Trump to Inherit Vast Surveillance Powers

Many Democrats trusted President Obama with the vast surveillance powers inherited from President George W. Bush, but now the failure to curtail those powers means they pass on to Donald Trump, notes Nat Parry.

By Nat Parry

As the Electoral College gathers across the country on Monday to cast ballots for the 45th president of the United States – and the reality of a Trump administration draws closer – an overriding concern (beyond the questionable appointments of oil executives, billionaires and bankers to top cabinet posts) is what the Trump presidency might mean in terms of civil liberties, individual privacy and human rights.

For those who once dismissed the idea that there was anything particularly worrying about the mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency under the Bush and Obama administrations, as whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations confirmed more than three years ago, the fact that Donald J. Trump will now be inheriting these sweeping powers might put things into perspective. The same could be said about arbitrary detention, “enhanced interrogation” and assassinations.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona. June 18, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona. June 18, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

With an incoming president who is reportedly compiling an “enemies list” in order to keep track of those who have shown a perceived lack of loyalty or disrespect – not to mention someone who compulsively takes to social media to denounce those seen as slighting or insulting him – perhaps now it is a bit more clear why allowing limitless government powers over individual privacy and other fundamental rights might not be such a good idea after all.

There is some irony, to say the least, that while Washington is now up in arms about the Russian government allegedly hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee, these same capabilities are now being freely handed over to Trump, who has stated that he wants surveillance of mosques and has spoken about how much he would like to have the power to hack the emails of his political opponents. “Honestly, I wish I had that power,” he said. “I’d love to have that power.”

One who has long been raising concerns over “that power” is William Binney, a former high-level NSA executive who helped create the agency’s mass surveillance program more than 15 years ago. In an interview with journalist James Bamford in 2012, Binney said that the United States is creeping dangerously close to totalitarianism. With his thumb and forefinger centimeters apart, Binney told Bamford, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

Binney left the NSA in late 2001 after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he told Bamford, “but they didn’t care.”

When Barack Obama took office in 2009, Binney hoped that the new administration might take steps to reform the program he had helped design in order to bring it in line with constitutional safeguards. Instead, what happened was the program’s expansion.

Incredible Continuity

According to Michael Hayden, who was NSA Director from 1999 to 2005, Obama placed the program under more congressional oversight than Bush, but “in terms of what NSA is doing, there is incredible continuity between the two presidents.” In fact, the surveillance programs have expanded under Obama, Hayden says, and the spy agency now has more powers now than when he was in command.

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the NSA.

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the NSA.

This is saying a lot, considering that under Hayden’s watch, the NSA’s surveillance powers grew exponentially, particularly after several important programs were moved from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to the NSA’s Advanced Research and Development Activity in Fort Meade, Maryland.

While the public was led to believe that congressional action in 2003 killed DARPA’s controversial Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, the National Journal revealed in February 2006 that it was actually kept alive within NSA’s secret budget. The most important components were simply moved from DARPA and given new names at NSA.

TIA’s Information Awareness Prototype System, for example, was renamed “Basketball” at NSA, but still provided the basic architecture tying together information extraction, analysis and dissemination tools developed under TIA. Another piece of TIA, called Genoa II, was shifted to NSA and renamed “Topsail.”

Snowden later revealed several other secret NSA activities, such as PRISM, which targets the personal data of web users by accessing the servers of major internet companies, the Dishfire database that stores years of text messages from around the world, the Tracfin collection, which accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases, and the NSA’s Polarbreeze hacking program. The NSA’s Tailored Access Operations division, Snowden revealed, breaks into computers around the world to steal data.

And thanks to the State Department’s diplomatic cables leaked by Army Private Chelsea Manning, currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for divulging government secrets, we know that Washington was using at least some of these tools in running a secret intelligence campaign that targeted the leadership of the United Nations and Security Council representatives from China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom.

Last February, WikiLeaks released more classified documents revealing how the NSA intercepted the communications of various heads of state, including Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Recommended Reforms

Although the Snowden revelations led to the appointment by President Obama of a Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which later issued a 300-page report with 46 recommendations to dramatically curtail the NSA’s surveillance powers, Snowden himself was vilified as a traitor by prominent Democrats such as Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Bill Nelson, and several congressional leaders called for his arrest and prosecution.

Vanity Fair graphic accompanying its profile of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Vanity Fair graphic accompanying its profile of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, said that Snowden’s claims of acting in the public interest are “self-serving and false, and the damage done to our national security [is] profound.” While welcoming recommended reforms stemming from Snowden’s revelations, Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the House’s NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee, said that Snowden’s actions were “inconsistent with the estimable tradition of civil disobedience.”

On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton flatly stated that “he broke the laws of the United States” and “stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands.” Asked whether Snowden should be allowed to return to the United States, she said, “I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.”

Trump and other Republicans have not been any kinder to Snowden, with the President-elect calling him “a bad guy” who might be deserving of the death penalty.

After years of these bipartisan attacks against his character and motivations, public approval ratings for Snowden’s actions have plummeted. While polls conducted in June and July 2013 found that 55 percent viewed him as a “whistleblower” and just 34 percent saw him as a “traitor,” those numbers have largely flipped in the years since. According to a KRC Research poll released last year, 64 percent of Americans held a negative opinion of Snowden, while 36 percent viewed him positively. A Rasmussen survey released in September 2016 found that just 25 percent supported a presidential pardon.

Snowden remains to this day in Russia where he was stranded in June 2013 after U.S. authorities rescinded his passport and where he was subsequently granted asylum. As Snowden settled in to his life as an exile, the President’s commission appointed in response to his revelations stressed that future U.S. leaders should not be trusted with the current level of capabilities enjoyed by the NSA.

“We cannot discount the risk, in light of the lessons of our own history, that at some point in the future, high-level government officials will decide that this massive database of extraordinarily sensitive private information is there for the plucking. Americans must never make the mistake of wholly ‘trusting’ our public officials,” read the panel’s NSA report, published on Dec. 13, 2013.

The report’s recommended reforms included proposals such as requiring that NSA analysts obtain a court order before accessing data, banning the government from using “back door” methods to hack into hardware or software, and requiring that the government obtain a court order before issuing “national security letters,” which force businesses to hand over private customer information.

Although the report’s proposals were varied and in some cases highly detailed, they all echoed the general theme that the government could not be trusted with the sorts of powers and access to personal information that Snowden had revealed. There was a clear need for new laws and institutional reforms to prevent the current or a future government from abusing its authority, the panel determined.

The effectiveness of adopting new laws, however, was called into question the next month when a report was issued by the White House’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which said that the NSA program was probably both illegal and unconstitutional. Critics wondered what new laws would accomplish when it was clear that the government had already been violating existing laws.

The NSA’s program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215 [of the Patriot Act], implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

A federal court backed up the board’s findings in May 2015, when it ruled that the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records violates the Patriot Act. A scathing 97-page unanimous opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals determined that the government had stretched the meaning of the law to enable “sweeping surveillance” of Americans’ data that could be used to “reveal civil, political, or religious affiliations,” or an individual’s “social status,” providing such improper information as whether “he or she is involved in intimate relationships.”

Incremental Improvements

When the Patriot Act’s Section 215 expired later that month, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, signed into law by President Obama on June 20, 2015. The legislation attempted to end the bulk collection of calling records by limiting collection to instances where there is “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a “specific selection term” used to request call detail records is associated with international terrorism. It also increased penalties for providing “material support” to U.S.-designated “foreign terrorist organizations.”

President Barack Obama concludes a National Security Council meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, April 19, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama concludes a National Security Council meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, April 19, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Civil libertarians, however, argued that the final version of the law did not go nearly far enough to rein in NSA abuses and contained several unwarranted concessions to the intelligence community and pro-surveillance legislators.

“This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards,” said ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer. “The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform.”

Human Rights Watch noted that although the law curtailed some provisions of the Patriot Act, the new law did nothing to address bulk collection practices that may be occurring under other laws or regulations, such as Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act or Executive Order 12333. “These practices affect many more people and include the collection of the actual content of internet communications and phone calls, not just metadata,” said HRW.

“This is a fake privacy bill,” said Tiffiniy Cheng of the advocacy group Fight for the Future. “Corrupt members of Congress and their funders in the defense industry are attempting to package up their surveillance-powers wish list and misleadingly brand it as ‘USA Freedom.’”

Binney, the former NSA executive who left the agency in protest in 2001, said that the Freedom Act “won’t do anything” to protect privacy. “Why do you think NSA supports it?” he said.

Thomas Drake, another former NSA senior executive who had attempted to blow the whistle on NSA abuses before the government prosecuted him under the Espionage Act, said the Freedom Act was a ploy by government officials “to keep the status quo in place.” Focusing on the metadata program was unfortunate, he said, because internet surveillance was far broader than telephone surveillance.

“It’s a shiny, shiny bright spot, [but] there’s a whole lot more being collected,” he said, including a “staggering” amount of online communications.

Making a List

Now, access to this staggering amount of information is being handed over to President-elect Donald Trump, who allegedly is “keeping a list” of those he considers political “enemies.”

President-elect Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence thank their supporters for the upset victory on Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo from donaldjtrump.com)

President-elect Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence thank their supporters for the upset victory on Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo from donaldjtrump.com)

On election night, following a tweet that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, sent out indicating that his vote had been cast for independent candidate Evan McMullin rather than the Republican nominee, Trump surrogate Omarosa Manigault said, “it’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get in to the White House, we know where we stand.”

Conceding that Graham ultimately has the right to vote for whomever he wants, Manigault warned nevertheless: “Let me just tell you, Mr. Trump has a long memory and we’re keeping a list.”

These sorts of oblique threats might not be such a cause for concern if it weren’t for the fact that Trump has seemed to make it his mission to go after anyone who criticizes or insults him, anyone who he considers an enemy – and apparently he has lots of them. In fact, the New York Times compiled a list earlier this year of nearly 300 people who Trump has attacked on Twitter.

Being singled out by Trump on Twitter can have dramatic real-life consequences, as Chuck Jones, the president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 whom Trump recently targeted over his favorite medium, can readily attest. The Washington Post reported that about half an hour after Trump tweeted on Dec. 8 that Jones “has done a terrible job representing workers,” the union leader started receiving menacing messages over the phone.

“What kind of car do you drive?” said one caller. “We’re coming for you,” said another.

“A tweet from Trump is enough to ensure that his target’s phone will start to ring with vague threats from strangers,” writes Libby Nelson at Vox.com. “His or her inbox will fill up with explicit messages and invective. If the harassment gins up media coverage, that ensures more of it. For one target, the messages from Trump fans have lasted at least a year.”

Nelson calls these online cyberbullies Trump’s “shock troops” who are mobilized to shut down critics.

The ongoing, blatant and increasingly petty social media bullying tactics recently drew the attention of former labor secretary Robert Reich, who called on Trump to stop the online harassment and raised concerns over what sort of abuses might lay in store once the President-elect inherits the most powerful intelligence apparatus in the world.

“What you would like is for no one – not a CEO, nobody on television, no journalist – nobody to criticize you,” Reich said, addressing his comments to Trump. “You take offense at that. Well, you are going to be president very shortly, and you are going to have at your command not just Twitter, but also the CIA, the IRS, the FBI. If you have this kind of thin-skinned vindictiveness attitude toward anybody that criticizes you, we are in very big trouble.”

Troubling Picks

Now, as Trump announces his cabinet picks, it is coming more into focus just how much trouble we may be in for. His choice, for example, of Mike Pompeo to lead the CIA indicates a willingness to expand mass surveillance activities and usher in other intelligence abuses.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas.

“Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database,” Pompeo wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last January.

The hawkish Kansas lawmaker has also spoken in favor of returning to the CIA’s discredited torture program that Obama ostensibly prohibited in 2009, and has called for expanding the Guantanamo detention center, saying that it “has been a goldmine of intelligence about radical Islamic terrorism.”

Calling out mainstream Muslims for allegedly failing to condemn Islamic terror with sufficient gusto, Pompeo has said that their “silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”

Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, is no less troubling. He is a political figure with “a history of restricting religious liberty, immigrants’ rights, and privacy,” according to the ACLU. He has advocated forcing American Muslims to register with the government and has publicly claimed that “fear of Muslims is rational.”

The appointments seem to follow Trump’s earlier campaign pledges to implement draconian security measures that “some people are going to be upset about,” such as a blanket ban on Muslims entering the United States, increased surveillance, and bringing back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before,” he said in 2015. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”

Last-Ditch Efforts

With these concerns in mind, 21 of the nation’s largest human rights and faith organizations released a joint statement of principles on Dec. 13 regarding the eligibility of Trump’s nominees. The statement outlines key requirements of top administration officials that should be evaluated by the Senate during confirmation hearings, including respect for international human rights obligations and adherence to the rule of law.

Some of the original detainees jailed at the Guantanamo Bay prison, as put on display by the U.S. military.

Some of the original detainees jailed at the Guantanamo Bay prison, as put on display by the U.S. military.

“Those nominated to serve in a Trump Administration will hold critical positions affecting millions of people’s human rights. It’s crucial that they commit to upholding this country’s obligations under international and U.S. law. The U.S. cannot hold moral high ground and will never be seen as leader on human rights if it flouts these obligations at home,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Nearly 200 organizations also sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to abolish the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS), which they worry will be used by a Trump administration to register and track Arabs and Muslims. In a letter delivered to Obama administration late last month, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee called NSEERS “ineffective as a counterterrorism tool,” which has caused “tremendous harm” to immigrant communities.

Others, such as the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, are calling on Obama to release in full the Senate’s torture report and force “appropriate officials” to read it in order to ensure that they “learn from the past.” Although White House Counsel Neil Eggleston recently announced that Obama will archive one copy of the torture report, it will apparently remain classified for at least 12 years. “At this time, we are not pursuing declassification of the full Study,” he wrote in a letter to Sen. Feinstein.

When it comes to the government’s mass surveillance activities, civil liberties and privacy advocates are calling for President Obama to enact emergency NSA reforms before leaving office. Various proposals have been offered as some degree of protection against possible overreaching by a Trump administration, including the introduction of intelligence principles such as pledges not to unlawfully spy on fellow Americans.

Yet, it’s not clear how any such guidelines would prevent abuses from taking place, especially since earlier abuses have been left unpunished. For example, when Snowden’s leaks revealed in 2013 that the NSA had overstepped its legal authority thousands of times, there were no prosecutions launched over this law-breaking, with the only people prosecuted being the ones who exposed the programs, not those who carried them out.

The same could be said, of course, for the lack of law enforcement by Obama’s Justice Department when details came to light over the CIA’s illegal torture program. This is despite the fact that even high-ranking U.N. officials called for prosecutions following the release of the Senate torture report’s executive summary two years ago in order to uphold principles of international law.

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson stated that senior officials from the Bush administration who sanctioned crimes, as well as the CIA and U.S. government officials who carried them out, must be investigated and prosecuted to deter future crimes and punish past crimes.

“As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Emmerson said on Dec. 9, 2014. “The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed hope that the release of the torture report was the “start of a process” toward prosecutions, because the “prohibition against torture is absolute.” Needless to say, no prosecutions followed.

Prohibited Policy Options

This has led to torture, much like mass surveillance, becoming a “policy option” for presidents to utilize or not depending on the political whims of the day.

A Predator drone firing a missile.

A Predator drone firing a missile.

So, ultimately, what Trump is inheriting is a national security apparatus that engages in prohibited activities as matters of policy. The government he is taking over has in recent years committed torture, indefinite detention, and has even used drones to kill American citizens without trial. He will also be inheriting legal doctrines advocated by his predecessors that provide ready rationales for all of these practices.

With the Obama administration having acknowledged that CIA drone strikes have killed at least four U.S. citizens, former Attorney General Eric Holder has articulated a legal foundation for these attacks that President-elect Trump can now build upon.

In a speech at Northwestern University School of Law on March 5, 2012, Holder offered a legal defense of drone assassinations, including of U.S. citizens, arguing that although the decisions for who is targeted are made entirely in secret, they nevertheless follow the Constitution’s due process requirements.

“Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen,” Holder said.  “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

While acknowledging that “it is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible,” Holder claimed “that there are instances where our government has the clear authority – and, I would argue, the responsibility – to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force.”

Democrats may have accepted this argument based on the faith that they had in Obama to use these extraordinary powers responsibly. But as civil libertarians and national security experts have long pointed out, even if citizens generally trust a sitting president with these abilities, there is no reason to think that a future president – one with notoriously thin skin or authoritarian tendencies, for example – should be entrusted with these sweeping powers.

The oft-repeated notion that you shouldn’t mind a little government snooping as long as you have nothing to hide, or that there is no reason to concern yourself with the constitutional rights of suspected terrorists, or the comfort that comes with believing that only the “worst of the worst” could be sent to legal black holes like Guantanamo or targeted by U.S. drone strikes, begins to wear thin when people come to believe that the government itself cannot be trusted to use these powers properly.

And when it comes to the looming Trump administration, there is little reason to believe that it can.

Nat Parry is co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. [This article first appeared at https://essentialopinion.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/handing-trump-the-keys-to-the-turnkey-totalitarian-state/]

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20 comments for “Trump to Inherit Vast Surveillance Powers

  1. J'hon Doe II
    December 19, 2016 at 12:35

    Inching towards Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

    Ambassador for Apartheid: Trump’s Pick for Israel Post Slammed as Threat to Peace & Two-State Talks
    https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/19/ambassador_for_apartheid_trumps_pick_for

    Trump: Moving U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem ‘Very Big Priority’
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-considers-moving-u-s-embassy-in-israel-to-jerusalem-a-very-bigpriority-adviser-says-1481579944

  2. John Doe II
    December 19, 2016 at 09:11

    Revelation 21:8 Amplified Bible

    But as for the cowards and unbelieving and abominable [who are devoid of character and personal integrity and practice or tolerate immorality], and murderers, and sorcerers (pharmakaeus) [with intoxicating drugs], and idolaters and occultists [who practice and teach false religions], and all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth], their part will be in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
    .
    Revelation 22:15 Amplified Bible

    Outside are the dogs [the godless, the impure, those of low moral character] and the sorcerers (pharmakos) [with their intoxicating drugs, and magic arts], and the immoral persons [the perverted, the molesters, and the adulterers], and the murderers, (warmongers) and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying (deception, cheating).

    Low Moral Character — peddling addictive drugs into Third World countries.
    god bless america or rather Godless America

  3. John Doe II
    December 18, 2016 at 14:10

    ‘Talking about big money’

    Untreated pain is a global scourge. Each year millions with terminal cancer and end-stage AIDS die in needless agony, according to the United Nations. The problem is most acute in the poorest countries.

    Stefano Berterame, an officer of the U.N.-affiliated International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna, works to increase access to opioids in countries with shortages. He said most of the global problem could be solved with “very cheap morphine” but that selling it held little allure for multinational drug companies

    “It’s not very profitable,” he said. “Companies prefer to market expensive preparations.”

    Purdue charges hundreds of dollars a bottle for a month’s supply of OxyContin in the U.S. Generic morphine, which provides similar pain relief, can cost as little as 15 cents a day.

    Mundipharma is not alone in seeking new markets for opioids outside American borders. In the last year, two other manufacturers, Teva and Grunenthal, each bought drug companies in Mexico.

    Mundipharma sells drugs for a range of conditions, including asthma, cancer, and arthritis, but the core of its product line is opioid painkillers. In its global expansion, Mundipharma is looking to countries with wealth, health benefits or large emerging middle classes. And it is pursuing patients healthy enough to be customers for a long time.

    “If your market is only cases of terminal cancer, then your market is relatively limited…,” Berterame said. “If you enlarge the market to also chronic pain, then you are talking about big money.”

    ‘Rebel against the pain’
    Seeking new patients in Spain, Mundipharma chose ambassadors guaranteed to attract attention: Naked celebrities.

    A string of topless actors, musicians and models looked into the camera and told fellow Spaniards to stop dismissing aches and pains as a normal part of life.

    “Don’t resign yourself,” Maria Reyes, a model and former Miss Spain, said in the 2014 television spot.

    “Chronic pain is an illness in and of itself,” the pop singer Conchita added.

    The one-minute ad was part of a nationwide campaign developed and financed by Mundipharma to raise awareness of chronic pain — Rebélate contra el dolor (Rebel against the pain).

  4. John Doe II
    December 18, 2016 at 13:47

    depth of depravity or a new world re-enslavement?

    OxyContin is a dying business in America.

    This is the third part of a Los Angeles Times investigation exploring the role of OxyContin in the nation’s opioid epidemic.

    With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk.

    Prescriptions for OxyContin have fallen nearly 40% since 2010, meaning billions in lost revenue for its Connecticut manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.

    So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U.S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world.

    A network of international companies owned by the family is moving rapidly into Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and other regions, and pushing for broad use of painkillers in places ill-prepared to deal with the ravages of opioid abuse and addiction.

    Visit the site
    Mundipharma China
    Mundipharma is courting Chinese patients with a campaign encouraging people to take medications as their physicians prescribe.

    In this global drive, the companies, known as Mundipharma, are using some of the same controversial marketing practices that made OxyContin a pharmaceutical blockbuster in the U.S.

    In Brazil, China and elsewhere, the companies are running training seminars where doctors are urged to overcome “opiophobia” and prescribe painkillers. They are sponsoring public awareness campaigns that encourage people to seek medical treatment for chronic pain. They are even offering patient discounts to make prescription opioids more affordable.

    U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said he would advise his peers abroad “to be very careful” with opioid medications and to learn from American “missteps.”

    http://biblehub.com/greek/5331.htm

  5. franck common french
    December 18, 2016 at 06:22

    Bonjour les amis.
    Jean-luc Mélenchon propose to give the french nationality to Edward Snowden and Julien Assange (and the “légion d’honneur”). Like in your country, MSM is against JLM, like Bernie Sanders few weeks ago.
    Au revoir les amis

  6. Realist
    December 17, 2016 at 21:36

    The deep state not only lusts for the government to wield the powers of surveillance and coercion discussed in this essay, they want it all to be totally privatised as well. In the future, only a handful of oligarch shareholders will have a say in how the entire world is run as a giant unitary corporation. The president, effectively the CEO, of the United States will actually be the “unitary executive” that Dubya always aspired and claimed to be. Who lives, who dies, who suffers, who thrives will all be corporate decisions made for the benefit of the major shareholders. We are already pretty far along in this transition, with only a few stumbling blocks who cling to their independence left in the way.

  7. evelync
    December 17, 2016 at 16:48

    Great piece and interesting comments some of which echoed my thoughts, too.

    also
    – Russ Feingold was the only Senator who voted against the Patriot Act.
    – I believe that we’d have had Feingold back in the Senate if Bernie had not been kneecapped by the corrupt DNC/Clinton machine. Because Bernie would IMO have beaten Trump [during recent town halls hosted by Van Jones on CNN and Chris Hayes on MSNBC both asked Trump voters if they would have voted for Bernie. Everyone asked said “yes” and suggest we might well have had a president elect Sanders today.
    Sanders at the top of the ticket would have been a huuuge change for down ballot races, IMO.

    – Edward Snowden and other wise souls like Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky, Chelsea Manning and Jacob Applebaum have explained why privacy is so important :
    it protects our unformed thoughts that need quiet not scrutiny or self censorship to quash them.

    – Edward Snowden explained recently that we – individuals – need technology to provide us a way to communicate with family and friends in a way that protects that communication from the government.
    Encryption.

    – Edward Snowden is dangerous to the government not because he has released information that makes the country/world less safe which Washington elected officials would have us believe but because he understands the threat for all of us of a voracious machinery that can be used by unscrupulous, vindictive, paranoid officials who have the power to wreak havoc.
    e.g. a J Edgar Hoover or whoever.

    The December 13 2016 ACLU livestream interview Edward Snowden:
    https://youtu.be/mdfiEWdabHo

    • evelync
      December 17, 2016 at 17:29

      sorry – the Dec 13 2016 is not an ACLU video.
      I confused the video I posted and intended to post with another video of Snowden that is available on the ACLU web site:
      https://www.aclu.org/video/snowden-and-aclu-sxsw

  8. backwardsevolution
    December 17, 2016 at 07:52

    “Behind almost every liberal crusade of the past several decades, from the blocking of voter ID laws to the Syrian refugee crisis, there has been one man quietly pulling the puppet strings from the background: George Soros. So imagine our complete shock when we discovered Soros to be the financing source behind Facebook’s “third-party fact checking” organization retained to flag, and thus eliminate, “fake news.”

    Just yesterday, Facebook posted the following press release to their website detailing their plans to use a “third-party fact checking organization,” known as The Poynter Institute, to flag “fake news.” The role of the “fact checkers” will be to review news stories and flag anything they deem to be “fake” so that it can be deprioritized on Facebook’s news feed.

    A quick review of Poynter’s website reveals that the organization is funded by the who’s who of leftist billionaires including George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network. Well that seem fairly bipartisan, right?”

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-16/george-soros-funding-facebooks-third-party-fact-checking-organization

  9. Call A Spade
    December 17, 2016 at 04:59

    Typical of the right to over lord the Orwell issue / or the BS from the liberalists that are so far right these days that they make hitler look like your local union rep.

  10. Bill Bodden
    December 16, 2016 at 21:34

    Why, when reading this ominous essay, did I recall my readings of the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich?

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 16, 2016 at 23:57

      I liked it better when we were compared to the Roman Empire, rather than now since we have turned into the Third Reich. Is it possible that America is Rome in decline, while at the same time we have become the Third Reich? It sure looks that way.

      I also could not help thinking as I read Nat’s article how often many of us here on this sites comment board argued against these various government war crimes being swept under the rug in respect to the precedent that was being made by doing this. Let’s face it, people don’t know what to think, or what is really going on, being they are too reliant on a corporate run media, who covers up well for their corporate war criminals.

      The reason I’m hoping for a successful Trump presidency is because the opposite is to awful to consider. Although consider we must, that Donald Trump’s first year in the White House will no doubt be plagued with so much controversy that impeachment will be thrown around at will, by his adversaries. As usual the 99% will suffer the most.

      America is still a young country, and until the Military Industrial Complex is shut down, and America learns to live peacefully amongst it’s worldly neighbors nothing will get better. While average Americans became ignorant by accepting the lies drummed into their heads by the MSM, America’s leaders grew fat, happy, and more arrogant believing their own made up reality.

      • Josh Stern
        December 17, 2016 at 03:08

        We can all try to think about politics and economics more in the manner of scientists/engineers/analytical philosophers and less in the manner of tribal warriors/shamans/demagogues. People should be free to notice that both capitalism and govt. funded (i.e. socialist/statist/fascist) research have helped drive technological development to the point that the human race, in the mean, is getting ever richer, freer from hunger, disease, dying of exposure, with great ability to share/retain knowledge, more leisure culture, etc. At the same time, disparities of wealth and concentrations of wealth and political power have grown more acute and peaked. Typical human labor has grown less valuable in relationship to peak intellectual property and the capital to invest in robots/automated mfg., fleets of vehicles to distribute goods, etc. Are there some scientific reasons why our increased overall wealth and potential well being has to be accompanied by such peakiness of wealth and power. Did we need some brilliance of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett to keep feeding us, or Obama/Trump to unilaterally decide which village to destroy with a missile on the other side of the globe, claim there was 1 very dangerous guy there (“trust us….”) and that the other 30 people who just bit the dust were presumably up to no good anyway, and in any case, not worth much economically?? The scientist in me says that those peaks are accidental and not helping this wealth creation or adding to my well-being. I don’t have to choose between J.P. Morgan or Stalin or Pol Pot as my three candidates on an ideological election ballot.
        In the big picture, humanity is doing better than ever, and technology is allowing ever freer expression of ideas. We don’t have to get so bottled up by prophets of doom or a State Security racket trying to dummy down and control everything.

        • Call A Spade
          December 17, 2016 at 05:03

          Except the doomsday clause. After you reduce the planet to all its commodities you end up in a garbage tip. Hope your dream for your decedents is that of a scavenger.

          • Josh Stern
            December 17, 2016 at 06:03

            US came really close to nuclear war with USSR during the Cuban missiles crisis – generals on both sides wanted to pull the trigger and it was lucky for all of us that JFK and Khrushchev overruled them.

            Second closest was supposedly a stupid, provocative thing under Reagan called Able Archer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Able_Archer_83

            Hopefully, we are a little further away from that now, even with Obama and Trump around :)

    • dahoit
      December 17, 2016 at 13:26

      Mad Magazine sprang to my mind.

    • Mr. Jim
      December 19, 2016 at 10:45

      Which probably never entered your mind whilst Obama was wielding those very same powers, correct?

  11. Zachary Smith
    December 16, 2016 at 21:05

    I’ve already remarked that Obama and the other neocons could be leaving those “Vast Surveillance Powers” in place to temp Trump to go over to the neocon side. Another possibility is that they’re hoping Trump does abuse them – that would make a great addition to his Impeachment Charges. US laws which have been totally ignored for decades could rear up and bite Mr. Trump on the heiny. As many Americans already know full well, selective enforcement is standard operating procedure in the US. A very rich guy or a dark skinned fellow often sees a substantially different courtroom than does a poor or white-skinned defendant.

    Donald Trump is going to see lots of challenges, some of which may blindside him. For years now if I took $1,000 to the bank for a certificate of deposit, a year later I’d bring home a whole $1,001.. Well, now that Obama is leaving office it seems the FED is going to adjust that .1% interest rate so as to make life for the incoming president much more “interesting”.

    “Obama Set Up The Next President For A Major Recession”… And A Giant Crash Is Coming

    It’s the principle that’s important here – not whether a specific interest-related ‘crash’ is coming. The neocons and neoliberals are deeply embedded in the US government, and they can do all kinds of coordinated hell raising to mess with President Trump. Factor in our good buddies in Ukraine, Israel, & ISIS, and Trump’s reactions to all the excitement could possibly do good things for his enemies. Hey, he might even give up and resign, leaving us President Michael Richard Pence. That’s the easiest way. Needless to say, there are other options for the Powers That Be.

  12. Josh Stern
    December 16, 2016 at 19:15

    I’d argue seriously – not cynically – that Americans have never had any effective legal or practical protection from spying and criminal abuse by the FBI, NSA, & CIA for as long as each of those organizations has existed. Moreover, the extent to which each of them obeys the POTUS rather than manipulates the office has demonstrably declined over time. Congressional oversight of all of those organizations is not serious, competent, sincere, practical, observed, nor does it have any kind of record of historical effectiveness. One could support this point with volumes, and volumes of examples to make that case.

    In that context, it’s well meaning to treat each current event story as newsworthy – I wish all such authors the best of luck – but doing so also solidifies, in its way, the extent to which the public misses the big picture.

    Nowadays, when the FBI wishes, they can impersonate most any person with one of their assets. In order to help do this, besides using makeup & technology, then they can consult decades of their stored conversations & e-mails in order to have a good idea of how to do that and be convincing. That is an increased power. But where is the story that they are routinely doing that? Top Secret. Not in the press. The press story is about PRISM – revealed by Snowden – followed on many generations of prior stories about STINGRAY (revealed by a targeted hacker from his jail cell), SHAMROCK, XKEYSCORE, CARNIVORE, COINTELPRO, ECHELON, and old fashioned mass opening of regular mail. Various sources confirm that FBI/CIA used to go through all international postal mail, as they wished.

    In 1963, FBI COINTELPRO sent MLK a letter asking him to commit suicide because he was such a worthless low life, after he had already been announced as a winner of a Nobel Peace Prize. In 1968, the FBI took full control of his murder investigation – the files on that are still largely classified. The FBI’s COINTELPRO program – which justified that on the grounds that King had associates who once had some connection to the theoretically legal American Communist Party – were only discovered because the FBI had a small office in Media PA that some activists to the risk of burglarizing in the early 70s looking for evidence of wrong doing. They sent files to the newspapers, which was enough evidence for the newspapers to publish it. Reporters started asking questions. One document, which should not have even been in that insecure field office, had a cryptic code on it that said COINTELPRO (no info). Reporter Carl Stern starting asking questions about that: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/08/22220561-nbc-reporter-recounts-breaking-fbi-spying-story?lite

    Eventually, part of the MLK story came. Was anyone punished? No. Was anything changed? Questionable. One change was setting up a secret FISA court in 1978 that was supposed to somehow supervise the FBI’s whimsical attack on anyone it labels subversive because of its own extremist political ideology. How does FISA work, anyway? You’ll be glad to know that the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Pat Leahy, got around to sending the court a letter asking about *just that* in 2013 – 25 years later. The court replied to say that they could only tell Leahy about the part that wasn’t too classified for his pathetic legislative self to hear about…but assuring him it was misleading to report only that the approve more than 99% of “final” FBI requests…because actually, the process is that they work collaboratively with the FBI to help make all the requests good. There is no oppositional advocate, even in secret, even accepting all of the FBI’s “facts” about their helpless targets who are neither able to learn or prove their own surveillance. Who are the judges on the court – they get appointed by John Roberts. One quit about something in protest in 2005 – no response.

    So I say yeah for this writer, but I don’t think the risk of Trump should be the focus. We lost our focus and our rights after WWII and still haven’t actually recovered from the National Security Act of 1947 and various later public and private Constitutional neuterings.

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