Entries from June 2016
Neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Underground and the State
In datacide twelve, we detailed the scandal surrounding the killing spree of the Neo-Nazi terrorist organisation Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (National Socialist Underground, NSU) and the involvement of the domestic state security agency Verfassungsschutz (VS). This was followed by an update in datacide thirteen. In the meantime, the court case against Beate Zschäpe (the surviving member of the NSU ‘terror trio’) et. al. has continued. Simultaneously, the various parliamentary fact-finding commissions have been at work supposedly to shed light on the backgrounds of the crimes as well as the role the security services may have played in them.
The court case seemingly took a fundamental turn when Zschäpe decided to make a statement after all. Unsurprisingly, her 53-page statement was designed to exculpate herself from the accusations of complicity in the murders and claimed that she hadn’t been a member of the NSU, which conveniently – since they are both dead – only consisted of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos.
This was after she had already had her conditions of detention softened because the NSU supposedly no longer existed. Even though her claims were widely seen as lies, the possibility of a much larger membership of the terrorist organisation is barely being investigated.
In the meantime, parliamentarians in the fact-finding commissions experienced that state attorneys and police were generally not very forthcoming with information, blocking effective investigations of the connections and overlap of the domestic security services and the Neo-Nazi scene. The state agencies remain very economical with the truth. This situation is not helped by the fact that five witnesses have died under suspicious circumstances, the first in 2009, the fifth as recently as February 2016. [Read more →]
Surveillance, Control and Repression
GPS enabled smartphone apps are being used by private companies to track and surveil employees during business hours and also during off times. A sales executive employee at the international wire-transfer service Intermex has sued because she was being tracked via the Xora StreetSmart app on the company issued phone which she was not allowed to turn off even while not at work. After complaining about the privacy intrusions and spying by the company, she was fired.
Bank of America is one company using ‘smart badges’ to biosurveil the voice and behavior patterns of call-center workers. Monitoring includes how employees talk to customers, who talks to whom within the office, when employees send emails and respond, make phone calls, go on breaks, leave their desk to go somewhere else in the office, etc. The technology and data analysis is done by Humanyze, a spin off from the MIT Media Lab, which works with over 20 companies in banking, technology, pharmaceutical and health care industries monitoring thousands of employees. The analyzed data shows how each monitored employee performs compared to others, which amongst other things can be correlated to sales data and analyzed to assess individual and collective job performance.
In the UK, a Cambridge neuroscientist and former Golden Sachs trader, John Coates, is working with companies to use biosurveillance to create ‘human optimization’ in business performance. This researcher focuses on using technology that measures hormones that increase confidence and other ‘positive’ emotions and those that produce negative, stressful behavior that would impact a trader’s performance. The idea is to monitor employees and alert supervisors with an ‘early warning system’ if traders are getting close to a ‘hormonal danger zone’ where they won’t produce the desired trading results. Such biosurveillance is used on employees at hedge funds, banks, call centers, consultant firms, and many others.
[Read more →]
Infiltration and Agent Provocateurs
A heavily redacted FBI document revealed that the FBI in 2011 used agent provocateurs against Occupy Houston to gather information and photographs, spy on supporters and activists, and then planned to ‘kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles’. A federal judge ruled that the FBI could refuse to release the documents un-redacted to conceal the identities of the infiltrators who joined OH, which the FBI labeled as an ‘organized violent group’.
In January 2015, Eric McDavid, who had been convicted to 19 years for ‘domestic terrorism’ in his role in an Earth Liberation Front plot in California in 2005, was released from prison after serving 9 years when federal prosecutors agreed to a settlement when it was exposed that thousands of pages of evidence were withheld from the defense during the 2007 trial. The concealed evidence included a plethora of information about the FBI agent provocateur known as ‘Anna’, who had a ‘romantic relationship’ with McDavid, and entrapped the small ELF cell into conspiring to bomb the Nimbus Dam, cellphone towers, science labs and other targets. ‘Anna’ was central to entrapping other protesters as well. [Read more →]
In April 2015, three mercenaries (Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard) of the American private military contractor previously known as Blackwater Security Consulting (now Academi) were sentenced each to 30 years and one mercenary (Nicholas Slatten) to life in prison for the Nisour Square massacre of September 16, 2007 in Baghdad. The jury in this federal criminal case found that the Blackwater contractors opened fire indiscriminately into the busy square, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and wounding 20 others, and were not provoked or in danger as the defendants had claimed. The investigation into the massacre and the subsequent trial were riddled with problems, while the fifth Blackwater mercenary (Jeremy Ridgeway) co-operated with the government and testified against others, and was sentenced to twelve months in prison. This is one of the few court cases in which American mercenaries were found criminally liable for manslaughter of civilians during the second Iraq war, despite widespread abuses, torture and murder.
The Pentagon continues in late December 2015 to stonewall a federal judge’s ruling to release to the public 2,100 photographs of detainee abuse and torture committed by US soldiers and contractors. On February 4, 2016, the Pentagon released only 198 photos which mostly show close-ups of bruises or small wounds on detainees’ bodies. The withheld photographs document torture at Abu Ghraib prison and 23 other locations including ‘black sites’, and are said to be even more sadistic than those made public in 2003. The Pentagon has ‘re-certified’ the rest of the photographs as ‘secret’ to prevent their release, and the government has filed a motion to have the judge’s order vacated. The Obama administration continues the Bush administration’s policies to keep evidence of abuse and torture ‘secret’ despite claiming to be ‘the most transparent administration ever’.
In December 2014, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a highly redacted executive summary (525 pages) of its full 6,700-page report on CIA abuse, torture and rendition programs. No one has been held legally or criminally liable for the abuse and torture detailed in the summary and the report, which included waterboarding; sleep depravation for long periods; forcing prisoners to stand on their broken legs/feet and/or in ‘stress positions’; non-stop interrogation for weeks; rape (including so-called forced ‘rectal feeding/hydration’); sexual abuse; death by hypothermia; the use of music/noise, light and darkness as torture; dragging on the floor naked, chained prisoners; stuffing naked prisoners into tiny boxes or coffins for days; threats of sexual abuse against relatives of the prisoners; conducting mock executions; ‘ice baths’, etc. [Read more →]
‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’
Article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
It seems fair enough to deduce from this formulation that the denial of this right to freedom from persecution would constitute a human rights violation. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights formulates some essentials of Western democratic self-understanding. It is not surprising that a country like Saudi Arabia refused to sign it in 1948, stating that the Declaration contravenes Sharia Law. Certainly the right wing populist mass movements led by Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, HC Strache or Frauke Petry are not defenders of Sharia Law, but in many ways these movements are the other side of the same coin of the ultra-reactionary movements in the Middle East.
These movements in the West go beyond lobbying their own governments to suspend human rights to keep out those who are trying to flee the carnage caused, in many cases, by Islamic fundamentalists. In the US, Trump has been vocal in advocating even worse torture than is already being used by the current administration as well as the killing of whole families. In Germany, politicians from the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) have stated that ‘if necessary’ refugees, including children, should be prevented from entering the country with lethal force. Despite this, Trump is currently the frontrunner of the Republican candidates in the US presidential race, and the AfD enjoys ratings and election success in Germany outdoing any party to the right of the Christian Democrats since the beginning of the Federal Republic.
We’re witnessing a dramatic brutalisation – at least in the rhetoric – of Western politics. [Read more →]