Monday, September 1, 2014

No Place (for Indigenous Peoples) to Hide

Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (NY: Metropolitan Books, 2014).

Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide demands all kinds of attention for its fearless analysis of the United States as a surveillance state in service of its own political and economic interests and the protection of the rich and powerful. While U.S. surveillance programs -- overseen by the NSA and contracted with multiple transnational corporations -- directly violates U.S. constitutional protections for due process and against unwarranted searches, Greenwald's work exposes further the lies at the heart of American exceptionalist claims to being the premiere democracy in the world. These lies, perpetuated by the establishment media, must be publicly debated and appropriate safeguards put into place, Greenwald argues.

For here, in my abhorrence for the entire genre of book reviews, I would like to think with Greenwald's work in mind about how the U.S. surveillance state impacts Indigenous peoples in their relations to the "Five Eyes" or FVEY, including the United States, England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The FVEY are the NSA's closest surveillance allies with whom and between whom it would appear that most if not all surveilled metadata is shared.

Basically, the FVEY enjoy liberal access to NSA and one another's archives, including surveillance records of calls, contacts, calendars, emails, and chats through virtually every social network site including Facebook, Yahoo, Google, SKYPE, and Microsoft and telecommunication's company including Verizon and AT&T. The NSA is central in the FVEY's exchanges because the US was central in defining the Internet as such.

What this means for the rest of us are full breaches of all of the security and privacy checks and browsing programs that we avail ourselves of in order to protect our privacy and online anonymity. Everything from who is involved in an email to where they are located to the content of their posts and exchanges -- social, financial, and otherwise -- are subjected to NSA collection. The NSA then shares that information either en masse or by request with other government agencies and corporate partners.

(Beyond the FVEY, Glenn Greenwald notes that the NSA generously shares its surveillance archives with Israel. Other nations are partners but not so freely exchanged with.)

"Collect it all"
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions,
they don't have to worry about answers.” 
― Thomas PynchonGravity's Rainbow

The NSA is every minute expanding its infrastructure -- personnel, administration, programs, buildings -- to store, catalogue, and assess its archives of the trillions and trillions of gigabytes of data it collects every day.

What I find particularly interesting about about its programs are their discursive frames of reference for Indigenous peoples -- both for what that framing represents about the kind of surveillance state we live in but as well what it forecloses in questions about the operation and implications of U.S. surveillance in relation to Indigenous constitutional and human rights.

The NSA -- and by implication the FVEY -- wants to know everything about everyone. At least, it wants to have the data readily available to access, distribute, and analyze in relation to political and economic policy decisions, treaty and trade negotiations, United Nations meetings, and long-term planning.

But the NSA -- and by implication the FVEY -- frame their efforts in the terms of U.S. and FVEY political and economic interests that locate Indigenous peoples under their plenary authority as domestic constituents whose individual concerns are matters of national security. By accepting the terms of U.S. and FVEY federal law, the NSA and the data and analysis of political affairs that it generates fails to account for the unique constitutional and international laws that provide for Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.

For instance, shouldn't Indigenous nations in territories now claimed and often illegally occupied by the U.S. and other FVEY nations be fully consulted in the how, when, why, and what that they and their citizens are surveilled by the NSA? The how, when, why, and what their information is accessed and shared? Shouldn't they be involved in making decisions about how and if their territories are used for constructing and maintaining the NSA's surveillance infrastructure? Shouldn't they be able to say no?

The Patriot Act and Department of Homeland Security have, since 9/11, made it abundantly clear to Indigenous nations, particularly those whose territories implicate US-Canadian and US-Mexican borders, that they will be made to cooperate with border, drug, and AFT enforcement agencies or be punitively treated. Indigenous nations are coerced and bullied into partnering with federal departments and agencies, rarely if ever respected as sovereigns with self-determing powers over their citizens and territories in relation to U.S. political concerns or corporate interests.

Compare the treatment of the Mohawk Nation in upstate New York and the Tohono O'odham Nation in Arizona. As Brenda Norrell has frequently reported in Censored Newsthe Mohawk abjectly refuse cooperation and are subjected regularly to severe state and federal policing while the officials of the Tohono O'odham have cooperated with and are frequently awarded federal grants and services.


“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you” 
― Joseph HellerCatch-22

Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada know very well that they have been watched all along by federal and state officials and by corporations, particularly but not only those opposing government and corporate land grabs and resource extraction/exploitation.

As reported by Glenn Greenwald, OLYMPIA is the name of Canada's program that surveils the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy. As Glenn Greenwald writes, the Ministry regulates an industry of greatest concern to Canada's energy development (119). In cooperation with the NSA, Canada's program has set up spying posts for communications around the world (121). In turn, the NSA is actively engaged in surveillance of South, Central, and North American energy companies under the guise of anti-terrorism but explicitly concerning economic trade concerns (134-5).

As reported by Christine Graef for Mint Press, based on documents available through WikiLeaks, energy corporations have been watching Indigenous peoples for years, perceiving them as "terrorists" standing in the way of their interests, reviewing both their political organizing and strategies but as well the contours of their personal lives.

In 2007, surveillance involved communications between members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk in Canada:
On June 29, 2007 a group of Mohawks from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory blocked the CN Railway Line running through their territory, the Highway 401, and Highway 2 to protest conditions on Native reserves across Canada and the Government of Canada's sluggishness in resolving outstanding land claims. Blockade spokesman Shawn Brant faces multiple charges stemming from these actions, and the Crown prosecutor is currently seeking a 12 year minimum sentence. During the preliminary inquiry to Shawn Brant's trial, it came out that the Ontario Provincial Police, headed by Commissioner Julian Fantino, had been using wiretaps on more than a dozen different Mohawks without a judge's authorization, an action almost unheard of recent history in Canada. Those conversations between Julian Fantino and Shawn Brant were presented as testimony during the pre-trial hearing. The Crown obtained a publication ban during the preliminary inquiry, which was challenged last week by the Canadian Broadcasting Company after they found out that the O.P.P. had officers posing as cameramen during the Day of Action, a tactic that has recently been condemned by the Ipperwash Inquiry. The publication ban was lifted by a judge on Thursday, July 17th, 2008. A number of news agencies published initial analysis on the testimony. The next day, July 18th, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered the publication ban re-instated until an appeal hearing next week.
WikiLeaks documents show further the tracking of Indigenous activities in the United States, such as those concerning a tribal coalition seeking trade relations with Turkey (from 2010), attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund in representing the National Tribal Environmental Council (from 2010), and federal and corporate concerns about how to respond to tribes involved in conservation management of the Klamath River basin (from 2005).

I am confident that Indigenous resistance in Canada and the United States to the energy industry -- ongoing and proposed -- is under NSA's radar. We can all be assured that anyone even remotely associated with Idle No More or other Indigenous groups and officials actively opposing energy corporations, most immediately within the territories through which the Keystone XL Pipeline is proposed or fracking occurs, are targets of NSA surveillance. We can assume that when we sit across the table or block a road that those on other side have NSA-generated information about us--our lives, our friends, our Internet habits, including how and when we have talked to each other and what our strategies and concerns are. I am very much looking forward to Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything to confirm my suspicions and provide the definitive "site map" for NSA surveillance.


Indigenous nations have constitutional and human rights to sovereignty and self-determination. These rights are violated by NSA operations at the collective and individual level. Clearly it is long-past the time for Indigenous leaders to demand a return to the treaty as the proper form through which US-Indigenous relations are adjudicated.
"Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality but rather, it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent. Today with an information `superhighway' now looming on the horizon, we are told that a lack of access to information will doom people to a life of meaninglessness -- and poverty. As we look around and observe modern industrial society, however, there is no question that information, in and of itself, is useless and that as more data is generated, ethical and moral decisions are taking on a fantasy dimension in which a `lack of evidence to indict' is the moral equivalent of the good deed." ― Vine Deloria, Jr. (Lakota) 
"When you start talking about a surveillance state, certainly on an overall level I get worried and suspicious about it. But I also think, “Welcome to the Indian world!” All of a sudden all these white folks are feeling a slight taste of what it is to be black, living where they're being watched and judged and potentially a suspect. But of course the government has been spying on us. I was not shocked by the report. In fact, I was shocked that it wasn't bigger. Internet culture and internet technology have made it so much easier to spy on us and we willingly participate in it. We sign up with these places. Google scares me and I'm on Google. Facebook scares me. I get worried when capitalistic interests are the ones who contain all of our speech. These are giant corporations whose primary motivation is money, which it should be, but when you're talking about economic interests, you're talking about people who may not necessarily be loyal to their customers. So I worry about all of it. I worry that the world's largest bookseller is in court trying to become the repository for the CIA's online records. Do you really want to be buying your books from the same place that stores the CIA's records? For me, it's becoming one global thing which is going to control all of us. I turn into a leftist, paranoid conspiracy theorist and it makes me paranoid. It makes me feel like an Indian although I am already an Indian."  Sherman Alexie (Spokane)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dispossessions in Ferguson

Part I: The Dispossession of the Illini

The city of Ferguson, MO, was built within the historical territories of the Illini/Illiniwek or Illinois Confederacy, including the tribes of the AlbiuiAmonokoaCahokiaChepoussaChinkoaCoiracoentanon, Kaskaskia, MoingwenaMichigameaEspeminkiaMaroaMatchinkoaMichibousaNegawichiPeoriaTamaroa, and Tapouara.

Through 1700, the confederacy was decimated by disease and warfare. By 1800, only five tribes remained—the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Peoria, and Tamaroa. Under the terms of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, they were forced to cede their remaining territorial holdings and remove to Indian Territory.

Allegedly, some tribal lands were bought or otherwise acquired by Charles A. Lewis, who sold them to William B. Ferguson. In 1855, Ferguson deeded 10 acres as a right-of-way to the North Missouri Railroad Company--or, the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad Company. In exchange for the deed, the company located a train stop on the property and named the stop after Ferguson.

In 1876, the company built a spur line linking Ferguson and St. Louis. Ferguson Station then served as a rural place around which a suburb was built. It was incorporated as a city in 1894. Early settlers were primarily wealthy white landowners and investors following the railroad line.

Part II: The Dispossession of African Americans


  Total population
    One race
      Black or African American
      American Indian and Alaska Native
      Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
      Some Other Race
    Two or More Races
      Two races with Some Other Race
      Two races without Some Other Race
      Three or more races with Some Other Race
      Three or more races without Some Other Race


  Total population
    Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
      Puerto Rican
      Other Hispanic or Latino [2]
    Not Hispanic or Latino

According to the Census 2010, Ferguson is 29.3 percent (6,206) are White, 67.4 percent (14,297) are Black, 0.4 percent (80) are American Indian/Alaskan Native, 0.5 percent (103) are Asian, and 1.2 percent (260) are Hispanic or Latino.

As has been reported in relation to the murder of Michael Brown, often as a banal fact of life for African Americans, the overwhelming majority of Ferguson city officials, police, and school board members are White.

As reported in the New York Times
With primarily white police forces that rely disproportionately on traffic citation revenue, blacks are pulled over, cited and arrested in numbers far exceeding their population share, according to a recent report from Missouri’s attorney general. In Ferguson last year, 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches and 93 percent of arrests were of black people — despite the fact that police officers were far less likely to find contraband on black drivers (22 percent versus 34 percent of whites). This worsens inequality, as struggling blacks do more to fund local government than relatively affluent whites…. That helps explain why majority-black Ferguson has a virtually all-white power structure: a white mayor; a school board with six white members and one Hispanic, which recently suspended a highly regarded young black superintendent who then resigned; a City Council with just one black member; and a 6 percent black police force.
But this is not just a matter of the disparity between white men and everyone else in the public life of Ferguson (though there is that), but how racist and sexist ideologies and practices of violence inform and reproduce that disparity as banality.

Part III: Dispossession in Between

The current structure of power in the United States is predicated on the violent and fraudulent dispossession of Native nations from their historical territories and resources and the exploitative dispossession of Blacks from their bodies and labor.

Opposing that power demands that we not dismiss as banal either the erasure of Native peoples from Ferguson, Missouri, as a historical fact that those few Natives still around need to get over and stop making everyone else feel guilty about or the killing and disenfranchisement of Black people as an unfortunate deviance from an otherwise democratically principled society.

Opposing that power demands that we look for ways to connect our histories of dispossession in compassion, generosity, and solidarity. What would it look like if Native governments, in their government-to-government relations with the United States and Missouri, advocated with Ferguson leaders against police violence on Black male bodies? What would it look like if Black leaders in Ferguson and elsewhere demanded, as part of the necessary legal reforms needed to address violence against their communities, Native land rights? How might we rethink our histories and struggles as interlocked and interdependent against their fractured separation in the service of existing power relations? 

“A great many people in North America believe that Canada and the United States, in a moment of inexplicable generosity, gave treaty rights to Native people as a gift. Of course, anyone familiar with the history of Indians in North America knows that Native people paid for every treaty right, and in some cases, paid more than once. The idea that either country gave First Nations something for free is horseshit.” ― Thomas King (Cherokee)The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

“Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is – and that’s in their own home communities.” -- Malcolm X, Autobiography

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Some Notes on Gaza, Ferguson, and Irony's Lack

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana, The Life of Reason 

"Hegel remarks somewhere that history tends to repeat itself.
He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 

Notes on Mistaking for Irony What Is Very Much Not

1) The United States military consolidated and acuminated its imperialist tactics against English totalitarianism and Native/Indigenous sovereignty. After English withdrawal, it honed these tactics in relation to Native/Indigenous sovereignty with the singular focus of "exterminating" the people and territorial claims of Native nations. And it did so with massive popular support.

For instance, in describing the campaign of extermination in California policy, Jack D. Forbes emphasizes that it was not merely military or state officials who participated in it: “the sequence of events [are] all the more distressing since it serves to indict not a group of cruel leaders, or a few squads of rough soldiers, but, in effect, an entire people; for the conquest of the Native Californian was above all else a popular, mass enterprise” (Native Americans of California and Nevada).

The results were catastrophic: With regional difference, between 60 and 95 percent of the Native population died in military conflict and by disease. Today, Native nations hold less than 4 percent of their original territories.

2) The United States executive and legislative branches of government in junction with its military and intelligence agencies funded, supplied, and trained the State of Israel in its efforts to illegally annex Palestine and push back neighboring Arab nations. It rationalized these investments on the grounds of establishing the only democratic state in the region. To make this argument, it willfully ignored the religious and racial discrimination of Israeli citizenship and property rights against Arabs and Muslims.

For instance, in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt write that,

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America's entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.

According to the Congressional Research Service report, US Foreign Aid to Israel for fiscal year 2014, the US gave $3.1 billion or $9.9 million per day in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Israel. "Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has been slowly phasing out economic aid to Israel and gradually replacing it with increased military aid. In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package FY 2009 to FY 2018. In 2012, the U.S. began giving Israel $3.1 billion a year (or an average of $8.5 million a day) and promised to provide that amount every year through FY 2018."

Why does the US provide so much financial--and diplomatic--support? Noam Chomsky is useful here:
NC: .... And, in fact, the United States has overwhelmingly vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli crimes and atrocities, prevented the Security Council from calling on Israel to terminate aggression, and so on and so forth. The descriptive comment is not really controversial. There are interesting questions about why it’s true. There were also interesting questions about the sources of support for this position in the United States, which helps us explain why it is true. 
The history is reasonably clear. This was not the case up until 1967. In fact, before 1967, the relationships were not very different from relationships among other powers. There was sympathy and support for Israel, which has many, many sources, including the Christian Zionism, which is a very powerful force that precedes and is numerically far stronger than Jewish Zionism. But for somebody like, say, Harry Truman, raised in a deeply Christian tradition, it was just taken for granted that the Bible instructs us that God gave the land of Palestine to the Jews. So it is kind of like in his bones. And that’s true for a very large part of the American population, much more so than -- far more than any other country.  So that is one factor, and there are other factors.  
But the major change in relationships took place in 1967. ... So what happened in 1967? Well, in 1967, Israel destroyed the source of secular Arab nationalism -- Nasser's Egypt -- which was considered a major threat and enemy by the West. It is worth remembering that there was a serious conflict at that time between the forces of radical Islamic fundamentalism, centered in Saudi Arabia -- where all the oil is -- and secular Arab nationalism, centered in Nasser's Egypt; in fact, the two countries were at war. They were fighting a kind of a proxy war in Yemen at that time. The United States and Britain were supporting the radical Islamic fundamentalism; in fact, they’ve rather consistently done that – supporting Saudi Arabia.  And Nasserite secular nationalism was considered a serious threat, because it was recognized that it might seek to take control of the immense resources of the region and use them for regional interest, rather than allow them to be centrally controlled and exploited by the United States and its allies. So that was a major issue…That was considered a major contribution to U.S. geopolitical strategy and also to its Saudi Arabian ally. And, in fact, that's when attitudes toward Israel changed sharply and the U.S. support for Israel -- material, diplomatic, and other -- also increased sharply.  In 1970, there was another turning point. In 1970, the Jordanian army (Jordan was a strong, close U.S. ally) – the Jordanian dictatorship was essentially massacring Palestinians during what's the month that's called Black September….
This was under the framework of the war on terror that Reagan had declared. The African National Congress -- Mandela’s ANC -- was designated as one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world as late as 1988. [So] that it [could] support South-African apartheid and the Guatemalan murderous dictatorship and other murderous regimes, Reagan needed a kind of network of terrorist states to help out, to evade the congressional and other limitations, and he turned to, at that time, Taiwan, but, in particular, Israel. Britain helped out. And that was another major service. And so it continued.
3) The United States military, intelligence agencies, and local police have sought training from and alongside Israeli Defense Forces and Mossad.

For instance, Max Blumenthal wrote about Urban Shield:
Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in “counter-terror” operations but is better known for its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders and long record of repression and abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Urban Shield also featured a unit from the military of Bahrain, which had just crushed a largely non-violent democratic uprising by opening fire on protest camps and arresting wounded demonstrators when they attempted to enter hospitals…. The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.
The process of Israelification began in the immediate wake of 9/11, when national panic led federal and municipal law enforcement officials to beseech Israeli security honchos for advice and training. America’s Israel lobby exploited the climate of hysteria, providing thousands of top cops with all-expenses paid trips to Israel and stateside training sessions with Israeli military and intelligence officials. By now, police chiefs of major American cities who have not been on junkets to Israel are the exception. 
“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism,” said former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who now serves as the US Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Cathy Lanier, the Chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police, remarked, “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “One would say it is the front line,” Barnett Jones, the police chief of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said of Israel. “We’re in a global war.” Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security and a leading expert on terror and civil liberties, said the Israeli influence on American law enforcement is so extensive it has bled into street-level police conduct. “After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture,” Greenberg told me. “The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.” 
4) Local police use Israeli tactics originating in anti-Indigenous US imperialist strategies against #Ferguson protestors, the majority of whom are from the local Black community engaged in civil protest against the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen.

In March 2011, it was reported that the St. Louis police chief was set to visit Israel:
St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch will be traveling to Israel next month to learn how Israeli police, intelligence and security forces work to prevent terrorist attacks. Fitch will visit for a week with other law enforcement officials from across the United States, including representatives of the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The trip is part of the Anti-Defamation League's National Counter-Terrorism seminar. Fitch and the others will visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Tiberias, among other cities. The Israel National Police and senior officials from Israel's defense forces, intelligence and security organizations will meet with the Americans. St. Louis County police houses the region's anti-terrorism center.
On his twitter page, @DustinSlaughter posted this picture, highlighting the racial profiling within St. Louis/Ferguson police force:

On his twitter page, Dustin Slaughter posted this picture, highlighting the racial profiling within St. Louis/Ferguson police force:

Don't Call it Irony

There is nothing ironic or curious about the historical consistencies of imperialist ideologies and practices.

From @MariamBarghouti, we see an image of the tear gas canister made in the US, supplied to Israel, and used in Gaza:

We also watch, in real time, as Gazans offer advice to the protesters in Ferguson how to protect themselves against tear gas:

History is not a repeating itself--as tragedy or farce or in amnesia. This isn't scripted. We remember.

US democracy has not gone off course. This is what it has always looked like from the perspectives of Native/Indigenous and Black peoples all along.

This is not fate; there is no fate. We have choices. It does not have to be this way.

Boycott, divest, sanction.

“We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And someday we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up.” 
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451