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    U.S. Helped Pakistan Get IMF Bailout With Secret Arms Deal for Ukraine, Leaked Documents Reveal / TheIntercept · Monday, 18 September - 00:00 · 13 minutes

Secret Pakistani arms sales to the U.S. helped to facilitate a controversial bailout from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year, according to two sources with knowledge of the arrangement, with confirmation from internal Pakistani and American government documents. The arms sales were made for the purpose of supplying the Ukrainian military — marking Pakistani involvement in a conflict it had faced U.S. pressure to take sides on.

The revelation is a window into the kind of behind-the-scenes maneuvering between financial and political elites that rarely is exposed to the public, even as the public pays the price. Harsh structural policy reforms demanded by the IMF as terms for its recent bailout kicked off an ongoing round of protests in the country. Major strikes have taken place throughout Pakistan in recent weeks in response to the measures.

The protests are the latest chapter in a year-and-a-half-long political crisis roiling the country. In April 2022, the Pakistani military, with the encouragement of the U.S., helped organize a no-confidence vote to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan. Ahead of the ouster, State Department diplomats privately expressed anger to their Pakistani counterparts over what they called Pakistan’s “aggressively neutral” stance on the Ukraine war under Khan. They warned of dire consequences if Khan remained in power and promised “all would be forgiven” if he were removed.

“Pakistani democracy may ultimately be a casualty of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.”

Since Khan’s ouster, Pakistan has emerged as a useful supporter of the U.S. and its allies in the war, assistance that has now been repaid with an IMF loan. The emergency loan allowed the new Pakistani government to put off a looming economic catastrophe and indefinitely postpone elections — time it used to launch a nationwide crackdown on civil society and jail Khan .

“Pakistani democracy may ultimately be a casualty of Ukraine’s counteroffensive,” Arif Rafiq, a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute and specialist on Pakistan, told The Intercept.

Pakistan is known as a production hub for the types of basic munitions needed for grinding warfare. As Ukraine grappled with chronic shortages of munitions and hardware, the presence of Pakistani-produced shells and other ordinances by the Ukrainian military has surfaced in open-source news reports about the conflict, though neither the U.S. nor the Pakistanis have acknowledged the arrangement.

Records detailing the arms transactions were leaked to The Intercept earlier this year by a source within the Pakistani military. The documents describe munitions sales agreed to between the U.S. and Pakistan from the summer of 2022 to the spring of 2023. Some of the documents were authenticated by matching the signature of an American brigadier general with his signature on publicly available mortgage records in the United States; by matching the Pakistani documents with corresponding American documents; and by reviewing publicly available but previously unreported Pakistani disclosures of arms sales to the U.S. posted by the State Bank of Pakistan.

The weapons deals were brokered, according to the documents, by Global Military Products, a subsidiary of Global Ordnance, a controversial arms dealer whose entanglements with less-than-reputable figures in Ukraine were the subject of a recent New York Times article.

Documents outlining the money trail and talks with U.S. officials include American and Pakistani contracts, licensing, and requisition documents related to U.S.-brokered deals to buy Pakistani military weapons for Ukraine.

The economic capital and political goodwill from the arms sales played a key role in helping secure the bailout from the IMF, with the State Department agreeing to take the IMF into confidence regarding the undisclosed weapons deal, according to sources with knowledge of the arrangement, and confirmed by a related document.

To win the loan, Pakistan had been told by the IMF it had to meet certain financing and refinancing targets related to its debt and foreign investment — targets that the country was struggling to meet. The weapons sales came to the rescue, with the funds garnered from the sale of munitions for Ukraine going a long way to cover the gap.

Securing the loan eased economic pressure, enabling the military government to delay elections — a potential reckoning in the long aftermath of Khan’s removal — and deepen the crackdown against Khan’s supporters and other dissenters. The U.S. remained largely silent about the extraordinary scale of the human rights violations that pushed the future of Pakistan’s embattled democracy into doubt.

“The premise is that we have to save Ukraine, we have to save this frontier of democracy on the eastern perimeter of Europe,” said Rafiq. “And then this brown Asian country has to pay the price. So they can be a dictatorship, their people can be denied the freedoms that every other celebrity in this country is saying we need to support Ukraine for — the ability to choose our leaders, ability to have civic freedoms, the rule of law, all these sorts of things that may differentiate many European countries and consolidated democracies from Russia.”

KARACHI, PAKISTAN - FEBRUARY 13: President of Azad Jammu And Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan attends the 9th International Maritime Conference with the theme "Development of Blue Economy under a Secure and Sustainable Environment - A Shared Future for Western Indian Ocean Region" organized by National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) in Karachi, Pakistan on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Muhammed Semih Ugurlu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Masood Khan attends the 9th International Maritime Conference in Karachi, Pakistan on Feb. 13, 2021.

Photo: Muhammed Semih Ugurlu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Bombs for Bailouts

On May 23, 2023, according to The Intercept’s investigation, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Masood Khan sat down with Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu at the State Department in Washington, D.C., for a meeting about how Pakistani arms sales to Ukraine could shore up its financial position in the eyes of the IMF. The goal of the sit-down, held on a Tuesday, was to hash out details of the arrangement ahead of an upcoming meeting in Islamabad the following Friday between U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome and then-Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Lu told Khan at the May 23 meeting that the U.S. had cleared payment for the Pakistani munitions production and would tell the IMF confidentially about the program. Lu acknowledged the Pakistanis believed the arms contributions to be worth $900 million, which would help to cover a remaining gap in the financing required by the IMF, pegged at roughly $2 billion. What precise figure the U.S. would relay to the IMF remained to be negotiated, he told Khan.

At the meeting on Friday, Dar brought up the IMF question with Blome, according to a report in Pakistan Today , which said that “the meeting highlighted the significance of addressing the stalled IMF deal and finding effective solutions to Pakistan’s economic challenges.”

A spokesperson at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington declined to comment, referring questions to the State Department. A spokesperson for the State Department denied the U.S. played any role in helping procure the loan. “Negotiations over the IMF review were a matter for discussion between Pakistan and IMF officials,” the spokesperson said. “The United States was not party to those discussions, though we continue to encourage Pakistan to engage constructively with the IMF on its reform program.”

An IMF spokesperson denied the institution was pressured but did not comment on whether it was taken into confidence about the weapons program. “We categorically deny the allegation that there was any external pressure on the IMF in one way or another while discussing support to Pakistan,” said IMF spokesperson Randa Elnagar. (Global Ordnance, the firm involved in the arms deal, did not respond to a request for comment.)

“My understanding, based on conversations with folks in the administration, has been that we supported the IMF loan package given the desperate economic situation in Pakistan.”

The State Department’s denial was contradicted by Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a leading voice in Washington on foreign affairs. Earlier this month, Van Hollen told a group of Pakistani journalists, “The United States has been very instrumental in making sure that the IMF came forward with its emergency economic relief.” Van Hollen, whose parents were both stationed in Pakistan as State Department officials, was born in Karachi and is known to be the closest observer of Pakistan in Congress.

In an interview with The Intercept at the Capitol on Tuesday, Van Hollen said that his knowledge of the U.S. role in facilitating the IMF loan came directly from the Biden administration. “My understanding, based on conversations with folks in the administration, has been that we supported the IMF loan package given the desperate economic situation in Pakistan,” he said.

Eleventh-Hour IMF Deal

The diplomatic discussion about the loan came a month before a June 30 deadline for the IMF’s review of a planned billion-dollar payment, part of a $6 billion agreement made in 2019. A failed review would mean no cash infusion, but, in the months and weeks ahead of the deadline, Pakistani officials publicly denied that they faced serious challenges in financing the new loan.

In early 2023, Dar, the finance minister, said that external financing assurance — in other words, financial commitments from places like China, the Gulf states, or the U.S. — were not a condition the IMF was insisting Pakistan meet. In March 2023, however, the IMF representative in charge of dealing with Pakistan publicly contradicted Dar’s rosy assessment. IMF’s Esther Perez Ruiz said in an email to Reuters that all borrowers need to be able to demonstrate that they can finance repayments. “Pakistan is no exception,” Perez said.

The IMF statement sent Pakistani officials scrambling for a solution. The required financing, according to public reporting and confirmed by sources with knowledge of the arrangement, was set at $6 billion. To reach that goal, the Pakistani government claimed it had secured roughly $4 billion in commitments from Gulf countries. The secret arms deal for Ukraine would allow Pakistan to add nearly another billion dollars to its balance sheet — if the U.S. would let the IMF in on the secret.

“It was at an impasse because of the remaining $2 billion,” said Rafiq, the Middle East Institute scholar. “So if that figure is accurate, the $900 million, that’s almost half of that. That’s pretty substantial in terms of that gap that had to be bridged.”

On June 29, a day before the original program was set to expire, the IMF made a surprise announcement that instead of extending the previous series of loans and releasing the next $1.1 billion installment, the bank would instead be entering an agreement — “called a Stand-By Arrangement” — with fewer strings attached, more favorable terms, and valued at $3 billion.

“Had that not happened, there would have been a full-blown economic meltdown in the country. So it was a make-or-break moment.”

The agreement included the conditions that the currency would be allowed to float freely and energy subsidies would be withdrawn. The deal was finalized in July after Parliament approved the conditions, including a nearly 50 percent increase in the cost of energy.

Uzair Younus, director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, said that the IMF deal was critical to Pakistan’s short-term economic survival. “Had that not happened, there would have been a full-blown economic meltdown in the country,” Younus said. “So it was a make-or-break moment.”

The question of how Pakistan overcame its financing obstacles, has remained a mystery even to those following the situation professionally. The IMF issues public accounting of its reviews, Rafiq noted, but doing so if the financing relates to secret military projects presents an unusual challenge. “Pakistan is very strange, in many ways,” he said, “but I don’t know how a secret, covert, clandestine military program would figure into their calculations, because everything’s supposed to be open and by the books and all that.”

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN, MAY, 09: Police fire tear gas to disperse supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan protesting against the arrest of their leader, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Khan was arrested and dragged from court as he appeared there to face charges in multiple graft cases, a dramatic escalation of political tensions that sparked violent demonstrations by his supporters in major cities. (Photo by Hussain Ali/Pacific Press/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Police fire tear gas to disperse supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan protesting against the arrest of their leader in Peshawar, Pakistan, on May 9, 2023.

Photo: Hussain Ali/Pacific Press/Sipa via AP

Imran Khan, Ukraine, and Pakistan’s Future

At the start of the Ukraine war, Pakistan was in a markedly different geopolitical and economic position. When the conflict began, Khan, at the time the prime minister, was in the air on the way to Moscow for a long-planned bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The visit outraged American officials.

As The Intercept previously reported , Lu, the senior State Department official, said in a meeting with then-Pakistani Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan two weeks after the invasion that it was the belief of the U.S. that Pakistan had taken a neutral position solely at Khan’s direction, adding that “all would be forgiven” if Khan was removed in the no-confidence vote. Since his ouster, Pakistan has firmly taken the side of the U.S. and Ukraine in the war.

The U.S., meanwhile, continues to deny that it put its thumbs on the scale of Pakistani democracy — for Ukraine or any other reason. At an off-the-record, virtual town hall with members of the Pakistani diaspora at the end of August, Lu’s deputy, Elizabeth Horst, responded to questions about The Intercept’s reporting on Lu’s meeting with the Pakistani ambassador.

“I want to take a moment to address disinformation about the United States’s role in Pakistani politics,” Horst said at the top of the call, audio of which was provided to The Intercept by an attendee. “We do not let propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation get in the way of any bilateral relationship, including our valued relationship with Pakistan. The United States does not have a position on one political candidate or one party versus another. Any claims to the contrary, including reports on the alleged cypher are false, and senior Pakistani officials themselves have acknowledged this isn’t true.”

Senior Pakistani officials, including former Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, have confirmed the authenticity of the cable, known internally as a cypher, published by The Intercept.

Van Hollen, in his press briefing with Pakistani journalists, took the same line as the State Department, saying that he had been assured by the administration that the U.S. did not interfere in Pakistani politics. In his interview with The Intercept, he clarified that he meant the U.S. did not engineer Khan’s ouster. “I’m not disputing the accuracy of the cable,” Van Hollen said. “Look, I have no idea where the administration is on what their view is on the final result, but I do not read that [cable] to mean that the United States engineered his removal.”

After orchestrating Khan’s removal, the military embarked on a campaign to eradicate his political party through a wave of killings and mass detentions. Khan himself is currently imprisoned on charges of mishandling a classified document and facing some 150 additional charges — allegations widely viewed as a pretext to stop him from contesting future elections.

Horst, at the town hall, was also pressed as to why the U.S. has been so muted in response to the crackdown. She argued the U.S. had, in fact, spoken up on behalf of democracy. “Look, I know many of you feel strongly and are very concerned about the situation in Pakistan. I’ve heard from you. Trust me when I say I see you, I hear from you. And I want to be responsive,” she said. “We do continue to speak up publicly and privately for Pakistan’s democracy.”

While Pakistan reels from the impact of IMF-directed austerity policies and the political dysfunction that followed Khan’s removal, its new military leaders have made lofty promises that foreign economic support will rescue the country. According to reports in the Pakistani publication Dawn, Army Chief Gen. Asim Munir recently told a gathering of Pakistani businessmen that the country could expect as much as $100 billion in new investment from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, hinting that there would be no more appeals to the IMF.

There is little evidence, however, that the Gulf nations are willing to come to Pakistan’s rescue. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, recently announced major investments and economic partnerships with India during a visit there for the G20 summit. Despite reports in the Pakistani press expressing hope that MBS would pay Pakistan a visit, none materialized, let alone any major new investment announcements.

The absence of other foreign support left Pakistan’s embattled military regime further dependent on the IMF, the U.S., and the production of munitions for the war in Ukraine to sustain itself through a crisis that shows no sign of resolution.

The post U.S. Helped Pakistan Get IMF Bailout With Secret Arms Deal for Ukraine, Leaked Documents Reveal appeared first on The Intercept .

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    New York Times Doesn’t Want Its Stories Archived / TheIntercept · Sunday, 17 September - 10:00 · 4 minutes

The New York Times tried to block a web crawler that was affiliated with the famous Internet Archive, a project whose easy-to-use comparisons of article versions has sometimes led to embarrassment for the newspaper.

In 2021, the New York Times added “ia_archiver” — a bot that, in the past, captured huge numbers of websites for the Internet Archive — to a list that instructs certain crawlers to stay out of its website.

Crawlers are programs that work as automated bots to trawl websites, collecting data and sending it back to a repository, a process known as scraping. Such bots power search engines and the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine , a service that facilitates the archiving and viewing of historic versions of websites going back to 1996.

The New York Times has, in the past, faced public criticisms over some of its stealth edits.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has long been used to compare webpages as they are updated over time, clearly delineating the differences between two iterations of any given page. Several years ago, the archive added a feature called “ Changes ” that lets users compare two archived versions of a website from different dates or times on a single display. The tool can be used to uncover changes in news stories that have been made without any accompanying editorial notes, so-called stealth edits.

The Times has, in the past, faced public criticisms over some of its stealth edits. In a notorious 2016 incident, the paper revised an article about then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., so drastically after publication — changing the tone from one of praise to skepticism — that it came in for a round of opprobrium from other outlets as well as the Times’s own public editor . The blogger who first noticed the revisions and set off the firestorm demonstrated the changes by using the Wayback Machine.

More recently, the Times stealth-edited an article that originally listed “death” as one of six ways “you can still cancel your federal student loan debt.” Following the edit, the “death” section title was changed to a more opaque heading of “debt won’t carry on.”

A service called NewsDiffs — which provides a similar comparative service but focuses on news outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, and others — has also chronicled a long list of significant examples of articles that have undergone stealth edits, though the service appears to not have been updated in several years.

The New York Times declined to comment on why it is barring the ia_archiver bot from crawling its website.

Robots.txt Files

The mechanism that websites use to block certain crawlers is a robots.txt file. If website owners want to request that a particular search engine or other automated bot not scan their website, they can add the crawler’s name to the file, which the website owner then uploads to their site where it can be publicly accessed.

Based on a web standard known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol , a robots.txt file allows site owners to specify whether they want to allow a bot to crawl either part of or their whole websites. Though bots can always choose to ignore the presence of the file, many crawler services respect the requests.

The current robots.txt file on the New York Times’s website includes an instruction to disallow all site access to the ia_archiver bot.

The relationship between ia_archiver and the Internet Archive is not completely straightforward. While the Internet Archive crawls the web itself, it also receives data from other entities. Ia_archiver was, for more than a decade, a prolific supplier of website data to the archive.

The bot belonged to Alexa Internet, a web traffic analysis company co-founded by Brewster Kahle, who went on to create the Internet Archive right after Alexa. Alexa Internet went on to be acquired by Amazon in 1999 — its trademark name was later used for Amazon’s signature voice-activated assistant — and was eventually sunset in 2022.

Throughout its existence, Alexa Internet was intricately intertwined with the Internet Archive. From 1996 to the end of 2020, the Internet Archive received over 3 petabytes — more than 3,000 terabytes — of crawled website data from Alexa. Its role in helping to fill the archive with material led users to urge website owners not to block ia_archiver under the mistaken notion that it was unrelated to the Internet Archive.

As late as 2015, the Wayback Machine offered instructions for preventing a site from being ingested into the Wayback Machine — by using the site’s robots.txt file. News websites such as the Washington Post proceeded to take full advantage of this and disallowed the ia_archiver bot.

By 2017, however, the Internet Archive announced its intention to stop abiding by the dictates of a site’s robots.txt. While the Internet Archive had already been disregarding the robots.txt for military and government sites, the new update expanded the move to disregard robots.txt for all sites. Instead, website owners could make manual exclusion requests by email.

Reputation management firms, for one, are keenly aware of the change. The New York Times, too, appears to have mobilized the more selective manual exclusion process, as certain Times stories are not available via the Wayback Machine.

Some news sites such as the Washington Post have since removed ia_archiver from their list of blocked crawlers. While other websites removed their ia_archiver blocks, however, in 2021, the New York Times decided to add it.

The post New York Times Doesn’t Want Its Stories Archived appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Vice Pulled a Documentary Critical of Saudi Arabia. But Here It Is. / TheIntercept · Saturday, 9 September - 11:00 · 4 minutes

In the past , Vice has documented the history of censorship on YouTube. More recently, since the company’s near implosion, it became an active participant in making things disappear.

In June, six months after announcing a partnership deal with a Saudi Arabian government-owned media company, Vice uploaded but then quickly removed a documentary critical of the Persian Gulf monarchy’s notorious dictator, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS.

The nearly nine-minute film, titled “Inside Saudi Crown Prince’s Ruthless Quest for Power,” was uploaded to the Vice News YouTube channel on June 19, 2023. It garnered more than three-quarters of a million views before being set to “private” within four days of being posted. It can no longer be seen at its original link on Vice’s YouTube channel; visitors see a message that says “video unavailable.” Vice did not respond to a request for comment on why the video was published and then made private or if there are any plans to make the video public again.

The Guardian first reported that a “film in the Vice world news Investigators series about Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was deleted from the internet after being uploaded.” Though Vice did remove the film from its public YouTube channel, it is, in fact, not “deleted from the internet” and presently remains publicly accessible via web archival services.

Vice’s description of the video, now also unavailable on YouTube, previously stated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed “orchestrates The Ritz Purge, kidnaps Saudi’s elites and royal relatives with allegations of torture inside, and his own men linked to the brutal hacking of Journalist Khashoggi – a murder that stunned the world.” The description goes on to state that Wall Street Journal reporters Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck “attempt to unfold the motivations of the prince’s most reckless decision-making.” Hope and Scheck are the co-authors of the 2020 book “Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest for Global Power.”

A screenshot from the documentary “Inside Saudi Crown Prince’s Ruthless Quest for Power,” which Vice News deleted from its YouTube channel.

Image: The Intercept; Source: Vice News

In the documentary, Hope states that Crown Prince Mohammed is “disgraced internationally” owing to the Jamal Khashoggi murder, a topic which Vice critically covered at length in the past. More recently, however, Vice has shifted its coverage of Saudi Arabia, apparently due to the growth of its commercial relationship with the kingdom. The relationship appears to have begun in 2017 , owing to MBS’s younger brother, Khalid bin Salman, being infatuated with the brand; bin Salman reportedly set up a meeting between Vice co-founder Shane Smith and MBS.

By the end of 2018, Vice had worked with the Saudi Research and Media Group to produce promotional videos for Saudi Arabia . A few days after the Guardian piece detailing the deal came out, an “industry source” told Variety (whose parent company, Penske Media Corporation, received $200 million from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund earlier that year) that Vice was “reviewing” its contract with SRMG.

A subsequent Guardian investigation revealed that in 2020, Vice helped organize a Saudi music festival subsidized by the Saudi government. Vice’s name was not listed on publicity materials for the event, and contractors working on the event were presented with nondisclosure agreements.

In 2021, Vice opened an office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The media company has gone from being “ banned from filming in Riyadh ” in 2018 to now actively recruiting for a producer “responsible for developing and assisting the producing of video content from short form content to long-form for our new media brand, headquartered in Riyadh.” The company lists 11 other Riyadh-based openings .

Commenting on the opening of the Riyadh office, a Vice spokesperson told the Guardian that “our editorial voice has and always will report with complete autonomy and independence.” In response to the Guardian recently asking about the rationale for the removal of the film, a Vice source stated that this was partially owing to concerns about the safety of Saudi-based staff.

In September 2022, the New York Times reported that Vice was considering engaging in a deal with the Saudi media company MBC. The deal was officially announced at the start of 2023. Most recently, the Guardian reported that Vice shelved a story which stated that the “Saudi state is helping families to harass and threaten transgender Saudis based overseas.” In response to this latest instance of apparent capitulation to advancing Saudi interests, the Vice Union issued a statement saying that it was “horrified but not shocked.” It added, “We know the company is financially bankrupt, but it shouldn’t be morally bankrupt too.”

Meanwhile, a map of Saudi Arabia reportedly hangs on a wall in Vice’s London office.

The post Vice Pulled a Documentary Critical of Saudi Arabia. But Here It Is. appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Inside the Lefty Congressional Delegation to Latin America / TheIntercept · Saturday, 9 September - 10:00

The U.S. and Venezuela are in talks to further relax sanctions in exchange for a free and fair election next year. This week on Deconstructed, Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, joins Ryan Grim to discuss the recent trip he, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other progressive Democrats took to Latin America, visiting with leaders and discussing the impact of past and present U.S. policies in the region — and how to rectify them. Casar discusses the U.S. role in dirty wars throughout the region, the urgency in establishing new relations with Latin America, and impact of policies on the region today.

Transcript coming soon.

The post Inside the Lefty Congressional Delegation to Latin America appeared first on The Intercept .

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    California Might Legalize Magic Mushrooms / TheIntercept · Friday, 8 September - 20:23 · 3 minutes

A bill to legalize psychedelics is on a trip to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

On Thursday, the California Senate gave final approval to a bill legalizing certain psychedelics for people who are 21 or older. If Newsom signs the bill, it will go into effect in 2025 and make it legal to possess or grow plant-based psychedelics, including psychedelic mushrooms.

Newsom has not said where he stands on the bill, but he has mostly been a critic against the war on drugs, having been a leading voice to legalize cannabis in California and reduce nonviolent offenses like drug crimes to misdemeanors rather than felonies. Last year, however, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed three California cities to operate supervised drug-consumption sites in efforts to combat fatal overdoses.

“We respect the legislative process and don’t typically comment on pending legislation,” a Newsom spokesperson told Marijuana Moment on Thursday. “The governor will evaluate the bill on its merits when it reaches his desk.”

Veterans are particularly invested in the issue, given mounting research showing how psychedelics can aid in treatments for mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder. “We hope that Governor Newsom agrees that veterans should not be criminalized for seeking healing through psychedelic substances and signs this bill into law,” Jesse Gould, former Army ranger and founder of veterans advocacy group Heroic Hearts Project, told The Intercept in a statement. He added that the U.S. has a long way to go in supporting treatment for military veterans. “We hope that more politicians step up to the plate and back their words of supporting the troops with real action. With the veteran suicide epidemic, veterans do not have the luxury of time to wait.”

Jon Kostas of the Apollo Pact, a group dedicated to making psychedelic-assisted treatments more accessible, argues that going through national avenues like the Food and Drug Administration would prove more effective than legalization in getting psychedelics to those who need it. Kostas was the first participant in a New York University clinical trial treating alcohol use disorder with psilocybin-assisted therapy. He credits the therapy with curing his alcoholism and saving his life.

“If they really want people to get access to it, if they really want to make these therapies affordable, the best way to do this is going through a federal level so insurance covers this,” Kostas said. “I’d love to see Medicare or Medicaid cover this. I’d love to see the VA cover this. And you’re not going to get that by legalizing this for recreational use.”

So far, Colorado and Oregon are the only states that have fully legalized the use of mushrooms. In Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., introduced an amendment in 2019 to expand research into psychedelics but was shut down by a majority of Democrats and nearly all Republicans. Ocasio-Cortez joined forces with Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, last year to attach amendments to the annual military spending bill to increase access to psychedelic treatments to veterans and active service members, as well as to expand research into psychedelic substances. Last summer, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched a number of clinical trials involving psychedelic drugs , which have shown promise in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The California bill names four substances: psilocybin, psilocin, dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, and mescaline.

The bill would decriminalize the use of the substances for noncommercial, personal use, as well as for the purposes of “group community-based healing” and “risk reduction.” The bill directs the state’s health and human services agency to create a working group that would make recommendations about the use of the substances in a therapeutic setting before legalization commences in 2025.

The bill would also allow Californians to plant and harvest an “allowable amount” of the legalized psychedelics: up to 4 grams of mescaline; 1 gram of DMT; and 1 gram of, or up to 1 ounce of a plant or fungi containing, either psilocybin or psilocin.

The bill does include some restrictions: It would make it a misdemeanor for adults to possess psychedelics on school grounds while school is in session and would fine and/or imprison those who knowingly give the substances to minors.

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    Pentagon Misled Congress About U.S. Bases in Africa / TheIntercept · Friday, 8 September - 14:53 · 10 minutes

Since a cadre of U.S.-trained officers joined a junta that overthrew Niger’s democratically elected president in late July, more than 1,000 U.S. troops have been largely confined to their Nigerien outposts, including America’s largest drone base in the region, Air Base 201 in Agadez.

The base, which has cost the U.S. a total of $250 million since construction began in 2016, is the key U.S. surveillance hub in West Africa. But in testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in March, the chief of U.S. Africa Command described Air Base 201 as “minimal” and “low cost.”

Gen. Michael Langley, the AFRICOM chief, told Congress about just two “enduring” U.S. forward operating sites in Africa: Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and a longtime logistics hub on Ascension Island in the south Atlantic Ocean. “The Command also operates out of 12 other posture locations throughout Africa,” he said in his prepared testimony. “These locations have minimal permanent U.S. presence and have low-cost facilities and limited supplies for these dedicated Americans to perform critical missions and quickly respond to emergencies.”

Experts say that Langley misled Congress, downplaying the size and scope of the U.S. footprint in Africa. AFRICOM’s “posture” on the continent actually consists of no fewer than 18 outposts, in addition to Camp Lemonnier and Ascension Island, according to information from AFRICOM’s secret 2022 theater posture plan, which was seen by The Intercept. A U.S. official with knowledge of AFRICOM’s current footprint on the continent confirmed that the same 20 bases are still in operation. Another two locations in Somalia and Ghana were also, according to the 2022 document, “under evaluation.”

Of the 20, Langley apparently failed to mention six so-called contingency locations in Africa, including a longtime drone base in Tunisia and other outposts used to wage U.S. shadow wars in Niger and Somalia . The U.S. military has often claimed that contingency locations are little more than spartan staging areas, but according to the joint chiefs of staff, such bases are critical to sustaining operations and may even be “ semi-permanent .”

“This is a case of the U.S. military showing a marked lack of transparency by using technicalities to avoid conveying an accurate understanding of the extent of U.S. bases in Africa.”

“This is a case of the U.S. military showing a marked lack of transparency by using technicalities to avoid conveying an accurate understanding of the extent of U.S. bases in Africa,” Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Costs of War project at Brown University, told The Intercept. “I’ve done field research near the sites of some of the ‘contingency locations’ that don’t seem to be part of the general’s official count, and in practice, if not in name, they serve as significant hubs of U.S. military operations. To not include them in an official count is to pull wool over the eyes of Congress and the U.S. public.”

Last week, a coalition of 20 progressive, humanitarian, and antiwar organizations called on the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to keep New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s cost of war amendment, which would require “more transparency around the price of our military presence overseas and public information about our military footprint” in the final version of the 2024 defense spending bill.

Annee Lorentzen of the Washington-based Just Foreign Policy, who helped lead advocacy efforts around the amendment, sees it as critical for Pentagon accountability. “It is nearly impossible for U.S. taxpayers and even members of Congress to keep track of the vast U.S. military presence in the world. Without basic transparency about the location and costs of U.S. military engagement abroad, including information on the cost of our hundreds of bases and countless partnerships with foreign militaries, legislators cannot have an informed debate about national security priorities,” she told The Intercept. “In a democratic system, voters and their elected representatives should not be in the dark about where their money and military are sent.”

AFRICOM refused to clarify Langley’s testimony. “AFRICOM has no statement in response to your questions,” Timothy Pietrack, the deputy chief of AFRICOM Public Affairs, told The Intercept.

Staff Sgt. Annabell Ryan , 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron logistics readiness flight fuels supervisor fuels a plane, June 30, 2021 at Air Base 101, Niger.   Ryan is responsible for handling jet fuel, operating the vehicles, equipment and storage facilities that are essential to the refueling operation while also ensuring the compliance of all safety regulations while handling these volatile liquids. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jan K. Valle)

A staff sergeant fuels a plane at Air Base 101 in Niamey, Niger, on June, 30, 2021.

Photo: U.S. Air Force

AFRICOM claims that Air Base 201 in Agadez is not an “enduring” forward operating site but, according to the command’s 2022 posture plan, a “cooperative security location,” presumably one of the 12 “minimal permanent U.S. presence” and “low-cost” facilities mentioned by Langley.

Observations by this reporter, who scrutinized Air Base 201 from its perimeter and overhead earlier this year, put the lie to Langley’s characterizations. The linchpin of the U.S. military’s archipelago of bases in North and West Africa, Air Base 201 consists of a 6,200-foot runway (composed of 1.1 million square feet of asphalt ), aprons, taxiways, massive aircraft hangars , multistory living quarters , roads, utilities, munitions storage, and an aircraft rescue and firefighting station, all within a 25-kilometer “ base security zone .” U.S. troops eat in a 13,000-square-foot dining facility , work out in a gym , play on basketball and volleyball courts , and spend leisure time at a recreation center with “bookcases full of movies and games, Wi-Fi, snacks ,” according to the Air Force, all of it protected by fences, barriers, and upgraded air-conditioned guard towers with custom-made firing ports . Only the Pentagon could call Air Base 201, the largest “ airman-built ” project in Air Force history, a “low-cost” facility, since it cost $110 million to build and is maintained to the tune of $20 to $30 million U.S. taxpayer dollars each year.

“When I went to Agadez on a research trip, I saw a large U.S. drone base that was the opposite of transitory,” said Savell, who has mapped U.S. counterterrorism efforts around the world, noting large-scale infrastructure like drone hangars and conspicuous operations that included a burn pit belching black smoke into the air. “None of the base’s neighbors — who see drones flying above their houses every day, and who have seen foreign contracting companies, rather than themselves, reap the profits of servicing a multimillion-dollar facility — would even remotely consider this a minor outpost.”

Officially, so-called cooperative security locations, known as CSLs, have “ little or no permanent U.S. presence ,” but Air Base 201 can currently accommodate about 1,000 U.S. military personnel, according to a spokesperson for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. The access agreement governing the base has been in effect for nearly a decade, cannot be terminated with less than a year’s notice, and has no end date. “The agreement continues in force automatically after its initial ten-year term,” AFRICOM spokesperson Kelly Cahalan told The Intercept.

In the wake of the July coup, the Pentagon looks to be doing everything it can to hold on to that access. On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that “out of an abundance of caution,” a small number of “non-essential personnel” would depart Niger and other troops would be repositioned but that the overall effects were minor. “This does not change our overall force posture in Niger,” a Defense Department spokesperson told The Intercept.

“[T]he goal is to stay,” said Air Force Gen. James Hecker , the commander of U.S. air forces in Europe and Africa, when asked last month if the U.S. was planning to evacuate troops from Niger. “Preparing to stay might be a better way to say it because that’s what we’re hoping we’re going to do.”

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh voiced similar sentiments. “Niger is a partner, and we don’t want to see that partnership go,” she said . “We’ve invested, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars into bases there, trained with the military there.”

In addition to Air Base 201, the U.S. military operates another CSL — a second drone facility known as Air Base 101 — at the main commercial airport in Niger’s capital, Niamey. A Pentagon spokesperson told The Intercept that they were now “repositioning some U.S. personnel and equipment in Niger from Air Base 101 in Niamey to Air Base 201 in Agadez” but did not respond to questions about how many personnel would be moved. The CIA also operates a drone base in the far north of the country near the town of Dirkou.

Niger's servicement stand guard as supporters of Niger's National Concil of Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) gather ouside the Nigerien and French airbase in Niamey on September 3, 2023, as protesters gather to demand the departure of the French army from Niger. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Niger’s servicemembers stand guard as supporters of Niger’s National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland gather outside the Nigerien and French airbase in Niamey, Niger, on Sept. 3, 2023.

Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion outpost in sun-bleached Djibouti, is the crown jewel of U.S. bases on the east side of the African continent. A longtime home for Special Operations forces and counterterrorism operations in Yemen and Somalia, it hosts around 4,000 U.S. and allied personnel . Since 2002, the base has expanded from 88 acres to nearly 600 and spun off a satellite outpost 10 kilometers to the southwest, where drone operations in the country were relocated in 2013. Chabelley Airfield has gone on to serve as an integral base for missions in Somalia and Yemen , as well as the drone war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria .

In 2020, a CSL at Manda Bay , Kenya, was attacked by members of the terrorist group al-Shabab, killing three Americans, wounding two others, and damaging or destroying six aircraft. In neighboring Somalia, a similar base at Baledogle Airfield is a key node in the U.S. drone war that has seen 30 declared strikes under President Joe Biden. The U.S. also has a CSL in the capital, Mogadishu. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., recently scoffed at Langley’s characterizations of these as “minimal” outposts. “Look at Somalia. We’re pretty enduring there,” he told The Intercept during a recent interview. “We’ve become the block captain of Mogadishu.”

Among the contingency locations listed in the 2022 posture plan that Langley failed to mention is a drone base located at Sidi Ahmed Air Base in Bizerte, Tunisia. As early as 2016, almost 70 Air Force personnel and more than 20 civilian contractors were deployed to “Camp Sidi,” according to documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act. “You know, flying intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance drones out of Tunisia has been taking place for quite some time,” said Gen. Thomas Waldhauser , the then-chief of AFRICOM, in 2017. “[W]e fly there, it’s not a secret, but we are very respectful to the Tunisians’ desires in terms of, you know, how we support them and the fact that we have [a] low profile.”

The other contingency locations that Langley apparently failed to mention to members of Congress this spring include facilities located in Misrata, Libya; Thebephatshwa, Botswana; Kismayo, Somalia ; as well as in Ouallam and Diffa, Niger.

While AFRICOM prefers to gloss over the existence of these officially “ non-enduring ” outposts, contingency locations play a long-term and consequential role in U.S. operations. The Intercept first reported on a contingency location in Ouallam six years ago . After an October 2017 ambush in which ISIS fighters near the village of Tongo Tongo killed four U.S. soldiers and wounded two, AFRICOM announced that the ambushed troops — based in Ouallam — were providing “ advice and assistance ” to Nigerien forces. In truth, “Team Ouallam” was conducting operations with a larger Nigerien force under Operation Juniper Shield, a wide-ranging regional counterterrorism effort . Until bad weather intervened, that group was slated to support another team of American and Nigerien commandos based at a then-contingency location near the town of Arlit who were trying to kill or capture an ISIS leader as part of Obsidian Nomad II, a so-called 127e program that allows U.S. forces to use local troops as proxies.

“The framers of our Constitution didn’t intend for Congress and the American people to learn about U.S. military missions once servicemembers had already lost their lives,” said Lorentzen of Just Foreign Policy. “We need transparency both for our troops’ sake and to permit debate about this military-first approach that scatters hundreds of U.S. military outposts across Africa and the world.”

The post Pentagon Misled Congress About U.S. Bases in Africa appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Defying RICO Indictment, Faith Leaders Chain Themselves to Bulldozer to Stop Cop City / TheIntercept · Friday, 8 September - 00:10 · 5 minutes

Revs. Jeff Jones and Dave Dunn at the construction site of Cop City during a direct action in protest of the planned police training compound on Sept. 7, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of The People’s Stop Work Order

Five participants of the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement broke into the construction site of the planned police training compound known as “Cop City” on Thursday morning and chained themselves to a bulldozer. This is by no means the first direct action Stop Cop City protesters have taken to halt construction of the vast facility, but it carries renewed significance just two days after Georgia prosecutors announced extreme and overreaching racketeering charges against 61 other movement activists.

The charges, filed Tuesday under Georgia’s expansive Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, are an effort to chill the movement and paint one of the most resilient anti-racist, environmentalist efforts in history as a criminal enterprise. In response, activists on the ground are choosing solidarity and standing their ground.

The stakes are high. For one, activists want to ensure that Cop City — which would be the largest police training facility in the nation and would decimate crucial forest land in a majority Black community — will never be built. Thursday’s action also makes clear that efforts to criminalize whole social movements will only invite further resistance.

All five protesters, including two Unitarian Universalist clergy members, have been arrested by the DeKalb County Police. “Those five people have been taken into custody and we are working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation regarding charges on these individuals,” the department said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This is just the latest example of Georgia law enforcement treating typical acts of civil disobedience with a heavy-handed, multiagency response.

Police also downed and confiscated a drone belonging to a documentary crew attempting to film the construction site protest, in a possible infringement on press freedoms.

“Despite the repressive tactics of authorities who wish to disenfranchise the community and charge protestors with domestic terrorism and RICO, people of faith will continue to act to resist the militarization of our society,” said Rev. Dave Dunn, who was among those arrested, in a statement released by organizers.

Thursday’s action offers a defiant lesson in how movement participants can choose to respond when faced with state repression — and the efforts by police, government leaders, and prosecutors to crush the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement have indeed been extraordinary.

“The domestic terrorism and RICO charges against protesters are meant to scare us, or else to orient all of our energy and resources around supporting protesters who have been arrested,” Darcy, an Atlanta resident and movement participant told me. Darcy, like many others in the movement, withheld their last name for fear of law enforcement retaliation — an understandable choice, given how weak grounds for arrest and serious charges have been.

“By shutting down Cop City construction today, clergy and students showed that everyday people can take bold actions to block this facility from being built,” they said, “and that our biggest protection against repression is a movement that wins.”

The sweeping, 109-page RICO indictment paints the decentralized and diverse movement as a criminal enterprise, citing social justice activities such as “mutual aid,” writing “zines,” and “collectivism” as proof of criminal conspiracy. Dozens of people named in the indictment also face malicious state domestic terrorism charges, based on flimsy grounds.

Others facing RICO and money-laundering charges did little more than raise and distribute donations to support arrestees and provide materials for engaging in First Amendment activities, like making protest signs. Also named in the indictment are individuals previously arrested on felony charges for handing out flyers that named a police officer connected to the killing of Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, a forest defender who was shot 57 times during a multiagency raid on the Atlanta Forest protest encampment in January.

Whether the RICO, domestic terrorism, or other extreme charges stick, the prosecutions alone are chilling. If the Stop Cop City movement has offered a model for intersectional, abolitionist, environmentalist, and diverse anti-racist struggle, the charges participants now face present a blueprint for a totalizing approach to repression.

It is no accident that the RICO indictment lists the start of the alleged racketeering conspiracy as the date of George Floyd’s murder by police — May 25, 2020 — which predates the announcement of plans for Cop City. The indictment is explicit in tracing the birth of the Stop Cop City movement back to the 2020 Black liberation uprisings in order to treat any involvement in these connected struggles as grounds for criminal prosecution.

The activists involved in Thursday’s action delivered what they called “The People’s Stop Work Order” against Cop City construction. In a statement , they noted that activists who have attempted to use official, democratic routes to oppose Cop City have been consistently stymied by undemocratic government actions.

“The construction of this project and the destruction of the South River Forest have continued despite over 100,000 Atlanta residents signing a ballot initiative calling for a referendum on the issue,” organizers said. “The city of Atlanta has fought the referendum with lawsuits and technical obstructions.”

Participants in Thursday’s action engaged in just the sort of activity that the government is attempting to cast as criminal conspiracy with the RICO indictment: civil disobedience with a civil rights movement legacy , especially in Atlanta. In the face of such authoritarian responses, ongoing and widespread movement action that uses a range of protest tactics undermines government and police efforts to delegitimize a popular movement. Solidarity rallies and marches have already been organized in over a dozen cities and towns nationwide.

“As we see in the indictment, the act of mutual aid, the acts of our connectedness, are seen as a threat,” Mary Hooks, an Atlanta-based organizer and activist in the Movement for Black Lives, told me. “But these things are exactly what we need for our safety and what we need in the face of rising fascism.”

“Hopefully today does give hope,” she said. “Afraid? Yes we are, but we will choose courage over fear every day in the face of repression and oppression.”

The post Defying RICO Indictment, Faith Leaders Chain Themselves to Bulldozer to Stop Cop City appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Gen Z Candidate Launches Campaign That Ignores His Generation’s Priorities / TheIntercept · Thursday, 7 September - 22:11 · 6 minutes

A Texas congressional candidate who launched his campaign on Wednesday with an appeal to be the next Gen Z member of Congress quickly brought in $130,000 — and also deleted the “issues” page of his website.

Isaiah Martin is running in Texas’s 18th Congressional District, a safe blue seat that covers much of Houston. In his campaign launch, the 25-year-old denounced Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans for leading an “attack on democracy” and voting rights.

“What we’re seeing right here in Texas is just a snapshot of what’s going on all across the nation when extremists with no vision try to hold onto power with division,” Martin said.

Portions of Martin’s platform — as well as what he left out of it — indicate that he may be out of step with voters of his generation, who, by virtue of their concerns with human rights and the climate crisis, as well as their own personal identities, are vessels for political change.

In the “First Bills to Co-Sponsor” section of his website, Martin listed a congressional resolution titled “ Recognizing Israel as America’s Legitimate Democratic Ally .” It was introduced last February while Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., fended off bad-faith claims of antisemitism that led to her expulsion from the Foreign Affairs Committee. (Omar co-sponsored the resolution.) Since then — even as Israel has maintained and ramped up its brutal regime over Palestinians — Congress has passed a resolution declaring that “the State of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state,” and that the U.S. “will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.” The candidate has also vocalized his unwavering support for Israel on X, previously known as Twitter — even as Democrats have recently, and for the first time, become much more sympathetic toward Palestinians than Israelis.

Martin’s inclusion of the bill is the latest sign that support for Israel will continue to be a fault line in congressional primaries. In the 2022 cycle, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee ’s super PAC spent some $40 million, most of it aimed at defeating progressive candidates and those who spoke up for Palestinian rights — or in favor of election denialists, racists, and homophobes.

Earlier this summer, a congressional candidate launched his campaign in another Houston-area district with a direct challenge to AIPAC, which had endorsed his opponent, incumbent Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher. “In reality, Israel is an apartheid state that commits atrocities against native Palestinians on a daily basis,” Pervez Agwan said to The Intercept . “That is something that should absolutely be criticized but unfortunately, Republicans and establishment Democrats are too concerned with offending the Israel lobby who bankrolls their campaigns to be honest about what’s going on.”

Martin’s campaign did not respond to The Intercept’s questions in time for publication.

While the majority of young people voted for President Joe Biden in 2022, 52 percent of Gen Z voters identify as independents, while only 31 identify as Democrats. For many young people, it’s not enough for someone to just call themselves a Democrat.

“Poll after poll has shown that young people care most about bold climate action, Medicare for All, and other progressive policies,” Aidan Kohn-Murphy and Elise Joshi of the political advocacy group Gen-Z for Change told The Intercept in a statement. “We’re grateful to have members of Congress such as Congresswoman [Summer] Lee and Congressman [Jamaal] Bowman who stand up for Gen Z and speak truth to power even when it’s not politically expedient. We look forward to the emergence of other candidates who prioritize the issues Gen Z cares about.”

Martin’s platform, which his campaign removed from its website on Wednesday night, included support for the pro-worker Protecting the Right to Organize Act and reproductive freedom bills. (An archived version of the website remains viewable.)

While his campaign site included pages on issues like voting rights and gun violence, one notable omission was climate change — a dire issue for his generation. A 2021 Pew Research survey found 37 percent of Gen Z adults — those born after 1996 — say that addressing climate change was their top personal concern. The page also did not include any mention of LGBTQ+ rights, even as roughly 20 percent of Gen Z identify as LGTBQ+, and state legislatures, including in Martin’s own Texas , are ramping up their attacks on queer people around the country.

On health care, Martin endorsed a public option over universal health care. “When the time comes, Isaiah will enthusiastically vote yes to create a public option across the United States — an optional government-run healthcare plan that will expand coverage to all Americans while preserving access to private insurance for those who want it,” his website read.

Texas’s 18th District district has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate and House candidate since 1972. It voted for Biden at a clip of 76-23 in 2020, and similarly, in 2022, for its current House occupant Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee at a roughly 45-point margin.

Martin announced his bid while Jackson Lee runs for mayor of Houston. Jackson Lee can still run for her old seat if she does not win the mayoral race in November, and she has not endorsed any candidate to replace her. Martin has been interning with Jackson Lee for two years, according to the Houston Chronicle . He interned for her congressional office from June 2021 to July 2022 and more recently volunteered with her mayoral campaign. (On LinkedIn, he lists himself as a senior adviser to the campaign.)

Martin’s work with Jackson Lee is part of a spanning resume. In 2019, he created #ForTheStudents, a student advocacy group at the University of Houston. He went on to lead efforts to provide sexual assault services to Houston-area students and to expand voting access on campus. Martin briefly ran for Houston City Council earlier this year, before dropping out in March to “help other candidates get elected this cycle.”

Also according to LinkedIn, Martin has worked as a consultant at MRM Consulting Services, a government contract consulting firm owned by his father, Ronnie Martin. The business’s website described how Ronnie Martin has worked on “competitive proposals for major technical and aerospace and commercial companies,” which have included the Department of Defense, and work with foreign government proposals like the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence.

Isaiah Martin’s social media posts are another sign of his hard-to-pin-down ideology.

After former Secretary of State Colin Powell died in 2021, Martin took to TikTok to mourn the death of the man whose record includes peddling the Iraq War-justifying lie of “weapons of mass destruction.” “Rest in peace to a true American hero. He’s always somebody who stood up for what he believes was right, no matter what,” Martin said. “We need more people like Colin Powell.”

In another TikTok, Martin blamed “violent, repeat offenders” being released on bond for an increase in crime, expressing his support for a constitutional amendment in Houston to increase cash bond, allowing fewer people to be released pretrial. The author of the amendment, Democrat state Sen. John Whitmire, is running for mayor against Martin’s boss, Jackson Lee.

In February 2020, Martin posted an Instagram photo alongside Abbott, the Texas governor, sitting in front of campaign signs for Republican state House candidate Angelica Garcia. Garcia’s top contributors included Abbott’s own campaign and billionaire Harlan Crow . Three years later, Martin would name-drop the governor in his campaign launch. “Greg Abbott and his allies have created laws that have taken polling places away from line cooks working the night shift. They’ve thrown out mail ballots from seniors who can’t drive. And they’ve empowered the state to have the ability to overturn election results.”

The post Gen Z Candidate Launches Campaign That Ignores His Generation’s Priorities appeared first on The Intercept .

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