Young Voices Advocate Alexander McCobin Talks Syria on RT

On Thursday afternoon RT News Anchor Kevin Owen interviewed Young Voices Advocate Alexander McCobin about his views on the situation in Syria and a possible military intervention by the United States.

McCobin recently published a well-received post on Syria, Military Intervention in Syria Serves Obama, Not the People:

The pro-interventionist alliance of Democrats and Republicans is another illustration how the mainstream parts of both parties try to push for more policing around the world and neglect the people’s opinion on these issues. It is now up to the American public, dovish Democrats, and non-interventionist Republicans to prevent another war. Real liberal Democrats are hopefully starting to understand that the Obama administration practices a style of foreign policy which is diametrically opposed to their fundamental ideas.

It’s about time to finally overcome the neoconservative direction of U.S. foreign policy. Congress and the President have to understand that stability in the Middle East can’t be brought by additional U.S.-led intervention.

Moscow Voters Will Determine Whether Alexey Navalny Will Be Mayor or Go to Prison

Mayoral elections in Moscow are a matter of national, not local, politics. It is often said by both Muscovites and rest of Russians that Moscow and Russia are two different countries. And the Moscow mayor is supposed to be the third most influential person in Russia (after President and Prime Minister).

One of the candidates, Alexey Navalny, is regarded as the leader of the Russian protest movement. The outcome of the race will determine not just the former lawyer’s occupation for the next few years, but whether he remains a free man. He is currently facing five years in prison on trumped-up charges that are even more openly absurd than Khodorkovsky’s. His appeal comes right after the election. If Navalny gets lot of support from Muscovites he will probably remain free. If his supporters stay home instead of voting in one of the bravest persons we know, he will go to prison for a long time.

The opposition in Russia is very diverse. So whoever heads it has to be populist to a certain extent. Navalny is not definitely left or definitely right. That’s why he is supported more or less by most of protesters. At the same time, whoever wants to become a leader in the Russian opposition must have a number of other values. He or she must be persistent enough to build some institutions from ground zero in spite of administrative pressure and in spite of the fact that allies will say now and then that their efforts are in vain. And people here are too frustrated to believe that the Kremlin doesn’t control everything political, so any opposition winner will probably be accused of being a Kremlin spy.

A leader of the Russian opposition, official or unofficial, needs to be very brave. He needs to be ready to go to prison for an uncertain period of time. President Vladimir Putin prefers to not set his personal enemies free. We can see it by Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s case. Alexey Navalny has probably become another of Putin’s enemies. We know that the Russian president is too afraid to mention his name. Even when criticizing Navalny on TV, he says “a popular blogger” or “a fighter against corruption” or “an opposition leader” without saying his name!

Many people said in the beginning of the campaign that “they” wouldn’t let Navalny take part in real politics. “They” wouldn’t register him as a candidate. “They” wouldn’t let him on TV and radio. “They, they, they…” Navalny and his team have destroyed the idea of a powerful “them” who controls everything. He became the first Russian politician to carry on an American-like campaign. He attracts volunteers, he accepts donations, he involves his supporters in dozens of activities – things that are ordinary for the West but absolutely innovative for Russia. His rivals try to copy this but it usually looks ridiculous. No matter how many votes he gets, Navalny has already changed our view on what politics should look like.

Some say Navalny has no idea of what municipal economy is. But this election is not about ideology but about changing the whole political system. According to some conspiracy theories he may be even Putin’s secret successor, but actually he is the only candidate who is not subordinated to Kremlin. Few people believe he can win. That’s why there is no use debating over his political platform now. But if he gains lot of voice it will be a kind of signal to the authorities that the Muscovites want real changes.

During the latest press conference Alexey Navalny was asked whether he thinks that his case has influenced President Obama’s decision to cancel his meeting with President Putin. Navalny answered he wouldn’t overestimate his own meaning in the relationship between the two countries. Moreover, he said, the Russian opposition which is now subject to repression would prefer President Obama and other Western leaders react to what’s happening in Russia. And not only by some symbolic act like refusing to meet Vladimir Putin but by some real steps like Magnitsky Act which make “them” feel really uncomfortable.

DEA Agents Using “Administrative Subpoenas” To Get NSA-Level Data From AT&T

It recently came out that DEA agents have been using NSA data, collected via warrantless wiretaps under the auspices of national security, to investigate drug crimes. Now it’s come to light that the DEA has been for years dipping into an AT&T-run database far more extensive and intrusive than than any NSA program we know of, including PRISM and Boundless Informant.

The story fits into the ongoing news narrative about government surveillance overreach. In fact it goes further. While the NSA has come under fire for keeping the phone number, time and duration of all calls in the United States for up to five years, the DEA program Hemisphere collects all that, plus the locations of callers and has data going back 26 years.

Hemisphere gives the DEA unfettered, unprecedented access to Americans’ call records and has been purposefully kept top-secret. The process seems to be that DEA decides to target someone and they supply their target’s phone number to their AT&T employee and he or she looks back at everyone that person has called, where they were when they called and how long the call lasted, going back 26 years.

However, the real scandal is the way in which this data is collected: without warrants, through what the agency is calling “administrative subpoenas.” In other words, these warrants aren’t approved by a grand jury or a judge, but by the federal agency requesting them. The DEA is writing its own warrants to spy on Americans to gather evidence to make drug arrests.

Wired introduced the administrative subpoena last year, describing it thusly:

With a federal official’s signature… virtually all businesses are required to hand over sensitive data on individuals or corporations, as long as a government agent declares the information is relevant to an investigation. Via a wide range of laws, Congress has authorized the government to bypass the Fourth Amendment — the constitutional guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that requires a probable-cause warrant signed by a judge.

In the same article Lawrence Payne, a DEA spokesman, describes an administrative subpoena as having “Obviously, a much, much lower threshold than a search warrant.”

Why this information would be less protected than what is in someone’s home is a question which has not been answered by any of the dozens of federal agencies who now use administrative subpoenas.

As Catherine Crump pointed out for Salon:

Call-detail records are sensitive. Even analysis of a single call can reveal that someone has called a domestic violence or suicide hotline. More call data can be very telling about people’s social networks, as someone called frequently is more likely to be a close friend than someone called rarely. This is not the sort of information the government should access lightly, and certainly not without the supervision of a judge.

A search warrant cannot be issued without probable cause, or the search is considered unreasonable search and seizure. There seems to be no rational basis for excluding this kind of data from that kind of protection. Federal agencies have been asked why they can’t get traditional subpoenas or how often they’re issuing these subpoenas, to no avail.

Excluding data searches from Fourth Amendment scrutiny via administrative subpoenas also increases the chances of a wrongful conviction. Part of the utility of a normal subpoena is that the target then can inform the victim of the search. Administrative subpoenas gag companies like AT&T from telling victims about their surveillance, meaning they cannot fight back, challenge or investigate the evidence against them.

Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, attempted to justify the program, saying that it “simply streamlines the process of serving the subpoena to the phone company so law enforcement can quickly keep up with drug dealers when they switch phone numbers to try to avoid detection.”

The entire point of a subpoena is to provide a check against law enforcement agencies who would otherwise perform “unreasonable” searches of innocent citizens. Checks such as warrants and subpoenas are set up to be respected, not “streamlined” when they prove inconvenient for federal agents looking to bust drug offenders.