Saturday, August 09, 2014

For Love and Liberty

A full color book of paintings by freedom fighter and political prisoner, Tom Manning

Show Your Solidarity and Help Make this Inspiring Book Come Alive!

Tom Manning is a freedom fighter, political prisoner and prolific artist. His paintings are stories that jump off the page, revealing the outlook of people who struggle for liberation around the world. His paintings are about life and his landscapes recall times of importance.
The years of work to produce this beautiful book and important document are nearing their end and we need your help to fund the last phase of production!
  • Preorder YOUR copy of For Love and Liberty today to make this project come alive.
  • Choose from the three options to the right based on the level of support you can give
All proceeds, after production costs, will be donated to the Rosenberg Fund for Children: Twitter: @wwwrfcorg  Facebook:rosenbergfundforchildren

Preorder Your Copy Today!

  • 86 full color reproductions of Tom's Painting
  • Preface by Robby Meeropol
  • Article, “In My Time” by Tom
  • Poem by Assata, “Affirmation”
  • Autobiography of Tom Manning
  • Afterword by Ray Levasseur
  • Notes from photographer Penny Schoner

Tom Manning: Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner

From the Preface by Robby Meerpol:
"Tom’s been incarcerated for 29 years.  But even before he received his current life sentence he was trapped by the limited choices left to an impoverished child surviving in Boston’s infamous Maverick Street Projects. The military during the Vietnam era seemed like a way out, but that too became a hellish form of confinement.
Tom broke free, he revolted.  He became a revolutionary.  He committed the unforgivable sin of confronting today’s great imperial empire, the United States, on its home turf.  For that, I expect the prison industrial complex will do its best to keep him confined for as long as it can."


Update on Jamil Al Amin

July 17th, 2014 Lynne wants everyone to know that Jamil is now at Butner Medical Center (federal prison facility) and we all must continue to pay close attention to his situation and make sure he gets good treatment while there.
The will be an update TONIGHT (7/17) at 8pm Eastern on the WBAI program Where We Live. Click here to go to the WBAI website and stream live tonight.

Emergency Meeting for Jamil Al Amin!

July 15th, 2014
Calling all people of conscience in New York. Please Forward Widely.
As you know, political prisoner Imam Jamil Al Amin (AKA H. Rap Brown) is in medical crisis. Please join the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home in this public response to his condition and incarceration. We welcome co-sponsors and co-organizers to this event. Please spread the word in your networks. Flyer below and attached. Also note the petition and letter from his wife, Sister Karima Al Amin, Esq. below with an update on his condition and numbers to call. Also listen to interview with Sis Karima and Ramsey Clark on WBAI’s Law and Disorder this Monday morning. (MP3)
Wed July 16 at 7PM
Bluestockings Bookstore
172 Allen Street
People of conscience should
  • contact the ADX at (719) 784-9464
  • send e-mails to FLM/
  • voice concerns on by selecting Florence ADMAX USP, and entering Jamil Al-Amin #99974-555
  • contact their Congressional reps
  • contact the Medical Director in Washington, DC, at
  • contact the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, in Washington, DC; and sign petitions.
  • There also is an effort underway to contact Eric Holder.

Letter from his wife, Karima Al Amin, Attorney at Law, with more details on his condition.

There are several updates on the internet, but this is where we are at this point:

1.)  Imam Jamil has had a dental problem for more than a year, which resulted in swollen jaws, broken teeth, and the inability to swallow;
2.)  He lost 29 lbs. over a three-week period;
3.)  His legs, feet and ankles have been swollen; and
4.)  He went through a two-week period whereby he could not get out of his bed except for two times a day.
He attempted to see a physician at ADX, but instead saw a physician’s assistant who gave him water pills, and antibiotics weeks after his second extraction.
Based on people calling and inquiries from two Congressional reps, ADX finally took blood and urine tests.  Results were shared with Imam Jamil, on June 23, 2014, a day after Attorney Ramsey Clark completed his visit with him at the ADX.  The Regional Medical Director discussed the preliminary findings with Imam Jamil and said the findings suggested that he may have Multiple Myeloma–cancer of the plasma cells, and the stage would be confirmed once he had a bone marrow biopsy.  If he has not reached stage 1 of the condition, then it would suggest that he has MGUS, which is a pre-Multiple Myeloma condition.  Imam Jamil’s take on the discussion was that he had cancer, and the stage would be confirmed once he has the biopsy.
Based on this information, his age (70 years), and the symptoms, we are calling for his immediate transfer to a federal medical center, Butner, NC, or Rochester, MN, where he could receive the appropriate monitoring and medical care.
I hope this information is useful.  Please let me know if you need additional information.  We appreciate your assistance.

Support Imam Jamil Al-Amin aka H. Rap Brown!

July 11th, 2014
From: Karima Al-Amin
I do want to send information to you, and folks are circulating numbers to call and things to do.  Just briefly, Imam Jamil has been ill for quite some time, i.e., loss of 29 lbs., abscesses in his mouth–swollen jaw, difficulty breathing, swollen feet and ankles, weakness, and fatigue.
We launched a campaign for people to contact Florence ADX, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the regional medical division of the FBOP, demanding that he be examined by a physician.  After pressure also from two Congressional reps, he finally had blood and urine tests.  We then found out that the results revealed perhaps an early stage of Multiple Myeloma–cancer of the plasma cells.  With this preliminary diagnosis, he has to have a bone marrow biopsy to determine the stage.
We are calling for him to be transferred immediately to a federal medical center (Butner, NC, or Rochester, MN) where he can receive the treatment that ADX failed to give him.
Please e-mail the following right now and request that he is moved to the best federal medical facility that can give him the best attention for this particular rare cancer.

Include his name and ID#:
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin #99974-555

It is important to say, I am writing to request that Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin #99974-555 is moved from ADMAX, USP to the best federal medical facility that can give him the best attention for this particular rare cancer.

Please Call the following and request that he is moved to the best federal medical facility to receive comprehensive medical treatment:
It is important to say, hello I am calling to request that Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin #99974-555 is moved from ADMAX, USP to the best federal medical facility that can give him the best attention for this particular rare cancer.
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons (202) 307-3198 Press #3 for Office of General Counsel and request that he is moved. You will be transferred to an individual to document the call. Pressing #7 and then #6 for Medical Services simply gives other recordings and was not as effective.
  • Lisa Gregory, Director of Health Services for The North Central Region of the Federal Bureau of Prisons – telephone number – 913-621-3939. Press 0 (Zero) for the operator. Leave a message if necessary.
  • Please also Write:
Director Charles Samuels
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534

July 2014 Blog from Lynne

July 2nd, 2014
My very dear friends, comrades, supporters;
Since my prognosis designated July as a terminal date, I decided I better write so that you would know that all is well and we continue to fight on !!
In the past months we had a superb trip and rousing events in California — lots of people old and new to continue to share in the joy that I am OUT !   Ralph and I danced in the street in the mission district of San Francisco accompanied by a Leftist Brass Band.  We had a barn burner event in Oakland and we traveled to San Jose, Marin County and Sacramento to meet and greet the many supporters who played the all important role that has put me back on the streets.  The effort was movement wide and proves what can be done. We just have to muster the will to do it.  After we returned to the East we made a visit to Boston and met with many folks of past struggles and of course, their greeting to me was formidable.  Right here in my own NYC we participated in the many events surrounding the effort to free Oscar Rivera Lopez, Puerto Rican political prisoner held for 33 years.  Hopefully that will happen soon.  We also made numerous phone calls and signed petitions on behalf of Abdullah Majid and Jalil Montecalm, Seth Hayes and Jamil el Amin and others  I am committed to emptying the jails of our Mandelas.
Healthwise I have been keepin’ on.  With guidance from my Doctor daughter Zenobia and the folks at Memorial Sloane Kettering I am embarked on an experimental regimen that has shown success in people whose cancer involvement is similar to mine.  It is quite rigorous in its scientific discipline and keeps us close to home even when we might want to be away.  BUT it is a positive hope and I am determined (as you all know) to beat this affliction into the ground and continue with the WORK.  It seems to become more pressing with each day as the predations of capitalism grow more ominous.
On the negative side, I continue to have trouble walking and must lean on the good Ralph — literally as I did figuratively for the last 4 years— Side effects from the experimental meds are bothersome but not more.  On the Positive side, we have moved from my generous son and daugher in law’s  back into the little house i was living in at the time I went to jail.  SNAIL MAIL   1676  8th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215   A great deal of family effort and a fair amount of $$$ made this possible but it is so restorative to be living there once again—my books, my old ’60′s posters, the family pictures…  Heavenly.  I just wish that I could summon up a little more energy to respond to many of you who have reached out to us. Hopefully the new drug will remedy this.
We are extremely grateful for all the money raised to help pay for the necessities, medical and otherwise.  Now that we are back out in the real world in our own house we have some new needs . Each visit to the Doctors in Manhattan costs at least $100. for parking and etc.   If you are in a position and feel inclined to help out, we are always appreciative.
Tomorrow I will be at SK to be prodded and poked and then we will join my beloved family upstate for the holiday to be celebrated in a revolutionary manner.  It is a good day to think about true revolutionary movements world wide and the people who made them,,not the least of whom are the many brave men and women in the political prisoner gulag of America.

Uprising Radio: Lynne Stewart and Ralph Poynter On Life, Activism, Prison, and Freedom

June 25th, 2014 Famed activist Lawyer Lynne Stewart as freed earlier this year on compassionate release as she battled cancer in prison. The celebrated lawyer who had been incarcerated under post 9-11 “Special Administrative Measures” for sharing her terrorism suspect client’s views with a reporter, was freed after 4 years in prison, where she suffered from late-stage breast cancer and was given only 18 months to live.
Progressives all over the nation, led by Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, organized for her release for many months.
Lynne Stewart is well known for representing controversial clients, and according to one press account, she “defended America’s poor, underprivileged, unwanted, and forgotten (Indymedia).”

Photo: Lynne and Ralph at John Brown’s Grave

June 3rd, 2014
Lynne and Ralph at John Brown’s grave in Lake Placid, NY, 2014.

Lynne and Ralph’s Panel at the Left Forum (NYC)

May 29th, 2014

Photos: Lynne and Ralph Guest Speakers at Betty Davis’s Philosophy Class

May 17th, 2014
Ralph Poynter & Lynne  Stewart were guest speakers at Betty Davis’s senior class in philosophy  on this past Thursday, May 15,2014.

Support the new book from Lynne’s former client Tom Manning!

May 16th, 2014
Show Your Solidarity and Help Make this Inspiring Book Come Alive!
Tom Manning is a freedom fighter, political prisoner and prolific artist. His paintings are stories that jump off the page, revealing the outlook of people who struggle for liberation around the world. His paintings are about life and his landscapes recall times of importance. The years of work to produce this beautiful book and important document are nearing their end and we need your help to fund the last phase of production! ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY:
  • 86 full color reproductions of Tom’s Painting
  • Preface by Robby Meeropol
  • Article, “In My Time” by Tom
  • Poem by Assata, “Affirmation”
  • Autobiography of Tom Manning
  • Afterword by Ray Levasseur
  • Notes from photographer Penny Schoner
All proceeds, after production costs, will be donated to the Rosenberg Fund for Children: Twitter: @wwwrfcorg  Facebook:rosenbergfundforchildren

Tom Manning: Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner

From the Preface by Robby Meerpol:
“Tom’s been incarcerated for 34 years.  But even before he received his current life sentence he was trapped by the limited choices left to an impoverished child surviving in Boston’s infamous Maverick Street Projects. The military during the Vietnam era seemed like a way out, but that too became a hellish form of confinement.
Tom broke free, he revolted.  He became a revolutionary.  He committed the unforgivable sin of confronting today’s great imperial empire, the United States, on its home turf.  For that, I expect the prison industrial complex will do its best to keep him confined for as long as it can.”
More info at:

Support Sundiata Acoli!

May 15th, 2014
Please provide support for Sundiata whatever way you can.  If you’re in the region, go to the courthouse on May 28.  If not, donate to his legal defense or (if you cannot) send Sundiata your support after checking out his website (link below). The following information is from his webpage. KN

Sundiata gave the Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign (SAFC)  an update on his May 1st annual review. The parole board will reduce his sentence by only three months, to be taken off the 8-year (illegal) hit they added to his time. He would not be eligible for parole for over four more years. It is important to note that Sundiata has 41 years in prison and is 77 years old. He has maintained a clean record.
Sundiata’s attorney will argue an appeal of denial before the New Jersey Appellate Division in Trenton, New Jersey on May 28, 2014. This is an important and significant day.

Thanks to the generous support of Resist, Inc. - Funding social change since 1967.

2,000 March in Dublin: 'Defend the Palestinians!'
03 Aug 2014
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At least 2000 people marched from the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin city centre today, 2 August, 2014, to call for an end to the violence in Gaza.

Marchers chanted, “free Palestine, free Gaza,” while protestors carried signs which read ‘Stop the slaughter, end the siege’, ‘boycott Israel’, ‘Obama could stop this with one phone call’, ‘boycott Israel goods stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.’

Sinn Fein Cllr Chris Andrews and Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan were among those who led the march, carrying a banner which read ‘end the siege of Gaza.’

Fliers were handed out calling on people to boycott Israeli goods.

Thousands of people are taking to the streets across Ireland today, to call for an end to the violence in Gaza. This is the fourth Saturday in a row that the protests have been held.

It is organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, SIPTU, Trade Union Friends of Palestine, Gaza Action Ireland, TEEU (The Power Union), Academics for Palestine, Irish Anti-War Movement, Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance and the Peace and Neutrality Alliance.

Protests will also be held in other towns and cities including Cork, Derry, Limerick, Galway, Armagh, Killarney, Clomel, Nenagh, Bundoran, Ennis and Sligo.

IPSC national coordinator Kevin Squires said: “The Minister for Foreign Affairs has made it clear that Ireland will not support any meaningful concrete action aimed at ending either the Israeli onslaught on Gaza or Israeli impunity in general.

“We find this very disappointing, as Ireland has supported sanctions on other countries in the past, so why not Israel? Therefore we are asking people to join us in bringing our anger to the government and demand they take action that will help end Israel’s occupation and serial violations of international law.”

Mr Squires said the IPSC wants the Government to call for the suspension of Israel from the Euro-Med Agreement, for an international and EU arms embargo on Israel, to enact legislation to ban the importation of Israeli goods, and to expel the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland.

Mr Squires also urged people to join the growing Boycott Israel movement,

“Many businesses, notably The Exchequer bar in Dublin, and the whole town of Kinvara have pledged to boycott Israeli products. The trade union of retail workers, Mandate, has called on shops not to sell Israeli goods and last night Irish rugby legend Gordon D’Arcy tweeted his support for the boycott campaign.”

Since fighting began on July 8th, more than 1,650 Palestinians — mostly civilians - have been killed and more than 8,000 wounded, according to al-Kidra. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians, its highest death toll since the 2006 Lebanon war.
Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack - Glenn Greenwald
04 Aug 2014
( pictured 1. U.S. President Barack Obama (L) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference on March 20, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images 2, Tally of UN Vote on July 22, 2014 to investigate violations of international law in West Bank and Gaza (Credit: Ken Roth, Human Rights Watch)
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The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military assaults – such as the one on Gaza.

Over the last decade, the NSA has significantly increased the surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including data used to monitor and target Palestinians. In many cases, the NSA and ISNU work cooperatively with the British and Canadian spy agencies, the GCHQ and CSEC.

The relationship has, on at least one occasion, entailed the covert payment of a large amount of cash to Israeli operatives. Beyond their own surveillance programs, the American and British surveillance agencies rely on U.S.-supported Arab regimes, including the Jordanian monarchy and even the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, to provide vital spying services regarding Palestinian targets.

The new documents underscore the indispensable, direct involvement of the U.S. government and its key allies in Israeli aggression against its neighbors. That covert support is squarely at odds with the posture of helpless detachment typically adopted by Obama officials and their supporters.

President Obama, in his press conference on Friday, said ”it is heartbreaking to see what’s happening there,” referring to the weeks of civilian deaths in Gaza – “as if he’s just a bystander, watching it all unfold,” observed Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin. Robin added: ”Obama talks about Gaza as if it were a natural disaster, an uncontrollable biological event.”

Each time Israel attacks Gaza and massacres its trapped civilian population – at the end of 2008, in the fall of 2012, and now again this past month – the same process repeats itself in both U.S. media and government circles: the U.S. government feeds Israel the weapons it uses and steadfastly defends its aggression both publicly and at the U.N.; the U.S. Congress unanimously enacts one resolution after the next to support and enable Israel; and then American media figures pretend that the Israeli attack has nothing to do with their country, that it’s just some sort of unfortunately intractable, distant conflict between two equally intransigent foreign parties in response to which all decent Americans helplessly throw up their hands as though they bear no responsibility.

“The United States has been trying to broker peace in the Middle East for the past 20 years,” wrote the liberal commentator Kevin Drum in Mother Jones, last Tuesday. The following day, CNN reported that the Obama administration ”agreed to Israel’s request to resupply it with several types of ammunition … Among the items being bought are 120mm mortar rounds and 40mm ammunition for grenade launchers.”

The new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling.

Last September, the Guardian revealed that the NSA “routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens.” The paper published the full top secret Memoranadum of Understanding between the two agencies governing that sharing. But the NSA/ISNU relationship extends far beyond that.

One newly disclosed top secret NSA document, dated April 13, 2013 and published today by the Intercept, recounts that the “NSA maintains a far-reaching technical and analytic relationship with the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) sharing information on access, intercept, targeting, language, analysis and reporting.”

Specifically, “this SIGINT relationship has increasingly been the catalyst for a broader intelligence relationship between the United States and Israel.” Moreover, “NSA’s cyber partnerships expanded beyond ISNU to include Israeli Defense Intelligence’s [Special Operation Division] SOD and Mossad.”

Under this expanded cooperation, the Americans and Israelis work together to gain access to “geographic targets [that] include the countries of North Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, and the Islamic republics of the former Soviet Union.” It also includes “a dedicated communications line between NSA and ISNU [that] supports the exchange of raw material, as well as daily analytic and technical correspondence.”

The relationship has provided Israel with ample support for both intelligence and surveillance: “The Israeli side enjoys the benefits of expanded geographic access to world-class NSA cryptanalytic and SIGINT engineering expertise, and also gains controlled access to advanced U.S. technology and equipment via accommodation buys and foreign military sales.” Among Israel’s priorities for the cooperation are what the NSA calls “Palestinian terrorism.”

The cooperation between the NSA and ISNU began decades ago. A top secret agreement between the two agencies from July 1999 recounts that the first formal intelligence-sharing agreement was entered into in 1968 between U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, and informally began in the 1950s. But the relationship has grown rapidly in the last decade.

In 2003 and 2004, the Israelis were pressuring the NSA to agree to a massively expanded intelligence-sharing relationship called “Gladiator.” As part of that process, Israel wanted the Americans to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Israeli activities. The specific proposed “Gladiator” agreement appears never to have been consummated, derailed by Israeli demands that the U.S. bear the full cost, but documents in the Snowden archive pertaining to those negotiations contain what appear to be two receipts for one or more payments of $500,000 in cash to Israeli officials for unspecified purposes:

The surveillance-sharing relationship with Israel has expanded to include the NSA’s British and Canadian counterparts, GCHQ and CSEC, both of which actively participate in feeding the Israelis selected communications data they have collected. Several documents from early 2009, at the height of the Israeli attack on Gaza called “Cast Lead” that left more than 1,000 people dead, detail some of this cooperation.

One top secret 2009 GCHQ project named “YESTERNIGHT” involved “Ruffle,” the British agency’s code name for ISNU. According to the document, the project involved a “trilateral (GCHQ, NSA and Third Party RUFFLE) targeting exchange agreement covering respective COMSAT accesses.” One of the “specific intelligence topics” shared between the parties was “Palestinians”, although the GCHQ document states that “due to the sensitivities” of Israeli involvement, that particular program does not include direct targeting of Palestinians and Israelis themselves. Another GCHQ document from February, 2009, describes “a quadrilateral meeting for RUFFLE, NSA, CSEC and GCHQ.”

The British agency noted in early 2009 that it had been spying on emails and telephone numbers specifically requested by ISNU, “and they have thanked us many times over.”

The NSA and GCHQ receive intelligence about the Palestinians from many sources. The agencies have even succeeded in inducing the U.S.-supported Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) to provide them with surveillance and intelligence about other Arab groups in the region. One July 2008 GCHQ document states:

Jordan also feeds surveillance data about the Palestinians to the NSA. One classified NSA document from 2013 describes how “NSA’s partnership with EWD [the Jordanian Electronic Warfare Directorate] is a well established, long-standing and trusted relationship dating back to the early 1980’s.” Specifically, the two agencies “cooperate on high-priority SIGINT targets of mutual interest” that includes the Palestinian Security Forces.

The document continues: “EWD provides high-interest, unique collection on targets of mutual interest, such as the Palestinian Security Forces; EWD is the sole contributor to a large body of NSA’s reporting on this target.”

But even as the NSA and its partners are directed by political branches to feed the Israelis surveillance data and technology, they constantly characterize Israel as a threat – both to their own national security and more generally to regional peace. In stark contrast to the public statements about Israel made by American and British officials, the Snowden archive is replete with discussions of the Israelis as a menace rather than an ally.

NSA documents previously published by the Guardian stated that “one of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel.” Another notes that the National Intelligence Estimate ranked Israel as “the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S.”

British officials have a similar view of the Israelis, describing them as a “very real threat to regional stability.” One top secret GCHQ planning document from 2008 notes that “policy makers remain deeply concerned over the potential threat that Israel poses to a peaceful resolution of the Iran problem, and to some of Israel’s less desirable activities in the region.” Moreover, “Israel’s thinking on the long-term threat offered by Iran to its fundamental foreign policy strategy of armed deterrence may create very real threats to regional stability in 2009.”


The NSA’s 2007 Strategic Mission List, identifying priorities for surveillance targeting, repeatedly identifies Israel as one of the leading threats in a diverse range of areas, including: “Combating the threat of development of weapons of mass destruction” and “delivery methods (particularly ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles).” The “focus area” for that concern is “WMD and missile proliferation activities,” and one of the leading threats is listed as “Israel (cruise missiles).”

The NSA internal discussion from that document regarding “Mastering Cyberspace and Preventing an Attack on U.S. Critical Information Systems” includes a subheading on “FIS [financial/banking system] threats.” The nations identified as the leading FIS threats include India, North Korea, Cuba and Israel. Similarly, Israel appears on the list of countries believed by the NSA to be “Enabling EW (producers/proliferators).”

Another section of the threat assessment document is entitled “Foreign Intelligence, Conterintelligence; Denial & Deception Activities: Countering Foreign Intelligence Threats.” It is defined as “Espionage/intelligence collection operations and manipulation/influence operations conducted by foreign intelligence services directed against U.S. government, military, science & technology and Intelligence Community.” The countries posing the greatest threat: “China, Russia, Cuba, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, France, Venezuela, and South Korea.”

Asked about its cooperative relationship with Israel, an NSA spokesperson told the Intercept: “We are not going to comment on specific intelligence activities and relationships. The fact that intelligence services sometimes cooperate in a lawful and appropriate manner mutually strengthens the security of both nations. Whenever NSA shares intelligence information or technology, we comply with all applicable laws and rules.” A GCHQ official refused to comment on the record beyond the agency’s standard boilerplate claiming its activities are legal and subject to “rigorous oversight.”

Legal or not, the NSA’s extensive, multi-level cooperation with Israeli military and intelligence agencies is part of a broader American policy that actively supports and enables Israeli aggression and militarism. Every Israeli action in Gaza has U.S. fingerprints all over it. Many Americans may wish that the Israeli attack on Gaza were a matter of no special relevance or concern to them, but it is their own government that centrally enables this violence.
What does tech mean for the left? From 'Socialist Worker'
05 Aug 2014
How Marxists understand the growing "digital workforce."
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July 30, 2014

Software developers at work at the Wikimedia Hackathon (Sebastiaan ter Burg)

IN MY hometown of San Francisco, it's impossible to ignore the dominant role played by the tech industry. A recent tech boom has fueled economic growth--as well as a groundswell of outrage over the resulting wave of hyper-gentrification. But even outside the tech mecca of the Bay Area, the proliferation of high-tech industries and digital technologies has become synonymous with economic growth.

This process has undoubtedly changed the character of work and the working class, and will continue to do so at even greater speeds as time goes on. It's crucial for the left to take stock of these changes and understand how the growing digital workforce fits in with Marxist theory and our goal of working class self-emancipation.

As we consider these questions, I want to caution against two problematic conclusions.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

FIRST, AND most importantly, we should avoid letting the digitization of work be confused with the end of the traditional working class. Already, "precariat" is being widely used as the term to describe what has replaced a supposedly extinct "proletariat."

The tech industry has indeed contributed to the growing precariousness of people's jobs in a number of ways. The increased use of subcontractors and freelancers, as opposed to salaried workers, is one example.

The tech industry has also enabled a new digital informal economy, disguised as a "sharing economy"--in which everything from apartments to cab rides to reservations at fancy restaurants can be sold in a completely unregulated and untaxed market, via iPhone apps. This model takes advantage of the widespread desperation for additional income, while causing problems for previously regulated workforces, such as taxi drivers, who have a harder time maintaining a living wage.

But do these changes herald the end of the traditional working class? The answer is no.

Many people who counterpose the "precariat" to the proletariat rely on a caricature of the Marxist conception of the working class--that we are talking only about industrial workers who labor in large factories.

In fact, Marx's view of the working class was much broader. Today, alongside the growing tech industry, there is a massive service workforce and an extensive transportation and logistics workforce, which are every bit a part of the traditional working class.

Many leaders of the tech economy would be glad to see these jobs automated and eliminated. In the meantime, however, service-sector workers, and transportation and logistics workers form an important basis for workplace organization. The recent organizing amongst low-wage workers is just one illustration.

It is also important to acknowledge that the tech industry has by no means moved beyond industrial production. High-tech companies, for example, dominate what remains of the manufacturing sector in the Bay Area. Even more telling, the largest factory in the world--a walled technology park in China known as Foxconn City--builds smart phones for the largest tech companies in the world, including Apple. The harsh working conditions in this factory, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers, have led to repeated suicides and mass workplace actions.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE SECOND danger for a left analysis of the digital economy is an inverse of the first--an overemphasis on the working class character of tech workers.

As digital technology becomes more commonplace, more and more jobs are becoming dependent on software, network technology, social networking and the like. At the same time, some formerly skilled "white collar" tech jobs have become deskilled and turned over to so-called "digital sweatshops."

In light of these changes, it is tempting to assume that there has been or will be a "proletarianization" of technology workers. Unionization of IT workers or software developers would be a welcome development--and already exists in some contexts. However, in my view, the left should not see the tech industry as a new frontier for organizing, at least not yet.

Despite the pretense that there is an inherent progressiveness to the tech industry, the dominant ideology is antithetical to class-based organization. There is certainly no homogenous political outlook among tech workers, but there is a notable trend toward libertarianism.

While some might contest this identification, there is more than a passing resemblance between libertarian thinking and the tech industry's fixation on meritocracy and its disdain for government regulation.

And some tech leaders openly embrace libertarianism. The recent Reboot 2014 conference in San Francisco, for example, made an explicit effort to unite Silicon Valley with the most bigoted libertarian leaders including, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (see this article from Pando Daily for a chilling description of Reboot's libertarian lineup).

Unfortunately, the reactionary politics of many leaders in the tech industry is obscured by a mythology that portrays them as outsiders and dissidents standing up to the status quo with their uncompromising, out-of-the-box ideas. These small-fish entrepreneurs "disrupt" formerly dominant big businesses and forge new pathways for progress, using the most efficient and innovative solutions. And if tech companies evade taxes and violate government regulations, they are simply bypassing bureaucratic barriers to progress--the neoliberal drive for profit has nothing to do with it.

The truth is something entirely different. As David Talbot, founder of Salon, eloquently put it:

Vast fortunes have been created overnight by raiding the intellectual content that others have painstakingly built over the years. Other new empires have risen by convincing millions of people to give up their privacy and reveal their deepest thoughts and desires for free--a kind of Tom Sawyer business model based on persuading the public that it's lots of fun to paint someone else's fence.

Much of the new tech wealth is either built on this kind of shameless piracy or on what I call the idiocy of ingenuity. You know--creating apps that are nothing more than solutions in search of problems.

The fact that so much of this new wealth is based on either trivial or downright damaging human pursuits makes it doubly hard to stomach the arrogance and self-absorption of this new tech elite. These are men--and as we know, 98 percent of them ARE men--who sincerely believe that just because they came up with some new "friction-free" way of accessing people's bank accounts, they are now entitled to run the world.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE TECH industry's mantra of "disruption" hinges on the idea that big businesses which refuse to evolve with the times will be surpassed by small entrepreneurs who unleash innovative business models. Yet the tech industry is increasingly dominated by a handful of giant companies, owned by billionaires. In fact, the goal for tech start-ups is often not to "disrupt" larger companies, but rather to be bought out by them (see this recent New Yorker article for a thorough critique of "disruptive innovation").

It's also hard to buy the myth of outsider dissidents when you read about the complicity of leading technology companies with the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs.

Of course, not all tech workers will hold the prevailing ideas within the tech industry. There are certainly some app developers who have purely altruistic intentions. In San Francisco, some tech workers have already joined the ranks of the anti-gentrification movement.

What's more, the very existence of the Internet has inspired a generation of technology activists--the hacker group Anonymous is only the most visible example. Tech workers have taken on Internet-specific issues such as net neutrality and also contributed to broader left campaigns. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, for example, has created data visualizations to demonstrate the severity of San Francisco's eviction crisis.

These examples are very relevant for our discussions on the left. They don't, however, suggest a new social base for organization. And while there are certainly examples of low-wage tech work, there is still a significant gap in income between most of the tech sector and the rest of the working class. In the Bay Area, the median salary for a tech worker is $123,000, compared to $64,000 for the average San Francisco teacher.

This wage disparity may not last forever, but for now, it is a very real barrier to class-based solidarity, especially in areas where the tech industry is most concentrated. There will be tech workers who join the fight against inequality or take part in social movements, but the material conditions of their work and lives push them in the other direction. At the very least, it should be clear that tech workers aren't a new vanguard from an inherently more progressive industry.
See also:
Stop the Israeli War Machine! Shoppers Use App To Boycott Israel In Grocery Store Aisles
07 Aug 2014
Click on image for a larger version

When young California-based developer Ivan Pardo launched smartphone app Buycott last year, users at first seized upon its technology to avoid putting coins in the coffers of the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

Everyday shoppers using iPhones or Android devices could scan the barcode of, say, Brawny paper towel or Dixie cups and trace the corporate ownership of both kitchen cupboard staples to Koch Industries , the conglomerate run by the politically active (and thereby controversial) industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Other popular user-generated Buycott campaigns at the time of its launch included Demand GMO Labeling, allowing shoppers to scan a box of cereal and instantly see if it was made by one of 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.

For more on Buycott’s technology and to watch a video of the app in use, click here and here.

Today, more than a year since the app first gained ground, Buycott’s fastest-growing campaigns are those allowing shoppers to avoid products deemed to support Israel.

As the Israel-Gaza conflict has intensified in recent days, Buycott has seen a surge in users joining groups with names like ‘Avoid Israeli Settlement Products’ and ‘Long Live Palestine Boycott Israel.’

The latter was created in April by a British teenager, but floundered with a few hundred members through mid-July. It now counts over 220,000 shoppers as users, with its numbers climbing daily. By way of contrast, a user-created campaign to boycott Nestle for alleged human rights abuses has 57,000 members.

“I noticed 3 weeks ago that we were seeing an unusual spike in traffic, but there hadn’t been any articles written about the app or Israel campaigns,” said Pardo. “Next thing I knew Buycott was a top 10 app in the UK and Netherlands, and #1 in a number of Middle Eastern countries. Word was spreading through social media.”

‘Long Live Palestine Boycott Israel’ lists 49 companies for those opposed to Israel’s policies or tactics to avoid. These include Sabra, makers of the bestselling hummus in the U.S., jointly owned by Israeli company Strauss and PepsiCo PEP -0.67%. Strauss saw 2013 revenues of $2.3 billion, up 4.8%, thanks mostly to the growth of hummus’ popularity in North and South America.

Strauss has been the subject of stateside boycotts before. In 2010, students from Princeton and DePaul Universities urged their cafeterias to stop stocking Sabra after Strauss listed its financial support of Israel’s elite Golani Brigade military unit on its website. That particular web page no longer exists.

Other Israeli companies in this campaign’s database of scannable barcodes include SodaStream, the home soda maker which allows you to turn tap water into cola. SodaStream has long faced criticism for operating out of Ma’aleh Adumim, an industrial park within a West Bank settlement.

Earlier this year actress Scarlett Johansson was forced to defend her role as a spokesperson for the brand after outcry from aid group Oxfam. The organization criticized the star for appearing in SodaStream’s Superbowl ad, saying in a statement: “Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.” Johansson later stepped down from her advocacy role with the charity.

Some of the links to Israel cited within Buycott’s user-created campaigns appear tenuous. Starbucks, for instance, falls under the ‘avoid’ category because its billionaire founder Howard Schultz “was honoured by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah with ‘The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award’ for his services to the zionist [sic] state.”

Starbucks maintains it has no explicit ties to Israel. In a statement on the coffee giant’s website, the company makes clear that it offers no financial support to Israel’s government or armed services.

At press time, there was one comparatively small campaign on Buycott’s platform encouraging shoppers to support Israel with their wallets.

There is also an entirely unrelated movement called Buycott Israel, a project of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, offering to “help [consumers] combat boycott and/or divestment campaigns against Israel.” The site appears inactive, with the blog’s last update posted over a year ago.

Clare O'Connor reached out to both Strauss Group and SodaStream for comment on these boycotts and will update this post with any responses.
See also:
Hands Off Edward Snowden! Free Chelsea Manning!

'Washington Post' accuses Snowden of aiding Al Qaeda
07 Aug 2014
From: World Socialist Web Site - 7 August 2014

The US media campaign to smear National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden continues. On August 3, an article appeared in the Washington Post entitled, “As evidence mounts, it’s getting harder to defend Edward Snowden.” Authored by Stewart Baker, the article claims that Snowden’s disclosures aided Al Qaeda. Specifically, Baker writes that a study by a company called Recorded Future proves that “Snowden’s revelations about NSA’s capabilities were followed quickly by a burst of new, robust encryption tools from Al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

“This is hardly a surprise for those who live in the real world,” Baker continues. “But it was an affront to Snowden’s defenders, who’ve long insisted that journalists handled the NSA leaks so responsibly that no one can identify any damage that they have caused.”

The article goes on to denounce at length cyber security expert Bruce Schneier, who defended Snowden against the charge that his disclosures aided Al Qaeda. On June 11, 2013, Schneier wrote in the New York Times: “The argument that exposing these documents helps the terrorists doesn’t even pass the laugh test; there’s nothing here that changes anything any potential terrorist would do or not do.”

Baker’s “mounting evidence” that Snowden’s disclosures helped Al Qaeda consists of a single “study,” released in May of this year, by Recorded Future, a start-up company that produces online data-mining software that it calls “web intelligence.” The company advertises its “capabilities” in “cyber threat intelligence,” “corporate security,” “competitive intelligence” and “defense intelligence.”

The study itself, if it is accurate, simply indicates that in the period after Snowden’s disclosures, various Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda, apparently began using three types of encryption software that had not been previously used. Before Snowden’s disclosures, these groups had already implemented two types of encryption software.

“Of course, this could be random, but it seems unlikely,” wrote Christopher Ahlberg, CEO of Recorded Future, in an email to the New York Times. Despite its flimsy factual foundations, the allegation that Snowden’s disclosures have aided Al Qaeda continues to echo throughout the establishment media.

In any event, whether or not Snowden’s revelations of government crimes against the US Constitution and the American people tipped off Al Qaeda is beside the point. The clear implication of Baker’s argument, which is echoed by virtually all intelligence officials, politicians and media pundits who attack Snowden, is that, in the interests of a supposed “war on terror,” the Bill of Rights should be scrapped and some form of dictatorship established.

In his article, Baker conceals his own background and bias from his readers. What he does not tell his readers—but what one can learn by visiting Wikipedia—is that Baker is a former general counsel of the National Security Agency (1992–1994). He has held various other positions over the years within the military-intelligence apparatus, and was appointed by George W. Bush as assistant secretary to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

As far as his accusations that Snowden helped Al Qaeda are concerned, the word “hypocrisy” does not seem strong enough. Snowden is being denounced for aiding Al Qaeda on behalf of a political establishment that, in fact, has a long history of providing weapons, finances, and intelligence to Al Qaeda and its affiliates throughout the world.

In the Syrian civil war, stoked up by Washington, the CIA has operated training camps for Al Qaeda-linked fighters in Turkey and Jordan. Through these countries, the US has funneled weapons and finances to the Islamist fighters (see: ISIS: The jihadist movement stamped “Made in America”).

Thanks to the American “war on terror,” Al Qaeda offshoot ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has established its own sectarian state purporting to be a caliphate stretching across vast swathes of western Iraq and eastern Syria.

If supporting Al Qaeda is a crime, then it is necessary to prosecute not Snowden, but tens of thousands of personnel within the American military-corporate-intelligence complex, beginning with those who helped organize Al Qaeda in the 1980s during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, all the way through to those who built up Al Qaeda and its affiliated forces in Syria, Libya and elsewhere in recent years.

The “study” itself proves nothing. There is absolutely no evidence that Snowden directly or indirectly assisted Al Qaeda in any way. The study merely purports to show that a list of groups (not limited to Al Qaeda) began using different encryption methods in the time period after Snowden’s revelations.

The accusation that Snowden “aided Al Qaeda” mirrors the “aiding the enemy” charges against Bradley Manning (see: US government charges Manning with “aiding the enemy” in court martial). Baker’s article is evidence that this bogus theory would be invoked against Snowden, should he ever find himself in the clutches of the American judicial system.

The media campaign to confuse the issues surrounding Snowden’s disclosures is acquiring a note of hysteria and desperation. The claim that Snowden is growing “harder to defend” turns reality on its head. In fact, it is the US military and intelligence apparatus, caught in countless lies and violations of law, that is being exposed as a criminal operation. Snowden continues to enjoy broad support throughout the world.

The statement that Snowden is “harder to defend” comes on the heels of revelations, derived from documents disclosed by Snowden, concerning the close intelligence relationship between the United States and Israel (see: New Snowden leak highlights collaboration between NSA and Israeli intelligence). In addition, Glenn Greenwald reported this week that over 40 percent of the 680,000 people on the US government’s “Terrorist Screening Database” have “no recognized terrorist affiliation” (see: US terror list ensnares hundreds of thousands).

The online comments on Baker’s article are overwhelmingly hostile. One commenter observes that Baker’s article “is obviously just propaganda designed to defend his criminal gang that is still running the government today.”

Documents disclosed to journalists in May of last year by Edward Snowden exposed a massive conspiracy on the part of the National Security Agency against the US Constitution and against the world’s population. Snowden lifted the lid on unrestrained and illegal mass surveillance, caught president Obama and senior officials in lies, and exposed the so-called “war on terror” as a fraud. In doing so, he performed an invaluable service to working people in the US and around the world.

While the American political establishment and media claimed that its spying activities were limited to terrorist groups seeking to harm ordinary Americans, Snowden revealed that the NSA’s own “collection procedure” is: “Collect it All,” “Process it All,” “Exploit it All,” “Partner it All,” “Sniff it All,” and “Know it All.”

Snowden exposed as a lie Obama’s claim that “nobody is listening to your phone calls.” Snowden also revealed that Director of National Security James Clapper had committed perjury while testifying under oath before Congress. Clapper was asked, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” He replied, “No, sir.”

In the upside-down world of establishment America, it is Snowden (who became trapped in Russia when the US unilaterally revoked his passport) who is being hounded and threatened with prosecution. The actual criminals that Snowden exposed remain at large.

On August 5, a watchdog computer program that monitors the activity of the Internet addresses on Capitol Hill caught someone with an anonymous address in the US House of Representatives editing Wikipedia to smear Snowden. A Wikipedia article was edited to refer to Snowden as “the American traitor who defected to Russia.”
Hiroshima Day 2014 - Noam Chomsky
06 Aug 2014
Why National Security Has Nothing to Do With Security
Click on image for a larger version

Noam Chomsky and Tom Engelhardt, August 06, 2014

Think of it as the true end of the beginning. Last week, Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the final member of the 12-man crew of the Enola Gay, the plane (named after its pilot’s supportive mother) that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died at age 93. When that first A-bomb left its bomb bay at 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, and began its descent toward its target, the Aioli (“Live Together”) Bridge, it was inscribed with a series of American messages, some obscene, including “Greetings to the Emperor from the men of the Indianapolis.” (That ship had delivered to the Pacific island of Tinian parts of the very bomb that would turn Hiroshima into an inferno of smoke and fire – “that awful cloud,” Paul Tibbetts, Jr., the Enola Gay’s pilot, would call it – and afterward was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine with the loss of hundreds of sailors.)

The bomb, dubbed Little Boy, that had gestated in the belly of the Enola Gay represented not only the near endpoint of a bitter global war of almost unimaginable destruction, but the birthing of something new. The way for its use had been paved by an evolution in warfare: the increasing targeting of civilian populations from the air (something that can be seen again today in the carnage of Gaza). The history of that grim development extends from German airship bombings of London (1915) by way of Guernica (1937), Shanghai (1937), and Coventry (1940), to the fire bombings of Dresden (1945) and Tokyo (1945) in the last year of World War II. It even had an evolutionary history in the human imagination, where for decades writers (among others) had dreamed of the unparalleled release of previously unknown forms of energy for military purposes.

On August 7, 1945, a previous age was ending and a new one was dawning. In the nuclear era, city-busting weapons would be a dime a dozen and would spread from the superpowers to many other countries, including Great Britain, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel. Targeted by the planet’s major nuclear arsenals would be the civilian inhabitants not just of single cities but of scores and scores of cities, even of the planet itself. On August 6th, 70 years ago, the possibility of the apocalypse passed out of the hands of God or the gods and into human hands, which meant a new kind of history had begun whose endpoint is unknowable, though we do know that even a “modest” exchange of nuclear weapons between India and Pakistan would not only devastate South Asia, but thanks to the phenomenon of nuclear winter also cause widespread famine on a planetary scale.

In other words, 70 years later, the apocalypse is us. Yet in the United States, the only nuclear bomb you’re likely to read about is Iran’s (even though that country possesses no such weapon). For a serious discussion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, those more than 4,800 increasingly ill-kept weapons that could incinerate several Earth-sized planets, you need to look not to the country’s major newspapers or news programs but to comic John Oliver – or TomDispatch regular Noam Chomsky. ~ Tom

How Many Minutes to Midnight?
By Noam Chomsky

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era). The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but – so the evidence suggests – not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Day one of the NWE was marked by the “success” of Little Boy, a simple atomic bomb. On day four, Nagasaki experienced the technological triumph of Fat Man, a more sophisticated design. Five days later came what the official Air Force history calls the “grand finale,” a 1,000-plane raid – no mean logistical achievement – attacking Japan’s cities and killing many thousands of people, with leaflets falling among the bombs reading “Japan has surrendered.” Truman announced that surrender before the last B-29 returned to its base.

Those were the auspicious opening days of the NWE. As we now enter its 70th year, we should be contemplating with wonder that we have survived. We can only guess how many years remain.

Some reflections on these grim prospects were offered by General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which controls nuclear weapons and strategy. Twenty years ago, he wrote that we had so far survived the NWE “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”

Reflecting on his long career in developing nuclear weapons strategies and organizing the forces to implement them efficiently, he described himself ruefully as having been “among the most avid of these keepers of the faith in nuclear weapons.” But, he continued, he had come to realize that it was now his “burden to declare with all of the conviction I can muster that in my judgment they served us extremely ill.” And he asked, “By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear-weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestations?”

He termed the U.S. strategic plan of 1960 that called for an automated all-out strike on the Communist world “the single most absurd and irresponsible document I have ever reviewed in my life.” Its Soviet counterpart was probably even more insane. But it is important to bear in mind that there are competitors, not least among them the easy acceptance of extraordinary threats to survival.

Survival in the Early Cold War Years

According to received doctrine in scholarship and general intellectual discourse, the prime goal of state policy is “national security.” There is ample evidence, however, that the doctrine of national security does not encompass the security of the population. The record reveals that, for instance, the threat of instant destruction by nuclear weapons has not ranked high among the concerns of planners. That much was demonstrated early on, and remains true to the present moment.

In the early days of the NWE, the U.S. was overwhelmingly powerful and enjoyed remarkable security: it controlled the hemisphere, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the opposite sides of those oceans as well. Long before World War II, it had already become by far the richest country in the world, with incomparable advantages. Its economy boomed during the war, while other industrial societies were devastated or severely weakened. By the opening of the new era, the U.S. possessed about half of total world wealth and an even greater percentage of its manufacturing capacity.

There was, however, a potential threat: intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. That threat was discussed in the standard scholarly study of nuclear policies, carried out with access to high-level sources – Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years by McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies.

Bundy wrote that “the timely development of ballistic missiles during the Eisenhower administration is one of the best achievements of those eight years. Yet it is well to begin with a recognition that both the United States and the Soviet Union might be in much less nuclear danger today if [those] missiles had never been developed.” He then added an instructive comment: “I am aware of no serious contemporary proposal, in or out of either government, that ballistic missiles should somehow be banned by agreement.” In short, there was apparently no thought of trying to prevent the sole serious threat to the U.S., the threat of utter destruction in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Could that threat have been taken off the table? We cannot, of course, be sure, but it was hardly inconceivable. The Russians, far behind in industrial development and technological sophistication, were in a far more threatening environment. Hence, they were significantly more vulnerable to such weapons systems than the U.S. There might have been opportunities to explore these possibilities, but in the extraordinary hysteria of the day they could hardly have even been perceived. And that hysteria was indeed extraordinary. An examination of the rhetoric of central official documents of that moment like National Security Council Paper NSC-68 remains quite shocking, even discounting Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s injunction that it is necessary to be “clearer than truth.”

One indication of possible opportunities to blunt the threat was a remarkable proposal by Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin in 1952, offering to allow Germany to be unified with free elections on the condition that it would not then join a hostile military alliance. That was hardly an extreme condition in light of the history of the past half-century during which Germany alone had practically destroyed Russia twice, exacting a terrible toll.

Stalin’s proposal was taken seriously by the respected political commentator James Warburg, but otherwise mostly ignored or ridiculed at the time. Recent scholarship has begun to take a different view. The bitterly anti-Communist Soviet scholar Adam Ulam has taken the status of Stalin’s proposal to be an “unresolved mystery.” Washington “wasted little effort in flatly rejecting Moscow’s initiative,” he has written, on grounds that “were embarrassingly unconvincing.” The political, scholarly, and general intellectual failure left open “the basic question,” Ulam added: “Was Stalin genuinely ready to sacrifice the newly created German Democratic Republic (GDR) on the altar of real democracy,” with consequences for world peace and for American security that could have been enormous?

Reviewing recent research in Soviet archives, one of the most respected Cold War scholars, Melvyn Leffler, has observed that many scholars were surprised to discover “[Lavrenti] Beria – the sinister, brutal head of the [Russian] secret police – propos[ed] that the Kremlin offer the West a deal on the unification and neutralization of Germany,” agreeing “to sacrifice the East German communist regime to reduce East-West tensions” and improve internal political and economic conditions in Russia – opportunities that were squandered in favor of securing German participation in NATO.

Under the circumstances, it is not impossible that agreements might then have been reached that would have protected the security of the American population from the gravest threat on the horizon. But that possibility apparently was not considered, a striking indication of how slight a role authentic security plays in state policy.

The Cuban Missile Crisis and Beyond

That conclusion was underscored repeatedly in the years that followed. When Nikita Khrushchev took control in Russia in 1953 after Stalin’s death, he recognized that the USSR could not compete militarily with the U.S., the richest and most powerful country in history, with incomparable advantages. If it ever hoped to escape its economic backwardness and the devastating effect of the last world war, it would need to reverse the arms race.

Accordingly, Khrushchev proposed sharp mutual reductions in offensive weapons. The incoming Kennedy administration considered the offer and rejected it, instead turning to rapid military expansion, even though it was already far in the lead. The late Kenneth Waltz, supported by other strategic analysts with close connections to U.S. intelligence, wrote then that the Kennedy administration “undertook the largest strategic and conventional peace-time military build-up the world has yet seen… even as Khrushchev was trying at once to carry through a major reduction in the conventional forces and to follow a strategy of minimum deterrence, and we did so even though the balance of strategic weapons greatly favored the United States.” Again, harming national security while enhancing state power.

U.S. intelligence verified that huge cuts had indeed been made in active Soviet military forces, both in terms of aircraft and manpower. In 1963, Khrushchev again called for new reductions. As a gesture, he withdrew troops from East Germany and called on Washington to reciprocate. That call, too, was rejected. William Kaufmann, a former top Pentagon aide and leading analyst of security issues, described the U.S. failure to respond to Khrushchev’s initiatives as, in career terms, “the one regret I have.”

The Soviet reaction to the U.S. build-up of those years was to place nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962 to try to redress the balance at least slightly. The move was also motivated in part by Kennedy’s terrorist campaign against Fidel Castro’s Cuba, which was scheduled to lead to invasion that very month, as Russia and Cuba may have known. The ensuing “missile crisis” was “the most dangerous moment in history,” in the words of historian Arthur Schlesinger, Kennedy’s adviser and confidant.

As the crisis peaked in late October, Kennedy received a secret letter from Khrushchev offering to end it by simultaneous public withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The latter were obsolete missiles, already ordered withdrawn by the Kennedy administration because they were being replaced by far more lethal Polaris submarines to be stationed in the Mediterranean.

Kennedy’s subjective estimate at that moment was that if he refused the Soviet premier’s offer, there was a 33% to 50% probability of nuclear war – a war that, as President Eisenhower had warned, would have destroyed the northern hemisphere. Kennedy nonetheless refused Khrushchev’s proposal for public withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba and Turkey; only the withdrawal from Cuba could be public, so as to protect the U.S. right to place missiles on Russia’s borders or anywhere else it chose.

It is hard to think of a more horrendous decision in history – and for this, he is still highly praised for his cool courage and statesmanship.

Ten years later, in the last days of the 1973 Israel-Arab war, Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to President Nixon, called a nuclear alert. The purpose was to warn the Russians not to interfere with his delicate diplomatic maneuvers designed to ensure an Israeli victory, but of a limited sort so that the U.S. would still be in control of the region unilaterally. And the maneuvers were indeed delicate. The U.S. and Russia had jointly imposed a cease-fire, but Kissinger secretly informed the Israelis that they could ignore it. Hence the need for the nuclear alert to frighten the Russians away. The security of Americans had its usual status.

Ten years later, the Reagan administration launched operations to probe Russian air defenses by simulating air and naval attacks and a high-level nuclear alert that the Russians were intended to detect. These actions were undertaken at a very tense moment. Washington was deploying Pershing II strategic missiles in Europe with a five-minute flight time to Moscow. President Reagan had also announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) program, which the Russians understood to be effectively a first-strike weapon, a standard interpretation of missile defense on all sides. And other tensions were rising.

Naturally, these actions caused great alarm in Russia, which, unlike the U.S., was quite vulnerable and had repeatedly been invaded and virtually destroyed. That led to a major war scare in 1983. Newly released archives reveal that the danger was even more severe than historians had previously assumed. A CIA study entitled “The War Scare Was for Real” concluded that U.S. intelligence may have underestimated Russian concerns and the threat of a Russian preventative nuclear strike. The exercises “almost became a prelude to a preventative nuclear strike,” according to an account in the Journal of Strategic Studies.

It was even more dangerous than that, as we learned last September, when the BBC reported that right in the midst of these world-threatening developments, Russia’s early-warning systems detected an incoming missile strike from the United States, sending its nuclear system onto the highest-level alert. The protocol for the Soviet military was to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own. Fortunately, the officer on duty, Stanislav Petrov, decided to disobey orders and not report the warnings to his superiors. He received an official reprimand. And thanks to his dereliction of duty, we’re still alive to talk about it.

The security of the population was no more a high priority for Reagan administration planners than for their predecessors. And so it continues to the present, even putting aside the numerous near-catastrophic nuclear accidents that occurred over the years, many reviewed in Eric Schlosser’s chilling study Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. In other words, it is hard to contest General Butler’s conclusions.

Survival in the Post-Cold War Era

The record of post-Cold War actions and doctrines is hardly reassuring either. Every self-respecting president has to have a doctrine. The Clinton Doctrine was encapsulated in the slogan “multilateral when we can, unilateral when we must.” In congressional testimony, the phrase “when we must” was explained more fully: the U.S. is entitled to resort to “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.” Meanwhile, STRATCOM in the Clinton era produced an important study entitled “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” issued well after the Soviet Union had collapsed and Clinton was extending President George H.W. Bush’s program of expanding NATO to the east in violation of promises to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev – with reverberations to the present.

That STRATCOM study was concerned with “the role of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era.” A central conclusion: that the U.S. must maintain the right to launch a first strike, even against non-nuclear states. Furthermore, nuclear weapons must always be at the ready because they “cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict.” They were, that is, constantly being used, just as you’re using a gun if you aim but don’t fire one while robbing a store (a point that Daniel Ellsberg has repeatedly stressed). STRATCOM went on to advise that “planners should not be too rational about determining… what the opponent values the most.” Everything should simply be targeted. “[I]t hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed… That the U.S. may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project.” It is “beneficial [for our strategic posture] if some elements may appear to be potentially ‘out of control,’” thus posing a constant threat of nuclear attack – a severe violation of the U.N. Charter, if anyone cares.

Not much here about the noble goals constantly proclaimed – or for that matter the obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make “good faith” efforts to eliminate this scourge of the earth. What resounds, rather, is an adaptation of Hilaire Belloc’s famous couplet about the Maxim gun (to quote the great African historian Chinweizu):

“Whatever happens, we have got,
The Atom Bomb, and they have not.”

After Clinton came, of course, George W. Bush, whose broad endorsement of preventative war easily encompassed Japan’s attack in December 1941 on military bases in two U.S. overseas possessions, at a time when Japanese militarists were well aware that B-17 Flying Fortresses were being rushed off assembly lines and deployed to those bases with the intent “to burn out the industrial heart of the Empire with fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu.” That was how the prewar plans were described by their architect, Air Force General Claire Chennault, with the enthusiastic approval of President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall.

Then comes Barack Obama, with pleasant words about working to abolish nuclear weapons – combined with plans to spend $1 trillion on the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the next 30 years, a percentage of the military budget “comparable to spending for procurement of new strategic systems in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan,” according to a study by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Obama has also not hesitated to play with fire for political gain. Take for example the capture and assassination of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs. Obama brought it up with pride in an important speech on national security in May 2013. It was widely covered, but one crucial paragraph was ignored.

Obama hailed the operation but added that it could not be the norm. The reason, he said, was that the risks “were immense.” The SEALs might have been “embroiled in an extended firefight.” Even though, by luck, that didn’t happen, “the cost to our relationship with Pakistan and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory was… severe.”

Let us now add a few details. The SEALs were ordered to fight their way out if apprehended. They would not have been left to their fate if “embroiled in an extended firefight.” The full force of the U.S. military would have been used to extricate them. Pakistan has a powerful, well-trained military, highly protective of state sovereignty. It also has nuclear weapons, and Pakistani specialists are concerned about the possible penetration of their nuclear security system by jihadi elements. It is also no secret that the population has been embittered and radicalized by Washington’s drone terror campaign and other policies.

While the SEALs were still in the bin Laden compound, Pakistani Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was informed of the raid and ordered the military “to confront any unidentified aircraft,” which he assumed would be from India. Meanwhile in Kabul, U.S. war commander General David Petraeus ordered “warplanes to respond” if the Pakistanis “scrambled their fighter jets.” As Obama said, by luck the worst didn’t happen, though it could have been quite ugly. But the risks were faced without noticeable concern. Or subsequent comment.

As General Butler observed, it is a near miracle that we have escaped destruction so far, and the longer we tempt fate, the less likely it is that we can hope for divine intervention to perpetuate the miracle.