Archive | February 6th, 2014

‘End It’: Govt Oversight Panel Calls NSA Spying Illegal

NOVANEWS

Strongest-yet rebuke from within U.S. government; only Bush-era lawyers dissent

– Sarah Lazare

Members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a federal panel, at a workshop about surveillance held in a Washington hotel last summer. (Photo: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)The National Security Agency’s program to bulk collect phone data breaks the law, violates civil liberties, does not make Americans more safe, and should be shut down, according to the federal government’s own watchdog.

In a 238-page report obtained by the New York Times and Washington Post, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which was created by Congress in 2007, issued the strongest rebuke of NSA spying yet from within the U.S. government.

The panel’s decision, reported Thursday, takes direct aim at the legal argument cited to justify the mass phone data spying: Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” reads the report, according to the New York Times.

“As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

The panel also directly challenges the argument that spying is necessary to keep Americans safe from “terrorist” attacks—a justification echoed by intelligence circles and President Obama. The report states that it could find “no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

“We believe that in only one instance over the past seven years has the program arguably contributed to the identification of an unknown terrorism suspect,” the report states. “Even in that case, the suspect was not involved in planning a terrorist attack and there is reason to believe that the FBI may have discovered him without the contribution of the NSA’s program,” it found.

The ruling from the five person panel was not unanimous, with two members—who were both lawyers in the George W Bush-era Justice Department—dissenting.

Coming on the heals of Obama’s widely criticized speech on NSA ‘reforms,’ the report amounts to a strong condemnation of the president’s policies and is likely to bolster efforts to defend civil liberties against government spying.

“We welcome the board’s report, and we agree with is principal conclusions. The NSA’s call-records dragnet is illegal and ineffective and presents a serious threat to civil liberties,” said American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. “The report should spur immediate action by both the administration and Congress.”

“Let’s not forget the legal rationale wasn’t produced, and the PCLOB group itself hadn’t even met until after Mr. Snowden’s revelations,” said Government Accountability Project (GAP) Executive Director Beatrice Edwards. “None of this would have happened if it weren’t for his disclosures in June. We will continue to fight on his behalf to assert his rights as an American whistleblower.”

 

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AskSnowden: Q&A Chat with Edward Snowden

NOVANEWS

‘Doing the right thing means having no regrets’

Common Dreams

One hour live chat begins at 3 PM EST.NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden participated in a live online chat Thursday starting at 3 PM EST.

The forum was hosted on the Free Snowden website here, which is run by The Courage Foundation and is the only officially endorsed Snowden Defense Fund.

This comes exactly one week after U.S. President Barack Obama gave an address in response to the public concerns raised by Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance practices. In the live chat, Edward Snowden gave his first reaction to the President’s speech.

What follows, in order from most recent to earliest, are the selected questions and his answers:

@mperkel #ASKSNOWDEN They say it’s a balance of privacy and safety. I think spying makes us less safe. do you agree?

Intelligence agencies do have a role to play, and the people at the working level at the NSA, CIA, or any other member of the IC are not out to get you. They’re good people trying to do the right thing, and I can tell you from personal experience that they were worried about the same things I was.

I encourage you to contact your members of congress and tell them how you feel about mass surveillance. This is a global problem, and the first step to tackling it is by working together to fix it at home.

The people you need to watch out for are the unaccountable senior officials authorizing these unconstitutional programs, and unreliable mechanisms like the secret FISA court, a rubber-stamp authority that approves 99.97% of government requests (which denied only 11 requests out of 33,900 in 33 years. They’re the one that get us into trouble with the Constitution by letting us go too far.

And even the President now agrees our surveillance programs are going too far, gathering massive amounts of private records on ordinary Americans who have never been suspected of any crime. This violates our constitutional protection against unlawful searches and seizure. Collecting phone and email records for every American is a waste of money, time and human resources that could be better spent pursuing those the government has reason to suspect are a serious threat.

I’m going to stop here. My deepest thanks to everyone who sent questions, and whether or not we agree on where the lines should be drawn, I encourage you to contact your members of congress and tell them how you feel about mass surveillance. This is a global problem, and the first step to tackling it is by working together to fix it at home.

If you’d like to more ideas on how to push back against unconstitutional surveillance, consider taking a look at the organizations working together to organize https://thedaywefightback.org/.

@mrbass21 Recently several threats have been made on your life by the intelligence community. Are you afraid for your life? Thoughts? #AskSnowden

It’s concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect.

That current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they’re willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they’ll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us.

The fact that it’s also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I’m not going to be intimidated. Doing the right thing means having no regrets.

@ferenstein what’s the worst and most realistic harm from bulk collection of data? Why do you think it outweighs national security? #AskSnowden

The worst and happening-right-now harm of bulk collection — which again, is a euphemism for mass surveillance — is two-fold.

The first is the chilling effect, which is well-understood. Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.

The second, less understood but far more sinister effect of these classified programs, is that they effectively create “permanent records” of our daily activities, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on our part. This enables a capability called “retroactive investigation,” where once you come to the government’s attention, they’ve got a very complete record of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as five years. You might not remember where you went to dinner on June 12th 2009, but the government does.

Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.

The power these records represent can’t be overstated. In fact, researchers have referred to this sort of data gathering as resulting in “databases of ruin,” where harmful and embarrassing details exist about even the most innocent individuals. The fact that these records are gathered without the government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be incapable of ever being made lawful at all, and this view was endorsed as recently as today by the federal government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board.

Fundamentally, a society in which the pervasive monitoring of the sum of civil activity becomes routine is turning from the traditions of liberty toward what is an inherently illiberal infrastructure of preemptive investigation, a sort of quantified state where the least of actions are measured for propriety. I don’t seek to pass judgment in favor or against such a state in the short time I have here, only to declare that it is not the one we inherited, and should we as a society embrace it, it should be the result of public decision rather than closed conference.

@LukasReuter #AskSnowden How should the community of states react to the new information concerning surveillance? What actions have to be made?

We need to work together to agree on a reasonable international norm for the limitations on spying. Nobody should be hacking critical-to-life infrastructure like hospitals and power stations, and it’s fair to say that can be recognized in international law.

We need to work together to agree on a reasonable international norm for the limitations on spying.

Additionally, we need to recognize that national laws are not going to solve the problem of indiscriminate surveillance. A prohibition in Burundi isn’t going to stop the spies in Greenland. We need a global forum, and global funding, committed to the development of security standards that enforce our right to privacy not through law, but through science and technology. The easiest way to ensure a country’s communications are secure is to secure them world-wide, and that means better standards, better crypto, and better research.

@wikileaks #AskSnowden The Ecuadorean Consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, lost his job after his helping you to safety was spun. Message for his family?

Fidel is an incredibly brave individual, and he did everything that was possible to ensure that the rights of someone he had never met would be protected. He could have turned away from a tough decision, but instead of letting my situation become someone else’s problem, he did what he thought was right. That kind of commitment to doing the right thing, even knowing it could get you in trouble, is something the world needs more of.

@jaketapper #AskSnowden Under what conditions would you agree to return to the U.S.?

Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself.

The hundred-year old law under which I’ve been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.

Maybe when Congress comes together to end the programs the PCLOB just announced was illegal, they’ll reform the Whistleblower Protection Act, and we’ll see a mechanism for all Americans, no matter who they work for, to get a fair trial.

@Valio_ch #asksnowden Do you think that the Watchdog Report by Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board will have any impact at all?

I don’t see how Congress could ignore it, as it makes it clear there is no reason at all to maintain the 215 program. Let me quote from the official report:

“Cessation of the program would eliminate the privacy and civil liberties concerns associated with bulk collection without unduly hampering the government’s efforts, while ensuring that any governmental requests for telephone calling records are tailored to the needs of specific investigations.”

@RagBagUSA #AskSnowden what (in your opinion) is the appropriate extent of US national security apparatus? Surely some spying is needed?

Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day. This is done not because it’s necessary — after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers — but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.

When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri.

I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an email, or visit a website without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. Particularly when we now have courts, reports from the federal government, and even statements from Congress making it clear these programs haven’t made us any more safe, we need to push back.

This is a global problem, and America needs to take the lead in fixing it. If our government decides our Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures no longer applies simply because that’s a more efficient means of snooping, we’re setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing.

It’s not good for our country, it’s not good for the world, and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me. The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance — the same way we’ve always done it — without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations.

When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri.

@MichaelHargrov1 #AskSnowden Was the privacy of your co-workers considered while you were stealing their log-in and password information?

With all due respect to Mark Hosenball, the Reuters report that put this out there was simply wrong. I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers.

@auerfeld #AskSnowden do you think it’s a shame that #Obama gave his #NSA speech before his Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board reported?

The timing of his speech seems particularly interesting, given that it was accompanied by so many claims that “these programs have not been abused.”

Even if we accept the NSA’s incredibly narrow definition of abuse, which is “someone actually broke the rules so badly we had to investigate them for it,” we’ve seen more instances of identified, intentional abuse than we have seen instances where this unconstitutional mass phone surveillance stopped any kind of terrorist plot at all — even something less than an attack.

To back that up with the government’s own numbers, according to the NSA Inspector General, we’ve seen at least 12 specific, intentional cases of “abuse” by the NSA.

In contrast, the federal government’s independent PCLOB report on the NSA’s mass phone surveillance today (which stated the NSA has spied on at least 120,000,000 American phones under this program) said this:

“We are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

At the press conference, Judge Wald stated this program, which has been operated in secret for years, has no basis in law. The panel determined this kind of mass surveillance is illegal and should be ended.

When even the federal government says the NSA violated the constitution at least 120 million times under a single program, but failed to discover even a single “plot,” it’s time to end “bulk collection,” which is a euphemism for mass surveillance. There is simply no justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a 0% success rate.

In light of another independent confirmation of this fact, I think Americans should look to the White House and Congress to close the book entirely on the 215 BR provision.

@VilleThompson What do you think about Obama’s whistleblowing protection act? #AskSnowden

One of the things that has not been widely reported by journalists is that whistleblower protection laws in the US do not protect contractors in the national security arena. There are so many holes in the laws, the protections they afford are so weak, and the processes for reporting they provide are so ineffective that they appear to be intended to discourage reporting of even the clearest wrongdoing. If I had revealed what I knew about these unconstitutional but classified programs to Congress, they could have charged me with a felony. One only need to look at the case of Thomas Drake to see how the government doesn’t have a good history of handling legitimate reports of wrongdoing within the system.

My case clearly demonstrates the need for comprehensive whistleblower protection act reform.

Despite this, and despite the fact that I could not legally go to the official channels that direct NSA employees have available to them, I still made tremendous efforts to report these programs to co-workers, supervisors, and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen. The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom to go to through what Drake did.

My case clearly demonstrates the need for comprehensive whistleblower protection act reform. If we had had a real process in place, and reports of wrongdoing could be taken to real, independent arbiters rather than captured officials, I might not have had to sacrifice so much to do what at this point even the President seems to agree needed to be done.

@midwire How quickly can the NSA, et. al. decrypt AES messages with strong keys #AskSnowden Does encrypting our emails even work?

As I’ve said before, properly implemented strong encryption works. What you have to worry about are the endpoints. If someone can steal you keys (or the pre-encryption plaintext), no amount of cryptography will protect you.

However, that doesn’t mean end-to-end crypto is a lost cause. By combining robust endpoint security with transport security, people can have much greater confidence in their day to day communications.

@savagejen Do you think it is possible for our democracy to recover from the damage NSA spying has done to our liberties? #AskSnowden

Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account.

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Snowden: If ‘Country Is Helped,’ Ending Up in Ditch ‘Worth It’

NOVANEWS

In New Yorker interview, NSA whistleblower says ‘I acted alone’ and calls spy accusations ‘absurd’

– Jon Queally

Edward Snowden says that even if he ends up in “a ditch” some day, if his acts help his country, then it will all have been worth it.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden. (Photograph by Barton Gellman/Getty)Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, took to the Sunday news show circuit to make unsubstantiated claims that whistleblower Edward Snowden was possibly working for Russian intelligence when he downloaded and subsequently leaked a trove of internal documents from his one-time employer, the National Security Agency.

But in an interview with The New Yorkermagazine, Snowden called such claims ‘absurd,’ telling investigative journalist Jane Mayer, using encrypted email, that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”

“This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd,” Snowden told Mayer, and made the point that he wasn’t welcomed in Russia with open arms, but was stranded in the Sheremetyevo International Airport (stripped of his passport by the U.S. government it’s worth nothing) for over a month before his temporary asylum was granted. “Spies get treated better than that,” he said.

No evidence, including from the FBI’s active investigation into Snowden, has turned up any evidence that he received any outside assistance or was acting as a foreign agent.

“It may sound trite, [but if] I end up disgraced in a ditch somewhere, but it helps the country, it will still be worth it.” —Edward Snowden

As Mayer writes:

In the nine months since Snowden first surfaced, there has been intense speculation about his motives and methods. But “a senior F.B.I. official said on Sunday that it was still the bureau’s conclusion that Mr. Snowden acted alone,” the New York Times reported this weekend, adding that the agency has not publicly revealed any evidence that he was working in conjunction with any foreign intelligence agency or government. The issue is key to shaping the public’s perceptions of Snowden. Congressman Rogers, on “Meet the Press,” went on to allege that “some of the things he did were beyond his technical capabilities. Raises more questions. How he arranged travel before he left. How he was ready to go—he had a go bag, if you will.” Gregory then asked Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and who was also a guest on the show, whether she agreed that Snowden may have had help from the Russians. She did not dismiss the notion. “He may well have,” she said. “We don’t know at this stage.” On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rogers made similar allegations, saying, “This wasn’t a random smash and grab, run down the road, end up in China, the bastion of Internet freedom, and then Russia, of course, the bastion of Internet freedom.”

Asked today to elaborate on his reasons for alleging that Snowden “had help,” Congressman Rogers, through a press aide, declined to comment.

An aide to Senator Feinstein, meanwhile, stressed that she did no more than ask questions. “Senator Feinstein said, ‘We don’t know at this stage.’ In light of the comments from Chairman Rogers, it is reasonable for Senator Feinstein to say that we should find out.”

Throughout the online interview with Mayer, Snowden remains adamant about his motivations to expose the NSA surveillance programs that have fueled a major international debate about government spying since the stories based on the documents first starting appearing in The Guardian newspaper in the spring of last year. Despite the growing interest in him personally and his reasons for acting, Snowden remains thoughtful on a range of issues in his exchange with Mayer. A sampling follows.

On the media coverage

“It’s just amazing that these massive media institutions don’t have any sort of editorial position on this. I mean these are pretty serious allegations, you know?”

“The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.”

On leaving Russia

“When we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian President’s plane.” If he could travel without U.S. interference, “I would of course do so.”

On personal sacrifice versus the greater good

“At least the American public has a seat at the table now. […] “It may sound trite, [but if] I end up disgraced in a ditch somewhere, but it helps the country, it will still be worth it.”

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The Millionaires’ Congress vs. The People

NOVANEWS

(Credit: Graphic illustration by Kayla Byler/The Lantern OSU)The rich truly are different from you and me — they tend to hold seats in Congress.

Our nation purports to be a representative democracy, yet you don’t find many plumbers, mineworkers, dirt farmers, Wal-Mart associates, roofers, beauty parlor operators, taxi drivers, or other “get-the-job-done” Americans among the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate.

What you do find is an over-supply of lawmakers drawn from a very thin strata of America’s population: Millionaires. In fact, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that last year — for the first time in history — more than half of our senators and House members are in the Millionaires Club. Indeed, the average net worth (the value of what they own minus what they owe) for all lawmakers now totals more than $7 million.

In short, the world in which our “representatives” live is light years from where the majority of people live, and the divide between the governors and the governees is especially stark for the 40 percent of people whose net worth is zero (or, technically, less than zero, since their income and other assets are far exceeded by their debts). This widening chasm is not just a matter of wealth, but most significantly a literal separation of the privileged few from the experiences, needs and aspirations of the many who’re struggling to make ends meet and worried that opportunities for their children to get ahead are no longer available to them.

The harsh reality is that most Americans are no longer represented in Washington. Chances are that their own members of Congress don’t know any struggling and worried people, share nothing in common with them and can’t relate to their real-life needs. Thus, Congress is content to play ideological games with such basics as health care, minimum wage, joblessness, food stamps and Social Security.

Mark Twain once said, “I’m opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”

One danger that such wealth brings is that many who have it become blinded to those who don’t. So, the news that most of our congress critters are now in the millionaire class speaks volumes about why this institution of American democracy is so undemocratic. It has been striving ceaselessly to provide more government giveaways to Wall Street bankers, corporate chieftains and other super-wealthy elites, while striving just as mightily to enact government takeaways to harm middle-class and poor families.

Take, for example, Rep. Darrell Issa, with a net worth of $464 million last year. A far-right-wing California Republican, he has used his chairmanship of the powerful oversight committee to pound Obamacare’s effort to provide health coverage for Americans who have been shut out of the system, even as he tried to unravel the new restraints to keep Wall Street bankers from wrecking our economy again. Issa and his ilk are proof that a lawmaker’s net worth is strictly a financial measure, not any indication at all of one’s actual value or “worthiness.”

I hasten to note that many millionaires in American have been able to rise above their financial handicap, serving the public interest rather than self or special interests. For example, when Rep. Chellie Pingree was elected to Congress in 2009, she was an organic farmer and innkeeper in rural Maine. Definitely not a millionaire, she was a stalwart fighter for such progressive policies as getting corporate money out of politics, enacting Medicare for all and reigning in Wall Street greed. But in 2011, Pingree married — of all people — a Wall Street financier and was suddenly vaulted into the ranks of the 1-percenters. So, naturally, her legislative positions changed … not one whit.

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America’s Invisible and Costly Human Rights Crisis

NOVANEWS

(Image: Shutterstock)When the news broke years ago that U.S. forces were using torture on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, many politicians and the public expressed appropriate horror. There was shock and disappointment that our country would resort to such inhumane, abusive actions against our fellow human beings, most of whom then were innocent victims of bounty hunters in Afghanistan.

With this frame of reverence in mind, it is unfortunate that many Americans do not contemplate—or are simply unaware of—blatant torture occurring in prisons every day right here in the United States. This form of physical and psychological violence is called many things: “isolation”, “administrative segregation”, “control units”, “secure housing” and by its most well-known designation, solitary confinement. This practice of imprisonment is widely used across our nation with disturbingly little oversight and restriction. The full extent of the use of solitary confinement is truly alarming—it is most certainly a human rights abuse and a blight on our national character.

“Too many people overlook the plight of prisoners, deeming them criminals and not concerning themselves with the plights of people they feel have no place or say in our society.”

Imagine yourself being locked in a small windowless room for days, weeks, or years…perhaps even for the majority of your life. You receive food and water through a small slot and have little-to-no human contact—you might go days or weeks without speaking to another person. You are allowed out for perhaps an hour a day for some exercise. This is the living reality for tens of thousands of Americans in our prison system. Self-mutilation and suicide attempts among those in solitary confinement are far too common. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that the majority of prison suicides are inmates who were being held in solitary.

Many more studies have shown that solitary confinement has a severe psychologically damaging effect on human beings. For prisoners already suffering from mental illness, it exacerbates their problems. Senator John McCain wrote of his experience in solitary confinement as a P.O.W. in Vietnam: “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”

Many might dismiss and even justify punishment by solitary confinement by convincing themselves that those subjected to it are “bad people.” But this is a gross misunderstanding of its common use in our prisons. Many prisoners held in solitary are mentally ill, mentally handicapped, or illiterate. Some are placed in solitary purportedly for their “safety” to protect them from themselves or from other prisoners.

Some put in solitary are children as young as 14 or 15. What type of prison infraction would result in a 15 year old being locked up in solitary?—”15 days for not making the bed; 15 days for not keeping the cell door open; 20 or 25 days for being in someone else’s cell” are some, according to a report on the issue by Human Rights Watch.

Journalist James Ridgeway calls the use of solitary confinement “a second sentence.” The first sentence is, of course, being sent to prison. The second sentence is totally decided by the warden and guards without appealable criteria. As such, the act of disobeying instructions or vaguely interpreted prison rules or the whim of the warden can warrant a lengthy stay in solitary. The lack of accountability in this area is notorious and critical. For many prisoners, a stay in solitary is a death sentence.

Ridgeway, along with Jean Cassella, founded Solitary Watch in 2009. Their goal is to bring attention to what really goes on in America’s prisons, which are subjected to so little public exposure of their daily operations.

The United States is the world leader in locking people up. There are currently about 2.3 million imprisoned people in the United States. About 25 percent of them are there for nonviolent drug offenses, victims of the insatiable “prison-industrial complex” which costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Of these millions of inmates, it is estimated that as many as 80,000 are being held in solitary confinement according to Solitary Watch. Prisons are not required to provide data on how and when they use this highly questionable method of incarceration. Over 40 prisons are considered “supermax” facilities where the majority of cells are solitary units. These prisons alone account for about 30,000 people.

For-profit corporate-owned prisons like solitary confinement because it extends a prisoners’ sentence. It is also far more expensive to keep prisoners in solitary confinement—one study estimates that the average cost of housing an inmate in a supermax prison is $75,000, as opposed to $25,000 per cell in a regular state prison. This cost is passed along to taxpayers.

Imagine how things might change if more ordinary Americans had access to inspect the prisons their tax dollars pay for. A precedent for this exists. In Great Britain, “Independent Monitoring Boards” offer a unique civic perspective on regulating what happens inside prison walls. Ordinary citizens are able to volunteer to be these independent monitors. Volunteers are allowed unannounced access to prison facilities anytime, day or night. The volunteers are free to tour the prison, speak with the inmates, sample the food, and inspect the clothing and the state of medical care.

(Read Solitary Watch’s article on British Prisons here.)

Such an idea of citizen responsibility might seem highly unusual to most Americans to whom prisons are largely out of sight and out of mind. The first step in addressing this crisis of abuse is raising awareness.

Reporters are rarely given full access to prisons so they can report on what is going on inside. Let the press in! The best source of information about the state of our prisons is the prisoners themselves—but press access to them is restricted and the Department of Justice is not listening to their appeals. With this barrier in place, prisons are virtually shut off from any accountability or independent oversight. Wardens and guards are the only ones making decisions about the treatment of many prisoners.

And where are the judges? All judges—federal, state, and local should have firsthand knowledge of the conditions in prisons so that they can make better informed decisions when sentencing those who come before them. Here’s a bold suggestion that might move the needle. All nine members of the United States Supreme Court should spend 48 hours in solitary confinement. Imagine how quickly the treatment of our incarcerated population would change if those at forefront of our judicial system had a small taste of what it is like to be locked in a tiny cell, alone, with no human contact for such an amount of time. Just 48 hours! There is precedent for some state judges actually spending time in prison years ago.

Some prisoners, such as Herman Wallace, have spent the majority of their lives suffering under these conditions. Wallace spent 41 years in solitary confinement while maintaining his innocence. The warden of the Louisiana prison where he was held ascribed his “Black Pantherism” as the reason. Wallace was released in October of last year and died three days later at the age of 71. These acts of astonishing cruelty should not happen in a country governed by the rule of law.

Too many people overlook the plight of prisoners, deeming them criminals and not concerning themselves with the plights of people they feel have no place or say in our society. There is little recognition of wrongful convictions and the role of rehabilitation that has worked in other western countries with far less recidivist rates then in the U.S. This mindset is a major obstacle in drawing attention to the inhumane treatment inmates often receive in our justice system.

The legendary investigator Jim Ridgeway says of the Solitary Watch project: “We’re not trying to let criminals out. We’re just trying to let people know what is going on.”

For those who want to do something now, consider donating to Solitary Watch’s campaign Lifeline to Solitary.” This lean and efficient campaign means to establish contact with prisoners held in long-term solitary. This connection serves two purposes—it allows Solitary Watch to correspond with prisoners and report on their conditions. Secondly, it provides those in isolation a key connection to the outside world and a reminder that they do matter.

Prisons are a grim and unpleasant part of our system of justice. That said, we can do much, much better about how to humanely treat people who are serving their time often under grotesquely long sentences for non-violent crimes.

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First Things First: Why the United States Need a Pro-Democracy Movement

NOVANEWS

Until we fix our democracy problem, it’s hard to fix any problem.

In the four years since the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United v. FEC ruling, two things have become abundantly clear.Though the problem of money in politics can feel overwhelming, there are a number of workable solutions being considered federally and implemented in the states.

First, we have a major democracy problem.Citizens United paved the way for unlimited corporate spending to distort our elections. Staggering amounts of money have poured into our political system since the Court handed down that decision.

Second, and just as importantly, it’s become clear that until we fix that democracy problem, it’s hard to fix any problem. In other words, until we fix the funding of our political campaigns, we can’t fix the individual issues that matter most to everyday Americans.

This has proven true across the board. Whether the issue you’re most concerned about is making your community safer, guaranteeing that your family has access to clean water, or ensuring that workers get a fair minimum wage, when wealthy special interests can buy their way into the hearts, minds, and votes of elected officials, progress on these issues will continue to stall.

Clearly, when moneyed interests can spend virtually without limitation to influence our elections, they can set the political agenda.

The Citizens United ruling gutted the ability of Congress and the states to put common-sense limits on this runaway spending, and the effects haven’t been subtle. In the wake of these campaign finance changes, outside political spending by Super PACs and other channels has reached an all-time high of $1 billion, the Associated Press found.

And now, a case currently being considered by the Supreme Court, McCutcheon v. FEC, could could allow even more money to flood our political system.

This isn’t the kind of “democracy” Americans of any political background want. A recent poll shows that more than nine in ten Americans think it’s important for elected officials to reduce the influence of money in our elections.

Though the problem of money in politics can feel overwhelming, there are a number of workable solutions being considered federally and implemented in the states.

Small-donor legislation is one good option. This type of law provides matching funds for small donations at a multiple ratio (such as 5:1 or 10:1). It also amplifies the effect of small donations, providing a way for them to carry real weight in political campaigns. That encourages political participation by people who may have felt before that their contributions didn’t matter.

For candidates, small-donor public financing provides an alternative for those who don’t want to be reliant on, and beholden to, wealthy special interests to fund their campaigns.

Another is the mandatory disclosure of political spending. Although Congress isn’t likely to pass disclosure legislation anytime soon, many states are responding to the post-Citizens United spending bonanza by closing loopholes so that big, special interest donors can’t hide behind “dark money” groups in elections.

Additionally, the year after Citizens United, a group of law professors asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending to their shareholders and the public. Despite the proposal’s immense popularity, the SEC recently took the corporate political disclosure rule (SEC File No 4-637) off its agenda. That agenda, however, isn’t binding, and the SEC could — and should — still adopt the rule right away.

But most importantly, to fix our democracy problem, we have to be able to enact common-sense regulations on political spending. To fix the root problem — in the absence of a change in who’s on the Supreme Court – we must amend the Constitution to undo the damage ofCitizens United and other cases that have handed huge power to Wall Street and giant corporations.

City by city and state by state, the people are taking that power back. Sixteen states and more than 500 cities and towns have called on Congress to pass an amendment overturningCitizens United and related cases.

All of these solutions are steps toward a larger goal: putting our democracy back in the hands of “we the people,” and fighting for a more transparent, vibrant democratic system responsive to the needs of everyday Americans.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Guantanamo Detainees Describe Despair 5 Years After Obama Promised Closure

NOVANEWS

Five years after President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay within one year, detainees have described their despair at conditions and their indefinite detention. Recent legislative amendments by Congress removed obstacles to transferring cleared detainees out of the prison.

Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a cleared Syrian, said:

“I am dying every day many, many times. Sometimes because of my illness, and sometimes because of the oppression by the guards here, and sometimes because of the doctors, and sometimes because of the pressure they put on us and because of the length of our unfair imprisonment.

I had wanted to live in peace with my wife and our children and we had planned our future and the future of our children together, but they destroyed our dreams and our plans, they did not let us live . . . Twelve years I have been unable to see my children, not out of choice, but because I was denied the ability to see them, and without reason.”

A recent report by lawyers at the human rights charity Reprieve revealed that 33 men are back on hunger strike and being force-fed twice daily. Authorities have clamped down on information coming out of the prison, including no longer releasing official numbers of hunger strikers because it was furthering the men’s peaceful protest.

Cleared British resident Shaker Aamer, whose British wife and their four children live in London, is one of the men back on hunger strike. He told his lawyer that he: “Lost 25 lbs in a week over Christmas.”

David Cameron has repeatedly stated that he wants Shaker returned home to the UK and he last year raised My Aamer’s case with President Obama. Shaker has been cleared for release under both the Bush and Obama administrations yet remains held without charge or trial.

155 men are still held at Guantanamo Bay, despite President Obama signing an Executive Order of January 22nd 2009 to close the prison within a year. More than half the detainees have been cleared for release, a process involving unanimous agreement by six US federal agencies that they pose no threat to the United States. Last year, Guantanamo’s Chief Prosecutor announced that less than 3% of all the men who had been held at the prison would ever be tried.

Recent Congressional amendments to the annually-renewed National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), removed the certification requirement for countries to which detainees can be resettled removing obstacles to Obama transferring cleared men out of the prison.

Clare Algar, Reprieve’s Executive Director, said: “Five years ago today the detainees were full of hope that finally their nightmare would be over. Yet still they sit in the hell of Guantanamo Bay. President Obama has no excuses left, why is it still open? And why are cleared men like Shaker Aamer still not home with their families where they belong?”

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Ukraine’s Big Brother Text: “Dear Subscriber, You Are Registered as Participant in Mass Riot”

NOVANEWS

Text comes amid clashes as new anti-protest laws take effect

– Lauren McCauley

(Photo: CIAT International/ cc/ Flickr)”Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass riot.”

That was the message received by all mobile phone users who were in the vicinity of protests in Kiev, Ukraine Tuesday morning.

In what many are saying is a move straight out of George Orwell’s novel 1984 the Ukrainian authorities are using cutting-edge pinpointing technology and presumably a “pirate” cell phone tower to intimidate and track protesters.

The phrasing of the message echoes the language used in a new anti-protest law that makes it a crime to participate in a protest deemed violent, “the passing of which served as a spark for the radicalization of the protest movement over the weekend,” the Guardian reports.

The law went into effect on Tuesday, and calls for jail sentences of up to 15 years for participating in mass riots.

The Ukrainian government appears to be using cutting-edge targeting technology, most commonly used by the advertising industry, to pinpoint the locations of cell phones in use near clashes between riot police officers and protesters, the New York Times reports.

As Vice reporter Brian Merchant notes, “Using a cell phone near a clash lands you on the regime’s hit list.”

The Times continues:

Three cellphone companies in Ukraine — Kyivstar, MTS and Life — denied that they had provided the location data to the government or had sent the text messages, the newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda reported. Kyivstar suggested that it was instead the work of a “pirate” cellphone tower set up in the area.

The text message was intended to frighten some of the more moderate protesters, protest leaders said, as the more radical demonstrators erected barricades and clashed with security forces in a street battle which has been ongoing since Sunday. The tension is the culmination of a months-long demonstration during which over a million people marched and peaceably occupied government buildings in growing opposition to the ruling government of President Viktor Yanukovich.

The Guardian continues:

Prosecutor general Viktor Pshonka issued a statement on Monday calling the disturbances in Kiev “crimes against the state”. Ukraine‘s president, Viktor Yanukovych, said he had tried to listen to peaceful demands but would use “all legal methods provided for by the laws of Ukraine to guarantee public safety.”

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Pakistan: Need of Timely Action against Terrorism

NOVANEWS

By Sajjad Shaukat

In order to resolve the menace of terrorism, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on

January 29, this year announced the constitution of 4-member committee comprising impartial

personalities to open negotiations with the warring Taliban. The committee has started

contacts with all the militant groups, especially Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which has

also welcomed government’s offer of peace dialogue. But at the same time, while referring to

the recent terrorist attacks in Bannu, Peshawar, Hangu, assaults on anti-polio workers, media,

minorities and religious scholars, prime minister also stated, “All state institutions will stand

behind the government, if it decides to use force against terrorists.” He also clarified that talks

and terrorism cannot go together, and asked the militants to observe a ceasefire.

Quite contrarily, TTP-led militants continued their subversive activities, particularly in Khyber

Pakhtoonkhwa and Karachi, while in Balochistan, the Taliban have connections with other

insurgents’ outfits like Balachistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Jundollah (God’s soldiers),

which are also involved in similar acts of terrorism.

In fact, since the present government came into power, it has been wavering between fact and

scepticism by following the policy of appeasement towards all the militant groups, especially

TTP which has not ended its terror-activities such as suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted

killings, ruthless beheadings of the innocent people, assaults on security personnel and prominent

Unfortunately, Pakistan is faced with extremely wicked, enigmatically elusive and subjectively

imprecise threat posed by terrorism or TPP. The irony of the fate is that terrorists wear

homogeneously accepted garbs as servants of Islam and use religion as their most effective mask

and credible smokescreen. Their main pledges included demands for enforcement of Islamic

system of governance by imposing Shariah laws (Islamic jurisprudence) in the country, ending

diplomatic relations with US and western world and undertaking Jihad against the non-Muslims.

They became self-proclaimed campaigners of Islam, rejecting all dissenting views on explicit

explanations of Shariah.

Rigidly, locked in insular mind-set, the terrorists, particularly of the TTP oppose the constitution

of Pakistan, reject the system of governance and fight the Armed Forces by leaving no stone

unturned in promoting their politically motivated agenda to gratify their power motives. Whereas

they cause loss of lives, damage property and subject the entire nation with psychological pain

and grief, while showing no compassion by openly rejoicing their criminal strikes.

Now, these militants are expanding their violent activities by targeting all unguarded, reticent

and mute segments of society. The aim is to blow out their boasting audacity and show off their

strength of defiance. Suicide bombings on the personnel of the security forces and law-enforcing

agencies present one pattern, while targeting schools, shrines, mosques and places of worship,

religious processions, funerals and markets specially meant for women and children clearly

explain their un-Islamic patterns of behaviour.

Condemning the latest acts of terrorism, particularly in Rawalpindi by the TTP, Prime Minister

Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stated that attacks on innocent

persons and armed forces would not be tolerated. On the one side, they have repeatedly been

emphasizing upon peace talks with the Taliban, especially with the TTP, while on the other,

taking note of their terror-attacks, they have also suggested strong action against these militants.

In this context, although the rulers have expedited the formulation and promulgation of anti-
terror laws as part of counter-terrorism strategy, yet they are considering two options-dialogue or

It is mentionable that TTP is acting upon shrewd tactics, as sometimes it claims responsibility for

its terror-assaults and sometimes denies the same. For example, when its militants had attacked

the church in Peshawar in September, 2013, TTP did not accept responsibility, but afterwards, by

misinterpreting Islam, its spokesman said that it was in accordance with Shariah. Similarly, TTP

condemned bomb blast in the Tableeghi Markaz (preaching center) in Peshawar, which killed

nine people on January 16, 2014, but, it claimed responsibility of attacks on police in Malakand,

Shangla and Mansehra including military convoy in Bannu and R.A Bazaar near GHQ.

Notably, the TTP new Chief Maulana Fazlullah had dismissed the proposed peace negotiations

with the government as a “waste of time”, and vowed to target the prime minister, chief minister,

chief of army staff and corpse commanders.

However, tough terms of the TTP for reconciliation show double game. In the recent past, in

a letter, Pakistani Taliban demanded that Pakistan should pull out of the Afghan war, abandon

its pro-American and pro-western policies and change its constitution and foreign policy in

conformity with Islamic Shariah.

But, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had pointed out that the Taliban’s offer of

conditional truce was unacceptable, adding, “Taliban groups cannot dictate the state.” While

indicating unclear policy, the government is indirectly pacifying the TTP and other Taliban

insurgents who have been encouraged, and keep on challenging the writ of the state.

While, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif initiated peace process with the Taliban in accordance

with the decision of the All Parties Conference (APC) in which leaders of the mainstream

political parties had participated. Contrarily, now, situation has entirely changed. Recently, while

condemning the inhuman activities of the insurgents, particularly by those of the TTP, more than

100 Islamic scholars clarified in their joint fatwa (edict) and separate statements that “killing

of innocent people, target killings and suicide bombings including sectarianism are against the

spirit of Islam…the terrorists’ self-adopted interpretation of Islam was nothing but ignorance and

digression from the actual teachings of the religion.”

In fact, Islam is a religion of universal application, as it emphasizes peace, democracy,

moderation and human rights including tolerance of political groups, religious communities and

sects which are in minority in a country. In this connection, the Constitution of 1973 which was

unanimously adopted, clearly states that Pakistan is basically a democracy guided by the Islamic

principles and values—no law would be made contrary to Quran and Sunnah.

Undoubtedly, Jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as

murdering innocent women and children is not Jihad. These Taliban and their banned affiliated

groups are defaming Islam, concept of Jihad, and are weakening Pakistan.

As terrorists have accelerated their anti-social, undemocratic and un-Islamic practices, hence,

people from all segment of life and majority of politicians want that a handful of terrorist

elements must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-perceived ideology

on the majority of Pakistanis.

While the present government issued three ordinances which are before the parliament—yet to

take a concrete form of law. Nonetheless, it is due to delay in formulation and implementation of

counter-terrorism policy that the Taliban who continue their brutal acts have been encouraged by

the contradictory approach of the present government.

Terrorism as a phenomenon needs to be fought collectively and the entire nation has to put up a

collective effort. In this regard, a meaningful message must immediately be sent to the terrorists

that the government has the will and power to eliminate them.

Government has to take lead to fight the threat posed by terrorists, especially those of the TTP.

Bloodshed must not be allowed to spread at the will of the militants. There is a dire need to

develop political will to fight the insurgents through well-devised strategy and firm resolve. The

writ of the Govt must be established at all costs and all and sundry be brought to the folds of law.

In this regard, political leadership must take tough, but rationale decisions without any further

delay. It must also be realized that time is running out, while terrorists are getting stronger with

For the purpose, Pakistan’s political leaders and media anchors must condemn terrorists’ attacks

on the innocent persons, personnel of the security forces and other law-enforcing agencies with

disdain and social contempt. They must pay homage to those who lost their lives while fighting

the terrorists. For example, this includes Police officers like Chaudhary Aslam (Martyred) and

young student Aitzaz Hussan (Martyred), as the entire nation is proud of such brave sons of soil.

Besides, terror attacks at Peshawar Tableeghi Markaz must be thoroughly investigated and the

culprits must be brought to book.

Particularly, religious clerics must come forward to denounce such subversive acts, and

participate actively in countering the menace of terrorism. Different factions must hold collective

conferences on faith related issues and society be organized to fight these criminal elements.

Despite all the efforts, there is a dire need to devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with the

terrorists with iron hands. Therefore, instead of pursuing contradictory policy, the government

needs to act upon a timely action against terrorism, as any delay in this respect will further

embolden these militants who will intensify their terror attacks.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,

Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Pakistan: Need of Timely Action against Terrorism

Pakistan: War with the Ruthless Enemy

NOVANEWS

By Sajjad Shaukat

While describing war between two sovereign states, Clausewitz concedes that commerce and

diplomacy are much like war. According to him, “War is a clash between major interests which

are resolved by bloodshed—that is the only way in which it differs from other conflicts.” Despite

it, the two warring parties follow the rules of the game and Geneva Conventions, and observe

ceasefire, ultimately settle their dispute through agreement.

Although war against terrorism is quite different, as it is against an invisible and the ruthless

enemy which does not respect any rule, yet we can remember Shakespeare’s poetic expression

which described war as ‘sons of hell’ is even applicable today, as violent acts of destruction, fire

and obliterating devastation engulf the entire span of living and social order, especially regions

falling under world conflict zones including Pakistan.

It will not be incorrect to assert that the menace of terrorism in Pakistan has spread like a civic

morbidity analogous to contagious disease such as Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) which is extremely

feeble and elusively fragile to withstand environmental exposures. HCV moves through

concealed routes of blood and secreted material to reach the sensitive organs like liver and brain

with a view to ensuring its survival, and consolidate its position to destroy the entire building

Since terrorism is illegal and unconstitutional, therefore, it tends to enlarge its size through

illegitimate means, using covert tactics and clandestine undercurrents. In this regard, during the

last ten years, Pakistan which has become special arena of this new style war has been facing

terror-activities such as suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings, ruthless beheadings of

the innocent people, assaults on security personnel and prominent religious figures. Besides

blowing children schools and attacking the female teachers in order to deny education to girls,

the militants also targeted mosques, Imambargahs, mausoleums, and disgraced dead bodies.

Their pitiless acts resulted into killings of several persons in Pakistan.

Besides other cities of Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Balochistan and Karachi,

these terrorists have accelerated their anti-social, undemocratic and un-Islamic practices where

their merciless activities continue unabated.

However, their coldblooded actions could be judged from a recent video which was uploaded by

Rasool Jan who had joined the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in 2008, and left the TTP after

having seen the acts of barbarism by the thugs. They had decapitated their victims and played

soccer with the heads chopped by the TTP Commander of Matini named Jangraiz Khan. This

shows insurgents’ disrespect of human life and their lack of knowledge about Islam.

Undoubtedly, in our country, the victims of terror attacks and suicide bombings have been

innocent men, women and children. Their families mourn and raise a question asking for what

crime their loved ones were punished in a way—that the scattered pieces of their dead bodies

were assimilated to bury. Regrettably, those entities which try to justify terrorism and suicide

bombings in the name of Islam are misguiding the people, while these brutal acts are clearly

against the teachings of Islam.

In this context, during a lecture in Riyadh in December 2013, Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti Sheikh

Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh branded suicide bombers as “criminals” who would go to

“hell.” He described suicide bombers as “robbed of their minds…who have been used (as tools)

to destroy themselves and societies.” In February 2010, Sheikh denounced terrorism as un-
Islamic and condemned the killing of civilians, saying such attacks have nothing to do with the

It is notable that anti-Pakistan foreign powers support these terrorists through ideological

direction, lethal weapons, sophisticated equipments, training in militancy and financial

sustenance including availability and management of space within local population—making the

insurgents to sell their fractured philosophy and criminal designs. In fact, it would not be out of

place to argue that the terrorists without the assistance of local sympathisers become “fish out of

water” and their misguided thoughts, leading to heinous acts of violence also die a natural death.

It is mentionable that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his sermon at Hajjatul Wida issued

directions for protection of life, property and dignity of the whole mankind. Quite contrarily,

these miscreants who have been carrying out ferocious attacks on innocent persons, civil and

military installations including personnel of the security forces and law-enforcing agencies, also

take pride in claiming the responsibility for the same.

Nevertheless, Islam considers killing one innocent person equal to murdering the entire

humanity, while Jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as

murdering innocent women and children is not Jihad. These Taliban and their banned affiliated

groups are defaming Islam and are weakening Pakistan.

Recent upsurge in terrorist activities in different parts of the country have brought a sad sense

of remorse, psychological pain and deep feelings of distress for the entire Pakistani nation. No

doubt, the terrorists have proved themselves as the ‘real sons of hell’ having no sympathy for old

or young, men or women, adults or children and guilty or innocent. They simply sell the flames

of hell and earn nothing, but curses of society. They are actually filthy eggs and spoiled people,

suffering from juvenile delinquency, psychological disorder of dispossession and confused

In order to resolve the menace of terrorism, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on

January 29, this year announced the constitution of 4-member committee comprising impartial

personalities to open negotiations with the warring Taliban. The committee has started contacts

with all the militant groups, particularly TTP which has also welcomed government’s offer of

peace dialogue. But at the same time, while referring to the recent terrorist attacks in Bannu,

Peshawar, Hangu, assaults on anti-polio workers, media, minorities and religious scholars, prime

minister also stated, “All state institutions will stand behind the government, if it decides to use

force against terrorists.” He also clarified that talks and terrorism cannot go together, and asked

the militants to observe a ceasefire.

Quite contrarily, TTP-led militants continued their subversive activities, particularly in Khyber

Pakhtoonkhwa and Karachi, while in Balochistan, the Taliban have connections with other

insurgents’ outfits like Balachistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Jundollah (God’s soldiers),

which are also involved in similar activities of terrorism.

In fact, since the present government came into power, it has been wavering between fact and

scepticism by following the policy of appeasement towards all the militant groups, especially

TTP which has not ended its terror-activities.

Since the terrorists reject valid logic to respect the constitution and remain loyal to their own

state within the state and want to impose their self-perceived ideology on the majority of

Pakistanis, therefore, they should be dealt with an iron hand. Instead of appeasing these militants,

the government must employ a comprehensive and an all-encompassing strategy to eliminate

the threat posed by terrorism. In this respect, counter-terrorism strategy must be enacted and

implemented without losing more time. And the entire society must support the rulers in their

efforts to fight the menace of terrorism, while the Judiciary must punish these criminals, and the

government must ensure quick execution of death penalties awarded by the courts.

Especially, our media must not provide any space to the terrorists, as some media channels are

proactively making pleas that terrorists have already started targeting media for not projecting

their stance. Such pleas are unjust, as media is part of the Pakistani state where terrorism is

to be countered. For the purpose, our media anchors must run an anti-terrorism campaign by

condemning all acts of terrorism, and show realistic approach by pointing out that it is collective

And Pakistan’s religious clerics and scholars must come forward to denounce subversive acts,

and participate actively in countering the menace of terrorism. Different factions must hold

collective conferences on faith related issues and society be organized to fight these criminal

Hence, instead of pursuing contradictory policy of dialogue and military action, the government

needs to act upon a timely action against these insurgents, as any delay in this context will

further embolden these merciless terrorists who continue their terror-attacks.

Nonetheless, the right hour has come that Pakistan’s media, politicians and leaders of religious

parties including security forces must show practical unity against these zealots who seek to

create anarchy in the country to accomplish their self-motivated agenda. So, this war needs a

concrete unified front of all the segments of society, which is essential to defeat the ruthless

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,

Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Pakistan: War with the Ruthless Enemy

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