Category Archives: Courts and Judges

The Right to Clean Air in Jakarta

It seems utterly beyond debate but acknowledging legal rights to clean air has assumed the makings of a slow march over the years.  The 1956 Clean Air Act in Britain arose from the lethal effects of London’s 1952 killer smog, which is said to have taken some 12,000 lives.  The Act granted powers to establish smoke-free zones and subsidise householders to shift to the use of cleaner fuels (gas, electricity, smokeless solid fuel).

There is certainly no shortage of advocates for the self-evident point that clean air is vital.  Some of this has been reduced – at least historically – to an issue about the non-smoker’s wish not to have the air clouded by the selfish actions of a smoker.  But this is small beer when compared to the general levels of global pollution that keeps the Grim Reaper busy on an annual basis. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution kills 7 million or so people each year, with 9 out of 10 people breathing air “that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.”

In 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David R. Boyd noted approvingly that a majority of States had, be it through their constitutions, statutes and regional treaties, recognised the right to a healthy environment.  But recognition for such a right on a global level remained an unfulfilled object.  The UN General Assembly, for instance, may have adopted a range of resolutions on the right to clean water, but never on the right to clean air.  This is despite such a right being, according to Boyd, “implicit in a number of international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration to Human Rights (right to adequate standard of living), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (right to life) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (right to health).”

This month, a flutter of interest was caused by a ruling in the Central Jakarta District Court on a lawsuit lodged two years before accusing the Indonesian government of unlawfully permitting air pollution in the capital to exceed permissible, healthy limits.  Citizens such as Istu Prayogi, who had never so much as touched a cigarette in their lives, joined the suit after his lungs revealed the sort of lung damage that would arise from being a heroic, persistent smoker.

The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel found that the seven officials concerned, including President Joko Widodo, three cabinet ministers and the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java were negligent in not upholding environmental standards.  As Duta Baskara, one of the panel members observed, “They have been negligent in fulfilling the rights of citizens to a good and healthy environment.”  The judges, however, dismissed the applicants’ submission claiming that the president had violated human rights.

The court directed that the seven officials take serious action to guarantee the rights of Jakarta’s residents by improving air-quality regulations and implementing measures to protect human health, the environment and ecosystems informed by science and technology.  Environmental laws would also have to be policed more rigorously, along with the imposition of sanctions for offenders.

The scale of this effort is hard to exaggerate.  On June 4, 2019, Jakarta registered the worst air quality in the world, if one takes the readings of the air quality monitoring app AirVisual as accurate.  At 210 on the Air Quality Index (AQI), the city keeps ahead of the pack of other polluters such as New Delhi, Beijing and Dubai.

Rapporteur Boyd also offered his services to the 32 applicants, writing in his supporting brief that, “Protecting human rights from the harmful effects of air pollution is a constitutional and legislative obligation for governments in Indonesia, not an option.”  The director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Nur Hidayati, affirmed this view to The Jakarta Post in early June that breathing “clean air is our right that the government has to fulfil.”

These are not positions plucked out of some speculative realm of legal reasoning.  The right to clean air in Indonesia is guaranteed by such legal documents as the country’s 1945 Constitution and the 1999 Law on Environmental Protection and Management.  But the writ of law is not always a guarantee of its policing.

Before the September decision, Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, did not feel that a ruling against the authorities would cause much fuss.  As the governor’s climate change envoy Irvan Pulunga explained, “The governor doesn’t see this lawsuit as a disturbance to the government’s work but a vehicle for collaboration.”  Pulungan also insisted that improvements had been made to the city’s air quality over the course of two years.

This tune coming from the office of president has been somewhat different, more a case of fleeing rather than addressing a problem.  In part, this is understandable, given that Jakarta has become a city of nightmares for policy makers, urban planners and the authorities.  Few such concentrations of humanity on the planet are as plagued by environmental concerns.  To debilitating air pollution can be added flooding, regular seismic activity and gradual subsidence.

Only a month after the lawsuit was filed, the president proposed relocating the capital to another spot to be built in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.  “The burden Jakarta is holding right now,” he claimed at the time, “is too heavy as the centre of governance, business, finance, trade and services.” Such moves promise to abandon one problem by creating another, given the risks posed to the environment of East Kalimantan.

Showing a spirit not exactly collaborative in nature, an appeal against the ruling is expected by the government.  Jakarta’s governor, in particular, finds himself facing a range of orders from the court, including designing environmental “strategies” and policies to mitigate the air pollution” under the direction of the supervision of the Home Affairs Minister.

Modest as it is, the victory for the applicants in the Central Jakarta District Court shows, at the very least, that courts remain an increasingly important forum to force the hand of legislatures in ensuring that something so elementarily vital is not just seen as a right but enforced as one.

The post The Right to Clean Air in Jakarta first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Rise of the Security-Industrial Complex from 9/11 to COVID-19

I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.

— Osama bin Laden (October 2001), as reported by CNN

What a strange and harrowing road we’ve walked since September 11, 2001, littered with the debris of our once-vaunted liberties. We have gone from a nation that took great pride in being a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade a freedom-loving people to march in lockstep with a police state.

Our losses are mounting with every passing day.

What began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act  has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation has been locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, police violence and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

The rights embodied in the Constitution, if not already eviscerated, are on life support.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people, a war that has grown more pronounced since 9/11.

Indeed, since the towers fell on 9/11, the U.S. government has posed a greater threat to our freedoms than any terrorist, extremist or foreign entity ever could.

While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government and its agents have easily killed at least ten times that number of civilians in the U.S. and abroad since 9/11 through its police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes and profit-driven efforts to police the globe, sell weapons to foreign nations (which too often fall into the hands of terrorists), and foment civil unrest in order to keep the security industrial complex gainfully employed.

The American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.

In allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, foreign wars, color-coded warnings, pandemic lockdowns and other carefully constructed exercises in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation, we failed to recognize that the U.S. government—the government that was supposed to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”—has become the enemy of the people.

Consider that the government’s answer to every problem has been more government—at taxpayer expense—and less individual liberty.

Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn: The Great Depression. The World Wars. The 9/11 terror attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic.

Viewed in this light, the history of the United States is a testament to the old adage that liberty decreases as government (and government bureaucracy) grows. Or, to put it another way, as government expands, liberty contracts.

This is how the emergency state operates, after all, and we should know: after all, we have spent the past 20 years in a state of emergency.

From 9/11 to COVID-19, “we the people” have acted the part of the helpless, gullible victims desperately in need of the government to save us from whatever danger threatens. In turn, the government has been all too accommodating and eager while also expanding its power and authority in the so-called name of national security.

This is a government that has grown so corrupt, greedy, power-hungry and tyrannical over the course of the past 240-plus years that our constitutional republic has since given way to idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).

What this really amounts to is a war on the American people, fought on American soil, funded with taxpayer dollars, and waged with a single-minded determination to use national crises, manufactured or otherwise, in order to transform the American homeland into a battlefield.

Indeed, the government’s (mis)management of various states of emergency in the past 20 years has spawned a massive security-industrial complex the likes of which have never been seen before. According to the National Priorities Project at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies, since 9/11, the United States has spent $21 trillion on “militarization, surveillance, and repression.”

Clearly, this is not a government that is a friend to freedom.

Rather, this is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.

This is a government that spies on and treats its people as if they have no right to privacy, especially in their own homes while the freedom to be human is being erased.

This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data as a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors. Incredibly, a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

This is a government that routinely engages in taxation without representation, whose elected officials lobby for our votes only to ignore us once elected.

This is a government comprised of petty bureaucrats, vigilantes masquerading as cops, and faceless technicians.

This is a government that railroads taxpayers into financing government programs whose only purpose is to increase the power and wealth of the corporate elite.

This is a government—a warring empire—that forces its taxpayers to pay for wars abroad that serve no other purpose except to expand the reach of the military industrial complex.

This is a government that subjects its people to scans, searches, pat downs and other indignities by the TSA and VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader look-alikes.

This is a government that uses fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, to track the citizenry’s movements, record their conversations, and catalogue their transactions.

This is a government whose wall-to-wall surveillance has given rise to a suspect society in which the burden of proof has been reversed such that Americans are now assumed guilty until or unless they can prove their innocence.

This is a government that treats its people like second-class citizens who have no rights, and is working overtime to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws to silence, censor and marginalize Americans and restrict their First Amendment right to speak truth to power.

This is a government that persists in renewing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely based on the say-so of the government.

This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

This is a government that, in direct opposition to the dire warnings of those who founded our country, has allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a standing army by way of programs that transfer surplus military hardware to local and state police.

This is a government that has militarized American’s domestic police, equipping them with military weapons such as “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; a million hollow-point bullets; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft,” in addition to armored vehicles, sound cannons and the like.

This is a government that has provided cover to police when they shoot and kill unarmed individuals just for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

This is a government that has created a Constitution-free zone within 100 miles inland of the border around the United States, paving the way for Border Patrol agents to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings, all without a warrant. Nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within that 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

This is a government that treats public school students as if they were prison inmates, enforcing zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, and indoctrinating them with teaching that emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking over learning, synthesizing and critical thinking.

This is a government that is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s sorely neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating.

This is a government that has empowered police departments to make a profit at the expense of those they have sworn to protect through the use of asset forfeiture laws, speed traps, and red light cameras.

This is a government whose gun violence—inflicted on unarmed individuals by battlefield-trained SWAT teams, militarized police, and bureaucratic government agents trained to shoot first and ask questions later—poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government agents armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines.

This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.

This is a government that treats dissidents, whistleblowers and freedom fighters as enemies of the state.

This is a government that has in recent decades unleashed untold horrors upon the world—including its own citizenry—in the name of global conquest, the acquisition of greater wealth, scientific experimentation, and technological advances, all packaged in the guise of the greater good.

This is a government that allows its agents to break laws with immunity while average Americans get the book thrown at them.

This is a government that speaks in a language of force. What is this language of force? Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality. Contempt of cop charges.

This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.

This is a government that exports violence worldwide, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons. Indeed, the United States, the world’s largest exporter of arms, has been selling violence to the world in order to prop up the military industrial complex and maintain its endless wars abroad.

This is a government that is consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

This is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, eviscerating individual freedoms so that its own powers can be expanded.

This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.

In other words, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is not a government that believes in, let alone upholds, freedom.

 

The post The Rise of the Security-Industrial Complex from 9/11 to COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Resisting Nuclear Weapons in a Climate Crisis

Court in Cochem

On July 21, I was walking in the forests surrounding the German Air Force Base at Büchel in the Eifel Mountains with three Catholic Worker friends, Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Susan Crane of Redwood City, California, and Christiane Danowski of Dortmund, Germany. We were there at the end of an “International Week” of protests against the approximately 20 US nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s kept at the base in a “nuclear sharing” agreement with the United States.

In previous days we had visited the entrance gates to the base with our signs and banners and two days before we participated in a “Digging for Life” action outside the fences, near the other end of the runway, where the German pilots liftoff and land their Italian made PA200 Tornado jet fighters, daily training to drop US nuclear bombs on Russia when the order is given. This day we hiked to the other, less accessible, end of the runway, through a forest of dead and dying trees decimated by recent years of drought, unprecedented heat and a massive bark beetle infestation affected by climate change.
In the clearing near where the runway begins, we noticed a couple of “spotters,” hobbyists who got there before us looking to get dramatic photos of the jets taking off. In their company, while we were scouting and imagining potential future protests at the site, we also knew that some action was imminent.

Beyond the fence that marked the boundary of the base from the forest, there was a high berm of earth that shielded the nearby Tornados warming up their engines for takeoff from our view. We could not see, but we heard the purr of their engines turn to a roar and we felt the earth shake and we saw and then smelled a wall- acrid and black, a stinking miasma of burnt and unburned jet fuel- rising above the berm and over our heads before the jets screamed off away from us to take to the air to rehearse for the end of everything.

Not far from where these Tornado jets were spewing out more than 13 tons of CO2 per flight hour into the atmosphere, cities and towns in the river valleys were cleaning up from recent rains and floods that left more than 177 dead and hundreds more still missing at the time- in some places the rivers rose to the highest in over 100 years, possibly higher than any seen in the last 1,000 years.

Participation in the annual “International Week” in the COVID pandemic was already hampered by the fact that it was held just days after Germany opened its borders to vaccinated visitors from places like the US, and by July 15, the day after my own arrival by air, many railroads and highways were closed by rising water. We heard harrowing travel stories from those few who were able to join us from various points in Germany. Our numbers were much less than expected and the catastrophe of the floods called us to reassess our plans for the week.

We had planned to have enough people to nonviolently blockade the various gates of the base on Friday July 16th, marking the 76th anniversary of the first atomic bomb detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1945, and the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 uranium mine waste spill at Church Rock, New Mexico — the largest accidental release of radioactive materials in US history. We recognized that even with our reduced numbers, such an act of civil resistance would distract police from search and rescue work that many of them were doing in flooded places in the region. Members of our group met with local police and the commander of the base to inform them that instead of a blockade there would be a simple quiet vigil with signs and prayers outside the main gate on July 16, the planned “Digging for Life” action scheduled for three days later would go on.

The original concept of the event was to be a symbolic piece of theater around the base’s new highly armed security fence with surveillance cameras, motion sensors and a deep concrete foundation. The plan that some of us would dig with pink shovels with the impossible aim of making a tunnel under the fortification and get onto and close the runway while others would cheer them on from a picnic in the adjoining meadow, had to be adapted to our reduced numbers and in recognition of the devastation that had been unfolding around us in the preceding days.

The vibrant pink shovels were muted with black paint or tied with black ribbons. Banners with more light hearted messages written in pastels were left behind and new ones made more in keeping with the moment, in German, white on black, “STOP THE NEXT CATASTROPHE BEFORE IT BEGINS- ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS!”

As the event unfolded, 14 activists from Germany, the US and the Netherlands were met at the fence by several times that number of civilian and military police, who after an hour arrested four of the most persistent diggers who were soon released without any charges. While especially in light of the $14 million plus spent on the new fence meant to keep people like us out, the civilian police had better things to do and could easily have ignored our clearly symbolic effort, some in the local press and more in social media blamed us for distracting the police and military from dealing with the aftermath of the floods.

In the midst of their national disaster, only about 1,000 of the 150,000 soldiers in the German military were employed in flood relief and on the day we were digging for life at Büchel, Tornado jets were crisscrossing over our heads, causing police, protesters, soldiers and members of the press alike to cover our ears from their deafening roar, illustrating what is often ignored and never mentioned in climate negotiations, the huge part that the militaries of the world play in the climate crisis, the US and its allies more than the rest.

Before the digging began at the fence and under the screaming jets, a police detective called my name and with some ceremony served me with papers from the court informing me that I had been accused, convicted and sentenced to a 900 euro fine or 30 days in prison in response to my actions on my last visit to Germany and to Büchel, two years ago, along with two others, Susan from California and Susan from Amsterdam. It was decided by the court that “through the same act and acting collectively” and “within the scope of the annual meeting and demonstration against nuclear weapons at the airbase of fighter-bomber squadron 33,” I had “gained unlawful access to the military area and its security sector” by cutting holes in the fence. I remember that the military police sergeant who apprehended us was unreasonably upset about the hole we had made, not so much concerned about the weapons of mass destruction that he was guarding nor the violations of the German Constitution and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that they pose. Before leaving Germany, I filed an appeal of my conviction and sentence in the court at Cochem and I hope for the opportunity to argue against the assumed legality of nuclear weapons in a German court.

The United States is preparing to upgrade its current B61 nuclear bombs with the new B61-12, reportedly costing over $20 million each and the German government is looking to soon replace its fleet of Tornados with more sophisticated fighter bombers, both governments spending billions on systems that will significantly lower the threshold of nuclear war and contribute to global warming. There is no solution to the climate crisis and no hope for human life on this planet that does not include disarmament and an end to war.

The post Resisting Nuclear Weapons in a Climate Crisis first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Authoritarians Drunk on Power: It Is Time to Recalibrate the Government

The executive power in our government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.

― Thomas Jefferson, (Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville(

It is time to recalibrate the government.

For years now, we have suffered the injustices, cruelties, corruption and abuse of an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution or the rights of the citizenry.

By “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

We are overdue for a systemic check on the government’s overreaches and power grabs.

We have lingered too long in this strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law.

This COVID-19 pandemic has provided the government with the perfect excuse to lay claim to a long laundry list of terrifying lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level) that override the Constitution: the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die, and impose health mandates on large segments of the population.

These kinds of crises tend to bring out the authoritarian tendencies in government.

That’s no surprise: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Where we find ourselves now is in the unenviable position of needing to rein in all three branches of government—the Executive, the Judicial, and the Legislative—that have exceeded their authority and grown drunk on power.

This is exactly the kind of concentrated, absolute power the founders attempted to guard against by establishing a system of checks of balances that separate and shares power between three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.

“The system of checks and balances that the Framers envisioned now lacks effective checks and is no longer in balance,” concludes law professor William P. Marshall. “The implications of this are serious. The Framers designed a system of separation of powers to combat government excess and abuse and to curb incompetence. They also believed that, in the absence of an effective separation-of-powers structure, such ills would inevitably follow. Unfortunately, however, power once taken is not easily surrendered.”

Unadulterated power in any branch of government is a menace to freedom.

There’s no point debating which political party would be more dangerous with these powers.

The fact that any individual—or branch of government—of any political persuasion is empowered to act like a dictator is danger enough.

So what can we do to wrest back control over a runaway government and an imperial presidency?

It won’t be easy.

We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority.

This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government: from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.

We are viewed as relatively expendable in the eyes of government: faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars. Those in power aren’t losing any sleep over the indignities we are being made to suffer or the possible risks to our health. All they seem to care about are power and control.

We are being made to suffer countless abuses at the government’s hands.

We have little protection against standing armies (domestic and military), invasive surveillance, marauding SWAT teams, an overwhelming government arsenal of assault vehicles and firepower, and a barrage of laws that criminalize everything from vegetable gardens to lemonade stands.

In the name of national security, we’re being subjected to government agencies such as the NSA, FBI and others listening in on our phone calls, reading our mail, monitoring our emails, and carrying out warrantless “black bag” searches of our homes. Adding to the abuse, we have to deal with surveillance cameras mounted on street corners and in traffic lights, weather satellites co-opted for use as spy cameras from space, and thermal sensory imaging devices that can detect heat and movement through the walls of our homes.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights are trampled upon by militarized police and SWAT teams empowered to act as laws unto themselves.

In other words, freedom—or what’s left of it—is threatened from every direction.

The predators of the police state are wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. Police officers are shooting unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—are being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are spying on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors are making a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

In other words, the American police state is alive and well and flourishing.

Nothing has changed, and nothing will change unless we insist on it.

We have arrived at the dystopian future depicted in the 2005 film V for Vendetta, which is no future at all.

Set in the year 2020, V for Vendetta (written and produced by the Wachowskis) provides an eerie glimpse into a parallel universe in which a government-engineered virus wreaks havoc on the world. Capitalizing on the people’s fear, a totalitarian government comes to power that knows all, sees all, controls everything and promises safety and security above all.

Concentration camps (jails, private prisons and detention facilities) have been established to house political prisoners and others deemed to be enemies of the state. Executions of undesirables (extremists, troublemakers and the like) are common, while other enemies of the state are made to “disappear.” Populist uprisings and protests are met with extreme force. The television networks are controlled by the government with the purpose of perpetuating the regime. And most of the population is hooked into an entertainment mode and are clueless.

Sounds painfully familiar, doesn’t it?

As director James McTeighe observed about the tyrannical regime in V for Vendetta, “It really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people. I don’t think it’s such a big leap to say things like that can happen when leaders stop listening to the people.”

Clearly, our leaders have stopped listening to the American people.

We are—and have been for some time—the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government—from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American. We are relatively expendable in the eyes of government—faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars.

What will it take for the government to start listening to the people again?

In V for Vendetta, as in my new novel The Erik Blair Diaries, it takes an act of terrorism for the people to finally mobilize and stand up to the government’s tyranny: in Vendetta, V the film’s masked crusader blows up the seat of government, while in Erik Blair, freedom fighters plot to unmask the Deep State.

These acts of desperation and outright anarchy are what happens when a parasitical government muzzles the citizenry, fences them in, herds them, brands them, whips them into submission, forces them to ante up the sweat of their brows while giving them little in return, and then provides them with little to no outlet for voicing their discontent: people get desperate, citizens lose hope, and lawful, nonviolent resistance gives way to unlawful, violent resistance.

This way lies madness.

Then again, this madness may be unavoidable unless we can wrest back control over our runaway government starting at the local level.

How to do this? It’s not rocket science.

There is no 10-step plan. If there were a 10-step plan, however, the first step would be as follows: turn off the televisions, tune out the politicians, and do your part to stand up for freedom principles in your own communities.

Stand up for your own rights, of course, but more importantly, stand up for the rights of those with whom you might disagree. Defend freedom at all costs. Defend justice at all costs. Make no exceptions based on race, religion, creed, politics, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc. Vote like Americans, for a change, not Republicans or Democrats.

Most of all, use your power—and there is power in our numbers—to nullify anything and everything the government does that undermines the freedom principles on which this nation was founded.

Don’t play semantics. Don’t justify. Don’t politicize it. If it carries even a whiff of tyranny, oppose it. Demand that your representatives in government cut you a better deal, one that abides by the Constitution and doesn’t just attempt to sidestep it.

That’s their job: make them do it.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all freedoms hang together. They fall together, as well.

The police state does not discriminate. Eventually, we will all suffer the same fate.

The post Authoritarians Drunk on Power: It Is Time to Recalibrate the Government first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism

Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, the father of a newborn child, a man in very poor health and one who has no prior convictions, will have to hand himself over to the Scottish police on Sunday morning. He becomes the first person ever to be imprisoned on the obscure and vaguely defined charge of “jigsaw identification”.

Murray is also the first person to be jailed in Britain for contempt of court in half a century – a period when such different legal and moral values prevailed that the British establishment had only just ended the prosecution of “homosexuals” and the jailing of women for having abortions.

Murray’s imprisonment for eight months by Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, is, of course, based entirely on a keen reading of Scottish law rather than evidence of the Scottish and London political establishments seeking revenge on the former diplomat. And the UK supreme court’s refusal on Thursday to hear Murray’s appeal despite many glaring legal anomalies in the case, thereby paving his path to jail, is equally rooted in a strict application of the law, and not influenced in any way by political considerations.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that he embarrassed the British state in the early 2000s by becoming that rarest of things: a whistleblowing diplomat. He exposed the British government’s collusion, along with the US, in Uzbekistan’s torture regime.

His jailing also has nothing to do with the fact that Murray has embarrassed the British state more recently by reporting the woeful and continuing legal abuses in a London courtroom as Washington seeks to extradite Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, and lock him away for life in a maximum security prison. The US wants to make an example of Assange for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and for publishing leaked diplomatic cables that pulled the mask off Washington’s ugly foreign policy.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that the contempt proceedings against him allowed the Scottish court to deprive him of his passport so that he could not travel to Spain and testify in a related Assange case that is severely embarrassing Britain and the US. The Spanish hearing has been presented with reams of evidence that the US illegally spied on Assange inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought political asylum to avoid extradition. Murray was due to testify that his own confidential conversations with Assange were filmed, as were Assange’s privileged meetings with his own lawyers. Such spying should have seen the case against Assange thrown out, had the judge in London actually been applying the law.

Similarly, Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with his embarrassing the Scottish political and legal establishments by reporting, almost single-handedly, the defence case in the trial of Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond. Unreported by the corporate media, the evidence submitted by Salmond’s lawyers led a jury dominated by women to acquit him of a raft of sexual assault charges. It is Murray’s reporting of Salmond’s defence that has been the source of his current troubles.

And most assuredly, Murray’s jailing has precisely nothing to do with his argument – one that might explain why the jury was so unconvinced by the prosecution case – that Salmond was actually the victim of a high-level plot by senior politicians at Holyrood to discredit him and prevent his return to the forefront of Scottish politics. The intention, says Murray, was to deny Salmond the chance to take on London and make a serious case for independence, and thereby expose the SNP’s increasing lip service to that cause.

Relentless attack

Murray has been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for nearly two decades. Now they have found a way to lock him up just as they have Assange, as well as tie Murray up potentially for years in legal battles that risk bankrupting him as he seeks to clear his name.

And given his extremely precarious health – documented in detail to the court – his imprisonment further risks turning eight months into a life sentence. Murray nearly died from a pulmonary embolism 17 years ago when he was last under such relentless attack from the British establishment. His health has not improved since.

At that time, in the early 2000s, in the run-up to, and early stages of, the invasion of Iraq, Murray effectively exposed the complicity of fellow British diplomats – their preference to turn a blind eye to the abuses sanctioned by their own government and its corrupt and corrupting alliance with the US.

Later, when Washington’s “extraordinary rendition” – state kidnapping – programme came to light, as well as its torture regime at places like Abu Ghraib, the spotlight should have turned to the failure of diplomats to speak out. Unlike Murray, they refused to turn whistleblower. They provided cover to the illegality and barbarism.

For his pains, Murray was smeared by Tony Blair’s government as, among other things, a sexual predator – charges a Foreign Office investigation eventually cleared him of. But the damage was done, with Murray forced out. A commitment to moral and legal probity was clearly incompatible with British foreign policy objectives.

Murray had to reinvent his career, and he did so through a popular blog. He has applied the same dedication to truth-telling and commitment to the protection of human rights in his journalism – and has again run up against equally fierce opposition from the British establishment.

Two-tier journalism

The most glaring, and disturbing, legal innovation in Lady Dorrian’s ruling against Murray – and the main reason he is heading to prison – is her decision to divide journalists into two classes: those who work for approved corporate media outlets, and those like Murray who are independent, often funded by readers rather than paid big salaries by billionaires or the state.

According to Lady Dorrian, licensed, corporate journalists are entitled to legal protections she denied to unofficial and independent journalists like Murray – the very journalists who are most likely to take on governments, criticise the legal system, and expose the hypocrisy and lies of the corporate media.

In finding Murray guilty of so-called “jigsaw identification”, Lady Dorrian did not make a distinction between what Murray wrote about the Salmond case and what approved, corporate journalists wrote.

That is for good reason. Two surveys have shown that most of those following the Salmond trial who believe they identified one or more of his accusers did so from the coverage of the corporate media, especially the BBC. Murray’s writings appear to have had very little impact on the identification of any of the accusers. Among named individual journalists, Dani Garavelli, who wrote about the trial for Scotland on Sunday and the London Review of Books, was cited 15 times more often by respondents than Murray as helping them to identify Salmond’s accusers.

Rather, Lady Dorrian’s distinction was between who gets protected when identification occurs. Write for the Times or the Guardian, or broadcast on the BBC, where the audience reach is enormous, and the courts will protect you from prosecution. Write about the same issues for a blog, and you risk being hounded into prison.

In fact, the legal basis of “jigsaw identification” – one could argue the whole point of it – is that it accrues dangerous powers to the state. It gives permission for the legal establishment to arbitrarily decide which piece of the supposed jigsaw is to be counted as identification. If the BBC’s Kirsty Wark includes a piece of the jigsaw, it does not count as identification in the eyes of the court. If Murray or another independent journalist offers a different piece of the jigsaw, it does count. The obvious ease with which this principle can be abused by the establishment to oppress and silence dissident journalists should not need underscoring.

And yet this is no longer Lady Dorrian’s ruling alone. In refusing to hear Murray’s appeal, the UK supreme court has offered its blessing to this same dangerous, two-tiered classification.

Credentialed by the state

What Lady Dorrian has done is to overturn traditional views of what constitutes journalism: that it is a practice that at its very best is designed to hold the powerful to account, and that anyone who engages in such work is doing journalism, whether or not they are typically thought of as a journalist.

That idea was obvious until quite recently. When social media took off, one of the gains trumpeted even by the corporate media was the emergence of a new kind of “citizen journalist”. At that stage, corporate media believed that these citizen journalists would become cheap fodder, providing on-the-ground, local stories they alone would have access to and that only the establishment media would be in a position to monetise. This was precisely the impetus for the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section, which in its early incarnation allowed a varied selection of people with specialist knowledge or information to provide the paper with articles for free to increase the paper’s sales and advertising rates.

The establishment’s attitude to citizen journalists, and the Guardian’s to the “Comment is Free” model, only changed when these new journalists started to prove hard to control, and their work often highlighted, inadvertently or otherwise, the inadequacies, deceptions and double standards of the corporate media.

Now, Lady Dorrian has put the final nail in the coffin of citizen journalism. She has declared through her ruling that she and other judges will be the ones to decide who is considered a journalist and thereby who receives legal protections for their work. This is a barely concealed way for the state to license or “credentialise” journalists. It turns journalism into a professional guild with only official, corporate journalists safe from legal retribution by the state.

If you are an unapproved, uncredentialed journalist, you can be jailed, as Murray is being, on a similar legal basis to the imprisonment of someone who carries out a surgical operation without the necessary qualifications. But whereas the law against charlatan surgeons is there to protect the public, to stop unnecessary harm being inflicted on the sick, Lady Dorrian’s ruling will serve a very different purpose: to protect the state from the harm caused by the exposure of its secret or most malign practices by trouble-making, sceptical – and now largely independent – journalists.

Journalism is being corralled back into the exclusive control of the state and billionaire-owned corporations. It may not be surprising that corporate journalists, keen to hold on to their jobs, are consenting through their silence to this all-out assault on journalism and free speech. After all, this is a kind of protectionism – additional job security – for journalists employed by a corporate media that has no real intention to challenge the powerful.

But what is genuinely shocking is that this dangerous accretion of further power to the state and its allied corporate class is being backed implicitly by the journalists’ union, the NUJ. It has kept quiet over the many months of attacks on Murray and the widespread efforts to discredit him for his reporting. The NUJ has made no significant noise about Lady Dorrian’s creation of two classes of journalists – state-approved and unapproved – or about her jailing of Murray on these grounds.

But the NUJ has gone further. Its leaders have publicly washed their  hands of Murray by excluding him from membership of the union, even while its officials have conceded that he should qualify. The NUJ has become as complicit in the hounding of a journalist as Murray’s fellow diplomats once were for his hounding as an ambassador. This is a truly shameful episode in the NUJ’s history.

Free speech criminalised

But more dangerous still, Lady Dorrian’s ruling is part of a pattern in which the political, judicial and media establishments have colluded to narrow the definition of what counts as journalism, to exclude anything beyond the pap that usually passes for journalism in the corporate media.

Murray has been one of the few journalists to report in detail the arguments made by Assange’s legal team in his extradition hearings. Noticeably in both the Assange and Murray cases, the presiding judge has limited the free speech protections traditionally afforded to journalism and has done so by restricting who qualifies as a journalist. Both cases have been frontal assaults on the ability of certain kinds of journalists – those who are free from corporate or state pressure – to cover important political stories, effectively criminalising independent journalism. And all this has been achieved by sleight of hand.

In Assange’s case, Judge Vanessa Baraitser largely assented to US claims that what the Wikileaks founder had done was espionage rather than journalism. The Obama administration had held off prosecuting Assange because it could not find a distinction in law between his legal right to publish evidence of US war crimes and the New York Times and the Guardian’s right to publish the same evidence, provided to them by Wikileaks. If the US administration prosecuted Assange, it would also need to prosecute the editors of those papers.

Donald Trump’s officials bypassed that problem by creating a distinction between “proper” journalists, employed by corporate outlets that oversee and control what is published, and “bogus” journalists, those independents not subject to such oversight and pressures.

Trump’s officials denied Assange the status of journalist and publisher and instead treated him as a spy who colluded with and assisted whistleblowers. That supposedly voided the free speech protections he constitutionally enjoyed. But, of course, the US case against Assange was patent nonsense. It is central to the work of investigative journalists to “collude” with and assist whistleblowers. And spies squirrel away the information provided to them by such whistleblowers, they do not publicise it to the world, as Assange did.

Notice the parallels with Murray’s case.

Judge Baraitser’s approach to Assange echoed the US one: that only approved, credentialed journalists enjoy the protection of the law from prosecution; only approved, credentialed journalists have the right to free speech (should they choose to exercise it in newsrooms beholden to state or corporate interests). Free speech and the protection of the law, Baraitser implied, no longer chiefly relate to the legality of what is said, but to the legal status of who says it.

A similar methodology has been adopted by Lady Dorrian in Murray’s case. She has denied him the status of a journalist, and instead classified him as some kind of “improper” journalist, or blogger. As with Assange, there is an implication that “improper” or “bogus” journalists are such an exceptional threat to society that they must be stripped of the normal legal protections of free speech.

“Jigsaw identification” – especially when allied to sexual assault allegations, involving women’s rights and playing into the wider, current obsession with identity politics – is the perfect vehicle for winning widespread consent for the criminalisation of the free speech of critical journalists.

Corporate media shackles

There is an even bigger picture that should be hard to miss for any honest journalist, corporate or otherwise. What Lady Dorrian and Judge Baraitser – and the establishment behind them – are trying to do is put the genie back in the bottle. They are trying to reverse a trend that over more than a decade has seen a small but growing number of journalists use new technology and social media to liberate themselves from the shackles of the corporate media and tell truths audiences were never supposed to hear.

Don’t believe me? Consider the case of Guardian and Observer journalist Ed Vulliamy. In his book Flat Earth News, Vulliamy’s colleague at the Guardian, Nick Davies, tells the story of how Roger Alton, editor of the Observer at the time of the Iraq war, and a credentialed, licensed journalist if ever there was one, sat on one of the biggest stories in the paper’s history for months on end.

In late 2002, Vulliamy, a veteran and much trusted reporter, persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA official who still had security clearance at the agency, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq – the pretext for an imminent and illegal invasion of that country. As many suspected, the US and British governments had been telling lies to justify a coming war of aggression against Iraq, and Vulliamy had a key source to prove it.

But Alton spiked this earth-shattering story and then refused to publish another six versions written by an increasingly exasperated Vulliamy over the next few months, as war loomed. Alton was determined to keep the story out of the news. Back in 2002 it only took a handful of editors – all of whom had risen through the ranks for their discretion, nuance and careful “judgment” – to make sure some kinds of news never reached their readers.

Social media has changed such calculations. Vulliamy’s story could not be quashed so easily today. It would leak out, precisely through a high-profile independent journalist like Assange or Murray. Which is why such figures are so critically important to a healthy and informed society – and why they, and a few others like them, are gradually being disappeared. The cost of allowing independent journalists to operate freely, the establishment has understood, is far too high.

First, all independent, unlicensed journalism was lumped in as “fake news”. With that as the background, social media corporations were able to collude with so-called legacy media corporations to algorithm independent journalists into oblivion. And now independent journalists are being educated about what fate is likely to befall them should they try to emulate Assange or Murray.

Asleep at the wheel

In fact, while corporate journalists have been asleep at the wheel, the British establishment has been preparing to widen the net to criminalise all journalism that seeks to seriously hold power to account. A recent government consultation document calling for a more draconian crackdown on what is being deceptively termed “onward disclosure” – code for journalism – has won the backing of Home Secretary Priti Patel. The document implicitly categorises journalism as little different from espionage and whistleblowing.

In the wake of the consultation paper, the Home Office has called on parliament to consider “increased maximum sentences” for offenders – that is, journalists – and ending the distinction “between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures”. The government’s argument is that “onward disclosures” can create “far more serious damage” than espionage and so should be treated similarly. If accepted, any public interest defence – the traditional safeguard for journalists – will be muted.

Anyone who followed the Assange hearings last summer – which excludes most journalists in the corporate media – will notice strong echoes of the arguments made by the US for extraditing Assange, arguments conflating journalism with espionage that were largely accepted by Judge Baraitser.

None of this has come out of the blue. As the online technology publication The Register noted back in 2017, the Law Commission was at the time considering “proposals in the UK for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies”. It said such an act was being “developed in haste by legal advisers”.

It is quite extraordinary that two investigative journalists – one a long-term, former member of staff at the Guardian – managed to write an entire article in that paper this month on the government consultation paper and not mention Assange once. The warning signs have been there for the best part of a decade but corporate journalists have refused to notice them. Similarly, it is no coincidence that Murray’s plight has also not registered on the corporate media’s radar.

Assange and Murray are the canaries in the coal mine for the growing crackdown on investigative journalism and on efforts to hold executive power to account. There is, of course, ever less of that being done by the corporate media, which may explain why corporate outlets appear not only relaxed about the mounting political and legal climate against free speech and transparency but have been all but cheering it on.

In the Assange and Murray cases, the British state is carving out for itself a space to define what counts as legitimate, authorised journalism – and journalists are colluding in this dangerous development, if only through their silence. That collusion tells us a great deal about the mutual interests of the corporate political and legal establishments, on the one hand, and the corporate media establishment on the other.

Assange and Murray are not only telling us troubling truths we are not supposed to hear. The fact that they are being denied solidarity by those who are their colleagues, those who may be next in the firing line, tells us everything we need to know about the so-called mainstream media: that the role of corporate journalists is to serve establishment interests, not challenge them.

The post Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Papers Instead of Human Lives: The Sentencing of Daniel Hale

In May 2019, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, that famous bastion of anti-whistleblowing fervour, unsealed an indictment charging former intelligence analyst Daniel Everett Hale with five counts of providing classified information to a reporter.  The first four focused on obtaining national defense information, retaining and transmitting that information, causing the communication of that same information and disclosing classified communications intelligence information. The fifth alleged the theft of government property.

Yet again, the US government was making use of the beastly Espionage Act of 1917.  Between 2009 and 2013, Hale worked with the US Air Force and National Security Agency.  He was then contracted by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to work as a toponymist.

His work during his time in the NSA and as part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force – to identify targets for assassination for the US drone program – was performed at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.  His sin, or what his attorney Jesselyn Radack prefers to call “committing the truth”, was to reveal classified documents revealing the distinct viciousness, and essential senselessness, of the US military’s drone program.  His motivation: “to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”

The contribution made by Hale in revealing the costs occasioned by drone deployment is impossible to diminish.  The documents, numbering some 150, showed how the policy of selecting targets was presumptuous rather than thorough.  The targeting was also far from precise.

In the context of whistleblowing, the disclosure of the watchlisting rulebook became almost canonical in significance.  According to Betsy Reed, the editor-in-chief of The Intercept, which prosecutors imply to have been the recipient of Hale’s trove, the rulebook detailed “the parallel judicial system for watchlisting people and categorizing them as known or suspected terrorists without needing to prove they did anything wrong.”  Such rules, also applicable to US citizens, could be used to bar individuals from flying and permit their detention in airports and at borders “while being denied the ability to challenge government declarations about them.”  As Reed reminds us, the disclosure of the book fuelled “dozens of legal actions and important court victories for the protection of civil liberties.”

In March, Hale pleaded guilty to one count.  Defence attorneys Todd Richman and Cadence Mertz argued in their submission that altruistic motives, along with the fact that the government had adduced no evidence showing that actual harm had arisen from the leaks, should be taken into account in sentencing. “He committed the offense to bring attention to what he believed to be immoral government conduct under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States drone program.”

In a handwritten letter to Judge Liam O’Grady, Hale describes a world of trauma, doubt and mourning.  There were the “bonding ceremonies” with peers over watching “war porn” featuring footage of previous drone strikes.  “I sat by watching too; said nothing and felt my heart breaking into pieces.”  There was the feeling of guilt as a defence contractor in participating in the “collective delusion and denial that was used to justify our exorbitant salaries”.

President Barack Obama’s remarks about the drone program again deserved a mention.  The president had praised the certitude in such strikes and their cautious discrimination.  “But from what I knew, of the instances where civilians plausibly could have been present, those killed were nearly always designated enemies killed in action unless proven otherwise.”

This was a form of war that could never claim to have a sliver of honour.  “The victorious rifleman, unquestionably remorseful, at least keeps his honor intact by having faced off against his enemy in the battlefield,” Hale reflects.  “But what possibly could I have done to cope with the undeniable cruelties that I perpetrated?”

In their sentencing papers, prosecutors Gordon Kromberg and Alexander Berrang countered by claiming that Hale’s actions enabled “the most vicious terrorists in the world” to obtain “documents classified by the United States as ‘Secret’ and ‘Top Secret’ – and thought that such documents were valuable enough to disseminate to their own followers in their own manuals.”  Kromberg, just as he did with his efforts to extradite Julian Assange from the United Kingdom, has a rather fanciful view about what damaging the US national interest looks like.

The prosecutors even insisted that the harm caused by Hale was more severe than that of former NSA contractor Reality Winner’s disclosures.  Winner’s sentence of five years was the harshest ever imposed on a whistleblower prosecuted for disclosing documents to a journalist in breach of the Espionage Act.

On July 27, Hale received his sentence of 45 months – less than Winner’s but brutal nevertheless.  “I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take – precious human life,” he told US District Judge Liam O’Grady.  “I couldn’t keep living in a world in which people pretend that things weren’t happening that were.  Please, your honour, forgive me for taking papers instead of human lives.”

O’Grady’s remarks to Hale were full of the casuistry typical behind punishing whistleblowers.  The gist here is that Hale could have done it differently.  The prosecution had not thrown the book at him “for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people”.  “A majority of Americans would have commended you for coming forward.”  Hale could well have remained a whistleblower “without leaking any of these documents, frankly.”  A suggestion both implausible and foolish.

Using the press, in others, had been inappropriate, and probably the result of manipulation by the fourth estate.  “I think you were motivated because of your conscience, but I also think you were motivated because of your desire to please the journalists.”  The journalists in question “had to know you were facing almost certain prosecution, but they went forward and did what they did.”  With such views as those held by O’Grady, the deep state will have every reason to crow with satisfaction.

Despite having little time for the avenue Hale took to manifest his concerns, the judge left room in his remarks to reproach the Air Force for the “inexcusable decision” of sending such a man to Afghanistan and assigning him the task of analysing video footage of drone strikes.  Hale’s history of serious mental disturbance was ignored and his treatment, on returning, had been “a horrible injustice”.

The conviction and sentencing of Hale continues a tendency of successive administrations to target whistleblowers using a statute that negates the public interest defence.  Altruistic motives are irrelevant to the means by which information is disclosed.  In this case, exposing papers was far more serious to the imperium than the taking of human lives.

The post Papers Instead of Human Lives: The Sentencing of Daniel Hale first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Daniel Hale Deserves Gratitude, Not Prison

“Pardon Daniel Hale.”

These words hung in the air on a recent Saturday evening, projected onto several Washington, D.C. buildings, above the face of a courageous whistleblower facing ten years in prison.

The artists aimed to inform the U.S. public about Daniel E. Hale, a former Air Force analyst who blew the whistle on the consequences of drone warfare. Hale will appear for sentencing before Judge Liam O’Grady on July 27th.

The U.S. Air Force had assigned Hale to work for the National Security Agency. At one point, he also served in Afghanistan, at the Bagram Air Force Base.

“In this role as a signals analyst, Hale was involved in the identifying of targets for the US drone program,” notes Chip Gibbons, policy director for Defending Rights and Dissent, in a lengthy article about Hale’s case. “Hale would tell the filmmakers of the 2016 documentary National Bird that he was disturbed by ‘the uncertainty if anyone I was involved in kill[ing] or captur[ing] was a civilian or not. There’s no way of knowing.’”

Hale, thirty-three, believed the public wasn’t getting crucial information about the nature and extent of U.S. drone assassinations of civilians. Lacking that evidence, U.S. people couldn’t make informed decisions. Moved by his conscience, he opted to become a truth-teller.

The U.S. government is treating him as a threat, a thief who stole documents, and an enemy. If ordinary people knew more about him, they might regard him as a hero.

Hale was charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly providing classified information to a reporter. The Espionage Act is  an antiquated World War I era law, passed in 1917, designed for use against enemies of the U.S. accused of spying. The U.S. government has dusted it off, more recently, for use against whistle blowers.

Individuals charged under this law are not allowed to raise any issues regarding motivation or intent. They literally are not allowed to explain the basis for their actions.

One observer of whistleblowers’ struggles with the courts was himself a whistleblower. Tried and convicted under the Espionage Act, John Kiriakou spent two and a half years in prison for exposing government wrongdoing. He says the U.S. government in these cases engages in “charge stacking” to ensure a lengthy prison term as well as “venue-shopping” to try such cases in the nation’s most conservative districts.

Daniel Hale was facing trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, home to the Pentagon as well as many CIA and other federal government agents. He was facing up to 50 years in prison if found guilty on all counts.

On March 31, Hale pled guilty on one count of retention and transmission of national defense information. He now faces a maximum of ten years in prison.

At no point has he been able to raise before a judge his alarm about the Pentagon’s false claims that targeted drone assassination is precise and civilian deaths are minimal.

Hale was familiar with details of a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker. He saw evidence that between January 2012 and February 2013, “U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.”

Had he gone to trial, a jury of his peers might have learned more details about consequences of drone attacks. Weaponized drones are typically outfitted with Hellfire missiles, designed for use against vehicles and buildings.

Living Under Drones, the most complete documentation of the human impact of U.S. drone attacks yet produced, reports:

The most immediate consequence of drone strikes is, of course, death and injury to those targeted or near a strike.  The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs.  Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.

A new variation of this missile can hurl about 100 pounds of metal through the top of a vehicle or building; the missiles also deploy, just before impact, six long, whirring  blades intended to slice up any person or object in the missile’s path.

Any drone operator or analyst should be aghast, as Daniel Hale was, at the possibility of killing and maiming civilians through such grotesque means. But Daniel Hale’s ordeal may be intended to send a chilling message to other U.S. government and military analysts: keep quiet.

Nick Mottern, of the Ban Killer Drones campaign, accompanied artists projecting Hale’s image on various walls in D.C. He engaged people who were passing by, asking if they knew of Daniel Hale’s case. Not a single person he spoke with had. Nor did anyone know anything about drone warfare.

Now imprisoned at the Alexandria (VA) Adult Detention Center, Hale  awaits sentencing

Supporters urge people to “stand with Daniel Hale.” One solidarity action involves writing Judge O’Grady to express gratitude that Hale told the truth about the U.S. use of drones to kill innocent people.

At a time when drone sales and usage are proliferating worldwide and causing increasingly gruesome damage, President Joe Biden continues to launch killer drone attacks around the world, albeit with some new restrictions.

Hale’s honesty, courage, and exemplary readiness to act in accord with his conscience are critically needed. Instead, the U.S. government has done its best to silence him.

Pedestrians in Washington, D.C. walk past an image of Daniel Hale projected on a D.C. building on June 26, 2021 (Photo Credit:  Nick Mottern)

• A version of this article appeared in The Progressive Magazine.

The post Why Daniel Hale Deserves Gratitude, Not Prison first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Israel’s night raids on Palestinian families aren’t over, whatever the courts say

The videos are all over YouTube. Masked Israeli soldiers storm a Palestinian family’s home in the middle of the night. Parents, dressed in nightwear, are suddenly surrounded by heavily armed men in balaclavas.

Young children are forced awake. With a mix of bleary-eyed confusion and fear, they are made to answer questions posed to them in broken Arabic by these faceless, armed strangers. They are lined up in one room while the soldiers take photographs of them holding their identity cards. And then, just as suddenly as they arrived, the masked men disappear into the night.

There are no questions beyond identifying the people in the house. No one is “arrested”. There’s no obvious purpose; just a family’s sense of security permanently wrecked.

To most people watching these startling videos, such scenes look like an Orwellian nightmare. And sure enough, Israel has given this procedure an Orwellian name: “intel mapping”.

Last week, under pressure from the courts, the Israeli army announced that it had ended the practice of “mapping”, unless – and this will be a loophole easily exploited – there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Given that the families whose homes, privacy and dignity are invaded are not suspected of any offence, it is difficult to imagine what “exceptional circumstances” could ever justify these degrading and terrifying raids.

Masked intruders

In announcing its decision, the Israeli army said that in the digital age, there were other tools it could use to gain intelligence on Palestinians, beyond randomly invading their homes with guns in the middle of the night. A statement added that it was a humanitarian gesture aimed at “mitigating the disruption of citizens’ everyday life”.

Except, of course, Palestinians are not Israeli “citizens”; they are subjects without rights living under a belligerent military occupation. And this is not about “disruption” – Palestinians aren’t facing an unexpected train delay – but a form of collective punishment, and therefore a war crime.

As a report by three Israeli human rights organisations published last November observed, “it is highly doubtful that any instance of mapping could be considered legal under international law”. Nonetheless, these home invasions are commonplace. They are integral to the Israeli army’s policy of surveilling, controlling and persecuting Palestinians.

According to figures compiled by the United Nations, the Israeli army carried out around 6,400 “search or arrest operations” in 2017 and 2018 alone – with each operation potentially including more than one home. Research by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, shows that the vast majority of such operations start between midnight and 5am.

In a quarter of cases, soldiers break down the door to enter, and in a third of cases, a family member is physically assaulted. Two-thirds of families have experienced these invasions more than once.

“Intel mapping” operations have been particularly difficult for the army to justify on any kind of security grounds. That led earlier this year to unwelcome scrutiny from Israel’s top court, which gave the army until August to divulge the wording of its “mapping” protocol. The army’s cancellation of the practice last week means that the rationale for traumatising thousands of Palestinian families over many years will continue to be a secret.

Habitual war crimes

The reality is that “mapping” was never really about building up a more accurate picture of Palestinian society. It has many other, far more sinister aims.

In practical terms, it is used to train young Israeli soldiers, familiarising them with the techniques of invading Palestinian homes and intimidating Palestinians – all in a safe environment for the soldiers. The army knows that Palestinian parents will be primarily concerned with protecting their children from the terrifying presence of armed intruders in what should be the family’s safest space.

In testimony to Breaking the Silence, an organisation for whistle-blowing Israeli soldiers, one soldier observed: “There’s rarely an operational motivation for it. Often, the motivation is practice, meaning we got a breaching tool [for forcing open doors] for the first time; no one knows how to use it, so it is decided that we break into a house now.”

But there are other, even darker purposes behind these random “mapping” raids. They are part of the gradual process by which the army acculturates its young soldiers into a life of committing habitual war crimes. It breaks down their sense of morality and any remnants of compassion after years of exposure in Israel’s school system to anti-Palestinian racism.

It turns Palestinians into nothing more than objects of suspicion and fear for the soldiers. Or as one Palestinian woman told Yesh Din: “The way they banged and came into the house was like entering somewhere with animals, not people.”

Terrorising Palestinians, even children, quickly becomes part of the humdrum routine of military “duties”.

Psychological warfare

But most important of all, home invasions traumatise Palestinians in ways designed to entrench the occupation and make it more permanent. They are a form of psychological warfare – a campaign of terror – against both the families and the communities they live in. They reinforce the message that the Israeli army is everywhere, controlling the smallest details of Palestinians’ lives.

Several soldiers told Breaking the Silence that the goal was to make Palestinians feel persecuted. One noted: “The bigger mission was to instill a sense of persecution in the Palestinian population. That’s not my phrase, it’s a phrase that actually appeared in [military] presentations and briefings.”

The soldiers take this guidance to heart. One said he understood the purpose of hiding his face “was to be more intimidating, scarier, and then maybe you get less resistance”.

“Mapping” raids are designed to make Palestinians believe that any kind of opposition to the occupation is futile, or counterproductive. Home invasions leave permanent scars, as women often describe feeling violated and losing a sense of pride in their home, while men suffer from the trauma associated with being unable to protect their wives and children. Children are left with anxiety and sleep disorders, and they struggle at school.

There is a further goal to these “mapping” operations when Jewish settlements have been built close to the Palestinian families being targeted. Home invasions take place on a regular basis for these families, serving as a form of pressure to encourage them to abandon their homes so the settlers can replace them.

A 2019 UN survey of an area of Hebron coveted by settlers found that over a three-year period, 75 percent of Palestinian homes in the neighbourhood had been “mapped”. One resident whose home was raided more than 20 times toldYesh Din researchers: “I think the entry [by soldiers] is just harassment, to drive us out of the house.”

Spying on Palestinians

Even some former soldiers understand that the intelligence-gathering rationales for these invasions are bogus. Several told the human rights groups that the intelligence supposedly gained from these operations was never put to later use. None could identify a database where the information was being stored.

Even if the mapping raids were primarily about collecting information, the army has far more effective means to spy on and control the Palestinian population in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The job of Unit 8200, one of the Israeli military’s many intelligence-gathering arms, includes listening in on Palestinian communications to find secrets that can be used to blackmail and extort Palestinians to collaborate with occupation authorities.

A so-called cyber unit in Israel’s justice ministry is tasked with spying on Palestinians’ internet and social media communications. And Israel has endless other sources of intelligence on Palestinians: collaborators, the Palestinian population registry that it controls, biometric identity documents, face-recognition technology, questioning at checkpoints, the use of drones, and the seizure of Palestinians for interrogation.

Court complicity

More importantly, the army knows that it can continue as before with these home invasions by using other pretexts. It will subsume “mapping” operations within even more violent categories of night raids – such as the search for weapons, interrogations of children about stone-throwing, or arrests.

Sadly, the Israeli courts have always shown a willingness to collude with the army in precisely these kinds of face-saving deceptions and cynical manipulations of language. There is no reason to believe that the Israeli legal system will do anything in practice to ensure that home invasions, whether for “mapping” or any other purpose, come to an end.

The record of Israeli courts has been consistently dismal in protecting Palestinians from Israeli army abuses. Even when the courts do belatedly rule against army protocols that flagrantly violate international law, the army invariably finds ways to undercut the ruling – usually with the court’s complicity. For years, the army has continued to use Palestinians as human shields, dragging out legal proceedings by recharacterising the practice as a so-called “neighbour procedure” or “prior warning”.

It is not hard to imagine that “intel mapping” could be given a similar linguistic makeover. And there is an additional reason to be sceptical: more than 20 years ago, Israel’s top court banned the torture of Palestinian detainees – yet, it continued almost unabated because the court created a loophole for cases defined as “ticking bombs”, when interrogators supposedly faced a race against time to extract information to save lives.

After the ruling, it seemed that every Palestinian seized by the army became a “ticking bomb”. Finally, in 2017, the court reversed its 1999 ruling when it permitted torture as long as interrogators did not cross a threshold of pain that it declined to determine in advance.

The reality is that when Israel treats its occupation as permanent, then preserving the occupation’s infrastructure – for surveillance, control, intimidation and humiliation – becomes an absolute necessity. When the occupier additionally seeks to drive out Palestinians to replace them with its own settler population, the rot runs deeper still. Palestinian men, women and children are reduced to nothing more than pieces to be swept off a chessboard.

For that reason, home invasions – the terrorising of families in the middle of the night by masked soldiers – will continue, whatever euphemism is used to justify it.

• First published in Middle East Eye

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The Insurgency Against Big Oil

While Australian politicians languish in a world blotched by climate change scepticism and fossil fuel love-ins, global oil and gas companies have been shaken.  Three titans of oil fame – Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron – faced a range of decisions in May that promise to dramatically shape their future operations.  The point is not negligible, given that this triarchy produced, between 1988 and 2015, 5% of total global scope 1 and 3 emissions.

Royal Dutch Shell was the first giant humbled by a Dutch court ruling that it was required to reduce total emissions by net 45% of 2019 levels by 2030.  “The reduction obligation relates to the Shell group’s entire energy portfolio and to the aggregate volume of all emissions (Scope 1 through to 3).”  The case had been brought by a number of environmental groups, including Milieudefensie, claiming that RDS had “an obligation … to contribute to the prevention of dangerous climate change through the corporate policy it determines for the Shell Group.”  To not do so would result in a breach of human rights.

The company submitted the rather amoral rationale that not selling its products would simply mean that others would do the same thing.  A vain effort was also made to convince Judge Larisa Alwain that RDS was sufficiently doing its bit to deal with climate change by reducing its Net Carbon Footprint comprising direct, indirect carbon emissions and customer emissions for products sold “by 20% in 2035 and by 50% in 2050.”

RDS also claimed that there should be no legal solution to this dispute: climate change policies were ultimately up to lawmakers and politics, not judicial heads.  These grounds were soundly dismissed by the court.  The judgment found that RDS was “free to decide not to make new investments in explorations and fossil fuels, and to change the energy package offered by the Shell group”.

While not facing the ire of courts, Chevron was tackling climate change activism from within, meeting a proposal by shareholder activist firm FollowThis to reduce its Scope 3 emissions by selling reduced quantities of fossil fuels.  The measure had the support of 61% of investors.   Other measures voted upon registered lower but not insignificant numbers: 48% of shareholders wished for a report on the impacts of a 2050 net-zero outcome while the same number also voted for a report on “dark money” lobbying.

One could hardly see this as a tree-hugging measure of ecological fancy.  Investments were potentially at stake.  “As shareholders, we understand this support to be part of our fiduciary duty to protect all assets in the global economy from devastating climate change.  Climate-related risks are a source of financial risk, and therefore limiting global warming is essential to risk management and responsible stewardship of the economy.”  Not willing to be dictators on the issue, those making the proposal did not wish to limit “the Company’s powers to set and vary their strategy or take any action which they believe in good faith would best contribute to reducing GHG emissions.”

To the two giants facing the headaches of necessary reform can be added Exxon Mobil.  Last month, Exxon Mobil’s CEO Darren Woods failed to quash what was described as an “insurgency” at the company’s Annual Shareholder Meeting.  Engine No. 1, a small activist hedge fund with a mere 0.02% stake and no history of oil or natural gas activism, daringly nabbed two seats on the board.  This took place, despite the warning by Woods that voting for such an environmentally minded concern would “derail our progress and jeopardise your dividend.”

One of Engine No.1’s backers, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, called the vote “historic”, representing “a tipping point for companies unprepared for the global energy transition”. Climate change constituted “the greatest threat to our future” and it was incumbent on shareholders “to hold the ExxonMobil board accountable to mitigate risk and contribute to the sustainable value of their investments.”

This would have come as a rude shock to a company with an extensive record of concealing its own research on climate change.  In September and October 2015, it was revealed by InsideClimate News, the Los Angeles Times and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism that one of the planet’s largest oil companies was well immersed in the study of global warming.  Its public front was one of scepticism.  In 1990, the board claimed that the company’s “examination of the issue [of global warming] supports the conclusions that the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.”

Despite this terse dismissal, it transpired that engineers and researchers in the employ of Exxon were conducting work on how best to adjust the company’s approach to rising temperatures.  Internal briefing papers were circulated and discussed, data generated and mulled over.  In 1978, James Black of Exxon’s Products Research Division wrote a paper for discussion with the unmistakably relevant title of “The Greenhouse Effect”. This followed on from his 1977 presentation to the management committee.  “Present thinking holds,” writes Black, “that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

In 1991, senior ice researcher Ken Croasdale of Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary told an engineering conference that “any major development with a lifespan of say 30-40 years will need to assess the impacts of potential global warming.”  This was particularly pertinent “of Arctic and offshore projects in Canada, where warming will clearly affect sea ice, icebergs, permafrost and sea levels.”  Not wishing to bite the hand feeding him, Croasdale brightly considered the benefit a warming planet might have for company operations in the Beaufort Sea: “potential global warming can only help lower exploration and development costs”.  This is no longer the case: the investors and funds are in revolt and such large oil companies are counting a different set of costs.

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The Conviction and Sentencing of Witness K

After tormenting the man for years, it became clear that the Australian authorities were willing to, for want of a better word, compromise.  The more accurate word would be compromising.  Instead of banishing former spy turned bean spiller Witness K to a cell and throwing away the key, there was preference for a softer, more hypocritical mode of punishment. He would be spared jail time, showing that the national security state can, when it wishes to sit in judgment, show some mercy.

For those familiar with the case, there was nothing merciful in the finding.  A punishment had been levelled for exposing an unlawful operation against a friendly and fledgling state.  In 2004, Australia’s then foreign minister Alexander Downer authorised the bugging of the cabinet offices of Timor-Leste by officers of the Australian Secret Intelligence Services (ASIS).

The surveillance of Timor-Leste’s negotiators was an act of economic espionage and fraud, intended to give the Australians the upper hand in discussions between the countries over their maritime boundary.  At stake were the oil and gas-rich deposits in the Timor Sea.  Unaware of the surveillance operation, the East Timorese went ahead to sign a treaty which distinctly favoured Australia: a 50-50 division of the Greater Sunrise fields.

Eventually, the truth outed.  The operation was revealed.  Former US ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, who was the chief negotiator on behalf of the Timor-Leste government, was stunned by Canberra’s commercial rapacity.  “The whole experience of the negotiation from 2000 on and through this whole episode was to see a country that – yes, in many ways focuses on the public good – but where corporate greed was a big part of it, because the Howard and Downer government, they were shills for the corporations.”

This is where Witness K’s role becomes important.  As the former head of technical operations at the agency, he felt sour by the prioritising of resources against Timor-Leste over other security matters. When he became aware of Downer’s consultancy with the multinational Woodside, who stood to benefit from a general divvying up of the Greater Sunrise fields, the red mist descended.

Exercised by the matter, Witness K made an internal compliant to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) about the bugging.  Showing how such internal complaint mechanisms only serve to expose the complainant to retribution, Witness K’s saw his employment terminated.  With the consent of the IGIS, Witness K secured the services of an ASIS-approved lawyer and former ACT attorney-general, Bernard Collaery.  Collaery did some digging and came to the conclusion that the espionage operation was not only unlawful but probably a conspiracy to defraud the government of Timor-Leste under section 334 of the Criminal Code.

Timor-Leste, aggrieved by the bugging incident, went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague intent on overturning the sham arrangement they had reached with Canberra.  In 2013, aided by Collaery’s efforts, an invitation was extended to Witness K to give evidence.  Disclosures regarding the surveillance operation were made in two affidavits.  Alarmed, Australia’s attorney-general George Brandis sprang into action.  Witness K’s passport was cancelled. The domestic intelligence service, ASIO, raided the homes of both men.

Brandis flirted with prosecuting both Witness K and Collaery.  But it was only in May 2018, a mere two months after Canberra’s conclusion of a renegotiated treaty with Timor-Leste, that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions formally brought charges under section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which criminalises the communication of any information or matter acquired or prepared by or on behalf of ASIS in connection with its functions or relates to its performance.

Law academic Spencer Zifcak, in writing about the matter with some horror, saw an “Alice in Wonderland quality about all this” (Kafka would have been more appropriate): the defendants in a criminal case were the very men who “acted in the national interest by disclosing alleged unlawful activity by Australia’s intelligence service”.  The prosecutors were the very individuals who initiated the covert operation.

In 2019, Witness K suggested that he would plead guilty. On June 17, concealed behind a wall of black panels, he formally entered a guilty plea in the ACT Magistrates Court.  The next day, magistrate Glenn Theakston concluded that the former ASIS agent would not face the bars of a prison and would be subject to a 12-month good behaviour bond.  Adding his bit to the Alice in Wonderland farce, Theakston claimed that, “It cannot and should not be up to … former staff members to unilaterally depart from those security obligations” though he admitted that this “was not a breach that was going to go hidden for some time.”  That said, it was “express” and “deliberate”.  It compromised the agency’s effectiveness, safety and security and jeopardised Australia’s relationships and reputations.

While stern and rigid on the letter of the law – the proscriptions regarding ASIS were “strict and absolute” – the magistrate did note that Witness K had been motivated by considerations of justice, not those of personal gain.  The former agent’s disclosures were part of an effort to participate in a “rules-based order of international relations”.  (The bitter ironist will detect how this jars with Canberra’s incessant babble of about such an order even as it tries to upend it.)

Richard Maidment QC, representing the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, swatted Witness K’s efforts to secure a non-conviction order.  His conviction would serve a lesson of deterrence.  Whether it was “appropriate for him to breach the obligations, which had been brought to his attention many times, does not afford him mitigation.”

The criminals behind the Timor-Leste operation remain at large. The wrong man was convicted. Senator for South Australia Rex Patrick released a sombre statement claiming to be “ashamed to be an Australian.”  Collaery, for his part, has refused to plead guilty.  His fate, largely being determined behind closed doors, is likely to be a harsher one.

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