Last week President Obama issued a letter to Congress informing them of ongoing US troop deployments for combat operations around the world.
“Since October 7, 2001, the United States has conducted combat operations in Afghanistan against al-Qa’ida terrorists, their Taliban supporters, and associated forces,” it reads. “In support of these and other overseas operations, the United States has deployed combat-equipped forces to a number of locations in the U.S. Central, Pacific, European, Southern, and Africa Command areas of operation.” In other words, all across the globe.
It goes on to talk about combat deployments in Somalia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Uganda, Kosovo, and all over the high seas in maritime operations “aimed at stopping the movement, arming, and financing of certain international terrorist groups.” As a reminder, the President explained “on September 12 a security force deployed to Libya to support the security of U.S. personnel in Libya” and ”on September 13, an additional security force arrived in Yemen in response to security threats there.”
“These forces will remain in place until the security situation no longer requires them,” it said. And here we are led to the crux of the ‘war on terror’:
“It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of U.S. Armed Forces necessary to counter this terrorist threat to the United States.”
In a straight line, the President here explained how a combat deployment less than a month after the 9/11 attacks is now – more than ten years later – justifying military action in several continents without any “precise scope” limiting their conduct and without any defined end point.
Update: A piece today by Daniel Klaidman at the Daily Beast argues the opposite of what I’ve implied in my above blog post. The article is titled “Will Obama End the War on Terror?”
Yet behind the scenes Obama has led a persistent internal conversation about whether America should remain engaged in a permanent, ever-expanding state of war, one that has pushed the limits of the law, stretched dwindling budgets, and at times strained relations with our allies. “This has always been a concern of the president’s,” says a former military adviser to Obama. “He’s uncomfortable with the idea of war without end.”
…This month Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, with the full backing of the White House, became the first senior member of the administration to openly broach the delicate question of when the war on terror would be over. “Now that the efforts by the U.S. military against al Qaeda are in their 12th year,” he said in a speech at the University of Oxford in England, “we must also ask ourselves, how will this conflict end?”
…Johnson and others in the administration worried about being further out on the margins of the law. And yet the conflict kept widening.
…Many counterterrorism officials are making the case that the administration needs to be more discerning about which groups are worth going after militarily and how to calibrate our response to the level of threat. “Should we resort to drones and Special Operations raids every time some group raises the black banner of al Qaeda?” asks one senior military planner. “How long can we continue to chase offshoots of offshoots around the world?” In at least acknowledging this type of question, Johnson’s speech arguably represented an inflection point for the Obama administration—and perhaps for the war on terror as a whole.
Whether the Obama administration is genuinely concerned about endless war or whether they’ve used Klaidman to portray that concern in order to placate the increasingly non-interventionist sentiment in America remains to be seen. For now, all that’s clear is that such expressed sentiment has not manifested into policy.
It was those dealings that would draw the government’s attention. “The United States government used the concept of guilt by association,” Bayan said. “There were some financial transactions between me and [Hamas political bureau deputy chairman] Mousa Abu Marzouk’s wife, who happened to be my cousin. The government didn’t like this, and indicted us mainly because of this relationship.” The “core issues,” he added, related to the Holy Land Foundation and also Abu Marzouk.
Abu Marzouk’s status as a “specially designated terrorist” allows the US government to criminalize his business transactions, personal property and even family relationships, without ever charging him with a crime or putting him on trial. It detained Abu Marzouk for 22 months after his designation, before releasing him without charges and deporting him to Jordan in 1997.
The Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Islamic charity in the United States, was shut down with an executive order from the Bush administration in December 2001. Ghassan Elashi and four other men associated with the foundation were arrested and, as The Electronic Intifada reported earlier this year, were “subjected to two extraordinary trials that, amongst other court precedents, relied on testimony from an anonymous Israeli intelligence agent. The men were accused of providing material support to Hamas, a Palestinian political party declared a terrorist organization by the US State Department, by funding Islamic charitable committees in Palestine through the Holy Land Foundation.”
Though they were not accused of committing or financing any violent acts, the five are serving out decades-long prison sentences for supporting charities that the State Department agency USAID continued to fund long after the Holy Land Foundation men were indicted. The Holy Land Foundation case is part of a pattern of the US government criminalizing Palestine advocacy and charity work while it funds the Israeli occupation and sheilds the state from accountability.
About 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States, it said.
Correlate that with the fact that the United States of America has the highest rate of homicides throughout the world.
Seems pretty clear FDA bureaucrats behaved like the worst model favored by corporate barons. I realize there always is a certain amount of interchangeability between the breeds; but, one would hope a measure of ethics – both by choice and requirement – might have ruled behavior in a federal agency.
A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama…
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort…
The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter dispute lasting years between the scientists and their bosses at the F.D.A. over the scientists’ claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.
A confidential government review in May by the Office of Special Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found that the scientists’ medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full investigation into what it termed “a substantial and specific danger to public safety…”
But Stephen Kohn, a lawyer who represents six scientists who are suing the agency, said he planned to go to federal court this month seeking an injunction to stop any surveillance that may be continuing against the two medical researchers among the group who are still employed there.
The scientists who have been let go say in a lawsuit that their treatment was retaliation for reporting their claims of mismanagement and safety abuses in the F.D.A.’s medical reviews.
Let’s start there. He was an American boy, born in America. Though he’d lived in Yemen since he was about seven, he was still an American citizen, which should have made it harder for the United States to kill him.
It should at the very least have made it necessary for the United States to say why it killed him.
His name was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and he was 16 years old when he died — when he was killed by a drone strike in Yemen, by the light of the moon. He was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was also born in America, who was also an American citizen, and who was killed by drone two weeks before his son was, along with another American citizen named Samir Khan. Of course, both Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were, at the very least, traitors to their country — they had both gone to Yemen and taken up with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Awlaki had proven himself an expert inciter of those with murderous designs against America and Americans: the rare man of words who could be said to have a body count. When he was killed, on September 30, 2011, President Obama made a speech about it; a few months later, when the Obama administraton’s public-relations campaign about its embrace of what has come to be called “targeted killing” reached its climax in a front-page story in the New York Times that presented the President of the United States as the last word in deciding who lives and who dies, he was quoted as saying that the decision to put Anwar al-Awlaki on the kill list — and then to kill him — was “an easy one.”
But Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn’t on an American kill list. Nor was he a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla. Nor was he “an inspiration,” as his father styled himself, for those determined to draw American blood; nor had he gone “operational,” as American authorities said his father had, in drawing up plots against Americans and American interests.
He was a boy who hadn’t seen his father in two years, since his father had gone into hiding. He was a boy who knew his father was on an American kill list and who snuck out of his family’s home in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011, to try to find him. He was a boy who was still searching for his father when his father was killed, and who, on the night he himself was killed, was saying goodbye to the second cousin with whom he’d lived while on his search, and the friends he’d made. He was a boy among boys, then; a boy among boys eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed them all.
Now, there will be some who read what I just wrote and say that the death of the son of an avowed enemy of America — the death of another al-Awlaki — is more an inevitability than a tragedy, and perhaps even a boon: a case of a son reaping what his father sowed. There will be some who will shrug and say that we’re at war with Al Qaeda and bad things happen in wars, and there will be some who will believe Nasser al-Awlaki — father of Anwar and grandfather of Abdulrahman — when he says that “We can prove that Abdulrahman was not collateral damage at all, that he was intended to be killed.”
In fact, what is most striking about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki is both the lack of outrage and the lack of information about it — or, to be more exact, the lack of outrage over the lack of information. I spent the better part of this past spring researching and writing a story for the August issue of Esquire entitled “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama,” which explores how President Obama’s expansive embrace of the power to kill individuals identified as America’s enemies has transformed not only his presidency but probably all American presidencies to follow. I conducted over 40 interviews with over 35 people — including former administration officials who could speak with authority about how targeting decisions are made — and tried to understand the moral reasoning of an administration that speaks as though nothing could be harder than killing individuals and behaves as though nothing could be easier, and carries out what amounts to executions on a mass scale. In addition to telling the story of the Lethal Presidency, I also wound up telling the story of the killings of Anwar and Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, because their deaths — the strange common fates of a father and a son who were both American citizens but died hundreds of kilometers away from one another in Yemen — managed to suggest how a policy built on technological precision and moral discrimination winds up blurring the lines between guilt and innocence and war and murder.
The Obama Administration has never formally acknowledged its role in either death, but it has leaked a tremendous amount of information about its decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki because its decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki has evolved into something like “an Obama doctrine” when it comes to targeted killing. The idea that American citizenship is no more a refuge against the attacks of American drones than farflung geography; the idea that the secret deliberations of the executive branch count as “due process” even when an American citizen is being considered for execution without trial; the idea, indeed, that “due process does not guarantee judicial process”: all these ideas have entered the public sphere largely because the Obama administration made the extraordinary decision to target and kill an American citizen named Anwar al-Awlaki.
There has been no similar public discussion over the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki because there was, until now, no hard information available about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. A 16-year-old American boy accused of no crimes was killed in American drone attack, and the administration has neither acknowledged his death or acknowledged that it killed him. It has, indeed, done everything it possibly can to avoid saying how and why it killed him, and has answered the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the ACLU with a blanket insistence that it is not obligated to confirm or deny the existence of the CIA’s drone program, much less disclose information about those the drone program has killed. (Current administration officials declined multiple interview requests.)
And so while the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki conforms to the narrative essential to the creation of the Lethal Presidency — the narrative of a guilty man afforded unprecedented consideration by an administration wielding technology of unprecedented precision — the killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki constitutes a counter-narrative that the Lethal Presidency would do anything to avoid: an innocent killed by an administration that has turned its argument that it hardly ever makes mistakes into an appeal for the right make its mistakes in secret, with no public accountability at all, even when one of its mistakes results in the death of an American citizen.
There is this under the surface whisper among some who call themselves conservative that these “immigrants” who are trying to make our country a minority-majority country; xenophobia exists to be certain. Some say they’re just lazy and they want to just live off welfare to absorb all of our social services like a plague of locusts searching for sustenance. But – that’s not true at all. Immigrants come here because they want a better life and they push their kids to take advantage of all the opportunities that they may not have had otherwise.
As it relates to education – there is no lack of effort in the aggregate. They’re working towards a better life and in doing so – they’re making our country a better country. And we know there is a direct correlation to education and our country’s success over the long haul. As far as I’m concerned – come on over (as long as we’ve processed a criminal check) …. welcome home.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics brings us the chart HERE:
Adolescents with immigrant parents spent, on average, more time on education-related activities (237 minutes per day) from 2003 to 2010 than adolescents with native-born parents (211 minutes per day).
Economix points out HERE:
By the way, since I’m guessing this question will come up: Bigger educational time commitments are true for children of both Asian immigrants and Latin American immigrants.
Children of Asian immigrants spend about 51 minutes more per day on educational activities than do children of native-born whites. That’s true even when you control for family characteristics like income, parents’ education and number of siblings.
Children of Latin American immigrants spend on average 18 more minutes per day in educational activities than the children of their white, non-Hispanic native-born counterparts, although that gap is not statistically significant. Once the Labor Department’s researchers controlled for differences in family composition, the gap widened to a statistically significant 35 minutes per day.
Scientists say there has been a freak event in Greenland this month: Nearly every part of the massive ice sheet that blankets the island suddenly started melting.
The ice melted so fast that scientists at NASA first thought it was a computer error or some other malfunction.
For several days this month, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations, according to a statement released along with satellite images on Tuesday.
“This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?” Son Nghiem of NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.
But after conferring with colleagues, Nghiem’s disbelief turned to shock.
“I think it’s fair to say that this is unprecedented,” Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Guardian.
On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.
Researchers have not yet determined whether this extensive melt event will affect the overall volume of ice loss this summer and contribute to sea level rise.
“The Greenland ice sheet is a vast area with a varied history of change. This event, combined with other natural but uncommon phenomena, such as the large calving event last week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story,” said Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager in Washington. “Satellite observations are helping us understand how events like these may relate to one another as well as to the broader climate system.”
Even the area around Summit Station in central Greenland, which at 2 miles above sea level is near the highest point of the ice sheet, showed signs of melting. Such pronounced melting at Summit and across the ice sheet has not occurred since 1889, according to ice cores analyzed by Kaitlin Keegan at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station at Summit confirmed air temperatures hovered above or within a degree of freezing for several hours July 11-12.
“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data. “But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”
Microsoft may have simply fulfilled their contract with the Washington spooks who asked them to buy Skype in the first place.
I don’t necessarily buy into that rumor; but, I also didn’t see much reason for MSoft to buy Skype either. Now, that they’ve had adequate time to tweak the internals and install a back door, rumors move through the markets that Microsoft is ready to resell Skype.
The video calling service Skype recently made a change to how it routes calls.
Yawn, right? But here’s where it get a little juicier: Hackers and bloggers are saying the changes, which push some of the video calling process onto Skype’s own computers instead of onto random machines on the Internet, could help the app spy on users’ calls, presumably at the request of a court or government.
“Reportedly, Microsoft is re-engineering these supernodes to make it easier for law enforcement to monitor calls by allowing the supernodes to not only make the introduction but to actually route the voice data of the calls as well,” Tim Verry, from the website ExtremeTech, wrote last week…
“In this way, the actual voice data would pass through the monitored servers and the call is no longer secure. It is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack, and it is made all the easier because Microsoft — who owns Skype and knows the keys used for the service’s encryption — is helping…”
“Historically, Skype has been a major barrier to law enforcement agencies,” writes Ryan Gallagher at Slate. “Using strong encryption and complex peer-to-peer network connections, Skype was considered by most to be virtually impossible to intercept…”
Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation…already does not recommend that people who live in authoritarian regimes use Skype, because of the relative likelihood that communications could be tapped…
“As of 2012 we don’t believe the Skype architecture is secure,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there, a lot of governments out there, that have the means to break Skype, and this remains true regardless of whatever Microsoft just changed.”
Mission accomplished, eh?
It was one of the biggest secrets of the post-9/11 era: soon after the attacks, President Bush gave the CIA permission to create a top secret assassination unit to find and kill Al Qaeda operatives. The program was kept from Congress for seven years. And when Leon Panetta told legislators about it in 2009, he revealed that the CIA had hired the private security firm Blackwater to help run it. “The move was historic,” says Evan Wright, the two-time National Magazine Award-winning journalist who wrote Generation Kill. “It seems to have marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise.”
The quote is from his e-book How to Get Away With Murder in America, which goes on to note that “in the past, the CIA was subject to oversight, however tenuous, from the president and Congress,” but that “President Bush’s 2001 executive order severed this line by transferring to the CIA his unique authority to approve assassinations. By removing himself from the decision-making cycle, the president shielded himself — and all elected authority — from responsibility should a mission go wrong or be found illegal. When the CIA transferred the assassination unit to Blackwater, it continued the trend. CIA officers would no longer participate in the agency’s most violent operations, or witness them. If it practiced any oversight at all, the CIA would rely on Blackwater’s self-reporting about missions it conducted. Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible.” None of this is new information, though I imagine that many people reading this item are hearing about it for the first time.
Isn’t that bizarre?
The bulk of Wright’s e-book (full disclosure: I help edit the website of Byliner, publisher of the e-book) tells the story of Enrique Prado, a high-ranking CIA-officer-turned-Blackwater-employee who oversaw assassination units for both the CIA and the contractor. To whom was this awesome responsibility entrusted? According to Wright’s investigation, a federal organized crime squad run out of the Miami-Dade Police Department produced an investigation allegedly tying Prado to seven murders carried out while he worked as a bodyguard for a narco crime boss. At the time, the CIA declared him unavailable for questioning; the investigation was shut down before he was arrested or tried.
There’s a lot more to the story — Wright’s e-book is almost 50 pages long — but this bit is of particular note:
The reporting on Prado’s activities at Blackwater produced no evidence that the firm’s employees had ever killed anyone on behalf of the CIA. But I spoke to Blackwater employees who insisted that they had. Two Blackwater contractors told me that their firm began conducting assassinations in Afghanistan as early as 2008. They claimed to have participated in such operations — one in a support role, the other as a “trigger puller.” The contractors, to whom I spoke in 2009 and 2010, were both ex-Special Forces soldiers who were not particularly bothered by assassination work, although they did question the legality of Blackwater’s involvement in it.
According to the “trigger puller,” he and a partner were selected for one such operation because they were Mexican Americans, whose darker skin enabled them to blend in as Afghan civilians. The first mission he described took place in 2008. He and his partner spent three weeks training outside Kabul, becoming accustomed to walking barefoot like Afghans while toting weapons underneath their jackets. Their mission centered on walking into a market and killing the occupant of a pickup truck, whose identity a CIA case worker had provided to them. They succeeded in their mission, he told me, and moved on to another. This contractor’s story didn’t completely fit with other accounts about Prado’s unit at Blackwater. The e-mail written by Prado and later obtained by the Times seemed to indicate that the unit wouldn’t use Americans to carry out actual assassinations. Moreover, two CIA sources insisted that the contractors I spoke to were lying. As one put it, “These guys are security guards who want to look like Rambo.”
When I asked Ed O’Connell, a former Air Force colonel and RAND analyst with robust intelligence experience in Afghanistan, to evaluate these contractors’ claims, he first told me they were almost certainly a “fantastical crock of shit.” But a year later, in 2011, after a research trip in Afghanistan for his firm Alternative Strategies Institute, O’Connell had changed his assessment. He told me, “Your sources seem to have been correct. Private contractors are whacking people like crazy over in Afghanistan for the CIA.”
So there you have it: A former Air Force lieutenant colonel, speaking on the record and using the present tense, said in 2011 that “private contractors are whacking people like crazy over in Afghanistan for the CIA.”
While Blackwater’s covert unit began as a Bush administration story, President Obama now owns it. In 2010, his administration intervened on behalf of the Blackwater executives indicted for weapons trafficking, filing motions to suppress evidence on the grounds that it could compromise national security. The administration then awarded Blackwater (which is now called Academi) a $250 million contract to perform unspecified services for the CIA. At the same time, Obama has publicly taken responsibility for some lethal operations — the Navy SEALs’ sniper attack on Somali pirates, the raid on bin Laden. His aides have also said that he reviews target lists for drone strikes. The president’s actions give him the appearance of a man who wants the best of both worlds. He appears as a tough, resolute leader when he announces his role in killings that will likely be popular — a pirate, a terrorist. But the apparatus for less accountable killings grinds on.
Needless to say, this ought to spark an investigation, but more than that, it should cause Americans to step back and reflect on how vulnerable we’ve made ourselves to bad actors in the post-9/11 era. We’re giving C.I.A. agents and even private security contractors the sort of power no individual should wield. And apparently our screening apparatus turns out to be lacking.
The Olympic Games are set to kick off in London, replete with a sheepalicious £27m opening ceremony choreographed by Danny Boyle. Boyle’s live-animal master-plans have raised the hackles of animal rights groups, but Olympics-induced dissent spans far beyond the Peta circuit. With a jaw-dropping five-ring price-tag, dodgy corporate sponsorships, a militarised public sphere, and a hyper-vigilant brand protection racket revving its corporate engine, it’s hard to blame Londoners for wanting to take to the streets. Activists with the Counter Olympics Network have planned a mass mobilisation for 28 July in East London, and numerous other marches and events are set to spring. The looming question is how will British security forces respond to people exercising their right to dissent?
To be sure, the private security firm G4S has demonstrated Olympian incompetence, failing to properly prepare the 13,700 guards that its £284m contract stipulated, and forcing Olympics honchos to literally call in the troops as back-up. The mainstream media have roundly—and rightly—criticised the company’s bone-headed blunders, but meanwhile a bigger threat to the expression of dissent has receded from public attention: Scotland Yard. After all, in theory, G4S’s guards-for-hire are only supposed to patrol inside Olympic venues. Workaday policing outside official Olympic spaces will largely be left to the Met, so it’s important to forecast what we can expect from Scotland Yard.
Early clues were not encouraging. In late 2011, Chris Allison—Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner and the national coordinator of Olympic security—briefed the London Assembly on policing costs for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. He highlighted ‘four key risks to the Games’—terrorism, protest, organised crime, and natural disasters. Singling out protest as a ‘threat’ and then sandwiching it between terrorism and organised crime was revealing. For political activists it was ominous. Security officials should most assuredly do their best to prevent acts of terrorism—that’s their job—but this does not give them carte blanche to conflate activism with terrorism and criminality. Keeping the Games safe from terrorism is one thing—green lighting the squelching of individual freedoms and human rights is another entirely.
Over the last few months Allison’s public pronouncements have been laced with a bit more suavity. He has assured civil libertarians that Scotland Yard will not crack down on protesters as long as they remain within the law, acknowledging, ‘They have a right to peacefully protest.’ Last month he said, albeit with a hefty dose of paternalism, ‘If you want to protest, speak to us beforehand so we can manage your right to peacefully and lawfully protest.’ He went on to warn, ‘But if as an individual we think you are going to disrupt the Games in some way, then I am telling you that we will take whatever action we can within the law to prevent you from disrupting the Games.’ Despite breathless media accounts about activist plans to disrupt the Games, the mobilisation in late July is designed to be family-friendly, or ‘fluffy,’ as organisers put it. Sure, campaigners with visions of spikier tactics are always a possibility, but the Met needs to remember these people are activists, not terrorists.
Security officials—and their private partners at G4S—have treated the Olympics like their own private ATM, using the Games as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jack up their plastic-bullets-per-capita quotient. They’ve stockpiled an array of high-tech—and sometimes military-grade—policing tools, from a Long Range Acoustic Device (used against insurgents in Iraq) to surface-to-air missiles (that, it turns out, are useless in wet weather). Three months before the start of the Games, police set up ‘dispersal zones’ in Stratford whereby officers have license to order groups of two or more people to vamoose if they’re deemed to be engaging in anti-social behaviour. Police also have expansive stop-and-search powers under the Protection of Freedoms Act of 2012. Officials have vowed to carry out pre-emptive arrests in order to prevent disruptions at the Games, though Allison has said legal protesters will not be targeted. Still, Olympics security officials have built up a disquieting arsenal that could be deployed to quiet dissent.
What we’ve seen so far does not jibe with Allison’s assurances that peaceful protesters will be left alone. Jelena Timotijevic, convenor of the Defend the Right to Protest campaign, said police have proffered ‘a whole range of intimidating tactics and techniques.’ In April, police ostentatiously filmed activists as they filed into an anti-Olympics public meeting at Bishopsgate Institute in East London. Officials have doled out an ‘Olympic Asbo’ to Simon Moore after he protested the construction of an Olympics basketball facility on Leyton Marsh. His Asbo forbids him from traveling within 100 yards of any Games venue or the torch route. London-based photojournalists Martin Slavin and Mike Wells independently report being accosted by security officials simply for snapping photographs near the Olympic zone. Meanwhile, the brand police have also reported for duty—the activist group Space Hijackers had its Twitter account suspended after it declared itself to be ‘the official protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games.’ A disjuncture seems to be emerging between the police public-relations podium and the real world.
In the lead-up to the Games and during the actual Olympics, they could—and should—allow the hassle-free expression of political dissent. As Kevin Blowe of the Newham Monitoring Project said recently, ‘The rights of free speech shouldn’t disappear just because of a sporting event.’ The mobilisation on 28 July provides a prime occasion for security officials to align their public rhetoric with boots-to-pavement policing. It’s not too much to expect police forces to forgo sacrificing the rule of law on the altar of Olympics-induced exception.