Edward Snowden interviewed


This video from the USA says about itself:

11 October 2014

The New Yorker Festival presents Edward Snowden in conversation with Jane Mayer.

From The Nation magazine in the USA:

Edward Snowden Speaks: A Sneak Peek at an Exclusive Interview

We recently met with the courageous whistleblower for over three hours in Moscow for a wide-ranging conversation on surveillance, technology and politics.

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F. Cohen

October 10, 2014

On October 6, Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and contributing editor Stephen Cohen sat down in Moscow for a rare and wide-ranging conversation with Edward Snowden, whose courageous actions exposing the extent of warrantless surveillance of millions living in the United States by the NSA have sparked a critical, unprecedented and transformative debate about mass surveillance. Among other issues, they discussed the price Snowden has paid for speaking truth to power, his definition of patriotism and accountability, how his experience has changed his view of US history and his frustration over America’s political system. What follows are a few passages from their conversation. A longer edited version will be published in a forthcoming issue and at TheNation.com.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Nation, many years ago, did an issue on patriotism and asked about a hundred people—how do you define patriotism? You’ve been called many names, and you’ve been called a patriot, but how do you, personally, define patriotism?

Edward Snowden: So, in terms of patriotism, I would say that what defines patriotism, for me, is the idea that one elevates—or they act to benefit—the country, right? That’s distinct from acting to benefit the government, and that distinction, that’s increasingly lost today. You’re not patriotic, just because you back whoever is in power today. You’re not patriotic because you back their policies. You’re patriotic when you work to improve the lives of the people in your country, in your community, in your family, those around you.

And sometimes that means making hard choices, choices that work against your own personal interest. You know, people sometimes say I broke an “oath of secrecy,” that was one of the early charges leveled against me. But it’s a fundamental misunderstanding, because there is no oath of secrecy for people who work in the intelligence community. You’re asked to sign a civil agreement, called “Standard Form 312,” which basically says, if you disclose classified information they can sue you, they can do this, that and the other. And you stand at risk of going to jail. But you are also asked to take an oath, and that’s the oath of service. The oath of service is not to secrecy; it’s to the Constitution—to protect it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That’s the oath that I kept, that James Clapper and Keith Alexander did not.

Stephen Cohen: You signed that?

ES: You raise your hand, and you give the oath in your class when you “on-board.” All incoming officers are made to do it when you work for the Central Intelligence Agency. At least, that’s where I took the oath—as well as another in the military.

But “whistleblowing,” as a label, calling someone a whistleblower, I think that does them—it does all of us—a disservice, because it “otherizes.” Using the language of heroism, calling Dan Ellsberg a hero, you know, all these people who made great sacrifices—what they have done is heroic—but to distinguish them from the civic duty they have performed by saying they are heroes excuses the rest of us from the same civic duty to stand up and say when we see something wrong, when we witness our government engaging in serious crimes, when we witness the people in power abusing that power, engaging in massive historic violations of the Constitution of the United States. We have to stand up and say something, or we are party to that bad action.

KvH: In light of your personal experience—the risks you’ve taken, you’re sitting here in Moscow. When you think of a young man or woman who might want to take comparable risks, do you think your experience encourages or discourages that?

ES: I think when you compare my example to the example of Chelsea Manning—who revealed the Iraq war logs, which showed that there were attacks against civilians, whether intentional or unintentional, that had been concealed by the military; the fact that there were people being held indefinitely that classified documents had said did not represent a threat to anyone or any state or any government anywhere but were instead being held for intelligence purposes and would never face any charges against them. You know, these are the kinds of things voters in a democracy need to know in order to make meaningful choices. But when they were brought forward—regardless of your opinion on how it was done or whether it could’ve been done better or if it was a good or bad thing—Manning got thirty-five years in prison. Meanwhile, I’m still free. I talk to people in the ACLU office in New York all the time. I’m able to participate in the debate. I’ve been able to campaign for reform, and I’m just the first to come forward in the manner that I did and succeed.

There’s a danger when governments go too far to punish people for actions that are dissent rather than a real threat to the nation; they delegitimize not just their systems of government, not just their systems of justice, but the very legitimacy of their government. Because when we bring political charges against people for acts that were clearly intended to work in the public interest, we deny them the opportunity, the ability, to even mount a public-interest defense. The espionage charges they brought against me, for example, explicitly deny the ability to make a public-interest defense. There were no whistleblower protections that would’ve protected me—and that’s known for everybody who’s in the intelligence community. There are no proper channels for making this information available when the system fails comprehensively.

The government would assert that individuals who are aware of serious wrongdoing in the intelligence community should bring their concerns about these programs to the ones most responsible for that wrongdoing, and rely on those people to correct the problems that those people intentionally authorized. It’s clear that doesn’t work. We see in the case of Thomas Drake, who brought forward serious evidence of waste, fraud and abuse in the government and the mass surveillance programs, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loomis and other whistleblowers in the past, going all the way back to Dan Ellsberg. The government is not concerned with damage to national security because in each of these cases, damage did not result.

At the trial of Chelsea Manning, the government could point to no case of specific damage that had been caused by a massive revelation of classified information. The charges are a reaction to the government’s embarrassment more than genuine concern about these activities, otherwise they would substantiate what the harms were. We’re now more than a year on from the NSA revelations, and despite numerous testimony before Congress, despite tons of off-the-record quotes from anonymous officials who have an axe to grind, not a single US official, not a single representative of the United States government has ever pointed to a single case of individualized harm caused by these revelations. This, despite the fact that Keith Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency, said this would cause grave and irrevocable harm to the nation.

KvH: Are you looking forward to Laura Poitras’s movie [Citizenfour]? I think it is going to have a big impact.

ES: She’s very impressive. Of all of the journalists that I’ve worked with, she was actually the most conscious of operational security out of anybody. I don’t know if it’s because she had spent time in the war zone or what. But she was very rigorous in how she followed everything, and that was really encouraging. It’s rare for me to meet somebody who can be more paranoid when it comes to electronic security than I can be.

In a speech Thursday at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, titled “Going Dark: Are Technology, Privacy, and Public Safety on a Collision Course?” Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey demanded that the major telecommunications corporations develop new “backdoor” access points in their encryption systems to facilitate the US government’s mass surveillance programs: here.

Japanese government honours war criminals yet again


This video says about itself:

11 September 2013

Aug 15, 1945 – Japan officially surrendered and thereby ended World War II. Every year nationalistic rightwing groups gather to protest the Peace Anti-War demonstrators at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Yasukuni Shrine dates back to the mid-19th Century and it is a shrine for the souls of all those who died serving the Emperor. In 1978 the spirits of Class A war criminals were enshrined there and subsequent official government visits there have often sparked outrage with Asian countries who suffered from Japan’s actions in WWII.

On the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, a peace protest is organized which marches near the shrine.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

China protests at Japanese PM’s latest WW2 shrine tribute

Shinzo Abe sends ornaments to Yasukuni shrine, regarded by victims of wartime atrocities as symbol of militarism

Friday 17 October 2014 09.25 BST

China’s foreign ministry has expressed serious concern after the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, sent a ritual offering to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, where war criminals are honoured among 2.5 million casualties from the second world war.

Dozens of legislators prayed at the site in the latest staging of a ceremony that has repeatedly drawn rebukes from Japan’s neighbours.

Yasukuni honours war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, among the millions it commemorates. Many Asian victims of Japan’s wartime atrocities, especially China and the Koreas, see the shrine as a symbol of militarism.

“China is seriously concerned about and resolutely opposed to the negative tendencies which have appeared in Japan regarding the Yasukuni shrine,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Abe last visited Yasukuni in December, triggering anger from China and South Korea. On Friday, he sent a set of Shinto-style masakaki ornaments to mark the shrine’s autumn festival, one of three major events when Japan’s conservatives come to pray there.

The chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said Abe made the gesture as a private citizen based on his personal belief.

A group of 110 legislators and 80 aides prayed at the shrine for the war dead. Cabinet members were mostly expected to stay away. The internal affairs and communications minister, Sanae Takaichi, told reporters she would attend, while Yauhisa Shiozaki, the minister of health, labour and welfare, offered religious ornaments similar to Abe’s.

Not really surprising for Ms Takaichi, as she has connections to open neo-nazis.

Abe is in Italy for the Asia-Europe meeting and is scheduled to return to Japan on Saturday.

Nazi Sobibor concentration camp gas chambers excavated


This video is called Hidden Gas Chambers Uncovered At Sobibor Concentration Camp.

By Elisabeth Zimmermann:

Excavation of gas chamber at Nazi Sobibor concentration camp completed

16 October 2014

With the assistance of supporters, archaeologists Yoram Haimi from Israel and Wojciech Mazurek from Poland have excavated the remains of the gas chamber at the Nazi Sobibor concentration camp near Lublin, near the eastern Polish border, as Spiegel Online reported on September 23.

In a clearing near the old Sobibor train station, one can see the newly discovered finds and remains of the walls. It includes the remains of an estimated four gas chambers, each 5 by 7 metres, which served as death chambers for between 70 and 100 people. Haimi and Mazurek hope that their findings will make the Nazi crimes at Sobibor more comprehensible. The Nazis destroyed the concentration camp 71 years ago, after SS officers and their allies had murdered between 170,000 and 250,000 people, mostly defenceless Jews and Roma.

The Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinca concentration camps were designed to carry out the systematic extermination of Jews and Roma living in the “General Government,” which was composed of those parts of Ukraine and Poland occupied by the Wehrmacht. Jews from the Netherlands, Germany and other states were also murdered there.

From the outset, the concentration camps were purely extermination camps. Only a small number of the people sent there were employed in forced labour. Most were driven directly from the goods wagons to the gas chambers.

In the three camps, between July 1942 and October 1943, at least 1.7 million Jews and 50,000 Roma were killed, more than in Auschwitz-Birkenau, which became the synonym for industrial mass murder. The implementation of the mass murder, code-named “Operation Rheinhardt,” was tasked to the SS and the police chief in Lublin, Odilo Globocnik, by SS leader Heinrich Himmler.

According to Spiegel Online, the Nazis ensured that no trace was left of Operation Rheinhardt. In the midst of the war, the war criminals, following the extermination of the Jews, sought to methodically eliminate all remaining traces of them. Between November 1942 and December 1943 they exhumed bodies, killed almost all remaining residents of the three concentration camps in eastern Poland, and burnt all of the remains of bodies.

Plans and documents referring to the camps were also destroyed, as well as the buildings. The grounds were flattened, forests planted and farms established. As few traces as possible of the monstrous crimes planned and carried out within the framework of Operation Rheinhardt were to be left.

Only very few people survived the three concentration camps. On October 14, 1943, 50 prisoners launched an uprising and broke out from Sobibor and survived the remainder of the ongoing war. In Treblinka, where 800,000 people were murdered, only around 60 survived. In Belzec, more than 430,000 were killed and only eight survived.

The excavations were initiated by the Israeli archaeologist Yoram Haimi, who came as a visitor to Sobibor in April 2007 to pay tribute to his two uncles who died there. “At that time the museum was closed,” he said. “There were monuments to see, but nothing that showed where and how the murders were carried out.”

He decided he would look for the remains of Sobibor himself and in the Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek he founded an equally engaged partner for the project. Together they fought to obtain the necessary financing and authorisations from the authorities.

Already in 2010, next to the square with the monument, the archaeologists discovered remains of security barriers. One year later, they discovered the so-called “route to heaven,” along which the new arrivals were driven to the gas chambers. “It was quite clear to us that the gas chambers would be at the end,” Haimi told Spiegel Online.

But at first they could go no further. The memorial faced closure. Due to a lack of money, the visitors’ centres had to be temporarily closed. Then the foundation for Polish-German reconciliation and the Majdanik State Museum took over responsibility for the grounds.

Haimi and Mazurek continued their excavation and found remains from barriers, barracks, crematoriums, as well as skeletons. The Rabbi of Warsaw gave them authorisation to remove the tarmac from the suspected site of the mass grave.

On September 8 this year, the archaeologists discovered remains of walls of red brick. Everything pointed to the conclusion that they were standing on the remains of the gas chamber. The area was between the “route to heaven,” the crematorium and the remains of a barracks of the “special commando unit,” as well as a water hole. Experts from Auschwitz confirmed the find.

The discovery was of “the greatest importance for Holocaust research,” said David Silberklang, historian at the Yad Washem memorial in Jerusalem. He expected that it would become possible to provide a more accurate estimate of the victims, and know more precisely about how the murders had taken place.

Traces of Jewish life were also found during the excavations at Sobibor, such as an earring with the engraving, “see, you are dear to me,” and a metal plaque with the date of the birth of the then six-year-old Lea Judith de la Penha from Amsterdam. As a result of this find, a television crew from the Netherlands are to film a documentary about the story of the child and her family. At least some of the victims of Sobibor will thereby be recognised.

Eighty-four-year-old Philip Bialowitz, one of the few living survivors from Sobibor, responded with satisfaction to the excavation finds. As a youth, he had belonged to the group of conspirators who planned the Sobibor uprising of October 14, 1943.

He was able to escape and was taken in and concealed along with his brother by a Polish farmer until the Red Army arrived. He had spent his life travelling the world, “because I swore that I would tell my story to young people as long as I am able. What happened back then should never be forgotten.”

Another survivor of the Sobibor camp, and participant in the 1943 uprising, was Thomas Blatt. He turned his recollections of the period into a book titled, “Sobibor, the forgotten uprising.”

Both Philip Bialowitz and Thomas Blatt appeared as witnesses and joint plaintiffs in January 2010 during the trial of SS helper John Demjanjuk in Munich. They described the terrible experiences they had as forced labourers in Sobibor.

The historian of Munich’s Institute of Contemporary History, Dieter Pohl, presented a report to the court. He described the establishment of the National Socialists’ system for exterminating Jews in the areas of Eastern Europe occupied by the Nazis, and the emergence of the extermination camps, including Sobibor. Since May 1942, Jews from throughout Europe had been systematically murdered in this camp in Poland, Pohl told the court. “The sole aim was murder.” The leadership of the camp was composed of 25 to 30 SS soldiers, while the dirty work was carried out by 100-120 so-called Trawnicki guards, Demjanjuk among them.

Although the trial of Demjanjuk shed light on the crimes of National Socialism, it left many decisive questions unanswered. Dumjanjuk died shortly after his conviction in May 2011, before the sentence of five years imprisonment for assisting in the murder of 28,000 Jews in Sobibor went into force.

A major problem in the trial of Demjanjuk was that most of those chiefly responsible for the Nazi crimes and those who assisted them were never brought before the courts in post-war Germany. Many of those responsible in the judiciary, intelligence services and police continued to be active in the federal republic without interruption, and without being held to account for their actions.

In the 1960s and 1970s, only half of the SS men prosecuted in the Sobibor trials were convicted. The camp’s chief at the time received a life-long custodial sentence, and the others imprisonment of between three and eight years.

German novelist Hans Fallada’s nazi prison diary


This video about nazi Germany is called EVERY MAN DIES ALONE, by Hans Fallada.

By Sue Turner in Britain:

A tortured soul in the face of terror

Thursday 16th October 2014

The 1944 prison diary of German novelist Hans Fallada reveals a man torn between his conscience and the diktats of the nazi regime, says SUE TURNER, and he paid a heavy price for it

IN SEPTEMBER 1944 the novelist Hans Fallada finds himself, not for the first time, inside a German psychiatric prison.

Believing that the war is entering its final disastrous phase, with the nazis increasing their reign of terror at home and the Allies closing in on all fronts, he feels compelled to reflect on the nazi years and so begins to write his prison diary.

“I know I am crazy,” he states. “I’m risking not only my own life, but the lives of many people I’m writing about.”

In just two weeks, at breakneck speed, he tries to write himself free of the horrors of the previous 11 years.

Under the eyes of the guards he unburdens his resentment and hatred of the nazis. He writes about friends and colleagues, those who suffered under the regime and those who collaborated.

Using a tiny script, he turns the paper around, writing between the lines in different directions. He uses abbreviations to disguise the content and finally smuggles the manuscript out on a home visit. It is now published in Britain for the first time as A Stranger in My Own Country.

Fallada (1893-1947) became addicted to painkillers as an adolescent after he was run over by a cart and kicked in the face by the horse. He survived a bungled suicide pact in 1911, although he shot his friend dead.

By the time he became an adult he was an alcoholic, a drug addict, an embezzler, a depressive and a suicide risk. He also became a best-selling author.

His novels document the lives of ordinary people as they struggle with life in a Germany hit by unemployment, inflation and the rise of fascism.

Little Man, What Now?, published in 1932 when four out of 10 German workers were unemployed, tells the story of a young couple fighting to keep their heads above water.

Fallada gives a voice to these half-hidden victims of a society that kept them on the edge of starvation. Rather than making the context of the novel explicit, he concentrates on the detail of their daily lives, leaving the reader to connect this with the wider political picture.

Fifty provincial newspapers serialised the book and it was made into a Hollywood film by Jewish producers, thus bringing Fallada to the attention of the nazis.

In 1935 he was declared an “undesirable author.”

As opponents of nazism made plans to flee abroad, Fallada made the fateful decision to remain in Germany, explaining that: “I could never write in another language, nor live in any other place than Germany.”

He felt he should defend his homeland from violent nationalism from within, rather than “slink away to a life of ease in comfortable exile” like Thomas Mann and Bertholt Brecht. The former’s attitude to the notion of Fallada’s internal exile was scathing. “Books published in Germany between 1933 and 1945 are less than worthless. The smell of blood and infamy clings to them,” he wrote.

Inevitably, Fallada found himself compromising with the regime in the shape of the nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and he spent time in and out of psychiatric units as a result of the stress.

After the war he settled in the eastern sector of Berlin and the Soviet administration appointed him interim mayor of Feldberg.

He was given the Gestapo files of a working-class Berlin couple, the Hampels, who were beheaded in 1943 for distributing postcards denouncing the nazis. In 1947 Fallada used their story as a basis for Alone in Berlin, the novel that redeemed him.

His fictional couple the Quangels follow the same course as the Hampels — individual resistance which is brave and dogged yet ultimately doomed. Primo Levi called it “the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the nazis.”

That same year, weakened by drink and drugs, Fallada died of a heart attack. He was 53.

His prison diary is a heartfelt diatribe against the nazis, revealing a highly compromised man riddled with contradictions and ambiguity. In reading it, the high price Fallada paid for living out the war in his homeland is all too clear.

A Stranger in My Own Country: The 1944 Prison Diary by Hans Fallada is published by Polity, price £20.