ICE blogs

May 23, 2017

Surveillance – and the general election

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 9:50 am

Concerns over the growing powers of the surveillance state significantly secure no mention in either the Conservative or Labour Party manifestos in the run-up to the general election on 8 June.

Recently, a leak from the Home Office revealed that the government aimed to be able to access anyone’s communications within 24 hours under the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) of December 2016 and halt people’s ability to encrypt messages. The Act was condemned by the Open Democracy group as the ‘most sweeping surveillance powers ever seen, not just in the UK, but in any Western European nation or in the United States’.

Under the new plans, companies would be legally required to introduce a backdoor to their systems so that authorities could read all communications if required. And in a section of the Conservative manifesto headed ‘Strengthening the police and security services’, the party says: ‘We will continue to invest in our world-leading security services and maintain and develop our counter-terrorism strategy to protect us from terrorism at home and abroad.’

The Labour Party makes no mention of surveillance or the powers of intelligence and the secret state in their manifesto: the party offered only token opposition to the IPA, dubbed, the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to end the ‘Orwellian nightmare’ of mass surveillance. The party’s manifesto also commits to opposing Tory attempts to erode citizens’ powers of encryption.

One of the Lib Dems’ nine MPs, Alistair Carmichael, told the website, the Register, that the IPA prepared the way for a ‘full frontal assault’ on privacy and civil liberties. ‘The security services need to be able to keep people safe, but these powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare. They have no place in an open and democratic society, will cost billions of taxpayers’ money and simply will not work. Instead of spying on the entire population’s web histories and undermining the encryption that, for example, allows us to bank online safely, Liberal Democrats would put money back into community policing and concentrate on intelligence-led, targeted surveillance.’

• See https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/15/lib_dems_manifesto_pledge_to_end_snooping/; and http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/20/encr-m20.html

Richard Lance Keeble

May 22, 2017

Whistleblower Manning finally released

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 12:11 pm

Chelsea Manning, the military intelligence analyst turned whistleblower who revealed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, was released from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May after completing over seven years in jail.

She was arrested by the army in 2010 after providing WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of internal army ‘incident logs’ and about 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world. In August 2013, she was jailed for 35 years, a sentence 10 times longer than any previous punishment imposed on a federal employee, military or civilian, for leaking classified information.

Among the crimes exposed by Manning was the American helicopter attack on civilians in Baghdad that killed 16 people, including two Reuters journalists. Other documents published by WikiLeaks proved that civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were far higher than officially reported while dossiers on Guantanamo Bay prisoners suggested that many of them had no significant role in terrorist operations.

As Genevieve Leigh comments: ‘Despite the massive evidence provided, not a single person was jailed, arrested, or even charged for any of the documented crimes. Instead, the military brass together with the Obama administration ruthlessly persecuted Manning for what is a far greater “crime” in the eyes of the ruling class: exposing the murderous nature of the US war machine.’

Following the revelations, Manning was held in an outdoor cage in a bid to break her psychologically. From July 2010 to April 2011, she was held in Virginia, much of the time stripped naked as a ‘security’ measure. As Leigh continues: ‘All told, she spent almost a year-and-a-half in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day, a form of detention classified as torture by human rights groups.’

In prison, Manning made two attempts to take her own life, for which she faced even more severe treatment.

President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to just over seven years, in one of his final actions before leaving office in January. Yet her sentence under the Espionage Act remains in force. A fundraising drive to help Manning maintain her appeal has been launched by the Courage Foundation with the German branch of Reporters Without Borders and the Wau Holland Foundation.

Moreover, Obama and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, in particular, led moves to muzzle Manning and other whistleblowers. In fact, more whistleblowers were prosecuted during the Obama years than in all other administrations combined.

The Trump administration is currently stepping up the campaign against whistleblowers, US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said recently that the arrest of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder, was a ‘priority’ for the US.

After being sentenced to jail, Manning (previously known as Bradley) announced she was transgendered and took the name Chelsea. She later began hormone therapy and requested gender reassignment surgery, which the army repeatedly denied.

• See http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/17/mann-m17.html

Richard Lance Keeble, joint editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics.

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