Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar.
Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?
We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.
Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.
Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sake, published in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution.
Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably.
This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed.
Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine?
Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so.
Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments.
Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change.
The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it.
It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
I appeared on ABCTV News24’s The Drum on Friday night (video here).
We discussed the foul use of vulnerable asylum seekers as a political tool in Australia, claiming those coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka or elsewhere are just economic refugees. The facts are the complete opposite.
One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.
On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.
This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.
For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.
In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.
It’s the kind of story that necessarily interests the general public. Surveillance, leaking, US power and Wikileaks (note, for the record, in today’s New York Times yet another clear indication that the US wants to destroy/punish the vitally important website). Last week I wrote for the Guardian about the PRISM revelations by Edward Snowden and the deafening silence in many establishment circles. Now, an interesting idea that continues the conversation (written by Comment is Free editor Jess Reed):
In a new series, Comment is free writers and editors want to highlight some of the best comments on the site. Each week, either an editor or the author of a recent piece will pick a comment that they think contributes to the debate. Hopefully, it will give staff and readers an opportunity to see how thought-provoking such contributions can be and allow great posts the chance to be seen by a wider audience.
“Where is the outrage over Prism in Australia? In the same place as Australian outrage over Echelon. Next to the US, Australia is probably the second most insular “western” democracy in the world. And even more ready to believe that it’s all about foreigners, which doesn’t include them but does include anybody slightly brown tinged or with a funny accent on the continent, than the Americans.
“I was talking to a (typically) frighteningly casual racist Australian yesterday. And he was genuinely convinced that NSA would only be spying on “immigrant darkies” in Australia. He couldn’t grasp the concept that TCP/IP and the ISO communications model don’t have an ethnic identification layer. And the NSA don’t (can’t) racially profile meta data.”
Antony explains why he picked this comment:
“One of the constant refrains about the Snowden revelations, from supporters of unaccountable surveillance, is that the state and authorities would never peek into lives that have no connection to terrorism. Or that Washington has a watertight court oversight (Glenn Greenwalddemolished that lie recently). The commenter understands that the post 9/11 world has seen development of a massive, privatised system of monitoring and gathering metadata on us all. I have to agree that insularity is an Australian speciality (not unique to us, alas). These Prism revelations should alarm politicians and media but far too many of them are sucking on the drip-feed of sanctioned US government and intelligence leaks and information to care. The online rage against the Obama administration recently shows that many in the public are demanding action.”
• Let us know your thoughts on this exchange in the comments below, and tell us whether it has given you a new insight into the issue.
More unnerving is the way in which various members of the media have failed to challenge the official line. Nobody should be surprised to see the New York Post running the headline: “ROGUES’ GALLERY: SNOWDEN JOINS LONG LIST OF NOTORIOUS, GUTLESS TRAITORS FLEEING TO RUSSIA.” But where are Snowden’s defenders? As of Monday, the editorial pages of the Times and the Washington Post, the two most influential papers in the country, hadn’t even addressed the Obama Administration’s decision to charge Snowden with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of theft.
If convicted on all three counts, the former N.S.A. contract-systems administrator could face thirty years in jail. On the Sunday-morning talk shows I watched, there weren’t many voices saying that would be an excessive punishment for someone who has performed an invaluable public service. And the person who did aggressively defend Snowden’s actions, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian blogger who was one of the reporters to break the story, found himself under attack. After suggesting that Greenwald had “aided and abetted” Snowden, David Gregory, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asked, “Why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”
After being criticized on Twitter, Gregory said that he wasn’t taking a position on Snowden’s actions—he was merely asking a question. I’m all for journalists asking awkward questions, too. But why aren’t more of them being directed at Hayden and Feinstein and Obama, who are clearly intent on attacking the messenger?
Snowden took classified documents from his employer, which surely broke the law. But his real crime was confirming that the intelligence agencies, despite their strenuous public denials, have been accumulating vast amounts of personal data from the American public. The puzzle is why so many media commentators continue to toe the official line. About the best explanation I’ve seen came from Josh Marshall, the founder of T.P.M., who has been one of Snowden’s critics. In a post that followed the first wave of stories, Marshall wrote, “At the end of the day, for all its faults, the U.S. military is the armed force of a political community I identify with and a government I support. I’m not a bystander to it. I’m implicated in what it does and I feel I have a responsibility and a right to a say, albeit just a minuscule one, in what it does.”
I suspect that many Washington journalists, especially the types who go on Sunday talk shows, feel the way Marshall does, but perhaps don’t have his level of self-awareness. It’s not just a matter of defending the Obama Administration, although there’s probably a bit of that. It’s something deeper, which has to do with attitudes toward authority. Proud of their craft and good at what they do, successful journalists like to think of themselves as fiercely independent. But, at the same time, they are part of the media and political establishment that stands accused of ignoring, or failing to pick up on, an intelligence outrage that’s been going on for years. It’s not surprising that some of them share Marshall’s view of Snowden as “some young guy I’ve never heard of before who espouses a political philosophy I don’t agree with and is now seeking refuge abroad for breaking the law.”
Mea culpa. Having spent almost eighteen years at The New Yorker, I’m arguably just as much a part of the media establishment as David Gregory and his guests. In this case, though, I’m with Snowden—not only for the reasons that Drake enumerated but also because of an old-fashioned and maybe naïve inkling that journalists are meant to stick up for the underdog and irritate the powerful. On its side, the Obama Administration has the courts, the intelligence services, Congress, the diplomatic service, much of the media, and most of the American public. Snowden’s got Greenwald, a woman from Wikileaks, and a dodgy travel document from Ecuador. Which side are you on?
Remarkable interview with the Guardian’sGlenn Greenwald, key journalist on the Edward Snowden story, with establishment “reporter” David Gregory of Meet the Press yesterday. How unedifying and revealing that Gregory asks Greenwald whether he should be charged with a crime for being involved in the Snowden leak story.
Once a hack who loves attending Washington parties to laugh with officials, always a hack:
Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.
Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.
“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.
The Obama administration is expected to hasten the program’s implementation as the government grapples with the fallout from the leaks of top secret documents by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the agency’s secret telephone data collection program. The case is only the latest in a series of what the government condemns as betrayals by “trusted insiders” who have harmed national security.
“Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” Obama said on May 16 in defending criminal investigations into leaks. “They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various, dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk. . . . So I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.”
As part of the initiative, Obama ordered greater protection for whistleblowers who use the proper internal channels to report official waste, fraud and abuse, but that’s hardly comforting to some national security experts and current and former U.S. officials. They worry that the Insider Threat Program won’t just discourage whistleblowing but will have other grave consequences for the public’s right to know and national security.
The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.
“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”
The Defense Department anti-leak strategy obtained by McClatchy spells out a zero-tolerance policy. Security managers, it says, “must” reprimand or revoke the security clearances – a career-killing penalty – of workers who commit a single severe infraction or multiple lesser breaches “as an unavoidable negative personnel action.”
Employees must turn themselves and others in for failing to report breaches. “Penalize clearly identifiable failures to report security infractions and violations, including any lack of self-reporting,” the strategic plan says.
The Obama administration already was pursuing an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions, and some in Congress – long one of the most prolific spillers of secrets – favor tightening restrictions on reporters’ access to federal agencies, making many U.S. officials reluctant to even disclose unclassified matters to the public.
There’s really nobody in the Australian Parliament quite like Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, a constant voice against excessive government surveillance and the national-security state. His speech this week is a cracker, covering Michael Hastings, Bradley Manning, Wikileaks and Edward Snowden. If only more politicians saw their role like Ludlam, questioning the ever-increasing role of the state into our daily lives:
Yesterday the world was greeted with the tragic news that 33 year old, US investigative journalist Michael Hastings died in a car crash in LA. Apart from being a fearless reporter, he was also a friend. I’m still in shock.
We weren’t overly close but met years ago at a writer’s festival in Brisbane and re-connected around once a year in New York in the following years. We would email irregularly about what we were working on, various investigations or books. He was also generous and personable. He never let fame go to his head. His warmth, dry humour and contempt for most corporate journalists (something we shared) was infectious. The last time we hung out was in September 2012. We spent hours walking across New York, stopping now and then for a bite to eat, while we discussed publishing, war, Barack Obama, the media, his marriage and how we make the tough decisions in life.
Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.
For me, Michael was that truly rare journalist who didn’t give a fuck what the establishment thought about him. He reported fearlessly from Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. He wasn’t, like so many of his colleagues, keen to romance the military or government sources. He saw first-hand the disaster that US-led wars caused since 9/11 and he had no intention of offering cover for these crimes. As an independent journalist myself, there are very few compatriots who I respect for never siding with the state and always remembering that our job is to be adversarial and not complacent. Michael is one of the few journalists I cite as an inspiration in my upcoming book, Profits of Doom. I was excited about the prospect of him reading it.
One of the reasons I always admired Michael was that he could have taken a very different route. Being a national security reporter since 9/11 presents a few options. The first is to become embedded psychologically with the system and the other is to challenge every step of the way. Michael chose the latter and I see myself in the same mould. He was vigorously attacked for this stance, especially after his sensational scoop on Stanley McChrystal that resulted in his resignation. I reviewed Michael’s book, The Operators, for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2012 and noted the following:
“I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising,” independent American journalist Michael Hastings told The Huffington Post in 2010. ”My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer.”
Such a mindset is what makes this book a compelling read and ensures its status as one of the most devastating and incisive works on the Afghanistan war since Washington and its allies invaded in 2001.
Hastings concludes, after spending extensive time with generals and military advisers, as well as reporters who hang on their every word, that the conflict was lost years ago. The warped logic of the war, the author states, is that, ”we’re there because we’re there. And because we’re there, we’re there some more.”
Afghanistan today has nothing to do with September 11, 2001, ”terrorist havens” or al-Qaeda. ”It didn’t matter that in Afghanistan, the US military had come up short again and again,” Hastings argues. ”What mattered is that they tried. The simple and terrifying reality, forbidden from discussion in America [and mostly in the mainstream media in Australia], was that despite spending $600 billion a year on the military, despite having the best fighting force the world had ever known, they were getting their asses kicked by illiterate peasants who made bombs out of manure and wood.”
Hastings is that rare journalist who doesn’t believe in venerating military figures who give him access in Washington and American war zones. A key aspect of his investigation is its brutal excoriation of embedded media and the lack of accountability in the pundit class. His staccato writing feels immediate in today’s war debate.
And here we are. The journalistic world and democracy is weaker today without Michael. He’s that rare breed that should inspire a generation of reporters to be gutsy and recognise that great reporting should upset the powerful. Be fair and truthful. Be honest. Take risks. Visit trouble spots and don’t re-publish press releases as news.
The great Al Jazeera media program The Listening Post this week tackles Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Wikileaks. They asked me to comment on the ways in which the Snowden story unfolded in the press. My clip is at 10:28. Previous contributions here:
The ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database cracks open the impenetrable world of offshore tax havens. Users can through more than 100,000 secret companies, trusts and funds created in offshore locales such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands and Singapore.
As he pulled a small black suitcase and carried a selection of laptop bags over his shoulders, no one would have paid much attention to Ed Snowden as he arrived at Hong Kong International Airport. But Snowden was not your average tourist or businessman. In all, he was carrying four computers that enabled him to gain access to some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets.
So is he whistleblower or traitor? That debate is still raging.
Snowden, aged 29, had flown to Hong Kong from Hawaii, where he had been working for the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton at the National Security Agency, the biggest spy surveillance organisation in the world. Since Monday morning, he has gone underground. Hong Kong-based journalists, joined by the international press, have been hunting for him. At the height of the search, reporters recruited Twitter followers to see if they could successfully identify the lighting and other hotel furnishings shown in the video in which he went public. They did: the $330-a-night Mira Hotel, on Nathan Road, the busy main shopping drag in Kowloon district.
Knowing it was only a matter of time before he was found, Snowden checked out at lunchtime on Monday. It is thought he is now in a safe house.
What happens now? The US is on the verge of pressing criminal charges against him and that would lead to extradition proceedings, with a view to bringing him back to the US for trial and eventually jail.
For an American, the traditional home for the kind of story Snowden was planning to reveal would have been the New York Times. But during extensive interviews last week with a Guardian team, he recalled how dismayed he had been to discover the Times had a great scoop in election year 2004 – that the Bush administration, post 9/11, allowed theNSA to snoop on US citizens without warrants – but had sat on it for a year before publishing.
Snowden said this was a turning point for him, confirming his belief that traditional media outlets could not be trusted. He looked around for alternative journalists, those who were both anti-establishment and at home with blogging and other social media. The member of this generation that he most trusted was the Guardian commentator Glenn Greenwald.
In January, Snowden reached out to a documentary filmmaker and journalist, Laura Poitras, and they began to correspond. In mid-February, he sent an email to Greenwald, who lives in Brazil, suggesting he might want to set up a method for receiving and sending encrypted emails. He even made a YouTube video for Greenwald, to take him step-by-step through the process of encryption. Greenwald did not know the identity of the person offering the leaks and was unsure if they were genuine. He took no action. In March, in New York, he received a call from Poitras, who convinced him that he needed to take this more seriously.
Greenwald and Snowden set up a secure communications system and the first of the documents arrived, dealing with the NSA’s secret Prismprogramme, which gathers up information from the world’s leading technology companies.