About Me

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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Video Tribute to the Arab Spring

One of the most rewarding recent moments of the ongoing struggle for freedom, justice and dignity was the liberation of Libya by its people. The images from Tripoli, like the earlier ones from Tunisia and Egypt, are a triumphant reminder that the Arab Spring is not just for Syrians -- it's for all oppressed peoples anywhere in the world. In this spirit, we have created a short video tribute to the Arab Spring.

Music: "Watani Ana" by Malek Jandali (used with artists' permission)

This is a presentation from the Syrian American Council (SAC), a 501c3 not-for-profit that promotes human rights, civil liberties, and democracy for Syria.

Website: http://sacouncil.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sikh man claims to be FBI informant, deported over cough medicine

Desi claims to be FBI informant, deported over cough medicine

Bernice Yeung Aug 19, 2011
First Post

In a saga that sounds straight out of a TV crime show, an alleged FBI informant and convenience store clerk named Arvinder Singh sits in an Iowa jail awaiting imminent deportation to India over the sale of cold medicine.

Singh had originally immigrated to the US on a business visa, but he is now being sent back to India because he pled guilty in 2002 to selling a large quantity of cough medicine containing ephedrine, which can be used to manufacture methamphetamine.

In the years since he immigrated, Singh got married, obtained a green card, and ran a convenience store until he triggered an investigation by immigration authorities that led to deportation proceedings that began in December 2010. Singh has been detained in an Iowa jail for more than six months...

What makes Singh’s deportation case stand out is his claim that he served as a confidential informant to the US government and aided in stateside counterterrorism efforts.

Singh is sikh, and after he was arrested, he was allegedly approached by federal agents. “It was right after 9/11 and he was approached and they said, ‘We are looking for people who look like you in the War against Terror,’” according to attorney Said. “They created this persona for him, gave him checkbooks and checking accounts and they said, ‘Go to these mosques and claim to be Muslim, and pray, and give them money so we can trace the money.”


Locked Up Abroad—for the FBI

—By Nick Baumann
September/October 2011 Issue

Inside the feds' secret program to have American citizens detained and interrogated by foreign governments.

Learn more about the FBI's version of the rendition program.


The Informants

Mother Jones
September/October Issue
—By Trevor Aaronson

The FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic attack. But are they busting terrorist plots—or leading them?

The bureau now maintains a roster of 15,000 spies, some paid as much as $100,000 per case, many of them tasked with infiltrating Muslim communities in the United States.


Terror Probes Have FBI's Informant Numbers Soaring (NPR)

August 21, 2011

In today's post 9/11 America, there are 15,000 informants working with the FBI. That's nearly three times as many as there were 25 years ago.

Over the years, when there has been a surge in the number of informants the FBI recruits and uses, there's a specific target in the FBI's sights — first organized crime, then drug smuggling, and now counterterrorism.
James Cromitie, center, is led by police officers from a federal building in New York, Thursday, May 21, 2009, after being arrested on charges related to a bombing plot in the Bronx. The arrest of Cromitie and three other Muslim ex-convicts in the alleged homegrown terror plot is renewing fears about the spread of Islamic extremism in the nation's prisons. (AP Photo/Robert Mecea)
Enlarge Robert Mecea/ASSOCIATED PRESS

And while the FBI uses many informants the traditional way — pointing the finger at wrongdoers — a new review of post-9/11 prosecutions reveals the increasing presence of informants in terrorism investigations.

"The informants play larger roles where they acted almost as agent provocateurs, where they provided not only the opportunity for the person to commit this act of terror, but also the means," Mother Jones contributor Trevor Aaronson tells NPR's Laura Sullivan. "Providing them with the plan, with the so-called weapons that were needed to ultimately create the act of terror that these people are them prosecuted for," Aaronson says.

Mother Jones partnered with the University of California-Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program where Trevor Aaronson is an investigative fellow. Aaronson writes about the FBI's informant boom in the current issue of the magazine.

And how are the FBI agents finding so many informants willing to infiltrate mosques and Muslim communities? Sometimes, the money is alluring Aaronson says. In other cases, the money has nothing to do with it at all.

"A big reason, especially within the Muslim community and in counterterrorism investigations is that the FBI is able to use immigration against people," Aaronson says. "If you are going to recruit an informant and you realize that he has an immigration violation, often times the FBI will be able to use that as a form of leverage to say 'well if you work with us, we'll work with the immigration authorities to make sure you're not deported'."

Prevention Or Entrapment

For some critics, this use of coercion by the FBI to recruit informants is questionable. According to Aaronson's article, the FBI denies it blackmails informants, but does acknowledge that the bureau has prevented helpful informants from being deported.

But the larger problem for those opposed the FBI using informants to plan terrorism stings is whether the informants play an overactive role in convincing people to commit acts of terrorism.

"That's exactly the question is whether any of these people would be able to commit this plot or construct this plot on their own," Aaronson tells Sullivan. "The truth is when we looked closely at a lot of these cases the people who are leading these so-called plots or so called terrorist cells are not exactly the smartest people." In addition, informants seek out subjects that tend to be very poor, economically desperate and in some cases have a very elementary understanding of Islam, Aaronson says. "The informant is able to take advantage of that."

And then comes the question of entrapment. "I think in many of these cases nothing would have happened were it not for the FBI going in and making a plot possible," Aaronson says. "But I think it's important to understand that the legal definition of entrapment and what you and I would see as entrapment are very different. There hasn't been a case yet that's met the legal definition of entrapment."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Syrian Revolution for Freedom - (The best english video)

Influenced by the Arab Spring and over four decades of Assad family repression, on March 15, 2011, Syrians launched peaceful pro-freedom protests against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad. The protests soon turned into a nationwide nonviolent revolution for freedom, justice and dignity. This 7-minute documentary offers the necessary background and overview to understand the Syrian Revolution for Freedom. Watch the video, share it, and support the Syrian people’s struggle for freedom.

Did U.S. trade freedom for security after 9/11? (AFP)

The Vancouver Sun
Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2011

CHICAGO - Sweeping new policing powers, the tacit acceptance of torture and a backlash against Muslims that has grown fiercer 10 years after the September 11 attacks have made the United States a less free and open society.

The erosion of fundamental American values along with massive — and what some see as disproportionate — expenditures on homeland security and two wars have allowed al-Qaida to accomplish at least some of its goals.

Most Americans don't seem to mind.

A majority of them consistently tell pollsters they are willing to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safer and only about a quarter say torturing terror suspects is never justified.

"The reason that I think a number of people haven't responded as aggressively to things like warrantless wiretapping is because they think it won't happen to them," said Andrea Prasow, senior counsel for Human Rights Watch's U.S. program.

"History shows that's not true. Once government has a power they won't give it back."

Congress is currently considering legislation that would allow indefinite detention without trial — something that used to be as unimaginable as a U.S. president saying "damn right" to waterboarding and other forms of "enhanced interrogation."

"That's not where the U.S. was 10 years ago. It was a leader - not perfect - but a leader in promoting human rights," Prasow told AFP.

"Terrorists seek to change a nation or a people, and that has happened."

The response has not been proportional to the threat, said Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union.

There have only been a handful of successful attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11, the most devastating of which was the 2009 attack on Fort Hood in Texas by an army psychiatrist that left 14 dead and 29 wounded.

That pales in comparison to the toll from drunk driving, which is involved in a third of the more than 30,000 traffic deaths every year.

"We're talking about a threat that will always exist, but doesn't threaten our existence," Wizner said.

"And yet we treat it as if it's equivalent to world war."

The war on terror granted law enforcement unprecedented power to monitor the email, phone calls, financial transactions, library records and Internet browsing of citizens and foreigners alike and store them in massive databases.

Some of those "data sweeps" have reportedly gathered everything from hotel records on more than 300,000 travelers to Las Vegas to the names of anyone who took scuba diving lessons in the San Diego area.

Nowhere has the intrusion of security into daily life been more obvious than in airports — the al-Qaida target of choice — where a controversial new pat-down policy made a minor hero of a man recorded telling a screener "don't touch my junk" last year.

Increased surveillance was both inevitable and necessary in the face of ongoing threats, said Ron Marks, a former CIA official now at George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute.

"We're not going to go back to before 9/11. The genie is out of the bottle," he said.

"We're going to have to be more intrusive. The question is the degree of intrusiveness and what is the oversight of that."

There is "tremendous sensitivity" among federal investigators over the handling of data gathered in intelligence sweeps, Marks said.

"I'm more concerned about public perceptions than what law enforcement do," he said, pointing to a "loss of flexibility" in tolerating divergent opinions and a deep mistrust of Muslims and Arabs.

Many Republican politicians have both fueled and exploited that mistrust as a "campaign strategy," said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The most glaring example is the hysteria drummed up ahead of November's mid-term elections over an Islamic cultural center being built near Ground Zero in New York. Legislation banning Shariah law has also been introduced in over a dozen states.

"Our political discourse has become openly Islamophobic and it is accepted and not challenged by a large percentage of the population," Walid said.

"It's scary to think where this is going."

The burden of America's near decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has also been "borne very unevenly," said Catherine Lutz, an anthropologist at Brown University who co-directs the Cost of War project.

Former president George W. Bush implemented massive tax cuts, leaving future generations to pay for much of the nearly $4 trillion cost of the war on terror.

The elimination of the draft means that the burden of multiple and lengthy deployments has been left to 2.2 million volunteers who largely come from rural areas and lower-income families.

That makes it easy for the remaining 300 million Americans to forget that the nation is at war, especially given that just four per cent of news stories are about Iraq or Afghanistan.

"That's not necessarily a measure of what most Americans are consuming on television," Lutz noted. "That's the news.. (Most are) watching Jersey Shore and Bachelorette. So the circus continues."

© Copyright (c) AFP

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/canada-in-afghanistan/trade+freedom+security+after/5258713/story.html#ixzz1VDVJbmTT

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/canada-in-afghanistan/trade+freedom+security+after/5258713/story.html#ixzz1VDUt2aEJ

Monday, August 08, 2011

Meet the FBI's new arsenal in recruiting informants: Operation Flex for Sex

The recent embarrassing fiasco by the FBI in Irvine reveals more than just a violation of the sanctity of peaceful mosques or an attempt to entrap law-abiding young Muslims into extremist and violent acts.  The exposed "Operation Flex" indicates that the local FBI official overseeing the agent provocateur authorized the use of sexual encounters with Muslim women to shame them into becoming informants, as charged by the former agent provocateur Monteilh.

This is a serious charge by Monteilh and, sadly, the Obama administration decided to deny the American public access to the truth about what happened.

The real name for this operation should have been: "Operation Flex for Sex"


Want to Sue the FBI for Spying on Your Mosque? Sorry, That's Secret.

Obama, once a critic of the state secrets doctrine, has invoked it repeatedly. But critics say his latest use of Bush's favorite get-out-of-court-free card is different.

—By Hamed Aleaziz
Mon Aug. 8, 2011

The state secrets privilege—perhaps the most powerful weapon in the government's legal arsenal—has a complicated history. For years, Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, accused the Bush administration of overusing of the privilege, which allows the government to quash cases that involve national security before a court even hears evidence. Then, after Obama took office, his Justice Department used this get-out-of-court-free card repeatedly.

Last week, the DOJ invoked the state secrets privilege yet again. But this case, civil liberties groups say, is different.

Most of the post-9/11 cases that the government has killed with the state secrets privilege have either involved foreign-born terrorist suspects or the government's actions abroad. The case the Obama administration tried to quash last week doesn't explicitly involve either. The case in question, which was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), focuses squarely on domestic intelligence-gathering targeting Americans—namely the FBI's allegedly widespread use of informants and surveillance against Muslim Americans.

The FBI's involvement in the case—and the fact that it involves Americans—makes it stand out among the other state secrets cases, says Ameena Qazi, CAIR's deputy executive director. "We're surprised at the government's shocking move in invoking the state secrets doctrine in this case of all cases," Qazi says. Since this case "involves domestic intelligence-gathering on US soil against Americans," she explains, "it's an unprecedented move to our knowledge."

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The case, Fazaga v. FBI, stems from the purported actions of Craig Monteilh, a 49-year-old convicted criminal who claims that he spent 15 months in 2006 and 2007 infiltrating mosques in Orange County, California, as part of an undercover FBI investigation known as "Operation Flex." The Fazaga case, which the ACLU and CAIR filed in February 2011, claims that the FBI utilized Monteilh to "collect personal information on hundreds and perhaps thousands of innocent Muslim Americans in Southern California." The ACLU says that the FBI investigation "violated the Constitution's fundamental guarantee of government neutrality toward all religions." For evidence, the two groups point to a somewhat problematic source: Monteilh.

According to Monteilh, Operation Flex did indeed involve the indiscriminate monitoring of the Southern California Muslim community with the goal of apprehending terrorists. Monteilh claims to have gone by the name Farouq al-Aziz and posed as a French Syrian man pushing a radical Islamist view on mosque-goers in Irvine, California. And after months of Monteilh's spying, Southern California Muslims did in fact call the FBI to alert them of a possible terrorist: Monteilh. The whole episode was a bit of an embarrassment for the FBI, and received national press attention after 2007, when Monteilh was imprisoned for grand theft and started talking to the press.

To CAIR's Qazi, the fact that Operation Flex allegedly took place in the United States and targeted Americans makes Fazaga v. FBI different from previous state secrets cases. "If the government were to prevail on their invocation of the state secrets doctrine it would essentially make such FBI actions non-reviewable by the courts and render any redress by our clients or by any other Americans for such activities ineffective," she says. "That's really the concerning part of what their use of the state secrets doctrine implies."

Robert Chesney, a law professor and national security law expert at University of Texas-Austin, disagrees with Qazi's assessment. "At the end of the day, the FBI is part of the intelligence community as well—it's not necessarily thought of as any different than the NSA," Chesney said. "Is the effort to prevent a bombing only national-security-related if the perpetrators have an international connection? I wouldn't hold my breath on a court accepting that logic."

Just because an international connection hasn't emerged so far in this case doesn't mean one isn't there, Chesney explains. "It certainly could be the case that the very secret at issue here has to do with a possible foreign nexus," he says.

Monteilh, for his part, claims he knows what the government might be trying to hide. Monteilh—who, for what it's worth, is a convicted felon—now says that the FBI broached the subject of his traveling abroad to act on the intelligence he gathered during Operation Flex. In one instance, Monteilh says, the FBI asked him whether he'd be interested in traveling to Pakistan to assassinate a terrorist target. Monteilh also claims that a CIA representative reviewed his progress in Arabic and Islamic training every month.

Monteilh also claims that during his time as an informant, the FBI also involved him in an elaborate plan to present himself as a single, Muslim man seeking introductions to potential wives in Orange County and record his meetings with the women. Monteilh claims that before the relationships turned sexual, he approached the FBI agents on the case: "I said look guys, as you hear the recordings, if it goes to a level where there's a potential sexual encounter what do you want me to do?" According to Monteilh, the agents said to go ahead with the sexual interactions in cases where good information existed. After learning more about the women's potential "terrorist" connections abroad through Monteilh, the FBI would confront the women with recordings of their sexual encounters with Monteilh, intending to frighten them into giving the bureau actionable intelligence. "They told me that we're going to use the [Islamic] culture against the Muslim community," Monteilh says.

Monteilh's claims aren't the kind of thing that anyone would believe without further proof of the kind that could be obtained in a courtroom. But if the Justice Department gets its way, that kind of proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. "In asserting the state secrets privilege they have sealed the gaps of the entire Department of Justice on Operation Flex," Monteilh says. "There's one gap they can't touch—which is me."

For the alleged victims of Operation Flex, that probably seems like cold comfort.

Hamed Aleaziz is an editorial intern at Mother Jones.