Would the F.B.I.’s smear campaign against Martin Luther King Jr. work today?
It began with an unexpected rapping on the front door. When Wiley Gill opened up, no one was there. Suddenly, two police officers appeared, their guns drawn, yelling, “Chico Police Department.” “I had tunnel vision,” Gill said, “The only thing I could see was their guns.” After telling him to step outside with his hands in the air, the officers lowered their guns and explained. They had received a report — later determined to be unfounded — that a suspect in a domestic disturbance had fled into Gill’s house. The police officers asked the then-26-year-old if one of them could do a sweep of the premises. Afraid and feeling he had no alternative, Gill agreed. One officer remained with him, while the other conducted the search. After that they took down Gill’s identification information. Then they were gone — but not out of his life. Instead, Gill became the subject of a “suspicious activity report,” or SAR, which police officers fill out when they believe they’re encountering a person or situation that “reasonably” might be connected in some way to terrorism. The one-page report, filed shortly after the May 2012 incident, offered no hint of terrorism. It did, however, suggest that the two officers had focused on Gill’s religion, noting that his “full conversion to Islam as a young [white male] and pious demeanor is [sic] rare.” The report also indicated that the officer who entered the house had looked at Gill’s computer screen and recalled something “similar to ‘Games that fly under the radar’” on it. According to the SAR, this meant Gill “had potential access to flight simulators via the Internet.” Gill suspects that he was probably looking at a website about video games. The SAR also noted earlier police encounters with Gill, in his mosque and on the street. It recorded his “full beard and traditional garb” and claimed that he avoided “eye contact.” In short, the Chico Police Department was secretly keeping tabs on Gill as a suspected terrorist. Yet nowhere in the SAR was there a scintilla of evidence that he was engaged in any kind of criminal activity whatsoever. Nevertheless, that report was uploaded to the Central California Intelligence Center, one of a network of Department of Homeland Security-approved domestic intelligence fusion centers. It was then disseminated through the federal government’s domestic intelligence-sharing network as well as uploaded into an FBI database known as e-Guardian, after which the Bureau opened a file on Gill. We do not know how many government agencies now associate Wiley Gill’s good name with terrorism. We do know that the nation’s domestic-intelligence network is massive, including at least 59 federal agencies, over 300 Defense Department units, and approximately 78 state-based fusion centers, as well as the multitude of law enforcement agencies they serve. We also know that local law enforcement agencies have themselves raised concerns about the system’s lack of privacy protections. And it wouldn’t end there for Gill. The Architecture of Mass Suspicion The SAR database is part of an ever-expanding domestic surveillance system established after 9/11 to gather intelligence on potential terrorism threats. At an abstract level, such a system may seem sensible: far better to prevent terrorism before it happens than to investigate and prosecute after a tragedy. Based on that reasoning, the government exhorts Americans to “see something, say something” — the SAR program’s slogan. Indeed, just this week at a conference in New York City, FBI Director James Comey asked the public to report any suspicions they have to authorities. “When the hair on the back of your neck stands, listen to that instinct and just tell somebody,” said Comey. And seeking to reassure those who do not want to get their fellow Americans in trouble based on instinct alone, the FBI director added, “We investigate in secret for a very good reason, we don’t want to smear innocent people.” There are any number of problems with this approach, starting with its premise. Predicting who exactly is a future threat before a person has done anything wrong is a perilous undertaking. That’s especially the case if the public is encouraged to report suspicions of neighbors, colleagues, and community members based on a “hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck” threshold. Nor is it any comfort that the FBI promises to protect the innocent by investigating “suspicious” people in secret. The civil liberties and privacy implications are, in fact, truly hair-raising, particularly when the Bureau engages in abusive and discriminatory sting operations and other rights violations. At a fundamental level, suspicious activity reporting, as well as the digital and physical infrastructure of networked computer servers and fusion centers built around it, depends on what the government defines as suspicious. As it happens, this turns out to include innocuous, First Amendment-protected behavior. As a start, a little history: the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative was established in 2008 as a way for federal agencies, law enforcement, and the public to report and share potential terrorism-related information. The federal government then developed a list of 16 behaviors that it considered “reasonably indicative of criminal activity associated with terrorism.” Nine of those 16 behaviors, as the government acknowledges, could have nothing to do with criminal activity and are constitutionally protected, including snapping photographs, taking notes, and “observation through binoculars.” Under federal regulations, the government can only collect and maintain criminal intelligence information on an individual if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that he or she is “involved in criminal conduct or activity and the information is relevant to that criminal conduct or activity.” The SAR program officially lowered that bar significantly, violating the federal government’s own guidelines for maintaining a “criminal intelligence system.” There’s good reason for, at a minimum, using a reasonable suspicion standard. Anything less and it’s garbage in, garbage out, meaning counterterrorism “intelligence” databases become anything but intelligent. When the Mundane Looks Suspicious The SAR program provides striking evidence of this. In 2013, the ACLU of Northern California obtained nearly 2,000 SARs from two state fusion centers, which collect, store, and analyze such reports, and then share those their intelligence analysts find worthwhile across what the federal government calls its Information Sharing Environment. This connects the fusion centers and other federal agencies into an information-sharing network, or directly with the FBI. Their contents proved revealing. A number of reports were concerned with “ME” — Middle Eastern — males. One headline proclaimed, “Suspicious ME Males Buy Several Large Pallets of Water at REDACTED.” Another read, “Suspicious Activities by a ME Male in Lodi, CA.” And just what was so suspicious about this male? Read into the document and you discover that a sergeant at the Elk Grove Police Department had long been “concerned about a residence in his neighborhood occupied by a Middle Eastern male adult physician who is very unfriendly.” And it’s not just “Middle Eastern males” who provoke such suspicion. Get involved in a civil rights protest against the police and California law enforcement might report you, too. A June 2012 SAR was headlined “Demonstration Against Law Enforcement Use of Excessive Force” and reported that “a scheduled protest” by demonstrators “concerned about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” was about to occur. What we have here isn’t just a failure to communicate genuine threat information, but the transformation of suspicion into pernicious ideological, racial, and religious profiling, often disproportionately targeting activists and American Muslims. Again, that’s not surprising. Throughout our history, in times of real or perceived fear of amorphously defined threats, government suspicion focuses on those who dissent or look or act differently. Counterterrorism Accounting Law enforcement officials, including the Los Angeles Police Department’s top counterterrorism officer, have themselves exhibited skepticism about suspicious activity reporting (out of concern with the possibility of overloading the system). In 2012, George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute surveyed counterterrorism personnel working in fusion centers and in a report generally accepting of SARs noted that the program had “flooded fusion centers, law enforcement, and other security outfits with white noise,” complicating “the intelligence process” and distorting “resource allocation and deployment decisions.” In other words, it was wasting time and sending personnel off on wild goose chases. A few months later, a scathing report from the Senate subcommittee on homeland security described similar intelligence problems in state-based fusion centers. It found that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel assigned to the centers “forwarded ‘intelligence’ of uneven quality — oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections… and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.” Effectiveness doesn’t exactly turn out to be one of the SAR program’s strong suits, though the government has obscured this by citing the growing number of SARs that have triggered FBI investigations. However, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the FBI doesn’t track whether SARs uploaded into the domestic intelligence network actually help thwart terrorism or lead to arrests or convictions. You are, of course, what you measure — in this case, not much; and yet, despite its dubious record, the SAR program is alive and kicking. According to the GAO, the number of reports in the system exploded by 750%, from 3,256 in January 2010 to 27,855 in October 2012. And being entered in such a system, as Wiley Gill found out, can prove just the beginning of your problems. Several months after his home was searched, his telephone rang. It was a Chico police officer who told Gill to shut down his Facebook page. Gill refused, responding that there was only one reason he thought the police wanted his account deleted: its references to Islam. The phone call ended ominously with the officer warning Gill that he was on a “watchlist.” The officer may have been referring to yet another burgeoning secret database that the federal government calls its “consolidated terrorism watchlist.” Inclusion in this database — and on government blacklists that are generated from it — can bring more severe repercussions than unwarranted law enforcement attention. It can devastate lives. Twenty-First-Century Blacklists When small business owner Abe Mashal reached the ticket counter at Chicago’s Midway Airport on April 20, 2010, an airline representative informed him that he was on the no-fly list and could not travel to Spokane, Washington, on business. Suddenly, the former Marine found himself surrounded by TSA agents and Chicago police. Later, FBI agents questioned him at the airport and at home about his Muslim faith and his family members. The humiliation and intimidation didn’t end there. A few months later, FBI agents returned to interview Mashal, focusing again on his faith and family. Only this time they had an offer to make: if he became an FBI informant, his name would be deleted from the no-fly list and he would be paid for his services. Such manipulative quid pro quos have been made to others. Mashal refused. The meeting ended abruptly, and he wasn’t able to fly for four years. As of August 2013, there were approximately 47,000 people, including 800 U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents like Mashal, on that secretive no-fly list, all branded as “known or suspected terrorists.” All were barred from flying to, from, or over the United States without ever being given a reason why. On 9/11, just 16 names had been on the predecessor “no transport” list. The resulting increase of 293,650% — perhaps more since 2013 — isn’t an accurate gauge of danger, especially given that names are added to the list based on vague, broad, and error-prone standards. The harm of being stigmatized as a suspected terrorist and barred from flying is further compounded when innocent people try to get their names removed from the list. In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security established the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program through which those who believe they are wrongly blacklisted can theoretically attempt to correct the government’s error. But banned flyers quickly find themselves frustrated because they have to guess what evidence they must produce to refute the government’s unrevealed basis for watchlisting them in the first place. Redress then becomes a grim bureaucratic wonderland. In response to queries, blacklisted people receive a letter from the DHS that gives no explanation for why they were not allowed to board a plane, no confirmation of whether they are actually on the no-fly list, and no certainty about whether they can fly in the future. In the end, the only recourse for such victims is to roll the dice by buying a ticket, going to the airport, and hoping for the best. Being unable to board a plane can have devastating consequences, as Abe Mashal can attest. He lost business opportunities and the ability to mark life’s milestones with friends and family. There is hope, however. In August, four years after the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of 13 people on the no-fly list, a judge ruled that the government’s redress system is unconstitutional. In early October, the government notified Mashal and six others that they were no longer on the list. Six of the ACLU’s clients remain unable to fly, but at least the government now has to disclose just why they have been put in that category, so that they can contest their blacklisting. Soon, others should have the same opportunity. Suspicion First, Innocence Later… Maybe The No Fly List is only the best known of the government’s web of terrorism watchlists. Many more exist, derived from the same master list. Currently, there are more than one million names in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, a database maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center. This classified source feeds the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), operated by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. The TSDB is an unclassified but still secret list known as the “master watchlist.” containing what the government describes as “known or suspected terrorists,” or KSTs. According to documents recently leaked to the Intercept, as of August 2013 that master watchlist contained 680,000 people, including 5,000 U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The government can add people’s names to it according to a shaky “reasonable suspicion” standard. There is, however, growing evidence that what’s “reasonable” to the government may only remotely resemble what that word means in everyday usage. Information from a single source, even an uncorroborated Facebook post, can allow a government agent to watchlist an individual with virtually no outside scrutiny. Perhaps that’s why 40% of those on the master watchlist have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation,” according to the government’s own records. Nothing encapsulates the post-9/11, Alice-in-Wonderland inversion of American notions of due process more strikingly than this “blacklist first, innocence later… maybe” mindset. The Terrorist Screening Database is then used to fill other lists. In the context of aviation, this means the no-fly list, as well as the selectee and expanded selectee lists. Transportation security agents subject travelers on the latter two lists to extra screenings, which can include prolonged and invasive interrogation and searches of laptops, phones, and other electronic devices. Around the border, there’s the State Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System, which it uses to flag people it thinks shouldn’t get a visa, and the TECS System, which Customs and Border Protection uses to determine whether someone can enter the country. Inside the United States, no watchlist may be as consequential as the one that goes by the moniker of the Known or Appropriately Suspected Terrorist File. The names on this blacklist are shared with more than 17,000 state, local, and tribal police departments nationwide through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Unlike any other information disseminated through the NCIC, the KST File reflects mere suspicion of involvement with criminal activity, so law enforcement personnel across the country are given access to a database of people who have secretly been labeled terrorism suspects with little or no actual evidence, based on virtually meaningless criteria. This opens up the possibility of increased surveillance and tense encounters with the police, not to speak of outright harassment, for a large but undivulged number of people. When a police officer stops a person for a driving infraction, for instance, information about his or her KST status will pop up as soon a driver’s license is checked. According to FBI documents, police officers who get a KST hit are warned to “approach with caution” and “ask probing questions.” When officers believe they’re about to go face to face with a terrorist, bad things can happen. It’s hardly a stretch of the imagination, particularly after a summer of police shootings of unarmed men, to suspect that an officer approaching a driver whom he believes to be a terrorist will be quicker to go for his gun. Meanwhile, the watchlisted person may never even know why his encounters with police have taken such a peculiar and menacing turn. According to the FBI’s instructions, under no circumstances is a cop to tell a suspect that he or she is on a watchlist. And once someone is on this watchlist, good luck getting off it. According to the government’s watchlist rulebook, even a jury can’t help you. “An individual who is acquitted or against whom charges are dismissed for a crime related to terrorism,” it reads, “may nevertheless meet the reasonable standard and appropriately remain on, or be nominated to, the Terrorist Watchlist.” No matter the verdict, suspicion lasts forever. Shadow ID The SARs program and the consolidated terrorism watchlist are just two domestic government databases of suspicion. Many more exist. Taken together, they should be seen as a new form of national ID for a growing group of people accused of no crime, who may have done nothing wrong, but are nevertheless secretly labeled by the government as suspicious or worse. Innocent until proven guilty has been replaced with suspicious until determined otherwise. Think of it as a new shadow system of national identification for a shadow government that is increasingly averse to operating in the light. It’s an ID its “owners” don’t carry around with them, yet it’s imposed on them whenever they interact with government agents or agencies. It can alter their lives in disastrous ways, often without their knowledge. And they could be you. If this sounds dystopian, that’s because it is.
The Patriot Act continues to wreak its havoc on civil liberties. Section 213 was included in the Patriot Act over the protests of privacy advocates and granted law enforcement the power to conduct a search while delaying notice to the suspect of the search. Known as a “sneak and peek” warrant, law enforcement was adamant Section 213 was needed to protect against terrorism. But the latest government report detailing the numbers of “sneak and peek” warrants reveals that out of a total of over 11,000 sneak and peek requests, only 51 were used for terrorism. Yet again, terrorism concerns appear to be trampling our civil liberties. Throughout the Patriot Act debate the Department of Justice urged Congress to pass Section 213 because it needed the sneak and peak power to help investigate and prosecute terrorism crimes “without tipping off terrorists.” In 2005, FBI Director Robert Mueller continued the same exact talking point, emphasizing sneak and peek warrants were “an invaluable tool in the war on terror and our efforts to combat serious criminal conduct.” A closer look at the number of sneak and peek warrants issued (a reporting requirement imposed by Congress) shows this is simply not the case. The last publicly available report about sneak and peek warrants was released in 2010; however, the Administrative Office of the US Courts has finally released reports from 2011, 2012, and 2013. What do the reports reveal? Two things: 1) there has been an enormous increase in the use of sneak and peek warrants and 2) they are rarely used for terrorism cases. First, the numbers: Law enforcement made 47 sneak-and-peek searches nationwide from September 2001 to April 2003. The 2010 report reveals 3,970 total requests were processed. Within three years that number jumped to 11,129. That’s an increase of over 7,000 requests. Exactly what privacy advocates argued in 2001 is happening: sneak and peak warrants are not just being used in exceptional circumstances—which was their original intent—but as an everyday investigative tool. Second, the uses: Out of the 3,970 total requests from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010, 3,034 were for narcotics cases and only 37 for terrorism cases (about .9%). Since then, the numbers get worse. The 2011 report reveals a total of 6,775 requests. 5,093 were used for drugs, while only 31 (or .5%) were used for terrorism cases. The 2012 report follows a similar pattern: Only .6%, or 58 requests, dealt with terrorism cases. The 2013 report confirms the incredibly low numbers. Out of 11,129 reports only 51, or .5%, of requests were used for terrorism. The majority of requests were overwhelmingly for narcotics cases, which tapped out at 9,401 requests. Section 213 may be less known than Section 215 of the Patriot Act (the clause the government is currently using to collect your phone records), but it’s just as important. The Supreme Court ruled in Wilson v. Arkansas and Richards v. Wisconsin that the Fourth Amendment requires police to generally “knock and announce” their entry into property as a means of notifying a homeowner of a search. The idea was to give the owner an opportunity to assert their Fourth Amendment rights. The court also explained that the rule could give way in situations where evidence was under threat of destruction or there were concerns for officer safety. Section 213 codified this practice into statute, taking delayed notice from a relatively rare occurrence into standard operating law enforcement procedure. The numbers vindicate privacy advocates who urged Congress to shelve Section 213 during the Patriot Act debates. Proponents of Section 213 claimed sneak and peek warrants were needed to protect against terrorism. But just like we’ve seen elsewhere, these claims are false. The government will continue to argue for more surveillance authorities—like the need to update the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act—under the guise of terrorism. But before we engage in any updates, the public must be convinced such updates are needed and won’t be used for non-terrorist purposes that chip away at our civil liberties.
Just as in World War II and Vietnam, napalm manufactured in the US burned the bodies of hundreds of indigenous individuals in Brazil, people without an army and without weapons. The objective was to take over their lands. Indigenous people of ethnic Pataxo struggle to return their lands. In October 2014, they closed the highway to pressure the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.) For the first time in the history of Brazil, the federal government is investigating the deaths and abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples during military dictatorship (1964-1985). The death toll may be twenty times more than previously known. Just as in World War II and Vietnam, napalm manufactured in the US burned the bodies of hundreds of indigenous individuals in Brazil, people without an army and without weapons. The objective was to take over their lands. Indigenous peoples in this country suffered the most from the atrocities committed during the military dictatorship (1964-1985) – with the support of the United States. For the first time in Brazil’s history, the National Truth Commission, created by the federal government in 2012 in order to investigate political crimes committed by the State during the military dictatorship, gives statistics showing that the number of indigenous individuals killed could be 20 times greater than was previously officially registered by leftist militants. Unlike other crimes committed by the State during that time period, no reparations or indemnification for the acts have been offered to indigenous people; they were not even considered victims of the military regime. “From the north to the south and from the east to the west, accusations of genocide, assassination of leaders and indigenous rights defenders, slavery, massacres, poisonings in small towns, forced displacement, secret prisons for indigenous people, the bombing of towns, torture, and denigrating treatment were registered [with the State Truth Commissions],” Marcelo Zelic, vice president of the anti-torture group Never Again – SP, one of the organizations that makes up the Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission, created in order to provide documents and information to the National Truth Commission – told Truthout during an audience with the Truth Commission of San Pablo open to journalists. Pau de Arara device developed during the Brazilian military dictatorship. It can also refer to a physical torture technique designed to cause severe joint and muscle pain, as well as headaches and psychological trauma. (Photo: Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission of Brazil)Guaraní leader Timoteo Popyguá is from the El Dorado community in the state of Sao Paulo. He tells of his parents and grandparents, who lived in the municipality of the Manguerinha region in southern Brazil’s Paraná state, and who were victims of the military regime. Popyguá explained to Truthout that his relatives were forcibly removed from their lands, and those who managed to stay suffered from a drastic reduction in their territories. Because these indigenous groups require “ample space” for the reproduction of their cultural life, according to him this is another form of violence that they were subjected to. “My parents were victims of abuses, chained to tree trunks. The reason was land,” he says. “There must be reparations for the loss of our land and our culture.” The Commission for Amnesty – a different body that the Truth Commission – was put into place in 2001 by the Ministry of Justice with the goal of analyzing the requirements for political amnesty. Currently, their official documents count 457 victims who were either murdered or disappeared by the military. The Truth Commission determined that the total number of registered cases was 8,000 indigenous individuals, and another thousand people who belonged to political organizations who were killed between 1964 and 1985. For the indigenous people affected by the military dictatorship, there should be reparations. “For the indigenous people affected by the military dictatorship, there should be reparations. The same reparations that were given to the families of murder victims, the families of people from political organizations who were disappeared, and to political prisoners. Legislation should be passed for collective reparations for these people. Their lands must be demarcated, both as a sign of respect to these people and to mitigate the violence that they continue to suffer today,” argues Zelic. Zelic warns that the numbers provided do not take into account all of the cases that occurred during the military period. Therefore they should be viewed incomplete, since the official data about indigenous populations are not well-defined, and the military alleges that many documents were destroyed. The most reliable data were obtained during field studies carried out by researchers, anthropologists and indigenous experts. “Actually, the discussion should not center around the number of dead people, because this is a statistic that is absolutely impossible to calculate with precision, since the majority of indigenous people don’t even have a population census. What we do need to discuss is the action of the State in its development processes and how they have affected indigenous groups. These processes have taken place since 1940 and include the development policies carried out up to the present day by the State. Reparations would have to include a change in the behavior of the State,” says Zelic. Dan Mitrione: “The Master of Torture” in Brazilian Territories An indigenous woman from Brazil who was cut in half by the hands of landowners. (Photo: Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission of Brazil)In the state of Minas Gerais in southeast Brazil, the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) created two prisons for indigenous people, under the supervision of the military police in that state. One was Krenak, in the municipality of Resplandor, and the other was called Fazenda Guaraní, in Carmesia. The prisons were like concentration camps, where native people from across Brazil were sent if they were considered to be dangerous by the State. They were obligated to do forced labor and were placed in individual holding cells, isolated from one another. They were subjected to beatings and torture. In addition to this, there were even clandestine prisons across the country built on indigenous land. In addition, the State created the Rural Indigenous Guard (GRI) in 1969, to assist with repressing and containing discontent in indigenous towns. They recruited indigenous individuals who were subjected to three months of training with the Battalion School for Military Police in Minas Gerais. A document created by the Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission, titled The National Truth Commission and Indigenous Peoples: One Step Away From Omission, presents the following question: Who are the military personnel that worked with the indigenous people during those three months? The creators of the document, through a series of investigations, identified Dan Mitrione, “The Master of Torture.” CIA agent Daniel A. Mitrione was sent to train police in Latin America in the “art” of interrogation and torture. CIA agent Daniel A. Mitrione was sent by the United States in the 1960s to train police in Latin America. He principally worked with the police of the Brazilian dictatorship and Uruguayans in the “art” of interrogation, torture, and the repression of revolutionary social movements. Mitrione came under the Office of Public Security for the United States International Development Agency (USAID). During his time in Brazil, Mitrione trained the military police in the state of Minas Gerais, who were responsible for building the prisons for indigenous people and for the formation of the Rural Indigenous Guard. “Marcelo Zelic found part of a film made by a German photographer, Jesko Putkamer. The clip shows a line of uniformed members of the Rural Indigenous Guard being applauded as they march by those present at the time, including military members. Two indigenous individuals hold a prisoner in a ‘pau de arara,’ (a technique used by the CIA), as evidence of the repressive techniques learned by the Indigenous Rural Guard,” says the report (watch the video here). The document also highlights the information contained in the book The Hidden Face of Terror, by AJ Lagguth, which contextualizes the origin of the presence of Dan Mitrione in Brazil and how it was related to the creation of the Rural Indigenous Guard and the Krenak Reformatory. “In the first part of the 1960s, the US was more convinced than ever of its technical expertise – engineers, agronomists, the police – they were all holders of vital knowledge that should have been transferred to less-developed countries in the world. In Washington, Byron Engle was in charge of organizing a team capable of training police in Asia, Africa, and especially in Latin America,” says the report from the National Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission. He adds, “That’s where Dan Mitrione comes in. The creation of the Rural Indigenous Guard is the replica of the course that he gave to the police in Minas Gerais.” Documents discovered in an archive in Washington confirmed the participation of the United States in the military coup that the Brazilian people suffered in 1964. In 2006, historian Carlos Fico of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), discovered documents in an archive in Washington, which confirmed the participation of the United States in the military coup that the Brazilian people suffered in 1964. One of the documents, titled “A contingency plan for Brazil,” was created with the help of Lincoln Gordon, the ambassador during the coup. The United States helped those who participated in the coup in order to put up a front against what he called “a communist intervention.” The Brazilian State Department coined the operation “Brother Sam.” This culminated in a complaint brought forth in 1997 by a Brazilian Human Rights group called Torture, Never Again, which documented that at least 20 military members graduated from the School of the Americas (SOA) in the United States, better known as the “torture school.” The group maintained that at least two instructors from SOA were directly connected to repression and human rights abuses, including false imprisonment and torture, using methods such as the electric prod, asphyxiation, and injections of “truth serum.” The Economic Interests of the Dictatorship A document published by the Association of Antifascist Ex-Political Prisoners was sent to the Second International War Crimes Tribunal in 1974 in Rome and Brussels. It revealed that after the military coup in 1964, thousands of hectares of indigenous land stayed in the hands of economic groups. The document was signed by a group of anthropologists who did not reveal their identity, given the persecution they had suffered up until that time. In 1970, the real movement to occupy the land acquired by economic groups in previous years began. It was inspired by international credit organizations, the complaints allege. The World Bank, starting in 1970, gave $40 million to finance investment in livestock farming in the country. The federal government established financial incentives – a 50 percent tax exemption on earned income and other benefits – for those who invested in the Amazon. In addition, it was in charge of the infrastructure and the creation of the Plan for National Integration (PIN) for the construction of a highway system. “Since the expansion would eventually reach the indigenous inhabitants of the extensive region, a protocol for action was defined that the president of the FUNAI translates in the following way, in Order no.01/N from January 25, 1971: The assistance for indigenous people, which should be as complete as possible, does not attempt to and should not obstruct national development or the axes of incursion for the integration of the Amazon,” says the document. The entire process of the construction of indigenous prisons and the ethnic concentration camps is connected to the liberation of the land for the large land-holders. “The entire process of the construction of indigenous prisons and the ethnic concentration camps is connected to the liberation of the land for the large land-holders. The militarism arrived together with the implementation of agribusiness, along with the national and industrial integration, such as in the case of the application of Aracruz Cellulose, in the state of Holy Spirit,” Benedito Prezia, from the Indigenous Pastoral of Sao Paulo, explained to Truthout. First Contact and Death The complaint sent to the Second International War Crimes Tribunal in 1974 related a seemingly endless number of cases where ethnic groups in the Amazon were decimated or suffered the consequences of the Brazilian government’s development policy. It also gives details about the tactics used by the corporations and by the FUNAI in the “pacification” of the native peoples. In 1970, for example, the first contact was established with a group of Paracañas in the river valley of Pacajás, in northern Brazil. United States Steel, a US steel monopoly, had already managed to obtain, in conjunction with the state-owned company Vale do Rio Doce, the permits to exploit the iron deposits in the area. “The interest demonstrated by US Steel in the ‘pacification’ of Paracaña is not unusual,” read the complaint. “They gave a lot of support to the expedition of the FUNAI, and a helicopter descended into an open clearing to log the forests on indigenous lands.” Indigenous teacher teaches the history of colonization and the history of the Brazilian military dictatorship. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.) In the helicopter were agents from FUNAI and a company director. “When the Paracaña arrived at the meeting, there were 25 people, three of whom had the flu,” read the complaint. “Just six months after the encounter, 40 indigenous people had died of the flu.” After this first contact, other illnesses were identified in the indigenous population, such as sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis. Another case that is cited by the document identifies the direct action of the corporations that entered into contact with the ethnic group the Tembes, on the border of the states Pará and Maranhão. “They felt unconcerned about the advance of economic expansion, since they had the land titles in their possession,” read the document. “However, the FUNAI-backed King Ranch, a huge agriculture corporation from the United States, certifying that indigenous people did not exist in the region [this was a document demanded by the Superintendent of Development in the Amazon (SUDAM) to authorize projects favored by fiscal incentives.]” Immediately afterward, the company began to request, together with the government of Pará, the cancellation of the land titles of the Tembes people. Zelic, in his testimony before the Truth Commission, returns to the example of another case, the extermination of the Pataxo towns in the state of Bahía, in northeast Brazil, with the objective of seizing their lands for planting huge swaths of cacao and for raising cattle. In order to get rid of indigenous people in the area, they used the intentional inoculation method to give them smallpox. Involvement of More Corporations According to the report The National Truth Commission and Indigenous Peoples: One Step Away From Omission, the following corporations benefitted from the military regime’s occupation of the Amazon: Swift, AndersonClayton, Volkswagen, Goodyear, Nestlé, Mitsubishi, Mappin, Bordon, Ludwig, Codeara, Camargo Correa, Bradesco, and Bamerindus. The Use of Napalm Journalistic document file recorded using napalm. (Photo: Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission of Brazil) The first report from the State Truth Commission of the Amazon, titled “The genocide of the Waimiri Atroari people with the law,” describes the tactic of “raids,” indigenous killing expeditions that took place at the end of the 1970s, especially in the northern states, Amazonas and Acre. “Many of the ‘raids’ included the direct participation of government officials,” according to the document. The first report from the State Truth Commission of the Amazon describes the tactic of “raids,” One of the tactics employed was the use of napalm. In her testimony before the Truth Commission of Sao Paulo, the reporter Memélia Moreira, who provided coverage during the military regime, wrote that genocide was perpetrated by the State against indigenous people. She also said that in one of the reports evidence was found that napalm was used in the territory of Waimiri Atroari during the construction path of the BR-174 highway, from 1967 to 1977. “I saw it, I picked it up and I took a capsule of napalm with me,” says the reporter, who was a speaker at the 4th International War Crimes Tribunal in 1980 in Holland, during which Brazil was declared guilty of violating human rights. “They were bombed at least two times in 1975 and 1976. Many times the indigenous people, who did not speak Portuguese well, wanting to refer to death, would point in the direction of the sky.” Napalm is a gelatinous substance that contains naphthenic acid and palmitic acid mixed with petroleum ether or a similar combustible material, and can reach burning temperatures between 1,500 and 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. When it falls on people, the gelatin sticks to the skin, hair, and clothes, causing severe burns that may reach all the way to the bone. Napalm was developed in 1943, in a secret laboratory at Harvard University by a team led by a chemist named Louis Fieser. It was used by the US in World War II and again on a wide scale in the Vietnam War. Egydio Schwade is a theologian and coordinator of the Amazon Truth Commission. During the period of the construction of the BR-174 highway, he was the executive secretary of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), and reports that at least 2,000 indigenous Waimiri Atroari died during the construction of the highway. “Fathers, mothers, and children died, towns were destroyed by fire and by the bombs. People resisted and ran into the forest in search of refuge in the neighboring towns. This was the political and lived geography experienced by these people since the beginning of the construction of BR-174,” says the Amazon Truth Commission report. With the creation of the first drawings and letters, they projected the weapons that Kamna – a reference to white people – used to kill them. Schwade worked with indigenous education projects, using the methods of Paulo Freire, in the mid-1980s. The extermination always appeared in different forms of expression in the Waimiri Atroari town. “With the creation of the first drawings and letters, they projected the weapons that Kamna – a reference to white people – used to kill them. These methods included planes, helicopters, bombs, firearms, electric cables and strange illnesses. Entire communities disappeared after military helicopters passed over or landed in their towns,” says the report. The presence of napalm was also described by the native people to the theologian. In June of 1985, seated on the road in front of the buildings of FUNAI in Brasilia, in the company of two Waimiri Atroari individuals, one of them asked professor Egydio Schwade, “What is it that the civilized men threw out of the plane that burns the bodies of the people?” And he tried to explain something that happened in a town where a number of people from his family lived. “What is it that the civilized men threw out of the plane that burns the bodies of the people?” During the construction of the BR-174, according to the document, mining companies requested and obtained permits that authorized mining in Waimiri Atroari territory. With the completion of BR-174, the Paranapanema company exerted pressure in order to start activity in the zone. In 1979, the group invaded the indigenous territory, and later “conquered the law” – through corrupt government and FUNAI employees and the Ministry of Mines and Energy. In 1981, the President of the Republic, João Figueiredo, divided up the eastern part of the Indigenous Wamiri Atroari lands. In 1982, FUNAI gave the authorization for the construction of an access highway to the mines of the Paranapanema corporation in the Waimiri Atroari lands. National Truth Commission The National Truth Commission includes crimes against indigenous people as one of its thirteen central concepts. The final report should be turned in to recently re-elected President Dilma Rousseff on the 10th of December. In addition to the research done by the commission, it should make recommendations to the Brazilian government for reparations to the victims of the military regime. Indigenous women of the ethnic Pataxo join other women fighting for recognition of their land. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.) The indigenous chapter of the report was sent to the Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission, before being turned in to the president. The document has been the object of criticism by human rights organizations. According to Marcelo Zelic, countless complaints were not included in the report, and many other cases, including the participation of public servants, were not investigated. “The scope of the omissions of the Commission with respect to the violations committed against indigenous peoples is astonishing,” says Marcelo Zelic. For him, there are many facts that have still not been confirmed regarding the crimes committed by the military regime, and he suggests a need for the continuation of the investigations. “We still have a long road ahead of us toward the truth about the extermination of indigenous people that should go beyond the deadlines established by the Truth Commission,” explains Zelic.
The biggest lie Americans are told about the NSA is that it is subject to "strict oversight." Listening to President Obama, Senator Dianne Feinstein, or most any high-ranking official in the national security bureaucracy, one gets the impression that the Senate and House intelligence committees are keeping careful tabs on the most technologically empowered spy agency in human history. The survival of this myth is a triumph of misinformation. The truth is that Congress is alarmingly ignorant about NSA spying. Its inadequacy as an overseer isn’t entirely attributable to the national security state. There are too many issues for every legislator to master them all; surveillance policy is a particularly complicated; and national security is an area where too many in Congress undermine checks and balances by deferring to the president. Yet even the most diligent, knowledgeable members of the Senate intelligence committee consistently lack basic information that’s plainly needed for adequate oversight. This cannot be credibly denied by anyone who assesses the relevant evidence. Senator Ron Wyden offers an illuminating case study. Even his staunchest critics would agree that the Oregon Democrat zealously seeks out information about America’s intelligence agencies. No one disputes that he is far more knowledgeable about the intricacies of surveillance policy than the typical member of Congress. So it is instructive to reflect on various facts that he hasn’t known. Though a member of the intelligence committee beginning in 2001, he didn’t know about the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program until The New York Times reported on it in 2005 (after holding the story for more than a year). "He was surprised again when, six months later, USA Today published a different story revealing for the first time that the NSA was secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, records that US telecoms were willingly handing over without a warrant," Kim Zetter notes at Wired. These two examples are sufficient to show that during the Bush years he was denied information of the utmost relevance to an overseer. And now under President Obama there are equally clear examples of information he requires but is denied. One example concerns Executive Order 12333, one of the primary legal authorities the NSA cites to justify some of its overseas intelligence gathering. What kind of surveillance does it enable in practice? How many Americans have their privacy compromised by spying carried out under that order? Congress has no clue. “I’m not sure we’re at the bottom or close to it," Wyden told Wired. Some context is needed to grasp the significance of that admission. In response to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the phone dragnet, legislators are considering steps to better protect the private communications of Americans. But Congress cannot strike whatever balance they desire between surveillance and privacy if they don’t even know what the spy agency does under legal cover of executive orders. Wyden suspects that the White House and intelligence community "agreed to halt the phone records collection program, in the wake of intense criticism, only because the spy agency has other tricks to get the same data." Is he correct? The fact that one of the most interested members of the Senate intelligence committee doesn’t know is a glaring problem. On the whole, American legislators have only the vaguest idea what the NSA does under Executive Order 12333, and this ignorance is a direct impediment to sound policymaking. It makes adequate oversight impossible, so the conceit that the NSA is subject to "strict oversight" is absurd. Yet even as Senate intelligence committee members are kept ignorant of these vital facts, Carrie Cordero, Director of National Security Studies at Georgetown University Law Center, writes as if the intelligence community now errs on the side of transparency. She urges these officials to tell Americans more about the terrorist menace. Any accurate information is useful, but how about first giving Senate overseers all the facts they need as overseers? Suppressing this information neuters Congress. Legislators preparing to vote on the USA Freedom Act conspicuously lack important facts needed to assess the adequacy and wisdom of the bill. Why do so few care? This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/congress-still-has-now-idea-how-much-the-nsa-spies-on-americans/382114/