SECRET DOCS REVEAL: PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS INHERITED AN FBI WITH VAST HIDDEN POWERS
February 7, 2017
IN THE WAKE of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the FBI assumes an importance and influence it has not wielded since J. Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972. That is what makes today’s batch of stories from The Intercept, The FBI’s Secret Rules, based on a trove of long-sought confidential FBI documents, so critical: It shines a bright light on the vast powers of this law enforcement agency, particularly when it comes to its ability to monitor dissent and carry out a domestic war on terror, at the beginning of an era highly likely to be marked by vociferous protest and reactionary state repression.
In order to understand how the FBI makes decisions about matters such as infiltrating religious or political organizations, civil liberties advocates have sued the government for access to crucial FBI manuals — but thanks to a federal judiciary highly subservient to government interests, those attempts have been largely unsuccessful. Because their disclosure is squarely in the public interest, The Intercept is publishing this series of reports along with annotated versions of the documents we obtained.
Trump values loyalty to himself above all other traits, so it is surely not lost on him that few entities were as devoted to his victory, or played as critical a role in helping to achieve it, as the FBI. One of the more unusual aspects of the 2016 election, perhaps the one that will prove to be most consequential, was the covert political war waged between the CIA and FBI. While the top echelon of the CIA community was vehemently pro-Clinton, certain factions within the FBI were aggressively supportive of Trump. Hillary Clinton herself blames James Comey and his election-week letter for her defeat. Elements within the powerful New York field office were furious that Comey refused to indict Clinton, and embittered agents reportedly shoveled anti-Clinton leaks to Rudy Giuliani. The FBI’s 35,000 employees across the country are therefore likely to be protected and empowered. Trump’s decision to retain Comey — while jettisoning all other top government officials — suggests that this has already begun to happen.
When married to Trump’s clear disdain for domestic dissent — he venerates strongman authoritarians, called for a crackdown on free press protections, and suggested citizenship-stripping for flag-burning — the authorities vested in the FBI with regard to domestic political activism are among the most menacing threats Americans face. Trump is also poised to expand the powers of law enforcement to surveil populations deemed suspicious and deny their rights in the name of fighting terrorism, as he has already done with his odious restrictions on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Understanding how the federal government’s law enforcement agency interprets the legal limits on its own powers is, in this context, more essential than ever. Until now, however, the rules governing the FBI have largely been kept secret.
CLEVELAND, OH – JULY 18: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump enters the stage to introduce his wife Melania on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Donald Trump enters the stage at the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Today’s publication is the result of months of investigation by our staff, and we planned to publish these articles and documents regardless of the outcome of the 2016 election. The public has an interest in understanding the FBI’s practices no matter who occupies the White House. But in the wake of Trump’s victory, and the unique circumstances that follow from it, these revelations take on even more urgency.
After Congress’s 1976 Church Committee investigated the excesses of Hoover’s FBI, in particular the infamous COINTELPRO program — in which agents targeted and subverted any political groups the government deemed threatening, including anti-war protesters, black nationalists, and civil rights activists — a series of reforms were enacted to rein in the FBI’s domestic powers. As The Intercept and other news outlets have amply documented, in the guise of the war on terror the FBI has engaged in a variety of tactics that are redolent of the COINTELPRO abuses — including, for example, repeatedly enticing innocent Muslims into fake terror schemes concocted by the bureau’s own informants. What The Intercept’s reporting on this new trove of documents shows is how the FBI has quietly transformed the system of rules and restraints put in place after the scandals of the ’70s, opening the door for a new wave of civil liberties violations. When asked to respond to this critique, the FBI provided the following statement:
All FBI policies are written to ensure that the FBI consistently and appropriately applies the lawful tools we use to assess and investigate criminal and national security threats to our nation. All of our authorities and techniques are founded in the Constitution, U.S. law, and Attorney General Guidelines. FBI policies and rules are audited and enforced through a rigorous internal compliance mechanism, as well as robust oversight from the Inspector General and Congress. FBI assessments and investigations are subject to responsible review and are designed to protect the rights of all Americans and the safety of our agents and sources, acting within the bounds of the Constitution.
Absent these documents and the facts of how the bureau actually operates, this may sound reassuring. But to judge how well the bureau is living up to these abstract commitments, it is necessary to read the fine print of its byzantine rules and regulations — which the FBI’s secrecy has heretofore made it impossible for outsiders to do. Now, thanks to our access to these documents — which include the FBI’s governing rulebook, known as the DIOG, and classified policy guides for counterterrorism cases and handling confidential informants — The Intercept is able to share a vital glimpse of how the FBI understands and wields its enormous power.
For example, the bureau’s agents can decide that a campus organization is not “legitimate” and therefore not entitled to robust protections for free speech; dig for derogatory information on potential informants without any basis for believing they are implicated in unlawful activity; use a person’s immigration status to pressure them to collaborate and then help deport them when they are no longer useful; conduct invasive “assessments” without any reason for suspecting the targets of wrongdoing; demand that companies provide the bureau with personal data about their users in broadly worded national security letters without actual legal authority to do so; fan out across the internet along with a vast army of informants, infiltrating countless online chat rooms; peer through the walls of private homes; and more. The FBI offered various justifications of these tactics to our reporters. But the documents and our reporting on them ultimately reveal a bureaucracy in dire need of greater transparency and accountability.
One of the documents contains an alarming observation about the nation’s police forces, even as perceived by the FBI. Officials of the bureau were so concerned that many of these police forces are linked to, at times even populated by, overt white nationalists and white supremacists, that they have deemed it necessary to take that into account in crafting policies for sharing information with them. This news arrives in an ominous context, as the nation’s law enforcement agencies are among the few institutional factions in the U.S. that supported Trump, and they did so with virtual unanimity. Trump ran on a platform of unleashing an already out-of-control police — “I will restore law and order to our country,” he thundered when accepting the Republican nomination — and now the groups most loyal to Trump are those that possess a state monopoly over the use of force, many of which are infused with racial animus.
The Church Committee reforms were publicly debated and democratically enacted, based on the widespread fears of sustained intelligence community overreach brought to light by journalists like Seymour Hersh and Betty Medsger, who covered the shocking files revealing Hoover’s activities that were seized by the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI in 1971. It is simply inexcusable to erode those protections in the dark, with no democratic debate.
As we enter the Trump era, with a nominated attorney general who has not hidden his contempt for press freedoms and a president who has made the news media the primary target of his vitriol, one of the most vital weapons for safeguarding basic liberties and imposing indispensable transparency is journalism that exposes information the government wants to keep suppressed. For exactly that reason, it is certain to be under even more concerted assault than it has been during the last 15 years. The revealing, once-secret FBI documents The Intercept is today reporting on, and publishing, demonstrate why protecting press freedom is more critical than ever.
Update: February 1, 2017
This article has been updated to include the role of Betty Medsger and the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI in exposing Hoover’s overreach.
Glenn Greenwald, Betsy Reed
January 31 2017, 1:38 p.m.
Find this story at 31 January 2017
HIDDEN LOOPHOLES ALLOW FBI AGENTS TO INFILTRATE POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS
February 7, 2017
President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.
USING LOOPHOLES IT has kept secret for years, the FBI can in certain circumstances bypass its own rules in order to send undercover agents or informants into political and religious organizations, as well as schools, clubs, and businesses.
Beneath the FBI’s redaction marks are exceptions to rules on “undisclosed participation.”
If the FBI had its way, the infiltration loopholes would still be secret. They are detailed in a mammoth document obtained by The Intercept, an uncensored version of the bureau’s governing rulebook, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, or DIOG. The 2011 edition of the book, which covers everything from wiretapping to how to read Miranda rights, was made public in redacted form thanks to a lawsuit brought by civil liberties groups. Beneath the FBI’s redaction marks were exceptions to rules on “undisclosed participation” that could be easy to exploit.
The FBI rules show a significant level of oversight when it comes to looking into “sensitive” groups — namely, those with religious, political, or academic affiliations. For instance, if an undercover agent wants to pose as a university student and take classes, or if an FBI handler wants to tell an informant to attend religious services — two examples straight out of the rulebook — he or she must obtain a supervisor’s approval and attest both to the operation’s importance and to its compliance with constitutional safeguards.
But all those rules go out the window if an agent decides the group is “illegitimate” or an informant spies on the group of his or her own accord.
The FBI insists that supervisors regularly review agents’ work to make sure these exceptions aren’t being misused, and that the extra steps and approvals detailed in the guide are proof that the bureau has voluntarily limited its authorities beyond what it believes to be the legal minimum.
An FBI spokesperson said that a provision in the DIOG encourages agents to err on the side of considering something sensitive if there is any doubt.
“That discretion will be part of our regular case review. Agents will be asked, ‘Hey, why isn’t that a sensitive investigative matter?’” the spokesperson said.
But civil rights groups still worry that the FBI has made use of precisely these kinds of loopholes, silently undermining cherished freedoms enshrined after a dark chapter of FBI history: the COINTELPRO program in the 1950s and ’60s, when the FBI spied on, harassed, and tried to discredit leftists, civil rights leaders, and anti-war protestors. The exposure of COINTELPRO led to a famous Senate investigation and to institutional reform. The bureau adopted new rules and stricter oversight. Since 9/11, however, these hard-won protections have been weakened. What the public has not known is by exactly how much.
“Going into political gatherings, houses of worship — these are First Amendment-protected activities,” said Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, a group that originally sued to have the rulebook released, particularly over concerns about the issue of undercover infiltration. “We believed the DIOG to be a broadening of their authority to go into those spaces.”
The FBI sees it exactly the other way.
“These are a voluntary narrowing of our authorities. We learn from history and try to get better,” the spokesperson said.
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 11: Muslims exit the mosque following traditional Friday prayers outside the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge on November 11, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. During the sermon, the mosque’s imam reflected on many issues including the election of Donald J. Trump. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) People exit the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge following traditional Friday prayers on Nov. 11, 2016, in New York’s Brooklyn borough. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
THE FBI OPENLY acknowledges that some of its undercover operations can be “intrusive” and carry “a greater risk to civil liberties,” and therefore that they may require higher levels of approval or legal review. The requirements for a particular operation vary depending on how intimately the FBI employee or informant will be involved with the group, and what kind of group it is.
The FBI distinguishes between “sensitive undisclosed participation,” in political, religious, media, or academic groups, and “non-sensitive undisclosed participation,” in groups “such as a business or a club formed for recreational purposes.” (Even this basic distinction was previously redacted.)
The once-censored rules explain that for non-sensitive groups, a supervising agent must sign off if the plan is for an FBI agent to infiltrate a group in order to gain information or as part of an investigation. An informant doing the same thing does not require extra approval. If the participation of the FBI agent or informant will influence the group’s activities, then the head counsel for the division needs to review the plan. If the FBI’s presence is specifically likely to influence the group’s First Amendment-protected activity (if, as the guide specifies, the FBI participant plans to steer the group’s agenda on “social, religious, or political” issues), then the FBI’s office of general counsel must get involved, and perhaps senior FBI officials.
The requirements for infiltrating a group considered sensitive are even more stringent: The FBI agent must get approval both from a supervisor and from the head lawyer of his or her division, while also notifying a committee that oversees FBI operations. And if the intention or likelihood is that this infiltration will influence a sensitive group’s exercise of its First Amendment rights, then the FBI director must sign off.
These rules appear to offer layers of oversight. But they only kick in when certain conditions are met. The policy guide gives agents considerable discretion in deciding whether infiltrating an organization constitutes “undisclosed participation” at all — and therefore, whether it requires the extra approvals.
For instance, none of the rules apply if a foreign government operates the organization, or if the FBI “reasonably” believes the organization to be acting on behalf of a foreign power, so long as its U.S.-based members are mostly foreigners. And the rules only apply to groups the FBI deems “legitimate.” The redacted definition of a “legitimate” group is one “formed for lawful purposes” and whose “activities are primarily lawful.” This would exclude obvious criminal networks but could also exclude activist groups if an agent decides that their “primary purpose” is to hold protests involving unlawful acts.
“An organization whose primary purpose is to engage in destruction of property as a means to bring public attention to commercial activities that harm the environment is also not a legitimate organization within the meaning of this definition because its primary purpose is to engage in criminal conduct,” the guide says. “On the other hand, an organization that seeks to bring attention to a social or political cause by engaging primarily in lawful protest or advocacy, but also some acts of civil disobedience, is a legitimate organization.”
Michael German, a former FBI agent who is a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said that such language gives agents wiggle room to justify themselves if they are found to have been improperly investigating an organization.
“It’s not that you can’t ever investigate a legitimate organization, it’s just that it requires an additional level of oversight because of the history of abuse,” German said. “So do we really want to have agents parsing the language of what’s legitimate and what isn’t legitimate without that oversight?”
Classifying constitutionally protected activities as “illegitimate” is not a distant possibility. There have been many recent examples of the FBI twisting or ignoring the rules in order to investigate political or religious groups. In 2010, to take just one example, a Justice Department inspector general found that the FBI had violated policy in investigating groups including the Catholic Worker, Greenpeace, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Documents released last year showed that the bureau tracked Keystone Pipeline protesters without proper authorization. The FBI has also generated legal controversy with its use of informants in mosques.
The definition of what constitutes “participation” is also flexible in the FBI’s reading.
It was previously known that FBI agents and informants could go to public events without identifying themselves and attend up to five meetings of an organization without triggering the undisclosed participation rules — although sending an informant or employee to a religious service always requires a supervisor’s approval, the guide states.
Another loophole allows that if an informant volunteers information about a group without having been asked to collect it, FBI agents don’t have to worry about whether the informant obtained the information through undisclosed participation.
And although the rules require legal review if the FBI employee’s or informant’s participation is intended to influence a group, what constitutes “influencing” is narrowly defined: A source or undercover employee “simply voting or expressing an opinion” does not count. When it comes to First Amendment concerns, the FBI’s activities must “substantially affect the agenda of the organization” in order to raise flags.
There are certain caveats that go in a more restrictive direction: For instance, the rules specify that joining a mailing list or following a group on Twitter does constitute “participation,” and that agents are supposed to err on the side of caution when determining whether or not a group is “legitimate” or whether having undercover agents participate in group activities is “sensitive.”
Tarek Ismail, senior staff attorney with CLEAR, an initiative at the City University of New York that works with communities affected by counterterrorism policies, said that the breadth of these exceptions elaborated in the DIOG demonstrates “broad rules created and then chipped away.”
He added that the rules’ apparent flexibility made sense of the experiences of many of his clients. “There’s a disconnect between what’s on paper and what’s actually done,” Ismail said. “We see significant departures from these rules in our cases, but clearly it’s not because these rules are hard to live with.”
US Attorney General Michael Mukasey listens to a speaker during the graduation ceremony for Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, on October 30, 2008. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey listens to a speaker during the graduation ceremony for FBI special agents at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., on Oct. 30, 2008. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
THE DIOG, DESPITE being hundreds of pages of dense bureaucracy, actually documents a loosening of the standards enacted to rein in the FBI after COINTELPRO and other scandals involving the bureau under Director J. Edgar Hoover.
“The baseline that we started from in the 1970s was that there were no rules governing the FBI,” said Emily Berman, a law professor at the University of Houston.
The fallout from COINTELPRO resulted in new guidelines from the attorney general that reined in domestic intelligence gathering by requiring that agents’ investigations be focused on actual criminal activity. Yet in the decades since — and especially after the 9/11 attacks — the bureau’s mandate has expanded again, beyond the realm of crime fighting and toward intelligence gathering in the name of combating terrorism.
The FBI, which has no single statute governing its activities, has operated under a series of guidelines issued by attorneys general over the years. The DIOG first came out in the last months of the Bush administration in 2008, implementing guidelines from then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Mukasey emphasized intelligence sharing and the retention of information “regardless of whether it furthers investigative objectives in a narrower or more immediate sense.” He cited the “historical evolution of the FBI” after the 9/11 attacks toward the elimination of the traditional wall between foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement.
At the time, civil liberties groups were alarmed that Mukasey’s rules, known as the “Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations,” broadened the authorities of the FBI to collect and retain more data than ever before, and allowed for “assessments,” in which agents could probe for information without evidence of wrongdoing. Some of the tactics authorized for assessments were quite invasive, allowing for physical surveillance, interviews, and the tasking of informants to collect information.
Muslim Advocates, with other groups, sued to have the whole rulebook released without redactions. They argued that the redacted portions couldn’t be very sensitive given that the FBI had invited advocacy groups to review portions of the guide at its offices before implementation. But in 2011, a judge disagreed and allowed the redactions to remain. Although portions of the DIOG have been updated since then — the FBI recently posted a new version from 2013, also redacted — the 2011 guide remains the baseline document.
Some of the redactions are inconsistent, with identical text covered in one place and not in another. Most of the text beneath the redactions simply spells out designations of authorities and necessary signoffs for particular activities.
“Now being able to look at what was redacted, it’s hard to understand what the justification would have been” for withholding the information, German said, “other than to prevent having to have a public dialogue about whether these changes to the FBI’s authority were appropriate.”
“This is something that the public has a right to know, what policies the government is operating under, particularly when they’re using authorities that have both a long history and recent history of abuse,” said German. “Anytime you come across some sort of improper activity, you can’t say it’s improper unless you know what the rules are.”
January 31 2017, 1:06 p.m.
Find this story at 31 January 2017
SECRET RULES MAKE IT PRETTY EASY FOR THE FBI TO SPY ON JOURNALISTS
February 7, 2017
Rules governing the use of national security letters allow the FBI to obtain information about journalists’ calls without going to a judge or informing the targeted news organization.
President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.
This story was originally published on June 30, 2016. We are republishing it along with new reporting on other FBI documents.
SECRET FBI RULES allow agents to obtain journalists’ phone records with approval from two internal officials — far less oversight than under normal judicial procedures.
The classified rules, obtained by The Intercept and dating from 2013, govern the FBI’s use of national security letters, which allow the bureau to obtain information about journalists’ calls without going to a judge or informing the news organization being targeted. They have previously been released only in heavily redacted form.
Media advocates said the documents show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists’ information.
The rules stipulate that obtaining a journalist’s records with a national security letter requires the signoff of the FBI’s general counsel and the executive assistant director of the bureau’s National Security Branch, in addition to the regular chain of approval. Generally speaking, there are a variety of FBI officials, including the agents in charge of field offices, who can sign off that an NSL is “relevant” to a national security investigation.
There is an extra step under the rules if the NSL targets a journalist in order “to identify confidential news media sources.” In that case, the general counsel and the executive assistant director must first consult with the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
But if the NSL is trying to identify a leaker by targeting the records of the potential source, and not the journalist, the Justice Department doesn’t need to be involved.
The guidelines also specify that the extra oversight layers do not apply if the journalist is believed to be a spy or is part of a news organization “associated with a foreign intelligence service” or “otherwise acting on behalf of a foreign power.” Unless, again, the purpose is to identify a leak, in which case the general counsel and executive assistant director must approve the request.
“These supposed rules are incredibly weak and almost nonexistent — as long as they have that second signoff, they’re basically good to go,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which has sued the Justice Department for the release of these rules. “The FBI is entirely able to go after journalists and with only one extra hoop they have to jump through.”
A spokesperson for the FBI, Christopher Allen, declined to comment on the rules or say if they had been changed since 2013, except to say that they are “very clear” that “the FBI cannot predicate investigative activity solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
The Obama administration has come under criticism for bringing a record number of leak prosecutions and aggressively targeting journalists in the process. In 2013, after it came out that the Justice Department had secretly seized records from phone lines at the Associated Press and surveilled Fox News reporter James Rosen, then-Attorney General Eric Holder tightened the rules for when prosecutors could go after journalists. The new policies emphasized that reporters would not be prosecuted for “newsgathering activities,” and that the government would “seek evidence from or involving the news media” as a “last resort” and an “extraordinary measure.” The FBI could not label reporters as co-conspirators in order to try to identify their sources — as had happened with Rosen — and it became more difficult to get journalists’ phone records without notifying the news organization first.
Yet these changes did not apply to NSLs. Those are governed by a separate set of rules, laid out in a classified annex to the FBI’s operating manual, known as the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, or DIOG. The full version of that guide, including the classified annex, was last made public in redacted form in 2011.
The section of the annex on NSLs obtained by The Intercept dates from October 2013 and is marked “last updated October 2011.” It is classified as secret with an additional restriction against distribution to any non-U.S. citizens.
Emails from FBI lawyers in 2015, which were released earlier this year to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, reference an update to this portion of the DIOG, but it is not clear from the heavily redacted emails what changes were actually made.
In a January 2015 email to a number of FBI employee lists, James Baker, the general counsel of the FBI, attached the new attorney general’s policy and wrote that “with the increased focus on media issues,” the FBI and Justice Department would “continue to review the DIOG and other internal policy guides to determine if additional changes or requirements are necessary.”
“Please be mindful of these media issues,” he continued, and advised consulting with the general counsel’s office “prior to implementing any techniques targeting the media.” But the email also explicitly notes that the new guidelines do not apply to “national security tools.”
Allen, the FBI spokesperson, told The Intercept in an emailed statement that “the FBI periodically reviews and updates the DIOG as needed” and that “certainly the FBI’s DIOG remains consistent with all [attorney general] guidelines.”
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said that the “use of NSLs as a way around the protections in the guidelines is a serious concern for news organizations.”
Last week, the Reporters Committee filed a brief in support of the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s lawsuit for the FBI’s NSL rules and other documents on behalf of 37 news organizations, including The Intercept’s publisher, First Look Media. (First Look also provides funding to both the Reporters Committee and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and several Intercept staffers serve on the foundation’s board.)
Seeing the rules in their uncensored form, Timm, of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said that the FBI should not have kept them classified.
“Redacting the fact that they need a little extra signoff from supervisors doesn’t come close to protecting state secrets,” he said.
The FBI issues thousands of NSLs each year, including nearly 13,000 in 2015. Over the years, a series of inspector general reports found significant problems with their use, yet the FBI is currently pushing to expand the types of information it can demand with an NSL. The scope of NSLs has long been limited to basic subscriber information and toll billing information — which number called which, when, and for how long — as well as some financial and banking records. But the FBI had made a habit of asking companies to hand over more revealing data on internet usage, which could include email header information (though not the subject lines or content of emails) and browsing history. The 2013 NSL rules for the media only mention telephone toll records.
Another controversial aspect of NSLs is that they come with a gag order preventing companies from disclosing even the fact that they’ve received one. Court challenges and legislative changes have loosened that restriction a bit, allowing companies to disclose how many NSLs they receive, in broad ranges, and in a few cases, to describe the materials the FBI had demanded of them in more detail. Earlier this month, Yahoo became the first company to release three NSLs it had received in recent years.
It’s unclear how often the FBI has used NSLs to get journalists’ records. Barton Gellman, of the Washington Post, has said that he was told his phone records had been obtained via an NSL.
The FBI could also potentially demand journalists’ information through an application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISA court), which, like NSLs, would also not be covered by the Justice Department policy. The rules for that process are still obscure. The emails about revisions to the FBI guidelines reference a “FISA portion,” but most of the discussion is redacted.
For Brown, of the Reporters Committee, the disclosure of the rules “only confirms that we need information about the actual frequency and context of NSL practice relating to newsgathering and journalists’ records to assess the effectiveness of the new guidelines.”
Top photo: Jerry Delakas, 63, a longtime newspaper vendor in Manhattan’s Cooper Square, stands by his newsstand on April 3, 2012, in New York City.
January 31 2017, 12:37 p.m.
Find this story at 31 January 2017
DESPITE ANTI-PROFILING RULES, THE FBI USES RACE AND RELIGION WHEN DECIDING WHO TO TARGET
February 7, 2017
The bureau still claims considerable latitude to use race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion in deciding which people and communities to investigate.
President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.
ONE OF THE Obama administration’s high-profile criminal justice reform efforts was a new policy that purported to ban racial profiling in federal law enforcement. But internal policy guidelines The Intercept has obtained show that the FBI has left its racial profiling practices virtually unchanged, and that the bureau still claims considerable latitude to use race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion in deciding which people and communities to investigate.
The issue of profiling by federal law enforcement and immigration authorities has taken on new urgency with the inauguration of Donald Trump, who as a candidate called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and was slow to denounce white supremacist supporters. Among his first moves in office has been an executive order banning immigration from a list of majority-Muslim countries.
The FBI updated its policy on racial profiling as recently as March 3, 2016, in a section of its main governing manual, known as the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. (The Intercept is publishing the 2011 edition of the DIOG in its entirety, along with the updated section on profiling.) The guidelines make clear that when an FBI agent is deciding whether or how to investigate someone, he or she can consider factors like race, nationality, or ethnicity so long as these factors are clearly relevant and coincide with other reasons for suspicion. And when the FBI selects communities on which to gather intelligence — in order to generate what the bureau calls “domain awareness” — it also allows itself to take such factors into consideration.
The only policy change on profiling added in the five-year gap between the manuals — and in the wake of former Attorney General Eric Holder’s anti-profiling initiative — is that the new version reflects an expanded definition of profiling, which covers not just race and ethnicity but also gender identification, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation.
Civil liberties groups, which have long objected to the FBI’s practice of surveilling ethnic communities and seeding them with informants, say that the guidelines leave the door open to alarming forms of monitoring.
“The fact that the DIOG hasn’t changed is exactly what we had feared,” said Ferhana Khera, president of the group Muslim Advocates. “While we appreciate that Attorney General Holder expanded the categories to include religion, national origin, and sexual orientation, we were concerned that he did not go far enough in making those revisions, and that it still gave a green light to the FBI to engage in activities that would target our communities.”
The flexible guidelines on racial profiling show that the FBI’s formal procedures reflect the blunt talk of its leadership. In late 2014, when the Department of Justice announced the new rules, Holder, who had spoken about his own experiences being stopped by the police as a young black man, heralded them as an important step to ensure “sound, fair, and strong policing practices.”
Yet the very next day, FBI Director James Comey insisted that the new guidance would have no impact on his agency’s counterterrorism investigations or on its ability to look for informants and map Muslim communities and businesses in the United States.
“No, nothing. It doesn’t require any change to our policies or procedures,” he said in a press briefing.
Behind the scenes, the FBI had reportedly pushed back against any rules from Holder that would ban consideration of race, ethnicity, and religion in counterterrorism investigations. Federal law enforcement has long been barred from scrutinizing someone solely on the basis of race or ethnicity, unless chasing down a particular suspect of a crime. But rules in effect under the administration of George W. Bush included a blanket exception for national security and border investigations.
Holder’s guidelines retain significant loopholes. For example, they explicitly permit cultivating sources of a particular ethnicity when investigating a terrorist organization made up of members of that ethnic group. They also allow mapping a city and looking at “population demographics, including concentrations of ethnic demographics,” if that information is collected “pursuant to an authorized intelligence or investigative purpose.” Moreover, the guidelines apply only to federal law enforcement, not to local and state police, and not to federal agents near the borders.
The FBI argues that agents need such latitude in order to recruit informants who might have insight into terrorist networks. For example, the bureau has suggested, agents might look within Somali communities in the United States for people who might have information about the Shabab militant group.
“When there is a threat from outside the country, it makes sense to know who inside the country might be able to help law enforcement,” Comey argued in 2014. “It is about knowing the neighborhoods: What’s it like, where’s the industry, where are the businesses, are there particular groups of folks who live in a particular area?”
In recent years, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents showing FBI field offices investigating ethnic communities based on broad generalities. For example, a 2009 document from San Francisco justified mapping that city’s Chinese neighborhoods because “within this community there has been organized crime for generations.” In Michigan, the FBI looked at the “large Middle Eastern and Muslim population” as “prime territory for attempted radicalization.”
Civil liberties groups, and Muslim groups in particular, oppose this logic, noting that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans have nothing to do with terror networks.
“Imagine the FBI deciding to collect data on where all Italian-Americans live, the churches that they worship in, and their charitable giving activities, because they’re concerned about the mob,” said Khera. “Rather than focusing on where there’s evidence of particular criminal activity, they collect data in one broad brush on an entire ethnic group.”
The mapping policy has also come under criticism from those who see it as a representation of the FBI’s mutation after the 9/11 attacks into an intelligence agency with broad investigative powers aimed at counterterrorism rather than at solving specific crimes.
Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said that she worried about the FBI combining mapping with “the vast reams of public information that are now available about everybody (including, for example, social media posts and travel records obtained through license plate readers) to create detailed portraits of each of us and of entire communities.”
An FBI spokesperson said the guidelines under which the FBI operates “are very clear that the FBI cannot predicate investigative activity solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights, including freedom of religion, or on race or ethnicity.”
NOGALES, AZ – FEBRUARY 26: A U.S. Border Patrol agent speaks to a driver at a checkpoint from Mexico into the United States on February 26, 2013 north of Nogales, Arizona. Some 15,000 people cross between Mexico and the U.S. each day in Nogales, Arizona’s busiest border crossing. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents are tasked with stopping the illegal flow of drugs into the U.S. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) A U.S. Border Patrol agent speaks to a driver at a checkpoint north of Nogales, Ariz., on Feb. 26, 2013. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
THE FBI’S PROFILING loopholes raise questions about the extent to which other federal law enforcement agencies will amend their practices — especially under a Trump administration that has pledged to take a hard line on immigration and counterterrorism. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Transportation Security Administration have all been expected to put out new policies, which are “badly overdue,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel for the ACLU.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP and TSA, does have its own policy against racial profiling, but it has a broad loophole for national security. CBP’s current guidance states that “the use of nationality as a screening, enforcement, or investigative criterion is appropriate for the vast majority of CBP functions and operations.” A CBP spokesperson told The Intercept this fall that the agency follows Holder’s 2014 rules but did not elaborate on whether or how it will update its own guidance.
A spokesperson for DHS told The Intercept last month that the department “has reviewed the Attorney General’s guidelines on racial, ethnic, religious and other profiling by federal law enforcement and is in the process of developing our own department-wide standards.”
Activist groups have documented the targeting of Latino drivers for traffic stops and other examples of Border Patrol activity that extends well beyond actual border crossings. Last year, The Intercept reported on FBI cooperation with CBP to create lists of passengers arriving from “countries of interest” who might make good informants.
The TSA has also been singled out for allegedly profiling minority passengers for extra screening. In April, a Minnesota TSA manager said that he was told by his supervisor to look for Somali-Americans.
“Absent a specific, reliable suspect description, no law enforcement agency should engage in profiling based on protected characteristics because such profiling is ineffective and offensive,” Rickerd said. “We call on CBP and TSA to make clear that discriminatory enforcement plays no role in their operations, as well as to implement public data collection and training reforms to be vigilant against profiling.”
Top photo: Somali Muslims pray during a soccer tournament in St. Paul, Minn.
January 31 2017, 1:04 p.m.
Find this story at 31 January 2017
117 rights defenders assassinated in Colombia in 2016
February 7, 2017
As many as 117 social leaders and human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2016, according to conflict-monitoring NGO Indepaz.
The number of homicides of rights leaders registered by the NGO is more than double than reported by the government, which has said 55 rights leaders were killed last year.
The report that was released on Tuesday claimed that the regions where the highest number of homicides occurred were the southwestern provinces of Valle del Cauca, Nariño and Cauca, where 57 social leaders were killed.
These three provinces were strongholds of Marxist guerrilla group FARC until the group signed peace with the government and agreed to abandon its territory late last year.
Killing of Colombia’s human rights defenders continues relentlessly
“The presence of paramilitary groups has increased, especially in the areas where the FARC was present,” according to Indepaz.
The Colombian government has consistently denied the existence of paramilitary groups, claiming only organized crime groups are active in Colombia.
The deaths of these social leaders and human rights defenders have been attributed to illegal armed groups to control areas and protect their own political, financial and criminal interests.
These killings have been committed … with the purpose of displacing communities, appropriating territories, defending mega-projects and political control in the regions.”
Indepaz investigator Leonardo Gonzalez
As the peace process and demobilization of the Marxist FARC rebels continues, concerns have raised about the presence of neo-paramilitary groups whom have reportedly being moving into to territory previously controlled by the FARC.
The report called on the government to recognize “the paramilitary phenomenon that could be behind” these atrocities with Leonardo Gonzalez claiming that the murders are as a result of these groups seeking to protect their interests and prevent the dramatic change that the peace process as a whole may bring.
Those who are against seeing their local or regional interests affected, take radical positions and do not want to accept that we are marching towards an end to armed confrontation and conflict. The systematic nature of these events can not be denied, which requires a response from the State as a whole.
Indepaz investigator Leonardo Gonzalez
Extortion in Colombia: Crime groups filling FARC void
The report claims that in 15 of Colombia’s 32 provinces leaflets in which social leaders are accused of being guerrillas and condemned to death or exile have appeared.
INDEPAZ say that in 27 of the 117 murders in 2016, the participation of paramilitary successor groups such as the AGC, “the Tierreros” and “Aguilas Negras” has been confirmed.
In 84 cases it was not possible to identify the perpetrators and in six there are indications that the security forces were involved.
Husband and wife brutally murdered as attacks on Colombia’s community leaders continue
The killings have sparked outcry from rights leaders who have demanded increased protection from neo-paramilitary groups.
The wave of violence has also caught the attention of the United Nations.
The international body last month published a report publicly condemning the violence.
written by Stephen Gill January 25, 2017
Find this story at 25 January 2017
@2016 – Colombia Reports
A human rights defender killed every other day in 2017 in Colombia
February 7, 2017
In the first 23 of January 2017, 11 human rights defenders have been killed. One of those killed was Afro-Colombian human rights defender (HRD) Emilsen Manyoma and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega.
On 17 January 2017, the bodies of Afro-Colombian human rights defender (HRD) Emilsen Manyoma and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega were found in Buenaventura. They had been missing since Saturday 14 January 2017. Just a few days before their disappearance, Rodallega reported being threatened and said a truck had been circling Manyoma’s house (see video below).
The local NGO who works with the communities in this region of the country, the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, an ecumenical human rights organisation and partner of ABColombia member Christian Aid, reported that both bodies were severely wounded and that Rodallega’s hands had been tied. Contagio Radio said that both bodies had been beheaded.
Emilsen Manyoma was a prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region, as well as an active member of the community network CONPAZ. She had been a brave and outspoken critic of right-wing paramilitary groups and the displacement of local communities by business interests. She denounced paramilitary control and drug trafficking operations in the Calima and San Juan Rivers, and the Buenaventura District, as well as, the lack of action and tolerances by the police of drug trafficking. 
During 2016 s part of the recently created Truth Commission, Emilsen Manyoma played a key role in documenting attacks on human rights leaders in the region.
 Statement by: Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, Asesinada lideresa de CONPAZ, Emilsen Manyoma y su esposo, Buenaventura, Martes 17 de enero de 2017
ABColombia Published on 26 Jan 2017
Find this story at 26 January 2017
Ex-Spy Chief Charged in 1989 Slaying of Colombian (2015)
April 13, 2016
BOGOTA – A former director of Colombia’s DAS intelligence agency has turned himself in after the Attorney General’s Office ordered his arrest in connection with the 1989 assassination of reformist presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan.
Miguel Maza Marquez surrendered late Tuesday at a DAS academy.
Prosecutors say Maza Marquez made changes to Liberal Party hopeful Galan’s security detail just hours before he was killed on Aug. 18, 1989, at a campaign rally in the Bogota suburb of Soacha.
One of the slain politician’s sons, Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, said his family received the news of the arrest with a sense of calm.
“We received this news with serenity,” the relative said, adding that he trusts “the Colombian justice system has the will and capacity to do justice” in this case.
Since early Tuesday, top officials with the AG office have been analyzing the legal issues surrounding this case to prevent any potential indictments from being blocked by the statute of limitations.
But no time limit would apply for initiating legal proceedings if the AG office determines Galan’s murder to be a crime against humanity.
The investigation into Maza Marquez, who was a presidential candidate himself after leaving the DAS, began about a month ago, when then-Attorney General Mario Iguaran said there was sufficient evidence to summon him for questioning.
Former fighters with the ostensibly demobilized AUC paramilitary federation have said in sworn statements that Maza Marquez played a key role in Galan’s murder. But, according to prosecutors, testimony by erstwhile warlord Ernesto Baez giving details of the ex-DAS official involvement in the slaying carried the most weight.
Politicians and drug kingpins are suspected of planning and instigating the still-unsolved murder, among them former Sen. Alberto Santofimio Botero and late Medellin cartel chief Pablo Escobar.
Galan was the favorite in the 1990 presidential election; his campaign manager, Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, won the balloting following his murder. EFE
Find this story at 2015
Copyright Latin American Herald Tribune
Cartel de Cali ofreció a presidente Barco matar a Escobar (2015)
April 13, 2016
El exdirector del DAS general (r) Miguel Alfredo Maza Márquez señaló que la organización mafiosa le ofreció al mandatario asesinar a quien fuera su más enconado rival.
Maza Márquez: Cartel de Cali ofreció matar a Pablo Escobar Cartel de Cali ofreció a presidente Barco matar a Escobar Foto: Guillermo Torres
Este martes se cumplió el segundo día del juicio contra el exdirector del DAS general (r) Miguel Maza Márquez, ante la corte Suprema de Justicia por su presunta responsabilidad en la muerte del entonces candidato presidencial Luis Carlos Sarmiento en 1989.
Como ha sido habitual en el proceso, Maza se ha defendido de los señalamientos en su contra argumentando que todo hace parte de un complot en su contra gestado por la familia Galán.
Como se preveía, dentro de sus narraciones han empezado a fluir detalles ignotos para la opinión pública. Precisamente, este martes aseguró que el presidente Virgilio Barco (1986-1990) aseguró que los capos del cartel de Cali le ofrecieron matar su más enconado rival: Pablo Escobar, capo del cartel de Medellín.
“El presidente Barco me comunicó la propuesta que se le había hecho y yo le dije: ‘Señor presidente, yo no hablo con ningún delincuente porque eso posteriormente me lo van a cobrar’”, dijo.
Maza contó que ante la negativa del Gobierno, los hermanos Rodríguez, jefes del cartel de Cali, insistieron. No obstante, la posición oficial fue que si ellos querían colaborar, podía usar las líneas telefónicas que el Gobierno había divulgado en los medios de comunicación para que las personas denunciaran.
Por otra parte, Maza Márquez manifestó ante los magistrados que tiene nuevas fotos que por sus propios medios consiguió y que advierten que el entonces recientemente nombrado jefe de escoltas de Galán Sarmiento, Jacobo Torregrosa, nunca dejó de acompañar al candidato en Soacha ese fatídico 18 de agosto de 1989, tal como él ha insistido.
No obstante, el magistrado que preside la audiencia, Fernando Castro, le inquirió acerca de la procedencia de estas fotos. El oficial en retiro aseguró que las tiene desde hace un mes, que no sabe aún cuántas son y que -supuestamente- sólo se las ha mostrado a su abogado defensor.
Sin embargo, el abogado de Maza dijo no tener conocimiento de dicho material, pero que había recibido en las últimas 24 horas un paquete que al parecer contiene un registro fotográfico. ¿Qué otros secretos revelará Maza?
NACIÓN | 2015/06/02 16:18
Find this story at 02 June 2015
COPYRIGHT © 2016 PUBLICACIONES SEMANA S.A.
Colombian officials flee justice — and the country (2014)
April 13, 2016
Over the last decade, Western media has fairly extensively covered the War on Drugs carried out by the U.S. and Colombian governments, writing profiles and producing segments on the string of drug traffickers facing justice –often after being extradited to the US. The criminal justice system, apparently, has been working.
Less widely known is the reality that some of the Colombians that have left the country in recent years — usually heading north — haven’t left to face justice. Instead, they’ve been fleeing it. And these weren’t criminals heading up drug trafficking groups, but rather former members of the Colombian government itself.
At the end of August, Julian Marulanda, the former head of a government body known as the National Protection Unit, which provides security to threatened individuals including political figures and human rights defenders, fled to Miami to avoid facing corruption charges.
Less than a week later, Sandra Morelli, the former Comptroller General, fled to Rome to avoid corruption charges just one day after finishing her term. She claims to have left Colombia due to a lack of “procedural guarantees” in the investigation of alleged abuses she committed while acting head of the highest fiscal watchdog in the country.
These two officials are in good company. Several other top Colombian government officials from the previous administration of former President Álvaro Uribe have also sought asylum abroad over the last few years.
This past June, the ex-Minister of Agriculture Andres Felipe Arias decided to leave for vacation the same day Colombian media reported a potential guilty ruling in his four-year court case. He was eventually convicted of embezzling $25 million from state subsidies intended for poor farmers and distributing the money to powerful families and even paramilitary groups instead. If Arias, who currently lives with his family in the U.S., ever returns to Colombia, he’ll have to serve more than 17 years in prison.
Serious crimes — but no punishment
Even these charges, serious as they may be, appear relatively mild next to the alleged crimes committed by other officials in the Uribe administration.
In 2010, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the former head of Uribe’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS, fled to Panama, where she still resides. It has been alleged, and substantial evidence suggests that under her leadership the DAS spied on President Uribe’s political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders and even Supreme Court judges who were investing Uribe’s political allies’ ties to paramilitary groups. The U.S. government, which counted Uribe as a close ally at the time, was also implicated in these crimes, as it had provided much of the equipment used in the wiretapping scandal.
Yet another Uribe-era official to flee the country was the former High Peace Commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo. Just before Uribe’s successful bid for re-election in 2006, Restrepo allegedly organized the demobilization of a fake FARC guerrilla unit with the help of a former guerrilla fighter and drug trafficker.
Paramilitary leaders have also accused Restrepo of undermining the demobilization process by having all the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) paramilitary blocs demobilize simultaneously, thus inundating the prosecutor general’s office with so many cases that the overburdened office couldn’t process the vast majority of them. If true, this strategy appears to have largely been successful, as to date only 36 paramilitary leaders have been convicted out of the almost 2,700 who participated in the demobilization process. Restrepo fled in 2012, many believe to the US.
With these long list of alleged — and often very serious — crimes, how successful have these government officials been in their attempts to escape the reach of the law?
It still too soon to say. Colombian newsweekly Semana just reported this week that Restrepo has been given asylum in Canada, thought the Canadian embassy has neither confirmed nor denied this. For the moment, at least, he appears safely out of reach of the Colombian justice system.
Arias has applied for asylum in the U.S., but Colombia has asked Interpol to issue a warrant for his arrest, and the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled to begin the process of his extradition. It’s unclear how long this process could take.
Hurtado has been in Panama for nearly four years and the Colombian government has twice failed to extradite her. The Panamanian government claims her charges are not included in the extradition treaty signed by the two countries. However, as TeleSurTV reported Monday, Panamanian authorities would agree to extradite her if requested to do so by Interpol.
Morelli might be able to use her Italian citizenship to avoid extradition, while it is unclear what options exist for Marulanda.
What is clear, though, is that as long as these officials continue to escape justice for the crimes they committed while they were members of the government, institutional corruption and abuses of power will continue unabated in Colombia.
by Joel Gillin | 11th September 2014 | @joelgillin
Find this story at 11 September 2014
© Copyright 2016 Latin Correspondent
Where Does This End?”: After Drone Papers Leaks, U.K. Gov’t Has a Kill List of Its Own
October 23, 2015
Last week, The Intercept published the most in-depth look at the U.S. drone assassination program to date. “The Drone Papers” exposed the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They reveal a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We are joined by Clive Stafford Smith, founder and director of the international legal charity Reprieve, who says the British government also has a secret kill list in Afghanistan.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, The Intercept published this in-depth look at the U.S. drone assassination program, called “The Drone Papers,” exposing the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They reveal a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We spoke to Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, one of the lead reporters on the series.
JEREMY SCAHILL: One of the most significant findings of this—and my colleague, Cora Currier, really dug deep into this—is we published for the first time the kill chain, what the bureaucracy of assassination looks like. And what you see is that all of these officials, including people like the treasury secretary, are part of signing off on all of this, where they have these secret meetings and they discuss who’s going to live and die around the world. And at the end of that process, it is the president of the United States who signs what amounts to a death warrant for whoever they’ve decided should die.
AMY GOODMAN: The kill list is what Jeremy Scahill is talking about. Clive Stafford Smith, as we wrap up, your response?
CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well, it’s something that just horrifies me, that, you know, I voted for President Obama, twice, and yet every Tuesday they have “Terror Tuesday,” where there’s a PowerPoint display in the White House, and they decide, much like Nero did back in the Colosseum in Rome, whether to give the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down for human beings who we’re just going to murder around the world. And, you know, it begins with terrorism, but it will move on. The British, horrifyingly, have already got a list of people on their list in Afghanistan, where they’re saying they’re going to kill pedophiles, for goodness’ sake. I mean, where does this end, that we just murder people worldwide? I mean, we plan to do a lot to publicize that in the upcoming months.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: When did you learn that Britain has a kill list, to begin with?
CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: It was only a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I’m very pleased, because when both the Brits and the Americans are doing it, we can illustrate the folly of both instead of just picking on the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Clive Stafford Smith, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Clive Stafford Smith has been Shaker Aamer’s attorney for 10 years at Guantánamo. He’s a human rights lawyer, founder and director of the international legal charity called Reprieve.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’re going to talk about Benghazi. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to testify today for up to 10 hours in Congress. We’re going to be talking about the four men who died—the ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three of the other Americans who died. We’ll be speaking with their friends. Stay with us.
OCTOBER 22, 2015STORY
Find this story at 22 October 2015
The Drone Papers” Reveals How Faulty Intel & Secret “Kill Chain” Mark Suspects, Civilians for Death
October 23, 2015
The Intercept series “The Drone Papers” exposes the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They expose a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We speak to Intercept reporter Cora Currier, whose article “The Kill Chain,” reveals how the U.S. identifies and selects assassination targets, from the collection of data and human intelligence all the way to President Obama’s desk.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, today we are looking at “The Drone Papers,” an explosive new exposé by The Intercept based on a cache of secret documents that expose the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. It raises the question: Is there a new Edward Snowden?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by three reporters who worked on “The Drone Papers.” Cora Currier is staff reporter for The Intercept. Her contributions to the “Drone Papers” series include the pieces “The Kill Chain” and “Firing Blind.” Ryan Devereaux, also a staff reporter at The Intercept, wrote “Manhunting in the Hindu Kush.” Also still with us for the hour, Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the The Intercept, author of—is also author on this series.
Cora Currier, I wanted to turn to your piece, “The Kill [Chain].” How do the targets get chosen?
CORA CURRIER: So this is the first time that we’ve seen documentary evidence of how the Obama White House picks and chooses targets for—to kill them by drone or any other—or other kinds of airstrikes. And this is for operations in Yemen and Somalia. And the slide that we have shows how task force personnel, so people working on the ground in Yemen or Somalia, JSOC task force personnel, working with other intelligence community members, establish—make a package on a target, on a potential target, collecting intelligence, doing reconnaissance. So these people are already under surveillance of various types. And then they put them together, they package them in what they call a “baseball card” on the target, and that passes up the ranks of the military, up the chain of command. It goes through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of defense, then sends them to the White House.
And there, they’re examined by counsels of senior administration officials, known as the Principals Committee, which is—of the National Security Council, which is basically sort of all the top Cabinet heads of the Obama administration, all his closest advisers, and their deputies, which is called the Deputies Committee. And that’s reportedly where actually a lot of the work gets done, where they really pour over the targets and they think about sort of the—both the legal cases and also the sort of political ramifications and reasons to kill or not to kill somebody. So this is all happening in—this sort of really interagency process happens at the White House. And then, we know from outside reporting that this is the time when, during the period of this study in 2012, 2013, John Brennan, who then became CIA director, was super influential in these discussions. And it was often him that was bringing the baseball cards to the president to finally sign off on giving JSOC operatives then a 60-day window to go after the target.
AMY GOODMAN: The baseball cards?
CORA CURRIER: Mm-hmm, so they would sign off on a “package,” what they called it, a targeting—an operations package, which would have the baseball card, which was all the intelligence on the target, and then a sort of concept of operations about how they might go about getting them. And then they’d have a 60-day window in which they could take a strike against the target. And that is counter to some previous reporting about whether or not the president sort of—you hear this rhetoric that the president personally signs off on each drone strike. It’s not clear that that’s exactly what was meant by that. It seems more likely that he signs off on these packages, and then the actual decision to take a strike goes through the military chain of command.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And a key part of these baseball cards are the SIM cards and the cellphone numbers and—in other words, the signals intelligence attached to each of these individuals?
CORA CURRIER: Right. It’s going to have, you know, everything that they know about them, so from a variety of sources. And one thing that we learned in the documents is that they are heavily reliant on signals intelligence, heavily reliant on communications intelligence, to build a picture of who they think this person is and why they think he’s important.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, in your piece, “The Kill Chain: The Lethal Bureaucracy Behind Obama’s Drone War,” you talk about the different officials who sign off. Jeremy mentioned earlier, for example, the treasury secretary. Why would the treasury secretary be involved with naming who should be killed?
CORA CURRIER: Well, I think, in practice—I mean, by the letter, the Principals Committee of the National Security Council includes all of these—all of these top officials, like the treasury secretary, like the secretary of energy. Is the secretary of energy actually really, you know, a deciding factor in who gets killed in Yemen? No. It’s going to be the—you know, Hillary Clinton at the time of this study was secretary of state, and she would sort of represent the State Department’s opinions about this. Again, would she actually probably have all the background on these individuals? No, it would have been prepared for her by, you know, her second-in-commands or whoever was below her, and they would sort of be representing the views of their agency. So, while all those Cabinet members are, on paper, in the—on the Principals Committee, in practice, it was a smaller circle of advisers.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Jeremy, so, the president is making these decisions on the others below him based on—I mean, it’s very much shaped on the information he’s getting on his desk.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And, I mean, you know, one of the things that we also see in the documents is that a great deal of the intelligence that they’re basing these packages on come from foreign intelligence sources. So it could be from the Saudis, it could be from Yemenis, it could be from another entity, from Qatar—
AMY GOODMAN: From the Saudis, for example, who want a protester, a pro-democracy protester, dead.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Right. And, I mean—well, yes, that’s part of it, but more specifically to this, there are cases where it seems as though the U.S. was intentionally fed bad intelligence to—in the effort to try to eliminate a domestic political opponent of the former dictator of Yemen, for instance, where someone that was actually trying to negotiate with al-Qaeda, but was a political opponent of the Yemeni dictator at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was killed in a U.S. drone strike, and it seems quite likely that it was—you know, Yemen had fed that intelligence to try to eliminate one of their opponents. I mean, the WikiLeaks cables were rife with examples of the Yemeni president trying to get the United States to take up his own political cause against the Houthis at the time, who are now controlling parts of Yemen. But the Saudis have a huge influence over who the U.S. targets in that region. And foreign intelligence—they have their own agenda. And if we’re basing a lot of our decision on who should sort of live or die in these cases on foreign intelligence and unreliable signals intelligence, it raises serious questions about who we’re actually killing.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and it seems to me the other aspect of this, as your report shows, is that the government’s own reviews shows—states the unreliability of this information. So they’re not only making decisions without any kind of judicial process to kill people, the evidence that they’re using, they themselves acknowledge, is unreliable.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, remember, this task force, the ISR Task Force, that did these studies that are in the document—
AMY GOODMAN: And ISR stands for?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance. And so, this task force is basically an advocacy wing for more drones, more surveillance platforms, and so you have to view it in the context of this is the Pentagon trying to get all the toys and to make themselves, you know, the boss of everything—and they largely are the boss of everything, because they have the biggest budget and they have the most personnel. But what there—you know, what the point there is, is that there’s this not-so-subtle agitation to start being able to do a lot more capturing. I think it’s true what they’re saying about the unreliability of it. But there’s also—you know, there’s a turf war at play here with the CIA, so I think you have to take it with a grain of salt and read it in the context of that.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the issue of innocent civilians—I mean, there’s also an issue of the people who they believe are absolutely guilty, whether or not, Cora, the president should be the judge and the jury and the executioner. But this percentage that Juan raised earlier of 90 percent innocents killed in a drone strike, explain further what you learned on who lives and who dies.
CORA CURRIER: So what was actually striking about the Pentagon study, which was one of the documents that we had—Ryan looked in detail at these campaigns in Afghanistan, where that 90 percent figure comes from. In Yemen and Somalia, in this Pentagon study, they actually—it was pretty striking for how little they talk about civilian casualties, how little it seems to be an issue. The whole gist of the study was, “Give us”—as Jeremy was saying, “Give us more drones, give us better equipment, so that we can get these high-value targets.” And there was sort of little discussion of what the consequences are if you hit the—of hitting the wrong person. It was more about, like, “We’ve got to be more efficient at getting the people that we want,” and there was very little mention of civilian casualties.
There were a few times that it mentioned that low CDE, or collateral damage estimate, which is military speak for how many civilians might be harmed, was mentioned a few times as kind of a restraining factor on strikes and something that was explaining why they were moving more slowly, because they had these low CDE requirements. And that’s actually really—that word, that standard, low CDE, is interesting, because at the same time as this study was circulated in May 2013 was when the president gave his big speech about how, before the U.S. would take a strike, there had to be near certainty that no civilians would be harmed or injured. And near certainty is not the same as low CDE. And the White House told us that, you know, the standards of the May 2013 speech are still in place, but they wouldn’t explain that discrepancy as to why these internal documents at the same time had this different standard for civilian deaths.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Jeremy Scahill, what was the White House’s reaction to this explosive series?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, the White House was—you know, basically said, “We’re not going to comment on purported internal documents.” And, you know, I mean, Ryan had sort of a funny interaction with the Special Operations Command that he can explain. But at the end of the day, the Pentagon ended up being the one that kind of spoke for all of them and said, you know, “These are internal classified documents, and we’re not going to speak about it.” I mean, they’ll speak about classified material all the time when it benefits their position, like John Brennan leaking things after bin Laden, but, you know, they’re not going to address these things. Or even—I mean, Cora had very concrete questions: Is this still the case? Is this true? You know, they wouldn’t answer a single question.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and then come back, and when we come back, we’re going to talk about Afghanistan. And that’s where Ryan Devereaux comes in. With President Obama now reversing course, the longest war in U.S. history is about to get longer. How do “The Drone Papers” weigh in here? What do they tell us about Afghanistan? And much more. We’re speaking with three of the authors of this series, this stunning series at The Intercept: Jeremy Scahill, Ryan Devereaux and Cora Currier. Stay with us.
OCTOBER 16, 2015STORY
Find this story at 13 October 2015
FIRING BLIND FLAWED INTELLIGENCE AND THE LIMITS OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY (the drone papers)
October 23, 2015
The Obama administration has portrayed drones as an effective and efficient weapon in the ongoing war with al Qaeda and other radical groups. Yet classified Pentagon documents obtained by The Intercept reveal that the U.S. military has faced “critical shortfalls” in the technology and intelligence it uses to find and kill suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia.
THOSE SHORTFALLS STEM from the remote geography of Yemen and Somalia and the limited American presence there. As a result, the U.S. military has been overly reliant on signals intelligence from computers and cellphones, and the quality of those intercepts has been limited by constraints on surveillance flights in the region.
The documents are part of a study by a Pentagon Task Force on Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. They provide details about how targets were tracked for lethal missions carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, in Yemen and Somalia between January 2011 and summer 2012. When the study was circulated in 2013, the Obama administration was publicly floating the idea of moving the bulk of its drone program to the Pentagon from the CIA, and the military was eager to make the case for more bases, more drones, higher video quality, and better eavesdropping equipment.
Yet by identifying the challenges and limitations facing the military’s “find, fix, finish” operations in Somalia and Yemen — the cycle of gathering intelligence, locating, and attacking a target — the conclusions of the ISR study would seem to undermine the Obama administration’s claims of a precise and effective campaign, and lend support to critics who have questioned the quality of intelligence used in drone strikes.
The study made specific recommendations for improving operations in the Horn of Africa, but a Pentagon spokesperson, Cmdr. Linda Rojas, declined to explain what, if any, measures had been taken in response to the study’s findings, saying only that “as a matter of policy we don’t comment on the details of classified reports.”
THE TYRANNY OF DISTANCE
One of the most glaring problems identified in the ISR study was the U.S. military’s inability to carry out full-time surveillance of its targets in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Behind this problem lies the “tyranny of distance” — a reference to the great lengths that aircraft must fly to their targets from the main U.S. air base in Djibouti, the small East African nation that borders Somalia and sits just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.
Surveillance flights are limited by fuel — and, in the case of manned aircraft, the endurance of pilots. In contrast with Iraq, where more than 80 percent of “finishing operations” were conducted within 150 kilometers of an air base, the study notes that “most objectives in Yemen are ~ 500 km away” from Djibouti and “Somalia can be over 1,000 km.” The result is that drones and planes can spend half their air time in transit, and not enough time conducting actual surveillance.
A Pentagon chart showing that as of June 2012 manned spy planes accounted for the majority of flights over Yemen, even though drones were more efficient, since they could spend more time over a target. Over Somalia, the military used a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft. AP = Arabian Peninsula; EA = East Africa.
Compounding the tyranny of distance, the ISR study complained, was the fact that JSOC had too few drones in the region to meet the requirements mandated for carrying out a finishing operation. The military measures surveillance flights in orbits — meaning continuous, unbroken coverage of a target — and JSOC chronically failed to meet “minimum requirements” for orbits over Yemen, and in the case of Somalia had never met the minimum standards. On average, 15 flights a day, by multiple aircraft relieving or complementing one another, were needed to complete three orbits over Yemen.
The “sparse” available resources meant that aircraft had to “cover more potential leads — stretching coverage and leading to [surveillance] ‘blinks.’” Because multiple aircraft needed to be “massed” over one target before a strike, surveillance of other targets temporarily ceased, thus breaking the military’s ideal of a “persistent stare” or the “unblinking eye” of around-the-clock tracking.
When the military was focused on a “finish” — meaning kill — operation, drones were taken off the surveillance of other targets.
JSOC relied on manned spy planes to fill the orbit gap over Yemen. In June 2012 there were six U-28 spy planes in operation in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as several other types of manned aircraft. The U-28s in Djibouti were “referred to as the ‘Chiclet line,’” according to the ISR study, and “compounded Djiboutian air control issues” because of their frequent flights.
Only in the summer of 2012, with the addition of contractor-operated drones based in Ethiopia and Fire Scout unmanned helicopters, did Somalia have the minimum number of drones commanders wanted. The number of Predator drones stationed in Djibouti doubled over the course of the study, and in 2013, the fleet was moved from the main U.S. air base, Camp Lemonnier, to another Djibouti airstrip because of overcrowding and a string of crashes.
“Blinking” remained a concern, however, and the study recommended adding even more aircraft to the area of operations. Noting that political and developmental issues hampered the military’s ability to build new bases, it suggested expanding the use of aircraft launched from ships. JSOC already made use of Fire Scout helicopter drones and small Scan Eagle drones off the coast of Somalia, as well as “Armada Sweep,” which a 2011 document from the National Security Agency, provided by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes as a “ship-based collection system” for electronic communications data. (The NSA declined to comment on Armada Sweep.)
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from July 2012 to August 2014, told The Intercept that the surveillance requirements he outlined for tracking al Qaeda while in office had never been met. “We end up spending money on other stupid things instead of actually the capabilities that we need,” he said. “This is not just about buying more drones, it’s a whole system that’s required.”
According to Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has closely studied the drone war, resource constraints in Africa “mean less time for the persistent stare that counterterrorism analysts and commanders want, and got used to in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.”
FIND, FIX, FINISH
The find, fix, finish cycle is known in the military as FFF, or F3. But just as critical are two other letters: E and A, for “exploit and analyze,” referring to the use of materials collected on the ground and in detainee interrogations.
F3EA became doctrine in counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in his memoir that the simplicity of those “five words in a line … belied how profoundly it would drive our mission.” In 2008, Flynn, who worked closely with McChrystal before becoming head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote that “Exploit-Analyze starts the cycle over again by providing leads, or start points, into the network that could be observed and tracked using airborne ISR.”
Deadly strikes thus truncate the find, fix, finish cycle without exploitation and analysis — precisely the components that were lacking in the drone campaign waged in East Africa and Yemen. That shortfall points to one of the contradictions at the heart of the drone program in general: Assassinations are intelligence dead ends.
The ISR study shows that after a “kill operation” there is typically nobody on the ground to collect written material or laptops in the target’s house, or the phone on his body, or capture suspects and ask questions. Yet collection of on-the-ground intelligence of that sort — referred to as DOMEX, for “document and media exploitation,” and TIR, for “tactical interrogation report” — is invaluable for identifying future targets.
A slide from a Pentagon study notes that deadly strikes in Yemen and Somalia reduce the amount of intelligence for future operations. AUMF = 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force; FMV = Full Motion Video; F3EA = Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyze; HOA = Horn of Africa
Stating that 75 percent of operations in the region were strikes, and noting that “kill operations significantly reduce the intelligence available from detainees and captured material,” the study recommended an expansion of “capture finishes via host-nation partners for more ‘finish-derived’ intelligence.” One of the problems with that scenario, however, is that security forces in host nations like Yemen and Somalia are profoundly unreliable and have been linked to a wide variety of abuses, including the torture of prisoners.
A report last year by retired Gen. John Abizaid and former Defense Department official Rosa Brooks noted that the “enormous uncertainties” of drone warfare are “multiplied further when the United States relies on intelligence and other targeting information provided by a host nation government: How can we be sure we are not being drawn into a civil war or being used to target the domestic political enemies of the host state leadership?”
In 2011, for example, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that they had killed a local governor because Yemeni officials didn’t tell them he was present at a gathering of al Qaeda figures. “We think we got played,” one official said. (The Yemeni government disputed the report.)
Despite such warnings, the drone program has relied heavily on intelligence from other countries. One slide describes signals intelligence, or SIGINT, as coming “often from foreign partners,” and another, titled “Alternatives to Exploit/Analyze,” states that “in the reduced access environment, national intelligence partners often have the best information and access.”
The military relies heavily on intelligence from electronic communications, much of it provided by foreign governments, but acknowledges that the information is “neither as timely nor as focused as tactical intelligence.”
One way to increase the reliability of host-nation intelligence is to be directly involved in its collection — but this can be risky for soldiers on the ground. The study called for “advance force operations,” including “small teams of special force advisors,” to work with foreign forces to capture combatants, interrogate them, and seize any written material or electronic devices they possess. According to public Special Operations guidelines, advance force operations “prepare for near-term” actions by planting tracking devices, conducting reconnaissance missions, and staging for attacks. The documents obtained by The Intercept did not specify an optimum number of advisors or where they should be based or how exactly they should be involved in capture or interrogation operations.
Although the study dates from 2013, current Special Operations Commander Joseph Votel echoed its findings in July 2015. Votel noted that his troops were working closely with African Union forces and the Somali government to battle al Shabaab. He added, “We get a lot more … when we actually capture somebody or we capture material than we do when we kill someone.”
A man walks past destroyed buildings in Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province in southern Yemen on Dec. 5, 2012. Photo: Sami-al-Ansi/AFP/Getty Images
THE POVERTY OF SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE
With limited ability to conduct raids or seize materials from targeted individuals in Yemen and Somalia, JSOC relied overwhelmingly on monitoring electronic communications to discover and ultimately locate targets.
The documents state bluntly that SIGINT is an inferior form of intelligence. Yet signals accounted for more than half the intelligence collected on targets, with much of it coming from foreign partners. The rest originated with human intelligence, primarily obtained by the CIA. “These sources,” the study notes, “are neither as timely nor as focused as tactical intelligence” from interrogations or seized materials.
Making matters worse, the documents refer to “poor” and “limited” capabilities for collecting SIGINT, implying a double bind in which kill operations were reliant on sparse amounts of inferior intelligence.
The disparity with other areas of operation was stark, as a chart contrasting cell data makes clear: In Afghanistan there were 8,900 cell data reports each month, versus 50 for Yemen and 160 for Somalia. Despite that, another chart shows SIGINT comprised more than half the data sources that went into developing targets in Somalia and Yemen in 2012.
Cellphone data was critical for finding and identifying targets, yet a chart from a Pentagon study shows that the military had far less information in Yemen and Somalia than it was accustomed to having in Afghanistan. DOMEX = Document and Media Exploitation; GSM = Global System for Mobile communication; HOA = Horn of Africa; IIRs = Intelligence Information Reports; SIGINT = Signals Intelligence; TIRs = Tactical Interrogation Reports.
Flynn told The Intercept there was “way too much reliance on technical aspects [of intelligence], like signals intelligence, or even just looking at somebody with unmanned aerial vehicles.”
“I could get on the telephone from somewhere in Somalia, and I know I’m a high-value target, and say in some coded language, ‘The wedding is about to occur in the next 24 hours,’” Flynn said. “That could put all of Europe and the United States on a high-level alert, and it may be just total bullshit. SIGINT is an easy system to fool and that’s why it has to be validated by other INTs — like HUMINT. You have to ensure that the person is actually there at that location because what you really intercepted was the phone.”
In addition to using SIGINT to identify and find new targets, the documents detail how military analysts also relied on such intelligence to make sure that they had the correct person in their sights and to estimate the harm to civilians before a strike. After locating a target, usually by his cellphone or other electronics, analysts would study video feeds from surveillance aircraft “to build near-certainty via identification of distinguishing physical characteristics.”
A British intelligence document on targeted killing in Afghanistan, which was among the Snowden files, describes a similar process of “monitoring a fixed location, and tracking any persons moving away from that location, and identifying if a similar pattern is experienced through SIGINT collect.” The document explains that “other visual indicators may be used to aid the establishment of [positive identification]” including “description of clothing” or “gait.” After a shot, according to the British document and case studies in the Pentagon’s ISR report, drones would hover to determine if their target had been hit, collecting video and evidence of whether the cellphone had been eliminated. (The British intelligence agency, GCHQ, declined to comment on the document.)
A chart comparing the surveillance capabilities of the various drones and aircraft flying over Yemen and Somalia in 2012. APG = Aerial Precision Geolocation; DNR COMINT = Dial Network Recognition Communications Intelligence; ISR = Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; FMV = Full Motion Video; PTT COMINT = Push-to-Talk Communications Intelligence.
Yet according to the ISR study, the military faced “critical shortfalls of capabilities” in the technologies enabling that kind of precise surveillance and post-strike assessment. At the time of the study, only some of the Reaper drones had high-definition video, and most of the aircraft over the region lacked the ability to collect “dial number recognition” data.
The study cites these shortcomings as an explanation for the low rate of successful strikes against the targets on the military’s kill list in Yemen and Somalia, especially in comparison with Iraq and Afghanistan. It presents the failings primarily as an issue of efficiency, with little mention of the possible consequence of bad intelligence leading to killing the wrong people.
THE DRONE PAPERS
Cora Currier, Peter Maass
Oct. 15 2015, 1:58 p.m.
Additional reporting: Jeremy Scahill
Find this story at 15 October 2015
Bonn and the Putsch
October 23, 2015
JAKARTA/BONN/PULLACH (Own report) – Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has been heavily involved in the 1965 murderous putsch in Indonesia – the guest nation of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. This was confirmed in secret documents from the Bundestag, the German Parliament. According to BND President at the time, Gerhard Wessel’s manuscript for a talk he delivered to a session of the Bundestag’s “Confidential Committee” in June 1968, the BND did more than merely support the Indonesian military in their blood-soaked “liquidation of the CPI” (Communist Party of Indonesia) – resulting in the murder of hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions – with advisors, equipment and finances. Suharto, who subsequently took power, had even attributed a “large part … of the success” of the operation to the BND. Up to now, mainly the US-American assistance to the putsch has been known. The putsch, and the more than 30 year-long dictatorship that followed – which also had been reliably promoted by West Germany – are important themes being presented by Indonesian writers at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. To this day, the German government has refused to allow an investigation of the BND’s support for the putsch and the Indonesian military’s excessive brutality.
Hundreds of Thousands Dead
The Indonesian putsch, bringing Maj. Gen. Haji Mohamed Suharto to power in Jakarta, began in October 1965 as a reaction to an attempted coup d’état, killing several officers on September 30. Suharto’s dictatorial reign lasted until 1998. The attempted coup was falsely attributed to the Communist Party of Indonesia (CPI). Subsequently, the military launched excessively brutal operations against all genuine and suspected members and sympathizers of the communist party. Hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, were murdered; millions were imprisoned. The exact number is still unknown. The crimes committed at the time by the military have never really been brought to light.
50 to 100 Victims Each Night
One of the things never brought to light is what support western powers had given to the Suharto putsch. US complicity, having had the best relations to the Indonesian armed forces, has, to some extent, already been exposed. According to experts, for example, by 1965, around 4,000 Indonesian officers had been trained in US military installations as well as high-ranking officers having been trained in counter-insurgency on the basis of US field manuals at Indonesia’s elite military institutes. December 2, 1965, the US ambassador gave his consent to providing financial support to the “Kap-Gestapu” movement, a movement – as he put it – “inspired by the army, even though comprised of civilian action groups,” which “shouldered the task of the ongoing repressive measures against Indonesia’s Communist Party.” The ambassador must have known what this would mean. November 13, his employees had passed on information from the Indonesian police indicating, “between 50 and 100 members of the CPI in Eastern and Central Java were being killed each night.” April 15, the embassy had admitted, “it did not know if the actual number” of murdered CPI activists “was not closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000.” In spite of the mass murder, the US ambassador in Jakarta reported back to Washington (August 10, 1966) that the authorities in Jakarta had been provided a list of the leading CPI members.
“Reliable Friend of Germany”
Agencies of the West German government had also been involved in the putsch. The BND had supported “Indonesia’s military intelligence service’s 1965 defeat of a left-wing putsch in Jakarta, with submachine guns, shortwave radios and money (with a total value of 300,000 DM),” reported “Der Spiegel” in March 1971. Twelve weeks later, the magazine added that “a commando of BND men” had “trained military intelligence service operatives in Indonesia” and “relieved their CIA colleagues, who were under the heavy pressure of anti-American propaganda.” By “supplying Soviet rifles and Finnish ammunition, the BND instructors” were even actually intervening in that “civil war.” If one can believe the BND’s founder, Reinhard Gehlen, Bonn, at the time, had the best contacts to leading military officers. In his “Memoirs,” published in 1971, Gehlen wrote, “two of Germany’s reliable friends” were among the Indonesian officers, murdered September 30, including “the longtime and highly revered military attaché in Bonn, Brig. Gen. Pandjaitan.” During the putsch, the BND was “in the fortunate position of being able to provide the West German government with timely and detailed reports – from excellent sources – … on the progress of those days, which had been so crucial for Indonesia.”
An Excellent Resident
Other indications have emerged from the research published by the expert of intelligence services, Erich Schmidt-Eenboom and the political scientist, Matthias Ritzi. Their findings confirmed that there was close coordination between the BND and CIA. In April 1961, BND headquarters in Pullach had informed the US Central Intelligence Agency that it had “an excellent Chief of Station” in Jakarta, writes Schmidt-Eenboom. The CIA thought the BND was referring to Rudolf Oebsger-Röder, a former colonel of the SS working in the Reich Security Central Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) in Nazi Germany, who joined West Germany’s Organization Gehlen in 1948 and was later on post in Indonesia, as a correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The BND had maintained Oebsger-Röder on its staff until the mid-’60s. In mid-January 1964, a high-ranking CIA representative paid Gehlen a visit and asked him how the West Germans were handling the developments in Indonesia, explain Schmidt-Eenboom and Ritzi. Gehlen told him that he is keeping Bonn up-to-date, but does not yet know how the chancellery intends to proceed.
“A Large Part BND”
The manuscript for a talk BND President Gerhard Wessel presented June 21 1968 to the Bundestag’s Confidential Committee provides more details. In the form of notes, Wessel gave “details of BND activities” in support of its Indonesian partner service, explained Schmidt-Eenboom and Ritzi. Explicitly the manuscript explains that “the close ties already in place to the Indonesian strategic ND (intelligence service) by October 1965, had facilitated support (advisors, equipment, money) to Indonesia’s ND and its special military organs during the elimination of the CPI (and Sukarno’s disempowerment – control and support of demonstrations).” The “CPI’s elimination” included the assassination of hundreds of thousands of genuine and suspected members and sympathizers of the Indonesian CP. According to the manuscript, BND President Wessel continued his speech to the Confidential Committee, “in the opinion of Indonesian politicians and military officers ((Suharto, Nasution, Sultan) a large part thanks to the BND.”
Praise from Pullach
Reflecting back, BND founder Gehlen was praising these crimes almost effusively. “The significance of the Indonesian army’s success, which … pursued the elimination of the entire Communist Party with all consequences and severity, cannot – in my opinion – be appraised highly enough,” Gehlen wrote in his 1971 “Memoirs.”
The German government is still refusing to shed light on Germany’s participation in these crimes. In a parliamentary interpellation, the government was asked if it has knowledge of “foreign governments, intelligence services or other organizations’ direct or indirect support of the massacres.” In Mai 2014, it responded, “after a thorough assessment, the government concludes that it cannot give an open answer.” It is “imperative” to keep the “requested information” secret. The “protection of sources” is a “principle of primary importance to the work of intelligence services.” For the German government, the Indonesian civil society’s need to have information on foreign support for the immense mass murder is of less importance than its “protection of sources.”
 Rainer Werning: Putsch nach “Pütschchen”. junge Welt 01.10.2015.
,  Rainer Werning: Der Archipel Suharto. In: Konflikte auf Dauer? Osnabrücker Jahrbuch Frieden und Wissenschaft, herausgegeben vom Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Osnabrück und dem Präsidenten der Universität Osnabrück. Osnabrück 2008, S. 183-199.
 Hermann Zolling, Heinz Höhne: Pullach intern. Der Spiegel 11/1971.
 Hermann Zolling, Heinz Höhne: Pullach intern. Der Spiegel 23/1971.
 Reinhard Gehlen: Der Dienst. Erinnerungen 1942-1971. Mainz/Wiesbaden 1971.
,  Matthias Ritzi, Erich Schmidt-Eenboom: Im Schatten des Dritten Reiches. Der BND und sein Agent Richard Christmann. Berlin 2011. See Review: Im Schatten des Dritten Reiches.
 Reinhard Gehlen: Der Dienst. Erinnerungen 1942-1971. Mainz/Wiesbaden 1971.
 Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Andrej Hunko, Jan van Aken, Sevim Dağdelen, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion DIE LINKE. Deutscher Bundestag Drucksache 18/1554, 27.05.2014.
Bonn and the Putsch
Find this story at 15 October 2015
© Informationen zur Deutschen Außenpolitik
THE DRONE PAPERS: THE ASSASSINATION COMPLEXSECRET MILITARY DOCUMENTS EXPOSE THE INNER WORKINGS OF OBAMA’S DRONE WARS
October 16, 2015
From his first days as commander in chief, the drone has been President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice, used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill the people his administration has deemed — through secretive processes, without indictment or trial — worthy of execution. There has been intense focus on the technology of remote killing, but that often serves as a surrogate for what should be a broader examination of the state’s power over life and death.
DRONES ARE A TOOL, not a policy. The policy is assassination. While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, Congress has avoided legislating the issue or even defining the word “assassination.” This has allowed proponents of the drone wars to rebrand assassinations with more palatable characterizations, such as the term du jour, “targeted killings.”
When the Obama administration has discussed drone strikes publicly, it has offered assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to boots on the ground and are authorized only when an “imminent” threat is present and there is “near certainty” that the intended target will be eliminated. Those terms, however, appear to have been bluntly redefined to bear almost no resemblance to their commonly understood meanings.
The first drone strike outside of a declared war zone was conducted more than 12 years ago, yet it was not until May 2013 that the White House released a set of standards and procedures for conducting such strikes. Those guidelines offered little specificity, asserting that the U.S. would only conduct a lethal strike outside of an “area of active hostilities” if a target represents a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” without providing any sense of the internal process used to determine whether a suspect should be killed without being indicted or tried. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been one of trust, but don’t verify.
Photo: The Intercept
SMALL FOOTPRINT OPERATIONS 2/13Document
SMALL FOOTPRINT OPERATIONS 5/13Document
GEOLOCATION-WATCHLISTThe Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. The documents, which also outline the internal views of special operations forces on the shortcomings and flaws of the drone program, were provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides. The Intercept granted the source’s request for anonymity because the materials are classified and because the U.S. government has engaged in aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers. The stories in this series will refer to the source as “the source.”
The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.
“We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”
The Pentagon, White House, and Special Operations Command all declined to comment. A Defense Department spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on the details of classified reports.”
The CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operate parallel drone-based assassination programs, and the secret documents should be viewed in the context of an intense internal turf war over which entity should have supremacy in those operations. Two sets of slides focus on the military’s high-value targeting campaign in Somalia and Yemen as it existed between 2011 and 2013, specifically the operations of a secretive unit, Task Force 48-4.
Additional documents on high-value kill/capture operations in Afghanistan buttress previous accounts of how the Obama administration masks the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the intended targets. The slides also paint a picture of a campaign in Afghanistan aimed not only at eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, but also at taking out members of other local armed groups.
One top-secret document shows how the terror “watchlist” appears in the terminals of personnel conducting drone operations, linking unique codes associated with cellphone SIM cards and handsets to specific individuals in order to geolocate them.
A top-secret document shows how the watchlist looks on internal systems used by drone operators.
The costs to intelligence gathering when suspected terrorists are killed rather than captured are outlined in the slides pertaining to Yemen and Somalia, which are part of a 2013 study conducted by a Pentagon entity, the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force. The ISR study lamented the limitations of the drone program, arguing for more advanced drones and other surveillance aircraft and the expanded use of naval vessels to extend the reach of surveillance operations necessary for targeted strikes. It also contemplated the establishment of new “politically challenging” airfields and recommended capturing and interrogating more suspected terrorists rather than killing them in drone strikes.
The ISR Task Force at the time was under the control of Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Vickers, a fierce proponent of drone strikes and a legendary paramilitary figure, had long pushed for a significant increase in the military’s use of special operations forces. The ISR Task Force is viewed by key lawmakers as an advocate for more surveillance platforms like drones.
The ISR study also reveals new details about the case of a British citizen, Bilal el-Berjawi, who was stripped of his citizenship before being killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2012. British and American intelligence had Berjawi under surveillance for several years as he traveled back and forth between the U.K. and East Africa, yet did not capture him. Instead, the U.S. hunted him down and killed him in Somalia.
Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington’s 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. They also highlight the futility of the war in Afghanistan by showing how the U.S. has poured vast resources into killing local insurgents, in the process exacerbating the very threat the U.S. is seeking to confront.
FIND, FIX, FINISH These secret slides help provide historical context to Washington’s ongoing wars, and are especially relevant today as the U.S. military intensifies its drone strikes and covert actions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Those campaigns, like the ones detailed in these documents, are unconventional wars that employ special operations forces at the tip of the spear.
The “find, fix, finish” doctrine that has fueled America’s post-9/11 borderless war is being refined and institutionalized. Whether through the use of drones, night raids, or new platforms yet to be unleashed, these documents lay bare the normalization of assassination as a central component of U.S. counterterrorism policy.
“The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don’t like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It’s a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan,” the source said. “But at this point, they have become so addicted to this machine, to this way of doing business, that it seems like it’s going to become harder and harder to pull them away from it the longer they’re allowed to continue operating in this way.”
The articles in The Drone Papers were produced by a team of reporters and researchers from The Intercept that has spent months analyzing the documents. The series is intended to serve as a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America’s assassination program. This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been shrouded in excessive secrecy. The public has a right to see these documents not only to engage in an informed debate about the future of U.S. wars, both overt and covert, but also to understand the circumstances under which the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.
Among the key revelations in this series:
HOW THE PRESIDENT AUTHORIZES TARGETS FOR ASSASSINATION
KILL CHAINIt has been widely reported that President Obama directly approves high-value targets for inclusion on the kill list, but the secret ISR study provides new insight into the kill chain, including a detailed chart stretching from electronic and human intelligence gathering all the way to the president’s desk. The same month the ISR study was circulated — May 2013 — Obama signed the policy guidance on the use of force in counterterrorism operations overseas. A senior administration official, who declined to comment on the classified documents, told The Intercept that “those guidelines remain in effect today.”
U.S. intelligence personnel collect information on potential targets, as The Intercept has previously reported, drawn from government watchlists and the work of intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies. At the time of the study, when someone was destined for the kill list, intelligence analysts created a portrait of a suspect and the threat that person posed, pulling it together “in a condensed format known as a ‘baseball card.’” That information was then bundled with operational information and packaged in a “target information folder” to be “staffed up to higher echelons” for action. On average, it took 58 days for the president to sign off on a target, one slide indicates. At that point, U.S. forces had 60 days to carry out the strike. The documents include two case studies that are partially based on information detailed on baseball cards.
The system for creating baseball cards and targeting packages, according to the source, depends largely on intelligence intercepts and a multi-layered system of fallible, human interpretation. “It isn’t a surefire method,” he said. “You’re relying on the fact that you do have all these very powerful machines, capable of collecting extraordinary amounts of data and information,” which can lead personnel involved in targeted killings to believe they have “godlike powers.”
ASSASSINATIONS DEPEND ON UNRELIABLE INTELLIGENCE AND HURT INTELLIGENCE GATHERING
FIRING BLINDIn undeclared war zones, the U.S. military has become overly reliant on signals intelligence, or SIGINT, to identify and ultimately hunt down and kill people. The documents acknowledge that using metadata from phones and computers, as well as communications intercepts, is an inferior method of finding and finishing targeted people. They described SIGINT capabilities in these unconventional battlefields as “poor” and “limited.” Yet such collection, much of it provided by foreign partners, accounted for more than half the intelligence used to track potential kills in Yemen and Somalia. The ISR study characterized these failings as a technical hindrance to efficient operations, omitting the fact that faulty intelligence has led to the killing of innocent people, including U.S. citizens, in drone strikes.
The source underscored the unreliability of metadata, most often from phone and computer communications intercepts. These sources of information, identified by so-called selectors such as a phone number or email address, are the primary tools used by the military to find, fix, and finish its targets. “It requires an enormous amount of faith in the technology that you’re using,” the source said. “There’s countless instances where I’ve come across intelligence that was faulty.” This, he said, is a primary factor in the killing of civilians. “It’s stunning the number of instances when selectors are misattributed to certain people. And it isn’t until several months or years later that you all of a sudden realize that the entire time you thought you were going after this really hot target, you wind up realizing it was his mother’s phone the whole time.”
Within the special operations community, the source said, the internal view of the people being hunted by the U.S. for possible death by drone strike is: “They have no rights. They have no dignity. They have no humanity to themselves. They’re just a ‘selector’ to an analyst. You eventually get to a point in the target’s life cycle that you are following them, you don’t even refer to them by their actual name.” This practice, he said, contributes to “dehumanizing the people before you’ve even encountered the moral question of ‘is this a legitimate kill or not?’”
By the ISR study’s own admission, killing suspected terrorists, even if they are “legitimate” targets, further hampers intelligence gathering. The secret study states bluntly: “Kill operations significantly reduce the intelligence available.” A chart shows that special operations actions in the Horn of Africa resulted in captures just 25 percent of the time, indicating a heavy tilt toward lethal strikes.
STRIKES OFTEN KILL MANY MORE THAN THE INTENDED TARGET
MANHUNTING IN THE HINDU KUSH The White House and Pentagon boast that the targeted killing program is precise and that civilian deaths are minimal. However, documents detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. In Yemen and Somalia, where the U.S. has far more limited intelligence capabilities to confirm the people killed are the intended targets, the equivalent ratios may well be much worse.
“Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association,” the source said. When “a drone strike kills more than one person, there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate. … So it’s a phenomenal gamble.”
THE MILITARY LABELS UNKNOWN PEOPLE IT KILLS AS “ENEMIES KILLED IN ACTION”
MANHUNTING IN THE HINDU KUSH The documents show that the military designated people it killed in targeted strikes as EKIA — “enemy killed in action” — even if they were not the intended targets of the strike. Unless evidence posthumously emerged to prove the males killed were not terrorists or “unlawful enemy combatants,” EKIA remained their designation, according to the source. That process, he said, “is insane. But we’ve made ourselves comfortable with that. The intelligence community, JSOC, the CIA, and everybody that helps support and prop up these programs, they’re comfortable with that idea.”
The source described official U.S. government statements minimizing the number of civilian casualties inflicted by drone strikes as “exaggerating at best, if not outright lies.”
THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE TARGETED FOR DRONE STRIKES AND OTHER FINISHING OPERATIONS
KILL CHAINAccording to one secret slide, as of June 2012, there were 16 people in Yemen whom President Obama had authorized U.S. special operations forces to assassinate. In Somalia, there were four. The statistics contained in the documents appear to refer only to targets approved under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, not CIA operations. In 2012 alone, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there were more than 200 people killed in operations in Yemen and between four and eight in Somalia.
HOW GEOGRAPHY SHAPES THE ASSASSINATION CAMPAIGN
FIRING BLINDIn Afghanistan and Iraq, the pace of U.S. strikes was much quicker than in Yemen and Somalia. This appears due, in large part, to the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were declared war zones, and in Iraq the U.S. was able to launch attacks from bases closer to the targeted people. By contrast, in Somalia and Yemen, undeclared war zones where strikes were justified under tighter restrictions, U.S. attack planners described a serpentine bureaucracy for obtaining approval for assassination. The secret study states that the number of high-value targeting operations in these countries was “significantly lower than previously seen in Iraq and Afghanistan” because of these “constraining factors.”
Even after the president approved a target in Yemen or Somalia, the great distance between drone bases and targets created significant challenges for U.S. forces — a problem referred to in the documents as the “tyranny of distance.” In Iraq, more than 80 percent of “finishing operations” were conducted within 150 kilometers of an air base. In Yemen, the average distance was about 450 kilometers and in Somalia it was more than 1,000 kilometers. On average, one document states, it took the U.S. six years to develop a target in Somalia, but just 8.3 months to kill the target once the president had approved his addition to the kill list.
INCONSISTENCIES WITH WHITE HOUSE STATEMENTS ABOUT TARGETED KILLING
KILL CHAINThe White House’s publicly available policy standards state that lethal force will be launched only against targets who pose a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.” In the documents, however, there is only one explicit mention of a specific criterion: that a person “presents a threat to U.S. interest or personnel.” While such a rationale may make sense in the context of a declared war in which U.S. personnel are on the ground in large numbers, such as in Afghanistan, that standard is so vague as to be virtually meaningless in countries like Yemen and Somalia, where very few U.S. personnel operate.
While many of the documents provided to The Intercept contain explicit internal recommendations for improving unconventional U.S. warfare, the source said that what’s implicit is even more significant. The mentality reflected in the documents on the assassination programs is: “This process can work. We can work out the kinks. We can excuse the mistakes. And eventually we will get it down to the point where we don’t have to continuously come back … and explain why a bunch of innocent people got killed.”
The architects of what amounts to a global assassination campaign do not appear concerned with either its enduring impact or its moral implications. “All you have to do is take a look at the world and what it’s become, and the ineptitude of our Congress, the power grab of the executive branch over the past decade,” the source said. “It’s never considered: Is what we’re doing going to ensure the safety of our moral integrity? Of not just our moral integrity, but the lives and humanity of the people that are going to have to live with this the most?”
Oct. 15 2015, 1:57 p.m.
Find this story at 15 October 2015
Uzbekistan: US and Europe turning a blind eye to torture<< oudere artikelen
August 26, 2015
The USA, Germany, and other European Union countries’ continuing ‘blind-spot’ to endemic torture in Uzbekistan ensures that appalling abuses will continue unabated, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.
The report, Secrets and Lies: Forced confessions under torture in Uzbekistan, reveals how rampant torture and other ill-treatment plays a “central role” in the country’s justice system and the government’s clampdown on any group perceived as a threat to national security. It warns that police and security forces frequently use torture to extract confessions, to intimidate entire families or as a threat to extract bribes.
“It’s an open secret that anyone who falls out of favour with the authorities can be detained and tortured in Uzbekistan. No one can escape the tendrils of the state,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director, launching the report in Berlin.
“What is shameful is that many governments, including the USA, are turning a blind eye to appalling torture, seemingly for fear of upsetting an ally in the ‘war on terror’. Other governments, like Germany, appear to be more concerned with business opportunities and not rocking the boat.”
“Strategic Patience” a shameful strategy in the face of human rights violations
As the 10th anniversary of the May 2005 Andizhan mass killings of hundreds of protestors approaches, Amnesty International’s report highlights how the USA and EU governments, including Germany, have put security, political, military and economic interests ahead of any meaningful action to pressure the Uzbekistani authorities to fully respect human rights and stop torture by its authorities.
European sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan after the 2005 mass killings in Andizhan were lifted in 2008 and 2009, revoking travel bans and allowing arms sales to resume despite no one being held to account for the killings. The last time EU foreign ministers even put Uzbekistan’s human rights record on the agenda was in October 2010.
Germany in particular has close military ties with Uzbekistan. In November 2014 it renewed a lease for an airbase in Termez to provide support to German troops in Afghanistan. On 2 March 2015, Germany and Uzbekistan agreed a €2.8 billion investment and trade package.
The attitude of Uzbekistan’s international partners to the routine use of torture appears at best ambivalent, and at worst silent to the point of complicity. The USA describes its engagement with Uzbekistan as a policy of “strategic patience”, but it is perhaps better described as strategic indulgence. The USA, Germany, and the EU should immediately demand that Uzbekistan clean up its act and stop torture.
John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director, Amnesty International
In January 2012, the US government waived restrictions on military aid to Uzbekistan originally imposed in 2004, due in part to the country’s human rights record. This year the military relationship between the two countries strengthened significantly with the implementation of a new five-year plan for military cooperation.
In December 2014, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia, Nisha Biswal, said Washington exercised “strategic patience” in relations with Uzbekistan.
“The attitude of Uzbekistan’s international partners to the routine use of torture appears at best ambivalent, and at worst silent to the point of complicity. The USA describes its engagement with Uzbekistan as a policy of “strategic patience”, but it is perhaps better described as strategic indulgence. The USA, Germany, and the EU should immediately demand that Uzbekistan clean up its act and stop torture,” said John Dalhuisen.
“The international ban on torture is absolute and immediate. Yet while Germany and the USA foster closer ties with Uzbekistan, people are being snatched up by police, tortured into confessing to trumped-up charges, and subjected to unfair trials. As long as Uzbekistan uses torture-tainted evidence in court, it will remain a torture-tainted ally.”
Torture endemic in Uzbekistan’s criminal justice system
Amnesty International’s report is compiled from more than 60 interviews conducted between 2013-2015 and evidence gathered over 23 years. It lifts the lid on the use of sound-proof torture cells with padded walls used by the secret police, the Uzbekistani National Security Service (SNB), and documents the continued use of underground torture cells in police stations.
The police and secret police use horrific techniques, including asphyxiation, rape, electric shocks, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and deprivation of sleep, food and water. The report also documents elaborate, prolonged beatings delivered by groups of people, including other prisoners.
One man, who was never told the reason for his arrest, described what happened after he was taken to the basement of a police station in the early hours of the morning:
“I was in handcuffs with my hands behind my back … There were two police officers beating me, kicking me, using batons, I lost consciousness. They beat me everywhere, on my head, kidneys… When I lost consciousness they would throw water on me to wake me up and beat me again.”
Security forces targeting entire families
The report documents widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment, with victims including government critics, religious groups, migrant workers and business people. The authorities sometimes also target victims’ extended families.
Zuhra, a former detainee, told Amnesty International how security forces targeted her entire family, most of whom remain in detention today. She was regularly called to report to the local police station, where she was detained and beaten to punish her for being a member of an “extremist family” and force her to reveal the whereabouts of male relatives, or to incriminate them. She said:
“There is no peace in our house. We wake up in the morning and if there is a car in front of our door, our hearts beat faster… There are no men left in our house. There are not even any grandchildren left.”
Arbitrary brutality in an unaccountable justice system
New testimony received by Amnesty International exposes the institutionalized use of torture and other ill-treatment to elicit confessions and incriminating evidence about other suspects.
People are often tried using evidence extracted from torture. Judges extort bribes for lenient sentencing and the police and secret police use the threat of torture to demand huge bribes from detainees and prisoners.
Turkish businessman, Vahit Güneş, was accused of economic crimes including tax evasion and connection to a banned Islamic movement, charges which he denies. He was held for 10 months in secret police detention, where he says he was tortured until he signed a false confession. He was tortured again when the secret police wanted to extort several million US dollars from his family in exchange for his release.
The response he received when he asked for a lawyer illustrates the unfair and arbitrary nature of Uzbekistan’s justice system:
“One of the prosecutors said: ‘Vahit Güneş pull yourself together. In the whole history of the SNB no one has been brought here and found innocent and released. Everyone who is brought here is found guilty. They have to plead guilty.’”
Vahit Güneş described the dehumanizing conditions, psychological intimidation, beatings and sexual humiliation of detention:
“You are not a human being anymore. They give you a number there. Your name is not valid there anymore. For instance my number was 79. I was not Vahit Güneş there anymore, I was 79. You are not a human being. You have become a number.”
“You are not a human being anymore. They give you a number there. Your name is not valid there anymore. For instance my number was 79. I was not Vahit Güneş there anymore, I was 79. You are not a human being. You have become a number.”
Vahit Güneş, torture survivor
Torture continues unabated and unpunished since 1992
Although torture is against the law in Uzbekistan, it is rarely punished. Even the government’s own figures show the scale of impunity for torture, with only 11 police officers convicted under Uzbekistani law from 2010-2013.
During this time 336 complaints of torture were officially registered, of which just 23 cases were prosecuted and six taken to trial. To make matters worse, the authorities charged with investigating those complaints are often the same ones accused of torture, severely limiting the likelihood that victims will ever receive justice and reparations.
Amnesty International is calling on President Islam Karimov to publically condemn the use of torture. The authorities should also establish an independent system for inspections of all detention centres and ensure that confessions and other evidence obtained by torture or other ill-treatment are never used in court.
This report is the fourth in a series of five different country reports, after Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines, to be released as part of Amnesty International’s global Stop Torture campaign, launched by Amnesty International in May 2014. In the past five years alone, Amnesty International has reported on torture and other ill-treatment in 141 countries.
15 April 2015, 11:00 UTC
Find this story at 15 April 2015
Find the report here
Copyright Amnesty International