Sunday, June 26, 2016

PNN - Solstice Celebrants






PNN

1. A group of U.S. intelligence veterans urges President Obama to resist the "reckless" call for a wider Syrian war from 51 State Department officials in a recent "dissent memo."
MEMORANDUM FOR: Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Subject: Beware Foggy Bottom Dissent
Dissent and disagreement within the foreign policy and national security bureaucracy only comes to the public's attention when there are deep and fundamental differences of opinion about the execution and objectives of a U.S. policy. Instances of dissent emerged during the war in Vietnam and have reappeared periodically, e.g., during the Contra War in Central America in the 1980s and the Cold War with the Soviets. We can now add Syria to this list.
The latest media buzz came with the leak that 51 "State Department Diplomats" signed a dissent letter advocating direct U.S. bombing as a tool to force Syria into submission to our government's dictates. U.S. Foreign Service Officers are a unique collection of highly educated people, who take great pride in having passed the Foreign Service Exam. Yet even among such "bright people," some succumb to the forces of careerism and the pressures to politicize intelligence.

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Unfortunately the dissent signers are calling for America to threaten, and if our bluff is called, commit acts of overt, aggressive war against the forces of a sovereign nation on its own territory. One whose supporters include Russia, the world's other big nuclear power.
The line of thought -- that it is America's right and duty to employ large-scale death to enforce its leaders' will on other peoples -- adheres to the noxious notion that the U.S.A. enjoys uniquely privileged standing as the "sole indispensable country in the world." If this was ever an arguably legitimate position, that time is long gone -- and today demonstrably blinds its adherents to common sense.
Such thinking is not new. Theodore Roosevelt popularized it as we went to war to annex Spanish territories in the Philippines and Caribbean -- at the cost of over half a million indigenous lives -- more than a century ago. We saw it, in spades, with the "Best and the Brightest" -- those responsible for destroying Vietnam. Three million Vietnamese people died in that war (according to former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara), and another two million or so in its Indochina spin-offs. After this slaughter and the deaths of scores of thousands of its own troops, the U.S. endured a complete and humiliating defeat, one affecting its foreign policy and domestic politics to this day. Their bright successors supported the attack on Iraq in 2003, the catalyst for an outbreak of violence that has brought death reaching into the millions -- again -- in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and other neighboring locales we'll eventually read about. This aggression has created millions more traumatized refugees.
The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times(and Wall Street Journal), presumably by one of the State Department employees who authored it, claims American policy has been "overwhelmed" by the unrelenting violence in Syria and calls for "a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process." Furthermore, per the NYT:
"In the memo, the State Department officials wrote that the Assad government's continuing violations of the partial cease-fire, officially known as a cessation of hostilities, will doom efforts to broker a political settlement because Mr. Assad will feel no pressure to negotiate with the moderate opposition or other factions fighting him. The government's barrel bombing of civilians, it said, is the 'root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.'
"The memo acknowledged that military action would have risks, not the least of which would be increased tension with Russia, which intervened in the war on Mr. Assad's behalf last fall. Russia subsequently helped negotiate the cease-fire. Those tensions increased on Thursday when, according to a senior Pentagon official, Russia conducted airstrikes in southern Syria against American-backed forces fighting the Islamic State."
The dissenters were smart enough to insist they were not "advocating for a slippery slope that ends in a military confrontation with Russia," but rather a credible threat of military action "to keep Mr. Assad in line." Easier said than done! The 51 are silent on this point of major importance.
The foundational premise of their dissent is that Assad's "barrel bombing" (followed by chemical attacks) on civilians provoked civil war in Syria. It's true that the initial phase of the Syrian Spring seems to have been largely spontaneous. Facts show, however, that outside interveners-- primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia -- cooperated in lighting the match that brought the inferno of civil war. Covert funding and provision of weapons and other material support to opposition groups for strikes against the Syrian Government provoked a military reaction by Assad -- which created a pretext for our enlarged support to the rebel groups.
2. BYE GEORGE - I know how it feels
Longtime columnist George Will has officially left the Republican Party, he told a group of conservatives on Friday.
Will, a conservative writer for the Washington Post, confirmed to PJ Media that he switched his Maryland party registration from GOP to unaffiliated.
At a meeting of the Federalist Society Friday in D.C., Will told the group it’s worth refusing to back Trump even if it hands the election to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“This is not my party,” he told the group. “Make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”
Will also cited House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) endorsement of the bombastic New York businessman as one of his final straws before de-registering.
The columnist has criticized Trump in the pages of the Post, and Trump last month fired back, calling him a “major loser.”

3. Federal Court: The Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect Your Home Computer

In a dangerously flawed decision unsealed today, a federal district court in Virginia ruled that a criminal defendant has no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in his personal computer, located inside his home. According to the court, the federal government does not need a warrant to hack into an individual's computer.
This decision is the latest in, and perhaps the culmination of, a series of troubling decisions in prosecutions stemming from the FBI’s investigation of Playpen—a Tor hidden services site hosting child pornography. The FBI seized the server hosting the site in 2014, but continued to operate the site and serve malware to thousands of visitors that logged into the site. The malware located certain identifying information (e.g., MAC address, operating system, the computer’s “Host name”; etc) on the attacked computer and sent that information back to the FBI.  There are hundreds of prosecutions, pending across the country, stemming from this investigation.
Courts overseeing these cases have struggled to apply traditional rules of criminal procedure and constitutional law to the technology at issue. Recognizing this, we've been participating asamicus to educate judges on the significant legal issues these cases present. In fact, EFF filedan amicus brief in this very case, arguing that the FBI’s investigation ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment. The brief, unfortunately, did not have the intended effect. 
The implications for the decision, if upheld, are staggering: law enforcement would be free to remotely search and seize information from your computer, without a warrant, without probable cause, or without any suspicion at all. To say the least, the decision is bad news for privacy. But it's also incorrect as a matter of law, and we expect there is little chance it would hold up on appeal. (It also was not the central component of the judge's decision, which also diminishes the likelihood that it will become reliable precedent.)
But the decision underscores a broader trend in these cases: courts across the country, faced with unfamiliar technology and unsympathetic defendants, are issuing decisions that threaten everyone's rights. As hundreds of these cases work their way through the federal court system, we'll be keeping a careful eye on these decisions, developing resources to help educate the defense bar, and doing all we can to ensure that the Fourth Amendment's protections for our electronic devices aren't eroded further. We'll be writing more about these cases in the upcoming days, too, so be sure to check back in for an in-depth look at the of the legal issues in these cases, and the problems with the way the FBI handled its investigation.  
4. Defend Yourself Against Surveillance: New Languages, New Animations

When we re-launched Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD) last year to tackle the growing threat of online spying, we knew our greatest challenge was reaching everyone who urgently needed its advice. Technical knowledge about what to do, and what not to do, to protect your privacy online, is only truly useful if it can be understood by those who need that information the most.
We're delighted to note a few important steps in increasing the reach of SSD. Six months ago we launched the site in English, Spanish, and Arabic. Now our amazing network of translators have expanded SSD's coverage to include French, Thai, Vietnamese, and Urdu.
Adding around 230 million native speakers to our potential audience is great news. It's even better when someone takes our suggestions and turns it into a form that makes it easier for anyone to understand.
Al Jazeera Plus is a digital news service with a track record of taking complex topics and transforming them into short informative animated explainers. Today, they've launched four great animations based on SSD's advice, that cover creating and managing strong passwords, how mass surveillance works (and can be defeated) online, and how to keep your computer safer from spyware.
It's often a challenge to make these topics approachable, but we've found in our informal studies that it helps if the explanation includes a bow-tied octopus with a mustache.
Tips to Avoid Online Surveillance: how mass surveillance got so cheap, and how to make it more expensive.
5. NET NEUTRALITY Under Attack in Congress Inc.
Internet users recently enjoyed a historic victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order was upheld as lawful. The court swatted down every legal argument made by the cable and telephone industries opposed to a free and open Internet. But in the last few weeks, Congress has relentlessly tried to defund, stall, and hamstring the FCC—even though four million Americans spoke out in favor of the FCC using its legal authority to protect a free and open Internet.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Defund Them
The House Appropriations Committee has cut the FCC’s budget by $69 million, and its current bill would prohibit the FCC from using federal funds to enforce its Open Internet Order until the cable and telephone industries’ legal challenges are resolved. That’s ironic, because the D.C. Circuit opinion is so favorable to the FCC that the agency will likely defeat any further challenge to its legal authority. In fact, the Supreme Court is probably not going to take up the case because there is no split among the circuit courts. Even the dissenting judge in the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision agreed that the FCC has the legal authority it needs to pass the Open Internet rules. Why would Congress bother placing these conditions on the FCC when the courts have effectively given the agency the go-ahead?
If You Can’t Defund Them, Stall Them (and Cost Consumers a Ton of Money)
One of the central principles of a free and open Internet is your right to connect any device to the network so long as it does not harm the network. We take that idea for granted when connecting computers to the Internet, but the markets for some types of personal devices lag far behind.
Congress tried to bring competition and diversity to the market for pay-TV set-top boxes when it enacted Section 629 of the Telecommunications Act, which ordered the FCC to break up the cable set-top box monopoly. That was 1996.
Twenty years later, after three attempts, the FCC is actually moving forward to carry out that law. But pay-TV companies and their allies in the entertainment industry are pushing hard for the FCC to repeat its past mistakes. Therefore, the cable industry and its allies are taking their case to Congress. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees inserted a provision that would require the FCC to produce a “study” on the impacts of breaking up the set-top box monopoly and then wait another six months before actually breaking up the monopoly.
You don’t need to be an economist to know that breaking up a monopoly is usually a good thing for everyone but the monopolists (in this case, cable and satellite companies, who provide 99% of all set-top boxes). Not to mention that the FCC’s process for creating new rules already requires the agency to study the issue and invite thorough public comment and discussion. The FCC's own rulemaking process is the appropriate way to discuss the implications of a proposed rule. It’s easy to see that piling on additional "studies” is just intended to slow the process, potentially forever.
What makes this provision particularly offensive is that Congress seems oblivious to the cost to ordinary consumers. Our colleagues at Public Knowledge have calculated to the second how much the delay costs consumers. If lawmakers now regret ordering the FCC to end the set-top box monopoly, they could change the Telecommunications Act. Instead, this stall tactic allows them to pretend they favor competition while really protecting the monopolists’ profits.
And If You Can’t Stall Them, Hamstring Them
We’ve raised this issue before: H.R. 2666, the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act,” is an attempt to hamstring the agency’s ability to enforce net neutrality. Given that the bill faced strong opposition in the House of Representatives (thanks to your willingness to call your House Rep) the bill is unlikely to move forward in the Senate as a standalone package. That means supporters of H.R. 2666 will need to try to squeeze it into a larger must-pass package bill as a last resort. If all the new lines of attack are any indication, we will need to stay vigilant.
Time To Make Your Voice Heard in Congress
We must make it clear that further attempts to move any bill or provisions tucked into other bills that would defund, stall, or hamstring the FCC from preserving a free and open Internet are a non-starter. There are still many members of Congress who are undecided on this issue. Take a moment to make sure your Senators and your Representative know where you stand. Opponents will continue to seek out ways to undo our victories, and the Internet user community must respond firmly.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Defund Them
The House Appropriations Committee has cut the FCC’s budget by $69 million, and its current bill would prohibit the FCC from using federal funds to enforce its Open Internet Order until the cable and telephone industries’ legal challenges are resolved. That’s ironic, because the D.C. Circuit opinion is so favorable to the FCC that the agency will likely defeat any further challenge to its legal authority. In fact, the Supreme Court is probably not going to take up the case because there is no split among the circuit courts. Even the dissenting judge in the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision agreed that the FCC has the legal authority it needs to pass the Open Internet rules. Why would Congress bother placing these conditions on the FCC when the courts have effectively given the agency the go-ahead?
If You Can’t Defund Them, Stall Them (and Cost Consumers a Ton of Money)
One of the central principles of a free and open Internet is your right to connect any device to the network so long as it does not harm the network. We take that idea for granted when connecting computers to the Internet, but the markets for some types of personal devices lag far behind.
Congress tried to bring competition and diversity to the market for pay-TV set-top boxes when it enacted Section 629 of the Telecommunications Act, which ordered the FCC to break up the cable set-top box monopoly. That was 1996.
Twenty years later, after three attempts, the FCC is actually moving forward to carry out that law. But pay-TV companies and their allies in the entertainment industry are pushing hard for the FCC to repeat its past mistakes. Therefore, the cable industry and its allies are taking their case to Congress. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees inserted a provision that would require the FCC to produce a “study” on the impacts of breaking up the set-top box monopoly and then wait another six months before actually breaking up the monopoly.
You don’t need to be an economist to know that breaking up a monopoly is usually a good thing for everyone but the monopolists (in this case, cable and satellite companies, who provide 99% of all set-top boxes). Not to mention that the FCC’s process for creating new rules already requires the agency to study the issue and invite thorough public comment and discussion. The FCC's own rulemaking process is the appropriate way to discuss the implications of a proposed rule. It’s easy to see that piling on additional "studies” is just intended to slow the process, potentially forever.
What makes this provision particularly offensive is that Congress seems oblivious to the cost to ordinary consumers. Our colleagues at Public Knowledge have calculated to the second how much the delay costs consumers. If lawmakers now regret ordering the FCC to end the set-top box monopoly, they could change the Telecommunications Act. Instead, this stall tactic allows them to pretend they favor competition while really protecting the monopolists’ profits.
And If You Can’t Stall Them, Hamstring Them
We’ve raised this issue before: H.R. 2666, the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act,” is an attempt to hamstring the agency’s ability to enforce net neutrality. Given that the bill faced strong opposition in the House of Representatives (thanks to your willingness to call your House Rep) the bill is unlikely to move forward in the Senate as a standalone package. That means supporters of H.R. 2666 will need to try to squeeze it into a larger must-pass package bill as a last resort. If all the new lines of attack are any indication, we will need to stay vigilant.
Time To Make Your Voice Heard in Congress
We must make it clear that further attempts to move any bill or provisions tucked into other bills that would defund, stall, or hamstring the FCC from preserving a free and open Internet are a non-starter. There are still many members of Congress who are undecided on this issue. Take a moment to make sure your Senators and your Representative know where you stand. Opponents will continue to seek out ways to undo our victories, and the Internet user community must respond firmly.
Hillary's DNC Platform Committee People Prove She Lies
It's no surprise to me or, probably, most Bernie supporters, to see that the DNC platform committee people who are not Bernie supporters are blocking policy that Hillary gave lip service to, particularly TPP opposition.

Just as the time when Colin Powell told us that there were WMDs in Iraq and I shook my head and knew he was lying, I knew Hillary was lying when she said she opposed TPP.

Hillary did say that she'd re-evaluated the TPP and now opposed it. Yet her people at the DNC platform policy committee blocked a policy position that would oppose support of the TPP.

If Hillary wanted her people to oppose TPP, they would oppose it. It's that simple.

There's only one conclusion. Hillary lied about her position on TPP. That's the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure. This is not a small thing. Position on trade deals is huge. Here's what Bernie Sanders says,
"The lesson of Brexit is that while the very rich get much richer, working people throughout the world are not seeing the global economy and an explosion of technology benefiting their lives. In fact, in the United States the middle class has been in decline for 35 years while there has been a huge increase in income and wealth inequality. Unfettered free trade has made multi-national corporations more profitable and their CEOs richer, but it also has led to the loss of millions of good-paying jobs in this country and a race to the bottom.

"The challenge for us today is to take on the greed and power of Wall Street and corporate America, and create a government and an economy that works for all of us and not just the 1 percent." 
"Unfortunately... the platform drafting committee voted down some very important provisions. Despite Secretary Clinton's opposition, as a candidate for president, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, her supporters in St. Louis voted down a proposal to keep the trade deal from coming up for a vote in Congress. 

The reality is the DNC represents establishment Democrats, the same ones who are the Superdelegates who committed to Hillary Clinton before Bernie Sanders even entered the primary. The DNC is not your friend, unless you are a big corporation.

7. CCR OPPOSES UTAH AG GAG Law

June 23, 2016, Salt Lake City – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a brief in support of animal rights activists challenging Utah’s so-called “ag-gag” law, which punishes whistleblowing and undercover investigations inside of animal agriculture facilities. The law was enacted in 2012, over widespread public opposition. During legislative hearings, lawmakers expressed that the goal of the bill was to hinder animal rights activism.
“Utah legislators were transparent about their disdain for animal rights activists,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Managing Attorney Shayana Kadidal. “If only they had the same appreciation for transparency when it comes to the violence the activists are documenting and exposing.”
Utah’s ag-gag law punishes recording images or sounds within an animal agricultural facility or gaining access to such a facility under false pretenses. Attorneys say the law is a response to undercover investigations inside animal farms and slaughter plants by animal rights activists. During hearings on the law, the bill’s sponsor referred to animal rights activists as “terrorists” and made clear the ag-gag law was aimed at “the vegetarian people” who “are trying to kill the animal industry.” Other legislators argued that investigations inside animal agricultural facilities should be criminalized because they are used “for the advancement of animal rights nationally, which, in our industry, we find egregious.”
Amy Meyer, a plaintiff in the case, was the first person charged under the law, after she filmed slaughter plant workers pushing a sick cow with a bulldozer. The Utah law applies to filming within facilities, but Meyer was on public property. The charges were dropped within 24 hours after independent journalist Will Potter broke the story. Four other activists from Farm Animal Rights Movement were charged under the Utah ag-gag law after filming a hog farm from a public roadway. Those charges were also dropped.
In the past decade, animal rights activists have conducted more than 80 undercover investigations inside of animal agricultural facilities. The investigations have resulted in animal cruelty prosecutions, plant closures, and the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In response, industry groups began an aggressive effort to pass state-level ag-gag legislation, prohibiting the documentation of practices on farms and in slaughter plants and efforts to gain access to animal facilities.
In August, a federal judge struck down a similar law in Idaho as a violation of the First Amendment.
Ag-gag laws are part of a broader pattern of legislation aimed at the repression of animal rights activists, which also includes the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). CCR is currently challenging the AETA on behalf of activists charged as terrorists for releasing animals from fur farms.
The case is Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Herbert. Read CCR’s amicus brief here.
R. Shane Johnson of Salt Lake City is CCR’s local counsel.

8. KNOCK KNOCK GUESS WHO’s Early
LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, including the FBI, have been knocking on the doors of activists and community organizers in Cleveland, Ohio, asking about their plans for the Republican National Convention in July.
As the city gears up to welcome an estimated 50,000 visitors, and an unknown number of protesters, some of the preparations and restrictionsput in place by officials have angered civil rights activists. But the latest string of unannounced home visits by local and federal police marks a significant escalation in officials’ efforts to stifle protest, they say.
“The purpose of these door knocks is simple: to intimidate the target and others in efforts to discourage people from engaging in lawful First Amendment activities,” Jocelyn Rosnick, a coordinator with the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, wrote in a statement denouncing the home visits.
More than a dozen people in the Cleveland area have reported being visited this week by local police, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Secret Service.
Michael Nelson, an attorney and the president of the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP, said that police officers visited the parents of one of his clients, a young woman who was among 71 people arrested in May 2015 following the acquittal of a police officer in the deaths of two unarmed people.
When the parents asked whether their daughter was in trouble and why they wanted to speak with her, the officers replied that they wanted to ask “about any information she might have about anybody engaging in violence, planning violence for the RNC.” Nelson and others have asked for a meeting with the agencies involved in the door knocks.
“Maybe we need to have a discussion about the Constitution,” he told The Intercept. “Last time we heard of anything like this was when Dr. King and J. Edgar Hoover were around.”
The FBI confirmed that visits have taken place. “In preparation for the upcoming RNC, the FBI, along with our federal, state, and local partners, has been working collaboratively with members of the community,” a spokesperson for the FBI’s Cleveland field office told The Intercept. “As part of this preparation, law enforcement is reaching out to individuals known in the community who may have information that could help ensure a safe and secure environment during the RNC.” Cleveland’s police department did not respond to requests for comment.
Maggie Rice, an organizer with Food Not Bombs, said that members of her group were visited by police but felt too “rattled” to speak to a reporter. The group is not planning to stage protests but has applied for permits to be in the RNC event zone in order to feed both protesters and Cleveland residents dealing with disruptions to public transportation and services like Meals on Wheels.
“A lot of Cleveland’s most vulnerable residents will be at risk,” Rice said. “The idea that the FBI would be coming in, knocking on our doors and asking questions of people that they know are not involved in organizing any protests and that are basically a humanitarian organization is completely unacceptable and very disturbing.”
“One FBI agent and one plainclothes Cleveland police officer, both white men, showed up and started asking questions about other Food Not Bombs members and our activities,” Rice said. “I personally believe that this is an attempt to intimidate because they know we play a vital role in helping people stay out longer and have their voices heard.”
In other visits, officers asked about people’s previous addresses, political and social affiliation, and convention plans, according to the NLG. “We are concerned these visits will chill the free speech activities of individuals wishing to lawfully protest,” said Rosnick. “And that individuals who are not planning to be involved in the RNC are being harassed due to their associations.”
The group is holding free legal training sessions for local activists and residents and has been monitoring law enforcement preparations ahead of the convention. To Cleveland organizers, the recent door knocks are just a reminder that they are being watched.
“Cleveland is no stranger to FBI interference and FBI entrapment,” said Rice. “I’d say most Cleveland activists and support organizations like ours are aware that every room we’re in probably has an FBI agent in it. And we act accordingly.”

8. CLEVELAND - Is a Free Speech Zone
ANYONE VENTURING INTO a 3.3-square-mile “event zone” surrounding next month’s Republican National Convention will be prohibited from carrying tennis balls, tape, rope, bike locks, sleeping bags, or any object they could stand on to rise above the crowd and speak. They won’t be allowed to carry swords or water guns. But if they have a license, they’ll be permitted to openly carry real guns, including assault weapons.

As Cleveland gears up to host one of the most controversial GOP conventions in decades, Ohio’s permissive gun policy isn’t the only red flag raised by prospective protesters and civil rights advocates. Many also warn that the regulations put in place by the city place “unacceptable restrictions on free speech” and risk escalating conflict, rather than diffusing it, by forcing rival groups of demonstrators to share tight quarters and schedules while keeping them out of sight and earshot of delegates and the media.

The restrictions imposed on the large event zone drawn around Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena — known locally as “The Q”— have earned the city a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Ohio and widespread criticism across the spectrum of groups planning to show up at the convention to make their voices heard.

A man carries a semi-automatic pistol, tucked in a holster inside his right waistband, while he waits in line to purchase groceries at a Safeway grocery store in Alexandria, Va., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Open Carry is legal in most places in Virginia, with or without a Concealed Handgun Permit. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) A man carries a semi-automatic pistol while he waits in line to purchase groceries at a Safeway grocery store in Alexandria, Va., Nov. 21, 2015. Photo: Cliff Owen/AP“It’s the first time I’ve gone to a protest where there’s been so much talk of guns and the fact that people can carry them legally,” said John Penley, a 64-year-old Navy vet, Occupy Wall Street activist, and career protester, who said he has lost count of how many conventions he has attended. “They throw pro- and anti-Trump protesters together, and throw in the fact that maybe people will be carrying weapons. … It seems like what they want to do is increase the chances for conflict.”
The nearly 30 groups that have applied for permits to protest at the convention have been told marches can only take place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., with an hour off for lunch, while most action inside the convention hall is expected to take place in the evening. Marches are restricted to a 1-mile route over a bridge where they can hardly be seen. “The route takes a sharp right away from the Quicken Loans Arena and kind of dumps people into an industrial wasteland,” Christine Link, the executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, told The Intercept. “There’s nowhere to get a bottle of water, and it’s a long way back to your car.”

Protesters fear they will be effectively silenced by the isolation, but also worry about the close scheduling of groups on polar opposites of the political spectrum. For instance, members of the radical leftist Revolution Books are set to share one of two small gathering places with Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay hate group best known for picketing high-profile funerals. “As you can imagine,” Link said, “these groups are not going to be very friendly to each other.”

The ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of three groups: Citizens for Trump; Organize Ohio, a coalition of grassroots organizations planning an anti-poverty march during the convention; and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, which is not planning to protest but argues that the broad event zone imposes an unfair burden on an area that includes three homeless shelters and two homeless encampments.

The groups that applied for permits are only a fraction of those expected to show up at the convention. “Anarchists don’t typically ask for permits,” Link observed. Those hoping to protest by the book have had to deal with malfunctioning electronic request forms, delays, and a lack of communication from the city. The restrictions now imposed on protesters are only going to push more people to rally without authorization.

“They have to know that most people will never go along with this,” said Larry Bresler, a member of Organize Ohio. “It’s like they have no understanding whatsoever of what can be expected to go on during a convention.”

Cleveland’s Division of Police referred all convention-related questions to the mayor’s office, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Paramilitary Preparations

Cleveland received a $50 million federal grant to gear up for the RNC. A complete list of items the city has obtained has not been made public, but according to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), which has been monitoring preparations, it includes 10,000 sets of flex cuffs; “nonlethal munitions” like bean bag pellets; pepper spray; 2,000 sets of riot gear; 2,000 retractable steel batons; 3.7 miles’ worth of steel barriers; as well as body armor, including ballistic helmets, face visors and shields, and chest, arm, leg, and groin protection. The list also includes video surveillance equipment, laptops, night vision devices, and 16 Pointer Illuminator Aiming Lasers, which a technology retailer describes as being used for “night direct-fire aiming and illumination.” The NLG also raised concerns that Cleveland may deploy Stingray cellphone tracking devices to track down activists, as well as a Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD), a crowd-control tool emitting painful sounds to force people to disperse.

The LRAD, which was designed after the al Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, in 2000, was originally intended for U.S. warships to warn off vessels approaching without permission. The device was used for the first time against protesters in 2009, during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, and a bystander who suffered permanent hearing damage sued the city. Police departments across the country have continued to use the LRAD to disperse protests and rallies, including in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

“That militarized equipment or any security equipment that they buy for the RNC remains there long after the delegates leave,” said Jocelyn Rosnick, a coordinator for the Ohio Chapter of the NLG. “We believe that people have a right to know what’s coming into their city.”

Cleveland also paid $1.5 million to an insurance broker to secure a $10 million policy for liabilities relating to the convention. “Protest insurance” has become common for cities hosting political conventions and is intended to protect the city and its employees, including officers, against any claims and losses arising from its role as RNC host, including its “law enforcement, safety, and security services,” city officials wrote in a call for bids. But the implication of the insurance policy — that the city assumes it will be sued over its handling of protests — doesn’t sit well with civil rights advocates. “These policies go far beyond general slip and fall type coverage,” said Rosnick. “They also indemnify the city for lawsuits related to constitutional violations and other civil liberties concerns.”

While Cleveland’s police have mostly responded to protests with restraint, for instance during the rallies following the killing by an officer of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a Department of Justice investigation found that the department has engaged in a pattern of excessive force in its regular operations. In a December 2014 report, the DOJ determined that “insufficient accountability, inadequate training, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community” contributed to Cleveland police’s “use of unreasonable force.” Following the report, a police monitor was brought in, and reforms were promised. “But there hasn’t been enough time to fix anything,” said the ACLU’s Link, who questioned the department’s preparedness to handle the large number of protesters coming to town for the convention. “That’s the worry we have: This is not a sophisticated, well-run police department.”

The convention center itself is under the control of the Secret Service, which has imposed a separate set of restrictions, including a ban on weapons. An online petition to allow licensed owners to carry guns inside the convention center gathered nearly 55,000 signatures before it was revealed that it was set up as a parody by a gun-control advocate.

Protesters planning to rally outside — with or without permits — worry that poor planning by the city and the hateful rhetoric that has marked much of the Republican race may turn into a dangerous combination. Some have already elected to stay home out of fear of violence, leaving those choosing to protest at an even greater risk.

Bresler, of Organize Ohio, said he met with organizers of the pro-Trump camp and that both groups are committed to nonviolent protest. “But you don’t always know who’s going to come in and join, and what’s going to happen,” he added. Pensley, the career protester, predicts that only the more radical will show up in Cleveland, while both liberals and radicals will descend on Philadelphia, for the Democratic National Convention.


“A lot of people I know who usually would be protesting at both conventions are skipping out on Cleveland because they are scared,” he said. “And I don’t blame them.”
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