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      “Crime Has Been a Euphemism for Race”: Alameda County’s Reform DA Rejects Recall Narrative

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 2 April - 15:38 · 11 minutes

    What is now a multimillion-dollar campaign to recall the elected prosecutor in Alameda County, California, began just six months after she took office.

    When Pamela Price won office in 2022, she became the first district attorney in Alameda County, which includes Oakland, in decades who hadn’t risen through the ranks of the DA’s office. Instead, Price was a former defense and civil rights attorney focused on reforming the criminal justice system and holding police accountable for misconduct.

    Now, with the recall effort against her gaining steam, Price is calling out the double standard against her office, denouncing the focus on crime as the perpetuation of a racist tropes.

    “There is obviously no place where racism has been so accepted than in the criminal justice system,” she said. “When we talk about crime in America — for decades, if not centuries — crime has been a euphemism for race. And to be afraid of crime is synonymous often for many people with being afraid of Black people or being afraid of brown people.”

    Police unions spent heavily against Price in 2018, when she first took on her predecessor, Nancy O’Malley, who had held office for a decade without facing a challenger. In June, a grand jury found that O’Malley violated county policies during the 2018 election by soliciting campaign funds from police unions.

    Price lost to O’Malley in 2018 but beat one of her deputies in 2022 to become the first Black woman to serve as Alameda County’s district attorney.

    It was under O’Malley’s tenure that homicides in Oakland first spiked , but Price’s opponents say they want to recall her because her reform policies have driven crime in the city, one of the 14 cities in the county. Price told The Intercept that those behind the recall campaign did not take the same tack against O’Malley when crime rose during her time in office — and that some of the cases she is being blamed for were handled by O’Malley.

    Price acknowledged that violence remains an issue that she wants to tackle in office and said her policies are designed to allocate more resources toward the most serious crimes. She said, however, she has a problem with the way O’Malley never received the same scrutiny, criticism, or vitriol about crime during her tenure.

    “If you did not hold Nancy O’Malley accountable, it is not fair for you to now be in the public eye suggesting to the public that I’m doing something wrong,” Price said. (O’Malley did not respond to a request for comment.)

    O’Malley had been repeatedly accused of misconduct by defense lawyers. In one case, a judge knocked down the objections, but in another, charges were dismissed because of misconduct by O’Malley’s office. In 2021, a report from the ACLU of Northern California and Urban Peace Movement took the DA’s office to task for policies that resulted in “over-incarceration and criminalization” — particularly of Black and brown communities. O’Malley was also criticized for going easy on police and not investigating deaths of people in police custody.

    Police and real estate investors bankrolling the recall push against Price have been among the reform DA’s most vocal and powerful opponents. That opposition has been long in the making, since Price’s 2018 campaign against O’Malley.

    Things kicked into high gear after Price took office last year. The Oakland Police Officers’ Association has blamed her for crime and attacked her for charging police with misconduct. In April, Price charged an Oakland Police officer with perjury and threatening a witness in a wrongful conviction case. The union said the case was an attempt to undermine the credibility of police “and facilitate the release of convicted murderers.”

    “My predecessor was the district attorney for 13 years. I haven’t seen anyone make a correlation between her policies and the rise and fall of crime.”

    Under O’Malley, homicides in Oakland first climbed in 2012 . Homicides fell and rose throughout O’Malley’s tenure and began to rise again in 2019 , followed by another spike in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic that affected cities and rural areas around the country. O’Malley announced her retirement in 2021 and left office in 2022, just before Price took office. Oakland homicides stayed level during Price’s first year on the job.

    “My predecessor was the district attorney for 13 years,” Price said. “I haven’t seen anyone make a correlation between her policies and the rise and fall of crime.”

    Oakland Real Estate Interests

    O’Malley had also faced a recall effort, but not because of rising homicides in Oakland. The push, which received little attention and did not go to a vote, started after O’Malley declined to prosecute one public transit officer who knelt on 22-year-old Oscar Grant’s neck before another officer shot and killed him in 2009. For her part, O’Malley is supporting the current recall effort against Price and gave $5,000 to the effort.

    Supporters of the recall effort against Price, including several wearing Make America Great Again hats , rallied at the county courthouse earlier this month on the deadline to submit petition signatures to get the recall on the ballot. County election officials are still manually counting the signatures and expect a result by April 15. Price and her supporters have accused recall leaders of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to gather signatures and recruiting people who don’t live in the county to canvass for signatures.

    Two committees are leading the recall push. The first, Save Alameda for Everyone, was launched in July by Oakland residents Brenda Grisham, whose son was killed in a shooting in 2010, and Carl Chan , who is the president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. The recall committee has also paid thousands of dollars to Grisham’s own security company. (Grisham told the press the payment was a reimbursement for security costs.)

    Grisham told The Intercept that she has never blamed Price for her son’s case. Her reasons for wanting to recall the DA stem from Price ignoring victims and releasing murderers. Grisham denied allegations that signatures had been improperly collected and said there was no rule that canvassers had to be from the county. She said she was confident the committee had enough valid signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

    Grisham said she started planning the recall effort in June or July and that it shouldn’t matter who is funding the effort because they’re citizens of the county.

    Among those backers was hedge fund partner and Oakland resident Philip Dreyfuss, who worked with Grisham and Chan before launching a second separate committee in September, Supporters of Recall of Pamela Price. He is one of the biggest individual donors to the committee and has given $390,000 so far, more than half of the money it raised last year. Dreyfuss also gave $10,000 to support the recall of former San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin in 2022. (Dreyfuss did not respond to a request for comment.)

    National media outlets have framed the push to recall Price as part of a dispute over approaches to criminal justice reform. Price acknowledged that was true, but also said the fight in Alameda County is being driven by other motives, including wealthy investors who want to protect real estate interests in downtown Oakland.

    Mass incarceration in California has been a failed strategy, Price said. Prosecutors in the reform movement are opposed to racism and racist policies in the criminal justice system, including mass incarceration and injustices imposed on both survivors of crime and defendants.

    “Unfortunately,” Price said, “there are many in this arena who are not opposed to the racial inequities that have infected this system.”

    Price pointed to her duty to the whole county, not just Oakland. “I’m the district attorney of Alameda County,” she said. “And any policies or practices that we implement are implemented and practiced across the county.”

    “Unfortunately, there are many in this arena who are not opposed to the racial inequities that have infected this system.”

    Price has lived in Oakland since 1978, during which time she said the city has always been portrayed in a negative light compared to others in the Bay Area. At the same time, she said, Oakland has been traumatized by gun violence that mass incarceration has not solved.

    “People have always denigrated Oakland,” she said. “Now I think there’s the racism associated with putting my face as the Black face of Oakland, when in fact I’m not the mayor of Oakland, I’m not the police chief of Oakland. But it serves a purpose.”

    Price added that if the people leading the recall truly cared about victims, they’d use their money to support victims in Alameda County.

    “The primary backers and funders of the recall are, in fact, real estate developers and investors that have no real interest in the manner in which justice is administered to the majority of people who live, work, and play in Alameda County,” Price said. “They are a handful of wealthy folks that have as their agenda to control the way that the district attorney’s office operates. They could care less about the victims that we deal with every day.”

    “The amount of money that they are prepared to spend to recall me could easily replenish the trauma recovery fund that the state is having to shut down because we don’t have any more funding.”

    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 07: San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin speaks to supporters during an election-night event on June 07, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Voters in San Francisco recalled Boudin, who eliminated cash bail, vowed to hold police accountable and worked to reduce the number of people sent to prison.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin speaks to supporters during an election night event on June 7, 2022, just ahead of results that showed him being recalled as the as city’s top prosecutor. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    The San Fran Playbook

    Opponents of the recall push have also pointed to overlaps in donors and messaging between the campaign against Price and the campaign to recall Boudin in San Francisco in 2022. Boudin’s replacement, Brooke Jenkins, has also come under fire for not disclosing payments she received from groups linked to the SF recall campaign prior to her appointment. Violent crime has increased under Jenkins, but the reaction from Boudin’s critics has been muted.

    Jenkins’s current term ends in 2025. She already has a challenger, Ryan Khojasteh, an alum of Boudin’s office who Jenkins fired shortly after she was appointed . After being let go, Khojasteh went to work for Price as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County. He’s currently working for Price part-time and launched his campaign against Jenkins in January.

    Khojasteh is hammering Jenkins for overseeing a rise in crime after promising that getting rid of Boudin would solve San Francisco’s problems. Jenkins has now turned her fire on judges , a strategy that has largely backfired so far. Efforts to oust two San Francisco judges failed in elections earlier this month.

    “Now the mayor, the DA, the police chief, who are all aligned, don’t have anyone else to blame.”

    “Now the mayor, the DA, the police chief, who are all aligned, don’t have anyone else to blame,” Khojasteh told The Intercept. “So they decided to shift that to judges, and that failed.”

    Even the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which was critical of Boudin, has raised alarms about crime in San Francisco under Jenkins. The chamber’s annual City Beat poll , released in February, showed that 72 percent of residents feel San Francisco is on the “wrong track” and 69 percent feel that crime worsened in 2023, during Jenkins’s tenure.

    Although Jenkins has now fallen victim to the panic she stoked, her rhetoric has eroded faith in the entire system and made it harder for prosecutors and judges to do their jobs, Khojasteh said. Some victims have refused to cooperate because they’ve heard that DAs won’t prosecute or that judges will release people.

    “That’s rhetoric coming from Brooke Jenkins making my job harder,” he said. “I’m the one begging the victim to come to court just to do the basics of my job.”

    While Price pointed to similarities between her predicament and the San Francisco recall, she noted that what’s happening in Alameda County is very different.

    “It’s the same false narrative used: the ‘soft-on-crime’ trope that comes from the 1980s, from Ronald Reagan.”

    “We know that some of the major donors for the Alameda County effort were involved in funding the recall of Chesa Boudin,” Price said. “So it’s the same false narrative used: the ‘soft-on-crime’ trope that comes from the 1980s, from Ronald Reagan. The difference is that Alameda County is not one city.”

    Alameda is a diverse county made up of many residents who rent, including those who may not be as accepting of the status quo as voters in San Francisco.

    The linking of race and crime has been deeply embedded in how the criminal justice system functions, how it’s perceived, and the conversation that has proceeded, Price said.

    “It’s a conversation about race and criminality that led to mass incarceration,” she said. “And so it’s that same conversation that we have to be willing to engage in, if we’re going to unravel mass incarceration.”

    The post “Crime Has Been a Euphemism for Race”: Alameda County’s Reform DA Rejects Recall Narrative appeared first on The Intercept .

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      How the Right Is Taking Over State Courts With Judicial Gerrymandering

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 2 April - 15:24 · 5 minutes

    MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 20: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference on March 20, 2024 in Miami Beach, Fla., where he signed a state law addressing homelessness.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference on March 20, 2024, where he signed a state law addressing homelessness. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    In the nearly two years since the Supreme Court sent abortion rights back to the states in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, state courts have become a hotbed of battles to criminalize, legalize, or expand access to abortion care.

    States like Michigan prevented decades-old draconian bans from taking effect, while Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, and others have challenges pending in state court to their criminal bans. Judges in Florida, Missouri, and Ohio have also become referees for when voters get to weigh in on abortion rights through ballot measures.

    Beyond abortion, the Supreme Court’s supermajority conservative bloc has made the entire federal judiciary generally hostile to civil rights. State courts have therefore increasingly assumed center stage on a wide variety of issues: LGBTQ+ rights and gender-affirming care, criminal justice reform and police accountability, voting rights, and more. As state courts and the cases they handle continue to grow in importance, so have various efforts to rig who sits on those courts and who has power in the legal system.

    If in the past legislative gerrymandering — or redrawing legislative districts in artificial ways — was used to entrench corporate and partisan power, we now see another branch of government being manipulated to rig the system toward the same aims: judicial gerrymandering.

    Like its legislative counterpart, judicial gerrymandering threatens our democracy.

    Judicial gerrymandering is the process of manipulating the rules for selecting, retaining, or replacing judges, prosecutors, and other judicial actors to evade voter accountability. It can look like state legislatures redrawing judicial districts to favor certain voters; judges evading the prescribed retirement process to prevent elections for open seats; or state officials creating new “tools” to remove elected judges and prosecutors as an end run around voters’ choices.

    Like its legislative counterpart, judicial gerrymandering threatens our democracy.

    In states where gerrymandering has already created severely partisan legislatures, the rigging of judicial positions — which are typically voted on at the local level — threatens to cut entire swaths of the population out of the political process.

    Take Georgia, where conservatives have devised a scheme to prevent voters in more progressive parts of the state from exercising their power to elect their judges. As judges approach reelection, several have strategically retired before they would have to face voters, and the state has canceled elections for their seats, sending power to Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, to appoint their replacements and depriving voters of the opportunity to select new jurists according to state law.

    The Georgia state legislature has also created a partisan oversight commission with the power to suspend and remove locally elected prosecutors, part of a national campaign of attacking the independence of district attorneys. The commission has been given broad authority to disqualify prosecutors for 10 years based on their charging decisions — often decisions aimed at reducing mass incarceration by not prosecuting low-level offenses like drug charges, or standing up for reproductive rights by taking public stances against criminal bans.

    In Mississippi, state officials have executed a judicial takeover of majority-Black Jackson, depriving its mayor, also Black, and its residents of local control over police, prosecutors, and the courts. One attempt to dilute voting power over elected county judges failed, but the state has created a two-tiered system in which a Capitol district controlled by white conservatives has power to govern Jackson instead of the city’s own residents.

    And in Florida , state officials considered judicial redistricting to attempt to kick out reform prosecutors, who are elected based on the district “circuit” lines for state courts. The Florida Supreme Court demurred last year, but that doesn’t stop the legislature from taking it up in 2024. These redistricting efforts come in tandem with moves by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend prosecutors in both Orlando and Tampa , due to his disagreement with their approaches to prosecution.

    These efforts come in various shapes and sizes, but they all add up to an end run around the democratic process, depriving voters of an opportunity to elect officials based on their priorities, and depriving officials of the ability to do the jobs they were elected to do.

    The trend will continue to intensify in the coming years. The Supreme Court has made it clear it won’t get involved in issues of state and local power consolidation, no matter how egregious.

    Across states, legislators and governors often follow one another, proposing “new ideas” to consolidate power along partisan lines. These attempts start not as bald-faced power grabs, but something more insidious. Early, small pushes set the precedent for actions that are bolder and more problematic — and often harder to reverse. It is up to all of us to stay vigilant and pay close attention to this new brand of subtle attempts to dilute community power.

    There is also, however, a growing resistance. There’s a new playbook taking shape: a movement by elected officials, community organizations, nonprofit lawyers, and civil rights groups who are executing a range of legal and electoral strategies to fight back against judicial gerrymandering. In Georgia, for instance, we have worked with a bipartisan coalition of prosecutors to file litigation challenging their oversight commission .

    The same system that can be rigged for political advantage can also be used for good, to protect civil rights.

    This pushback also includes efforts to let voters weigh in on changes regarding judicial authority and redistricting. When people understand what’s at stake and are given a voice, they can make it harder for state officials to interfere with and take over local power.

    Supporting government officials who push back is critical to resist those trying to rig the rules of democracy. The same system that can be rigged for political advantage can also be used for good, to protect civil rights. The effort for reform has won victories too, in even purple and red states like Wisconsin , Georgia , and Mississippi . The future of our democracy may depend on more of these wins.

    The post How the Right Is Taking Over State Courts With Judicial Gerrymandering appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Congress Has a Chance to Rein In Police Use of Surveillance Tech

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 2 April - 14:00 · 9 minutes

    Hardware that breaks into your phone; software that monitors you on the internet; systems that can recognize your face and track your car: The New York State Police are drowning in surveillance tech.

    Last year alone, the Troopers signed at least $15 million in contracts for powerful new surveillance tools, according to a New York Focus and Intercept review of state data. While expansive, the State Police’s acquisitions aren’t unique among state and local law enforcement. Departments across the country are buying tools to gobble up civilians’ personal data, plus increasingly accessible technology to synthesize it.

    “It’s a wild west,” said Sean Vitka, a privacy advocate and policy counsel for Demand Progress. “We’re seeing an industry increasingly tailor itself toward enabling mass warrantless surveillance.”

    So far, local officials haven’t done much about it. Surveillance technology has far outpaced traditional privacy laws, and legislators have largely failed to catch up. In New York, lawmakers launched a years-in-the-making legislative campaign last year to rein in police intrusion — but with Gov. Kathy Hochul pushing for tough-on-crime policies instead, none of their bills have made it out of committee.

    So New York privacy proponents are turning to Congress. A heated congressional debate over the future of a spying law offers an opportunity to severely curtail state and local police surveillance through federal regulation.

    At issue is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which expires on April 19. The law is notorious for a provision that allows the feds to access Americans’ communications swept up in intelligence agencies’ international spying. As some members of Congress work to close that “backdoor,” they’re also pushing to ban a so-called data broker loophole that allows law enforcement to buy civilians’ personal data from private vendors without a warrant. Closing that loophole would likely make much of the New York State Police’s recently purchased surveillance tech illegal.

    Members of the House and Senate judiciary committees, who have introduced bills to close the loopholes, are leading the latest bipartisan charge for reform. Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, meanwhile, are pushing to keep the warrant workarounds in place. The Democratic leaders of both chambers — House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both from New York — have so far kept quiet on the spying debate. As Section 702’s expiration date nears, local advocates are trying to get them on board.

    On Tuesday, a group of 33 organizations, many from New York, sent a letter to Jeffries and Schumer urging them to close the loopholes. More than 100 grassroots and civil rights groups from across the country sent the lawmakers a similar petition this week.

    “These products are deeply invasive, discriminatory, and ripe for abuse.”

    “These products are deeply invasive, discriminatory, and ripe for abuse,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, which signed both letters. They reach “into nearly every aspect of our digital and physical lives.”

    Jeffries’s office declined to comment. Schumer’s office did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

    Both letters cited a Wired report from last month, which revealed that Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, pointed to New York City protests against Israel’s war on Gaza to argue against the spying law’s reform. Sources told Wired that in a presentation to fellow House Republicans, Turner implied that protesters in New York had ties to Hamas — and therefore should remain subject to Section 702’s warrantless surveillance backdoor. An intelligence committee spokesperson disputed the characterization of Turner’s remarks, but said that the protests had “responded to what appears to be a Hamas solicitation.”

    “The real-world impact of such surveillance on protest and dissent is profound and undeniable,” read the New York letter, spearheaded by Empire State Indivisible and NYU Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice. “With Rep. Turner having placed your own constituents in the crosshairs, your leadership is urgently needed.”

    Police surveillance today looks much different than it did 10, five, or even three years ago. A report from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declassified last year , put it succinctly: “The government would never have been permitted to compel billions of people to carry location tracking devices on their persons at all times, to log and track most of their social interactions, or to keep flawless records of all their reading habits.”

    That report called specific attention to the “data broker loophole”: law enforcement’s practice of obtaining data for which they’d otherwise have to obtain a warrant by buying it from brokers. The New York State Police have taken greater and greater advantage of the loophole in recent years, buying up seemingly as much tech and data as they can get their hands on.

    In 2021, the State Police purchased a subscription to ShadowDragon, which is designed to scan websites for clues about targeted individuals, then synthesize it into in-depth profiles.


    ShadowDragon: Inside the Social Media Surveillance Software That Can Watch Your Every Move

    “I want to know everything about the suspect: Where do they get their coffee? Where do they get their gas? Where’s their electric bill? Who’s their mom? Who’s their dad?” ShadowDragon’s founder said in an interview unearthed by The Intercept in 2021. The company claims that its software can anticipate crime and violence — a practice, trendy among law enforcement tech companies, known as “predictive policing,” which ethicists and watchdogs warn can be inaccurate and biased .

    The State Police renewed their ShadowDragon subscription in January of last year, shelling out $308,000 for a three-year contract. That was one of at least nine web surveillance tools State Police signed contracts for last year, worth at least $2.1 million in total.

    Among the other firms the Troopers contracted with are Cognyte ($310,000 for a three-year contract); Whooster ($110,000 over three years); Skopenow ($280,000); Griffeye ($209,000); the credit reporting agency TransUnion ($159,000); and Echosec ($262,000 over two years), which specializes in using “global social media, discussions, and defense forums” to geolocate people. They also bought Cobwebs software , a mass web surveillance tool created by former Israeli military and intelligence officials — part of that country’s multibillion-dollar surveillance tech industry , which often tests its products on Palestinians .

    That’s likely not the full extent of the State Police’s third party-brokered surveillance arsenal. As New York Focus revealed last year , the State Police have for years been shopping around for programs that take in mass quantities of data from social media, sift through them, and then feed insights — including users’ real-time location information — to law enforcement. Those contracts don’t show up in the state contract data, suggesting that the public disclosures are incomplete. Depending on how the programs obtain their data, closing the data broker loophole could bar their sale to law enforcement.

    The State Police refused to answer questions about how its officers use surveillance tools.

    “We do not discuss specific strategies or technologies as it provides a blueprint to criminals which puts our members and the public at risk,” State Police spokesperson Deanna Cohen said in an email.

    Closing the data broker loophole wouldn’t entirely curtail the police surveillance tech boom. The New York State Police have also been deepening their investments in tech the FISA reforms wouldn’t touch, like aerial drones and automatic license plate readers , which store data from billions of scans to create searchable vehicle location databases.

    They’ve also spent millions on mobile device forensic tools, or MDFTs, powerful hacking hardware and software that allow users to download full, searchable copies of a cellphone’s data, including social media messages, emails, web and search histories, and minute-by-minute location information.

    Watchdogs warn of potential abuses accompanying the proliferation of MDFTs. The Israeli MDFT company Cellebrite has serviced repressive authorities around the globe, including police in Botswana , who used it to access a journalist’s list of sources, and Hong Kong , where the cops deployed it against leaders of the pro-democracy protest movement there.

    In the United States, law enforcement officials argue that more expansive civil liberties protections prevent them from misusing the tech. But according to the technology advocacy organization Upturn, around half of police departments that have used MDFTs have done so with no internal policies in place. Meanwhile, cops have manipulated people into consenting to having their phones cracked without a warrant — for instance, by having them sign generic consent forms that don’t explain that the police will be able to access the entirety of their phone’s data.

    In October 2020, New York police departments known to use MDFTs had spent less than $2.2 million on them, and no known MDFT-using department in the country had hit the million-dollar mark, according to a report by Upturn.

    Between September 2022 and November 2023, however, the State Police signed more than $12.1 million in contracts for MDFT products and training, New York Focus and The Intercept found. They signed a five-year, $4 million agreement with Cellebrite, while other contracts went to MDFT firms Magnet Forensics and Teel Technologies . The various products attack phones in different ways, and thus have different strengths and weaknesses depending on the type of phone, according to Emma Weil, senior policy analyst at Upturn.

    Cellebrite’s tech initially costs around $10,000–$30,000 for an official license, then tens or low hundreds of thousands of dollars for the ability to hack into a set number of phones. According to Weil, the State Police’s inflated bill could mean either that Cellebrite has dramatically increased its pricing, or that the Troopers are “getting more intensive support to unlock more difficult phones.”

    If Congress passes the Section 702 renewal without addressing its warrant workarounds, state and local legislation will become the main battleground in the fight against the data broker loophole. In New York, state lawmakers have introduced at least 14 bills as part of their campaign to rein in police surveillance, but none have gotten off the ground.

    If the legislature passes some of the surveillance bills, they may well face opposition when they hit the governor’s desk. Hochul has extolled the virtues of police surveillance technology , and committed to expanding law enforcement’s ability to disseminate the information gathered by it. Every year since entering the governor’s mansion, she has proposed roughly doubling funding to New York’s Crime Analysis Center Network, a series of police intelligence hubs that distribute information to local and federal law enforcement, and she’s repeatedly boosted funding to the State Police’s social media surveillance teams.

    The State Police has “ramped up its monitoring,” she said in November . “All this is in response to our desire, our strong commitment, to ensure that not only do New Yorkers be safe — but they also feel safe.”

    This story was published in partnership with New York Focus , a nonprofit news site investigating how power works in New York state. Sign up for their newsletter here .

    The post Congress Has a Chance to Rein In Police Use of Surveillance Tech appeared first on The Intercept .

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      1 in 5 Wisconsin Democrats Said Gaza War Will Impact Their Primary Vote

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 2 April - 01:13 · 2 minutes

    More than 1 in 5 Wisconsin Democrats said that Israel’s war in Gaza is impacting their vote in the state’s primary on Tuesday, while 71 percent said they strongly support an immediate and permanent ceasefire, according to a new poll released on Monday.

    Eleven percent of respondents said President Joe Biden’s handling of the war will impact their vote in November if he does not change course and another nearly 14 percent said it could. Nearly 5 percent, meanwhile, said their vote has been impacted regardless of a change in policy.

    The poll was commissioned by Listen to Wisconsin , a campaign to mobilize protest votes during the battleground state’s primary in order to push the White House to change course on its support for the war on Gaza. According to the survey, which was conducted by Poll Progressive Strategies, nearly 26 percent of Wisconsin Democrats support that campaign, which would have voters cast a ballot for “Uninstructed delegation” rather than a candidate.

    Reema Ahmad, a Palestinian and Muslim American organizer with Listen to Wisconsin, said that the poll results reflect that a significant proportion of Wisconsin Democrats’ primary votes “are determined by deep opposition to the White House policy in Gaza.”

    “This is a serious threat to Biden’s chances in Wisconsin if he does not meet voter’s demands and impose a permanent, immediate, and unconditional ceasefire,” Ahmad told The Intercept. “Less than 1% of the vote determines an election in Wisconsin. Uninstructed Wisconsin voters in the Democratic Primary are sending a message that we demand serious steps towards peace.”

    In 2020, Biden won Wisconsin by some 20,000 votes — an even thinner percentage margin than Donald Trump won the state in 2016. Campaign organizers hope that the Tuesday primary will yield at least as many “uninstructed” votes.


    AIPAC Ally Slams “Uncommitted” Voters Warning Biden to Change Course on Gaza

    The “Uncommitted” campaign launched in Michigan , another electorally crucial state for Biden, where more than 100,000 voters cast an “uncommitted” ballot in the state’s February primary. Similar campaigns have been run in multiple other states. In Minnesota, 18.8 percent of voters cast their ballots for “uncommitted,” while roughly 10 percent did so in each of Washington, Missouri, and Colorado.

    The Wisconsin poll also found that just under half of Democrats in the state strongly or even somewhat approve of Biden’s handling of the war. 65 percent of respondents under the age of 29 said they strongly disapprove of it; only 16 percent somewhat approved, while 0 percent strongly approved. 100 percent of voters below the age of 29 said they strongly or somewhat approve an immediate and permanent ceasefire (93.5 percent saying they strongly do).

    DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA - NOVEMBER 7: Civil defense teams and citizens continue search and rescue operations after an airstrike hits the building belonging to the Maslah family during the 32nd day of Israeli attacks in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on November 7, 2023. (Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

    While political pundits have repeatedly dismissed the Uncommitted campaign as representing only voters who would not vote for Biden anyhow, or ones who don’t represent a meaningful current in the party apparatus, 69 percent of survey respondents voted for the incumbent in the 2020 primaries. Just 13 percent had voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

    Waleed Shahid, a Democratic political strategist who has advised Uncommitted campaigns in numerous states, said that the poll signals a fracture within Biden’s party. “With margins likely mirroring 2016 rather than 2020, Biden cannot risk alienating tens of thousands of his own voters over Gaza as November approaches.”

    The post 1 in 5 Wisconsin Democrats Said Gaza War Will Impact Their Primary Vote appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Fox Used to Hate Disinformation Experts. Now It’s Hiring One.

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Monday, 1 April - 18:48 · 3 minutes

    Fox News, one of the most relentless critics of the war on disinformation, now has a new challenge: Its parent company is looking to build up its own internal capability to combat disinformation.

    Last week, Fox Corporation issued a job posting looking for a corporate “trust and safety behavioral analyst” whose responsibilities would include identifying “misinformation/disinformation.” The job aims to establish a content moderation system across Fox’s businesses, which includes Fox News, to fight disinformation. The corporation will work in close coordination with unnamed partners both inside and outside of the company, the posting says. To this end, Fox intends to use pattern recognition, a key component of artificial intelligence, to “identify hostile users,” the job description says.

    The analyst, Fox says, would tend to the “ongoing community health and brand safety of Fox sites and apps that interact directly with users” in order to “safeguard … user communities.” A background in “psychology, criminal justice, social media, gaming, news or media” is a plus, the job announcement says.

    Asked about the job posting, Fox did not respond to a request for comment.

    The corporate concern with disinformation contrasts rather sharply with Fox News’s overwhelmingly critical coverage of anti-disinformation efforts that police what is posted in social media, which Fox News consistently equates with censorship.

    When the Department of Homeland Security created a now-defunct Disinformation Governance Board in 2022, prominent Fox News hosts condemned the move in sensational terms. Fox News host Sean Hannity and then-host Tucker Carlson both called the Disinformation Governance Board a “Ministry of Truth,” a reference to the propaganda ministry of a totalitarian state from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.” Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade echoed their remarks, saying that “it looks like the Biden administration is taking Orwell’s work not as a warning but as their own manual.”


    Why Fox News Can’t Afford to Quit Donald Trump

    Since the board story, the network has been obsessed with the disinformation battle. In the week following the revelation of the Disinformation Governance Board, 70 percent of Fox’s one-hour segments referenced disinformation and the DHS official in charge of the board, according to a defamation lawsuit Nina Jankowicz has filed against Fox News. During 2022, Fox News mentioned Jankowicz over 300 times, the lawsuit states. (Asked about the lawsuit, Irena Briganti, a spokesperson for Fox News, said that the company has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.)

    Fox’s corporate interest in disinformation differs from the federal government’s. Fox is interested in audience “engagement” — a term that appears almost half a dozen times in the job posting.

    “Helping deliver innovative technology solutions to support user safety and increase engagement,” Fox’s posting lists among the responsibilities of the job.

    Much of the debate about content moderation focuses on heady subjects like freedom of speech and the threat of state-sponsored foreign influence campaigns. But largely absent from the discussion is the simple fact that it’s profitable for companies to remove content that might offend advertisers or audiences. And with advancements in AI technology, it is increasingly possible to do so at scale.

    In addition to machine learning, Fox’s job posting references two other terms common to AI: large language models and natural language processing. This technology makes it possible to autonomously sift through vast amounts of data, which previously would have required expensive human teams. As a result, content moderation is going to be cheaper to conduct than ever before.

    Fox is far from the only company taking advantage of the breakthroughs in AI to respond to disinformation.

    “More than 95 percent of the hate speech that we take down is done by an AI and not by a person,” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook (now Meta) told Congress in 2021. “And I think it’s 98 or 99 percent of the terrorist content that we take down is identified by an AI and not a person.”

    The federal government is increasingly turning to AI to identify foreign influence operations, according to the Biden administration’s new budget request delivered to the Congress last month.

    For the most part, the rapid changes brought about by the explosion of AI technology have yet to enter into the disinformation debate.

    “I am pro-disinformation because one man’s disinformation is another person’s fact,” Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said in 2022.

    Gutfeld may want to take that up with his employer.

    The post Fox Used to Hate Disinformation Experts. Now It’s Hiring One. appeared first on The Intercept .

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      NBC Rejects Trump Voice but Embraces War Party

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Saturday, 30 March - 14:52 · 6 minutes

    “You wouldn’t hire a made man, like a mobster, to work at a DA’s office, right?” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said this week of NBC’s decision to hire former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, a decision the network later reversed. “You wouldn’t hire a pickpocket to work as a TSA screener.”

    But NBC does just that with another party: its pro-war stable of retired military generals and admirals who hold forth on wars and threats to national security. A partisan voice if there ever was one, the TV generals and admirals are all the more scandalous because the network presents them as objective “analysts” as they sit on defense industry and corporate boards that profit from forever wars, including ones not being fought by the United States directly. The conflict is not just tolerated by NBC, it is also never disclosed. (NBC did not respond to a request for comment on its current conflict of interest policies.)

    “The U.S. needs to get involved in a leadership role here [in Haiti] and very quickly,” retired four-star Adm. James Stavridis said on the air earlier this month, speaking of the deteriorating situation. Stavridis calls for the deployment of a U.S.-led intervention force, warning of the consequences of inaction. “In the ’90s, we had waves of migration, refugee-driven, from Haiti,” he said.

    The host, NBC News’s Jose Diaz-Balert, to his credit, pushed back. “Admiral, you know this better than anybody else: The history of American intervention in the Americas has not always been that great,” he said. But the network, in giving Stavridis a platform — just as they would have done with McDaniel — doesn’t bother to mention that their “analyst” profits from the use of military force. For example, Stavridis serves as partner of the investment firm Carlyle Group, owner of major defense contractors and which lists the admiral among its Global Aerospace and Government Services Team.


    Cable News Military Experts Are on the Defense Industry Dole

    Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, serves as chief international security and diplomacy analyst for NBC News. But the network’s website does not divulge that he is a hired gun, nor any kind of disclosure of his outside affiliations. Stavridis also serves on or has served on the boards of Fortinet , a cybersecurity firm; Neuberger Berman Mutual Funds ; McLarty Associates ; Beacon Global Strategies ; and Ankura , a consulting group. (Stavridis did not respond to a request for comment.)

    Stavridis has appeared on the network to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza, but NBC does not disclose his affiliation with the Jewish Institute for National Security, a Washington-based national security think tank that advocates for closer military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. JINSA’s website lists Stavridis as chair of its Gemunder Center’s U.S.-Israel Security Task Force.

    FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2016, file photo, retired Adm. James Stavridis talks to the press after his meeting with President-elect Donald at Trump Tower in New York. The former top U.S. commander for NATO has urged the U.S. administration not to make any deals endorsing China’s South China Sea claims in exchange for help in convincing North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File) Retired Adm. James Stavridis talks to the press after his meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, on Dec. 8, 2016. Photo: Kevin Hagen/AP

    In an NBC segment in February, Stavridis said that “the administration is going to have to consider strikes in Iran” if attacks from Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria continued.

    When asked by “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker if it might be necessary to withdraw the roughly 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria in light of regional tensions, Stavridis balked.

    “The last thing in the world we should do is pull them out,” Stavridis said. “This is a minimal presence doing good work: counterterrorism, working with the Iraqis against the Islamic State.”

    Though Stavridis is pressing policy recommendations masquerading as dispassionate analysis, another official NBC military analyst has even been involved in a direct conflict of interest. In 2008, a sprawling New York Times exposé revealed that retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, while working as a military analyst for NBC, also worked for military contractor Defense Solutions. McCaffrey went on the air praising Army Gen. David Petraeus, then the commanding general in Iraq, but never disclosed that he was at the same time pushing Petraeus to buy 5,000 armored vehicles made by the same contractor.

    “That’s what I pay him for,” the CEO of Defense Solutions told the Times.

    As a consultant, McCaffrey was not required to adhere to NBC’s conflict-of-interest policies, the then-president of NBC told the Times.

    “On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests,” the Times reported. “But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers.”

    NBC never suspended or terminated its relationship with McCaffrey, who is still a recurring guest on the network. (McCaffrey did not respond to a request for comment.)

    In July, McCaffrey said in an interview with Andrea Mitchell that the Biden administration was “ entirely correct ” to send cluster bombs to Ukraine — a controversial weapon that is banned from use (the United States is not a signatory to the worldwide ban ).


    TV Pundits Praising Suleimani Assassination Neglect to Disclose Ties to Arms Industry

    In February, in an interview with an NBC satellite station in Seattle, McCaffrey said that Congress’s failure to pass a military aid package for Ukraine “has a huge potential impact on U.S. national security.” Echoing Stavridis’s warning about Haitian refugees, McCaffrey said that if Ukraine loses the war, “we will see potentially 20 million refugees in Western Europe.”

    During the interview, McCaffrey adopted an explicitly partisan position — the same dynamic proponents of firing McDaniel, the former Republican National Committee chair, sought to avoid.

    “Our national security is at stake and this is a shameful behavior instigated by Mr. Trump and being responded to by House Republicans,” McCaffrey said.

    Once again, McCaffrey’s potential financial conflicts are not disclosed. In 2021, he was appointed to the board of directors of defense contractor Juvare, which said that McCaffrey would provide guidance as the company expands its role in the federal and defense space.

    McCaffrey also serves as president of his own consulting firm, BR McCaffrey Associates, which describes itself as striving to “build linkages” between federal officials and contractors.

    Then there’s retired Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, hired by the network as a military analyst in 2022. Twitty serves as a senior adviser at the powerful Chertoff Group, helping military clients identify business opportunities, according to its website . He is also a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Group, which focuses on strategic communications, advocacy, and business development for the defense industry; and a board adviser at Dataminr , a social media monitoring and artificial intelligence company that contracts with the Pentagon.

    The former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, Twitty is a frequent “analyst” explaining the war in Ukraine.

    “Push forward, push hard, let’s get the funding in there,” Twitty advocated in December, pushing U.S. military aid. “I think it’s going to take years: so they will need sustainable funding and predictable funding for the long term.”

    Twitty did not respond to a request for comment.

    The potential for conflicts is not lost on staffers at NBC. “NBC will write checks for a revolving door of former intelligence and military brass quietly running interference for the defense industry but breaking on-air bread with a Trump ally and top Republican official merits a call to insurrection?” an NBC writer who requested anonymity for fear of professional reprisal told The Intercept. “Send in the troops!”

    Correction (31 March 2024): The host of the NBC segment on Haiti was incorrectly identified as Gabe Gutierrez. The interviewers was actually José Díaz-Balart.

    The post NBC Rejects Trump Voice but Embraces War Party appeared first on The Intercept .

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      PEN America in Damage-Control Mode Amid Revolt From Staff and Palestinian Writers

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Saturday, 30 March - 11:00 · 10 minutes

    In a letter to the board of PEN America, a group of current and former employees this week threw their support behind a recent, high-profile protest against the literary free speech organization’s refusal to align with its parent organization PEN International and call for a ceasefire in Gaza. The staffers, who sent the letter anonymously out of fear of professional retaliation, shared with the board two letters employees sent to the organization’s top brass last year “expressing concerns from a large number of staff that PEN America is failing to comply with its mission and values with regard to its work on Palestinian free expression.”

    In December, 41 PEN America staffers sent a letter to leadership raising “continued concerns about the organization’s shortcomings in mounting a principled defense of free expression,” and warning that CEO Suzanne Nossel’s decision to take an “ill-conceived” trip to Israel would undermine PEN America’s credibility on issues it purports to care about. Another October letter scrutinized the organization’s initial response after Hamas’s attack, accusing PEN America of not also addressing the ongoing and ensuing suffering inflicted upon Palestinians.

    PEN America, in its own words, “stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide,” with the specific aim to “defend writers, artists, and journalists.” Israeli forces have killed more than 100 Palestinian journalists, jailed critics for mere speech, and destroyed entire universities in Gaza . PEN America has failed the moment, according not only to the organization’s employees, but also a slew of prominent writers who rejected invitations to its celebrated international annual gathering in an open letter in mid-March.

    That rejection, rather than the internal staff letters, sent PEN America into damage-control mode. Publicly, it responded by calling for an immediate ceasefire and hostage release, and making a “substantial” financial contribution of $100,000 to the PEN Emergency Fund for distribution to Palestinian writers in need.

    “Like many other organizations, PEN America is wrestling with the challenges of responding to a complex conflict that has divided our community. From the outset, we have had countless discussions with staff at all levels of the organization on how we can best contribute in this moment,” a PEN America spokesperson told The Intercept. “These discussions have been fruitful and are ongoing — and, of course, will continue to shape our policies. This is consistent with our role as a big tent organization that defends free expression and writers. Our work in defense of speech, by or in defense of Palestinians, most of which is publicly available, has been robust and extensive. Airing varied voices and reflecting complexity in our work are essential in fulfillment of PEN America’s principles and mission.”

    “No Palestinian wants to be the token Palestinian. It’s insulting and offensive. We’re not going to clean up your mess.”

    The organization also reached out to a handful of well-known Palestinians to invite them to sit on a panel on censorship of Palestinian voices. Journalist and analyst Rula Jebreal, the recipient of one such Zoom invitation, said that she was willing to hear PEN leadership out but had no interest in serving as window-dressing for their missteps. Other Palestinian writers and activists, such as human rights attorney Noura Erakat, took a similar position. “No Palestinian wants to be the token Palestinian. It’s insulting and offensive. We’re not going to clean up your mess,” Jebreal said she told PEN America. (Erakat said she stood in solidarity with Jebreal and others. Jebreal and her husband Arthur Altschul Jr. have donated to The Intercept, and Erakat spoke at a recent Intercept fundraiser.)

    The question, Jebreal said, is simply one of consistency. When Russia invaded Ukraine, she noted, PEN America disinvited two Russian dissident writers from an event hosted by New Yorker magazine writer Masha Gessen , a Russian American journalist who has been an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, after Ukrainian writers said they would feel unsafe in the presence of the Russians. ( According to PEN America , it was the Russian writers who decided to withdraw.) “You went out of your way when Ukraine was under attack and now when it comes to Palestine, it’s as if we don’t exist,” Jebreal said. “We found out a lot of our allies, people who agreed with us on Iran, on Turkey, on Ukraine, then turned on us and said, ‘Those principles don’t apply to Palestinians.’”

    Jebreal and others told The Intercept they were willing to continue engaging — not wanting to feed into the toxic stereotype that “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” — but they wanted the organization to first commit an internal investigation into how things had veered so thoroughly off course, a change in public posture toward the conflict, and an apology to and attempt to make amends with Randa Jarrar, a Palestinian American writer who was physically removed from a January PEN event that featured a pro-Israel speaker.

    Jebreal also encouraged the organization during her meeting to host events focused on the growing number of Palestinian writers killed and arbitrarily detained , the cultural genocide underway in Gaza, as well as a call to stop framing the conflict entirely around October 7. “I’m 50 years old,” said Jebreal, who grew up in Jerusalem. “My entire life was under military occupation and you’re telling me the clock starts for you with that date.”

    DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA - NOVEMBER 7: Civil defense teams and citizens continue search and rescue operations after an airstrike hits the building belonging to the Maslah family during the 32nd day of Israeli attacks in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on November 7, 2023. (Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

    On October 10 , three days after Hamas attacked Israel, PEN America issued a statement condemning the attack, focusing in particular on the militants’ targeting of a music festival. The statement also made a brief overture toward Palestinian suffering: “Political conflicts, even when they involve grave denials of human rights, can never justify nor be resolved through attacks on innocent civilians. Noting the mounting death toll among Israelis and Palestinians, PEN America calls on all parties to uphold the sanctity of human life and to safeguard civilians and human rights.”

    A week later, nearly 30 staffers sent management a letter protesting the statement for failing to include historical context about Israel’s occupation of Palestine and for failing to address the issues of free expression that had already arisen in Israel’s retaliatory war on Gaza, including the killing of journalists. That same day, October 17, PEN America released a new statement with a sharper focus on the nearly 3,000 people — including 11 journalists — killed in Gaza by that point. PEN America said it had already completed the October 17 statement prior to receiving the staff letter, and that concerns in the letter not addressed in the statement were addressed in a subsequent message to staff.

    In December, 41 staffers wrote another letter to leadership, taking pains to acknowledge the complexity of the situation, but arguing that in the aggregate, PEN America was giving signals it was siding with Israel in the conflict and overlooking what was increasingly becoming a clear crime against humanity. Of particular concern, the staffers wrote, was an upcoming trip by Nossel, the CEO, to Israel. (PEN America President Jennifer Finney Boylan joined Nossel on the trip, during which they met with both Palestinian and Jewish Israeli writers and human rights organizations.)

    “It is a core tenet of PEN America that a country’s citizens should not be punished or held responsible for the actions of their governments. We wholly agree with this sentiment. At the same time, we are concerned that Suzanne Nossel’s trip as planned will be perceived as a dismissal of the urgent and worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and free expression and human rights violations in the West Bank and in Israel,” the staffers wrote. Our point is not that PEN America personnel should refrain from work-related travel to nations with whose governments we have disagreements, but that traveling to Israel at this precise moment, with the resumption of the war, loss of civilian life and civilian infrastructure, without a forceful institutional stance on the humanitarian crisis, is profoundly ill-conceived.”

    The letter came a week after the end of a temporary truce in Gaza and, according to the staffers, shortly after PEN America’s senior leadership decided not to back a ceasefire. According to the letter, leadership rejected a recommendation to call for a ceasefire because doing so would fall outside the organization’s free expression mandate. PEN America said it ultimately decided to call for a ceasefire when it concluded that doing so would be understood by its constituency as consistent with its broader mission and that it had never before formally made an organizational call for a ceasefire.

    In the letter to the board, sent on Tuesday this week, the current and former staff members said they wanted to see the organization work consistently across conflicts. Also this week, the PEN America union accused management of pushing policies that could discipline staff for engaging in political activity like signing letters criticizing PEN or attending a protest. “Sweeping restrictions like these coming from a leading free-expression organization would set a very dangerous precedent for employees everywhere,” the union wrote . “It is incredibly disappointing to see Management does not respect this internally, despite PEN’s guidance to other organizations.”

    The organization has countered the charges, saying that contract language it proposed last year on political activity was “intended to ensure compliance” with its legal obligations as a non-profit entity and to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Beyond those considerations, the organization said, it “ does not seek to curtail the political activities of staff.”

    PEN America has also been facing concurrent external criticism. In a February letter that now has more than 1,000 signatures, writers urged the organization to “find the same zeal and passion that they have for banned books in the US to speak out about actual human beings in Palestine.”

    In mid-March, Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander, Hisham Matar, Isabella Hammad, Emily Wilson, and several other writers co-signed a open letter to PEN America, announcing they would not be participating in this year’s PEN World Voices Festival, which was founded in the wake of 9/11 to be a bulwark against xenophobia, dehumanization, and the choking-off of dissent ripping through the culture at the time.


    Lies Are Being Told About Sally Rooney Because She Refuses to Ignore Israeli Apartheid

    “In the context of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza, we believe that PEN America has betrayed the organization’s professed commitment to peace and equality for all, and to freedom and security for writers everywhere,” reads the letter. The co-signees criticized PEN America for not joining calls for a ceasefire; for condemning authors who honor Palestinian calls to boycott Israeli institutions ; and contrasted the organization’s minimal efforts around Gaza to its campaigns opposing the war in Ukraine and in support of Latin American journalists.

    In its response, the organization wrote that its focus on the war in Gaza was “extensive” — including webinars on Israel and Palestine; issuing more than 35 statements since October related to the war; and speaking out against efforts to chill Palestinian and pro-Palestinian speech — and outlined several additional steps it was taking. PEN also wrote that it has “continually affirmed” writers’ choice to participate in boycotts and opposed efforts to penalize boycotts of Israel, and it expressed “regret” over Jarrar’s removal from the January event.

    The dissident writers welcomed the organization’s apparent interest in “introspection and self-appraisal” and asked the organization to put together a “group of individuals whose integrity and impartiality is beyond reproach” to review PEN America’s approach to the consequences of decades of Israeli occupation of Palestine. The writers explained the need for such an approach because “criticisms of bias in this area have been recurring over many years, and only this systematic approach can identify if there is a pattern.”

    Members of the Worker Writers School — a literary group founded in 2011 at a Ford factory and composed of taxi drivers, construction and food service workers, home health aides, and more — voted unanimously to co-sign the response statement. The group’s members had also collectively decided to not attend the PEN World Voices Festival, said Mark Nowak, poet and founder of the school.

    “I think this is a really important fact that for a lot of writers, you know, this is a really big decision to do this,” Nowak told The Intercept, comparing them to higher-profile writers. “For the Worker Writers School members, this is their big event of the year … their one chance to share their work with a big institution with a big audience.”

    Correction: March 30, 2024, 12:52 p.m. ET
    This article was corrected to remove an errant reference to the date of PEN America’s founding. It was also updated to include the organization’s position on the event involving Russian dissident writers and on cultural boycotts.

    The post PEN America in Damage-Control Mode Amid Revolt From Staff and Palestinian Writers appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Spy Agencies Skewed Intel to Please Trump, and Obama Too

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Friday, 29 March - 18:19 · 5 minutes

    U.S. intelligence skews its findings to find favor with both Republican and Democratic policymakers, including former presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama, a sweeping new study by the Pentagon-backed RAND Corporation finds. The study draws on interviews, some anonymous, with nearly a dozen current and former U.S. intelligence officials and policymakers.

    Despite the popular “deep state” characterization of the intelligence community as a rogue army running roughshod over elected leaders, the study concludes the exact opposite. It portrays an intelligence community that naturally tilts its reports and forecasts to curry favor with presidents and their high-level policymakers in Washington, regardless of party or issue.

    “Policymakers most frequently introduce bias in intelligence assessments from a desire to minimize the appearance of dissent, while the IC” — intelligence community — “tends to introduce bias through self-censorship,” the report says.

    The study, “Has Trust in the U.S. Intelligence Community Eroded? Examining the Relationship Between Policymakers and Intelligence Providers,” was sponsored by the Pentagon.

    From 9/11 to January 6, there’s hardly a shortage of intelligence failures to properly assess the big picture or anticipate crises, leading to a decline in trust by policymakers, some of whom have decried the intelligence community as a monolithic “deep state” outside of their control. But the study suggests that these policymakers often have themselves to blame for pressuring the intelligence community to come to certain conclusions in line with their political interests — in many cases successfully.

    “Through his time in office, President Trump and other administration officials consistently sought to influence — and, in some cases, bias — intelligence,” the study finds. Interviewees cited almost a dozen such examples, some unsurprising (“Russian interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections,” the Muslim travel ban, and the characterization of “antifa”) but others less obvious (“mass shootings” and “the SolarWinds hack”).

    Far from the Hollywood picture of intelligence operatives as ruthless Jason Bourne types, interviewees complained about the pressure analysts and management faced from White House policymakers, with one likening it to bullying.

    The “culture of fear was real,” one former intelligence official told RAND. “The IC gets tired of being bullied, then they withdraw.”

    “Individuals looked to avoid conflict and please political masters.”

    “Individuals looked to avoid conflict and please political masters,” the study says of the intelligence community analysts and officials, adding that the CIA and other agencies have “an incentive to elicit positive feedback from policymakers” in order to “maintain [their] relevance.”

    Across multiple administrations, this dynamic of fear appears to have infected the highest echelons of the intelligence community. Former CIA Director Gina Haspel declined to push back on Trump’s equivocations regarding the intelligence community’s conclusion that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the study notes. (Haspel had reportedly been ordered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to attend a congressional briefing where she could have challenged Trump’s statements. She didn’t attend.)

    The report identifies Russian meddling in elections as among the most prominent scenarios in which the Trump administration pushed to influence the outcome of intelligence analysis.

    “With election interference, there were attempts to directly impact/change what the intelligence said,” a former official told RAND. “The IC was going to say that Russia did something, but policymakers would insist on adding more language, like something else about Iran.”

    Another former official described election security as “the third rail of intelligence topics,” describing congressionally mandated intelligence reports on foreign interference as “an awkward process.”

    Ironically, despite Trump’s repeated insinuations of a “deep state” bent on undermining him, the very intelligence agencies ended up watering down assessments in order to avoid confrontations. As the study observes, “IC analysts looked to avoid conflict with policymakers and avoid charges of being part of the ‘deep state.’”

    The intelligence community’s deference to its political masters was by no means confined to the Trump administration. One former official told RAND that the “process always involves some degree of give and take between analysts and policymakers.” Indeed, the report provides a number of examples of intelligence bias during the Obama administration.

    John A. Gentry, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst during the Obama administration, is quoted as saying that superiors told analysts to avoid “specifically identified terms that might trigger criticism of administration policy,” the study notes. Gentry also said that during the Obama years, intelligence analysis suffered from “politicization by omission”: leaving out issues from regular updates or assessments “because the results might displease superiors.”

    In 2015, the year before Trump was elected, a survey of the members of the U.S. Central Command — the Pentagon’s combatant command for the Middle East — found that over 65 percent of respondents believed that their analysis was suppressed or distorted in the face of evidence due to editorial disagreement, politicization, or a mismatching with existing analytic lines, the study also notes.

    Another example was alleged by a former official at the highest levels of the Obama administration. Obama’s former CIA Director Michael Hayden, the report notes, has written that the community turned a blind eye to Russian information operations due to the administration’s efforts to broker new diplomatic relations with Moscow. Not until 2015 did the U.S. come to grips with Russian efforts, by then just a year out from the 2016 elections famously marred by Russian meddling.

    Rather than in the direction of Langley, the Pentagon, or any intelligence agency, RAND concludes that the IC largely tilts toward the White House and its army of political appointees.

    Clearly the intelligence community tilts its findings; but rather than in the direction of Langley, the Pentagon, or any intelligence agency, RAND concludes that it largely tilts toward the White House and its army of political appointees.

    “The RAND report provides an accurate picture of how much the intelligence-policy relationship sometimes departs depressingly far from the ideal of intelligence providing unbiased analysis to policymakers who use it to inform their decision-making,” Paul Pillar, a former national intelligence officer who is now a fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Study as well as the Quincy Institute, told The Intercept.

    “The report shows the variety of ways in which policymakers who are determined to use intelligence not to inform decisions but instead to sell their already established policies can pollute the process, ranging from blatant arm-twisting to subtle effects on the minds of intelligence officers who do not want to rock the boat,” Pillar said.

    The post Spy Agencies Skewed Intel to Please Trump, and Obama Too appeared first on The Intercept .

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      How the Gaza War Is Reshaping Social Media

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Friday, 29 March - 10:00

    Meta — Facebook and Instagram’s parent company — refuses to provide evidence refuting widespread reports that it’s censoring Gaza-related content on its platforms. This week on Deconstructed, technology reporter Sam Biddle joins Ryan Grim to discuss his recent reporting on the efforts of Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to press Meta for specifics.

    Grim and Biddle dig into debates blaming the horrifying images coming out of Gaza for turning young people against the war. “When people see images of horrific bloodshed,” Biddle says, “when they see bodies blown apart by bombs, that’s upsetting to most people. There doesn’t have to be any ideology attached.” They also dive into how pressures to sanitize Israel’s war is being used to ban TikTok, and how X, formerly known as Twitter, is profiting off of government surveillance .

    Transcript coming soon.

    The post How the Gaza War Is Reshaping Social Media appeared first on The Intercept .