Category Archives: Incarceration

The Two Narratives of Palestine: The People Are United, the Factions Are Not

The International Conference on Palestine held in Istanbul between April 27-29 brought together many speakers and hundreds of academics, journalists, activists and students from Turkey and all over the world.

The Conference was a rare opportunity aimed at articulating a discourse of international solidarity that is both inclusive and forward thinking.

There was near consensus that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement must be supported, that Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ must be defeated and that normalization must be shunned.

When it came to articulating the objectives of the Palestinian struggle, however, the narrative became indecisive and unclear. Although none of the speakers made a case for a two-state solution, our call for a one democratic state from Istanbul – or any other place outside Palestine – seemed partially irrelevant. For the one state solution to become the overriding objective of the pro-Palestine movement worldwide, the call has to come from a Palestinian leadership that reflects the true aspirations of the Palestinian people.

One speaker after the other called for Palestinian unity, imploring Palestinians for guidance and for articulating a national discourse. Many in the audience concurred with that assessment as well. One audience member even blurted out the cliched question: “Where is the Palestinian Mandela?” Luckily, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, was himself a speaker. He answered forcefully that Mandela was only the face of the movement, which encompassed millions of ordinary men and women, whose struggles and sacrifices ultimately defeated apartheid.

Following my speech at the Conference, I met with several freed Palestinian prisoners as part of my research for my forthcoming book on the subject.

Some of the freed prisoners identified as Hamas and others as Fatah. Their narrative seemed largely free from the disgraced factional language we are bombarded with in the media, but also liberated from the dry and detached narratives of politics and academia.

“When Israel placed Gaza under siege and denied us family visitations, our Fatah brothers always came to our help,” a freed Hamas prisoner told me. “And whenever Israeli prison authorities mistreated any of our brothers from any factions, including Fatah, we all resisted together.”

A freed Fatah prisoner told me that when Hamas and Fatah fought in Gaza in the summer of 2007, the prisoners suffered most. “We suffered because we felt that the people who should be fighting for our freedom, were fighting each other. We felt betrayed by everyone.”

To effectuate disunity, Israeli authorities relocated Hamas and Fatah prisoners into separate wards and prisons. They wanted to sever any communication between the prisoners’ leadership and to block any attempts at finding common ground for national unity.

The Israeli decision was not random. A year earlier, in May 2006, the leadership of the prisoners met in a prison cell to discuss the conflict between Hamas, which had won the legislative elections in the Occupied Territories, and the PA’s main party, Fatah.

These leaders included Marwan Barghouthi of Fatah, Abdel Khaleq al-Natshe from Hamas and representatives from other major Palestinian groups. The outcome was the National Conciliation Document, arguably the most important Palestinian initiative in decades.

What became known as the Prisoner’s Document was significant because it was not some self-serving political compromise achieved in a luxurious hotel in some Arab capital, but a genuine articulation of national Palestinian priorities, presented by the most respected and honored sector in Palestinian society.

Israel immediately denounced the document.

Instead of engaging all factions in a national dialogue around the document, PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, gave rival factions an ultimatum to either accept or reject the document in full. The spirit of the unity in the prisoners’ initiative was betrayed by Abbas and the warring factions. Eventually, Fatah and Hamas fought their own tragic war in Gaza the following year.

On speaking to the prisoners after listening to the discourse of academics, politicians and activists, I was able to decipher a disconnection between the Palestinian narrative on the ground and our own perception of this narrative from outside.

The prisoners display unity in their narrative, a clear sense of purpose, and determination to carry on with their resistance. While it is true that they all identified as members in one political group or another, I am yet to interview a single prisoner who placed factional interests above national interest. This should not come as a surprise. Indeed, these men and women have been detained, tortured and have endured many years in prison for being Palestinian resisters, regardless of their ideological and factional leanings.

The myth of the disunited and dysfunctional Palestinian is very much an Israeli invention that precedes the inception of Hamas, and even Fatah. This Zionist notion, which has been embraced by the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, argues that ‘Israel has no peace partner‘. Despite the hemorrhaging concessions by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, this claim has remained a fixture in Israeli politics to this day.

Political unity aside, the Palestinian people perceive ‘unity’ in a whole different political context than that of Israel and, frankly, many of us outside Palestine.

‘Al-Wihda al-Wataniya’ or national unity is a generational quest around a set of principles, including resistance, as a strategy for the liberation of Palestine, Right of Return for refugees, and self-determination for the Palestinian people as the ultimate goals. It is around this idea of unity that the leadership of Palestinian prisoners drafted their document in 2006, in the hope of averting a factional clash and keeping the struggle centered on resistance against Israeli occupation.

The ongoing Great March of Return in Gaza is another daily example of the kind of unity the Palestinian people are striving for. Despite heavy losses, thousands of protesters insist on their unity while demanding their freedom, Right of Return and an end to the Israeli siege.

For us to claim that Palestinians are not united because Fatah and Hamas cannot find common ground is simply unjustified. National unity and political unity between factions are two different issues.

It is important that we do not make the mistake of confusing the Palestinian people with factions, national unity around resistance and rights with political arrangements between political groups.

As far as vision and strategy are concerned, perhaps it is time to read the prisoners’ National Conciliation Document’. It was written by the Nelson Mandelas of Palestine, thousands of whom remain in Israeli prisons to this day.

Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State

The Rev. Joy Powell says she was “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by police.  Her crime?  Being a poor black woman who faced off against the police—protesting their violent brutality against black people in Rochester, NY.  Once she defied them, she was warned, then targeted and framed for serious crimes.  A few weeks ago, Australian Julian Assange was forcibly dragged from his political asylum to face the American police state.  His crime?  Like Rev. Powell, he dared to tell the truth about the violence and brutality that defines the American state.  Scottish political analyst Jon Wight, citing the treatment of American political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, calls the US “justice” system the “most cruel and callous in the world.”  That system does not tolerate the exposure of its war crimes and abuses of its police state quietly—it retaliates against those who expose its injustice by treating them to cruel and callous punishment.

Black women who have confronted the abuses of America’s white authority have suffered its punishment throughout our history.  Anarchist Lucy Parsons, born in 1853, is one of the few black women mentioned in labor histories, usually as the wife of the martyred Albert Parsons, who was executed in the wake of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886.  Parsons was a dedicated “revolutionist” for labor’s cause, leading rallies and making speeches in 43 states, advocating the use of explosives by tramps and their taking a “few rich people with them.”  She was constantly arrested, roughly handled, and jailed:  in 1913, at age 60, she was stripped and jailed in Chicago for “peddling literature without a license.”  Another labor radical, Claudia Jones, who headed the Women’s Commission for the US Communist Party, was jailed in 1955.  She fought the “madam-maid” relationship of white to black women, and felt socialism was the only hope for American blacks.  Jones was deported to England where she continued to work for socialism.

Women who joined the struggle against American racism in the 1960s and 70s met particularly violent reprisals from their government.  In the early 60s, 17-year-old Ruby Doris Smith, Spelman student and eventual SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) leader, picketed, protested, and did sit-ins, trying to integrate Atlanta.  She suffered “the indignities of southern jails and numerous injuries.” As a freedom rider, she underwent the vicious white punishment at the Montgomery bus station and was arrested and jailed by Sheriff Bull Conner.  SNCC’s Diane Nash was an important member of the first Nashville sit-ins in 1960.  After her arrest, she refused to pay her fine.  Six-months pregnant and facing a Jackson, Mississippi jailing, she vowed to “hasten the day when my child and all children will be free.”  The women of the black liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s faced even harsher reprisals—from the federal government.

Black women liberation women political prisoners, included the Black Panther’s Assata Shakur and MOVE women Janine Phillips Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Merle Austin Africa and Janet Holloway Africa.  Janine and Janet Africa are still in prison.   In March 2019 Jet Blue was forced to take down a black history month poster which included a tribute to a “convicted murderer,” Assata Shakur.  President Trump railed against the “cop killer” and demanded Cuba return her.  Shakur was able to escape from her jail, to political exile in Cuba, and that is unforgivable to the American police state.  Assata Shakur was a major inspiration for me in writing my book Women Politicals in America:  Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart, and because of that she appears on the cover of my book, shackled but defiant.  As a member of the BP and Black Liberation Army, Shakur was an FBI target for a long time.  As per usual with the FBI, she had been accused of a number of serious crimes, and convicted in the media of all of them and more, although she had committed none of them—including murdering police officer Werner Foerster.  All the evidence points to the impossibility of her shooting him, after having been grievously shot herself.  She was convicted and treated very harshly in prison, including 20 months in solitary in two men’s prisons under horrible conditions.  Her comrades managed to get her out, after she concluded she would be killed in prison.

Women who joined the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in the early 70s also faced incredibly unfair and violent treatment.  These followers of John Africa lived “naturally” in a community—very like other 70s communes–and believed in fighting the “system.”  The black militancy of fighting the system had them on police radar and resulted in raids that turned violent, with people who ran out to escape fires the authorities set being shot, and in which Officer James Ramp was killed—the evidence indicating probably friendly fire.  Four women were arrested:  Debbie, Janine, Janet and Merle Africa.  Merle died in prison (her family said mysteriously).  Debbie was released in June 2018, but Janine Phillips and Janet Holloway Africa remain in prison, serving their 100-year sentences.  They are periodically denied parole for not “showing remorse,” remorse for being innocent and harshly, unfairly jailed.

Joy Powell is also not remorseful for being “raped, railroaded and bamboozled,” and unfairly jailed, by police/government authorities.  In the present-day police state, African-Americans are first in the line of fire, incarcerated in huge numbers, trapped on the bottom of the economic ladder, and prey to racist civilians and authorities alike.  When black women like Joy Powell speak out against militarized police brutality against blacks—they go right into the belly of the beast.  When in 2014, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, the black community had had enough of assassinations and stood their ground:  “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  Black activists were energized by Ferguson and interest in the new group Black Lives Matter intensified.  Jasmine Richards was one young woman inspired by Ferguson.  Once she “picked up a bullhorn” to organize in her hometown of Pasadena against police brutality, she became “a target.”  While trying to protect a black woman crime victim in 2016, she was arrested, convicted and jailed.  Richards was kept in solitary and roughly strip-searched.  She said it’s “violent to be a woman in jail.”  But she was undaunted, rallying her followers in court with “We have a duty to fight for freedom!”  Illinois BLM activist Sandra Bland also believed that.  When she was pulled over for a traffic violation in Texas in 2015, she was slammed to the ground and charged—of course—with assaulting the officers who had slammed her down.  Two days later she was found dead in her cell.  Her family suspects foul play.  Ajamu Baraka called her death “political murder” of a “defiant black woman.”  Black women defiant of the police will pay.

Joy Powell has paid dearly for fighting police brutality.  She is in solitary at Bedford Hills, stalked and harassed by guards, and denied medical treatment for her asthma and diabetes.  She wrote:  “I never thought in my wildest dreams after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which supposedly freed slaves, that in 2007 we’re still in chains and shackles.  This is far from the American dream.”  Powell had a rough start in life; she was jailed for drug dealing from 1992 to 1995 at Albion Correctional Facility. She suffered what many women in jail suffer—she was raped by an officer.  When the man continued to stalk her, she was put in “protective custody.”  She says she developed “PTSD, anxiety and bi-polar” because of the attack.  When she got out she said she wanted to “give back to the community” instead of the destruction she felt she did as a drug dealer.  Powell became a Pentecostal pastor and a community organizer against violence, including police violence.  She organized rallies against drugs and violence after a 15-year-old neighbor boy, and then her own 18-year-old son, were killed.  She worked for 12 years, as she said, with only the weapon of “non-violence protest.”  In 2002, six people died in Rochester PD custody.  In 2005, a 13-year-old suicidal girl was shot several times by police.  After Powell led protests about such events, she was charged with abusing her granddaughter (by an officer who had shot the 13-year-old girl).  The police warned her she was a “target” and should be careful.

She was definitely a target. In October 2006 she was a victim of a violent crime—not investigated—instead, after complaining, she was charged with burglary and assault.  Her accusers were the same people who had attacked her!  She was found guilty by an all-white jury and got 16 years.  As she said, “I was like so many activists before me, be killed or definitely set up.”  In May 2011, things got worse.  She was convicted of killing a man in Rochester in 1992.  She was not guilty.  “I am actually and factually innocent!”  Her court-appointed lawyer ignored her pleas for meetings or for interviewing witnesses who could have proved her innocence.  She got 25 years to life.

Rev. Joy Powell has stated:  “The only thing I am guilty of is standing up for Equality and Justice for all. . . I never realized how much of a threat one individual could be unarmed, until I began to speak out against police brutality.”  She also wrote that she is like so many poor black people in prison “rotting in cages with lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit.”  And that she had four strikes against her:  “1. I am Black; 2. I am poor; 3. I am incarcerated; and 4. I am a woman.”  Black women “politicals,” political prisoners who have stood up against white America’s racist injustice—Lucy Parsons, Claudia Jones, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Diane Nash, Assata Shakur, Sandra Bland, Jasmine Richards, the still jailed Janine and Janet Africa, and the woman still in solitary confinement, Rev. Joy Powell—are defiant female rebels against a state which will go to any lengths to punish women exposing its crimes.

Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State

The Rev. Joy Powell says she was “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by police.  Her crime?  Being a poor black woman who faced off against the police—protesting their violent brutality against black people in Rochester, NY.  Once she defied them, she was warned, then targeted and framed for serious crimes.  A few weeks ago, Australian Julian Assange was forcibly dragged from his political asylum to face the American police state.  His crime?  Like Rev. Powell, he dared to tell the truth about the violence and brutality that defines the American state.  Scottish political analyst Jon Wight, citing the treatment of American political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, calls the US “justice” system the “most cruel and callous in the world.”  That system does not tolerate the exposure of its war crimes and abuses of its police state quietly—it retaliates against those who expose its injustice by treating them to cruel and callous punishment.

Black women who have confronted the abuses of America’s white authority have suffered its punishment throughout our history.  Anarchist Lucy Parsons, born in 1853, is one of the few black women mentioned in labor histories, usually as the wife of the martyred Albert Parsons, who was executed in the wake of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886.  Parsons was a dedicated “revolutionist” for labor’s cause, leading rallies and making speeches in 43 states, advocating the use of explosives by tramps and their taking a “few rich people with them.”  She was constantly arrested, roughly handled, and jailed:  in 1913, at age 60, she was stripped and jailed in Chicago for “peddling literature without a license.”  Another labor radical, Claudia Jones, who headed the Women’s Commission for the US Communist Party, was jailed in 1955.  She fought the “madam-maid” relationship of white to black women, and felt socialism was the only hope for American blacks.  Jones was deported to England where she continued to work for socialism.

Women who joined the struggle against American racism in the 1960s and 70s met particularly violent reprisals from their government.  In the early 60s, 17-year-old Ruby Doris Smith, Spelman student and eventual SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) leader, picketed, protested, and did sit-ins, trying to integrate Atlanta.  She suffered “the indignities of southern jails and numerous injuries.” As a freedom rider, she underwent the vicious white punishment at the Montgomery bus station and was arrested and jailed by Sheriff Bull Conner.  SNCC’s Diane Nash was an important member of the first Nashville sit-ins in 1960.  After her arrest, she refused to pay her fine.  Six-months pregnant and facing a Jackson, Mississippi jailing, she vowed to “hasten the day when my child and all children will be free.”  The women of the black liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s faced even harsher reprisals—from the federal government.

Black women liberation women political prisoners, included the Black Panther’s Assata Shakur and MOVE women Janine Phillips Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Merle Austin Africa and Janet Holloway Africa.  Janine and Janet Africa are still in prison.   In March 2019 Jet Blue was forced to take down a black history month poster which included a tribute to a “convicted murderer,” Assata Shakur.  President Trump railed against the “cop killer” and demanded Cuba return her.  Shakur was able to escape from her jail, to political exile in Cuba, and that is unforgivable to the American police state.  Assata Shakur was a major inspiration for me in writing my book Women Politicals in America:  Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart, and because of that she appears on the cover of my book, shackled but defiant.  As a member of the BP and Black Liberation Army, Shakur was an FBI target for a long time.  As per usual with the FBI, she had been accused of a number of serious crimes, and convicted in the media of all of them and more, although she had committed none of them—including murdering police officer Werner Foerster.  All the evidence points to the impossibility of her shooting him, after having been grievously shot herself.  She was convicted and treated very harshly in prison, including 20 months in solitary in two men’s prisons under horrible conditions.  Her comrades managed to get her out, after she concluded she would be killed in prison.

Women who joined the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in the early 70s also faced incredibly unfair and violent treatment.  These followers of John Africa lived “naturally” in a community—very like other 70s communes–and believed in fighting the “system.”  The black militancy of fighting the system had them on police radar and resulted in raids that turned violent, with people who ran out to escape fires the authorities set being shot, and in which Officer James Ramp was killed—the evidence indicating probably friendly fire.  Four women were arrested:  Debbie, Janine, Janet and Merle Africa.  Merle died in prison (her family said mysteriously).  Debbie was released in June 2018, but Janine Phillips and Janet Holloway Africa remain in prison, serving their 100-year sentences.  They are periodically denied parole for not “showing remorse,” remorse for being innocent and harshly, unfairly jailed.

Joy Powell is also not remorseful for being “raped, railroaded and bamboozled,” and unfairly jailed, by police/government authorities.  In the present-day police state, African-Americans are first in the line of fire, incarcerated in huge numbers, trapped on the bottom of the economic ladder, and prey to racist civilians and authorities alike.  When black women like Joy Powell speak out against militarized police brutality against blacks—they go right into the belly of the beast.  When in 2014, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, the black community had had enough of assassinations and stood their ground:  “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  Black activists were energized by Ferguson and interest in the new group Black Lives Matter intensified.  Jasmine Richards was one young woman inspired by Ferguson.  Once she “picked up a bullhorn” to organize in her hometown of Pasadena against police brutality, she became “a target.”  While trying to protect a black woman crime victim in 2016, she was arrested, convicted and jailed.  Richards was kept in solitary and roughly strip-searched.  She said it’s “violent to be a woman in jail.”  But she was undaunted, rallying her followers in court with “We have a duty to fight for freedom!”  Illinois BLM activist Sandra Bland also believed that.  When she was pulled over for a traffic violation in Texas in 2015, she was slammed to the ground and charged—of course—with assaulting the officers who had slammed her down.  Two days later she was found dead in her cell.  Her family suspects foul play.  Ajamu Baraka called her death “political murder” of a “defiant black woman.”  Black women defiant of the police will pay.

Joy Powell has paid dearly for fighting police brutality.  She is in solitary at Bedford Hills, stalked and harassed by guards, and denied medical treatment for her asthma and diabetes.  She wrote:  “I never thought in my wildest dreams after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which supposedly freed slaves, that in 2007 we’re still in chains and shackles.  This is far from the American dream.”  Powell had a rough start in life; she was jailed for drug dealing from 1992 to 1995 at Albion Correctional Facility. She suffered what many women in jail suffer—she was raped by an officer.  When the man continued to stalk her, she was put in “protective custody.”  She says she developed “PTSD, anxiety and bi-polar” because of the attack.  When she got out she said she wanted to “give back to the community” instead of the destruction she felt she did as a drug dealer.  Powell became a Pentecostal pastor and a community organizer against violence, including police violence.  She organized rallies against drugs and violence after a 15-year-old neighbor boy, and then her own 18-year-old son, were killed.  She worked for 12 years, as she said, with only the weapon of “non-violence protest.”  In 2002, six people died in Rochester PD custody.  In 2005, a 13-year-old suicidal girl was shot several times by police.  After Powell led protests about such events, she was charged with abusing her granddaughter (by an officer who had shot the 13-year-old girl).  The police warned her she was a “target” and should be careful.

She was definitely a target. In October 2006 she was a victim of a violent crime—not investigated—instead, after complaining, she was charged with burglary and assault.  Her accusers were the same people who had attacked her!  She was found guilty by an all-white jury and got 16 years.  As she said, “I was like so many activists before me, be killed or definitely set up.”  In May 2011, things got worse.  She was convicted of killing a man in Rochester in 1992.  She was not guilty.  “I am actually and factually innocent!”  Her court-appointed lawyer ignored her pleas for meetings or for interviewing witnesses who could have proved her innocence.  She got 25 years to life.

Rev. Joy Powell has stated:  “The only thing I am guilty of is standing up for Equality and Justice for all. . . I never realized how much of a threat one individual could be unarmed, until I began to speak out against police brutality.”  She also wrote that she is like so many poor black people in prison “rotting in cages with lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit.”  And that she had four strikes against her:  “1. I am Black; 2. I am poor; 3. I am incarcerated; and 4. I am a woman.”  Black women “politicals,” political prisoners who have stood up against white America’s racist injustice—Lucy Parsons, Claudia Jones, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Diane Nash, Assata Shakur, Sandra Bland, Jasmine Richards, the still jailed Janine and Janet Africa, and the woman still in solitary confinement, Rev. Joy Powell—are defiant female rebels against a state which will go to any lengths to punish women exposing its crimes.

The Coalition of the US Justice Department and GE against Alstom

France doesn’t know it, but we are at war with the US. … Yes, the Americans are hard-nosed, they are voracious, they want unilateral global dominance. It is an unknown war, an ongoing war, with no apparent deaths and yet a war to the death.

François Mitterand

A Frenchman called Frédéric Pierucci, with co-author journalist Matthieu Aron, has recently published a book titled Le Piège Américain (The American Trap).

It is a real thriller, with a not very happy ending. There are no dead bodies, albeit there is a significant corporate murder. But before the resolution comes the nightmare.

A Frenchman savors the pleasure of American incarceration

On 14 April 2013, Pierucci is arrested at JFK airport after an exhausting flight from his home in Singapore. Immediately chained, he is herded to FBI headquarters in Manhattan, where he is grilled by an arrogant youngish prosecutor named David Novick. This first encounter will reflect standard practice – nobody is interested in what Pierucci has to say. He is already guilty, though of exactly what will vary at prosecutorial discretion.

Pierucci is soon carted off, in chains, to the high security prison Wyatt in Rhode Island. On 12 June 2014, fourteen months later, he is finally released on bail. But what is his crime?

Pierucci was then head of a subdivision of Alstom Power. Alstom, and its previous incarnations, was a French industrial flagship in (amongst other domains) power generating equipment and in transport.

In 2003, Alstom tendered to build an electricity power plant on Sumatra. The job was relatively small scale as power plants go. However, Alstom had targeted a success on this contract as symbolic because it was then in trouble. In 2000, Alstom acquired the gas turbine assets of its then joint venture partner ABB, but ABB’s flawed equipment proved a financial disaster for Alstom, with debilitating consequences.

For the Indonesian bid, Alstom had arguably a superior design. But a US company became the favored bidder, rumored to be the product of a bribe. In any case, Indonesia in the Suharto era was seen as natural American territory. In response, Alstom found another intermediary ‘consultant’ and it subsequently won the contract in 2004. Pierucci, then US-based during 1999-2006, knew of the initial Indonesian bid, explicitly refused to sanction a bribe via the first intermediary but knew nothing of the bribe that clinched the deal. That bribe was the hook by which Pierucci was arrested and imprisoned in 2013.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) was passed in 1977 under the Carter Presidency. In the process of post-Watergate investigations of Nixon-era corruption, the authorities discover a widespread practice of US companies bribing foreign officials to obtain state-funded contracts. American companies fought back, claiming that the law will severely disadvantage American companies while non-American companies carry on the practice.

The asymmetry could not be permitted to prevail. The FCPA was applied only rarely during 1977-2001, and then predominantly against second rung companies. The US pressured the OECD to develop a comparable anti-bribery convention covering all member countries (in effect, enforceable from the US) – a convention established in 1997, formally effective 1999. The French government ratified the convention in September 2000.

But the big changes occurred domestically. In 1998, Congress gives the FCPA extra-territoriality, extending its reach to foreign corporations. After 2003, the Clinton administration decided to employ the full resources of the American state, unparalleled elsewhere, to support American companies in their global competition against other companies. The previous presumed asymmetry would be reversed to operate in American corporations’ favor. That ‘toolkit’ was dramatically enhanced with Clinton’s inheritance of the post-911 construction of a comprehensive intelligence operation. Henceforth all commercial secrets were fair game.

Alstom and other companies declined to confront the implications of the new regime. Such companies, with ‘respectable’ consulting firms offering advice, set up schemes to dissimulate compliance. Alstom’s denial was cemented when Patrick Kron was brought in to repair the ABB-linked problems, becoming PDG (combines CEO & Board Chairman roles, common in French companies) of Alstom in early 2003.

Alstom’s then legal officer Fred Einbinder (American-born) advised Kron to get with the times, but Einbinder was pushed aside in 2010 and his job taken by Keith Carr. Carr told Pierucci shortly before the latter’s 2013 trip to the US that if anything happened Pierucci should contact him. Pierucci did not know then the meaning of that cryptic message, and Carr would prove to be no help at all.

American justice and its centers of correction

In Pierucci’s book there are ancillary descriptions and lessons regarding the American ‘justice’ system and the American prison system.

On the justice system, Pierucci’s fate is in the hands of Department of Justice prosecutors David Novick and his immediate boss Daniel Kahn. Everything is manipulated.

Pierucci is regularly carted off, preliminary body search, in an armored vehicle, in chains, to New Haven three hours away, for a brief hearing before judge Joan Margolis. Ten charges (over a 72-page dossier) are laid that could sum to a sentence of one hundred and twenty-five years. Margolis kowtows to the vindictive Novick, who demands continued imprisonment because there is no extradition treaty with France, claiming that the serious charges are worthy of life imprisonment. Pierucci is returned to Wyatt with no progress. Pierucci is a pawn in Justice’s pursuit of Alstom.

Pierucci obtains one lawyer, then two, initially at Alstom’s expense. These urge Pierucci to play by the rules. The rules dictate that one confesses to ‘the crime’ in the hope of being handed a lesser sentence. Pierucci’s guilt is foreordained, although the details of his crime are fashioned pragmatically and are altered on the hop. It is a Kafkaesque environment, an adjective employed accurately by Pierucci in the book.

His lawyers early suggest that $100,000 might suffice to obtain bail; then they come back to ask him how much resources he commands. The answer is, nominally $400,000 maximum, to which the lawyers reply – hm, that isn’t going to be enough. Later, the judge demands $1 million from Alstom and $400,000 from Pierucci himself. The sum will be later increased.

Meanwhile, daily life in Wyatt is grim. Being the only white collar professional detainee in the place, he writes an account as inmate that adds to previous exposés of the US prison system. There is the predictable deprivation of liberties, the heady dose of gratuitous humiliation and dehumanization. All personal possessions are immediately confiscated, including the wedding ring. Access to natural light and air is a luxury. Connection with the outside world is tightly restricted. Being a privately-operated profit-driven prison, inmates have to pay for everything, the pricing to the captive consumer being exorbitant. The food is execrable. For a time, his only reading matter allowed is the prison rulebook.

Early on, Pierucci receives calls from Tim Curran, head of Alstom Power (US), and Keith Carr, legal officer, that negotiations are occurring with the Justice Department and he will be freed overnight. Carr himself had travelled to the US to meet Justice Department official merely a day after Pierucci’s arrest, but the key man condoning Alstom’s subterfuge had been allowed to jet off back home.

Pierucci needs documents from Alstom that would prove his innocence with respect to the Indonesian affair, but Alstom could not provide such documents without instead implicating senior executives in facilitating and covering up the affair.

Alstom offered no support to its incarcerated senior employee, save for paying the lawyer bills for a time – with the demand that if Pierucci is found guilty he will have to pay back the legal expenses. Early on, Alstom cuts off all his firm-based connections – phone, email, etc. After 21 years’ service he becomes a non-person.

Worse, the French government was also silent. Only one official, a Boston-based consulate employee, offered emotional support.

Pierucci was thus abandoned, facing an intolerable daily prison regimen, and malevolent prosecutors fronting, with complicit useless lawyers, a judicial system without honor. The barbarous treatment of whistleblower Chelsea Manning is prime testament to the subordination of American justice to the machinations of power.

On 29 July 2013, under instructions from his lawyers, Pierucci pleaded ‘guilty’ to being complicit, with his ‘co-conspirators’, in the Indonesian contract bribe. Things get worse rather than offering relief. The prosecution takes the plea literally, while knowing otherwise. Pierucci is being held as hostage to up the ante on Alstom.

Alstom, also taking the plea literally while knowing otherwise, abandons Pierucci completely by ceasing to fund his lawyers. No-one in Alstom dares to go near him, or near family members seeking means of redress. In September, Alstom sacks Pierucci for not being present to do his job. More:

Your admission of guilt … carries an undeniable prejudice to Alstom’s global image. In effect the nature of your acts, strictly contrary to the policies and values of the Alstom Group … [etc.]

The Department of Justice had been pursuing Alstom aggressively since 2010. Some foreign companies subject to the same pursuit came to the party early and were repaid with lesser fines attributed. Alstom, under Kron’s management, declined to do so – thus Pierucci’s ongoing imprisonment. Several other Alstom executives were also arrested, but Pierucci’s fate was then made to hinge on how these other executives responded to charges against them. One, being American, was bailed and in no hurry to come to the party.

Gradually, in prison, Pierucci gains ‘right’ of access to outside materials, and family and friends oblige. Pierucci devotes himself fulltime to the study of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and its operations. He discovers that the FCPA has been applied selectively. The FCPA has become an integral arm of foreign economic policy.

Penalties explode after 2008. An appendix in the book lists the 26 companies (to 2018) for which a fine over $100 million has been applied. Five are US-based (KBR/Halliburton, Och-Ziff Capital Management, JP Morgan Chase and Avon Products), and twenty-one are foreign. Of the total of fines inflicted ($8,872,000) on this group, 20 per cent applied to the American corporations, 60 per cent applied to European companies and 20 percent to others. The American defense and energy giants, etc., are not on the list. And even amongst foreign corporations, the pursuit is selective – those in collaboration with US corporations are overlooked.

General Electric in the wings

Let’s cut to the chase. Alstom was being pursued not merely because it is competitive with US giants like General Electric, but also because GE wants its assets and attendant skills and order book. The pursuit of Alstom was a joint Justice Department / GE endeavor.

Alstom would become the fifth company that GE bought with Justice Department leverage. That GE was chock full of ex-Justice Department staff facilitated the joint venture. Justice and GE would mutually determine the timing of the takeover of Alstom Energy (the bulk of the Alstom group) and of the attribution of the fine.

In late 2016 I documented in detail the pursuit and ultimate absorption by GE of Alstom Energy (‘Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy’), drawing considerably on Jean-Michel Quatrepoint’s 2015 Alstom: scandale d’État. Pierucci’s insider account complements the story.

On 19 December 2014 the Alstom AGM legitimizes the takeover that had been determined at high level in June. The same day, Alstom finally pleads guilty to the charges. GE already knows the scale of the fine and can thus fix the purchase price. A mere three days later, the Justice Department throws a press conference with full fanfare. Deputy Prosecutor General James Cole orates, in front of an immense American flag:

We are here to include in in a historic decision that marks the culmination of a decade of corruption on an international scale. A system of corruption has been put in place and then concealed by a French multinational enterprise: Alstom. … Such an unbridled and blatant offense demands a strong response from the law. [etc.]

The purchase had been agreed between the GE CEO and Alstom PDG in June 2014. Why then did the Justice Department wait another six months to orchestrate the fine? Essentially Kron had to be kept in charge until the AGM legitimized the deal.

Kron, who had overseen the corrupt practices, is granted at the AGM a €4 million bonus for orchestrating so deftly the sale of Alstom Energy to GE. Pierucci estimates that Kron finally left Alstom with more than €12 million in gratuitous handouts.

The Justice Department had, in its charges, pursued Alstom for graft in only five countries, whereas it had information implicating Alstom elsewhere. The point? The pursuit was less about the pursuit of guilty parties but more about the control of Alstom.

And Pierucci? At the Justice Dept conference on 22 December 2014, Attorney General Leslie Caldwell incidentally admits that Pierucci (and several others) had been held hostage to force Alstom to cooperate with Justice’s pursuit.

For this masterly process of legal legerdemain prosecutors David Novick and Daniel Kahn received promotions. Kahn’s brief biography on his Harvard website has his career as embodying the utmost moral probity, a dogged champion of worthy causes. The site notes that he was recipient of an ‘Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service for his work on the prosecution of Alstom S.A. and its executives’. Omitted is any reference to the entirely corrupt procedure by which Alstom was pursued in the interests of GE, and for which Pierucci became a sacrificial lamb.

The takeover still needed approval from Brussels regarding its competition impact, which gives the green light (with minor demands) in September 2015. The sale is finally concluded in November 2015. Peculiarly, several days later, Judge Janet Bond Arterton approves Alstom’s guilty plea, eleven months after the plea and fine had been negotiated. The entire American legal system is in on the act.

Pierucci has a second sojourn in the clink

Pierucci was present at the 19 December AGM, seating himself prominently but being studiously ignored from the podium. Given bail in June 2014 on the strength of surety from two supporters, he has a forced stay in the US for several months then is allowed to return to France and to his family. For three years he lives as a dangling man, unemployable.

In September 2017 Pierucci must forcibly return to the US to be finally charged (4 ½ years after his arrest. New charges, false, are belatedly added. On the 25th, he is before federal judge Arterton (the same). He is not interrogated but lectured on his deep moral culpability and failings. Totting up all the points associated with his crimes, and allowing for no criminal record, the learned judge places the range of his possible sentence at between 262 to 327 months (à la 21 to 27 years)! Pierucci was expecting, his useless lawyer advising, no further imprisonment. Consistent with the arbitrariness of it all, to teach the morally deficient Pierucci and others a lesson, Arderton hands down a sentence of 30 months. With good behavior in Wyatt, the sentence is reduced to 12 months.

In October, Pierucci takes a taxi to imprisonment in another private prison, this time the GEO-owned Moshannon Valley Correction Center in central Pennsylvania. More institutionalized brutality, penny pinching and slave labor, but at least there’s a library. He pushes to be transferred to France, without success.

On 10 September 2018, Pierucci is chained hands and feet and subject to prison stops (a regular sadistic practice labelled ‘diesel therapy’) over three days, and then an 8-day stint in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (the ‘Guantanamo of New York’), the same place where he began his American incarceration 5 ½ years previously. He is given no clothes and has no money. Hygiene is deplorable, leaking water everywhere, nothing works, mice infestation. Drug lord El Chapo is a resident at the same time, adding to the clamor. On 21 September, chained hands and feet again, he is finally put on a plane for France. Briefly imprisoned, a judge gives him conditional liberty on the 25th – 25 months in prison, 15 in high security, a patsy for other’s wrongdoing.

Some French confront the catastrophe, others not

In the meantime, a cross-Party handful of Deputies became hot under the collar over not merely the breakup of a major French industrial flagship, but the farcical manner in which the takeover had proceeded. They established an inquest in the National Assembly, beginning March 2015, before which Kron repeated the lie that the Alstom group lacked the scale to compete and denied a Deputy’s accusation, self-evident, that his key role in pursuing and facilitating the GE takeover was due to Justice’s threat over Alstom and him personally. Kron remained unrepentant regarding his actions and subsequently sailed off into the sunset with his loot.

Pierucci notes that the inquest elicited information on the handmaidens to the judicial and takeover process. Both GE and Alstom employed armies of law firms, banks and PR firms, with the Alstom disbursements disclosed as summing to a staggering €262 million.

During the entire episode, Emmanuel Macron – successively President Hollande’s economic adviser at the Élysée, Hollande’s Economy Minister and then himself President – looked the other way. Macron abjectly defends the takeover in May 2015. As President, Macron has been too busy privatizing everything that moves, presiding over a ‘wind-down nation’ rather than the ‘start-up nation’ that he promised the electorate.

Immediately after the judicially accepted Alstom guilty plea in November 2015, GE goes into overdrive. It announces a global restructuring with 10,000 employees to be sacked. Its promises of substantial employment generation in France itself are hollow. It breaks its commitment to selling its transport subsidiary to Alstom Transport. Most particularly, it ups the price on the maintenance of EDF’s electricity-generating nuclear reactors, which crucial service Alstom Energy had previously performed. Blackmail at the heart of the national interest.

Ironically, the takeover of Alstom Energy has proved to be not the trophy that GE expected. Ha ha ha! But GE always has state support and tax evasion on a massive scale to sustain it. GE is an arm of the state and the state is an arm of GE.

The big picture

The story of the GE Alstom takeover has broader implications. The affair is not an aberration but symptomatic of how global competition is played out. The US, with the greatest arsenal, is the most brutal player. China is now upping the ante (as with its rejection of Australian coal over Australia playing the usual lackey to the US). China’s Belt & Road Initiative is a grander and more sophisticated exemplar. Europe remains a babe in the woods regarding how the game is played.

Canada’s arrest in January 2019 of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, is utterly representative of the game. Huawei is a threat not primarily because it provides a backdoor to Chinese state snooping (the US IT companies already provide a template) but because its 5G structure is technologically superior.

Japan arrested and imprisoned Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn (PDG and Board Chairman respectively) in November 2018. Ghosn has been a prince amongst executives, treating himself and kindred to lavish emoluments, so the fall has been spectacular. The Japanese authorities have accused him of appropriating Nissan corporate funds for personal ends. The authorities may very well have cause, but the affair goes beyond a personal cooking of the books. It is a matter of Japan, long familiar with and practiced at state-corporate global economic assertiveness, attempting to recover Nissan from the suzerainty previously exercised by Renault and Ghosn at its helm.

Meanwhile the economics profession is still prattling on about the benefits of ‘competition’ and ‘free trade’ – all in the abstract. The preposterous notion of ‘comparative advantage’ still lurks in the litany. In the interests of enlightenment of tertiary-trained generations, it would be desirable to pension off those specialists in fairy tales, consign their syllabuses to the scrap heap, and replace them with experts who understand how the global economic game is really played.

The Prosecution Of Julian Assange Is A Threat To Journalists Everywhere

Supporters of Julian Assange gather outside Westminster Court after Assange’s arrest (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz for AFP-NurPhoto)

Take action to protect Julian AssangeClick here to read about what you can do.

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The arrest of Julian Assange not only puts the free press in the United States at risk, it puts any reporters who expose US crimes anywhere in the world at risk. As Pepe Escobar wrote

Let’s cut to the chase. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, he’s an Australian. WikiLeaks is not a US-based media organization. If the US government gets Assange extradited, prosecuted and incarcerated, it will legitimize its right to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere, anytime.

The Assange prosecution requires us to build a global movement to not only free Julian Assange, but to protect the world from the crimes and corruption of the United States and other governments. The reality is that Freedom of Press for the 21st Century is on trial.

There are many opportunities for a movement to impact the outcome of this process and to free Julian Assange.  The extradition process includes political decisions by both the UK and US governments. Courts are impacted by public opinion. If courts are convinced this case is about political issues, extradition could be rejected.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen after was arrested by British police outside Westminster in a police van on his way to Magistrates Court in London, Britain April 11, 2019 (Photo by Peter Nicholls for Reuters)

Next Steps, Next Opportunities

Last week’s arrest begins the next phase of Assange’s defense as well as the defense of our right to know what governments do in our name. It may seem like this is now a matter only for the courts, but, in fact, the prosecution of Assange is political. The extradition case is not a hacking case, as the US is trying to present it; it is a prosecution about exposing war crimes, corporate corruption of US foreign policy and other violations of law by the United States and its allies. The government is trying to change the subject to avoid the facts that Assange exposed.

In fact, the indictment does not even allege hacking. As Glenn Greenwald writes: “the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity.” Assange lawyer Barry Pollack described why journalists everywhere are threatened: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

The extradition process is likely to last months, most likely more than a year. The Assange case could go into 2020 or beyond. Issues that could prevent extradition include Assange’s health conditions, human rights concerns, and whether there is a political motivation behind the US request. Not only can Assange appeal through the UK courts, but he may also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

While we should not limit our mobilizations to legal filings, hearings, appeals and administrative decisions, those are all opportunities to educate and mobilize people. The next court date on the extradition will be a preliminary hearing on May 2 where Assange will appear by video link.  Next, the United States must produce its case for requesting the extradition of Julian Assange from Britain by June 12.

These are just initial steps. Lawfare reports, “It may be years before Assange sees the inside of a U.S. courtroom. The initial Swedish request to extradite Assange from the U.K. came in November 2010. Assange successfully slowed the process until June 2012.”

Lawfare also points to the case of Lauri Love, who faced extradition for hacking US government computers. It took three years for the extradition case, and then Love raised health issues that would be impacted by a long sentence and  two years later, he won on appeal with the court ruling it would be “oppressive to his physical and mental condition.” Assange has also developed health issues over the last seven years of living in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Then, there is the case of another British hacker, Gary McKinnon, who was indicted in 2002. The extradition proceedings dragged on for a decade. In the end, then-Home Secretary Theresa May, withdrew the extradition order because of McKinnon’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and depression: “Mr. McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr. McKinnon’s human rights.”

That’s right, in one case the court ruled against extradition due to health issues, and the other, Theresa May (yes, the current prime minister) withdrew the extradition due to health reasons. Beyond health, there are other issues that could be persuasive in Assange’s case.

Someone cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” The US Department of Justice has tried to avoid the obvious politics of Assange’s case by alleging in the indictment that it is a hacking case. In reality, and everyone knows this reality, Assange is being prosecuted because he exposed war crimes including the wanton killing of journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and the corruption of US foreign policy by transnational corporations. These are the big elephants in the room that the United States is trying to hide.

The U.S. prison system is seen around the world as inhumane. The UN Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the US prisons on a number of issues, among them torture and the extensive use of solitary confinement. The U.S .uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, on any given day, at least 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US. The US holds political prisoners in long-term solitary confinement as demonstrated by the imprisonment of black liberation activists who were held in solitary for decades. And whistleblowers have been held in solitary as was Chelsea Manning during her prosecution, including her most recent incarceration for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Assange. The European Court of Human Rights has prevented extradition to the U.S. from the U.K .in a case involving an alleged terrorist because of inhumane prison conditions.

The US put forward a flimsy indictment that even on its face did not prove the allegation of assisting Manning with the password to access secret documents. The US put forward this weak and relatively mild charge probably to make extradition easier. They sought to avoid the political issue, which could have stopped the extradition. But, they are skirting extradition law with this approach, and if they hit Assange with a superseding indictment when he is extradited, it would be a violation of the doctrine of specialty, which means a person can only face trial for offenses presented to justify that extradition.

Assange on steps of High Court in London, December 2010 (Photo by Stefan Wermuth for Reuters)

The Politics of the Assange Prosecution

The reality of the Assange prosecution being about his journalism is obvious to all. Those in the media making the claim that this is about hacking, know they are stretching the truth in order to side with the U.S. government. People should know media that make this claim cannot be trusted to report the truth.

The editor of White House Watch, Dan Froomkin, pulls the thin veil off of this lie writing: “Julian #Assange has been charged with conspiracy to commit journalism. The free press has not ducked a bullet here; it’s taken one to the chest.” The Assange prosecution is about the criminalization of journalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists writes, the indictment would “criminalize normal journalistic activities.” This obvious truth will become more evident as the case proceeds and the movement educates the public and mobilizes support to free Assange.

Already, in USA Today, Jonathan Turley clarified what the prosecution is really about: “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be punished for embarrassing the DC establishment.” The “embarrassment” really is complicity against crimes that in an effective international judicial system would result in prosecution of US officials and members of the US military who committed them. And in a US justice system that sought justice, there would have been prosecutions of members of the military for torture and of lawyers providing legal cover for these actions.

The US election season is upon us and this presents opportunities for mobilization and making Assange’s case an election issue. One presidential candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, Tulsi Gabbard, has already come out against extradition. More candidates need to be urged to oppose extradition.

Candidates can be pressured from the outside as well. Green candidate, Howie Hawkins already wrote that he opposes extradition and urges people to defend Freedom of the Press. Hawkins is in the exploratory phase of a potential campaign. The Green Party has also published a statement that “unequivocally condemns the arrest of Julian Assange and calls for his immediate release.”

President Trump has kept his options open. Trump said in the Oval Office, that he “knows nothing” about the prosecution and “It’s not my thing.” Sean Hannity, a Trump media cheerleader has offered to let Assange host his show and reach his 15 million viewers. Assange is a wedge issue that divides Trump loyalists.

If the movement does its job and builds a national consensus against the prosecution of a publisher for reporting the truth, Trump may side with those in his voting base that is against extradition; and the leading Democratic candidates may also come out against prosecution and to protect a free press that reports crimes of the US government.

In the United Kingdom, things are in flux as well. While the next election is scheduled for 2022, the government is ever closer to being forced to hold an election as it is trapped in a Brexit quandary and showing its inability to govern. Jeremy Corbyn has already said, “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.” Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, said Assange should not be extradited: “It is this whistleblowing into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale, that has put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US administration.” In the end, a new government could end the extradition as the Home Secretary can choose to reject the extradition.

There are also international politics impacted by the Assange prosecution. Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson said “extradition will set a very dangerous precedent for all media organizations and journalists around the world.” This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States,

The US is seeking to prosecute a foreign reporter, working from a foreign country about US war crimes. What would happen if a US reporter wrote about crimes in a foreign country? Could that country prosecute a US journalist? That is the precedent the US is setting. And, how hypocritical for the US to seek to prosecute a foreign journalist in the same week that the US celebrated evading an investigation by the International Criminal Court of alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

Free Assange protest outside of British Embassy in Washington DC from News2Share.com

Free Assange Campaign Will Be A Global Campaign For The Right To Know

At least five times, the UN, through various committees and special rapporteurs, has called on Assange not to be prosecuted or extradited to the United States. A campaign to stop the prosecution of Assange will build into a global movement because the US has created chaos and havoc around the world, and has killed more than a million people this century and made many millions into refugees.

The people of the world are impacted by the actions of the United States and they have a right to know what the United States is doing. The people of the US are told we live in a democracy, but there can be no democracy when the people are not allowed to know what the government is doing in our name.

Protests occurred immediately on the day Assange was arrested and continued this weekend. We have started a campaign to Free Assange. As people understand the dramatic implications of this prosecution, protests will grow. Daniel Ellsberg described this unprecedented prosecution as a threat to the future of the republic and said it was time “to join ranks here now to expose and resist the wrongful–and in this country unconstitutional–abuse of our laws to silence journalists.”

In court, Assange showed his defiance of the national security state, which seeks to destroy him, by sitting calmly in the dock, reading Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State and holding it up obviously to give everyone in court a view.  We must be in solidarity with that defiance and build the campaign that is needed to free Julian Assange.

The Unfinished Gaza War: What Netanyahu Hopes to Gain from Attacking Palestinian Prisoners

The current violence targeting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails dates back to January 2. It was then that Israel’s Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan declared that the “party is over.”

“Every so often, infuriating pictures appear of cooking in the terrorist wings. This party is coming to an end,” Erdan was quoted in the Jerusalem Post.

Then, the so-called Erdan’s Committee recommended various measures aimed at ending the alleged “party”, which included placing limits on prisoners’ use of water, banning food preparations in cells, and installing jamming devices to block the alleged use of smuggled cell phones.

The last measure, in particular, caused outrage among prisoners, for such devices have been linked to severe headaches, fainting and other long-term ailments.

Erdan followed his decision with a promise of the “use of all means in (Israel’s) disposal” to control any prisoners’ protests in response to the new restrictions.

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) “will continue to act with full force” against prison “riots”, he said, as reported by the Times of Israel.

That “full force” was carried out on January 20 at the Ofer Military Prison near Ramallah, in the West Bank, where a series of Israeli raids resulted in the wounding of more than 100 prisoners, many of whom sustaining bullet wounds.

The Nafha and Gilboa prisons were also targeted with the same violent pattern.

The raids continued, leading to more violence in the Naqab Prison on March 24, this time conducted by the IPS force, known as the Metzada unit.

Metzada is IPS’ ‘hostage rescue special operation’ force and is known for its very violent tactics against prisoners. Its attack on Naqab resulted in the wounding of many prisoners, leaving two in critical condition. Palestinian prisoners fought back, reportedly stabbing two prison guards with sharp objects.

On March 25, more such raids were conducted, also by Metzada, which targeted Ramon, Gilboa, Nafha and Eshel prisons.

In response, the leadership of Palestinian prisoners adopted several measures including the dismantling of the regulatory committees and any other form of representation of prisoners inside Israeli jails.

The decentralization of Palestinian action inside Israeli prisons would make it much more difficult for Israel to control the situation and would allow prisoners to use whichever form of resistance they may deem fit.

But why is Israel provoking such confrontations when Palestinian prisoners are already subjected to a most horrid existence and numerous violations of international law?

Equally important, why now?

On December 24, embattled Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders of Israel’s right-wing government dissolved the Knesset (parliament) and declared early elections on April 9.

A most winning strategy for Israeli politicians during such times is usually increasing their hostility against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, including the besieged Gaza Strip.

Indeed, a hate-fest, involving many of Israel’s top candidates kicked in, some calling for war on Gaza, others for teaching Palestinians a lesson, annexing the West Bank, and so on.

Merely a week after the election date announcement was made, raids of prisons began in earnest.

For Israel, it seemed like a fairly safe and controlled political experiment. Video footage of Israeli forces beating up hapless prisoners, accompanied by angry statements made by top Israeli officials captured the imaginations of a decidedly right-wing, militant society.

And that’s precisely what took place, at first. However, on March 25, a flare in violence in Gaza led to a limited, undeclared war.

A full-fledged Israeli war on Gaza would be a big gamble during an election season, especially as recent events suggest that the time of easy wars is over. While Netanyahu adopted the role of the decisive leader, so determined to crush the Gaza resistance, his options on the ground are actually quite limited.

Even after Israel accepted Egyptian-mediated ceasefire terms with the Gaza factions, Netanyahu continued to talk tough.

“I can tell you we are prepared to do a lot more,” Netanyahu said in reference to the Israeli attack on Gaza during a video speech beamed to his supporters in Washington on March 26.

But, for once, he couldn’t, and that failure, from an Israeli viewpoint, intensified verbal attacks by his political rivals.

Netanyahu has “lost his grip on security,” the Blue and White party leader, Benny Gantz proclaimed.

Gantz’s accusation was just another insult in an edifice of similar blistering attacks questioning Netanyahu’s ability to control Gaza.

In fact, a poll, conducted by the Israeli TV channel, Kan, on March 27, found that 53% of Israelis believe that Netanyahu’s response to the Gaza resistance is “too weak.”

Unable to counter with more violence, at least for now, the Netanyahu government responded by opening another battlefront, this time in Israeli prisons.

By targeting prisoners, especially those affiliated with certain Gaza factions, Netanyahu is hoping to send a message of strength, and to assure his nervous constituency of his prowess.

Aware of the Israeli strategy, Hamas’ political leader, Ismail Haniyeh linked the ceasefire to the issue of prisoners.

We “are ready for all scenarios,” Haniyeh said in a statement.

In truth, the Netanyahu-Erdan war on Palestinian prisoners is foolish and unwinnable. It has been launched with the assumption that a war of this nature will have limited risks, since prisoners are, by definition, isolated and unable to fight back.

To the contrary, Palestinian prisoners have, without question, demonstrated their tenacity and ability to devise ways to resist the Israeli occupier throughout the years. But more importantly, these prisoners are far from being isolated.

In fact, the nearly 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails represent whatever semblance of unity among Palestinians that transcends factions, politics and ideology.

Considering the direct impact of the situation in Israeli prisons on the collective psyche of all Palestinians, any more reckless steps by Netanyahu, Erdan and their IPS goons will soon result in greater collective resistance, a struggle that Israel cannot easily suppress.

The Destruction of Freedom: Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange And The Corporate Media

In 2010, US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence after she had leaked more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. Perhaps the most notorious of the releases was a US military video that WikiLeaks titled ‘Collateral Murder‘. It showed the indiscriminate slaying of up to eighteen people in Baghdad on 12 July, 2007. The footage, taken from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, showed the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters journalist and his rescuers. A second Reuters staff member, employed as a driver and camera assistant, was also killed. Two young children, whose father was among those killed, were seriously wounded.

The video, together with the transcript of army exchanges during the indiscriminate US killings, shocked many around the world:

Let’s shoot.
Light ’em all up.
Come on, fire!
Keep shoot, keep shoot. [keep shooting]
keep shoot.
keep shoot.
[…]
Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.
Nice.

While in prison, Manning twice attempted to commit suicide and also spent time in solitary confinement. She was released in 2017, after her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, two days before he left office.

On 8 March – International Women’s Day – Manning was once again jailed after she refused to testify against WikiLeaks, and its founder Julian Assange, before a grand jury in Virginia. A grand jury means that the public is not allowed entry: the hearings are held in secret. She said in a statement:

I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury.

Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.

Binoy Kampmark, who lectures at RMIT University in Melbourne, remarked:

The sense of dredging and re-dredging in efforts to ensnare Manning is palpable… There is a distinct note of the sinister in this resumption of hounding a whistleblower.

Kampmark added:

Manning’s original conviction was a shot across the bow, the prelude to something fundamental. Journalists long protected for using leaked material under the First Amendment were going to become future targets of prosecution.

Sending Manning back to jail shows:

the unequivocal determination of US authorities to fetter, if not totally neutralise, the reach of WikiLeaks in the modern information wars.

The famous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 detailing US war crimes in Vietnam and US government lies to the public, told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

This is a continuation of seven-and-a-half years of torture of Chelsea Manning, in an effort to get her to contribute to incriminating WikiLeaks, so that they can bring Julian Assange or WikiLeaks to trial on charges that would not apply to The New York Times. It’s been speculated for years now that the secret charges, if they did exist—and apparently they do exist—against Julian Assange were under the same charges that I was first—the first person to be prosecuted for, back in 1971: violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy and theft. It would be the same cases brought against me.

Ellsberg continued:

Unfortunately, bringing that against a journalist is even more blatantly a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of the press. And although Donald Trump has made it very plain he would love to prosecute and convict The New York Times, he doesn’t have the guts to do that, to do what he wants, fortunately, because it would be so obviously unconstitutional, that although his base would be happy with it and he would be happy with it, he would get into too much trouble constitutionally. So he wants to find charges against Julian that would be different from mine, because if he brought the same charges that he brought against me—in this case, against a journalist—it would clearly be found unconstitutional.’

He then pointed to the significance of this latest development:

And so, Chelsea, having failed to give them what they wanted over seven-and-a-half years here she was incarcerated, or since, or in the grand jury—namely, false incriminating charges against WikiLeaks—they’re resorting again to torture, which does work at getting false confessions. That’s what it’s for. That’s what it mainly does. They want her to contradict her earlier sworn testimony many times, that she behaved in relation to WikiLeaks exactly as she would have to The New York Times or The Washington Post, to whom she went first, before going to WikiLeaks. And they didn’t pick up on what she was offering, so she went to WikiLeaks. But she took sole responsibility, not to spare them, but because that was the truth. And she tells the truth.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to a series of Guardian and Washington Post articles based on documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, concurred that the real target is WikiLeaks:

The Trump administration is trying to do what the Obama administration tried to do but ultimately concluded it couldn’t do without jeopardizing press freedoms, which is to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for what it regards as the crime of publishing top-secret or classified documents.

Greenwald rightly called this attempt to go after WikiLeaks ‘a grave threat to press freedom’. However:

Most reporters are mute on this scandal, on this controversy, and while a lot of Democrats are supportive of it, because they still hate WikiLeaks so much from the 2016 election that they’re happy to see Julian Assange go to jail, even if it means standing behind the Trump administration.

The reference to the 2016 election is the allegation that WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic Party and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman, brought about Trump’s victory. Assange had even supposedly conspired with Trump, and with Trump’s alleged Russian allies, to fatally damage Clinton’s 2016 campaign: charges that are without any solid basis.

The Courage Foundation, a trust set up to fundraise the legal defence of individuals such as whistleblowers and journalists, warns of the ‘Assange Precedent’; namely, the threat to all media posed by the Trump administration’s attempt to prosecute Julian Assange:

All media organizations and journalists must recognize the threat to their freedom and ability to work posed by the Trump Administration’s prosecution of Assange. They should join human rights organizations, the United Nations and many others in opposing Assange’s extradition. They should do so out of their own self-interest given that their ability to safely publish is under serious threat.

In December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention deemed that the WikiLeaks founder, whose health is deteriorating, has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. George Galloway rightly points out that:

It’s a kind of modern day torture that Julian Assange has been subjected to.

In November 2018, Assange’s mother made an urgent and impassioned plea to raise awareness of his plight:

This is not a drill. This is an emergency. The life of my son…is in immediate and critical danger.

On 18 March, Christine Assange renewed her appeal to journalists, in particular, to stand up for her son. Their record to date has been, in the main, shameful. We have previously detailed numerous examples of journalistic abuse, scorn and ridicule thrown at Assange, and WikiLeaks, notably by Guardian journalists. For instance, Hannah Parkinson, who writes for the Guardian and its sister Sunday paper, the Observer, tweeted this about Assange last year:

This little shit has lived rent free in Knightsbridge for 5 years, probably saved about £200k.

The tweet was ‘liked’ by John Simpson, the ‘impartial’ grandly-titled BBC World Affairs Editor who exudes gravitas, if little insight, on world affairs.

And in response to the news last October that Assange was to launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his fundamental rights and freedoms, Parkinson had tweeted:

A teenager whose parents turn the wifi off

This is par for the course at the Guardian whose journalists are regularly shamed by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange doing the real job of exposing power to public scrutiny. In 2015, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had even mocked Chelsea Manning when she was put in solitary confinement:

And the world’s tiniest violin plays a sad song

That, however, did earn a mild rebuke in a tweet from Guardian editor Matt Wells. The tweets were subsequently deleted, but not before screenshots had been saved.

The disdain, sometimes outright hostility, towards WikiLeaks and Assange is also reflected in the minimal coverage, and distinct lack of support, for Chelsea Manning’s renewed incarceration. The Guardian merely published a brief article titled, ‘Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify to grand jury in WikiLeaks case’. As WikiLeaks journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson pointed out:

Of the MSM [‘mainstream’ media] the @guardian benefitted most from material Chelsea Manning was sentenced for in 2013. You might expect a huge story on the yda [yesterday] jailing of @xychelsea [Chelsea Manning] to extort her to testify against Assange/@wikileaks. But nothing except a small AP [Associated Press] based story that quickly lost front.

Hrafnsson added:

Every day Chelsea Manning @xychelsea spends in jail for refusing to testify against Assange/@wikileaks adds shame to those journalists who remain silent about this disgrace. This applies especially to those who benefited most from her brave acts in the past. @guardian @nytimes

The Guardian had, of course, benefitted in publishing Greenwald’s work based on Manning’s releases via WikiLeaks; as well as book sales that were generated on the back of WikiLeaks’ work. In 2012, veteran journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote that the British government’s pursuit of Julian Assange was ‘an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism’. He described the corporate media’s treatment of Assange as ‘a vituperative personal campaign’:

Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover, has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

A ProQuest newspaper database search on 19 March revealed that there were but four newspaper articles about the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning in the whole of the national print press: The Times, the Daily Mail, The Herald and the Daily Record (the latter two newspapers are based in Scotland). The Guardian article mentioned above, based on an Associated Press release, was published online; but not in the print version. There was also an online Telegraph piece which was also just a press release (by Agence France-Presse). As far as we could tell, there was not a single editorial or column in a major national newspaper defending Chelsea Manning, nor pointing to the grave danger to press freedom that her new incarceration posed. That is a disgraceful indictment of our so-called ‘free press’.

In an interview last week with Dennis Bernstein on Radio KPFA, John Pilger described the significance, and injustice, of the recent jailing of Chelsea Manning. The irony of her being imprisoned on International Women’s Day was first noted, then Pilger pointed to the shameful silence from the women’s movement, and other human rights activists:

Where are they [human rights activists] on Chelsea Manning? Why were there only ten people outside the Court House? Where is Amnesty International? Where are the women’s groups? Where are the LGBT groups? Where are the Pride people? Why aren’t they massing in support of Chelsea Manning? Instead I see Chelsea Manning’s story relegated in a sort of, “Oh well, that’s almost inevitable this is going to happen.” But this […] is the most significant act of principle; an inspiration to all decent people; to democrats, to people who believe in justice. So where are the groups who have been very loud in their condemnation – rightly – of Donald Trump? Where are they? Why are we not hearing from them?

Discussion then turned to the crushing reality that the corporate media is an extension of an oppressive establishment order:

Dennis Bernstein: Iit seems to me that journalists believe Chelsea Manning should be in jail. And that Julian Assange isn’t a publisher, and that he should be tried for treason because, after all, these journalists are patriots. They’re no reporters.

John Pilger: Well, I think I’ll stand back a little from that question a little, Dennis. I think we can go on and beat our heads on the media brick wall, and asking these questions on the media. The media is part of an oppressive system in various forms […]. It is an extension of the established order and these days it is without something it used to have, and that is spaces – limited spaces – but spaces for free and fair comment. Right across the corporate media these spaces have evaporated. So they are part of a system. They have shown this in a most grotesque way by the persecution of Julian Assange – the slandering of him, the distortion of the facts about his case.

Pilger, who is well-versed in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model of the media, explained that it has already been clear for some considerable time how and why the corporate media operate in the way they do. It is now time for nonviolent direct action against the media that constantly promotes rapacious Western interests and erodes public freedoms:

It is certainly right for us to protest – and I think our protests against the media should be more of a direct action now: occupy their spaces, occupy their buildings, confront them.

Pilger added that ‘people who preserve human decency’ – the majority, that is – need to ask ourselves what we are doing about the ongoing state and corporate assault on freedom of expression; and, indeed, on freedom itself:

The Chelsea Manning/Julian Assange case goes to the very heart of everything. It is about freedom. It’s not just about freedom of expression. It is about justice. It is about the law: the use of law, the misuse of law. It is about right and wrong. If there is going to be any real debate, I think we have to confront it, and we have to do it on our terms; not through the hopeless cypher of a corporate media.

The corporate media is institutionally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the public; that is why we reject the label ‘mainstream’. The corporate media including BBC News, systematically promotes imperialist and exploitative state interests, together with private power in the form of big business, financial speculation, military forces, the arms industry, the fossil fuel lobby, destructive agribusiness, unsustainable food production and rampant global consumerism that is destroying ecosystems, ramping up mass loss of species and endangering human survival through climate chaos. This oppressive system, with the corporate media a vital cog in the apparatus, must be exposed, confronted, dismantled and replaced with a society that truly promotes democracy, justice and human potential. It is up to us to make it happen before it’s too late.

Blowing the Whistle in 1943

Being a writer of weekly columns and topical songs, these things are supposed to be at least somewhat temporary in nature. But whether it’s a podcast from last summer or a song I wrote a decade ago, change one or two words and it could have been written yesterday. To mention a few subjects I have addressed in recent months that refuse to fade into recent history: child separations at the border are once again in the news for a number of reasons, including corruption charges against the biggest for-profit child detention facility in the US; politicians and pundits continue to find supposedly new reasons to refer to Jeremy Corbyn, Ilhan Omar and the Gilets Jaune as anti-Semitic, despite all the accusations being self-evidently baseless; there has been yet another massacre in Gaza carried out by Israeli snipers, who are now as of this week being charged by the UN for war crimes; there has been a further dramatic escalation in the far right’s efforts to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Venezuela; the War on Refugees continues in the form of the 2020 Wall Budget Debate; and Chelsea Manning is back in jail, this time for refusing to testify to what is known as a grand jury.

To refresh our memories, what Private Manning was originally imprisoned for blowing the whistle on were things like the US use of torture and the commission of other war crimes such as a massacre of journalists and children by helicopter gunship. For exposing war crimes, Chelsea was not given an award or a promotion, she was called a traitor and many other things and given a very long prison sentence, eventually commuted by the last president just before he left office. Other people have blown the whistle on other crimes committed by our government and other governments, and for their good work they have been similarly rewarded, and some accidentally-released legal documents indicate that Julian Assange is completely justified in fearing that the US government is seeking his extradition and imprisonment, because they are. If not for the quick actions of Wikileaks and the Russian government back in 2013, Edward Snowden would be facing the same. (The hatred of these heroic whistle-blowers among the ranks of the US Congress has been largely bipartisan, it should be noted.)

Hearing about the re-arrest of Chelsea Manning and other developments that continually reinforce the general feeling that we are in the midst of a rapid descent into full-fledged fascism obviously inspires a lot of historical comparisons, especially among people who are apt to make such comparisons with very little provocation. As it happens, the particular village where I’m heading to at the end of this month invites more of the same comparisons.

For the first week of April and for most of July and August I’ll be running a very small cafe in Denmark — most of that time with my wife, Reiko, and our three kids. (Our toddler, Yuta, is already becoming a very good barista, practicing daily on his favorite toy, our home espresso machine.) I don’t know how old the building thirty meters from Øresund is that houses the cafe, but it has a traditional straw roof, and it was built at a time that the average Dane was a lot shorter than today. Standing up inside this cafe is only possible in certain spots if you’re an American male of average height (like I am). If this little building could tell stories, it would have a lot to say.

It directly faces the inlet that separates Denmark from Sweden. Cafe Hellebaek is named after the little fairy tale Danish village of Hellebaek in which it lies, on the line — and the road and bike path — separating the forested hills from the sea. For centuries, this part of Denmark was the front line in the Danish crown’s unceasing efforts to re-take contested parts of Sweden on the other side of the inlet. It was the longest war in recorded history, according to my friend Kristian Svensson, a Swedish songwriter, playwright and historian. (I learned a lot of other interesting random pieces of information from touring with Kristian.)

It’s been quite a while since there has been conflict between Sweden and Denmark. But in more relatively recent times, the little coastal village was witness to drama of the global-historic variety, particularly during a week spanning the end of September and beginning of October, 1943. Hellebaek would be one of three main villages that would be the launching points for the thousands of Danish Jews who would be successfully saved from imminent deportation and given asylum in Sweden, which, unlike Denmark, was not then suddenly under direct administration by Nazi occupiers.

These were not a matter of fake accusations of anti-Semitism back then. This was far, far too real. A phenomenon that had little history within the Muslim world prior to the twentieth century, but has been a major aspect characterizing European Christendom for over a millennia, culminating with the mechanized genocide carried out by the Nazis and their collaborators throughout Europe.

There were other forms of official anti-Semitism as well — for example, in Roosevelt’s America.

In 1943 the official policy of the US towards Jewish or other refugees from Germany or eastern Europe was to deny them visas or send them back. Perhaps not for the same reasons, Sweden was also wary of taking in such refugees. The Swedish policy changed on October 2nd, 1943, and this change was announced on the radio publicly, which was a crucial element of the whole operation actually taking place and working.

The overwhelming success of the operation was a testament to many things — to the bravery and efficiency of the Danish underground resistance movement; to the solidarity of the Danish people with their fellow Danes, whether they be Jewish or communist; to the fact that most of the German military was busy being defeated at Stalingrad; to the fact that Øresund is very narrow; and in no small part, to the principled actions of a Nazi Party whistle-blower named Georg Duckwitz.

As with Chelsea Manning, Georg Duckwitz was serving a regime that was actively committing crimes against humanity that differed in detail and in scale but in both cases involved things like invading countries based on false pretexts, overthrowing democracies, supporting and imposing dictatorships, immense corporate profiteering, millions of dead, millions of refugees, with entire countries, entire societies, laid to waste.

As with Chelsea Manning, Georg Duckwitz could no longer bear to be a cog in this machine of genocide, regardless of how direct or indirect his involvement was with the worst of the crimes being committed in the name of his blood and soil. Duckwitz’s moment to make a difference came when he learned of plans from Berlin to begin rounding up all the Jews they could find in Denmark. Obviously risking his life and liberty, Georg Duckwitz informed the chief rabbi of Denmark and on false pretenses he flew to Stockholm to inform the Swedish crown and to beseech them to accept Jewish refugees.

The chief rabbi informed the Danish resistance movement, and with a clear plan in place due to the public broadcast from Sweden, the fishermen, innkeepers and other regular Danish people did the rest.

No one informed Duckwitz’s Nazi colleagues of what he had done. The diplomat returned to his duties, an unnoticed hero, until long after the end of the war. When the role he played in the rescue of the Danish Jews was realized, he received appropriate recognition and a couple of awards — not prison time, accusations of treason and presidential death threats.

Unfortunately for Chelsea Manning, this is the USA in 2019, not occupied Denmark in 1943. But it’s important to recall more optimistic historical moments than the present one.

Arrest of Marzieh Hashemi Reveals Nature of Bipartisan Police State

Arresting PressTV’s Marzieh Hashemi on no criminal charges demonstrates by any objective measure the United States operates as a rogue state in its utter contempt for accepted international human-rights law and standards.

Hashemi, an African American mother and grandmother converted to Islam, moved to Iran more than 25 years ago. She has become an internationally recognized journalist as a result of her press and media work in Iran, but specifically with her work on PressTV, an outlet that—like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom—receives most of its support from the Iranian government.

Hashemi flew to the United States to visit an ailing brother and to complete a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement. She was working on this film when she was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in Saint Louis. For two days, her family had no information on what had happened to her. When she was finally allowed to communicate with her children, they were horrified to learn that she had been disappeared by the FBI and moved to a detention center in Washington, D.C., where she was subjected to degrading treatment, including the forcible confiscation of her hijab, constant surveillance, disrespecting her halal diet as required of her adopted faith by feeding her animal products, and not informing her as to why she was being detained.

Over the course of some days, it was revealed that Hashemi was being detained either under the authority of the vague and sweeping new laws passed by the U.S. Congress that has given the president the power to indefinitely detain, disappear, and even murder citizens— or a dramatic and unprecedented use of the material witness statute.

The Strengthening of the Police State has Been a Bipartisan Affair

The arrest and imprisonment of journalists—publishers of “dangerous” materials—used to be actions associated in the popular imagination with “illiberal” states in the Global South. But with the current economic, political and ideological crisis in the West, the superficiality of the West’s commitment to “liberal” human rights and its rule of law has been revealed to the world over the last decade and a half.

The Patriot Act was the first in a series of repressive legislation passed just a few days after the September 11, 2001 attacks. This ominous development intensified the process of destroying any legal protection of human rights, which is recognized as fundamental to any democratic state and the international order.

Built on the foundations of law that saw the erosion of habeas corpus during the Clinton administration, the act provided the mechanisms for the objective elimination of prohibitions by the state against unlawful, unreasonable searches and seizures and due process.

The expansion of repressive state power continued and even quickened during the Obama years. After ensuring impunity for Bush officials who were involved in authorizing torture and disproportionate military force in the execution of the war crimes of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration authorized indefinite detentions and military trials with Executive Order 13567.

But while that order gave the military more latitude to target non-citizens and deprive them of their rights, another question emerged: What would the U.S. government do with U.S. citizens working with “enemy states” and movements. That was resolved in 2012, with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It provided the legal authority to indefinitely detain anyone—including U.S. citizens—holding them on suspicions, hearsay, secret evidence, or no evidence at all in the United States or abroad.

And, of course, we know detaining U.S citizens was not the most dangerous element of these new powers. Obama demonstrated a U.S. president could murder U.S. citizens—even a 16-year-old named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki—and get away with it.

Abdulrahman’s father, Anwan, was murdered by the Obama administration a few weeks earlier. Obama said adding Anwar al-Awlaki to his weekly kill list was an easy task for him. When gently asked by the corporate media about Anwar al-Awlaki’s due process under the constitution, an Obama spokesperson stated it had given him due process, a process not taken to the court but conducted within the executive!

Marzieh’s detention violates protection theoretically offered by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment that prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures”; the Fifth Amendment that affirms the right of “due process of law” in any proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property”; and the Eighth Amendment that prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments”—what Marzieh has been subjected to daily.

It is not even necessary to spend much time on the U.S. constitutional violations since it is clear that even the Bill of Rights don’t provide protections when you have been designated an enemy of the state.

Like any other rogue state, the United States determines its law supersedes international law. The United States signed and ratified just three of the main human-rights treaties, with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights being one of them. The United States is theoretically obligated to adhere to it. It says quite clearly in Article 9 that everyone has “the right to liberty and security of person” and “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”

Hashemi Is Being Punished As a “Runaway Slave”

Reuters cited an unnamed U.S. federal source, saying PressTV is being investigated as an Iranian “propaganda outlet.”

But even with it increasingly becoming clear that Press TV is the target, it is also evident, according to Stanley Cohen, that the state is using the material witness statute in a very creative way to deny Marzieh her freedom.

There is no reason for Marzieh to be detained. With family in the United States and travel documents that could theoretically be seized if the state was really concerned she would not appear before a grand jury, the only reason she is being held captive is to once again demonstrate how a runaway slave is treated.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday the detention of the PressTV anchorwoman proves the United States is still violating the rights of Black people.

He is correct.

On Wednesday, 23 individuals who make up a grand jury will be making a decision about Hashemi’s fate, according to her son Hussein. Her association with PressTV has put her in the crosshairs of the U.S. state.

For unknown reasons, she has now been moved into solitary confinement, according to her son.

But we, the colonized, the inhabitants of the zones of non-being, we who have no human rights—we understand.

To have the audacity to leave the plantation that is the United States and seek a home in a nation the United States considers an enemy state is an offense that requires an extraordinary demonstration of white colonial power. This boldness may inspire others on the plantation to attempt to strike out for freedom. This is not even new. The state doubled the bounty on Assata Shakur to $2 million on the watch of its first HNIC because, after all, they are the ones really in charge. Yeah, we get it, if others don’t. The message is clear—this is our nigger and we will do with her what we want.

So:

Today Marzieh Hashemi sits alone. Isolated and entombed deep in a government catacomb, she stands charged with no offense but in the eyes of this administration guilty as charged . . . a Muslim, a journalist, and a U.S. ex-pat who has found shelter from its storm in Iran.

But she is not alone. We will stand with Marzieh and give her voice when she has none. We are not afraid, even though we know we are next. Our people have endured this and more and will endure even more before this nightmare that is U.S. settler-colonialism is over. And unlike Dr. King, when our people and the people of the world emerge on the other side of freedom, we will not thank god for our freedom, but ourselves.