[Cross posted from the People's Constitution Blog of the Board of Rights Defense Committee -- Angela Keaton]

Thursday, April 10, 2014 was a National Day of Action against Fusion Centers. Diverse, multiracial grassroots coalitions from around the country held rallies, press conferences, and creative actions to challenges civil liberties by fusion centers, which coordinate the surveillance activities of local police alongside federal agencies like the NSA and FBI. Fusion centers have operated at unknown cost, failed to meaningfully serve a public benefit, and drawn critics including Senators across the partisan spectrum, the ACLU, environmentalists, Muslim Americans, peace activists, and Ron Paul supporters.

Participating cities in yesterday’s action included: Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and Washington DC. Below the jump are quotes from organizers, as well as photos and videos from several of the sites.

Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, said:

Congress’ failure to restrain dragnet domestic spying is shameful, the courts have sat on their hands for a decade, and the president has finally announced long-overdue but still meager, under inclusive, and potentially counterproductive remedies that could make the constitutional crisis even worse. The fusion center network, in particular, is especially wasteful, fraudulent, and demonstrably ineffective from a national security or public safety standpoint while still offending constitutional rights.

The surveillance reforms under debate in Washington should be pervasive, in order to restrain domestic spying coordinated through DHS funded fusion centers that are co-opting and distracting local police agencies around the country.

Jamie Garcia, a Registered Nurse and member of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition in Los Angeles, said:

Not only are Fusion Centers at the heart of government spying and surveillance linking local, regional and national data collection, they also amount to a waste of precious public resources when critical services are being cut back. Instead of Fusion Centers, we need health centers, community centers, youth centers!

The last time anyone looked, a bipartisan Senate panel found that fusion centers had failed to demonstrate any utility. Moreover, according to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK):

DHS has resisted oversight of these centers. The Department opted not to inform Congress or the public of serious problems plaguing its fusion center and broader intelligence efforts. When this Subcommittee requested documents that would help it identify these issues, the Department initially resisted turning them over, arguing that they were protected by privilege, too sensitive to share, were protected by confidentiality agreements, or did not exist at all. The American people deserve better.

This Thursday, Americans in half a dozen cities came together to demand exactly that.

Boston, MA Action

Dallas, TX

Washington, DC

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Errol Morris’s new documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, is not as valuable as his last piece The Fog of War, a similarly styled conversation with another former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. The fault is not Morris’s, but Rumsfeld’s.

In The Fog of War, McNamara is guilt-ridden and reflective about his involvement in the Vietnam War and war in general. He makes damning confessions, saying the U.S. committed war crimes in WWII and talking openly about the false justifications for the Johnson administration’s escalation in Vietnam. He questions war, nationalism, the elite zeitgeist that drove the U.S. into the Vietnam calamity.

Somehow, this is satisfying to anyone who was alive and opposed the Vietnam War. And for younger generations that lived through the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was gratifying to at least know that the architects of the U.S. war machine in the highest reaches of government know deep down what they’ve done, even if they don’t admit it publicly. It’s a kind of corrective; if war criminals aren’t going to be prosecuted, their guilt-ridden hearts are a distant second to that justice.

In The Unknown Known, by contrast, Rumsfeld leaves us Iraq War opponents deeply unfulfilled. There is not a whiff of regret, not the slightest willingness to admit wrongdoing, no culpability, no self-reflection. Instead, the former Secretary of Defense is almost gleeful; it’s not enough to say he is unrepentant because the viewer can find no indication that he is aware of anything for which to repent.

Beyond Rumsfeld’s failure to feel any remorse, the real twist of the knife is that Morris can’t even get him to agree on the facts, and Rumsfeld is therefore relieved of any obligation to reckon with the contrast between the Bush administration’s claims and what were the facts.

In other words, the up close and personal Don Rumsfeld is the same wretched snake that toyed with reporters in all those infamous press conferences, in which he spewed evasive epistemological inanities like “known unknowns” and “absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence,” instead of straightforwardly answering questions about Saddam’s pursuit of WMDs or his alleged alliance with terrorist groups.

It is this “philosophizing” of Don Rumsfeld, Morris tells Reason‘s Nick Gillespie in an interview about the project, that “is the thrust” of the whole film. It is “the devaluation of evidence,” Morris explains, that drives Rumsfeld’s approach. Instead of thinking about “fact versus fiction,” Rumsfeld “drifts off into some kind of crazy meta-talk that is seemingly significant, but is not.”

Morris says he believes Rumsfeld is not a trickster, but rather that he believes his own nonsense, or at least is unperturbed by it. “Who is kidding whom?” Morris asks. “I think he’s kidding himself.”

A rabid dog that mauls a toddler to pieces may not be aware of what he has done, but he will still be put down. Rumsfeld, on the other hand, will live out the rest of his life in this freewheeling oblivion without threat of punishment.

The film is infuriating, but it is worth a watch. You can see Gillspie’s interview with Morris below.

Late last week, Sens. Diane Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post calling for the 6,300+ page Senate report on the CIA’s Bush-era torture and interrogation program to be released to the public:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted 11 to 3 last Thursday to declassify and make public the executive summary and the findings and conclusions of its report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

Those documents have been sent to the president for declassification.

We believe that public release is the best way to ensure that this program of secret detention and coercive interrogation never happens again. It will also serve to uphold America’s practice of admitting wrongdoing and learning from its mistakes.

It’s hard for me to pin down just when “admitting wrongdoing and learning from mistakes” was a “practice” in American government, but I digress. Ever since the completion of this report, its authors in the Senate intelligence committee have urged its release. But after Feinstein went to the Senate floor last month to accuse the CIA of illegally trying to stonewall the investigation and block its release, Feinstein seemed to have changed her mind. Now the demand is not to have all 6,300+ pages released to the public, but to have approximately 500 pages of an executive summary submitted for declassification review. As Spencer Ackerman at the Guardian reported:

As a Senate committee moves to declassify a landmark report about the Central Intelligence Agency’s descent into torture, among the only certainties is that the public won’t see the vast majority of it.

The Senate select committee on intelligence has waged an unprecedented and acrimonious public battle with the CIA over a secret 6,300-page investigation concluding torture was an ineffective intelligence-gathering technique and that the CIA lied about its value. On Thursday, the committee is slated to take a belated vote to make it public.

Or more precisely, it will vote to make a slice public. And the CIA will have a significant degree of influence over how large and how public that slice will be.

The committee is not going to release the 6,300-page report. Its chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein of California, said on the Senate floor three weeks ago that only the “findings, conclusions and the executive summary of the report” were the subject of the committee’s declassification efforts. The vast majority of the Senate report – effectively, an alternative post-9/11 history detailing of years’ worth of CIA torture and cover-up – will remain shielded from public view.

Clearly, Feinstein and the rest of the Senate committee are the target of incredible pressure from the CIA and the White House to hem in their demands for public release. It’s also important to keep in mind that what will ultimately be released in this executive summary is still up to the CIA and the White House, given that they conduct the declassification review at their discretion. Don’t be surprised if even the fraction of the report up for declassification comes out heavily redacted.

Some of the classified details have been reported, though, and it ain’t pretty for the CIA. To take one example, McClatchy reported not only that the CIA went beyond the Justice Department’s own guidelines for permissible interrogation techniques, but that the CIA deliberately misled the DOJ, Congress, and the media in order to shield themselves from the law.

This obviously raise questions about what exactly is going to continue to be hidden from the public. What details of the brutal torture program are too dark for us to know? What ancillary activities included in the rest of the report are too shocking and felonious for public release?

To what extent is this whole “declassification” process an open admission that criminal activities within the intelligence community are allowed to be kept secret in order to shield said community from legal accountability or public ire? The CIA’s main excuse for opposing declassification has been to claim the report contains factual errors and misleading judgments. But Feinstein, in her Senate testimony, said that an internal CIA review came to the same conclusion and made the same judgements about the torture program.

“How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own internal review?” Feinstein asked. Good question. It can’t. And this is why the whole process is a thinly veiled attempt to maintain impunity for government criminals.

Charles Goyette interviews Ron Paul for their weekly podcast on the question of U.S. intervention in Ukraine and the new U.S./IMF bailout Kiev bill, as well as the leaked phone call of Turkish officials discussing the possibility of launching a false flag attack to justify further intervention in Syria.

Download MP3 here.

Charles Goyette is New York Times Bestselling Author of The Dollar Meltdown and Red and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring America’s Free Economy. Check out Goyette and Paul’s national radio commentary: Ron Paul’s America and the Ron Paul and Charles Goyette Weekly Podcast. Goyette also edits The Freedom and Prosperity Letter.

Stand up comic and writer Amy Schumer discovers what it means to be “all you can be.” For more information on military rape, please read Kelley Vlahos, here, here and here.

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Via Juan Cole and Mondoweiss, John Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday featured a clear admission that Israel was the cause of the collapse of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. First, the Israeli government refused to fulfill its promise to release Palestinian prisoners and then announced the construction of 700 new settlement units in East Jerusalem. Here’s Kerry:

In my judgment both leaders have made courageous and important decisions up until now. For Prime Minister Netanyahu to release prisoners is a painful, difficult political step to take, enormously hard, and the people of Israel have been incredibly supportive and patient in giving him the space in order to do that. In exchange for the deal being kept of the release of prisoners and not going to the U.N. Unfortunately, the prisoners weren’t released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day went by, day two went by day three went by and then in the afternoon when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem. And poof! That was sort of the moment.

And now today, “an Israeli government official says the prime minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, has told his ministers to stop holding meetings with their Palestinian counterparts,” the Guardian reports, marking an official end to negotiations. Netanyahu blamed it on Palestinian attempts to sign on to international treaties, even though this happened after the events that Kerry argues dissolved talks.

Why would Israel want to deliberately terminate negotiations? The answer: Israel opposes a Palestinian state. A recent report from the European Union concluded that Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements is a deliberate strategy aimed at rendering a viable Palestinian state impossible. As The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg has written, “The right-wing wants the land, but not the people.” The better option, Israeli policy seems to indicate, is to smoke them out.

This should be surprising to no one. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party Charter describes Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza as “the realization of Zionist values” and declares the whole of the West Bank and Jerusalem as belonging to Israel (“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river”). Did Kerry actually believe the Netanyahu government was entering into negotiations in good faith?

Update: I guess to demonstrate their good faith, influential right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset are calling on Netanyahu to “annex the West Bank now.”