculture, you are probably aware of at least some of its impacts.

At the heart of the movement has been the small-scale, intensive garden-farm, which practitioners see as both the ideal setting to develop and present permaculture design principals, as well as a real, practical response to ecological challenges and economic insecurity. Using permaculture techniques, even very small lots can become highly productive, allowing households and communities in suburban and urban areas to become much more self-reliant for basic needs with a minimum of labor.

I believe it is the appeal and promise of the garden-farm that has been the main driver for permaculture’s spread; there is something deeply attractive and empowering these days about the idea that with the right mix of plants and techniques one can provide a good measure of food for oneself and family on a small scale.

In practice, such self-reliance can be harder than permaculture experts sometimes make it sound (I write from experience). This is where Eric Toensmeier’s Paradise Lot comes in. Anyone who finds him or herself discouraged in their permaculture garden efforts should take heart and read this book.

Image above: Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates’ yard when they bought their house in 2004. From  Permaculture Research Institute.

Toensmeier is one of the heroes of the modern permaculture movement in North America. As the junior co-author of Dave Jacke’s mammoth and game-changing Edible Forest Gardens, and later as the author of Perennial Vegetables, Toensmeier established himself as the guy who was willing to take on the long, grinding research into edible, temperate climate perennial plants that will ultimately be necessary if we are to create low-input, self-managing food systems that don’t destroy soil on an annual basis.

Unlike his previous books, though, Paradise Lot is not a reference, or dense guide to theory and design. Instead, it tells the story, as the subtitle suggests, of how two “plant geeks” turned one-tenth of an acre into an “edible garden oasis in the city.” The process becomes a kind of nerdy adventure tale (not to mention the sweet love-story sub-plot).

The book begins with Toensmeier and his friend and fellow permaculture designer Jonathan Bates (who contributes his own perspective in a number of passages in the book) starting (and failing to make money at) a perennial seed company in rural Western Massachusetts. When it became clear they would need jobs, the two friends began looking for property in the city.

The reasons were as logical and human as they come–they wanted to meet people, specifically women. They also believed that for various reasons–proximity to services, public transportation–urban life was more sustainable than rural. In 2004 they ended up buying a small duplex with a 1-10th acre lot in a heavily immigrant and working-class section of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Within a few years, each had achieved one of their major goals of finding love; now instead of just two friends they were two couples sharing a duplex and permaculture garden.

At this point, Toensmeier was already making a name for himself through teaching and publishing about permaculture. The fact that he was already a well-known permaculture expert makes his honesty about early doubts and mis-steps in developing the property’s food-producing potential all the more courageous and inspiring.

“The first year, (and for a few years thereafter) the tallest plants in our backyard were annuals–something of an embarrassment for a guy who writes books about perennial edible forest gardens and sets out to prove their potential.” He describes struggling against weeds, numerous plants dying, the rampant spread and takeover of others and the challenges of integrating nitrogen-fixers while leaving enough room for the edible understory that was, after all, supposed to be one of the great garden-design innovations of permaculture. And all of this was happening after he had finished Edible Forest Gardens.

This process — making mistakes, putting things in, taking things out–is, for better or worse, an unavoidable part of establishing a multifunctional garden. From my own experience I can say that one of the most challenging things about the permaculture approach is that it can take years for major crops to begin producing; in the meantime, low yields, slow progress and delays can make one question the validity of the whole enterprise. After all, if it took permaculture expert Eric Toensmeier years to get established, what hope do the rest of us have?

And yet, throughout the process, Toensmeier and Bates project courage, perseverance and most importantly, a cheerful, child-like attitude that allows them to take setbacks in stride and less-successful design choices as important learning experiences.

As a result, by the end of the book, Toensmeier writes, “looking back, I find it almost scary to see how closely Jonathan and I were able to achieve our goals . . . while a lot of individual experiments have failed, overall there is no doubt in my mind that cold-climate forest gardening is a model that can work.” In one of his contributions, Bates says that keeping track in 2010, he estimated for the four residents the garden produced 400 pounds of food in a six month season, which included a startling variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as eggs from chickens. Not bad considering what they had to work with going in.

Toensmeier concludes the book with a reflection on what would happen if gardens like his became widespread. He is honest about the fact that it’s not possible to produce all food four people eat on the land they have available, though they came close to providing for all of their fresh produce and some protein to boot. But Holyoke is a relatively small city (population 40,000)–it’s not that hard to imagine it producing much of its own food sustainably, supplemented with grain, beans, meat and diary from a ring of nearby farms, as Toensmeier suggests.

The most moving part of the book comes at the very end, when Bates and Toensmeier reflect on the possibility of leaving their little piece of paradise. After the work and love put in, it’s hard to wrap your mind around the possibility they might just leave; permaculture is, after all, all about achieving a kind of permanence in life and culture that is absent in our current unstable and unsettling society. And yet, one senses that the almost Zen quality of non-attachment the two friends have toward their work is the very thing that allowed it to flourish and bloom. That, in the end, is perhaps the most important lesson of the book.


Would you still try?

SUBHEAD: If you knew it was too late to save society, would you still try?

By Guy McPherson on 6 June 2013 for the Good Men Project -

Image above: The great mechanical civilization of the past used many “engines” such as this remnant to do all manner of work and transportation. They in turn were powered by vast underground resources of oil or “fossil fuels” that were easily mined. It was the depletion of these fuels that made that age disappear as quickly as it came. Photo and caption by RickC at (

In prior essays for the Good Men Project, I focused on three of six questions asked by Socrates as he pursued a life of excellence: (1) What is justice? (2) What is good? (3) What is courage? The additional questions posed by Socrates are: (4) What is piety? (5) What is moderation? (6) What is virtue? The latter question is the subject of the current essay.

Merriam and Webster equate virtue with morality, the definition of which dives into the notion of right and wrong. Color me confused, either by the teleology of the linguistic pursuit or my own inimitable ignorance, but I believe right action depends completely on circumstances.

Consider, for example, the case of global climate chaos and the irreversible self-reinforcing feedback loops triggered by industrial civilization. If overwhelming evidence points toward near-term human extinction, how shall we respond? What actions are deemed virtuous in this circumstance?

Let’s start with reason. A rational world view demands truth, rather than wishful thinking, as the basis for action. As Carl Sagan said, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Personally, I am profoundly committed to a life of service rooted in reason. For me, a life lived otherwise is not worth living. Indeed, as Socrates demonstrated by example, some things are worth dying for. Service to community and lifelong education certainly fill the bill, regardless how dire our straits.

I am not surprised many people fail to understand the idea that we’re all in this together. Contemporary culture has driven us apart, encouraging us to value competition over cooperation. I am not surprised many people fail to understand that, as the expression goes, divided we fall. And so we are.

Our culture has promoted faux individualism instead of real collaboration. It’s all about me and my stuff, me and my success, me and my ego in this hyper-indulgent morass of American exceptionalism (and pursuit of American ideals by the civilized world).

I recognize it’s too late to save society, and industrialized society is irredeemable, regardless. Capitalism is assumed to be the best, most efficient economic system, but I think it’s better described as a pathology than an economic system.

So I’ll keep moving seemingly immovable individuals beyond their comfort points. I’ll inject empathy, therefore resistance, into a sociopathic culture largely devoid of people willing to stand in opposition to the omnicidal mainstream. I’ll move individuals beyond dark thoughts and into the light of a new world. I’ll move them beyond inaction. I’ll move them beyond the oppression of industrial civilization and into the brave new world of a life that gives as well as taking.

When we fall into the abyss, first as individuals and then as a species, I’ll point out the absurdities of the way we live. Until I can’t, and we don’t.


NSA monitors all telecommunications

SUBHEAD: Intelligence agencies tap servers of top internet companies for web and email information.

By Andrea Mitchel & Jeff Black on 6 June 2013 for MSNBC -

Image above: Server farms are brick-and-mortar facilities that house giant clusters of computer servers in locations usually unknown to internet users. From (

U.S. intelligence agencies have a direct tap into the servers of the United States’ largest internet companies where agents can troll for suspicious activity, sources confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.

The highly classified program, designed to look at international communications and run by the National Security Agency and the FBI, can peek at video, audio, photos, emails and other documents, including connection logs that let the government track people, according to the sources, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity.

Intelligence officials disputed reports that the program was engaged in “data mining,” and instead described the activities as “data collection.” It was unclear what the distinction between the two is in practical terms.

The program, code-named PRISM, was first publicly exposed Thursday evening by The Washington Post and The Guardian.

According to the Post, which reported that it had obtained an internal NSA presentation on the PRISM operation, the tool was so successful its data was the top contributor to President Barack Obama’s daily intelligency brief–with 1,477 articles last year.

The participating technology companies were a virtual “Who’s Who” of Silicon Valley, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple, the Post said.

Companies contacted by NBC denied knowledge of the PRISM operation, which the presentation described as a “partnership” with the technology industry.

“Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data,” Google spokesman Chris Gaither said.

“We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers,” Facebook’s Chief security officer Joe Sullivan said in a statement.

“We have never heard of PRISM,” an Apple spokesman told CNBC. “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”

Microsoft and Yahoo also denied to NBC News knowledge of the program, saying they only comply with legal requests for information on specific individuals.

According the NBC News sources, the government’s PRISM operation works in tandem with another, code-named BLARNEY, that collects “metadata” – Internet addresses, device signatures and such – as the data streams past intersections on the Internet backbone.

The enormous collection of U.S. telephones calls and their durations have been housed in National Security Agency computers for the past seven years. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

Disclosure of the PRISM program cames a day after the Guardian reported that the U.S. government had compelled telephone giant Verizon to turn over phone records of millions of U.S. customers.

Intelligence officials were reeling over the leak about PRISM on Thursday night, sources told NBC News.

The groundwork for doing such widespread monitoring appeared to be first laid in 2007 in the hastily passed “Protect America Act.”

Thursday’s revelation are believed to be the first publicly released results of the law.

Kurt Opshal, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the digital civil rights organization “has been saying for some time that there has been a warrantless surveillance program going on” for the collection of electronic content.

“It allegedly has the cooperation of nine very prominent Internet companies, from which we’re seeing a slew of denials,” he told NBC News. “Denials that are designed to leave the impression that the companies are not participating.”

At “minimum,” he said, “Congress should start holding some hearings and get to the bottom of what’s going on.”

The American Civil Liberties Union was also quick to offer its concerns about what was reportedly an court-approved program that had the consent of Congress.

“These revelations are a reminder that Congress has given the government far too much power to invade individual privacy, that existing civil liberties safeguards are grossly inadequate,” Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, said in a statement, adding that “powers exercised entirely in secret, without public accountability of any kind, will certainly be abused.”

• Pete Williams, Suzanne Choney and Bob Sullivan of NBC News contributed to this report.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama's Verizon Surveillance 6/6/13
Ea O KA Aina: National Defense Authorization Act 2/11/13

Connecticut to label GMO food

SUBHEAD: Connecticut makes history with the first in the nation GMO labeling bill - It's time to turn up the heat!

By Jacqueline Wattles on 3 June 2013 for CT News Junkie -

Image above: Tara Cook-Littman, a Connecticut advocate who pushed for the labeling bill celebrates her victory. From ().

[IB Editor: Unfortunately, Connecticut's bill will only go into effect after at least five other states (with at least one bordering Connecticut and with a combined total population of at least 20 million people) adopt a labeling bill. At least they tried.]

A bill that would mandate labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients passed the House Monday, making Connecticut the first state in the nation to pass this type of legislation.

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are crops that have been manually altered using modern technology in order to be resistant to herbicides and pesticides or take on other characteristics such as a longer shelf-life. Connecticut’s legislation came in response to a national campaign to mandate labels on foods that contain GMOs.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined activists and House and Senate leadership to celebrate the bill’s passage, assuring them that the bill’s last step before enactment - his signature - would not be an issue.

“This is important stuff. . . and I think the rest of the world is starting to understand that,” Malloy said. “I know a lot of you are surprised. I’m not. I saw it coming. It’s an appropriate thing to do.”

Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the bill would make a “critical difference.”

“We have made history in the state of Connecticut, and this issue is so important in terms of the safety of our food supply and the health of the men, women, and children in this country,” Williams said. “We know these GMO foods are tied directly to increased use of herbicides and pesticides that are wreaking havoc in our environment.”

The bill’s passage came after a different version of the bill was shuffled between the House and Senate for weeks before leadership in both chambers came to a compromise.

The issue was whether to allow the law to go into effect automatically, or tack on a “trigger” that would require neighboring states to pass similar legislation before Connecticut’s law would become effective. The idea behind the trigger, as House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said, is to ensure that Connecticut won’t “stand alone” with the bill and cause undesirable economic consequences.

But the House and Senate resolved their differences last week when compromise legislation was passed by the Senate. The new version requires that four other states pass similar legislation in order to “trigger” Connecticut’s labeling requirement. One of the states must share a border with Connecticut and their combined population must equal at least 20 million people.

If the trigger is met, sellers or distributors who sell products containing GMOs that are not labeled would be subject to a daily $1,000 fine per product and the Department of Consumer Protection would be able to embargo the products.

Sharkey said he was pleased with the compromise.

“We were able to come together and compromise to protect consumers and the economy in the state of Connecticut,” he said. “I think it’s a tremendous achievement.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said the reason the bill came back after hitting so many legislative roadblocks was because of the grassroots activism that was louder than ever this session.

“Everyone was committed to making sure we got something passed,” he said. “Sitting down, doing the hard work, listening to the advocates, and getting the bill passed…[the advocates] are the reason.”

The bill received bipartisan support, passing the Senate unanimously and winning a 134-3 vote in the House.

Though the compromise weakens the Senate’s original bill, which would have gone into effect in 2016 regardless of whether other states were on board, the advocates that pressed the legislators for action said they support it.

Tara Cook-Littman, the face of the Right to Know GMO campaign in Connecticut, has spent the past two years lobbying for GMO-labeling legislation. She said was “thrilled” about the legislation and is not concerned about the trigger clause.

“This is a very strong bill . . . it represents the highest standard developed by GMO-labeling leaders throughout the country,” Cook-Litmann said. “To all those concerned about the trigger clause, we have nothing to fear.”

Rep. Diana Urban, one of the bill’s main proponents, said Maine, New Jersey, and New York are “well on their way to passing similar legislation.”

“This is history,” Urban said. “It’s a doable trigger, and I am just thrilled. Sixty-two other countries either ban [GMOs] or label them, and we’re the first in the nation to stand up and do this.”

Sharkey added that passing this bill is instrumental in getting other states to follow suit.

“The hardest thing that we can ever do is get that very first state to say to the country that this is the way we as a people want to see our country go, and Connecticut is going to lead the way,” he said.

Activists that lead GMO-labeling advocacy groups in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all traveled to Hartford to celebrate with the Connecticut advocates. and said they are hopeful Connecticut’s bill will help push proposed legislation in their own states through.

Jim Garrison, a potato farmer and a member of Maine’s Right to Know GMO coalition, said the Maine House of Representatives may vote on a GMO-labeling bill as early as Friday and the bill has 123 co-sponsors.

Martin Dagoberto, a member of the Massachusetts Right to Know GMO coalition, said he felt Connecticut’s action would pressure other states to follow suit.

“This win for Connecticut is a win for all of us,” Dagoberto said. “It feeds our collective momentum, and we will not be stopped. The trigger clause is nothing more than a way to encourage other states to share the burden of defending the integrity of our democracy and our food supply because powerful corporate interests want to keep us in the dark.” GMO-labeling legislation has also been proposed in the lower house of the New York State Legislature, a state Urban said is instrumental in getting on board because of its big economy, but no votes have been taken yet.

Food Democracy Keeps Up Fight

By Lisa Stokke on 6 June 2013 for Food Democracy - 

What a difference a week makes! Last week Food Democracy Now! reported that efforts in Connecticut to label genetically engineered foods had hit a roadblock when the House passed a different version of the bill and last minute amendments deeply compromised real prospects of a GMO labeling bill passing this year in the state.

Undeterred, we issued a grassroots call to action to stand with local Connecticut activists on the ground to make sure that their elected officials did the right thing. After more than 40,000 phone calls from across the country, and as far away as Netherlands, a compromise was reached with leaders in the House, Senate and Governor’s office that makes Connecticut the first state in the U.S. to pass a strong, common sense GMO labeling bill.

Over the weekend the Connecticut Senate voted 34 to 0 to pass an amendment to HB 6527 to label GMOs in Connecticut and 2 days later, the CT House passed the bill 134 to 3. But we need your help to finish the fight to label GMOs in ALL 50 states.

From the beginning Food Democracy Now! has supported mandatory state and federal labeling of GMOs. Right now, Connecticut, has led the way, but we need help to pass a similar bill in Maine, New York and Massachusetts. With GMO labeling in one state, the momentum is already spreading across the country like dominoes falling and Monsanto is panicking.

Because of Monsanto's threats to sue any state that passes a stand alone GMO labeling bill, leaders in the Connecticut House, Senate and Governors office reached a compromise that says GMO labeling will go into effect in Connecticut once 4 other states pass a mandatory GMO labeling.

According to the provision, which is meant to insulate the state of Connecticut from an expensive lawsuit, one state must be touching the Connecticut border (New York, Massachusetts or Rhode Island) and that the states in the North East region have a population totaling 20 million.

The great news is that Maine, Massachusetts, Pennslyvania, New Jersey and New York all have GMO labeling bills in the current session and could follow Connecticut in a matter of weeks so we need your help to keep the pressure on!

Already 26 states have introduced GMO labeling bills this year, with Vermont passing a version in their state House and Maine close to passing one now. Also, this November in Washington state, we’ll fight to win ballot initiative I-522 to make sure we have another state that supports mandatory labeling of GMOs in the U.S.

With your help we can help put a crack in the wall that Monsanto’s corrupt lobbying practices have held up for so long. Earlier this year, you stood with us as Food Democracy Now! helped lead the charge against the Monsanto Protection Act with more than 300,000 signatures and we need you now more than ever!

Last year, Monsanto spent nearly $6 million on lobbying, we’ll never match them financially, but we have something more important – YOU – and an army of grassroots activists dedicated to standing up for our basic right to not only know what’s in our food, but also to protect America’s farmers, our environment and our health from Monsanto’s flawed genetically engineered technology.

With the Senate’s recent failure to allow a floor vote on Senator Merkley’s amendment to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act and the discovery of illegal and unapproved Monsanto GMO wheat in an Oregon farmer’s field, we need your help more than ever!

Because of your help in the past, we’ve been able to take on the most powerful and despised company on the planet. Join Food Democracy Now! today to:Support state’s rights to label GMOs!
  • Continue our fight to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act!
  • Expose the shoddy science behind Monsanto’s GMOs and their toxic chemicals.
  • Protect America’s farmers from unwanted contamination of their crops through our lawsuit against Monsanto.
Remember, democracy is like a muscle, either you use it, or you lose it!
Click here to support GMO labeling and the fight to stop Monsanto. With your help we can win!

1. “Politicians Flinch as a Grass-Roots Movement Comes of Age to Force GMO Labeling” The CT Mirror, June 2, 2013.

2. “Monsanto shares fall as South Korea joins pause in wheat imports”, The Washington Post, May 31, 2013.

3. “HB 6527 Amendment LCO 8508: An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food”.

4. How Grassroots Advocates Beat the Biotech and Food Lobbies”, Huffington Post, June 5, 2013.


Trouble for Monsanto Protection Act

SUBHEAD: US Congress Agriculture Committee is considering repeal of the Monsanto Protection Act - aka the Farmer Assurance Provision.

By Ryan Grim 6 June 2013 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Demonstration in March of 2013 against Monsanto Protection Act. From (

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, pledged to oppose the extension of the so-called the Monsanto Protection Act, a victory for advocates who have been pressing for its repeal.

Stabenow made her pledge in a conversation with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who has been pushing the Senate to vote on an amendment to the farm bill that would repeal the provision. That vote was blocked by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and on Thursday morning the Senate voted to end debate and move to final passage.

When two senators have a pre-arranged public conversation on the Senate floor, it's known as a colloquy and is typically the bow that ties up a deal struck beforehand. While Merkley was unable to get a repeal vote, the colloquy is a significant win for him, with Stabenow promising she will oppose any attempt to extend the Monsanto Protection Act in backroom negotiations.

Monsanto is a global seed and herbicide company that specializes in genetically modified crops. The MPA prevents judges from enforcing injunctions on genetically modified seeds even if they are deemed unsafe. Monsanto has argued that it is unfair to single the company out in the nickname for the law, which is technically known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, when other major agribusiness players also support it.

The measure was originally enacted into law by being inserted into an unrelated spending bill and is set to expire later this year. "The Monsanto Protection Act refers to a policy rider the House slipped into the recently passed continuing resolution and sent over to the Senate," Merkley noted on the floor. "Because of the time-urgent consideration of this must-pass legislation -- necessary to avert a government shutdown -- this policy rider slipped through without examination or debate."

"I wish to assure my friend that I think it would be inappropriate for that language to be adopted in a conference committee or otherwise adopted in a manner designed to bypass open debate in the relevant committees and this chamber," Stabenow told Merkley. "I will do my best to oppose any effort to add this kind of extension in the conference committee on this farm bill or to otherwise extend it without appropriate legislative examination."

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Blunt made the case for the MPA, arguing that the measure aimed to protect farmers who had already purchased seeds that were later deemed unsafe. "I was raised -- my mom and dad were dairy farmers -- once you've made a decision to plant a crop for that year, you can't go back and undo that decision," he said. Requiring Monsanto or other seed companies to compensate the farmer for lost income wasn't a viable strategy, he said, if the seeds had previously been okayed before the court ruling. "You can't sue them for selling a crop that the federal government said is okay to plant," he said.

The measure enables the secretary of the Department of Agriculture to block a judicial injunction and allow the planting of a seed. The USDA, he said, called the provision redundant. "All that did was repeat authority that the secretary in a hearing the other day ... said he already had," Blunt said. "And it didn't require the secretary to do anything that the secretary thought was the wrong thing to do. Which is one of the reasons I thought it was fine."

Merkley's repeal effort saw an outpouring of grassroots support, and a petition announced by his office quickly garnered more than 100,000 signatures. A petition put out by Food Democracy Now, which organized a protest at the White House shortly after the MPA became law in March, similarly picked up a quick 100,000 signatures, and a petition pushed by CREDO Action, an online progressive group with some three million members, did the same.

"That's big for us, the fact that it went from zero to 100,000 just in 24 hours," Becky Bond, the head of CREDO, told HuffPost at the time. "People are really passionate about this issue. A lot of the time people feel helpless with regard to corporate decisions ... The fact that there's someone in the Senate who's fighting for this is exciting to people and they're eager to get their names on it."

Read the exchange between Merkley and Stabenow above, or read the transcript below:
Madam President, I rise to talk about an issue that is important to many Oregonians, section 735 of the continuing resolution, also known as the Monsanto Protection Act. I appreciate this opportunity to engage in a dialog about it with Senator Stabenow, who, as the chair of the committee, is doing a magnificent job of guiding this farm bill through the Senate.

The Monsanto Protection Act refers to a policy rider the House slipped into the recently passed continuing resolution and sent over to the Senate. Because of the time-urgent consideration of this must-pass legislation--necessary to avert a government shutdown--this policy rider slipped through without examination or debate.

That outcome is unfortunate and unacceptable because the content of the policy rider is nothing short of astounding. It allows the unrestricted sale and planting of new variants of genetically modified seeds that a court ruled have not been properly examined for their effect on other farmers, the environment, and human health.

The impact on other farmers can be significant. The current situation in Oregon of GMO wheat escaping a field test--resulting in several nations suspending the import of white wheat from the United States--underscores the fact that poorly regulated GMO cultivation can pose a significant threat to farmers who are not cultivating GMO crops.

Equally troubling to the policy rider's allowance of unrestricted sale and planting of GMO seeds is the fact that the Monsanto Protection Act instructs the seed producers to ignore a ruling of the court, thereby raising profound questions about the constitutional separation of powers and the ability of our courts to hold agencies accountable.

Moreover, while there is undoubtedly some difference in this legislative body on the wisdom of the core policy, there should be outrage on all sides about the manner in which this policy rider was adopted. I have certainly heard that outrage from my constituents in Oregon. They have come to my town halls to protest, and more than 2,200 have written to me.

In an accountable and transparent legislative system, the Monsanto Protection Act would have had to be considered by the Agriculture Committee, complete with testimony by relevant parties. If the committee had approved the act, there would have been a subsequent opportunity to debate it on the floor of this Chamber. Complete transparency with a full opportunity for the public to weigh in is essential.

Since these features of an accountable and transparent legislative system were not honored and because I think the policy itself is unacceptable, I have offered an amendment to the farm bill which would repeal this rider in its entirety. To this point, my efforts to introduce that amendment have been objected to, and it takes unanimous consent. This type of rider has no place in an appropriations bill to fund the Federal Government, and a bill that interferes with our system of checks and balances should never have become law.

Madam President, I absolutely understand Senator Merkley's concerns about the issue and the concerns of many people about this issue. There has been a long-running understanding that we should not be legislating on appropriations, and I share the concern of my colleague that the Agriculture Committee and other appropriate committees didn't have an opportunity to engage in this debate.

As the Senator from Oregon knows, this language was included in the continuing resolution, the bill that funds the government, and that bill will expire on September 30 of this year. I agree with my colleague; we should not extend that provision through the appropriations process. We should have the same type of full and transparent process that both Senator Merkley and I have talked about today.

I wish to assure my friend that I think it would be inappropriate for that language to be adopted in a conference committee or otherwise adopted in a manner designed to bypass open debate in the relevant committees and this Chamber.

I will do my best to oppose any effort to add this kind of extension in the conference committee on this farm bill or to otherwise extend it without appropriate legislative examination.

Madam President, I thank Senator Stabenow. I deeply appreciate the commitment of my colleague to ensure that the Monsanto Protection Act is not tucked into subsequent legislation in a manner that bypasses full committee examination and Senate debate.

The farm bill is extremely important to our Nation. The Senator from Michigan has worked with me to incorporate a number of provisions that are important to the farmers in Oregon, including disaster programs, responding to forest fires, specialty crop research programs, improvements in insurance for organic farmers, and low-cost loans offered through rural electrical co-ops for energy-saving home and business renovations.

It has been a real pleasure to work with Senator Stabenow on those provisions and, again, I thank the Senator for her support for them and for advocating responsible legislative examination of measures such as the Monsanto Protection Act.

Madam President, I thank the Senator from Oregon for his advocacy on so many important policies in this legislation. We worked together closely on forest fires. Senator Merkley and I have been on the phone many times. He wanted to make sure I was aware of what has happened to farmers, homeowners, and landowners in Oregon.

We share a great interest in so many areas as it relates to our organic growers and rural development as well as what is happening in terms of energy efficiency, and, as my friend mentioned, rural electric co-ops.

I thank Senator Merkley for his leadership in many areas, and I look forward to working with the Senator from Oregon as we bring the farm bill to a final vote.

Madam President, again, I thank the chair for her leadership. I know how much she looks forward to the conclusion of this process as we try to enable folks to have various amendments which are appropriate for the farm bill debated on the floor.


Pentagon's Syrian Blackout

SUBHEAD: “Large American Military Force” deployed to Jordan and presumably the Syrian border.

By Mac Slavo on 5 June 2013 for SHTF Plan -

Image above: Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit offload from a Navy Landing Craft Utility vessel at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base in 2012. From (

The catalyst for the next great war will likely occur somewhere in the middle east. The Americans know this. As do the Russians and the Chinese. And as with the last two ‘great wars,’ the groundwork is being laid well ahead of time.
A large American military force disembarked Tuesday, June 4, at the southern Jordanian port of Aqaba – ready for deployment on the kingdom’s Syrian border, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources report. The force made its way north along the Aqaba-Jerash-Ajilon mountain road bisecting Jordan from south to north, under heavy Jordanian military escort.
Our sources disclose that this American force numbers 1,000 troops, the largest to land in Jordan since the Syrian civil war erupted in March 2012. They are members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force carried aboard the USS Kearsageamphibious assault ship, which has been anchored off neighboring Israeli Eilat since mid-May. Upon landing, the marines took to the road in a convoy of armored vehicles including Hummers.
Washington and Amman have imposed a blackout on their arrival.

According to our US sources, the arrival of the US force in Jordan was not directly related to the regular exercise but decided on at an emergency meeting at the Pentagon on May 31, which was attended by top military and civilian Defense Department officials. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is away from Washington, took part by video conference.
DebkaFile via Steve Quayle

Just last month the Russians, in response to a multi-year American Naval buildup, deployed the majority of their Pacific Fleet to the Mediterranean, and they are now shifting nuclear submarines to the region.

Sides are being taken, with Russia providing material support to the Assad regime and the United States providing money and weapons to the Free Syrian Army rebels, who sources claim are not only not Syrian, but likely operatives of America’s sworn enemy Al Queda.

There will be no draw down of troops or naval assets in the near future. Russia and the United States, as well as China, have strategic reasons for being in the region, and no one is going to pull back.

A terrible future lies ahead for the people of Syria and the greater world as this conflict continues to escalate.
Brandon Smith of puts forth an in depth analysis of the situation:
Using Vietnam and other proxy wars as a reference, here is how I believe the war in Syria is likely to progress over the coming months:
  1. Heavy weapons will be supplied to the insurgency, including anti-aircraft weapons, leading to increased casualties, especially civilian casualties.
  2. Assad will respond with expanded and deadly airstrikes and ground troops will advance with the aid of Hezbollah.
  3. Iran will begin openly supplying arms, and step up covert supplies of advisors and ground troops.
  4. Russia will increase arms shipments even further, including anti-ship, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles in order to dissuade U.S. and Israeli interests from sending their own forces into the area.
  5. Syrian insurgents will begin losing ground quickly. The UN will offer to “mediate” a ceasefire, but this will only be designed to allow the insurgents time to regroup, and for the U.S., EU and Israel to position themselves for attack.
  6. The UN ceasefire talks will be a wash, if they even take place. Israel will begin regular airstrikes in the name of stopping Iran and Hezbollah from interfering in the war, or to stop them from obtaining “chemical weapons.” The strikes will be aimed at Syrian military facilities and Syrian infrastructure. There will be many civilian casualties.
  7. Syria will respond with ground to air and ground to ground missiles. Israeli cities will see far more precise targeting than the scud missiles used by Iraq during Gulf I and Gulf II. Civilian deaths will be much higher than expected, despite common claims that Israeli missile defenses are the most advanced in the world (Israel has never faced the threat of advanced Russian missile systems).
  8. A no-fly zone will be announced over Syria, enforced by U.S. and Israeli planes, along with anti-aircraft batteries.
  9. A violent attack will take place in Israel, likely against a civilian population center (I would not be surprised if chemical weapons are involved). The attack will be blamed on the Assad government, or affiliated allies. It might be a real attack or it might be a false flag. In either case, the result will be the commitment of Israeli ground troops.
  10. I think it highly probable that Israel will be the first Western country to invade Syria. However, their involvement will immediately draw a declaration of war from Iran, and, increased ship movements from Russia, which maintains a strategic naval base off the coast of Tartus.
  11. Israel will be swallowed up in a strategic quandary, and will demand U.S. military action. The U.S. will supply that action. Combat will spread into cross-border battles in countries not directly engaged in the fight (as it did in Cambodia during Vietnam).
  12. China will respond with economic retaliation, dumping the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency. Russia will respond by reducing petro-product exports to Europe and staging a massive naval presence in the region. From this point, all bets are off…
Now, the temptation here is for one to immediately take sides and to look at this conflict through the lens of “East vs. West.” This would be a mistake. The Syrian government has in the past acted in tyrannical fashion (though much of the latest accusations appear to be propaganda designed to lure the American public into rallying around another war).
Russia is just as restrictive an oligarchy as the U.S. or the EU. China’s society is a communist nightmare state and the average globalist’s aspiration for what they want America to become one day. Iran has many oppressive policies and is certainly not the kind of country I would ever want to live in. The Syrian insurgency is a mixture of immoral and unprincipled death squads and paid covert wet-work agents. The U.S. government is immorally supplying the cash and weapons for them to operate in the name of fighting the same kind of tyranny that is being instituting here at home.
The point is, there are no “good guys” in this story. There are no heroes; only the insiders, the outsiders, and the general public.
Full analysis at Alt Market: The Terrible Future of the Syrian War
Very few, if any, major conflicts throughout history erupted overnight.

Chess pieces were positioned for years, sometimes decades, before all-out conflict took place.

These people – our dear leaders in America, Russia, China, Syria and Iran among others – are actively pursuing a strategy that is going to get hundreds of millions of people killed.
They are going to take the world to war… again.

Get ready for it, because we are going to see it in our lifetimes.


Obama's Verizon Surveillance

SUBHEAD: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data to NSA shows scale of Obama domestic surveillance.

By Glen Greenwald on 5 June 2013 for the Guardian -

Image above: President Obama listening to phone conversation. From (

The US National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of  customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI's request for its customers' records, or the court order itself.

"We decline comment," said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of "all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls".

The order directs Verizon to "continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order". It specifies that the records to be produced include "session identifying information", such as "originating and terminating number", the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and "comprehensive communication routing information".

The information is classed as "metadata", or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such "metadata" is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration's surveillance activities.

For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on "secret legal interpretations" to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be "stunned" to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.

Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: "We've certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of 'relevance' to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion." The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called "business records" provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration's extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.

In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that "there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows."

"We believe," they wrote, "that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted" the "business records" provision of the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited "metadata" is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens' communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.

Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual's network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.

The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had "been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth" and was "using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity." Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.

These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA's mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency's focus on domestic activities.

In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.

At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: "The NSA's capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter."

DOJ  and NSA leak

DOJ Will 'Very Likely' Investigate Guardian NSA Leak, Says Pete Williams.

By Michael Calderone on 6 June 2013 for Huffington Post -

The U.S. Department of Justice may try seeking out the source of a bombshell article that revealed National Security Agency surveillance of millions of Americans, according to NBC News Justice correspondent Pete Williams.

Glenn Greenwald reported in The Guardian Wednesday night that the NSA is indiscriminately collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers under a top-secret U.S. court order, a major scoop detailing the extent of domestic surveillance that comes amid increasing civil liberties concerns and controversial leak investigations involving the Associated Press and Fox News.

On Thursday’s "Morning Joe," New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson asked if Greenwald would be investigated and suggested the White House would face many questions about the Guardian story.

“They may not be prepared to answer that question,” Wolfson said. “But given what happened with Fox, given what happened with AP, that will be a very hot topic today.”

Williams, a well-sourced reporter who just interviewed Attorney General Eric Holder last night about the leak investigations, jumped in with an answer.

“I was told last night: definitely there will be a leak investigation,” he said.

However, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post Thursday morning that it's premature to suggest an investigation is certain to take place.

“There’s been no referral yet from the intelligence community,” the official said.

On MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" later Thursday morning, Williams slightly walked back his earlier comments from certainty to near certainty. "It seems highly likely this will trigger a leak investigation," he told host Chuck Todd.

While no investigation is yet underway, Williams said, "It just seems very likely, given the sensitivity of this document, that there will be one."

For the story, The Guardian obtained and published the top-secret court order granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that shows the U.S. government is collecting records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers, "regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing." While the government can obtain the records of calls taking place, the order does not allow the seizure of the contents of any conversations. It remains unclear whether the NSA is obtaining records from other phone companies.

"Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA," Greenwald wrote, "but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama."

On Wednesday night, the American Civil Liberties Union described the NSA's massive collecting of phone records as "beyond Orwellian."

The Guardian article has already gotten significant pick-up in the media, with follow-up stories leading the websites of The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal Thursday morning. More questions about domestic surveillance involving millions of Americans, and a potential leak investigation into the source of the story, can be expected to follow.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: NSA monitors all telecommunications 6/6/13 



Google Plus is the Matrix

SUBHEAD: Comparing Google+ to Facebook or Twitter yields little useful information - because it doesn't have the same purpose.

By Charles Arthur on 4 June 2013 for the Guardian -

Image above: Illustration of Morpheus offering the red and blue pills. From (

Pretty much everyone (myself included) has been reading Google+ wrongly. Because it bears many superficial resemblances to social networks such as Facebook or Twitter - you can "befriend" people, you can "follow" people without their following you back - we've thought that it is a social network, and judged it on that basis. By which metric, it does pretty poorly - little visible engagement, pretty much no impact on the outside world.

If Google+ were a social network, you'd have to say that for one with more than 500 million members - that's about half the size of Facebook, which is colossal - it's having next to no wider impact. You don't hear about outrage over hate speech on Google+, or violent videos not getting banned, or men posing as 14-year-old girls in order to befriend real 14-year-old girls. Do people send Google+ links all over the place, in the way that people do from LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Facebook? Not really, no.

There's a simple reason for this. Google+ isn't a social network. It's The Matrix.

Yes - you know, the one from the film. The one that knows everything you're thinking, and which guides what you see and experience.

Consider: if you create a Gmail account, you'll automatically get a Google+ account. Even if you don't ever do anything with it, the Google+ account will track you wherever you're signed in to your Google account.

If you're not signed in when you visit it, Google's front page has a "SIGN IN" button in red and white in the top right: prime colouring and location to grab your attention.

Maps? If you want to save locations, Google+ is pushed at you (for sharing too, though you can avoid it). You have to sign into your Google+ account to edit anything with its Mapmaker facility. (You have to have an account to edit OpenStreetMap too, though there are lots of accounts you can use - an OSM one, or Google, Yahoo, Wordpress, AOL.)

YouTube? You can use it without signing in (you'll get a "Sign in" label in the top) but of course you can't participate by, say, commenting. Drive? Shopping? Wallet? The soon-to-come paid music service? Google+ demands that you log in, so it can sees it all, and log it.

The reason why it doesn't seem like much of a social network is that the "friending" and "following" are just an accidental outgrowth of what it really does - being an invisible overlay between you and the web, which watches what you're doing and logs it and stores that away for future reference.

That's where the "Matrix" part come in. Next time you're searching for something, or looking on a map, or searching on YouTube, you'll see what Google has decided are the "most relevant" results (and of course the "most relevant" adverts). If you frequent climate change denial sites, a search on "climate change" will turn those up ahead of the sites run by rational scientists. Whatever your leaning, politically, sexually, philosophically, if you let Google+ see it then that will be fed back to you. It's the classic "filter bubble".

(You can, by the way, escape from the Google+ filter bubble by using its Ajax search API, which simply gives the "pure" results like you might have received back in, oh, 2007. But not for much longer. It was "deprecated" in November 2010. Although it's still working as of this writing, in future you'll need to sign in with - you guessed - a Google account.)

Of course, in the post-Google+ world, the "most relevant" results are increasingly those which also point to content on Google properties. The idea of the Matrix is that there's less and less outside the Matrix. But some people have noticed. The outcry when this version of search was switched on in the US in January 2012 was remarkable: Twitter, Facebook and MySpace developers united in writing a plugin called "Don't Be Evil", which stripped out the search biasing that Google seemed to be adding in so as to push its product in peoples' faces, and make it seem more popular than it was. Well, the Matrix doesn't really allow for things outside the Matrix; and Facebook, Twitter and (less so) MySpace all lie beyond its spidering. And in Europe, the antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said that Google has to make "more concessions" over how it presents search results - where it presently gives its properties a lot of prominence - if it's to avoid a big court battle.

Google+'s designs on our movements haven't gone unnoticed. Ben Thompson, author of the Stratechery blog, has made this point recently, as has Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis in his Google I/O impressions.
Thompson first:
Think about it: what is more valuable? [Facebook's] Inane chatter, memes, and baby photos, or every single activity you do online (and increasingly offline)? Google+ is about unifying all of Google's services under a single log-in which can be tracked across the Internet on every site that serves Google ads, uses Google sign-in, or utilizes Google analytics.
Every feature of Google+ – or of YouTube, or Maps, or GMail, or any other service – is a flytrap meant to ensure you are logged in and being logged by Google at all times.
And Evans:
Just as Microsoft cross-leveraged Windows and Office, and then Internet Explorer, Google is cross-leveraging search, Gmail, Maps, Android and everything else, tying them together with Plus.
The objective is to index not just the web but the users - to drive better understanding of the data by knowing how and where people use it. This is the point of Google Plus - it's not a social network, but a unified Google identity to tie all of your search and indeed internet use together in a Google database just like Pagerank.
If you want an alternative way to think about Google+, you could start with Horace Dediu's wonderful metaphor comparing what Google does to catching fish:
Google tries to make a business succeed through having a huge amount of _flow_ in terms of data, traffic, queries and information that is indexed. So think about this idea of them tapping into a vast stream. The more volume that is flowing through the system the more revenue they generate.
As so given this very rough analogy I try to sharpen it up by saying: imagine it more as a river. And even more than a river, as a watershed, a river basin. Perhaps a giant basin the size of a continent. The business is, let's say, capturing fish at the mouth of the biggest river, before it exits into the ocean at its delta.
And so your job (as Google) is to catch fish mostly at one point. It's the most efficient way to catch fish because you have the most flow of water at that point and building nets is not trivial.

If you use that metaphor, then Google+ puts radio tags on all the fish. It's so much easier to know where they're going. (Ignore for a moment that you're the fish. It only gets in the way.)

The question really is, now you know that, are you comfortable with it? Personally I always found the choice at the heart of The Matrix a puzzling one. The choices seemed to be: you can know that the world you live in is a blasted, awful place with a dire climate, or you can live in what seems like a fairly comfortable world (as long as you don't mess with the agents, of course).

To be honest, I always wondered whether the people whose "lives" (computer-generated or no) were upended by Neo, the hacker hero of the film, really liked having that choice made for them.

Anyhow, that's what Google+ is about. Discussing it as if it were a social network which needs activity in the way that Facebook and Twitter do misses the point. It really doesn't matter if you never use it, never fill out your profile, never fill a circle, never get added to anyone's circle. What matters to Google is that you're signed in, in order that it can form its matrix of knowledge about you.

So now that you know: red pill or blue pill? Sign in or sign out?


Hawaii premier of Shift Change

SUBHEAD: When many are disillusioned with big business, employee ownership offers real solutions.

By Fred Dente on 5 June 2013 in Island Breath -

Image above: Still image from movie Shift Change.

New film tells the stories of employee-owned businesses that compete successfully in today’s economy while providing secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces. Free Admission.

The Children of the Land, Kapaa, Kauai

Thursday June 20th, 2013 at 6:30pm - 10pm.

Fred Dente
Phone 808-6512815   

The event is presented by Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice,

Video above: Trailer for Shift Change - 7 minutes. From (

The highly anticipated new documentary, SHIFT CHANGE, will have its Hawaii premiere in Kapaa on June 20, 2013.

At a time when many are disillusioned with big banks, big business, and growing inequity in the United States, employee ownership offers real solutions for workers and communities.

SHIFT CHANGE visits thriving cooperative businesses in the U.S. and Spain; sharing on-the-ground experiences, lessons, and observations from the worker-owners on the front lines of the new economy.

SHIFT CHANGE filmmakers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin gained unprecedented access to the world's oldest and largest network of worker cooperatives in Mondragon—in the Basque Country of Spain—where 60% of local residents are employee-owners. With high job security and competitive salaries, the Basque Country boasts half the unemployment rate of the rest of Spain, and the Mondragon Corporation is the country's 10th largest.

SHIFT CHANGE explores many of Mondragon's diverse production facilities; along with its network of cooperative infrastructure, education, and social services agencies, highlighting the qualities that have helped to drive Mondragon's business success while also perpetuating the democratic, socially responsible, community-oriented principles upon which it was founded.
Here in the U.S. where a long decline in manufacturing and a brutal economic crisis have led to millions of Americans being thrown out of work—many are looking to Mondragon as a model. Worker-owned businesses are on the rise, with hundreds of coops in the U.S. today, representing thousands of individual worker/owners.

SHIFT CHANGE highlights some of the vibrant worker-owned companies across the nation: from bakeries to solar energy to manufacturing and engineering. Through in-depth interviews with worker-owners, attendance at coop meetings, and visits to the factory floor, the film conveys the promise that these businesses offer to reinvent our failing economy, provide a pathway to long term stability, and nurture a more egalitarian way of life.

Businesses featured in SHIFT CHANGE include the Bay Area's Arizmendi Bakery Association—inspired by the Mondragon model and comprised of six cooperative bakeries and a development and support collective—and the non-profit Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (W.A.G.E.S), an Oakland-based organization dedicated to promoting the economic and social well being of low-income women through cooperative business ownership.


See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Economy Under a New Management 3/1/13

The Death of Truth

SUBHEAD: The rise of a bitter world where criminals in Brooks Brothers suits and gangsters in  military uniforms crush those who dissent.

By Chris Hedges on 6 May 2013 for truth Dig  -

Image above: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, left, on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London last summer; Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted after a March hearing at Ft. Meade, Md.  From (,0,6358621.story).

A tiny tip of the vast subterranean network of governmental and intelligence agencies from around the world dedicated to destroying WikiLeaks and arresting its founder, Julian Assange, appears outside the red-brick building on Hans Crescent Street that houses the Ecuadorean Embassy. Assange, the world’s best-known political refugee, has been in the embassy since he was offered sanctuary there last June.

British police in black Kevlar vests are perched night and day on the steps leading up to the building, and others wait in the lobby directly in front of the embassy door. An officer stands on the corner of a side street facing the iconic department store Harrods, half a block away on Brompton Road. Another officer peers out the window of a neighboring building a few feet from Assange’s bedroom at the back of the embassy.

Police sit round-the-clock in a communications van topped with an array of antennas that presumably captures all electronic forms of communication from Assange’s ground-floor suite.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), or Scotland Yard, said the estimated cost of surrounding the Ecuadorean Embassy from June 19, 2012, when Assange entered the building, until Jan. 31, 2013, is the equivalent of $4.5 million.

Britain has rejected an Ecuadorean request that Assange be granted safe passage to an airport. He is in limbo. It is, he said, like living in a “space station.”

“The status quo, for them, is a loss,” Assange said of the U.S.-led campaign against him as we sat in his small workroom, cluttered with cables and computer equipment. He had a full head of gray hair and gray stubble on his face and was wearing a traditional white embroidered Ecuadorean shirt. “The Pentagon threatened WikiLeaks and me personally, threatened us before the whole world, demanded that we destroy everything we had published, demanded we cease ‘soliciting’ new information from U.S. government whistle-blowers, demanded, in other words, the total annihilation of a publisher. It stated that if we did not self-destruct in this way that we would be ‘compelled’ to do so.”

 “But they have failed,” he went on. “They set the rules about what a win was. They lost in every battle they defined. Their loss is total. We’ve won the big stuff. The loss of face is hard to overstate. The Pentagon reissued its threats on Sept. 28 last year. This time we laughed. Threats inflate quickly. Now the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department intend to show the world what vindictive losers they are through the persecution of Bradley Manning, myself and the organization more generally.”

Assange, Manning and WikiLeaks, by making public in 2010 half a million internal documents from the Pentagon and the State Department, along with the 2007 video of U.S. helicopter pilots nonchalantly gunning down Iraqi civilians, including children, and two Reuters journalists, effectively exposed the empire’s hypocrisy, indiscriminate violence and its use of torture, lies, bribery and crude tactics of intimidation. WikiLeaks shone a spotlight into the inner workings of empire—the most important role of a press—and for this it has become empire’s prey. Those around the globe with the computer skills to search out the secrets of empire are now those whom empire fears most. If we lose this battle, if these rebels are defeated, it means the dark night of corporate totalitarianism. If we win, if the corporate state is unmasked, it can be destroyed.

U.S. government officials quoted in Australian diplomatic cables obtained by The Saturday Age described the campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks as “unprecedented both in its scale and nature.” The scope of the operation has also been gleaned from statements made during Manning’s pretrial hearing. The U.S. Department of Justice will apparently pay the contractor ManTech of Fairfax, Va., more than $2 million this year alone for a computer system that, from the tender, appears designed to handle the prosecution documents. The government line item refers only to “WikiLeaks Software and Hardware Maintenance.”

The lead government prosecutor in the Manning case, Maj. Ashden Fein, has told the court that the FBI file that deals with the leak of government documents through WikiLeaks has “42,135 pages or 3,475 documents.” This does not include a huge volume of material accumulated by a grand jury investigation. Manning, Fein has said, represents only 8,741 pages or 636 different documents in that classified FBI file.

There are no divisions among government departments or the two major political parties over what should be Assange’s fate. “I think we should be clear here. WikiLeaks and people that disseminate information to people like this are criminals, first and foremost,” then-press secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking for the Obama administration, said during a 2010 press briefing.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and then-Sen. Christopher S. Bond, a Republican, said in a joint letter to the U.S. attorney general calling for Assange’s prosecution: “If Mr. Assange and his possible accomplices cannot be charged under the Espionage Act (or any other applicable statute), please know that we stand ready and willing to support your efforts to ‘close those gaps’ in the law, as you also mentioned. …”

Republican Candice S. Miller, a U.S. representative from Michigan, said in the House: “It is time that the Obama administration treats WikiLeaks for what it is—a terrorist organization, whose continued operation threatens our security. Shut it down. Shut it down. It is time to shut down this terrorist, this terrorist Web site, WikiLeaks. Shut it down, Attorney General [Eric] Holder.”

At least a dozen American governmental agencies, including the Pentagon, the FBI, the Army’s Criminal Investigative Department, the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Diplomatic Security Service, are assigned to the WikiLeaks case, while the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are assigned to track down WikiLeaks’ supposed breaches of security. The global assault—which saw Australia threaten to revoke Assange’s passport—is part of the terrifying metamorphosis of the “war on terror” into a wider war on civil liberties. It has become a hunt not for actual terrorists but a hunt for all those with the ability to expose the mounting crimes of the power elite.

The dragnet has swept up any person or organization that fits the profile of those with the technical skills and inclination to burrow into the archives of power and disseminate it to the public. It no longer matters if they have committed a crime.

The group Anonymous, which has mounted cyberattacks on government agencies at the local and federal levels, saw Barrett Brown—a journalist associated with Anonymous and who specializes in military and intelligence contractors—arrested along with Jeremy Hammond, a political activist alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with 5.5 million emails between the security firm Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) and its clients.

Brown and Hammond were apparently seized because of allegations made by an informant named Hector Xavier Monsegur—known as Sabu—who appears to have attempted to entrap WikiLeaks while under FBI supervision.

To entrap and spy on activists, Washington has used an array of informants, including Adrian Lamo, who sold Bradley Manning out to the U.S. government.

WikiLeaks collaborators or supporters are routinely stopped—often at international airports—and attempts are made to recruit them as informants. Jérémie Zimmerman, Smári McCarthy, Jacob Appelbaum, David House and one of Assange’s lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, all have been approached or interrogated. The tactics are often heavy-handed. McCarthy, an Icelander and WikiLeaks activist, was detained and extensively questioned when he entered the United States. Soon afterward, three men who identified themselves as being from the FBI approached McCarthy in Washington. The men attempted to recruit him as an informant and gave him instructions on how to spy on WikiLeaks.

On Aug. 24, 2011, six FBI agents and two prosecutors landed in Iceland on a private jet. The team told the Icelandic government that it had discovered a plan by Anonymous to hack into Icelandic government computers. But it was soon clear the team had come with a very different agenda. The Americans spent the next few days, in flagrant violation of Icelandic sovereignty, interrogating Sigurdur Thordarson, a young WikiLeaks activist, in various Reykjavik hotel rooms. Thordarson, after the U.S. team was discovered by the Icelandic Ministry of the Interior and expelled from the country, was taken to Washington, D.C., for four days of further interrogation. Thordarson appears to have decided to cooperate with the FBI. It was reported in the Icelandic press that he went to Denmark in 2012 and sold the FBI stolen WikiLeaks computer hard drives for about $5,000.

There have been secret search orders for information from Internet service providers, including Twitter, Google and Sonic, as well as seizure of information about Assange and WikiLeaks from the company Dynadot, a domain name registrar and Web host.

Assange’s suitcase and computer were stolen on a flight from Sweden to Germany on Sept. 27, 2010. His bankcards were blocked. WikiLeaks’ Moneybookers primary donation account was shut down after being placed on a blacklist in Australia and a “watch list” in the United States. Financial service companies including Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, Western Union and American Express, following denunciations of WikiLeaks by the U.S. government, blacklisted the organization. Last month the Supreme Court of Iceland found the blacklisting to be unlawful and ordered it lifted in Iceland by May 8. There have been frequent massive denial-of-service attacks on WikiLeak’s infrastructure.

And there is a well-orchestrated campaign of character assassination against Assange, including mischaracterizations of the sexual misconduct case brought against him by Swedish police. Assange has not formally been charged with a crime. The two women involved have not accused him of rape.

Bradley Manning’s heroism extends to his steadfast refusal, despite what appears to be tremendous pressure, to implicate Assange in espionage. If Manning alleges that Assange had instructed him on how to ferret out classified documents, the U.S. might try to charge Assange with espionage.

Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy after exhausting his fight to avoid extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden. He and his lawyers say that an extradition to Sweden would mean an extradition to the U.S. If Sweden refused to comply with U.S demands for Assange, kidnapping, or “extraordinary rendition,” would remain an option for Washington.

Kidnapping was given legal cover by a 1989 memorandum issued by the Justice Department stating that “the FBI may use its statutory authority to investigate and arrest individuals for violating United States law, even if the FBI’s actions contravene customary international law” and that an “arrest that is inconsistent with international or foreign law does not violate the Fourth Amendment.” This is a stunning example of the security and surveillance state’s Orwellian doublespeak. The persecution of Assange and WikiLeaks and the practice of extraordinary rendition embody the shredding of the Fourth Amendment, which was designed to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

Two Swedes and a Briton were seized by the United States last August somewhere in Africa—it is assumed to have been in Somalia—and held in one of our black sites. They suddenly reappeared—with the Briton stripped of his citizenship—in a Brooklyn courtroom in December facing terrorism charges. Sweden, rather than object to the extradition of its two citizens, dropped the Swedish charges against the prisoners to permit the rendition to occur. The prisoners, The Washington Post reported, were secretly indicted by a federal grand jury two months after being taken.

The persistence of WikiLeaks, despite the onslaught, has been remarkable. In 2012 it released some of the 5.5 million documents sent from or to the private security firm Stratfor. The documents, known as “the Global Intelligence Files,” included an email dated Jan. 26, 2011, from Fred Burton, a Stratfor vice president, who wrote: “Text Not for Pub. We [the U.S. government] have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”

WikiLeaks’ most recent foray into full disclosure includes the Kissinger files, or the WikiLeaks Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy. The files, which have built into them a remarkable search engine, provide access to 1.7 million diplomatic communications, once confidential but now in the public record, that were sent between 1973 and 1976. Henry Kissinger, secretary of state from September 1973 to January 1977, authored many of the 205,901 cables that deal with his activities.

In the files it appears that the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may have been hired by the Swedish group Saab-Scania to help sell its Viggen fighter jet to India while his mother, Indira Gandhi, was prime minister.

In 1975 Kissinger during a conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey and two Turkish and Cypriot diplomats assured his hosts that he could work around an official arms embargo then in effect. He is quoted in the documents as saying: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”

The documents, along with detailing collaborations with the military dictatorships in Spain and Greece, show that Washington created a torture exemption to allow the military government in Brazil to receive U.S. aid.

The documents were obtained from the National Archives and Record Administration and took a year to be prepared in an accessible digital format. “It is essentially what Aaron Swartz was doing, making available documents that until now were hard to access or only obtainable through an intermediary,” Assange said in the interview.

Swartz was the Internet activist arrested in January 2011 for downloading more than 5 million academic articles from JSTOR, an online clearinghouse for scholarly journals. Swartz was charged by federal prosecutors with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The charges carried the threat of $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. Swartz committed suicide last Jan. 11.

Assange, 41, works through most of the night and sleeps into the late afternoon. Even though he uses an ultraviolet light device, he was pale, not surprising for someone who has not been out in sunlight for nearly a year. He rarely gives interviews. A treadmill was tilted up against a wall of his quarters; he said he sets it up and tries to run three to five miles on it every day. He has visits from a personal trainer, with whom he practices calisthenics and boxing. He is lanky at 6 feet 2 inches tall and exudes a raw, nervous energy. He leaps, sometimes disconcertingly, from topic to topic, idea to idea, his words rushing to keep up with his cascading thoughts. He works with a small staff and has a steady stream of visitors, including celebrities such as Lady Gaga. When the Ecuadorean Ambassador Ana Alban Mora and Bianca Jagger showed up late one afternoon, Assange pulled down glasses and poured everyone whiskey from a stock of liquor he keeps in a cabinet. His visitors chatted at a small round table, seated in leatherette chairs. Jagger wanted to know how to protect her website from hackers. Assange told her to “make a lot of backup copies.”

It is from this room that Assange and his supporters have mounted an election campaign for a seat in Australia’s upper house of Parliament. Public surveys from the state of Victoria, where Assange is a candidate, indicate he has a good chance of winning.

Assange communicates with his global network of associates and supporters up to 17 hours a day through numerous cellphones and a collection of laptop computers. He encrypts his communications and religiously shreds anything put down on paper. The frequent movements of the police cordon outside his window make sleep difficult. And he misses his son, whom he raised as a single father. He may also have a daughter, but he does not speak publicly about his children, refusing to disclose their ages or where they live. His family, he said, has received death threats. He has not seen his children since his legal troubles started. The emotional cost is as heavy as the physical one.

Assange said he sees WikiLeaks’ primary role as giving a voice to the victims of U.S. wars and proxy wars by using leaked documents to tell their stories. The release of the Afghan and Iraq War Logs, he said, disclosed the extent of civilian death and suffering, and the plethora of lies told by the Pentagon and the state to conceal the human toll. The logs, Assange said, also unmasked the bankruptcy of the traditional press and its obsequious service as war propagandists.

“There were 90,000 records in the Afghan War Logs,” Assange said. “We had to look at different angles in the material to add up the number of civilians who have been killed. We studied the records. We ranked events different ways. I wondered if we could find out the largest number of civilians killed in a single event. It turned out that this occurred during Operation Medusa, led by Canadian forces in September 2006. The U.S.-backed local government was quite corrupt. The Taliban was, in effect, the political opposition and had a lot of support. The locals rose up against the government. Most of the young men in the area, from a political perspective, were Taliban. There was a government crackdown that encountered strong resistance. ISAF [the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] carried out a big sweep. It went house to house. Then an American soldier was killed. They called in an AC-130 gunship. This is a C-130 cargo plane refitted with cannons on the side. It circled overhead and rained down shells. The War Logs say 181 ‘enemy’ were killed. The logs also say there were no wounded or captured. It was a significant massacre. This event, the day when the largest number of people were killed in Afghanistan, has never been properly investigated by the old media.”

Operation Medusa, which occurred 20 miles west of Kandahar, took the lives of four Canadian soldiers and involved some 2,000 NATO and Afghan troops. It was one of the largest military operations by the ISAF in the Kandahar region.

Assange searched for accounts of reporters who were on the scene. What he discovered appalled him. He watched an embedded Canadian reporter, Graeme Smith of the Toronto Globe and Mail, use these words on a Canadian military website to describe his experiences during Operation Medusa:

In September 2006 I had one of the most intense experiences of my life. I was on the front lines of something called Operation Medusa. It was a big Canadian offensive against the Taliban who were massed outside of Kandahar City. The Taliban were digging trenches and intimidating locals, and the Canadians decided to sweep in there in big numbers and force them out. And I was travelling with a platoon that called themselves the “Nomads”. These were guys who had been sent all over, you know, sort of, a 50,000 square kilometer box out to the very edges of Kandahar City, and so they were moving around all the time; they were never sleeping in the same place twice and they’d even made up these little patches for their uniforms that said “Nomads” on them.
The Nomads took me in and they sort of made me one of them. I spent what was originally supposed to be just a two or three day embed with them, stretched out into two weeks. I didn’t have a change of underwear. I didn’t have a change of shirt. I remember showering in my clothes, washing first the clothes on my body, then stripping the clothes off and washing my body, and that was just using a bucket as a shower. It was an intense experience. I slept in my flak jacket a lot of nights. We were under fire together, you know, we had RPGs whistling in.
One time I was standing around behind a troop carrier and we were just sort of relaxing—we were in a down moment—and I think some guys had coffee out and were standing around and I heard a loud clap beside my right ear. It was like someone had sort of snuck up behind me and sort of played a prank by clapping beside my ear. I turned around to say hey that’s not really funny, that’s kind of loud, and all of the soldiers were lying on the ground because they know what to do when an incoming sniper round comes in, and I didn’t because [laughs] it was my first time under fire. So I threw myself to the ground as well. They had sort of made me one of them and so they gave me a little “Nomads” patch that I attached to my flak jacket and you know as a journalist you try to avoid drinking the Kool-Aid, but I did feel a sense of belonging with those guys.

"The physical demeanor of this man, the way he describes life in the great outdoors, led me to understand that here was someone who had never boxed, been mountain climbing, played rugby, been involved in any of these classically masculine activities,” Assange said. “Now, for the first time, he feels like a man. He has gone to battle. It was one of many examples of the failure by the embedded reporters to report the truth. They were part of the team.”

Assange is correct. The press of a nation at war, in every conflict I covered, is an enthusiastic part of the machine, cheerleaders for slaughter and tireless mythmakers for war and the military. The few renegades within the press who refuse to wave the flag and slavishly lionize the troops, who will not endow them with a host of virtues including heroism, patriotism and courage, find themselves pariahs in newsrooms and viciously attacked—like Assange and Manning—by the state.

As a reporter at The New York Times, I was among those expected to prod sources inside the organs of power to provide information, including top-secret information. The Pentagon Papers, released to the Times in 1971, and the Times’ Pulitzer-winning 2005 exposure of the warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens by the National Security Council used “top secret” documents—a classification more restricted than the lower-level “secret” designation of the documents released by WikiLeaks. But as the traditional press atrophies with dizzying speed—effectively emasculated by Barack Obama’s use of the Espionage Act half a dozen times since 2009 to target whistle-blowers like Thomas Drake—it is left to the renegades, people like Assange and Manning, to break down walls and inform the public.

The cables that WikiLeaks released, as disturbing as they were, invariably put a pro-unit or pro-U.S. spin on events. The reality in war is usually much worse. Those counted as dead enemy combatants are often civilians. Military units write their own after-action reports and therefore attempt to justify or hide their behavior. Despite the heated rhetoric of the state, no one has provided evidence that anything released by WikiLeaks cost lives. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a 2010 letter to Sen. Carl Levin conceded this point. He wrote Levin: “The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security. However, the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure.”

The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel giddily printed redacted copies of some of the WikiLeaks files and then promptly threw Assange and Manning to the sharks. It was not only morally repugnant, but also stunningly shortsighted. Do these news organizations believe that if the state shuts down organizations such as WikiLeaks and imprisons Manning and Assange, traditional news outlets will be left alone? Can’t they connect the dots between the prosecutions of government whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act, warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of communications and the persecution of Manning and Assange? Don’t they worry that when the state finishes with Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks, these atrophied news outlets will be next? Haven’t they realized that this is a war by a global corporate elite not against an organization or an individual but against the freedom of the press and democracy?

And yet Assange is surprisingly hopeful—at least for the short and medium term. He believes that the system cannot protect itself completely from those who chip away at its digital walls.

“The national security state can try to reduce our activity,” he said. “It can close the neck a little tighter. But there are three forces working against it. The first is the massive surveillance required to protect its communication, including the nature of its cryptology. In the military everyone now has an ID card with a little chip on it so you know who is logged into what. A system this vast is prone to deterioration and breakdown.

 Secondly, there is widespread knowledge not only of how to leak, but how to leak and not be caught, how to even avoid suspicion that you are leaking. The military and intelligence systems collect a vast amount of information and move it around quickly. This means you can also get it out quickly. There will always be people within the system that have an agenda to defy authority. Yes, there are general deterrents, such as when the DOJ [Department of Justice] prosecutes and indicts someone. They can discourage people from engaging in this behavior. But the opposite is also true. When that behavior is successful it is an example. It encourages others. This is why they want to eliminate all who provide this encouragement.”

“The medium-term perspective is very good,” he said. “The education of young people takes place on the Internet. You cannot hire anyone who is skilled in any field without them having been educated on the Internet. The military, the CIA, the FBI, all have no choice but to hire from a pool of people that have been educated on the Internet. This means they are hiring our moles in vast numbers. And this means that these organizations will see their capacity to control information diminish as more and more people with our values are hired.”

The long term, however, may not be as sanguine. Assange recently completed a book with three co-authors—Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann—called “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet.” It warns that we are “galloping into a new transnational dystopia.” The Internet has become not only a tool to educate, they write, but the mechanism to cement into place a “Postmodern Surveillance Dystopia” that is supranational and dominated by global corporate power. This new system of global control will “merge global humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.” It is only through encryption that we can protect ourselves, they argue, and only by breaking through the digital walls of secrecy erected by the power elite can we blunt state secrecy. “The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation,” Assange writes, “has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen.”

The U.S., according to one of Assange’s lawyers, Michael Ratner, appears poised to seize Assange the moment he steps out of the embassy. Washington does not want to become a party in two competing extradition requests to Britain. But Washington, with a sealed grand jury indictment prepared against Assange, can take him once the Swedish imbroglio is resolved, or can take him should Britain make a decision not to extradite. Neil MacBride, who has been mentioned as a potential head of the FBI, is U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, which led the grand jury investigation, and he appears to have completed his work.

Assange said, “The grand jury was very active in late 2011, pulling in witnesses, forcing them to testify, pulling in documents. It’s been much less active during 2012 and 2013. The DOJ appears ready to proceed with the prosecution proper immediately following the Manning trial.”

Assange spoke repeatedly about Manning, with evident concern. He sees in the young Army private a reflection of his own situation, as well as the draconian consequences of refusing to cooperate with the security and surveillance state.

Manning’s 12-week military trial is scheduled to begin in June. The prosecution is calling 141 witnesses, including an anonymous Navy SEAL who was part of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Assange called the Navy SEAL the “star diva” of the state’s “12-week Broadway musical.” Manning is as bereft of establishment support as Assange.

“The old media attempted to remove his alleged heroic qualities,” Assange said of Manning. “An act of heroism requires that you make a conscious act. It is not an unreasoned expression of madness or sexual frustration. It requires making a choice—a choice that others can follow. If you do something solely because you are a mad homosexual there is no choice. No one can choose to be a mad homosexual. So they stripped him, or attempted to strip him, of all his refinements.”

“His alleged actions are a rare event,” Assange went on. “And why does a rare event happen? What do we know about him? What do we know about Bradley Manning? We know that he won three science fairs. We know the guy is bright. We know that he was interested in politics early on. We know he’s very articulate and outspoken. 

We know he didn’t like lies. ... We know he was skilled at his job of being an intelligence analyst. If the media was looking for an explanation they could point to this combination of his abilities and motivations. They could point to his talents and virtues. They should not point to him being gay, or from a broken home, except perhaps in passing. Ten percent of the U.S. military is gay. Well over 50 percent are from broken homes. Take those two factors together. That gets you down to, say, 5 percent—5 percent on the outside. There are 5 million people with active security clearances, so now you’re down to 250,000 people. You still have to get from 250,000 to one. You can only explain Bradley Manning by his virtues. Virtues others can learn from.”

I walked for a long time down Sloane Street after leaving the embassy. The red double-decker buses and the automobiles inched along the thoroughfare. I passed boutiques with window displays devoted to Prada, Giorgio Armani and Gucci. I was jostled by shoppers with bags stuffed full of high-end purchases. They, these consumers, seemed blissfully unaware of the tragedy unfolding a few blocks away. “In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences,” Albert Camus wrote in “The Plague.” “A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions.”

I stopped in front of the four white columns that led into the brick-turreted Cadogan Hotel. The hotel is where Oscar Wilde was arrested in Room 118 on April 6, 1895, before being charged with “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons.” John Betjeman imagined the shock of that arrest, which ruined Wilde’s life, in his poem “The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel.”

Here’s a fragment:
A thump, and a murmur of voices— 
(“Oh why must they make such a din?”)
As the door of the bedroom swung open  
“Mr. Woilde, we ’ave come for tew take yew  
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quoietly  
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.”
The world has been turned upside down. The pestilence of corporate totalitarianism is spreading rapidly over the earth. The criminals have seized power. It is not, in the end, simply Assange or Manning they want. It is all who dare to defy the official narrative, to expose the big lie of the global corporate state.

The persecution of Assange and Manning is the harbinger of what is to come, the rise of a bitter world where criminals in Brooks Brothers suits and gangsters in beribboned military uniforms—propped up by a vast internal and external security apparatus, a compliant press and a morally bankrupt political elite—monitor and crush those who dissent.

Writers, artists, actors, journalists, scientists, intellectuals and workers will be forced to obey or thrown into bondage. I fear for Julian Assange. I fear for Bradley Manning. I fear for us all.

Hear also:

Audio clip one: Chris Hedges talks with Julian Assange about his opponents’ legal strategies.
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Audio clip two: Julian Assange shares his thoughts on the Bradley Manning Case.
Your browser does not support the audio element. (Transcript)