John Knefel

Authoritarianism Has Quietly Enveloped Every Part of American Life -- We Must Fight Back

Observing the media frenzy that surrounded last week's Boston marathon bombing and the eventual capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one thing became immediately clear: the attack gave media elites an opportunity to fully embrace their generally latent authoritarianism. Finally, they could openly and unapologetically align themselves with law enforcement officials, sham “counter-terrorism experts,” and whoever else bravely suggested that total surveillance is good and inevitable. (See Tom Brokaw telling viewers that they must now submit to increasingly invasive searches, or Andrea Mitchell uncritically amplifying Tom Ridge's policies when he was head of the Department of Homeland Security as but two of the countless examples.) They could once again act as spokespeople for the government, uniting the country under the banner of American Exceptionalism.

The country's foremost jingoist, Thomas Friedman – the NYT columnist who once indelicately suggested that the Muslim world suck the United States' collective phallus – wrote in his column on April 17th that “cave dwelling is for terrorists.” Americans, he countered, live in freedom. The “cave” line's Islamophobia is as obvious as it is repugnant, and should be a reminder that not-so-subtle bigotry towards Muslims is acceptable and rewarded in polite society in this country. His larger point, that the United States will respond to this apparent terrorist attack by remaining a fully open society is either willfully delusional or a product of his privilege; he won't be profiled because of his name or religion.

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Guantanamo Defense Lawyers Barred From Email After Suspicions of Massive Surveillance Arise

A top Guantanamo Defense lawyer ordered everyone in her office to stop using their official Pentagon email system to send privileged or confidential information due to an inability to ensure that information remains private, according to an email sent to media outlets. The cease-and-desist order came from Air Force Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief defense counsel (CDC), after 500,000 emails were turned over to prosecutors in relation to the case of Ibrahim al-Qosi, a Sudanese man who was transferred from Guantanamo Bay back to his home country in 2012.

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Bad Cop: 7 Cities Where Shocking Police Abuses Cost Taxpayers Millions

When it comes to interactions between regular citizens and police on the street, the police hold all the cards. They can, and often do, act however they want. One of the few meaningful mechanisms for restitution if you are a victim of police misconduct is to sue for damages. The costs of these lawsuits and payouts add up, and bad police behavior takes a toll not only on our civil liberties, but also on a city's budget.

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Meet 6 Politicians Getting Rich from America's Endless Wars

War is a racket, and perpetual war is a money-printing machine. Though the defense industry as a whole contributes relatively little to members of Congress compared to, say, the pharmaceutical lobby, it remains an incredibly powerful and influential lobby. Below are the six members of the House whose primary industry donor in the 2012 election cycle was the defense sector. (Numbers are from the Center for Responsive Politics, unless otherwise noted.)

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Mystery, Paranoia, Confusion: You Won't Believe What's Happening at Guantanamo

Over the week of January 28-31 a great mystery played out at JTF-GTMO, the notorious military base and indefinite detention facility better known as Guantanamo Bay. The question at hand: who cut the media feed during a pre-trial hearing for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11, thus temporarily censoring the proceedings? Was there an unknown, outside force controlling the court? If so, who was it? What was intended to be a dry week of legal wrangling became a full-on whodunnit that was part Law & Order, part spy novel – if the final 50 pages had been blacked out.

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Meet the Contractors Turning America's Police Into a Paramilitary Force

The national security state has an annual budget of around $1 trillion. Of that huge pile of money, large amounts go to private companies the federal government awards contracts to. Some, like Lockheed Martin or Boeing, are household names, but many of the contractors fly just under the public's radar. What follows are three companies you should know about (because some of them can learn a lot about you with their spy technologies).

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5 Creepy New Ways for Police to Intrude on Your Rights

One of the most disturbing trends in law enforcement in recent years is the hyper-paramilitarization of local police forces. Much of the funding for tanks for Fargo's hometown cop shop comes from the Department of Homeland Security. The feds have a lot of money to throw around in the name of preventing terrorism, and municipalities want to get that money. As anyone who has done budgeting knows, the best way to ensure your funding stays high is to request a lot of money and spend it all.

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They Can Do That?! 10 Outrageous Tactics Cops Get Away With

Talk to someone who has never dealt with the cops about police behaving badly, and he or she will inevitably say, “But they can't do that! Can they?” The question of what the cops can or can't do is natural enough for someone who never deals with cops, especially if their inexperience is due to class and/or race privilege. But a public defender would describe that question as naïve. In short, the cops can do almost anything they want, and often the most maddening tactics are actually completely legal.

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“Jesus, Come Help Us!" What It's Like With No Power, No Running Water and Little Food Post-Sandy

Power remains out in at the Bay Towers apartment buildings in Rockaway Beach, forcing residents there to climb up to 14 flights of stairs carrying essentials like water, canned food, and toilet paper. On Sunday, November 4th, residents organized an ad hoc supply center in a communal space on the second floor, and a motley crew of Occupy Sandy activists, neighbors, and unaffiliated volunteers helped distribute goods throughout the two massive buildings.

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Dead Gitmo Prisoner's Tragic Letter About Why He Gave Up on Life

Adnan Latif was found dead in his cell on September 10th, 2012, just a day before the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. He was 32. Latif, a Yemeni citizen, had been detained at Guantanamo Bay for over a decade, despite a 2010 court ruling that ordered the Obama administration to “take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate Latif's release forthwith," due to lack of evidence that he had committed any crime. He suffered at the hands of the US government in ways that most people can't begin to comprehend, and his death should be a reminder that the national shame that is Guantanamo Bay lives on and now enjoys bipartisan support.

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No Papers, No Fear: Undocumented Immigrant Activists Arrested Outside DNC

Ten undocumented immigrants were arrested on Tuesday afternoon outside the Democratic National Convention, amid chants of “Undocumented, unafraid!” and “No papers, no fear!”

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Did the NYPD Break International Law in Suppressing Protest?

A report by a group of civil and human rights attorneys released Wednesday morning paints the clearest picture yet of the New York City police department’s aggressive tactics and over-policing, all of which resulted in the systemic suppression of the basic rights of Occupy protesters.

The report, which chronicles events from late September 2011 up to July of 2012, extensively documents numerous ways in which the NYPD acted with excessive force, attempted to intimidate and harass members of the press, expelled activists from public space due to the content of their speech, and ultimately concludes that authorities broke international law in their handling of Occupy Wall Street.

The executive summary states, in plain language:

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