Law and Disorder Radio – Rashid Khalidi on US Intervention in Syria – Heidi Boghosian on Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance (Part 1) – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio

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Remembering Attorney William Kunstler







United States Moves to Intervene in Syrian Civil War

According to the United Nations, nearly 2 million refugees have fled the civil war in Syria. Why is the United States moving to intervene? Professor Rashid Khalidi, a historian of the Middle East, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs joins hosts to discuss the history of the conflict and who stands to gain if the US intervenes.

Professor Rashid Khalidi:

  • This is another case where the United States seems to me to be edging sideways blindly, without understanding or thinking, into another regional civil war which has the potential for developing into a regional conflict.
  • We got involved in an Iraqi civil war; we helped create an Iraqi civil war after the occupation of Iraq. We created al-Qaeda and other horrible manifestations as part of the war against the Soviets and then got involved in what is in effect an Afghan civil war.
  • The United States is about to–and I hope I’m wrong–put us into a meat grinder and blindly, heedlessly push the button.
  • This is a horrific conflict, with no good guys on either side. You have a horrific regime which very likely used these horrible weapons against the rebels and its own population.
  • You have on the other side people who are not white knights, in fact they just as soon be killing Americans as butchering Shia or cutting the heads off people. Those are the forces that dominate. Not the opposition to the regime, but the fighting forces.
  • These are people who don’t wish any of us well.
  • The United States is going to war for reasons of imperial overreach, for reasons that have to do with domestic politics.
  • For Iran, the Syrian regime is its most important regional ally.  The Iranians see this as a make-or-break conflict for their regional influence.
  • At the same time the new Iranian government is clearly interested in cutting a deal with the United States.
  • I think a deal is within reach on nuclear issues and other issues.
  • Israel would probably like to see the Syrian side bleed themselves endlessly.
  • What they’re probably doing, through their supporters in this country, is quietly pushing this president toward an American intervention which is not in the American national interest.
  • I was there when he said, “I’m not against all wars, I’m against stupid wars.” This is quintessentially a stupid war.
  • It’s the fifth or the eighth move on each side that has the potential for escalation.
  • There is a consensus of idiocy among the so-called experts.
  • I have to say, the Israelis encouraged this.
  • It’s a civil war with a lot of bad guys on both sides. That is what we’re about to get directly involved with.
  • Why the United States should be against the Assad regime, and it’s a bad regime, is unclear to me, while it’s clear to me Israel would like a bunch of tiny, weak, divided, sectarian states such that it could lord over the region completely.
  • Most people in the Arab world have a profound suspicion of the United States, because it’s joined at the hip with Israel, always, everywhere.
  • On the other hand you have authoritarian regimes, petro-monarchies, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, which are hell-bent on imposing their regime on Syria.
  • There are a lot of interests tied up in the United States lording it over everybody and acting as if it has the right and the power to decide everything everywhere. We don’t.

Guest – Professor Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1970, and his D.Phil. from Oxford in 1974. He is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and was President of the Middle East Studies Association, and an advisor to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993.

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Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance

Our own Heidi Boghosian has written a powerful book on the history of spying, privacy and how public dissent without surveillance is needed in order for a democracy to thrive. The newly published book is titled Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance and it reveals in detail how the government acquires your information from sources such as telecommunications companies to compile a database on “persons of interest.” Since ex-NSA staffer Edward Snowden’s release of top secret documents to The Guardian and Washington Post, many are now aware of the frequency and scope to which they are being monitored. What this book has unveiled is how your personal consumer data is being gathered, bundled and sold. The spying, the collecting of phone records, accessing your online activity–all of it is unconstitutional, says Heidi Boghosian, co-host of Law and Disorder and the National Lawyers Guild’s Executive Director.

Attorney Heidi Boghosian:

  • They create dossiers of our spending habits, of our communication habits.
  • The corporations benefit from this, which makes them create more equipment for surveillance and almost makes it impossible for the government to perform traditional government functions, because they’re so reliant on corporate partners.
  • There’s also a revolving door among CEOs of these big companies and high level positions within government intelligence.
  • The National Lawyers Guild was spied on by the FBI. More than 1,000 agents were assigned to us for nearly 3 decades. They rummaged through our members’ garbage. We had an infiltrator in Washington, DC serving as a staff person.
  • They tried (and failed) to label us as a subversive organization.
  • The People’s Law Office had also been monitored for years. Apparently across the street from the office, an apartment was occupied by the FBI, who spied on them for their work representing politically active individuals.
  • With all of this spying, the chilling effect of knowing that you may be spied on, your conversations may be listened to, changes the way you do business.
  • I’ve always been interested in cooperation between municipal public police and private security organizations.
  • We’re seeing an entire industry, giving birth to Stratfor and other intelligence organizations that exist just to conduct intelligence, be it on activists or critics of corporate or government policies, as well as defense contractors beefing up and creating a whole sector of intelligence.
  • They are in big contracts with the US government.
  • One of the problems constitutionally is they’re not held as private businesses to the same strictures as the US Constitution as we saw recently with the Hemisphere program revelations. We have our government paying AT&T staff to sit next to drug enforcement officers and go through AT&T’s files that go back 26 years. They’re not overseen by a judge.
  • My question is, how many more agencies of the government are doing this?
  • They are getting access to this information through what’s called administrative subpoenas.
  • Many mannequins have small cameras embedded in the eyeballs.
  • When you’re spying on the press, which is intended to be a watchdog on government, you really get to the heart of what democracy is about.
  • Without a free press, we don’t have any chance of preserving those fundamental freedoms of First Amendment association and the ability to bring our grievances to the government for redress.
  • A student group working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers got suspicious because a new member on their listserve started asking questions and they did some research and found she owned her own private security company; in fact she was spying on them for Burger King.
  • Congress is calling for an investigation of these large data aggregators. Once again, there’s no oversight, there’s no accountability; they go to a variety of sources to gather personal information on us. Some are in the public domain, others not.
  • They have vast troves of information, electronic dossiers on each of us.

Guest – Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the co-host of the weekly civil liberties radio show Law and Disorder on Pacifica’s WBAI in New York and over 40 national affiliates. She received her JD from Temple Law School where she was the editor-in-chief of the Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review. She also holds an MS from Boston University and a BA from Brown University.