Tuesday

'I'm not a spy:' Reporters reveal surveillance fears


Source: The Center for Public Integrity

U.S. government surveillance programs are scaring away sources, making journalists feel like criminals and spies, and impacting the public’s access to quality news reporting, according to a new report released today.

The 130-page With Liberty to Monitor All report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union was based on 92 interviews with journalists, lawyers, and former and current U.S. government officials, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Within the context of recent revelations of widespread surveillance by US authorities, including by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the report seeks to document how government spying has affected not just the work of journalists and lawyers, but also the subsequent impact on the public’s access to information.

While far from scientific, the report’s recurring theme is one of growing difficulty for journalists trying to cultivate and protect sources, and develop stories that involve sensitive or controversial government issues. Of the 46 journalists interviewed, many spoke of the time-consuming and arduous measures they have had to go to in recent times to ensure their work and their sources were not compromised – interestingly, much of it involved a delicate balance between using special technology, such as encryption, and abandoning technology altogether.

“Journalists told us that officials are substantially less willing to be in contact with the press, even with regard to unclassified matters or personal opinions, than they were even a few years ago,” the report said.

“In turn, journalists increasingly feel the need to adopt elaborate steps to protect sources and information, and eliminate any digital trail of their investigations—from using high-end encryption, to resorting to burner phones [discarded after a short period of time], to abandoning all online communication and trying exclusively to meet sources in person.”

The journalists also said the additional security measures were not only a burden that made reporting take longer, but also sometimes threatened to scare sources away.

“In many instances, for encryption to work, both the journalist and the source must have some facility with the same encryption tool. Some journalists expressed doubts about their own ability to master encryption and related technologies,” the report said.

“Others noted that many would-be sources lack the technical savvy to approach journalists safely, and even that using encrypted methods of communication with typical sources—as opposed to sources who already prefer to use encryption—might ‘spook’ them.”

“They’re going to feel like they’re doing something wrong,” said investigative journalist Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, in her interview for the report. “Your source has to be really committed [to bother with advanced security measures].”
Most journalists also expressed doubts about how effective their security measures were in the first place. Some did not believe encryption offered ironclad protection, and many indicated that journalists were simply not equipped or trained to adequately cover their tracks against the reach of authorities like the NSA or other intelligence services.

“I don’t want the government to force me to act like a spy. I’m not a spy; I’m a journalist,” Washington Post reporter Adam Goldman told the report’s authors. “What are we supposed to do? Use multiple burners? No email? Dead drops? I don’t want to do my job that way. You can’t be a journalist and do your job that way.”

Government officials interviewed countered journalists’ concerns that increased surveillance was making it more difficult to work or receive material from whistleblowers, pointing to stories like the NSA revelations from Edward Snowden as proof that a culture of leaking is alive and well.

But the report details a number of deterrents put in place by the government to discourage leaks, including over-classification of documents, limiting officials’ contact with media, and the “Insider Threat Program” which calls on government employees to be alert to colleagues who may be leaking state secrets.

It also points out that the risk of prosecution for whistleblowers has never been higher.

“It is not lost on us, or on our sources, that there have been eight criminal cases against sources [under the current administration] versus three before [under all previous administrations combined],” said Charlie Savage, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times.



Ultimately, the report argues that increased surveillance and government crackdown on officials speaking with and leaking to media will have a negative impact on “news coverage, public accountability, and the quality of democratic debate.”

“The US government has an obligation to defend national security, yet many of its surveillance practices go well beyond what may be justified as necessary and proportionate to that aim. Instead, these practices are undermining fundamental rights and risk changing the nature of US democracy itself,” the report said. “The net result is a less informed public.”

Monday

President Barack Obama Weekly Address July 26, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 26, 2014
Hi, everybody.  Our businesses have now added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September 2008 – the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years.  401(k)s are growing, fewer homes are underwater, and for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that the world’s number one place to invest isn’t China; it’s the United States of America – and our lead is growing.

None of this is an accident.  It’s thanks to the resilience and resolve of the American people that our country has recovered faster and come farther than almost any other advanced nation on Earth.

But there’s another trend that threatens to undermine the progress you’ve helped make.  Even as corporate profits are as high as ever, a small but growing group of big corporations are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes.  They’re keeping most of their business inside the United States, but they’re basically renouncing their citizenship and declaring that they’re based somewhere else, just to avoid paying their fair share.

I want to be clear: this is only a few big corporations so far.  The vast majority of American businesses pay their taxes right here in the United States.  But when some companies cherrypick their taxes, it damages the country’s finances.  It adds to the deficit.  It makes it harder to invest in the things that will keep America strong, and it sticks you with the tab for what they stash offshore.  Right now, a loophole in our tax laws makes this totally legal – and I think that’s totally wrong.  You don’t get to pick which rules you play by, or which tax rate you pay, and neither should these companies. 

The best way to level the playing field is through tax reform that lowers the corporate tax rate, closes wasteful loopholes, and simplifies the tax code for everybody.  But stopping companies from renouncing their citizenship just to get out of paying their fair share of taxes is something that cannot wait.  That’s why, in my budget earlier this year, I proposed closing this unpatriotic tax loophole for good.  Democrats in Congress have advanced proposals that would do the same thing.  A couple Republicans have indicated they want to address this too, and I hope more join us. 

Rather than double-down on the top-down economics that let a fortunate few play by their own rules, let’s embrace an economic patriotism that says we rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people.  Let’s reward the hard work of ordinary Americans who play by the rules.  Together, we can build up our middle class, hand down something better to our kids, and restore the American Dream for all who work for it and study for it and strive for it.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Sunday

President Barack Obama Weekly Address July 19, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Hi, everybody.  Over the past 52 months, our businesses have created nearly 10 million new jobs.  The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008.  Across lots of areas – energy, manufacturing, technology – our businesses and workers are leading again.  In fact, for the first time in over a decade, business leaders worldwide have declared that China is no longer the world’s best place to invest – America is.
None of this is an accident.  It’s thanks to your resilience, resolve, and hard work that America has recovered faster and come farther than almost any other advanced country on Earth.
Now we have the opportunity to ensure that this growth is broadly shared.  Our economy grows best not from the top-down, but from the middle-out.  We do better when the middle class does better.  So we have to make sure that we’re not just creating more jobs, but raising middle-class wages and incomes.  We have to make sure our economy works for every working American.
My opportunity agenda does that.  It’s built on creating more jobs, training more workers, educating all our kids, and making sure your hard work pays off with higher wages and better benefits.
On Thursday, I traveled to Delaware to highlight how we’re trying to create more good, middle-class jobs rebuilding America: rebuilding roads and bridges, ports and airports, high-speed rail and internet.
This week, Vice President Biden will release a report he’s been working on to reform our job training system into a job-driven training system.  And I’ll visit a community college in L.A. that’s retraining workers for careers in the fast-growing health care sector. Because every worker deserves to know that if you lose your job, your country will help you train for an even better one.
In recent days, both parties in Congress have taken some good steps in these areas.  But we can do so much more for the middle class, and for folks working to join the middle class.  We should raise the minimum wage so that no one who works full-time has to live in poverty.  We should fight for fair pay and paid family leave.  We should pass commonsense immigration reform that strengthens our borders and our businesses, and includes a chance for long-time residents to earn their citizenship.
I want to work with Democrats and Republicans on all of these priorities.  But I will do whatever I can, whenever I can, to help families like yours.  Because nothing's  more important to me than you -- your hopes, your concerns, and making sure this country remains the place where everyone who works hard can make it if you try.  Thanks so much, and have a great weekend.

Saturday

Karima Bennoune: When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism




video


Source: TED 
Karima Bennoune shares four powerful stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities — refusing to allow the faith they love to become a tool for crime, attacks and murder. These personal stories humanize one of the most overlooked human-rights struggles in the world. 
Could I protect my father from the Armed Islamic Group with a paring knife? That was the question I faced one Tuesday morning in June of 1993, when I was a law student.

I woke up early that morning in Dad's apartment on the outskirts of Algiers, Algeria, to an unrelenting pounding on the front door. It was a season as described by a local paper when every Tuesday a scholar fell to the bullets of fundamentalist assassins. My father's university teaching of Darwin had already provoked a classroom visit from the head of the so-called Islamic Salvation Front, who denounced Dad as an advocate of biologism before Dad had ejected the man, and now whoever was outside would neither identify himself nor go away. So my father tried to get the police on the phone, but perhaps terrified by the rising tide of armed extremism that had already claimed the lives of so many Algerian officers, they didn't even answer. And that was when I went to the kitchen, got out a paring knife, and took up a position inside the entryway. It was a ridiculous thing to do, really, but I couldn't think of anything else, and so there I stood.

When I look back now, I think that that was the moment that set me on the path was to writing a book called "Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism." The title comes from a Pakistani play. I think it was actually that moment that sent me on the journey to interview 300 people of Muslim heritage from nearly 30 countries, from Afghanistan to Mali, to find out how they fought fundamentalism peacefully like my father did, and how they coped with the attendant risks.

Luckily, back in June of 1993, our unidentified visitor went away, but other families were so much less lucky, and that was the thought that motivated my research. In any case, someone would return a few months later and leave a note on Dad's kitchen table, which simply said, "Consider yourself dead." Subsequently, Algeria's fundamentalist armed groups would murder as many as 200,000 civilians in what came to be known as the dark decade of the 1990s, including every single one of the women that you see here. In its harsh counterterrorist response, the state resorted to torture and to forced disappearances, and as terrible as all of these events became, the international community largely ignored them. Finally, my father, an Algerian peasant's son turned professor, was forced to stop teaching at the university and to flee his apartment, but what I will never forget about Mahfoud Bennoune, my dad, was that like so many other Algerian intellectuals, he refused to leave the country and he continued to publish pointed criticisms, both of the fundamentalists and sometimes of the government they battled. For example, in a November 1994 series in the newspaper El Watan entitled "How Fundamentalism Produced a Terrorism without Precedent," he denounced what he called the terrorists' radical break with the true Islam as it was lived by our ancestors. These were words that could get you killed.

My father's country taught me in that dark decade of the 1990s that the popular struggle against Muslim fundamentalism is one of the most important and overlooked human rights struggles in the world. This remains true today, nearly 20 years later. You see, in every country where you hear about armed jihadis targeting civilians, there are also unarmed people defying those militants that you don't hear about, and those people need our support to succeed.

In the West, it's often assumed that Muslims generally condone terrorism. Some on the right think this because they view Muslim culture as inherently violent, and some on the left imagine this because they view Muslim violence, fundamentalist violence, solely as a product of legitimate grievances. But both views are dead wrong. In fact, many people of Muslim heritage around the world are staunch opponents both of fundamentalism and of terrorism, and often for very good reason. You see, they're much more likely to be victims of this violence than its perpetrators. Let me just give you one example. According to a 2009 survey of Arabic language media resources, between 2004 and 2008, no more than 15 percent of al Qaeda's victims were Westerners. That's a terrible toll, but the vast majority were people of Muslim heritage, killed by Muslim fundamentalists.

Now I've been talking for the last five minutes about fundamentalism, and you have a right to know exactly what I mean. I cite the definition given by the Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, and she says that fundamentalisms, note the "s," so within all of the world's great religious traditions, "fundamentalisms are political movements of the extreme right which in a context of globalization manipulate religion in order to achieve their political aims." Sadia Abbas has called this the radical politicization of theology. Now I want to avoid projecting the notion that there's sort of a monolith out there called Muslim fundamentalism that is the same everywhere, because these movements also have their diversities. Some use and advocate violence. Some do not, though they're often interrelated. They take different forms. Some may be non-governmental organizations, even here in Britain like Cageprisoners. Some may become political parties, like the Muslim Brotherhood, and some may be openly armed groups like the Taliban. But in any case, these are all radical projects. They're not conservative or traditional approaches. They're most often about changing people's relationship with Islam rather than preserving it. What I am talking about is the Muslim extreme right, and the fact that its adherents are or purport to be Muslim makes them no less offensive than the extreme right anywhere else. So in my view, if we consider ourselves liberal or left-wing, human rights-loving or feminist, we must oppose these movements and support their grassroots opponents. Now let me be clear that I support an effective struggle against fundamentalism, but also a struggle that must itself respect international law, so nothing I am saying should be taken as a justification for refusals to democratize, and here I send out a shout-out of support to the pro-democracy movement in Algeria today, Barakat. Nor should anything I say be taken as a justification of violations of human rights, like the mass death sentences handed out in Egypt earlier this week. But what I am saying is that we must challenge these Muslim fundamentalist movements because they threaten human rights across Muslim-majority contexts, and they do this in a range of ways, most obviously with the direct attacks on civilians by the armed groups that carry those out. But that violence is just the tip of the iceberg. These movements as a whole purvey discrimination against religious minorities and sexual minorities. They seek to curtail the freedom of religion of everyone who either practices in a different way or chooses not to practice. And most definingly, they lead an all-out war on the rights of women.

Now, faced with these movements in recent years, Western discourse has most often offered two flawed responses. The first that one sometimes finds on the right suggests that most Muslims are fundamentalist or something about Islam is inherently fundamentalist, and this is just offensive and wrong, but unfortunately on the left one sometimes encounters a discourse that is too politically correct to acknowledge the problem of Muslim fundamentalism at all or, even worse, apologizes for it, and this is unacceptable as well. So what I'm seeking is a new way of talking about this all together, which is grounded in the lived experiences and the hope of the people on the front lines. I'm painfully aware that there has been an increase in discrimination against Muslims in recent years in countries like the U.K. and the U.S., and that too is a matter of grave concern, but I firmly believe that telling these counter-stereotypical stories of people of Muslim heritage who have confronted the fundamentalists and been their primary victims is also a great way of countering that discrimination. So now let me introduce you to four people whose stories I had the great honor of telling.

Faizan Peerzada and the Rafi Peer Theatre workshop named for his father have for years promoted the performing arts in Pakistan. With the rise of jihadist violence, they began to receive threats to call off their events, which they refused to heed. And so a bomber struck their 2008 eighth world performing arts festival in Lahore, producing rain of glass that fell into the venue injuring nine people, and later that same night, the Peerzadas made a very difficult decision: they announced that their festival would continue as planned the next day. As Faizan said at the time, if we bow down to the Islamists, we'll just be sitting in a dark corner. But they didn't know what would happen. Would anyone come? In fact, thousands of people came out the next day to support the performing arts in Lahore, and this simultaneously thrilled and terrified Faizan, and he ran up to a woman who had come in with her two small children, and he said, "You do know there was a bomb here yesterday, and you do know there's a threat here today." And she said, "I know that, but I came to your festival with my mother when I was their age, and I still have those images in my mind. We have to be here." With stalwart audiences like this, the Peerzadas were able to conclude their festival on schedule.

And then the next year, they lost all of their sponsors due to the security risk. So when I met them in 2010, they were in the middle of the first subsequent event that they were able to have in the same venue, and this was the ninth youth performing arts festival held in Lahore in a year when that city had already experienced 44 terror attacks. This was a time when the Pakistani Taliban had commenced their systematic targeting of girls' schools that would culminate in the attack on Malala Yousafzai. What did the Peerzadas do in that environment? They staged girls' school theater. So I had the privilege of watching "Naang Wal," which was a musical in the Punjabi language, and the girls of Lahore Grammar School played all the parts. They sang and danced, they played the mice and the water buffalo, and I held my breath, wondering, would we get to the end of this amazing show? And when we did, the whole audience collectively exhaled, and a few people actually wept, and then they filled the auditorium with the peaceful boom of their applause. And I remember thinking in that moment that the bombers made headlines here two years before but this night and these people are as important a story.

Maria Bashir is the first and only woman chief prosecutor in Afghanistan. She's been in the post since 2008 and actually opened an office to investigate cases of violence against women, which she says is the most important area in her mandate. When I meet her in her office in Herat, she enters surrounded by four large men with four huge guns. In fact, she now has 23 bodyguards, because she has weathered bomb attacks that nearly killed her kids, and it took the leg off of one of her guards.

Why does she continue? She says with a smile that that is the question that everyone asks— as she puts it, "Why you risk not living?" And it is simply that for her, a better future for all the Maria Bashirs to come is worth the risk, and she knows that if people like her do not take the risk, there will be no better future. Later on in our interview, Prosecutor Bashir tells me how worried she is about the possible outcome of government negotiations with the Taliban, the people who have been trying to kill her. "If we give them a place in the government," she asks, "Who will protect women's rights?" And she urges the international community not to forget its promise about women because now they want peace with Taliban. A few weeks after I leave Afghanistan, I see a headline on the Internet. An Afghan prosecutor has been assassinated. I google desperately, and thankfully that day I find out that Maria was not the victim, though sadly, another Afghan prosecutor was gunned down on his way to work. And when I hear headlines like that now, I think that as international troops leave Afghanistan this year and beyond, we must continue to care about what happens to people there, to all of the Maria Bashirs. Sometimes I still hear her voice in my head saying, with no bravado whatsoever, "The situation of the women of Afghanistan will be better someday. We should prepare the ground for this, even if we are killed."

There are no words adequate to denounce the al Shabaab terrorists who attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on the same day as a children's cooking competition in September of 2013. They killed 67, including poets and pregnant women. Far away in the American Midwest, I had the good fortune of meeting Somali-Americans who were working to counter the efforts of al Shabaab to recruit a small number of young people from their city of Minneapolis to take part in atrocities like Westgate. Abdirizak Bihi's studious 17-year-old nephew Burhan Hassan was recruited here in 2008, spirited to Somalia, and then killed when he tried to come home. Since that time, Mr. Bihi, who directs the no-budget Somali Education and Advocacy Center, has been vocally denouncing the recruitment and the failures of government and Somali-American institutions like the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center where he believes his nephew was radicalized during a youth program. But he doesn't just criticize the mosque. He also takes on the government for its failure to do more to prevent poverty in his community. Given his own lack of financial resources, Mr. Bihi has had to be creative. To counter the efforts of al Shabaab to sway more disaffected youth, in the wake of the group's 2010 attack on World Cup viewers in Uganda, he organized a Ramadan basketball tournament in Minneapolis in response. Scores of Somali-American kids came out to embrace sport despite the fatwa against it. They played basketball as Burhan Hassan never would again. For his efforts, Mr. Bihi has been ostracized by the leadership of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, with which he used to have good relations. He told me, "One day we saw the imam on TV calling us infidels and saying, 'These families are trying to destroy the mosque.'" This is at complete odds with how Abdirizak Bihi understands what he is trying to do by exposing al Shabaab recruitment, which is to save the religion I love from a small number of extremists.

Now I want to tell one last story, that of a 22-year-old law student in Algeria named Amel Zenoune-Zouani who had the same dreams of a legal career that I did back in the '90s. She refused to give up her studies, despite the fact that the fundamentalists battling the Algerian state back then threatened all who continued their education. On January 26, 1997, Amel boarded the bus in Algiers where she was studying to go home and spend a Ramadan evening with her family, and would never finish law school. When the bus reached the outskirts of her hometown, it was stopped at a checkpoint manned by men from the Armed Islamic Group. Carrying her schoolbag, Amel was taken off the bus and killed in the street. The men who cut her throat then told everyone else, "If you go to university, the day will come when we will kill all of you just like this."

Amel died at exactly 5:17 p.m., which we know because when she fell in the street, her watch broke. Her mother showed me the watch with the second hand still aimed optimistically upward towards a 5:18 that would never come. Shortly before her death, Amel had said to her mother of herself and her sisters, "Nothing will happen to us, Inshallah, God willing, but if something happens, you must know that we are dead for knowledge. You and father must keep your heads held high."

The loss of such a young woman is unfathomable, and so as I did my research I found myself searching for Amel's hope again and her name even means "hope" in Arabic. I think I found it in two places. The first is in the strength of her family and all the other families to continue telling their stories and to go on with their lives despite the terrorism. In fact, Amel's sister Lamia overcame her grief, went to law school, and practices as a lawyer in Algiers today, something which is only possible because the armed fundamentalists were largely defeated in the country. And the second place I found Amel's hope was everywhere that women and men continue to defy the jihadis. We must support all of those in honor of Amel who continue this human rights struggle today, like the Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws. It is not enough, as the victims rights advocate Cherifa Kheddar told me in Algiers, it is not enough just to battle terrorism. We must also challenge fundamentalism, because fundamentalism is the ideology that makes the bed of this terrorism.

Why is it that people like her, like all of them are not more well known? Why is it that everyone knows who Osama bin Laden was and so few know of all of those standing up to the bin Ladens in their own contexts. We must change that, and so I ask you to please help share these stories through your networks. Look again at Amel Zenoune's watch, forever frozen, and now please look at your own watch and decide this is the moment that you commit to supporting people like Amel. We don't have the right to be silent about them because it is easier or because Western policy is flawed as well, because 5:17 is still coming to too many Amel Zenounes in places like northern Nigeria, where jihadis still kill students. The time to speak up in support of all of those who peacefully challenge fundamentalism and terrorism in their own communities is now.

Thank you.

 (Applause)

Friday

New Bank Leak Shows How Rich Exploit Tax Haven Loopholes

Tuesday

Will migrant kids lose access to child-welfare and legal specialists in rush to deport?

Minors in Center report were used by drug and sex traffickers but sent back

By

The Center for Public Integrity

Child legal advocates are worried some Central American kids turning themselves in at the border could be returned to peril if Congress amends laws to speed up their repatriation to home countries.    

Changes that President Obama may seek in anti-trafficking laws — which were developed in recent years with bipartisan support — could give U.S. Border Patrol agents authority to “screen” these children to assess if they have a legitimate “credible fear” of being sent back to countries with high murder rates and rampant gang violence.

Border Patrol agents’ ability to interview children and fairly assess if they face danger if returned to home countries has been criticized, as the Center for Public Integrity reported in July 2011.

Currently, detained Central American minors are supposed to be transferred to non-law-enforcement officials’ custody and shelters where they have access to legal advisers and trauma specialists who are trained to assess their histories and explain legal options to them in language minors can grasp.

Under changes being contemplated, kids could instead be put on a path to repatriation before they get a chance to talk to Spanish-speaking child-welfare specialists and fully understand that they have a right to appear before an immigration judge.

Agents could assume a decisive role in assessing if kids are truly in need of refuge — and then begin proceedings to send them back, a prospect that worries advocates. If kids can’t talk to official government asylum officers or immigration judges, “they’re not going to get access to even ask for asylum,” said Jennifer Podkul, senior program officer for migrant rights and justice at the Women's Refugee Commission in Washington, D.C.

The White House has not yet provided details of legal initiatives it might pursue to speed up the return of minors arriving on the border to their home countries. The administration plans to ask for “greater discretion” for the Department of Homeland Security to repatriate Central American minors more quickly, according to a letter President Obama wrote to congressional leaders.

But multiple advocates believe giving agents more authority to interview Central American minors and make critical decisions about what to do with them is a strong possibility, given what some government officials have disclosed in talks with advocates who subsequently spoke with media this week.  

In December 2001, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report found that Border Patrol agents lacked required basic training in “immigration fundamentals” and law.

As the Center’s 2011 report explained, a Mexican boy who was being used as a “mule” to carry drugs several years ago sought out and turned himself in to Border Patrol agents. He asked agents to let him stay so he could escape from a crime ring that his uncle was involved in. Agents told the boy to go back to Mexico to get more information on traffickers and then seek refuge, the boy eventually told Podkul, who was a pro bono immigration lawyer at the time. 

The boy turned himself into agents multiple times before they took him into custody and transferred him to a shelter in Virginia, where he happened to meet Podkul and was interviewed by asylum officials and Homeland Security investigators.

Children have no right to the appointment of a lawyer in immigration proceedings and rely on pro bono aid.

In another case, Mexican teen girls who had been caught and repatriated multiple times were later discovered after police broke up a sex-trafficking ring in North Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey in 2007. Some of the girls were caught at the border prior to 2007, Podkul said, but Border Patrol agents failed to discover that the girls were being trafficked by men who were traveling with the teens.

Podkul represented some of the girls after the ring was broken up. She said the men smuggled the girls into the United States with promises of jobs and then forced them into acts of prostitution.

Currently, Mexican and non-Mexican unaccompanied minors detained while entering the United States are treated differently in some ways under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which has been reauthorized and amended since that time to enhance protections for minors.

Federal  law requires that within 72 hours after agents detain children of any nationality, the minors be transferred to the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose Office of Refugee Resettlement supervises shelters for kids. That’s where many kids get briefed on rights and social workers have a chance to meet them.

Mexican children, however, haven’t been transferred nearly as frequently to these shelters as other kids because it is much easier to arrange their repatriation over the U.S.-Mexico border within 72 hours.

But as a protective measure — because of reports that Mexican kids were being sent back to danger — the anti-trafficking law was amended in 2008 to require that Border Patrol agents conduct a minimum screening of Mexican (or Canadian) minors in their custody.

The mandatory screening requires agents tell Mexican kids about their right to be transferred to a shelter and the right to appear before an immigration judge. Agents are also supposed to ask questions designed to help them decide if a child is likely the victim of traffickers or if they seem afraid to be sent back.

Because it means they can get out of detention relatively quickly, Mexican kids often consent to being returned at the nearest port of entry and give up that right to appear before a judge. However, as violence in Mexico has increased, more kids—like the boy in the Center story—have begun to express fear of being returned.  

A 2011 report by Appleseed, a Texas-based public-interest law group, also documented cases of Mexican kids released back into dangerous circumstances even after these screenings.

To cope with the current flood of Central American kids, Podkul and other advocates say, Obama may suggest that Congress amend laws so that Border Patrol agents can treat the Central American kids more like Mexican kids.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Los Angeles Democrat, has had legislation pending since 2011 that would require licensed social workers to assist Border Patrol agents in screenings of some migrant kids. The proposed Child Trafficking Victims Protection Act, has one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

This week, Roybal-Allard released a statement supporting Obama’s request that Congress allocate more than $2 billion to address the emergency at the border and what to do about unaccompanied minors. But she also expressed concern about relaxing any existing access that migrant children now have to consult with social workers and lawyers. She said: “We in Congress should be extremely cautious that we do not undermine the basic protections migrant children have under current law.”

NSA Experts: 'National Security Has Become a State Religion'

Interview Conducted By , and Jörg Schindler

In a SPIEGEL interview, Edward Snowden's lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, and former NSA contractor Thomas Drake discuss the reasons behind the American spying agency's obssession with collecting data. 

For more than a year now, the world has closely followed revelations disclosed by former American intelligence worker Edward Snowden. The documents from the whistleblower's archive have fueled an at times fierce debate over the sense and legality of the National Security Agency's (NSA) sheer greed for data.

In its current issue, SPIEGEL conducted two interviews it hopes will contribute to the debate. The first is with two major critics of the NSA's work -- human rights activist and lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who represents Snowden, and former spy Thomas Drake. The second interview is with John Podesta, a special advisor to United States President Barack Obama.

SPIEGEL: Germany's federal prosecutor has opened a formal inquiry into the surveillance of Angela Merkel's mobile phone, but he did not open an investigation into the mass surveillance of German citizens, saying that there was no evidence to do so. Mr. Drake, as a former NSA employee, what's your take on this?

Drake: It stretches the bounds of incredulity. Germany has become, after 9/11, the most important surveillance platform for the NSA abroad. The only German citizen granted protection by a statement by Barack Obama is Angela Merkel. All other Germans are obviously treated as suspects by the NSA.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Radack, do you have an explanation for the German federal prosecutor's position?

Radack: Of course. They don't want to find out the truth. Either they're complicit to some extent or they don't really care to investigate.

SPIEGEL: The federal prosecutor says that he has no chance of obtaining any evidence because everything is classified and that he doesn't expect the Americans to cooperate anyway.

Radack: As a government, you have the power to make people testify, to interview people, to call them in front of a grand jury or the equivalent. I think you should at least try to subpoena them, and if they ignore the subpoena, they don't get to have their little family vacation in Europe, because they would be on a wanted list.

SPIEGEL: Our newsmagazine recently released documents from the Snowden archive pertaining to the work of the NSA in Germany. They include a list that shows 150 different places, at least historically, where the NSA and its predecessors conducted espionage here in Germany, so-called Sigads.

Drake: Yes, those are activity designators for signals intelligence, so these are sites where data is collected, data is accessed, and it's being provided back to the NSA.

SPIEGEL: Are we talking about data that was gathered for the sake of the security of the United States and Germany?

Drake: Well, that has traditionally been the purpose, but it goes far beyond that. Just look at the technology, the network. All the important information, economic as well, crosses through Germany in some manner. It is either collected by the NSA itself or forwarded to it by the BND or companies that secretly pass it along.

SPIEGEL: The NSA argues that, in the war against terrorism, in order to find the needle in the haystack, we need lots of hay.

Radack: If you're looking for a needle in a haystack, you don't make the haystack bigger. The US government is fear mongering when it claims: "If you're against surveillance, the next terrorist attack is on you!"

SPIEGEL: What is the true reason for the data collection?

Radack: It's about population control. And economic espionage.

Drake: One of the big elephants in the room is Germany with its engineers. It's extraordinarily tempting to know what's going on here -- new products, new methodologies, new approaches.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Drake, was that your assignment when you worked for the NSA in Germany?

Drake: I personally didn't, but I knew that it happened.

SPIEGEL: On the other hand, Snowden's documents show that Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, cooperates closely with the NSA. Why does it do that if it harms Germany?

Drake: It's a sort of paradox in that relationship. The cooperation between the two services goes back to the Cold War. There was a deep intelligence sharing going on. The NSA has always been the master in that relationship, and most of the sharing is in one direction. It has never been equal. Then 9/11 happened.

SPIEGEL: The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Drake: Yes, and guess which country was actually declared as a target nation No. 1 afterwards? It was Germany. It was like Germany needs to be punished, because the hijackers lived here, trained here and communicated from here.

SPIEGEL: To punish? Was that the political agenda?

Drake: You would not have heard it particularly that way. But the conversation was always like: My gosh, we can't trust the Germans because guess who was living amongst them: some of the hijackers. Ironically, this actually bound the partnership with the BND even tighter, because the NSA wanted to have more control over what your guys were doing.

SPIEGEL: How close is the relationship between the two intelligence agencies?

Drake: Extraordinary close. They were not like the United Kingdom or Australia and other members of the "Five Eyes," the closest allies of the NSA. But it is fair to say, that the NSA relationship to the BND is similar to this.

SPIEGEL: You yourself worked as a spy for the NSA. What made you become a whistleblower?

Drake: It was only months after 9/11. Back then it became clear to me that in order to avoid another failure to protect people we just set aside the rules of law. The NSA violated our constitution by spying on its own people. Today, we have the greatest surveillance platform the world has ever seen. This is why I shudder. National security has become a state religion. They say they want to keep us safe, but from whom?

SPIEGEL: Terrorists, for example?

Radack: Oh, I've heard that a lot of times: This is all being done for security. The former NSA director Keith Alexander lied to Congress when he said they had thwarted 54 terrorist plots. Four months later, he was dragged back to the Senate Judiciary Committee and had to admit it had thwarted one plot. Maybe.

SPIEGEL: Information from US intelligence services allegedly helped lead to the arrest of members of the Sauerland terrorist group that was planning attacks in Germany.

Radack: I'm not denying this is possible, but the vast majority of this, 99.9 percent, is not about security. It's about controlling people and information.

Drake: Yes, this is where we get to the dark side of that whole surveillance apparatus. It takes the Stasi motto of knowing everything on a new level. In order to know it all, the NSA collects it all.

SPIEGEL: Can you still recall your first reaction to the Snowden affair?

Drake: None of it surprised me.

Radack: I thought: Finally, finally! Because for years I have been representing NSA whistleblowers who were saying the agency is monitoring all your e-mails, all your phone calls. They turn over every kind of personal data without any kind of warrant. And nothing happened. My second reaction was: Whoever did this is going to be completely nailed.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Drake testified in front of an investigative committee on NSA spying in Germany's federal parliament this week. Edward Snowden will not be able to because he hasn't been invited to Germany by the committee. However, Snowden doesn't want to testify while under asylum in Moscow. Can you explain why?

Radack: Members of the committee wanted an informal meeting in Moscow. But comprehensive testimony is only possible in Germany.

SPIEGEL: Some people believe Snowden will only be willing to cooperate if he is offered residency in Germany.

Radack: No. He has spoken in front of the Council of Europe, so he has done this before. Germany really needs to decide how serious it is about clarification.

SPIEGEL: Some members of the parliamentary investigative committee claim that your client doesn't really have much information to provide about NSA activities on German soil, anyway.

Radack: That is incorrect given that they haven't heard his evidence. It seems like the majority of the parliamentarians -- from both the conservative Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrat -- don't want to be affiliated too closely with him. I think a lot of them are acting cowardly.

SPIEGEL: Would Germany even be a safe place for Snowden?

Radack: Germany does have an unfortunate history in terms of providing protection to informants from the NSA.

SPIEGEL: You are alluding to the case of Jens Karney, who was kidnapped in the middle Berlin in 1991 by US special forces.

Radack: Yes, but I nevertheless still think Germany seems like a good place for Edward Snowden to get asylum.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Drake, are you still in contact with former colleagues? How do they view Snowden's actions?

Drake: Right now I have no contact with anybody. They said internally that if you have any contact with Drake, you're risking your job. That's a chilling message. I suspect there is actually great sympathy for Snowden, but it is never shared. Because people go home at night, watch their TV shows, pay their mortgages and they don't want to have that disturbed. It's too uncomfortable to look in the mirror.

Radack: Sometimes people show up anonymously at our events and then whisper in my ear: "I work at NSA. I support everything you do."

About Jesselyn Radack and Thomas Drake


Jesselyn Radack, 43, has provided legal defense to several prominent whistleblowers. She previously worked as an advisor for the United States Justice Department. Today the attorney counts former NSA worker Edward Snowden among her clients.

Thomas Drake, 57, is also one of Radack's clients. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Drake exposed abuses at the NSA. In 2011, he was convicted by a US court and given probation on a misdemeanor charge relating to the case. All serious charges against him had been dropped. On Thursday, he testified before a committee in the German parliament investigating NSA spying in the country.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address July 4, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 4, 2014
Hi, everybody. I hope you're all having a great Fourth of July weekend.
I want to begin today by saying a special word to the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, who represented America so well the past few weeks. We are so proud of you.

You’ve got a lot of new believers. And I know there’s actually a petition on the White House website to make Tim Howard the next Secretary of Defense. Chuck Hagel’s got that spot right now, but if there is a vacancy, I’ll think about it.

It was 238 years ago that our founders came together in Philadelphia to launch our American experiment. There were farmers and businessmen, doctors and lawyers, ministers and a kite-flying scientist.

Those early patriots may have come from different backgrounds and different walks of life. But they were united by a belief in a simple truth -- that we are all created equal; that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Over the years, that belief has sustained us through war and depression; peace and prosperity. It’s helped us build the strongest democracy, the greatest middle class, and the most powerful military the world has ever known. And today, there isn’t a nation on Earth that wouldn’t gladly trade places with the United States of America.

But our success is only possible because we have never treated those self-evident truths as self-executing. Generations of Americans have marched, organized, petitioned, fought and even died to extend those rights to others; to widen the circle of opportunity for others; and to perfect this union we love so much.

That’s why I want to say a special thanks to the men and women of our armed forces and the families who serve with them -- especially those service members who spent this most American of holidays serving your country far from home.

You keep us safe, and you keep the United States of America a shining beacon of hope for the world. And for that, you and your families deserve not only the appreciation of a grateful nation, but our enduring commitment to serve you as well as you’ve served us.

God bless you all. And have a great weekend.