Aug 24, 2011
“With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas,” reports the Associated Press, in an expose on the growing ties between the two agencies.
Well, not surprising, except that in this case, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was conducting this operation a couple of public transit stops out of its jurisdiction in New Brunswick, NJ, the home of Rutgers University (my alma mater! – I wonder if I was put on the surveillance list as a “useful idiot” of the Islamists?). Rutgers, coincidentally, has a significant Muslim student body, as does the surrounding area.
The other surprising detail is that the CIA (and apparently, not the FBI, though they have their own like-minded programs) was helping the NYPD carry out this action – which, as AP reporter Adam Goldman notes, was only one part of a much larger domestic surveillance program the two agencies have been collaborating on – even though one is a federal intelligence agency charged with overseas intelligence gathering and the other is a metropolitan police department. Both are nominally under “civilian” control.
The CIA is generally prohibited by law from spying on American citizens – the idea behind this being that an intelligence agency with both domestic and foreign surveillance capacities (like the Stasi) would have a little too much totalitarian potential for the U.S.
Of course, theory and practice are two different things.The CIA has indeed conducted domestic operations against U.S. citizens over the years. Apparently, though, while it was pretty good at monitoring American journalists and congresspeople during the Cold War,some “hawks” hold that the “internal reforms” foisted upon the agency after Nixon’s resignation resulted in an organizational culture that, years on, failed to effectively monitor people entering the country in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In other words, the story goes, while the CIA was at fault, the people who forced it to “reform” back in the 70s were the root problem. Hence, since 9/11, there have been calls within and without for the CIA to take a more active role in domestic affairs (and the CIA has done so).
Particularly telling is this passage from the AP:
“The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there’s not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. “And we have nothing to apologize for in that regard.”
But officials said they’ve also been careful to keep information about some programs out of court, where a judge might take a different view. The NYPD considers even basic details, such as the intelligence division’s organization chart, to be too sensitive to reveal in court.
Max Blumenthal, among others, has compared the NYPD tactics to Israeli police tactics in the West Bank, and so too did an unnamed NYPD source in the AP article. There is a well-established link between the two nations’ law enforcement apparatuses. I think a comparison could also be made with the tactics of the “Security Branch” of the South African Police (SAP) during apartheid operating in the “Bantustans,” since the white Afrikaner-dominated agency made extensive use of individuals who could “blend in” to conduct espionage, just as the NYPD is doing:
At the CIA, one of the biggest obstacles has always been that U.S. intelligence officials are overwhelmingly white, their mannerisms clearly American. The NYPD didn’t have that problem, thanks to its diverse pool of officers.
Using census data, the department matched undercover officers to ethnic communities and instructed them to blend in, the officials said. Pakistani-American officers infiltrated Pakistani neighborhoods, Palestinians focused on Palestinian neighborhoods. They hung out in hookah bars and cafes, quietly observing the community around them.
Continuing the South African analogy, the SAP was more or less trained to regard all “blacks” as potential criminals and terrorists. (Of his “Criminology and Ethnology” training, SAP Security Branch whistleblower Paul Erasmus said, “If that didn’t turn you into a racist then nothing on God’s earth would have”). The arguments that the SAP and NYPD put forth for their actions are also broadly similar: you go into the neighborhoods where the crimes are (or may be) happening, and that isn’t profiling. Except, well, it is. Especially when the training promotes a mentality that everyone in those areas is a potential criminal/terrorist.
The CIA-NYPD effort (the officers sent in were said to be part of a “Demographic Unit” or “Terrorism Interdiction Unit”) was helped along, according to the AP, when a law from the 1970s that limited the amount of espionage work the NYPD could conduct was struck down after 9/11. Interestingly, that law was focused on protecting anti-war protesters, and the NYPD-CIA program’s top brain trustee, David Cohen, is now in hot water fortaking action to infiltrate informants into anti-war groups during the Bush Administration. “Cohen’s affidavit,” writes Christoper Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, “dramatically and starkly illustrated the extent to which the NYPD was prepared to conflate political activity with terrorism.” Words that could be equally said of the SAP under apartheid, or the Israeli response toPalestinian political activism.
The CIA-NYPD actions, while indicative of the way Americans view Muslims (is a South African-inspired “Department of Muslim Affairs” next?), is also indicative of the increasingly incestuous relationships among the U.S.’s “intelligence” and “security” apparatuses. The comeback from those agencies: well, we haven’t had another 9/11 since 9/11, now have we? Or as another CIA hand at the NYPD put it in the AP article, “We’ve been given the public tolerance and the luxury to be very aggressive on this topic.”
I have long believed that being an American means that you regard possessing civil liberties is a trade-off for absolute security, and that having these liberties is worth living with fear and uncertainty because the alternative – the pursuit of the illusion of absolute security – is living with the omnipresent fear and uncertainty of the surveillance state. Of the police becoming terrorists, as an LAPD official told the AP.
Americans, though (or at least their elected officials), areincreasingly willing to disregard that trade-off and bleat for the illusion of absolute security, even if it means sacrificing civil liberties.
But it isn’t just Americans that are responding to the threat of terrorism this way. NYPD. CIA. The Mishteret Yisrael. SAP. They all share the same wavelength. People wonder if it is possible for the U.S. to become a “surveillance state“; but if you are Muslim, you are not asking that question. You are living that reality.
Aug 24, 2011
Al Jazeera is reporting more Israeli air strikes on Gaza. And mortars are being fired from Gaza into Israel.
An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip has killed one Palestinian and wounded two others, prompting Hamas to allege that it violated a two-day-old unofficial truce.
Wednesday’s missile attack, which targeted a vehicle in Rafah near the border with Egypt, raised fears of a fresh descent into violence scarcely 48 hours after factions had agreed to end rocket fire on southern Israel, on condition that the Israeli Air Force also stopped its raids.
Gaza’s Hamas government accused Israel of violating the unwritten truce with its latest air strikes and called for UN intervention.
A statement issued by Hamas read: “Such aggressive behaviour confirms that Israel has no true intention of maintaining the truce and insists on escalating the situation. We call upon the international community and the United Nations in particular to pressure Israel to stop its aggression against our people.”
I’ve been reading Gazan tweets and they’re being pounded as I type this. More death and injury is being reported on that venue and I’ve received an email from a friend in Gaza, it feels like all hell’s breaking loose, again.
Aug 24, 2011
So much for friends on the left; J Street’s twitter feedhas put out a bizarrely-vicious thrust at Richard Silverstein, urging followers to read Adam Holland’s “excellent take of Richard Silverstein’s disgusting racist and crazy attacks on Holland & others.” The tweet links to Holland’s attack on Richard Silverstein, an honorable and independent journalist if ever there was one (and in the great American tradition, self-appointed). Holland accuses Silverstein of the use of racially offensive stereotypes, including the phrase, “rich, pro-Israel Jews.” What does Holland want to do to our political vocabulary? And there’s this kind of thing:
After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, [Silverstein] bizarrely condemned Israel for sending portable hospital facilities to assist the victims, an act of charity that many people regarded as heroic. Silverstein called it “the Zionization of disaster relief” in a blog post that was subsequently reposted on neo-Nazi and other racist websites.
I don’t know what J Street means to achieve by going after non-Zionists. And as the late Tony Judt said, just because some bigots endorse what you say doesn’t make you a bigot. Thanks to Max Blumenthal.
Aug 24, 2011
Alana Goodman in Commentary begins a report on an Israeli law group that acted to stop the Gaza flotilla last June with a scene in a “radical, leftwing coffee shop in Washington.” Do these people really think the world works that way? Wow. The piece focuses on Shurat HaDin, a “rightwing Israeli law center” in Tel Aviv that used international legal actions and threats of same to prevent many flotilla boats from leaving Greece. The firm worked in concert with the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. “They said we had to do anything, anything possible to stop the flotilla,” says one of the Shurat HaDin lawyers. More:
Next, Shurat HaDin lawyers discovered American flotilla activists were potentially in violation of the Neutrality Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from taking part in a hostile act against an allied country. “So we approached the Attorney General of the United States to fix it. And we also got Gov. Rick Perry to write a letter to Eric Holder,” said Darshan-Leitner.
It may seem a little weird that the governor of Texas would be one of the first people [Nitsana] Darshan-Leitner approached to help with the plan. But she explained that Perry was enthusiastically on-board with the cause ever since he met her on a trip to Israel.
“I once spoke at a mission that Perry took part in, in Israel,” she said. “And he approached me and said, ‘I love what you do. It’s amazing what you do. If you ever need help combating Israel’s enemies, I’m here to assist.’”
So with Attorney General Holder on notice – and a Neutrality Act lawsuit filed in New York federal court – Shurat HaDin turned its attention toward Greece. The group discovered the country had a Neutrality Act similar to the one in the U.S., and it prohibited boats from leaving Greece to sail to illegal ports, including Gaza.
Shurat HaDin notified the Greek minister of civil protection about the flotilla, and he immediately blocked the ships from leaving Greece.
“The second thing he did was order the port authorities in Greece to raid the boats and to find what’s wrong with each and every boat – to be very, very particular,” said Darshan-Leitner, clearly amused. “And at that point, an additional six or seven boats were grounded. Because they found a lot of [problems] there.”
This was around the time Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin and her fellow flotilla activists finally caught on to the scheme. But by that point, there wasn’t much they could do.
Aug 24, 2011
See the photos of empty seats, from Ami Kaufman at +972. Jon Voight is in one of the occupied seats.
Aug 24, 2011
TC Jewish Folk, a “hip” site for Jewish life in the Twin Cities, is posting diaries from Congressman Erik Paulsen, a Democrat who represents suburban Minneapolis. Note that the website prefaces Paulsen’s blogpost with “He is in Israel this week with AIPAC….” Apparently that’s hip?
In my short few days here I’ve seen so many situations that demonstrate how Israelis are so resilient in so many ways.
I am also better able to understand the deep, rich history here by spending time in the Old City as well as the smaller City of David by walking through a recently discovered tunnel from only about four and a half months ago.
But look, some commenters are going after Paulsen:
1) peter says: August 23, 2011 at 4:52 PM “I’m looking forward to helping ensure the U.S./Israeli relationship remains strong.” Sir, Can you define “relationship”? I know that the US taxpayers cover lots of Israeli military expenses. Let me ask you, what kind of benefit should an average US taxpayer expect in return? Simple question. You should know the answer. Thank you. Peter
2) pj says: August 23, 2011 at 2:16 PM Representative, While you are on your little junket listening to people whine about a lack of beach access, please consider that many Americans can’t afford to go to the beach this year. Real unemployment is close to 20%, we just lost our credit rating, and our children’s future is being sold to fund wars we were ssuckered into on faulty intelligence. How many American old people died during the recent heat wave because they could not afford air conditioning? How many veterans are homeless and unemployed? How many people in Israel are getting American taxpayer money and protection? How many of them have thanked us, the American People, for the money you and your fellow politicians get them from taxpayers? If you represent Israel, why don’t you stay there forever, and calculate that in American time or Israeli time? You’ll not be missed.
Aug 24, 2011
Two Romney items. Justin Elliott reports at Salon on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy adviser’s support for a terrorist group that is aimed at Iran. You’ll note that Daniel Pipes loves this group:
A foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been active in recent months in an advocacy campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of an underground organization in Iran known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq. The MEK has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a “terrorist” organization.
Mitchell Reiss, former director of policy planning at the State Department during the Bush administration, is now advising the former Massachusetts governor on foreign policy, the New Republic recently reported. Reiss also advised Romney’s 2008 campaign…
The Obama administration, which has engaged in complex negotiations with the Iranians over their nuclear aspirations, is being pressured to “delist” the MEK by those who say this would help undermine the Iranian regime, which is seen as a threat to Israel, a U.S. ally.
“With one simple signature, the Obama administration can help empower Iranians to seize control over their destiny — and perhaps end the mullahs’ mad nuclear dash,” wrote Daniel Pipes in National Review last month.
Then there’s this from Business Insider. Romney taking Wall Street money from Obama. I don’t know who these guys are (apart from the fact that Schafer once worked for Michael Steinhardt, a giant Israel supporter), but I’m guessing they’re pretty conservative on Middle East issues:
At least 67 Wall Street executives who backed President Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign are abandoning his campaign for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s,The Hill reports.
Romney, who founded Bain Capital, is viewed by many as better for the financial sector than Obama — who signed the controversial Dodd-Frank regulatory bill.
Among the donors who have changed sides are Joshua Harris of Apollo Management, Oscar Schafer of OSS Capital Management, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, Barry Sternlicht of the Starwood Capital Group, and David Blitzer of the Blackstone Group.
Preacher Beck: ‘See the miracle of Israel… see all that God has done for us… He said to his people, ‘I’m coming, stand here…”
Aug 24, 2011
Aug 24, 2011
Ahmad Samih Khalidi
This article originally appeared in the current issue of theJournal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 4 (Summer 2011):
In his speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on 24 May 2011, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared:
It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: “I will accept a Jewish state.” Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end; that they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace.