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Decoding Donald Trump: The Triumph of Trickster Politics

Public Seminar -

These days the entire world is trying hard to make sense of Donald Trump’s surprising march towards the Republican convention in Cleveland. Like it or not, he is possibly also on his way to becoming America’s next president. Trump seems hard to place within any of our available categories: Is he a conservative populist? Is he a revolutionary? Is he left or right wing Republican -- or is he both, or is he neither? Is he a demagogue? Is he a “charismatic” figure? Or is Trump really just a (bad) joke?

When bewildered, we search for historical analogies. To many observers, Trump resembles Silvio Berlusconi, the (in)famous tycoon who was prime Minister of Italy on and off from 1994 to 2011. Rula Jebreal was quick to point out such similarities in a Washington Post ...

Mudlarking On

Dekspace -

Before heading off to this years Battlemesh in Porto, Portugal, YT got together with 20 Deptford locals, Inurian activists and Mazi partners for a low tide walk on Deptford Creek. Our guide for the walk was botanist Nick Bertrand of … Continue reading →

Email Privacy Bill Passes House Unanimously

The Intercept -

The House voted unanimously, 419-0, on Wednesday to bring the law that protects the privacy of Americans’ e-mails into the 21st century.

The Email Privacy Act would reform the 1986 Email Communications Privacy Act by requiring all federal agencies (with few exceptions) to get a warrant before searching old digital communications stored in the cloud by companies like Google and Facebook.

“In 1986, the assumption was that if you left your email on a server it was abandoned, like trash on a street corner,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., one of the bill’s authors, during a GOP press conference Wednesday morning. He said it “restores the Fourth Amendment, and treats email with the same protections as paper mail.”

Technology companies and privacy advocates alike immediately took to the Twitterverse to celebrate—because the bill will protect innovation in cloud computing just as much as it will protect Fourth Amendment rights.

Now they are urging the Senate to take action.

It's not often the House passes something 419–0 but it just happened on email #privacyreform. On to Senate. #ECPA

— ACLU National (@ACLU) April 27, 2016

Today's unanimous passage of #ECPA reform is a huge victory for Internet users. We urge the Senate to take action:

— Google Public Policy (@googlepubpolicy) April 27, 2016

Glad to see #HR699, the #EmailPrivacyAct pass, #ECPA was so outdated, when it was written I was using a 512k Mac!

— Blake Farenthold (@farenthold) April 27, 2016

#ECPA reform just passed the House 419-0. The Senate should take up the Email Privacy Act immediately

— Jake Laperruque (@JakeLaperruque) April 27, 2016

holy shit. 419-0 for ECPA reform. Word up.

— Joseph Lorenzo Hall (@JoeBeOne) April 27, 2016

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The post Email Privacy Bill Passes House Unanimously appeared first on The Intercept.

Luxembourg Puts Journalist and Whistleblowers On Trial for Ruining Its “Magical Fairyland” of Tax Avoidance

The Intercept -

LUXEMBOURG IS TRYING to throw two French whistleblowers and a journalist in prison for their role in the “LuxLeaks” exposé that revealed the tiny country’s outsized role in enabling corporate tax avoidance.

The trial of Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, two former employees of the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and journalist Edouard Perrin began Tuesday.

Deltour and Halet were charged in connection with theft of PwC documents. Perrin is charged as an accomplice for steering Halet toward documents that he considered of particular interest.

Perrin, a reporter with Premières Lignes Television in Paris, produced the first LuxLeaks reporting. PwC documents were later obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and, together with records from other accounting giants, formed the basis for the 2014 “LuxLeaks” series involving over 80 journalists across the world.

Among the many prominent supporters of the defendants, France’s Finance Minister Michel Sapin told the French parliament Tuesday that Deltour was “defending the general interest” and that he “would like to offer him all our solidarity.” Almost 175,000 people have signed a petition in support of Deltour.

The European Federation of Journalists has demanded that Luxembourg drop the charges against Perrin. EFJ general secretary Ricardo Gutierrez called Perrin’s prosecution “shameful,” saying that Luxembourg “is going after a journalist who has acted entirely in the public interest.” Reporters Without Borders criticized Luxembourg for being “more concerned about deterring investigative journalism than protecting the public’s right to information.”

So why has Luxembourg’s behavior been so ferocious?

The answer can be found, appropriately enough, in a publication of PricewaterhouseCoopers itself.

According to PwC’s January 25, 2016 “Global Regulatory Briefing,” its international client base now faces “new far reaching developments” on matters including “corporate governance and tax.” Among these are “various initiatives aiming to adapt the EU’s tax laws in the aftermath of Luxleaks” and “the release of the OCED/G20 Base Erosion and Profits Shifting (BEPS) Project.”

Here’s what that means for Luxembourg, translated into English:

The LuxLeaks series exposed Luxembourg as a “magical fairyland” for multinational corporations trying to avoid taxes, and now other countries are trying to shut it down.

The government of Luxembourg made sweetheart deals with over 340 multinational corporations that enabled the companies to claim much of their profits had been generated by Luxembourg subsidiaries, which were then taxed at rates as low as 1 percent.

Among the well-known beneficiaries of Luxembourg’s special arrangements were Pepsi, FedEx, IKEA, AIG, Walt Disney, the Carlyle Group, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Procter & Gamble and, via its one-time ownership of Skype, eBay. [Disclosure: Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay and longtime chairman of its board of directors, founded The Intercept’s parent company First Look Media.]

Tax avoidance by U.S.-based multinational corporations alone has been estimated to cost governments approximately $130 billion each year, and tax havens such as Luxembourg are crucial to this process.

They take a slice of the dodged taxes that’s small from the perspective of multinationals but enormous from the perspective of the countries themselves. In 1970, finance accounted for 2 percent of the Luxembourg economy; today it’s over 40 percent.

That’s why Luxembourg is behaving like this: LuxLeaks was a mortal threat to its current cushy way of life. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, representing 34 countries with the world’s preponderance of economic power, had already begun its “Base Erosion and Profits Shifting” project in 2012 to minimize the most egregious forms of corporate tax avoidance. However, the LuxLeaks revelations generated significant, additional momentum for the OECD to go further and faster.

What will happen in the end still remains to be seen. However, according to that PwC Global Regulatory Briefing, Europe “appears intent” on creating an “anti-tax avoidance package” largely “in line with the OECD’s BEPS recommendations.”  There will even, PwC says, be “mandatory consolidation across the EU according to the CCTB and an apportionment based on certain formulas to individual Member States” — a lot of gobbledygook which means Europe may move to a “formulary apportionment” corporate tax system which would make most current tax avoidance schemes there pointless. This in turn would force a whole lot of lawyers, bankers and accountants in Luxembourg to start looking for honest work.


Top photo: People hold a banner reading “thank you Antoine” as they demonstrate outside the courthouse in Luxembourg, on April 26, 2016, in support of whistle-blower Antoine Deltour.

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The post Luxembourg Puts Journalist and Whistleblowers On Trial for Ruining Its “Magical Fairyland” of Tax Avoidance appeared first on The Intercept.

Former Tax Lobbyists Are Writing the Rules on Tax Dodging

The Intercept -

The secret tax-dodging strategies of the global elite in China, Russia, Brazil, the U.K., and beyond were exposed in speculator fashion by the recent Panama Papers investigation, fueling a worldwide demand for a crackdown on tax avoidance.

But there is little appetite in Congress for taking on powerful tax dodgers in the U.S., where the practice has become commonplace.

A request for comment about the Panama Papers to the two congressional committees charged with tax policy — House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee — was ignored.

The reluctance by congressional leaders to tackle tax dodging is nothing new, especially given that some of the largest companies paying little to no federal taxes are among the biggest campaign contributors in the country. But there’s another reason to remain skeptical that Congress will move aggressively on tax avoidance: Former tax lobbyists now run the tax-writing committees.

We researched the backgrounds of the people who manage the day-to-day operations of both committees and found that a number of lobbyists who represented world-class tax avoiders now occupy top positions as committee staff. Many have stints in and out of government and the lobbying profession, a phenomenon known as the “reverse revolving door.” In other words, the lobbyists that help special interest groups and wealthy individuals minimize their tax bills are not only everywhere on K Street, they’re literally managing the bodies that create tax law:

    • Barbara Angus, the chief tax counsel of the House Ways and Means Committee, became a staff member in January of this year after leaving her position as a lobbyist with Ernst & Young. Angus, registration documents show, previously helped lobby lawmakers on tax policy on behalf of clients such as General Electric, HSBC, and Microsoft, among other clients.
    • Mark Warren, a tax counsel for the tax policy subcommittee of Ways and Means, is a former lobbyist for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group that includes Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Walgreens, and Unilever. Warren, who joined the committee in November of last year, previously lobbied on a range of tax policies, including tax credits and “tax relief.”
    • Mike Evans became chief counsel for the Senate Finance Committee in 2014 after leaving his job as a lobbyist for K&L Gates, where he lobbied on tax policy for JP Morgan, Peabody Energy, Brown-Forman, BNSF Railway, and other corporate clients.
    • Eric Oman, the senior policy adviser for tax and accounting at the Senate Finance Committee, previously worked for Ernst & Young’s lobbying office, representing clients on tax policy.

A request for comment about the role of former lobbyists now working as staffers was also ignored by the committees.

Wealthy individuals and corporations routinely squirrel away vast sums of money in jurisdictions like Delaware or Wyoming to avoid taxation, a major factor in the current state of affairs that allows those at the top of the economic pyramid to pay an effective tax rate that is often lower than the middle class. Verizon, Boeing, and General Electric, to name a few, paid no federal income taxes in recent years, despite earning a hefty profit margin. The Tax Justice Network ranks the U.S. as the third most problematic tax haven country, a ranking even worse than Panama.

The post Former Tax Lobbyists Are Writing the Rules on Tax Dodging appeared first on The Intercept.

Art for the Troika

Public Seminar -

An exhibition now touring several cities in Europe is worth visiting and thinking about, as it reflects both the political and cultural sensibility of Europe. PIGS is curated by Blanca de la Torre, a Spanish art curator who develops projects throughout the world and understands art as a social tool to disclose political injustices and prejudices. The “pigs” to which this exhibition refers are not simply the four countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) ...

Snowden Debates CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Encryption

The Intercept -

NSA whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden took part in his first public debate on encryption on Tuesday night, facing off against CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, a journalist and author known for his coverage of international affairs.

Zakaria, in New York, defended the government’s right to access any and all encrypted messages and devices as long as there’s court approval. Snowden, speaking over  a live video-link from Moscow, argued the security of the Internet is more important than the convenience of law enforcement. The debate was organized by NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and the Century Foundation.

Though Zakaria started off firm in his conviction that law enforcement should be able to get hold of all digital messages with court approval, he gradually conceded that it may not be that simple. Zakaria said he himself doesn’t actively encrypt any of his communications, assuming everything will be fine — though Snowden pointed out that, since he has an iPhone, some of his data and communications are encrypted by default.

Zakaria opened the debate by posing a hypothetical: Bank of America creates an “iVault” allowing anyone to store all their financial data totally encrypted. An embezzler could take advantage of that service to hide the evidence of their misdeeds, foiling investigators. “I understand within a democracy, you have to sacrifice liberty for democracy at some point. You cannot have an absolute zone of privacy,” he said.

Snowden agreed with Zakaria that absolute zones of privacy don’t exist, and that encryption does pose real problems for law enforcement. But he disagreed that universal access is the best way to solve the problem. “For the government to unlock everything there has to be a key to everything. Every other person in the world can find that key and use it too,” he said. “It’s a fundamental problem of science.”

Instead, he suggested, police should take advantage of the many other options available to them. He cited the investigation into the founder of Silk Road, an anonymous, encrypted platform for black market drug sales. In that case, a team of investigators caught the mastermind at the library after he typed in his password.

“Encryption is not an unbreakable wall,” Snowden said. “Or if it is, it is one we can get around, if we are patient, if we are careful, if we think and plan how to go about our investigations.”

By the end of the debate, Zakaria said he did not support the legislation proposed by Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which would mandate companies to immediately decrypt all communications when asked by a court. The bill has been heavily criticized by technologists.

And Zakaria acknowledged that if it was genuinely impossible for a company to decrypt communications, then the court should accept that—though it would be a “hard case.”

“If WhatsApp says we literally do not know how to write this code—WhatsApp could demonstrate to a court that they don’t have to do it,” Zakaria said.

He concluded by encouraging greater clarity about what kind of communications the government can and cannot access—before the next disastrous terrorist attack. “We do face real threats out there. There are people out there trying to do bad things. Once they happen, the government will be given carte blanche,” he said.

Snowden noted that former security officials now proclaiming the value of unbreakable encryption—including former NSA director Michael Hayden—had considered those questions carefully and had fallen on the side of computer security.

The post Snowden Debates CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Encryption appeared first on The Intercept.

Editor’s Note

Public Seminar -

Openness is a fundamental commitment of Public Seminar. The editors, contributors and, I hope, the readers all are committed to ...

Propostas da CPI dos Crimes Cibernéticos ameaçam a internet livre para 200 milhões de pessoas

The Intercept -

(The English version of this article can be read here.)

Ativistas brasileiros pela liberdade na internet estão nervosos. Nesta quarta-feira, uma comissão na Câmara dos Deputados vai pôr em votação sete projetos de lei criados ostensivamente para combater crimes cibernéticos. Enquanto isso, críticos alegam que o efeito combinado dessas propostas irá restringir substancialmente o acesso amplo à internet no país, retirando o direito ao anonimato e dando poderes excessivos aos órgãos do governo para censurar o discurso na rede e ter acesso aos dados pessoais dos cidadãos sem aprovação judicial.

Os projetos vieram de algo que já se tornou uma cartilha padronizada: propor legislação contra crimes cibernéticos; alegar o combate à pornografia infantil, hackers, crime organizado e até mesmo terrorismo; e então vincular medidas que também facilitam a identificação de vozes críticas na internet (muitas vezes sem permissão judicial) e silenciá-las ou prendê-las por difamação – ameaças diretas à liberdade de expressão.

Paquistão, Nigéria, México, Kuwait, Quênia, Filipinas, Peru, Emirados Árabes e Qatar tiveram propostas similares recentemente. Algumas delas encontraram forte resistência e foram arquivadas, algumas ainda estão pendentes e outras foram transformadas em leis.

“O cybercrime é um dos pretextos recorrentes para a criação de leis que impõem controles sobre a atividade na internet”, escreveu Katitza Rodriguez, Diretora de Direito Internacional da Electronic Frontier Foundation (Fundação da Fronteira Eletrônica), em um e-mail para o The Intercept.

No Brasil, os projetos de lei são o resultado de uma CPI (Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito) de crimes cibernéticos que durou nove meses, chamada de CPICiber, instaurada em julho de 2015 pelo presidente da Câmara, Eduardo Cunha, a pedido de um deputado do partido governista da presidente Dilma Rousseff, PT. A primeira versão do relatório da CPI, lançada em 30 de março, provocou uma resposta massivamente negativa de grupos da sociedade civil.

A imprensa brasileira não deu muita cobertura a essa história – os repórteres estão ocupados com uma crise política que já dura meses e envolve toda a nação – mas a Folha de São Paulo, um dos maiores jornais do país, publicou um editorial no sábado defendendo que os projetos de lei utilizam o “pretexto de aumentar a segurança” online, “aumentarão o poder de censura sobre a rede e diminuirão a privacidade do usuário”. De acordo com a Folha, as “suas disposições atacam pilares do Marco Civil da Internet, diploma aprovado em 2014 que colocou o Brasil na vanguarda do tema”. dos direitos na internet. O jornal concluiu que “esse é o tipo de controle usado por países como China e Irã”.

Um projeto de lei particularmente controverso poderia solicitar que redes sociais removam conteúdo considerado “ofensivo à honra” de políticos em um prazo de 48h a partir do recebimento da notificação oficial. Após desaprovação pública, esse trecho foi removido da segunda versão do relatório da CPI, mas restam outros projetos de lei que forçariam empresas a retirar conteúdo proibido gerado por usuários, incluindo aqueles considerados “crimes contra a honra e outras injúrias”, sem uma única ordem judicial.

O relatório da CPICiber contem sete projetos de lei (com 20 sugestões específicas em todos). Dentre suas disposições, eles podem:

  • Permitir que serviços que utilizam internet (como WhatsApp ou Facebook) sejam unilateralmente bloqueados por ordem judicial, uma violação da neutralidade da rede. (Isso de fato aconteceu em dezembro do ano passado, quando um juiz bloqueou o acesso ao WhatsApp no país inteiro a fim de pressionar a empresa que controla o serviço, Facebook, a cooperar em uma investigação criminal.)
  • Exigir que serviços da internet garantam à polícia e a outros órgãos o acesso, sem ordem judicial, ao endereço IP, o rastro específico deixado por um dispositivo na rede e que pode ser usado para identificar, localizar um usuário e revelar alguns dados do seu histórico de navegação.
  • Desviar 10% de fundos públicos originalmente destinados ao desenvolvimento dos serviços de telecomunicações e infraestrutura, extremamente sucateados e caros para os cidadãos no país, para financiar estruturas governamentais de combate a crimes cibernéticos.
  • Expandir a abrangência e as penalidades de leis que envolvem hacking e acesso não autorizado a dados, incluindo a criminalização do acesso impróprio que apresente “risco de uso indevido ou vazamento”, não importando se o uso indevido de fato ocorreu ou envolveu prática criminosa.

Gustavo Gus, co-fundador da CryptoRave, uma conferência hacker em São Paulo financiada coletivamente, acompanhou as audiências da CPICiber de perto. “As polícias judiciárias e as autoridades brasileiras não andam felizes com as respostas do Vale do Silício, pós-revelações do Snowden”, ele escreveu em um e-mail. “Desde a criação da CPI dos Cibercrimes, tem ocorrido uma grande pressão desses setores para ampliar a retenção de dados” e dar poder às autoridades para vigilância em massa, afirmou Gus.

Em dezembro de 2015, um tribunal brasileiro ordenou que operadoras de telefonia celular em todo o país bloqueassem o WhatsApp por dois dias; um tribunal de segunda instância reverteu a ordem horas depois de ela ser cumprida.

Foto: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Vários grupos da sociedade civil têm sugerido alterações desde que a primeira versão do relatório foi publicada. Agora, a terceira versão está prestes a ser revelada e entrará em votação na quarta-feira. Se for aprovada, ela será votada no plenário da Câmara e, se passar, irá para o Senado.

“Estamos tentando um diálogo entendendo que vai sair uma versão final do relatório e temos que tentar trabalhar em conjunto para melhorá-lo”, disse Joana Varon, diretora da Coding Rights, um grupo que promove direitos humanos na arena digital, ao The Intercept. “Mas muitas vezes nossa proposta é: ‘por favor, abandonem essa ideia’”.

O The Intercept entrou em contato com a comissão e sua presidente, a deputada Mariana Carvalho, para ouvir comentários, mas não recebeu resposta.

Quartenta e oito grupos da sociedade civil e de organizações acadêmicas como Electronic Frontier Foundation, Artigo 19, Access Now, Intervozes e Instituto de Tecnologia e Sociedade do Rio de Janeiro se juntaram ao Coding Rights para combater a legislação proposta. Em uma carta aos membros da CPICiber, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor da World Wide Web, afirmou estar “entristecido” pelo pacote de medidas, dizendo também que “permitir que órgãos do governo identifiquem pessoas associadas a endereços de IP sem garantias ameaçaria a privacidade online – criando um efeito paralisante da liberdade de expressão, e com efeitos colaterais na economia e na democracia”.

O deputado Daniel Coelho, um dos membros da CPICiber, refutou duramente esses argumentos. Em um post no Twitter, o deputado respondeu a um artigo entitulado “Políticos querem censurar a internet no Brasil com o pretexto de combater o ‘cybercrime’”, dizendo: “que mentira mais absurda essa matéria. Nada disso existe”.

Para Varon e muitos de seus colegas, os projetos de lei da CPICiber são especialmente difíceis de aceitar após anos de trabalho conjunto com autoridades governamentais para criar o Marco Civil da Internet, uma peça inovadora de legislação que Varon chama de “Carta Magna da internet”. Ele fornece uma estrutura regulatória clara e traça uma série de direitos digitais para todos os brasileiros, incluindo o direito ao acesso à banda larga de baixo custo e o direito à liberdade de expressão. O Marco foi desenvolvido por meio de um diálogo aberto e inclusivo.

O Marco foi internacionalmente elogiado por defensores da liberdade na internet, apesar de algumas sérias ressalvas sobre pontos como retenção de registros de atividades dos usuários por provedores de serviços. Desde então, componentes da classe política têm tentado incluir modificações nos direitos recém-estabelecidos.

O relatório da CPICiber é “fruto de uma onda conservadora forte que tomou nossa Câmara dos Deputados”, diz Varon. “E aí essa onda aplicada na internet vai resultar mesmo em censura e vigilância. São retrocessos”.

No ano passado, uma controversa lei antiterrorismo foi aprovada por uma presidente que já foi presa por ser considerada “terrorista” durante o regime militar. Além disso, um projeto de lei discutido no final do ano passado, que possibilitaria espionagem digital doméstico, está esperando para ser desarquivado.

Katitza Rodrigues, da EFF, faz um alerta: “Uma vez que uma lei nociva é adotada em um país, ela pode se espalhar por outros países, em um efeito dominó. Combine isso com a frustração de governos ao redor do mundo com sua incapacidade de controlar serviços encriptados de comunicação e você cria um ambiente em que todo país se sente no direito de bloquear não apenas sites, mas serviços inteiros”.

Varon também está preocupada. Ela vê o debate sobre a cibersegurança sendo “liderado por uma visão conservadora,” e afirma que “o problema é se a gente sair criminalizando tudo, sair dizendo que somos todos terroristas, encaixar práticas comuns e criminalizar essas práticas por não entender como que é a internet funciona. É problemático”.


Traduzido por: Beatriz Felix

The post Propostas da CPI dos Crimes Cibernéticos ameaçam a internet livre para 200 milhões de pessoas appeared first on The Intercept.

Brazilian Cybercrime Bills Threaten Open Internet for 200 Million People

The Intercept -

(Para ler a versão desse artigo em Português, clique aqui.)

Brazilian internet freedom activists are nervous. On Wednesday, a committee in the lower house of Congress, the Câmera dos Deputados, will vote on seven proposals ostensibly created to combat cybercrime. Critics argue the combined effect will be to substantially restrict open internet in the country by peeling back the right to anonymity, and providing law enforcement with draconian powers to censor online discourse and examine citizens’ personal data without judicial oversight.

The bills are ripped straight from what has become a standard international playbook: Propose legislation to combat cybercrime; invoke child pornography, hackers, organized crime, and even terrorism; then slip in measures that also make it easier to identify critical voices online (often without judicial oversight) and either mute them or throw them in jail for defamation — direct threats to free speech.

Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Kuwait, Kenya, the Philippines, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have all seen similar proposals recently. Some were met with strong resistance and got shelved, some are still pending, and others made it into law.

“Cybercrime is one of the recurring excuses for creating overbroad legislation which place controls on internet activity,” Katitza Rodriguez, international rights director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

In Brazil, the proposals are the result of the nine-month-long Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on Cybercrimes, referred to as the CPICiber, created in July 2015 by House President Eduardo Cunha at the request of a congressman from President Dilma Rousseff’s ruling Workers’ Party (PT). The first draft of the report, released on March 30, provoked a massively negative response from civil society groups.

The Brazilian press has not dedicated much coverage to this story — reporters have their hands full with the monthslong political crisis currently enveloping the nation — but the Folha de São Paulo, a major national newspaper, published an editorial on Saturday arguing that the proposals use the “pretext of increasing security” online to “increase the power to censor the web and diminish users’ privacy.” According to Folha, the “provisions attack the pillars of the Marco Civil da Internet, a statute enacted in 2014 which put Brazil at the vanguard of the issue” of internet rights. The paper concluded that “this is the type of control used by countries such as China and Iran.”

One particularly controversial proposal would have required social networks to remove content deemed “offensive to the honor” of politicians within 48 hours of receiving official notification. After public outcry, that section was removed from the second version of the report, but other proposals remain that would force companies to take down prohibited user-generated content, including those deemed to be “crimes against honor and other injuries,” without a unique judicial order.

The CPICiber report contains seven proposed bills (with 20 specific suggestions in all). Among its provisions, it would also:

  • Allow for internet services (such as WhatsApp or Facebook) to be unilaterally blocked by a judicial order, a violation of net neutrality. (This actually happened in December of last year, when a judge shut down nationwide access to WhatsApp to pressure its parent company, Facebook, to cooperate in a criminal investigation.)
  • Require service providers to grant law enforcement access, without a judicial order, to IP addresses, a device’s unique online fingerprint that can be used to help identify and geolocate a user and reveal certain browsing history.
  • Divert 10 percent of public funds originally designated to improve desperately underfunded and overpriced national telecom services and infrastructure to law enforcement agencies.
  • Expand the scope and penalties for laws involving hacking and unauthorized access to data, including the criminalization of improper access that “risks misuse or disclosure,” whether or not such misuse actually occurred or involved criminal intent.

Gustavo Gus, co-founder of CryptoRave, a crowdfunded hacker conference in São Paulo, has followed the CPICiber hearings closely. “The police, judiciary, and the Brazilian authorities have not been happy with Silicon Valley’s responses to the Snowden revelations,” he wrote in an email. “Since the Cybercrime CPI was announced, there has been a lot of pressure from these sectors to increase data retention” and expand authorities for mass surveillance, he wrote.

In December 2015, a Brazilian court ordered cellular service providers nationwide to block WhatsApp for two days. An appeals court reversed the ruling hours after it went into effect.

Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Civil society groups have been suggesting changes since the first draft of the report was issued. Now, the third draft is due to be unveiled and go to a committee vote on Wednesday. If approved, it will then go to a full vote in the lower house of Congress and, if it passes, to the Senate.

“We’re trying to create a dialogue for the final version of the report and we have to try to work together and make it better,” Joana Varon, director of Coding Rights, a group that promotes human rights in the digital arena, told The Intercept, “but a lot of times our proposal is: ‘Please abandon this idea.’”

The Intercept reached out to the committee and its chair, Dep. Mariana Carvalho, for comment but did not receive a response.

Forty-eight civil society groups and academic centers such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Article 19, Access Now, Intervozes, and Institute for Technology and Society of Rio de Janeiro have joined Coding Rights to combat the proposed legislation. In a letter to the members of the CPICiber, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said he was “saddened” by the package, adding, “allowing law enforcement to identify people associated with IP addresses without a warrant would threaten privacy online — creating a chilling effect for freedom of speech, and with knock on effects for business and democracy.”

Dep. Daniel Coelho, a member of the CPICiber, has sharply refuted such arguments. In a tweet, Coelho responded to an article from a leading think tank titled, “Politicians want to censor the internet in Brazil with the excuse of fighting ‘cyber crime,’” saying, “what a ridiculous lie this article is. None of this exists.”

For Varon and many of her colleagues, the CPICiber proposals are especially difficult to accept after having spent years working with government officials to patch together the Marco Civil da Internet, an innovative piece of legislation that Varon calls the “Magna Carta of the internet.” It provides a clear regulatory framework and lays out a broad series of digital rights for all Brazilians, including the right to affordable broadband access and the right to free speech. It was produced through an open and inclusive dialogue.

The package was widely heralded by internet freedom advocates around the world, despite some serious reservations about such things as including mandatory retention of user logs by service providers. Since then, elements of Brazil’s political class have been trying to chip away at some of the newly established rights.

The CPICiber report is “the fruit of a strong conservative wave that has taken over our Câmera dos Deputados,” says Varon. “And when this wave hits the internet, it results in censorship and surveillance. This is a backslide.”

In the last year, a controversial antiterrorism law was passed into law by a president who was once herself imprisoned for being a “terrorist” during the military regime, and a bill debated late last year that would grant sweeping domestic digital espionage powers is waiting to be dusted off the shelf.

EFF’s Katitza Rodrigues warns: “Once one bad bill is adopted in one country, they can spread further into other countries, a domino effect. … Match this to the frustration of governments around the world with their inability to control encrypted communication services, and you create an environment where every country feels entitled to block not just websites, but entire services.”

Varon is worried, too. If the cybersecurity debate “is led by a conservative vision,” she says, then “we end up criminalizing everything, saying that we’re all terrorists, taking common practices and criminalizing them because we don’t understand how the internet works. It’s problematic.”

The post Brazilian Cybercrime Bills Threaten Open Internet for 200 Million People appeared first on The Intercept.

In Yemen, Saudi-Led Intervention Gives Rise to New Armed Religious Faction

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Thickly bearded men — some wrapped in traditional outfits, others masked — can be seen these days driving through Yemen’s central city of Taiz in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns.

The men belong to a growing faction of Salafis, an ultra-conservative Sunni religious group. In Taiz, the Salafis were once known for being preachers in mosques and religious scholars, but now they have become the most dominant fighters among local resistance to the Shiite Houthi rebels, who ousted from power Yemen’s President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

First seen in March of last year, when forces loyal to the Houthis swept into the city, the Salafi fighters have increased in number since the Saudi-led coalition began its air campaign. Their presence in Taiz, the third-largest city in Yemen, has been particularly notable.

Residents worry that the growing Salafi movement is laying the groundwork for even more conflict among religious groups. According to several local residents, Homat al-Aqida fighters, the largest of five Salafi factions in Taiz, resemble al Qaeda-linked groups.

Some residents “see the Salafis as synonymous to al Qaeda,” said Mohammed al-Azaazi, a Taiz university student. “The Salafis have detained several people and carried out public executions, while claiming they apply the Islamic Sharia.”

While the Salafi factions in Taiz deny they have links to al Qaeda, their fighters spearheaded the attack on the central prison last year, which led to dozens of prisoners escaping, including al Qaeda members.

The Salafi fighters’ presence is still relatively new in Taiz, but is rapidly transforming the city, according to Baleegh al-Zuraiqi, 34, a local resident in downtown Taiz. The Salafis have been based in four neighborhoods since the fighting started, al-Zuraiqi said, “including Bab Mosa, where they have established an Islamic court to solve issues and cases among the local people.”

According to local sources, the Salafis now account for nearly half of the anti-Houthi alliance in Taiz, which consists of thousands of fighters. One member of a Salafi faction in Taiz, who asked to remain anonymous, said his group acquired some weapons from the Saudi-led coalition, but insists they “will return the arms after the war is over in Taiz.”

The member said his faction, which consists of more than 500 recruits, will continue to fight the Houthis until they’re driven out of Taiz. “Then,” he said, “our war will end.”

Yet residents of the city worry that the growing religious factions have permanently altered the city.

“Taiz is no longer ‘the city of dreams,’” said Abdurraqib al-Majeedi, a local poet and writer who left the city for Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, escaping the fierce fighting and the crippling siege. “It has become a city of war — a hub for extremist fighters and militias.”

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New York Times Finds Verizon Strike Beneath Notice

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The New York Times actually mentioned the ongoing strike against Verizon on Tuesday.

David Wacker, a service technician with Verizon who is one of around 39,000 landline and cable employees participating in the largest U.S. strike action in four years, was quoted in an article about Bernie Sanders supporters, which noted, in a subordinate clause, that he was on strike.

That brief reference was the first mention of the Verizon labor action on the news pages of the New York Times in a week.

The most recent references before that also had to do with Sanders, when he visited a Verizon picket line in midtown Manhattan on April 18. Outside of those Sanders-focused stories, the New York Times hasn’t run a story on this major labor battle since its second day of action, nearly two weeks ago.

A review of Times stories reveals two items from the day the strike began, April 13. Brian Chen wrote about “How the Verizon Strike Could Affect You,” and he joined Noam Scheiber for a news piece about the strike. In an April 14 piece for the technology-focused “Bits” section, Jim Kerstetter assured Times readers that most Verizon customers wouldn’t notice the strike. That was the last time the news pages mentioned the labor action, outside of fleeting references in Sanders stories.

Paul Krugman did lead a column about monopolies on April 18 with a discussion of Verizon’s lack of business investment in its FiOS high-speed broadband network, a primary complaint of striking workers. An April 21 Associated Press story on Verizon’s first-quarter earnings, reprinted on the Times website, also alluded to the strike.

The Verizon strike, now in its third week, has generated some headlines elsewhere. NBC News described it four days ago as “a fight for the future of labor.” The Philadelphia Inquirer recently discussed the central issue in the strike: Verizon outsourcing call centers overseas in contrast to its rivals, who are in-sourcing those jobs. And several outlets pointed out that one of Verizon’s attorneys struck two union picketers with his Porsche.

The New York Times’s longtime labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse, took a company buyout in December 2014 and left the paper. While he still writes freelance pieces, only one major national newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, has a full-time dedicated labor reporter.

The Times’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, who would normally respond to questions about the paper’s coverage, ended her tenure on April 16. The Intercept has attempted to ask the Times executive editor and managing editor about their lack of coverage of the Verizon strike. So far there hasn’t been a response.

According to a New York Times media kit for advertisers, the median household income for readers is $160,864 a year.

Top Photo: Hundreds of Verizon workers strike outside of the telecommunications company’s Brooklyn offices on April 13, 2016 in New York City.

The post New York Times Finds Verizon Strike Beneath Notice appeared first on The Intercept.

Interview With Margaret Brown, Director of “The Black Belt”

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For more than a decade, filmmaker Margaret Brown, a native of Mobile, Alabama, has worked to document the American South. In 2004’s Be Here to Love Me, she recounted the life and career of legendary Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. With The Order of Myths (winner of the 2009 Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award), she looked at the complex racial dynamics at play in her hometown’s annual Mardi Gras celebrations. And in The Great Invisible, she traveled from boardrooms to the backwoods, talking to CEOs, small business owners, and the rural homeless to contemplate the fallout along the Gulf Coast from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

For her new Field of Vision short, The Black Belt, Brown returned to Alabama to examine how the shuttering of 31 driver’s license offices — all located in predominantly black districts — has directly impacted voter enfranchisement in a state that requires photo IDs at the polls. In the following interview, Brown talks about following a mobile voter ID unit in Alabama’s rural “Black Belt” region, the challenges of developing relationships in the field on a limited time frame, and her experiences as a feature filmmaker working in the short form.


You get the call from Field of Vision, asking if you’re interested in pursuing this story of DMV closures in your home state of Alabama. Where do you start?

Brown: They had closed the DMVs, but to help counter the closures, they got this mobile voter ID — they call it a “unit” — to go around to every county in Alabama. I was poking around and found a website that listed where this mobile voter ID truck was traveling to in Selma. So we drove around, but the address on the website was wrong. It was like in the middle of a field somewhere.

To find the real address, I had to call the assistant to the secretary of state, who was helping us with the interviews, and it’s in this area of Alabama where there’s not even cell coverage. So from the get go — wow, the major way of transmitting the information doesn’t even have the correct address.

I would imagine it’s already a challenge to articulate the real-life effects of an administrative decision, but here it immediately got more complicated in that this initiative to combat the DMV closures is a problem in itself. How do you approach where the point of view of the film is going to be in relation to a situation that’s several layers of messed up?

Brown: We were figuring out as we went along. I didn’t want to have an opinion going in about whether this was politically motivated or not. I just wanted to see what would happen if I followed the mobile voter ID unit, what would happen if I talked to the secretary of state about why these closures were happening. I did my homework and I read a ton about it, and I talked to local politicians to figure out whom I should interview — but other than that, I decided that I would insert myself into these situations and just see what we got.

What was your take on it going in?

Brown: I thought it was strange that in the most African-American part of the state, that they had closed all these places. Getting a driver’s license is the most common form of voter ID, and in a state that’s ranked last in terms of ease of voter registration, they just made it a lot harder for the poorest and most Democratic part of the state. And it was only going to save $100,000 in the whole state’s budget. So I had a question about that going in. But I also didn’t want to go in with, “Oh, I know already what I think.” To me, that’s always a bad place to start with a movie, because you won’t be surprised. You’re closed off to anything happening.

Your process sounds great for being able to really see what’s there, but you’re also going in without a net, not knowing in advance how you’re going to make it work, especially at a condensed length.

Brown: It was a little scary. But I was interested in this idea of, what if it’s not a traditional narrative? I think it ended up being not untraditional, but the logic of it is like a wave, not a three-act structure. And I think you can do that with a short film. I was interested in playing with that — how far can I push this? I was also interested in making something that really was a short film, and wasn’t a “longer short” film. I really wanted it to be 10 or 12 minutes.

The most important thing to me would be that it felt like the place and made you think about whether or not this is voter suppression. But not in a beating-you-over-the-head, activist way — feel the place and see the people and come up with your own thoughts. We ended up hanging out a lot in Selma. This is a place in the Black Belt where there’s a lot of history. It just organically evolved and became a portrait of a place. Once we got that scene in Selma, we were like, “Why don’t we hang out here a little bit longer?”

What did you come to know about Alabama that you didn’t know previously? Did your perspective change at all making this film?

Brown: I was definitely very aware of my whiteness, and my relative wealth, in a way that I don’t think I was making The Order of Myths. A lot of the people in the African-American Mardi Gras have money — it’s a different group of folks.

Here it was [cinematographer] Jeff Peixoto and me and a white sound guy, in this pretty impoverished part of the state, walking around asking people to talk about voting. And I felt white. I’m asking myself, “Am I the right person to be making this?” I’m not a complete essentialist, and I think that I can go and interrogate this and see what I can find, but the reason I put myself in the movie is because I think it’s important to see that I’m this white woman making the movie. The audience should take that into account when they’re watching the film.

How did you determine how much of yourself to put in, and where?

Brown: In the first edit, I was in the movie a lot, but I think a little goes a long way. I decided to just have it in the beginning, where you see me looking for a pen. Which is very indicative of how I am — I always lose the pen, I’m scattered that way. And you can hear me asking the questions — my voice is more present in the film than in other films I’ve made. I felt that my voice should be a part of it, that my presence should be a part of it. It adds another level of meaning.

How long did you shoot for, and where?

Brown: We had four official days of shooting. I went around Selma and Montgomery, and called a ton around the state. Mostly in the Black Belt but a little in Mobile, because I’m from there and it was easier to get people to talk to me. Another challenge with the short form is that you can’t pull the same weight. Usually what I do is I go in and really get to know somebody and embed myself in a community so they trust me. They let me film them because they know who I am as a person. It’s a real relationship.

But with this, I’m going in there for 30 minutes — I’m getting it and then taking off. And that was really hard for me. Because to me it’s a two-way street — I don’t want people to think I’m stealing a part of their soul. Maybe people who do regular journalism or reporting have made peace with that, but it was rough for me. I just felt guilty somehow, that they didn’t know where I was coming from. They were just signing a release and I was taking off. So that was probably the roughest part for me, trying to get someone to talk to me in a real way, when I have such a limited time to establish that relationship.

What did you do to make yourself, and the people you were interviewing, more comfortable?

Brown: The only thing I could do was call in advance. But still you would meet people in the field. So I talked about the questions I was interested in, without answering them. I said that I would like to hear about this from your perspective. These were the everyday people that we encountered walking around the neighborhoods, who aren’t scholars or politicians or public people, the people who better embody that place. It’s tricky editing, knowing that this is going to represent them. Is this a truth of this situation? Can I get behind this?

Even if you’re the one doing it, you’re still wondering if you can get behind it.

Brown: All the time. I want to get it right. I want to get the balance right.

Do you feel that you got close to that balance?

Brown: I do. I would have kept editing it if I didn’t. When it starts to feel like it did when I was there, emotionally, then I’m getting closer. I feel that I could have made a longer piece if I shot there longer, but not with the material I had. With the material I had, I made something that felt representative of Selma late 2015, and how people feel about this thing on both sides of the issue.

How did you feel in the end about working at this short length?

Brown: Shorts are having a moment right now, and it’s cool to be part of that. People are paying attention to them in a way that they haven’t in the past. I still like the feature length, because it gives a viewer a chance to know that you’re going to hear a story and you’re on this ride. Psychologically, that’s something I’m interested in.

But for living on the internet — like this short ultimately will — I think it’s kind of a perfect length for getting something across. It’s digestible in a different way. Shorts have a different logic than features. And it’s nice to get feedback on something that took a month to make, instead of four to six years of my life. So it’s been interesting to think about how I might want to move forward with other work. This kind of expands the palette of what’s possible to tell stories.

The post Interview With Margaret Brown, Director of “The Black Belt” appeared first on The Intercept.

Leading Advocates of “Dark Money” Previously Supported Disclosure

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The campaign to allow money to be spent in the political system without a hint of its origin — the growing phenomenon known as dark money — racked up a major victory last week when a federal judge in Los Angeles issued a permanent injunction ending California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s attempt to obtain the donor list for Americans for Prosperity, the primary campaign and elections arm of the Koch brothers’ $889 million advocacy network.

The legal pushback against the attorney general’s inquiry was led by Americans for Prosperity and other advocates for undisclosed campaign cash. The Center for Competitive Politics, which litigates against restrictions on money in politics, joined the fray by filing a lawsuit against the attorney general’s request for donor information.

These days, those groups argue that guarding the identity of big political contributors is a First Amendment issue and a way to guard against “harassment” of donors — as Koch Industries’ general counsel claimed in a court filing.

But Americans for Prosperity and others now demanding campaign donor secrecy made the very opposite argument in the years before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision — supporting “full” campaign finance disclosure as a reasonable accompaniment to raising contribution limits. Now that contribution limits have been effectively eliminated, the calls for transparency have disappeared.

“They are moving the goal post,” says Stetson University College of Law professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, who specializes in election law. “When contribution limits were on the table, they advocated for transparency. When transparency was the little that was left after Citizens United, they shifted against transparency. It’s all Machiavellian and not particularly principled.” 

In 1999, Americans for Prosperity, operating under its previous name, Citizens for a Sound Economy, issued a press release on the campaign finance proposals touted by then-presidential candidates John McCain and Bill Bradley. The release, citing Citizens for a Sound Economy fellow James C. Miller III, said reforms should include getting “rid of the limits on individual contributions” and requiring “full disclosure.” Miller also testified before Congress, declaring that lawmakers should raise the contribution limit and require “complete and accurate disclosure of all contributions.” Miller also spoke with Investor’s Business Daily, explaining that he “would reform the campaign laws” to “take all limits off of contributions, but have full disclosure. So taxpayers would know. This would be up on the web.”

In 1996, Bradley Smith, now the president of Center for Competitive Politics, appeared on the PBS NewsHour, and called for lifting campaign contributions and adding more disclosure to the system. “What we really need to do is dump some of these laws, deregulate the system, require full disclosure,” Smith said. “Now people are trying to hide their contributions. If we open up, let people contribute, those contributions come into the open, and then if the voters think it’s important, the voters can decide.”

In 2003, Smith again endorsed campaign disclosure because doing so, he said, would help reduce corruption by “exposing potential or actual conflicts of interest.”

In recent years, Smith and his group have switched sides, claiming that campaign disclosure rules pose a danger. He testified against new disclosure rules on nonprofit election advocacy groups, claiming they would encourage “individuals to harass, threaten, or financially harm a speaker or contributor to an unpopular cause.”

Asked about his apparent shift, Smith emailed The Intercept to say his “position hasn’t changed.” But, asked if he supports any proposals to disclose the new wave of post-Citizens United dark money in the election system, Smith said he “would be more likely to support changes limiting rather than expanding disclosure.”

The about-face by Smith comes as undisclosed campaign money has flooded the election system for both parties, but especially on behalf of Republican candidates. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Pat Roberts, R-Kans., all previously voted or spoke out in favor of disclosing campaign funds in elections in the past, but voted to block new post-Citizens United transparency reforms to disclose secret money.

James Bopp, an attorney known as the primary legal architect behind the Citizens United decision, has gone on in recent years to fight legal battles against campaign disclosure. He represented a group in court last year that filed suit to overturn Montana’s donor disclosure laws.

But even Bopp once sided with disclosure, writing for the Heritage Foundation in 1999 that campaign finance transparency is vital.

“Proposals that are aimed at opening up the process, simplifying the campaign finance rules, and relying instead on complete and prompt disclosure would enhance politicians’ political accountability to the people,” Bopp wrote. “Such proposals not only would be constitutional, but they also would reinforce the sovereignty of the people over elected officials and decrease the threat of corruption by making it more likely that perceived influence will be exposed.”

“I have not changed by position at all,” Bopp said in response to an email from The Intercept about his comments about disclosure in the past. Asked if he would support disclosure for the numerous 501c nonprofits that engage in election campaign spending, he replied that doing so would “crush them.”

The post Leading Advocates of “Dark Money” Previously Supported Disclosure appeared first on The Intercept.

A Year After the Baltimore Uprising, the Real Work Is Just Beginning

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ONE YEAR AND one day after Freddie Gray succumbed to the spine injury he received during a 45-minute drive in a police van, the Baltimore police commissioner sat on stage before a room packed with people who had poured into the city’s streets demanding justice. On the walls, black-and-white photos of protesters reminded everyone of the rawness and emotion of Baltimore’s breaking point.

On stage interviewing Commissioner Kevin Davis were two protesters raised to sometimes reluctant fame during “the uprising,” as this section of Baltimore has come to call the protests — rejecting “riots,” the term used by much of the media. One of them, the photographer Devin Allen, was propelled from the streets of West Baltimore to the cover of Time magazine when he captured the protests’ most iconic image: a black man, face half-covered by a bandana, running from dozens of baton-wielding cops. The other activist, Kwame Rose, landed in the national spotlight when he confronted Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera on live television, becoming one of the most recognizable faces of the protesters’ anger.

On April 20, sitting next to Commissioner Davis, they were once again facing a police officer up close, and they weren’t about to go easy on him.

Davis is new to the job. His predecessor, Anthony Batts, was fired in July — not over the protests but because of the spike in violence that followed them. There were 344 homicides in Baltimore last year — the deadliest in the city’s history. Batts was not the only one to go: Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, announced in September that she would not seek re-election, and much of the city council followed suit. Today, the city will vote in the primaries for the first mayoral race in years that doesn’t seem decided from the start.

“This type of conversation isn’t normal,” said Rose, asking the audience to trust his “aggressiveness” in questioning the commissioner. No one objected when he then asked Davis, bluntly, “How do you deal with the anti-blackness that is natural inside yourself?” Rose asked Davis about two police brutality lawsuits that directly involved him, and whether he would now fire an officer who committed similar acts of violence.

Davis answered every question, if not always directly. He apologized to Allen, Rose, and anyone in the room “who has ever had a negative experience with a police officer. I am sorry that that’s happened to you, I really am. That’s not just on behalf of the Baltimore Police Department, that’s on behalf of our profession.”

In a sense, the staged conversation was a symbol of what has improved in Baltimore over the last 12 months — the city is now talking to itself, and asking tough questions. Debates about Freddie Gray’s death and the big-picture problems that led to it have echoed from the streets, to public forums, to the mayoral campaign trail. There’s general acknowledgement of the poverty, housing, and education crises in the city — and honest recognition that police culture must change.

But if Baltimore has now asked the tough questions, it’s less clear what the answers are.

Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, chief of the Community Partnership division, confers with Sonja Sohn of The Wire, during a rally for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2016.

Photo: Allison Shelley for The Intercept

IN NOVEMBER, on the eve of the first trial in the Gray case, the police department confronted a team of Penn North residents — this time on the football field. Police won the regular game, but then added an extra quarter and had the officers who “weren’t all that” play local children, with the specific instruction to “let them score.” Residents went home with the trophy, “but the truth of the matter is we whipped their butts!” joked Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, who leads the department’s community partnership division.

Driving around different parts of West Baltimore last week, I saw two different groups of officers throwing a football around with kids, an officer at a playground helping small children climb a set of monkey bars, and a young girl playing with a police car’s loudspeaker telling passersby to put their hands on the ground. Young men nearby looked on, slightly confused. This was weird, they mumbled.

Russell, a staunch advocate of cops walking the beat as “partners not occupiers,” was a vocal critic of the department’s failures before and during last year’s protests, and is now leading attempts to reform its culture. I spoke with him at the police headquarters downtown, but ran into him around West Baltimore several times last week.

“You hear law enforcement agencies across the nation saying that they believe in community policing, but at the end of the day, at least for the ones I have looked at, they are just words, I haven’t seen anyone put it in practice,” he said. “We are dead set on showing Baltimore, and proving to them and ourselves, that we do belong in this community.”

“We did not get into whatever [situation] we are in overnight,” said Russell, pleading for time. “We are really plowing the ground with the community and planting those seeds. To think that you can wake up tomorrow and see the fruits of that is ridiculous. You got to get through the season to see the fruits of your work.”

In early April, the Maryland legislature passed a police accountability bill — the direct result of conversations that followed Gray’s death — ordering changes to the ways in which officers are hired, trained, and disciplined. But the bill didn’t include a provision the community had requested, giving civilian review boards authority to investigate officer misconduct.

On the streets, Baltimore residents remain vigilant.

Just days earlier, residents of the Gilmor Homes housing project rushed out to the same street where Gray had been arrested when they saw officers chasing a young man. Dozens of residents recorded the arrest on their phones and asked for the officers’ names and badge numbers. Last week, the department opened an investigation after a different video surfaced online showing police roughly arresting an 18-year-old at his home in East Baltimore. The teenager had told officers to leave because they didn’t have a warrant. “That don’t matter,” one of them is heard saying before officers pull him out of the house and push him to the ground.

Justice in the Gray case remains on hold. A federal investigation of the Baltimore Police Department’s abuses is ongoing. The judge presiding over the first trial of an officer in the Gray case declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict. The other officers’ trials have been postponed.

And Freddie Gray is not the only one awaiting justice. The family of Tyrone West, who was killed by police in 2013, has been holding rallies for 143 consecutive Wednesdays. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who instantaneously became the city’s heroine last year when she brought charges against the six officers in Gray’s case, was met with angry criticism and growing frustration this month when she declined to reopen West’s case.

In a sign that Baltimore’s conversations remain tense, just a week earlier, Mosby walked off the stage during a forum when confronted by the fiancée of Keith Davis Jr., a man who was shot by police last summer. Davis survived, but he has since been entangled in a controversial case that reflects the continuing divide between Baltimore’s poor black residents and the city’s law enforcement establishment.

Kelly Holsey is comforted by her daughter Peyten Carter, 5, in the living room of her mother’s home in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2016.

Photo: Allison Shelley for The Intercept

ON APRIL 19, the anniversary of Gray’s death, some paid tribute to his memory with a concert at a Methodist church while others grilled burgers near the street corner where he was arrested. But Keith Davis’s fiancée, Kelly Holsey, her four children, and a handful of supporters were standing outside the city’s sprawling jail complex, climbing a wall, banging on drums, and writing “Free Keith Davis Jr.” in spray paint over a giant banner and in henna tattoos on the girls’ hands.

Across the street was Davis, looking out from a window two rows down from the top of the brick building. They couldn’t see him, but he could see them, and he could hear them. He started banging on the windows in response to their drums, and soon other inmates joined him.

In June 2015, officers chasing a robbery suspect shot at Davis 44 times. He was struck three times, including in the face, and a bullet remains lodged in his neck, leaving a visible bump. Police said they found a gun on top of a refrigerator in the garage where he took cover. They said his prints were on it. He always maintained that he was innocent and the gun was not his, and refused to take any plea offers. In court, the officers’ contradicting testimonies unraveled, and a jury declined to convict Davis of all but one firearms possession charge. Days later — nine months after he was shot and arrested — prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder, alleging that the gun had been linked to a homicide that occurred earlier the same day.

“They are coming at him with everything they have because they have made a mistake, and instead of apologizing, they just continue to systematically ruin his life,” said Holsey while standing outside the jail. She waved at Keith as the falling darkness made it easier to see his outline through the windows. “He still believes he didn’t do anything, and the evidence will show it. I’m a nervous wreck because I understand that they will do anything, lying, conniving, being deceitful.”

Holsey, who said she was on the phone with Davis when officers showered him with bullets, had stayed home during the Freddie Gray protests. “I was always taught that officers do what they’re supposed to do, officers don’t maliciously hurt people. I now know differently,” she said, scrolling through photos of her fiancée on her phone, as her youngest daughter played with her mother’s long braids. “Even when he called and said the police are shooting at me, I was like, what does that mean, why would the police shoot at you? I wasn’t conditioned to think that way.”

Rallying support around Davis has been tough, she said. He has done time for drugs, and even though he was working full time doing inventory of Baltimore school lunches, it was hard to paint him as a martyr. “He made mistakes, he didn’t make the best of choices, but he did the best with what he had at the time,” she said, a statement that easily describes many of Baltimore’s poor black men, Gray included.

But Davis, unlike Gray, survived to tell his own story.

“Someone told me that no one would care, because he didn’t die,” said Holsey. “He is the second part of Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray passed away. Had he lived, he would have been arrested, had charges thrown on him, would have had to fight the court system, would have had to fight the state’s attorney’s office. And that’s what Keith is going through now.”

The morning after Holsey and others gathered by the jail, Davis was sentenced to five years in prison for the gun charge. Next week he is scheduled to be indicted on the murder charge — but the way in which the case has been handled so far has raised serious questions about the credibility of police and prosecutors, whether the public’s trust in Baltimore’s law enforcement is beyond repair, and how the system can operate if people just assume police are always lying.

“If you’re speaking absolute truths but the environment says, ‘I don’t care what you say out of your mouth at this point, we’re not believing anything,’ that’s an issue,” said Lt. Col. Russell, who would not comment on the Davis case specifically. “That’s our mountain to climb, we have to regain that trust.”

A memorial to Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2016.

Photo: Allison Shelley for The Intercept

FREDDIE GRAY WAS arrested on the corner of Presbury and North Mount streets, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore, a block lined with vacant houses and empty lots. A year after his death, the neighborhood appeared unchanged, except for the many tributes to Gray marking the spot where his deadly ride began.

On the corner where he was picked up, a blue cloud with an angel’s wings and halo bore his name and two dates: 8.16.89-4.19.15, those of his birth and death. J4F, Justice 4 Freddie, was sprayed on the sidewalk. Across the street, Gray’s portrait filled the windowless side of another row house, towering between civil rights marchers on one side, and present-day protesters on the other, each group waving American flags. On the day of the anniversary, a group of college students showed up with seeds and dirt donated by Home Depot and began planting a flower garden by the mural. Children wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and pins bearing a raised fist and the word “liberation” helped out.

Jaselle Coates, 62, who has lived in that house with her husband, Earl, for 16 years, and in that neighborhood for her whole life, was grilling burgers and hot dogs for them, looking at the sudden commotion in her backyard with some bewilderment, but happy enough about the garden makeover. She called the kids “our new family.”

Among the curious gathered nearby, she recognized Anthony Miller, also 62, a former classmate who grew up in the area but left for Virginia 30 years earlier. He returned to the block while in Baltimore visiting his son. “You still here?” Miller asked Coates, excited. “I’m not going anywhere,” she replied flatly.

The incident allowed the two to reconnect and reminisce about a time “before people lost hope,” when “you could come out and play and not worry about dodging bullets,” Miller said. Flowers and the occasional reporter aside, nothing has changed since last year on this block, said Coates. “Nothing’s different, nothing’s new, nothing’s better.”

At least on this day, however, the mood on the block was a festive reminder of the old days, and Coates was not the only one grilling. Across the street, a vacant home had been taken over by a coalition of activists who dubbed it the “Tubman House,” after the abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

“They put her on a 20, but they won’t even think about reparations for slavery,” said Taalib Saber, a law school graduate with long dreadlocks, referring to the news that Tubman would be memorialized on the $20 bill.

Saber and others, with support from a Quaker group and in partnership with local organizations, fixed up the house and turned it into a community center. A Baltimore artist painted Tubman’s portrait in red, gold, and green, the pan-African colors. Activists stocked up on donated food for the neighborhood and crayons for kids. They planted an urban farm-style garden outside, and they plan to start legal and political education classes.

Outside, members of a group called Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle flipped burgers for residents of the Gilmor Homes across the street. Lt. Col. Russell was there, as was Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a former Black Panther leader who spent 44 years in prison in a deeply controversial case.

The house itself had only been vacant for a few months. The family that lived there left after the protests, “’cause they wanted to get out of this neighborhood,” Coates said. Until the activists moved in, it was just one of Baltimore’s 17,000 vacant homes, an ubiquitous reminder that the city has seen better days. In neighborhoods like this, it’s not uncommon to drive past entire vacant blocks.

The group said they tried to purchase the property, even had private inspectors evaluate the building’s safety, and repeatedly declared their plans to the city. After they inaugurated the building and received some local press coverage, housing officials showed up and told them the house and the entire block were slated for demolition.

“They are against what we’re trying to do,” said Saber, while giving a tour of the place to a 77-year-old woman named Kay Adler who was wearing a “Revolution – Nothing Less” T-shirt. Adler was a civil rights activist in New York before returning to her native Baltimore. She had lived at the Gilmor Homes as a child, when she said it was “like a village.”

That village atmosphere is what Saber and the others are trying to recreate. They received the support of neighbors and even local gangs who promised to keep an eye on the property. “Look at it, we’re in the heart of the community, the people have spoken, they like it. Why not turn on our water and electricity and let us do what we are here to do?” he said. “The city had its opportunity for how many years? They haven’t done it.”

Activist Taalib Saber in Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2016.

Photo: Allison Shelley for The Intercept

THE TUBMAN HOUSE is one of several grassroots initiatives that have sprung up in West Baltimore, and Sandtown-Winchester in particular, in the aftermath of the protests. Starting in the 1980s, the neighborhood was the ground of an ambitious community renewal project, as officials and nonprofits invested massively in efforts to rebuild homes and services there. But that initiative focused on charity rather than empowerment, and when it faltered, Sandtown became a cautionary tale of failed urban policy. People here have learned the lesson, and after last year’s protests brought new promises of change, they now rely on no one but themselves.

At a forum held at the Walters Art Museum last week, Devin Allen answered a question about whether the protests had signified the end of something in the city. “The end of people sitting on their asses,” he said in his usual no-nonsense tone. “Time to work.”

He has done that much himself. After gaining overnight fame, he ditched plans to move to New York to pursue his photography, traded in his equipment, and started collecting donated cameras that he distributes to kids in Sandtown-Winchester, keeping them busy and dispatching a small army of chroniclers to capture the city’s life, struggles, and beauty, the way he did during the protests. Allen partnered with community activist Ericka Alston, who set up a recreation center in an old laundry and called it the “Kids Safe Zone.” In less than a year, the place has become a West Baltimore institution. On any given day Allen can be found at a playground not far from the protests’ ground zero, Pennsylvania Avenue, distributing hand-me-down cameras to a never-ending stream of kids, and taking photos of them with his phone as they take photos of him. The project has no name, no structure, and next to no funding. It’s just what he came up with after the protests.

“I was just like, I need to do something,” he said on a recent afternoon, constantly interrupted by children’s requests for batteries or help with a camera’s settings. “Because protest serves its purpose, it gets your voice heard, but now that you got your voice heard, what do you do? Now your voice is louder and stronger than ever, and that’s where people stop. You can’t just do that, you have to implement.”

“I don’t have no faith in politicians. I don’t think they can make change. I believe in stuff like this, becoming self-sufficient in neighborhoods and giving people food and love every day,” said Allen. “You gotta start from the ground up. We gotta rebuild from the ground up.” When the protests ended, “that’s when the real work started. The real work is when the lights are cut off and everybody goes home. And we’re here.”

INEVITABLY, “CHANGE” HAS been the big promise of Baltimore’s mayoral campaign, a heated race with 13 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination alone, which in a city as blue as Baltimore is essentially a guaranteed win in the general.

The race has pitted the city’s political establishment — including former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who resigned in 2010 after she was convicted of embezzlement, and state Sen. Catherine Pugh, who’s currently leading in the polls — against a new generation of challengers, like city Councilman Nick Mosby, Marilyn Mosby’s husband, who has since dropped out of the race, and DeRay McKesson, a Baltimore native who gained national fame as a protester in Ferguson, Missouri.

In the past, Baltimore’s mayors were all but handpicked by their predecessors, which led to meager turnouts at the polls and elections lacking any surprises or excitement. Traditionally the city’s largest voting block has been middle-class middle-aged black women. But this year’s open race, coupled with the presidential primary and last year’s protests, has made this primary a deeply contested one.

“I do think this election is one of the most important in the history of Baltimore,” said McKesson during a campaign stop at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where he told students that he anticipated record numbers of young people turning out to vote. “This election will just be different.” But whether the energy that erupted in last year’s protests is translating into new enthusiasm for the city’s political process remains to be seen.

Much of the community work since Gray’s death has been in his neighborhood, but some have also tried to bridge the divide in the city that the protests exposed. Desmond Campbell, for instance, a 19-year-old community college student, lives in West Baltimore but spends his evenings downtown, at Baltimore’s beautifully renovated harbor. As an ambassador for the Inner Harbor Project, Cambell works to help connect Baltimore’s black youth to a part of the city that has often rejected them, where store owners turn them away and police officers automatically assume they’re up to no good.

Last year during the uprising, when police used the harbor as a staging area, Campbell went to work there, then returned to protest. On Saturday night, wearing a blue “Hood 2 Harbor” T-shirt, he talked about how divided Baltimore remains a year later. “The question is, what can we do next?” he said, echoing what many in the city are asking. “It’s great to talk a good game, but it feels so much better to back it up.”

This particular project is helping marginalized Baltimore youth reclaim their city. But getting them out to vote is going to be a challenge, Campbell said. “People are made to feel like what they feel doesn’t matter, so why should they vote?” he said. “They’ll say, why should I vote for a mayor when what my neighborhood needs is not getting done? You’re supposed to help me? Help me!”

The next day, a rally in memory of Freddie Gray organized by an influential pastor drew a crowd back to Pennsylvania Avenue, including several candidates. The campaign fliers and T-shirts far outnumbered those bearing Gray’s name, while journalists and older men in suits outnumbered the usual protesters. The event was clearly meant to get people to the polls. “If you’re planning on voting on Tuesday, make some noise!” one of the speakers said, before introducing all the candidates at the rally. A couple of veteran protesters remarked bitterly that many in attendance would only come to the neighborhood for events like this one.

“I don’t have no faith in politicians. I don’t think they can make change.”

Some protesters and community organizers have endorsed candidates — Kwame Rose backed Pugh and the East Baltimore writer D Watkins backed McKesson — but the protagonists of the uprising have not unified behind anyone in particular, and many seem to view all the candidates with skepticism and the election with lukewarm interest. “All these people had this grandiose vision of being the mayor that brought Baltimore back from the uprising,” said Lawrence Grandpre, a member of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, rolling his eyes. “The question is, if a conversation is supposed to happen about general issues of inequity, can that conversation be translated into something that’s more specific? So we can actually do the work, not just talk about structural racism but actually end it?”

His group, which started as a college debate team at Baltimore’s Towson University and when its members graduated developed into a think tank advancing the interests of black Baltimoreans, rejected the notion that the choice is between protest and politics. They were in the streets last year, and in Annapolis this month, lobbying legislators to pass the police reform bill. And they were outside the Tubman House flipping burgers on the anniversary of Gray’s death. “People see it as an either/or — you’re either gonna do stuff within the system or you’re gonna be a protester and burn it down, and to me, you can do both at the same time,” said Adam Jackson, another member of the group. “And be more effective.”

There is no question that the black youth who took to the streets of Baltimore last year are political — “to be black to a certain degree is to be conscious,” said Saber, the young man who was giving tours of the Tubman House. The question is whether they can be successfully engaged in a political system whose impact has largely excluded them. “You use the voting system as best as you can. Understand it and use it,” he continued, noting, however, that he didn’t hear much talk of voting around Gray’s neighborhood, where the campaign signs that dominate the rest of the city are almost absent.

Getting young black residents of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to come out and vote will take time and profound changes, Councilman Mosby told me at a café downtown. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Mosby, who represents a West Baltimore district, ran for mayor promising to be the alternative to the kind of politicians who have been in office since he was in grade school. He endorsed Pugh after withdrawing from the race, blaming the protests on a long history of “failed leadership,” and echoed the chorus of voices saying that nothing substantial has changed since then.

“You never want a crisis to go to waste,” he said, quoting Rahm Emanuel quoting Churchill. “And we are wasting this crisis.”

Shaun Young walks with his daughters Jordyn, 5, and Korie, 4 months, in their neighborhood, a few blocks from where Freddie Gray was arrested in Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2016.

Photo: Allison Shelley for The Intercept

BACK IN SANDTOWN-WINCHESTER, Shaun Young — a skinny, 27-year-old protester who tumbled into the spotlight during the uprising when he grabbed a CNN reporter’s mic and yelled, “Fuck you! Fuck that! Fuck CNN!” — said that not much has changed in his own life since last year. He’s still unemployed and recently had to move after police raided the house where he was staying. He was arrested on the anniversary of Freddie Gray’s arrest, while confronting an officer who was arresting another man. “I was arrested for resisting arrest,” he laughed.

But something bigger has changed for him, he said — his own view of himself and his role in his community. Young said that he misses the protests. Not the tear gas and the anger, but the sense of solidarity and unity he felt on the streets during those days. Like many here, he has been trying to find ways to channel the sense of empowerment he discovered last year.

“I thought about running for mayor too,” he joked, then added he’s not sure he’ll vote on Tuesday. “It almost seems pointless,” he said. “I believe in self-empowerment.” Young said he was still looking for ways to do more, but for now he’s settled on being a great father and “cop watching.” In less than a year, Young had two cameras stolen, but Devin Allen, the photographer, recently hooked him up with a new point and shoot. On a sunny weekend afternoon this month, Young was walking around the neighborhood where Gray was arrested with his 5-year-old and 4-month-old daughters when gun shots went off down the block and two police cars raced by. He looked around for a moment then back at his girls, unfazed. His older daughter, Jordyn, kept playing with his camera. He passed on following the cops this time.

Kevin Moore in Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2016.

Photo: Allison Shelley for The Intercept

Kevin Moore, the man who shot one of the videos of Freddie Gray’s arrest, has also fully embraced his role as a cop watcher. He walks around with “Cop Watch” printed on his hoodie like a warning sign, and has covered his neighborhood with cop-watching stickers. At his apartment in the Gilmor Homes, he showed me a toilet seat turned into art project, covered with a collage of newspaper clippings about police brutality and the business cards of broadcast reporters collected during the protests. He doesn’t like journalists much, but he’s happy enough to tell me what he saw that day. He must have repeated it a hundred times, but he’s still incredulous when he describes how officers roughly handled Gray’s already cuffed arms and legs.

“I knew Freddie,” he said. “He was a great person.”

“My life was already at the point where I was like, man, what am I supposed to do, what is my purpose?” Moore, a 30-year-old father of three, said of that day. “Then this happened, and I knew him, and I felt like, this is my destiny, I was called to be a cop watcher, to be a nuisance to the police in a positive way, exercising my First Amendment right, which says that I’m allowed to document the police.” Officers in the area know Moore well and often take video of him while he documents their activities.

Moore is still angry with the police. He walks around carrying the court subpoenas ordering him to testify in the trials of the six officers charged with Gray’s death. Like everyone else I spoke with, he said nothing has really changed around here — except for people themselves.

“There’s a lot of togetherness, it definitely brought the neighborhood closer. There’s a lot of love now,” he said, fist bumping everyone who passed by. “After Freddie, it was like we woke up.”

The post A Year After the Baltimore Uprising, the Real Work Is Just Beginning appeared first on The Intercept.

With Facebook No Longer a Secret Weapon, Egypt’s Protesters Turn to Signal

The Intercept -

Updated | 12:26 p.m.

Although the police in Cairo sealed off parts of the Egyptian capital where protests scheduled on Facebook were to have taken place on Monday, opposition activists managed to stage brief rallies that resembled flash mobs, calling for an end to military rule and the cancellation of a deal to surrender two islands to Saudi Arabia.

Masaha Sq earlier before dispersal which lasted may be 5 minutes.. Many arrested #Egypt #april25

— Gigi Ibrahim (@Gsquare86) April 25, 2016

The fact that Facebook is now so closely monitored by the security forces prompted one leading activist to offer an online tutorial in how to use a new tool, the encrypted messaging app Signal, to help protesters find each other on the city’s streets, and stay one step ahead of the authorities.

The heavy police presence wherever protests were planned seemed to indicate that the authorities can no longer be caught off guard by events organized on public social networks, as they were in 2011 when Facebook-driven protests led to the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.

People are being rounded up near the places where protests are announced to be held in downtown and other areas…..

— Gigi Ibrahim (@Gsquare86) April 25, 2016

There was a time when political parties and groups used Facebook to post meeting points/times for marches. Mobilization much tougher now.

— Basil El-Dabh (@basildabh) April 25, 2016

I live in a country where every #facebook and #twitter account is considered to be a threat to national security.

— The Nagoul (@NAGOUL1) April 25, 2016

Concrete proof of the new dynamic could be seen outside the Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo, where thousands of protesters had gathered 10 days ago and a Facebook group called Egypt Is Not For Sale had called for fresh demonstrations against the transfer of the uninhabited Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi control.

Cairo journalists' syndicate totally locked down by riot police ahead of planned protests

— Kareem Fahim (@kfahim) April 25, 2016

Not only was the area off-limits to protesters on Monday, it was used to stage a pro-government dance party for a handful of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s biggest fans, joined by flag-waving police officers.

????? ???????? ???????

— ROGER ANIS (@Rogeranis) April 25, 2016

???????? #??????? ???? ????? ???????? #?????_????? #egypt #25april

— ROGER ANIS (@Rogeranis) April 25, 2016

??????? ?????? ???? ???? ??????? ??? ????? ???? ??? ???? ????????#April25#???_?????_?????

— ????? ?????? (@youm7) April 25, 2016

Across the Nile, however, protesters unable to access the main rallying points suddenly appeared in Mesaha Square, a temporarily unsecured area of the Dokki neighborhood, and launched into chants against military rule and the transfer of the islands.

Small flash mob like protest started in Dokki Medan Messaha chanting down with military rule

— Samer Al-Atrush (@SameralAtrush) April 25, 2016

Masaha Sq in dokki now… Islands are Egyptian down with military rule #april25 #Egypt

— Gigi Ibrahim (@Gsquare86) April 25, 2016

????? ?? ????? ??? ??? ????.

— Ahdaf Soueif (@asoueif) April 25, 2016

“They can lock down all the squares, but we will still find some street, some alleyway,” one young protester there told Kareem Fahim of the New York Times. “It is endless cat and mouse.”

Although the protesters did manage to evade detection long enough to assemble and make their voices heard, the police arrived within minutes to disperse the crowd, firing tear gas and shotgun pellets.

Protest lasted less than 15 minutes, before riot police stormed square.

— Kareem Fahim (@kfahim) April 25, 2016

Police fire tgas protest moves on.

— Samer Al-Atrush (@SameralAtrush) April 25, 2016

Protest in Messaha Square dispersed by police and armed civilians. Arrests right and left. #egypt

— Lina Attalah (@Linaattalah) April 25, 2016

A short time later, the protesters appeared again on a nearby street.

Protesters reassembling after Police dispersed the protest in El Mesaha sq. #Egypt #April25
Photo via Mona Seif

— Zeyad Salem (@Zeyadsalem) April 25, 2016

By the end of the day, more than 200 people were reportedly detained, including dozens of journalists.

Scenes from Egypt's protests today remind Egyptians & the world that this is a govt committed to forceful repression to preserve its power.

— Timothy E Kaldas (@tekaldas) April 25, 2016

pic of a young man holding a sign"The Land is Egyptian" taken just ments before he got arrested in Talaat Harb Sq

— ANHRI-?????? ??????? (@anhri) April 25, 2016

Around 230 protesters have been arrested today in Cairo and other provinces during demonstrations against the regime #Egypt #April25th

— Ahmed Ezzat (@ahmed3zat) April 25, 2016

The apparently haphazard nature of some of the arrests seemed to be illustrated by a brief video clip of one young man being pulled into a police van as he simply walked past it on a sidewalk.

?????? ??? ??? ????? ????? ???? ??????.#Egypt #April25 #????_????_????????

— Mahmoud ????? (@maadmahmoud) April 26, 2016

Although secure messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp do allow users to send some group chat messages, by their nature they are not as easy to use for public broadcast as Facebook or Twitter, which could hinder their usefulness as organizing tools for mass street protests.

A potentially more significant problem with the use of encrypted messaging apps by protesters hoping to avoid detection by the authorities is that just having the software on their phones could start to seem suspicious. There was some evidence of this in Cairo on Monday, with reports of the police searching the phones of protesters, and even scanning their Facebook and WhatsApp accounts.

Egyptian police violate citizens privacy by inspecting people's facebook and whatsapp in the streets #25april

— Ahmed Hafez ? (@ahmedhafeztweet) April 25, 2016

???? ????? ???? ????? ?????????.. ?????? "????????"

— ?????? (@Masrawy) April 25, 2016

Police stopping people in streets, searching their phones, preventing journalists from work and arrest suspects of protest #Egypt

— Ahmed Ezzat (@ahmed3zat) April 25, 2016

Police are now going through people's phones and arresting some of them for their phone's contents. #Cairo

— The Nagoul (@NAGOUL1) April 25, 2016

Another vulnerability dissidents in Egypt and elsewhere need to be aware of is that Signal, like Telegram, is activated by an ordinary, and easily intercepted, SMS text message to the phone of a new user. That means that it is technically possible for a phone provider, or a police surveillance unit, to know whenever a new user activates the service.

Frederic Jacobs, formerly a lead developer for Signal, pointed to this problem in a blog post in January about the dangers of using Telegram in Iran:

Most mobile messaging apps these days use SMS as a login technique. It’s really convenient because it doesn’t require the user to remember yet another username or identifier and telcos are taking care of the identity management such as re-assigning the phone number to you if you lose your phone.

SMS are trivial to intercept for your telecom provider. And in almost all countries, they are actively cooperating with the state to help intercept text messages and phone calls. But it’s not only your telecom provider, devices like IMSI catchers provide a cheap and efficient way of intercepting text messages for a local adversary.

As Orla Guerin of the BBC noted, the Sisi supporters were allowed to demonstrate unmolested, and harass foreign journalists, even as a law banning spontaneous rallies was used to arrest protesters in other parts of the city.

Supporters of President #Sisi in downtown Cairo – free to gather, unlike his critics who face huge crackdown

— Orla Guerin (@OrlaGuerin) April 25, 2016

Crowd of pro #Sisi supporters attacked and punched my #BBC colleague. He is ok. Uniformed cop made no effort to intervene #Cairo

— Orla Guerin (@OrlaGuerin) April 25, 2016

Some of the most ardent government supporters seen on local television were familiar to viewers from previous rallies, including a woman who had achieved viral fame two years ago for an interview in which she scolded President Barack Obama for his supposed interference in the country’s affairs by saying, in fractured English: “Shut up your mouse, Obama! Sisi, yes! Sisi, yes!”

The "shut up your mouse Obama" lady went from viral hit to a regular feature of the pro Sisi troupe

— sherief gaber (@sheriefgbr) April 25, 2016

Waving a Saudi flag at the center of a small pro-government rally on Monday in Cairo’s Talaat Harb square, the same woman was filmed saying that the Saudi king could have Egypt’s pyramids and the Sphinx as well.

So far 2day z Egyptian govt has been very smart, sucking up all z oxygen in Cairo w loud pro-Sisi, pro-Saudi rallies

— cecilia udden (@ceciliauddenm) April 25, 2016

Woman at pro-Sisi rally in #cairo: we'll give (saudi) King Salman Pyramids & Sphinx as well (as the islands).

— cecilia udden (@ceciliauddenm) April 25, 2016

Suspicions that the government supporters might have been mobilized by the authorities were reinforced by reports that some of them were transported to Tahrir Square in police vans.

Not even discreet enough to use buses, but actual police trucks are transporting "Sisi supporters" to Tahrir Square. #Egypt #April25 1/2

— Amro Ali (@_amroali) April 25, 2016

Sisi supporters transported in police trucks to Tahrir Square. #April25 #Egypt

— Amro Ali (@_amroali) April 25, 2016

As if to underline how much Egypt has changed since the end of the 2011 revolt, government supporters even rallied on Monday outside the window of the deposed president, Hosni Mubarak, who waved to fans from his hospital room at the Maadi military hospital in a Cairo suburb.

?????????????????????????????????????? ?????? ?????? ????? :D

— Sabry Khaled (@sabrykhaled) April 25, 2016

The post With Facebook No Longer a Secret Weapon, Egypt’s Protesters Turn to Signal appeared first on The Intercept.

Tamir Rice’s Family Should Spend Money Warning of Toy Guns, Say Cops Who Shot Him With Real One

The Intercept -

The City of Cleveland announced on Monday that it will pay $6 million to settle a lawsuit by the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was tragically killed by police officers in 2014 while holding a toy gun.

The Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association released a statement responding to the settlement. Rather than acknowledging any error on the police’s part, the association suggested that the Rice family use the funds to “educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms.”


Top photo: Protesters rallying after a grand jury refused to indict the police officer who shot Rice in November 2014.

The post Tamir Rice’s Family Should Spend Money Warning of Toy Guns, Say Cops Who Shot Him With Real One appeared first on The Intercept.

Independent Investigators Leave Mexico Without Solving the Case of 43 Disappeared Students

The Intercept -

Fourteen months after they arrived to investigate the disappearance of 43 college students, a panel of international experts is leaving Mexico, their case unsolved. Appearing at a press conference in Mexico City on Sunday, members of the independent panel, appointed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, described a case tainted by government torture and deep prosecutorial mishandling.

Of more than 120 suspects arrested in connection with the students’ disappearance, 17 showed signs of torture, the panel reported. Of those allegedly tortured, five were key to the government’s account of the students’ fate, the experts said. The case has been riddled with media reports of suspects tortured into making confessions, and the words of Patricio Reyes Landa, whose testimony was made public in the report, offers a jarring description of the alleged abuse. Landa, a central suspect in the crimes whose confession was aired in nationally televised press conferences, said the description of his capture was a “lie.”

“They went into the house, beating and kicking,” Landa said. “They hauled me aboard a vehicle, they blindfolded me, tied my feet and hands, they began beating me again and gave me electric shocks, they put a rag over my nose and poured water on it. They gave me shocks on the inside of my mouth and my testicles. They put a bag over my face so I couldn’t breathe. It went on for hours.”

While the allegations of torture could thwart potential prosecutions in the case, they do little to explain what happened to the students. For that, the panel would need access to officials and evidence that it did not receive. The lack of access, the panel indicated, did not appear to be accidental. “The investigation had difficulties that are not attributable exclusively to the simple complexity of a case of this magnitude,” the report said.

From the outset, the Mexican government’s account of what happened on the night of September 26, 2014, has been the subject of withering criticism. According to the official story — once described by Mexico’s former attorney general as “the historical truth” — the students were intercepted by municipal police while attempting to commandeer buses in the city of Iguala, some three hours south of Mexico City. The students were then handed over to a local drug gang who drove them to a garbage pit where they were murdered and incinerated in a massive, makeshift funeral pyre, the government has contended.

As the initial details of the violence trickled out, the nation recoiled in horror. The students came from deeply impoverished backgrounds. Their school — officially known as Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos but better known as Aytozinapa — is a training college for aspiring teachers. The vast majority of the students attacked that night were freshmen who had little idea what they were getting into when they left campus. Not only were scores of unarmed students disappeared, but six people, a mix of students and bystanders, were killed in the process of their capture. One of the student victims was found beaten and bruised in the street; his assailants cut his face off. Within weeks, anger over the crimes led to fiery protests that soon spread across the country.

In May, The Intercept published a series of articles about the students’ disappearance, based on six months of investigation and more than two dozen interviews, including conversations with survivors of the attacks, as well as a review of state and federal records, including communications reports by Mexican security forces and sealed statements from municipal police officers and alleged gang members who were detained in the wake of the crimes. The Intercept found major inconsistencies in the government’s story. Rather than a local crime committed by municipal officials and their gangster accomplices, ample evidence, including the government’s own records, pointed to a wider circle of responsibility and a clear-cut case of enforced disappearance — a crime against humanity under international law.

Speaking at the press conference in Mexico City this weekend, members of the panel reiterated, for the second time, the core conclusions of investigative articles published by The Intercept and other news outlets. In a rebuke of the government’s narrative of a limited, local operation, the panel reported that it had uncovered new evidence of wider federal police involvement in the night’s events. Regarding the assertion that the students were collectively incinerated, the experts repeated their long-held position that this was not the case. “[The panel] has not a single piece of evidence to change its conclusion that the 43 students were not incinerated,” Francisco Cox, a Chilean member of the team, said.

The panel’s first report was published in September of last year. The 560-page document meticulously deconstructed the government’s account and presented the events that night for what they were: a hyper-violent, coordinated, multi-pronged ambush of unarmed civilians at multiple locations resulting in at least six people dead, 40 injured, and 43 disappeared, carried out with full knowledge, if not outright participation, of security forces at all levels, including federal police and the military.

The experts had come to Mexico at the government’s invitation. With the authority to conduct an independent investigation and promises that the state would aid in making the necessary evidence and witnesses available, their presence offered a glimmer of hope that the most shocking crime in recent Mexican history might actually get solved. That hope soon crumbled though.

Following their first report, the experts’ relationship to the government turned cold, according to an account members of the panel provided to the New York Times. The government refused to make key interviews possible, including interviews with members of the military potentially present on the night of the students’ disappearance. Meanwhile, the experts themselves were attacked in media outlets close to the state, and an individual who appointed them became the target of a dubious criminal inquiry. Despite a sense that their job was not done, the experts were not offered an extension of their mandate. They are expected to leave Mexico in the coming days.

The search for the students has turned up scores of clandestine graves in the southern state of Guerrero, where the attack took place. To date, the remains of just one of the young men, 21-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio, has been positively identified. Exactly where his remains were found is deeply contested. The Intercept met Mora’s father, Ezequiel, on a rainy night on the Ayotzinapa campus. He was taking shelter beneath an awning. Violence, intimidation, disappearances — that’s how the government does business, Ezequiel explained. “It is their policy,” he said. “It is a narco-government. It is not a government that is for its people.”

Mexicans have a phrase to describe those moments in which things boil over: The drop that spilled the glass. The phrase was heard again and again when the outrage over the students’ disappearance was at its peak. The 43 young men, the pain that was evident on their parents’ faces as they marched through the streets, the government’s obscenely flawed investigation — all came together as a visceral representation of what so many Mexicans have suffered in recent years. When it spilled over into massive demonstrations across the country, there was hope that for once things might turn out differently.

According to government estimates that are regarded as conservative, at least 25,000 Mexicans have disappeared over the last decade. In a country where impunity is rampant, those cases stand a slim chance of ever being solved. With the independent investigators’ inquiry into the disappearance of 43 students coming to a close, the likelihood that they will be removed from that grim tally slips further away.


The post Independent Investigators Leave Mexico Without Solving the Case of 43 Disappeared Students appeared first on The Intercept.

Pro-Israel Billionaire Haim Saban Drops $100,000 Against Donna Edwards in Maryland Senate Race

The Intercept -

IN THE FINAL DAYS leading up to Maryland’s Democratic voters going to the polls on Tuesday to choose their U.S. Senate nominee, Rep. Donna Edwards has been barraged by ads and mailers from the Super PAC backing her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, called the Committee for Maryland’s Progress.

A television ad assails Edwards as “one of the least effective members of Congress,” contrasting her career with Van Hollen’s legislative record. It mentions no foreign policy issues, despite the dominant issue motivating one of the Super PAC’s largest funders.

Recently released disclosures reveal that $100,000 — a sixth of what the Super PAC has raised —comes from a single source: a donation by pro-Israel billionaire Haim Saban.

A “One-Issue Guy”

Saban, who made his fortune in the media and entertainment industry, has spent millions of dollars influencing the foreign policy establishment, including by sponsoring the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy and funding the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is also one of the largest donors to Hillary Clinton’s Super PACs. In a 2010 interview with the New Yorker, he described himself as a “one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”

Last year, he briefly teamed up with GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson to sponsor an effort to counter university boycotts and divestment from Israel’s occupation. “When it comes to Israel, we are absolutely on the same page,” he said of Adelson. “When it comes to this, there is no light between us at all.”

Following the Paris terrorist attacks, Saban called for “more scrutiny” of Muslims. “You want to be free and dead? I’d rather be not free and alive. The reality is that certain things that are unacceptable in times of peace — such as profiling, listening in on anyone and everybody who looks suspicious, or interviewing Muslims in a more intense way than interviewing Christian refugees —  is all acceptable [during war],” he told The Wrap. “Why? Because we value life more than our civil liberties and it’s temporary until the problem goes away.”

Days later, he walked back his remarks, saying he “misspoke” and that all “refugees coming from Syria” should “require additional scrutiny,” regardless of religion.

A Maryland Divide Over Israel and the Palestinians

Last week, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote that the Maryland Senate race involves “slight differences in policy.” But on Israel and the Palestinians, Edwards has significantly departed from the status quo in votes and statements in ways that her opponent has not.

During “Operation Cast Lead,” the sustained bombing campaign of Gaza that began in late 2008 and lasted through the middle of January 2009, 390 members of Congress, including Van Hollen, voted in favor of a one-sided resolution affirming support for Israel’s conduct during the war; Edwards voted “present.”

In November of 2009, the House of Representatives voted 344 to 36 to call on the administration to oppose endorsement of the United Nations’ “Goldstone Report,” which described war crimes by both Israel and Hamas during the previous year’s war. Van Hollen voted with the majority, and Edwards was one of the few who voted no.

Following the 2010 deaths of activists aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the territory under Israeli blockade, Israeli officials and right-wing supporters of the government there denied that there was a growing humanitarian crisis in the territory.

“I think all international institutions have acknowledged a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Edwards told me at the time. “I have long said that I don’t think the blockade is really sustainable for the people of Gaza.” Van Hollen’s statement on the event — highlighted on AIPAC’s website — was more muted; it did not condemn the embargo but affirmed that the “U.S. must also continue to make sure humanitarian assistance is able to reach the people of Gaza.”

In November 2015, all but one member of the Maryland congressional delegation signed onto a House letter written to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemning the “recent wave of Palestinian violence in Israel and the West Bank.” By mid-October seven Israelis had been killed in stabbings and similar incidents, and dozens had been wounded. In the same time frame, almost 30 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military attacks and nearly 2,000 had been injured.

Van Hollen signed the letter, Edwards did not. Asked by Washington Jewish Week why she did not sign the letter, she gave a brief statement condemning the violence as a whole, not just one side’s attacks:

I condemn the violence affecting the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, and urge both sides to return to the negotiating table to seek peace. It is critical that we ensure the State of Israel as a secure Jewish democratic state by making a two-state solution a reality, with the recognition of an independent Palestinian state that respects and recognizes the State of Israel.

“If you take their records side by side, she’s in the bottom 5 percent of the class and he’s up there, among the top,” Morris J. Amitay, a former AIPAC executive director, said in comments to the Baltimore Sun. “I’ve never seen such a disparity.”


Top photo: Rep. Donna Edwards rallies with Safeway workers in October 2015.

The post Pro-Israel Billionaire Haim Saban Drops $100,000 Against Donna Edwards in Maryland Senate Race appeared first on The Intercept.


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