Using a wealth of different sources, Robert Greenwald’s 2004 film investigates the motives and pretexts of the administration of former President George W. Bush for going to war in Iraq after 9/11.
Greenwald’s film dissects the different catalysts leading to the war, from the media’s treatment of the issue to the practice of “data mining”. A panel of experts lend their voices to this examination, including CIA analysts, a former CIA director, previous ambassadors and a weapons inspector.
BRAVE NEW FILMS: Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films are at the forefront of the fight to create a just America. Using new media and internet video campaigns, Brave New Films has created a quick-strike capability that informs the public, challenges corporate media with the truth, and motivates people to take action on social issues nationwide.
US Drone Carrying Missiles Crashes On Farms In Iraq
13th August 2019
US AIRCRAFT are flying over Iraqi territory collecting intelligence on the country’s popular forces, a senior Iraqi expert said, adding that a drone that crashed this week was on a mission to raid Hashd al-Shaabi (the Iraqi popular resistance forces).
Kazzem al-Haaj told the al-Ma’aloumeh news website on Sunday that violation of Iraq’s airspace by US forces is nothing new.
‘US drones have always collected intelligence on Hashd al-Shaabi forces and the areas they control, as well as the regions where the terrorists are deployed to give them protection and security,’ he added.
Al-Haaj pointed out that the US spy flights come as American army troops have widened moves and stretched their presence towards Syria.
The US spy drone which crashed in Northwestern Baghdad last Tuesday was carrying missiles.
An informed Iraqi source told the Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that this surveillance drone, which was armed with missiles, crashed in the farming al-Rezwaniyeh region in Northwestern Baghdad near the Iraqi capital’s international airport.
Asked whether it had come under attack, the source ruled this out, and [said] that it had probably crashed due to a technical malfunction.
Meanwhile, the Arabic-language Boratha news website quoted a military expert as saying that the US was forced to confirm reports of the drone crash two days later.
He noted that the Americans’ claim that the drone was unharmed contradicts its malfunction, and strengthens speculation that it was attacked by electronic warfare tools which made it lose its return route and crash near Baghdad.
The revelation that the aircraft was armed with missiles has grabbed media attention as there are still unanswered questions about another air raid on an Iraqi popular forces military base last month.
An ‘unidentified, unmanned drone bombed the Al-Shuhada base of the Hashd al-Shaabi in Amerli region at dawn on July 19, wounding two people,’ the Iraqi military said in a statement.
The Arabic-language al-Etejah news channel quoted special sources in Nineveh province as saying that just prior to the Amerli attack, a US spy plane conducted reconnaissance operations against the Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi army forces over Sanjar mountain and the Southern areas of the region.
The Trump administration’s only interest in Iraq is to loot the country’s oil riches and to exploit Iraqis, Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq political party has alleged: here.
On January 16, 2018, the World Socialist Web Site will video livestream a discussion on Internet censorship, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and WSWS International Editorial Board Chairperson David North. WSWS reporter Andre Damon will moderate the discussion.
The webinar will explore the political context of the efforts to censor the Internet and abolish net neutrality, examine the pretexts used to justify the suppression of free speech (i.e., “fake news”), and discuss political strategies to defend democratic rights. Hedges and North will also field questions from on-line listeners.
There is internal and external criticism of the composition of a newly appointed advisory council for ethical issues. This council must advise the company on ethical dilemmas in the field of artificial intelligence, which in recent years has become central to the strategy of the tech giant.
The company announced last week that eight experts will advise the company on what Google‘s head of legal affairs call the “most complex challenges”. Facial recognition was mentioned as an example. In particular, the appointment of Kay Coles James, the president of a US American conservative think tank, causes resistance.
The letter, according to the makers, was signed by more than 1,200 Google employees … and a further 188 people from outside of Google – including those from academia or working at other Silicon Valley companies. Tech site The Verge writes on the basis of sources that internally, both the Google bosses and Coles James get criticism. Employees would describe her as “intolerant”.
According to Vlam, her appointment can be seen as a signal by Google to the Trump government that their positions are being taken seriously. Vlam: “The Democrats are increasingly critical of Silicon Valley and so it is important to get contacts with Republicans.”
According to opponents, Coles James is anti-transgender, anti-LGB and anti-immigrant. They find proof of this in a number of tweets. In one of them, she criticizes the so-called Equality Act (a law to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, eg, at work and when getting housing). …
In the meantime, unrest has also arisen within the advisory board itself. Behavioral economist and privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti decided to withdraw last week. In a message on Twitter he said that “this is not the right place for me to do this important work”. According to a fourth member of the council, professor Joanna Bryson, even worse things are going on with other members of the council.
Jeroen van den Hoven, professor of ethics and technology at [Dutch] Technical University Delft, … believes in general that a well thought-out approach is lacking when appointing these types of councils. “Everyone is an ethicist in the field of artificial intelligence.”
“I think this resembles ethics washing [like greenwashing, pinkwashing, etc.]: an attempt to do something with ethics, but which has been carried out incorrectly”, says Van den Hoven. “Ethics and trust is not something that you can arrange or that is for sale. In my opinion, this is too little too late.” …
Google did not want to answer questions from the NOS about this case.
“Also, the lives of the people holding the string can be very different. In Afghanistan, the perfect blue skies children would use to fly kites are now feared because they are also perfect for armed drones seeking targets.”
Lawmakers and rights groups have criticised Mr Trump’s decision, saying it could allow the CIA to conduct drone strikes without accountability.
“The Trump administration’s action is an unnecessary and dangerous step backwards on transparency and accountability for the use of lethal force, and the civilian casualties they cause,” Rita Siemion of Human Rights First told AFP news agency.
The project is controversial because there is a fear that the data obtained will be used to determine, for example, who should be killed during military missions. Google says that will not happen, but critics doubt that Google can prevent it from happening. The company provided the artificial intelligence to analyze the drone images.
Google did not comment on the media reports about the discontinuation of the collaboration.
If Google would have continued with Project Maven, then, according to military news site Defense One, it would have had a chance of winning a $ 10 billion contract with the Department of Defense. Amazon and Microsoft are also in the race for the contract according to the news site.
Google says it will not renew Project Maven—but collaboration with Pentagon will continue: here.
GOOGLE BOYCOTT A group of influential engineers at Google earlier this year refused to work on a cutting-edge security tool that would allow the company to compete for military contracts. [Bloomberg]
Hundreds of Google employees have protested the company’s moves to build a censored search engine in China, the New York Times reported Friday. The Times article follows an August 1 article by the Intercept reporting that the company has secretly devoted a team of engineers and developers to constructing a search engine that would comply with China’s strict regime of Internet censorship: here.
The academics published their letter in support of over 3,100 Google employees who issued their own open letter last month protesting the company’s participation in a Pentagon program called Project Maven, designed to leverage the power of artificial intelligence to analyze footage collected by US military drones.
The starting point of the letter, said Lucy Suchman, a professor of anthropology of science and technology in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University, and one of the co-authors of the statement, is the essential illegality of the US government’s targeted killing program.
The US drone murder program is based on “extrajudicial killing that is not accountable either to US or international law”, Suchman told the World Socialist Web Site Thursday.
“It’s clear that the people killed through this program are targeted through profiling and guilt by association.” She noted that, according to one study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, only 1.6 percent of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan between 2001 and 2013 were specifically identified individually.
“This is summary execution of people who have received no due process whatsoever”, said Dr. Suchman. “This is not in combat zones, this is in people’s homes and communities.”
The researchers made clear that Google’s claims that its partnership with the Pentagon was nonviolent in nature are highly questionable.
“It is clear that the Pentagon aims to build out Project Maven to armed drones, and its functionality does not need much adjustment to become a target recognition system, carried out by an armed drone, that could function without meaningful human control”, said Peter Asaro, an Associate Professor at the School of Media Studies at The New School and a co-author of the letter.
The letter’s authors told the World Socialist Web Site that they drafted their letter in response to a request by a technology employee for support within the academic community.
“It was the Google workers who really inspired my co-authors and myself to write this letter”, Dr. Asaro said. “We thought that IT researchers and academics could really add their voice to this issue. IT workers do not often organize against their employers in this way, so we realized it was an issue that really touched a nerve”, he added.
“This statement makes clear that we stand behind the thousands of workers who have stuck their necks out to sign that letter” by Google employees, said Lilly Irani, an Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Diego and one of the letter’s authors.
“Google collects data on a global base of users, including people in the Middle East”, Dr. Irani said, and then “aligns that power with a single nation’s military. These massive companies that mediate and track our everyday lives are not accountable to the democratic process.”
“Google has a user base that is international, and it has a responsibility to the global constituency of its users,” added Dr. Suchman. They are “the custodians of the data of billions of people. We need to call them to account for that responsibility.”
Suchman emphasized that while Google’s management has sought to integrate itself into the military-intelligence apparatus, many of its employees remain committed to the defense of freedom of expression, the open Internet, and opposition to war. “Google management is attempting to slide out of this commitment that a lot of their employees have, and their employees have very rightly called them to account on that”, said Dr. Suchman.
Earlier this week, Gizmodo reported that over a dozen Google employees have resigned over the company’s partnership with the Pentagon.
The open letter authored by Irani, Suchman, and Asaro notes that “Google has long sought to organize and enhance the usefulness of the world’s information. Beyond searching for relevant webpages on the Internet, Google has become responsible for compiling our email, videos, calendars, and photographs, and guiding us to physical destinations. Like many other digital technology companies, Google has collected vast amounts of data on the behaviors, activities and interests of their users.”
The letter concludes, “We are also deeply concerned about the possible integration of Google’s data on people’s everyday lives with military surveillance data, and its combined application to targeted killing. Google has moved into military work without subjecting itself to public debate or deliberation, either domestically or internationally. While Google regularly decides the future of technology without democratic public engagement, its entry into military technologies casts the problems of private control of information infrastructure into high relief.”
Last year, Google, under pressure from the major US intelligence agencies, implemented a change in its search algorithm that slashed search traffic to left-wing, anti-war, and progressive web sites by nearly 50 percent, and to the World Socialist Web Site by 75 percent.
The WSWS’s open letter to Google—which was never answered—raises the question: “Is Google coordinating its censorship program with the American government, or sections of its military and intelligence apparatus?” The involvement of Google with the military’s drone assassination program makes clear that its support for the US military and its censorship of left-wing sites are two sides of the same process.
“I’m very supportive of the fight against Internet censorship”, said Dr. Irani. “For the average person, Internet censorship is invisible: you don’t know it unless your favorite YouTube channel gets taken down,” she said, citing the need to raise public awareness of the issue.
She also linked the growing willingness of technology workers to speak out against censorship and militarism to mounting struggles of the working class, including educators who are engaged in a wave of strikes throughout the country. “At least one section of the tech workers,” said Irani, are beginning to “understand themselves as workers with different interests than their employers.”
The publication of this week’s open letter by leading academics protesting Google’s role in the military’s drone assassination program exposes the close partnership between the major technology giants and the US military/intelligence complex: here.
Google Removes ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Clause From Its Code of Conduct: here.
Oppose Google’s collaboration in US war crimes: here.
More than 3,000 Google employees wrote an open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai. They expressed their desire to exit what they term “the business of war.” The employees’ letter asks for the immediate cancellation of a specific military project. The letter stresses that Google is “struggling to keep the public’s trust.” They also requested a general policy statement about building technology for the military. Project Maven is the code name for a Department of Defense Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team. Project Maven is an artificial intelligence program currently under development.
The resigning employees’ frustrations range from particular ethical concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in drone warfare to broader worries about Google’s political decisions—and the erosion of user trust that could result from these actions. Many of them have written accounts of their decisions to leave the company, and their stories have been gathered and shared in an internal document, the contents of which multiple sources have described to Gizmodo.
The employees who are resigning in protest, several of whom discussed their decision to leave with Gizmodo, say that executives have become less transparent with their workforce about controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to workers’ objections than they once did. In the case of Maven, Google is helping the Defense Department implement machine learning to classify images gathered by drones. But some employees believe humans, not algorithms, should be responsible for this sensitive and potentially lethal work—and that Google shouldn’t be involved in military work at all.
Historically, Google has promoted an open culture that encourages employees to challenge and debate product decisions. But some employees feel that their leadership [is] no longer as attentive to their concerns, leaving them to face the fallout. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been less and less impressed with the response and the way people’s concerns are being treated and listened to”, one employee who resigned said.
There’s precedent for employee pushback resulting in product changes—in 2015, employees and users successfully challenged Google’s ban on sexually explicit content posted to Blogger. But these are the first known mass resignations at Google in protest against one of the company’s business decisions, and they speak to the strongly felt ethical concerns of the employees who are departing.
In addition to the resignations, nearly 4,000 Google employees have voiced their opposition to Project Maven in an internal petition that asks Google to immediately cancel the contract and institute a policy against taking on future military work.
However, the mounting pressure from employees seems to have done little to sway Google’s decision—the company has defended its work on Maven and is thought to be one of the lead contenders for another major Pentagon cloud computing contract, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, better known as JEDI, that is currently up for bids.
Employees’ demands that Google end its Pentagon contract are also complicated by the fact that Google claims it is only providing open-source software to Project Maven, which means the military would be able to still use the technology, even if Google didn’t accept payment or offer technical assistance.
Still, the resigning employees believe that Google’s work on Maven is fundamentally at odds with the company’s do-gooder principles. “It’s not like Google is this little machine-learning startup that’s trying to find clients in different industries”, a resigning employee said. “It just seems like it makes sense for Google and Google’s reputation to stay out of that.”
Many Google employees first learned the company was working on Maven when word of the controversial project began to spread internally in late February. At the time, a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company was in the process of drafting “policies and safeguards” around its use of machine learning, but that policy document has yet to materialize, sources said.
One employee explained that Google staffers were promised an update on the ethics policy within a few weeks, but that progress appeared to be locked in a holding pattern. The ethical concerns “should have been addressed before we entered this contract”, the employee said.
“We can no longer ignore our industry’s and our technologies’ harmful biases, large-scale breaches of trust, and lack of ethical safeguards”, the petition reads. “These are life and death stakes.”
More than 90 academics in artificial intelligence, ethics, and computer science released an open letter today that calls on Google to end its work on Project Maven and to support an international treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems. Peter Asaro and Lucy Suchman, two of the authors of the letter, have testified before the United Nations about autonomous weapons; a third author, Lilly Irani, is a professor of science and a former Google employee.
Google’s contributions to Project Maven could accelerate the development of fully autonomous weapons, Suchman told Gizmodo. Although Google is based in the U.S., it has an obligation to protect its global user base that outweighs its alignment with any single nation’s military, she said.
“If ethical action on the part of tech companies requires consideration of who might benefit from a technology and who might be harmed, then we can say with certainty that no topic deserves more sober reflection—no technology has higher stakes—than algorithms meant to target and kill at a distance and without public accountability,” the letter states. “Google has moved into military work without subjecting itself to public debate or deliberation, either domestically or internationally. While Google regularly decides the future of technology without democratic public engagement, its entry into military technologies casts the problems of private control of information infrastructure into high relief.”
Executives at Google have made efforts to defend Project Maven to employees. At a meeting shortly after the project became public, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene spoke in support of Project Maven, multiple sources told Gizmodo. More recently, Greene and other employees have hosted several sessions to debate and discuss the project. These sessions featured speakers who supported and opposed Maven and stressed the difficulty of drafting policy about the ethical use of machine learning, an attendee explained.
“At some point, I realized I could not in good faith recommend anyone join Google, knowing what I knew. I realized if I can’t recommend people join here, then why am I still here?” a resigning Google employee said.
“I tried to remind myself right that Google’s decisions are not my decisions. I’m not personally responsible for everything they do. But I do feel responsibility when I see something that I should escalate it”, another added.
A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the resignations. But employees want to see action from the company, in the form of an ethics policy, a canceled contract, or both.
“Actions speak louder than words, and that’s a standard I hold myself to as well,” a resigning employee said. “I wasn’t happy just voicing my concerns internally. The strongest possible statement I could take against this was to leave.”
Workers at Google have been organizing and holding protests about issues such as sexual harassment, sexism and racism within the corporation, contracts with companies and countries engaged in human rights abuses, and climate change. Note to Google workers: Congratulations on finding this page. Google currently doesn’t index our website at Google News, although it has done so in the past. Google has never explained this decision, despite our queries and appeals. Infoshop News is one of the oldest online news websites, online since 1995. This decision by Google not only affects us, but penalizes the independent media and the general public who is looking for news like we provide. If you can help us with this issue, please let us know. Updated: September 27 2019.
National Labour Relations Board in the US has issued a complaint against Google for unlawfully monitoring and questioning several workers who were then fired for protesting against company policies and trying to organise a union
The following is the third part of a three-part interview with Professor Piers Robinson, an academic at the University of Sheffield and a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. Parts one and two appeared on May 24 and May 25.
Civilian death toll mounts as US escalates offensive in Syria: here.