U.S. Politics

Trump ally Roger Stone tweets — then deletes — he had “back channel” to WikiLeaks’ Assange

Trump ally Roger Stone tweets — then deletes — he had

Image Credit: Getty Images


Amid a bizarre string of angry, misogynistic tweets on Saturday, President Donald Trump’s longtime friend and confidant Roger Stone claimed he had back-channel access to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose role in leaking embarrassing materials about Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign has been under fire.

WikiLeaks, which debuted as an internet clearinghouse for leaked intelligence and government documents in 2006, has drawn suspicion both for its defenses of Trump and its possible use by Russian intelligence assets as a way to leak hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Stone, who has admitted his previous contact with Assange, replied to a Twitter user with, “you stupid stupid bitch — never denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary.”

He has since deleted the tweet.

As noted by the New York Times‘ Liam Stack, the diatribe was among several sent by Stone late Saturday evening. His tweets included levying legal threats at the same user, whom he called a “stupid ignorant ugly bitch,” and spreading rumors about an affair between two prominent Republican strategists.


It’s a strange time for Stone to be bragging about foreign contacts who provided damaging info on Democrats and Clinton: In February, the New York Times reported Stone was among those in Trump’s orbit under investigation for rumored contacts with “senior Russian intelligence officials” during the election.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned after it was leaked that he lied about a phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also facing calls for his resignation after misrepresenting to Congress — while under oath — whether he, too, met with Kislyak.

As Stone hinted at prior knowledge of WikiLeaks’ possession of Democratic materials that intelligence agencies now say was stolen by the Russian government, Trump was applauding President Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail. Trump struck a friendly tone on U.S.-Russia relations that perplexed many of his GOP colleagues.


Notably, Stone also made headlines in January after he took to far-right website InfoWars to assert unknown parties had poisoned him with polonium, a highly radioactive substance linked to the assassination of former FSB and KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko. Reached for comment amid Trump’s inaugural festivities, Stone claimed he had submitted blood samples to a private lab — but said in a subsequent interview with Time that he had been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control.

Tom McKay

Edward Snowden · Russia

Is Edward Snowden finally safe?

Snowden received this temporary document allowing him a year of asylum in Russia.
Snowden received this temporary document allowing him a year of asylum in Russia.

The Week

Russia grants the NSA leaker temporary asylum, and the U.S. isn’t too happy about it

After five weeks spent holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport, NSA leaker Edward Snowden finally crossed over to Russian soil on Thursday after his request for temporary asylum was approved.

The move gives Snowden the freedom to move around inside Russia, where he will, for now, be safely out of the reach of American authorities. He has one year to live and work inside Russia while figuring out a more lasting solution.

“Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning,” Snowden said Thursday in astatement released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. “I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.”

However, Snowden’s ordeal is far from over. American prosecutors have charged him in absentia with violating the Espionage Act, and the White House, furious over Russia’s decision to let him hang around, is exploring options for getting him back.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the U.S. was “extremely disappointed” with Russia’s decision, and that there was “ample legal justification” for Russian authorities to extradite Snowden to the U.S. He added that President Obama may skip a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin to protest the move.

The U.S. could also pressure Russia in other ways. Obama could skip September’s G20 meeting in Russia, or propose that it be moved elsewhere. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) floated the latter idea in a fiery statement, saying, “Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has even suggested that the U.S. boycott the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, though his colleagues have uniformly said that would be a terrible idea.

Whether any of those actions would actually help the U.S. apprehend Snowden is yet to be seen. Putin has shown no willingness to bow to U.S. pressure thus far, saying that Snowden is welcome in Russia so long as he doesn’t leak any more embarrassing intel about the U.S.

Snowden asked Russia earlier this month to harbor him temporarily while he worked out a safe route to a more permanent home elsewhere. A handful of Latin and South American countries have offered to take him in, but the complicated logistics of flying halfway around the world without being intercepted by the U.S. or its allies have kept Snowden grounded.

An international Hail Mary aboard commercial flights could force Snowden to pass through airspace or airports where American allies — or other nations, given the right prodding — could pick him up. Snowden ditched a flight bound for Cuba in June for fear U.S. authorities would catch him en route. And a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced down over Europe in early July over suspicions Snowden was on board. (Morales has since told Snowden he’s welcome in Bolivia any time.)

Snowden’s lawyer said his client had no plans to leave Russia any time soon. In the meantime, Snowden is taking every precaution to remain in seclusion as much as possible. Accompanied by a WikiLeaks representative, he snuck out of the airport to elude reporters, and is bound for an undisclosed location.

“He is the most wanted man on planet Earth,” Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, toldReuters. “He has to think about his personal security. I cannot tell you where he is going.”

Bradley Manning

As Manning Faces Life in Jail, Architects of Torture & Extrajudicial Murders Face Talk Show Circuit

Regardless of what side you come down on the Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden cases, the author of this article makes a valid point…

Daily Kos

While Bradley Manning has been found not guilty of the most serious charge he faced – aiding the enemy – he has been ‘convicted’ by a military court on 19 counts, several of which fall under the Espionage Act.

To be clear: a soldier who served the public interest by exposing war crimes and revealing gross legal violations by our government, will face a maximum of 136 years behind bars, likely in solitary confinement.

This was my reaction upon hearing the verdict:

Seriously, I don’t want to hear any lectures about how Manning deserves this time because he “broke the law.”

If he had illegally tortured Guantanamo detainees for the CIA, or even orchestrated such torture programs – illegal per U.S. and international law – he could very well have been promoted, if not left alone.

The Manning verdict’s central message, aside from this obvious hypocrisy and the injustices underlying it, is this: if you are a whistleblower in this country, do what Edward Snowden did (and what Daniel Ellsberg suggests): flee America, and fast.

However, if you commit crimes in the name of the state? Bulk up your profile.

There’s a microphone waiting.

Bradley Manning · Wikileaks

What You Need To Know About The Bradley Manning Verdict

Think Progress

At 1 PM EST, a military court handed down the long-awaited verdict in the case of United States v. Bradley Manning, finding him not guilty of the most serious charge against him, that of “aiding the enemy,” in leaking thousands of government and military documents. Manning has, however, been found guilty of another 19 charges, including 5 counts of espionage.

Manning has been both vilified and lionized during his time in the spotlight and today’s conclusion of his trial will likely bring those two sides back into debate over what Manning’s saga means for the ongoing debate between secrecy and security in the United States. While the sentences for the other charges he was found guilty of remain to be decided, here’s what you need to know about the case:

The Private 

Private First Class Bradley Manning joined the U.S. Army in 2008, training as an intelligence analyst after his graduation from basic training. Reports indicate that before and during his service, Manning was dealing with various issues, including a history of depression and possible bullying for being openly gay in a time of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In 2009, Manning was deployed to Iraq’s Forward Operation Base Hammer, from which he had access to the various classified networks that at the time were available to any and all analysts with very few restrictions. It was while in Iraq that Manning was arrested in May 2010 on allegations of passing on documents and videos to Wikileaks. After three years in detention, Manning’s trial finally began in June of this year.

The Leaks 

The first leak included videos passed along to Wikileaks showing the U.S. military opening fire on a crowd of mostly unarmed Iraqi civilians. The next, much larger, drop of information showcased a failing war effort in Afghanistan and a flailing U.S. attempt to keep the country together during a time when the U.S. focus was on Iraq. That was soon followed up with a similar drop of documents related to the war in Iraq. Both of the troves were released through a series of agreements among the New York Times, Guardian, and Der Spiegel newspapers to redact the names of sources and anything they believed would harm personnel serving in the field.

The final set of documents published from the cache Manning passed to Wikileaks was the massive repository of U.S. diplomatic cables that became known as Cablegate. Ranging from 1966 to 2010, the documents — all of which were classified as Secret or below — painted a clearer picture of the inner workings of international diplomacy than had ever been made public. Several deals between the U.S. and other countries related to counterterrorism — including with Yemen and Pakistan — were brought to light through this document dump, and some observers say they helped spark the protests that would become the Arab Spring.

Critics, however, allege that the release of the diplomatic documents made the conducting of international relations all the more difficult — particularly after the accidental release of all of the cables in full — and that several informants listed in the unredacted Afghan cables have since faced harsh retribution and possibly death at the hands of the Taliban.

The Charges 

A large part of the confusion surrounding both the charges and the proceedings of Manning’s trial has been the venue in which it has taken place. Due to the fact that Manning was still in the Army at the time of the leaks, his case wasn’t ready-made for a civilian court. Instead, the U.S. military opted to place Manning through a court-martial, with military appointed prosecutors, defense, and judges.

Manning stands accused of 21 charges under the Uniform Military Code of Justice, including several that have been incorporated from the civilian code. Manning has already plead guilty to several of the lesser charges, including many of those involving computer fraud or abuse. What remains include charges of failures to obey a lawful order, in this case ignoring the protection of classified material and circumventing security software, and several counts charged under the Espionage Act — including delivering national defense information to “persons not entitled to receive it.”

Most serious of the charges Manning faced was one count of UCMJ 104, “Aiding the Enemy,” which has the distinction of also being the most controversial of the charges against him. According to the statute, the military had to prove that Manning aided “the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things” or “knowingly harbors or [protects or gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly.”

If Manning had been found guilty, the sentence would have come with a likely life sentence in prison and the possibility of being awarded the death penalty. A conviction from Army Col. Denise Lind would possibly have hadwide-ranging ramifications, as it would be the first time that such a verdict would be handed down to someone who did not directly pass along information, having more often been used against prisoners of war who provided information while in captivity.

Treatment In Detention 

Supporters of Manning allege that during the time before he was officially charged, Manning was subject to mistreatment from the U.S. military. This includes being forced to stand for hours on end, being granted little in the way of bedding during his time in solitary confinement, and being stripped of his clothing. P.J. Crowley, at the time spokesman for the State Department under Secretary Hillary Clinton, spoke out against Manning’s treatment and later resigned, saying he had lost the White House’s “trust and confidence.” (Crowley has also said he opposes the charge against Manning of aiding the enemy.)

Then-senator, now Secretary of State, John Kerry at the time defended Manning’s treatment as a protective measure. “There are concerns about what is happening, but a strong argument is being made that they’re trying to preserve his safety, they don’t want him harming himself, and using his own clothing to hang himself, or do something like that,” Kerry said. Kerry’s statement conforms to what military prosecutors said of Manning early in his detention, deeming him a suicide risk due to his history of depression.

Edward Snowden

INSIDE JOB – Per Huffington Post


There will be some who argue that it doesn’t matter that Edward Snowden’s motives were pre-meditated.  He will always be a hero to those who think he is being treated unfairly and that information about American citizens should not be held secret in perpetuity.  Those people opposed President George W. Bush’s methods of maintaining National Security secrets and take the Libertarian view that government should not keep secrets from it’s populous.

Then there are those who espoused George W. Bush’s methods of spying on Americans in the name of national security.  Many of those same people oppose President Obama’s handling of National Security spying…on Americans.   Yet, there seems to be no fundamental difference in what either administration did in this matter.  It appears Obama simply continued the Bush policies.

Hong Kong via The Huffington Post

Snowden sought Booz Allen job to gather evidence on NSA surveillance

Fugitive whistle-blower reveals for first time he took job at US government contractor with the sole aim of collecting proof of spying activities

Edward Snowden secured a job with a US government contractor for one reason alone – to obtain evidence of Washington’s cyberspying networks, the South China Morning Post can reveal.

For the first time, Snowden has admitted he sought a position at Booz Allen Hamilton so he could collect proof about the US National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programmes ahead of planned leaks to the media.

“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” he told the Post on June 12. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”

During a live global online chat last week, Snowden also stated he took pay cuts “in the course of pursuing specific work”. He said: “Booz was not the most I’ve been paid.”

His admission comes as US officials voiced anger at Hong Kong, and indirectly Beijing, after the whistle-blower was allowed to leave the city on Sunday.

Snowden is understood to be heading for Ecuador to seek political asylum with the help of WikiLeaks, which claimed to have secured his safe passage to the South American country.

Snowden, who arrived in Hong Kong on May 20, first contacted documentary maker Laura Poitras in January, claiming to have information about the intelligence community. But it was several months later before Snowden met Poitras and two British reporters in the city.

He spent the time collecting a cache of classified documents as a computer systems administrator at Booz Allen Hamilton.

In his interview with the Post, Snowden divulged information that he claimed showed hacking by the NSA into computers in Hong Kong and the mainland.

“I did not release them earlier because I don’t want to simply dump huge amounts of documents without regard to their content,” he said.

“I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists.”

Asked if he specifically went to Booz Allen Hamilton to gather evidence of surveillance, he replied: “Correct on Booz.”

The documents he divulged to the Post were obtained at Booz Allen Hamilton in April, he said. He intends to leak more of those documents later.

“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published.”

Two days after Snowden broke cover in Hong Kong as the source of the NSA leaks, Booz Allen Hamilton sacked him.

Edward Snowden

Why would Edward Snowden seek asylum in Ecuador?

Apparently Edward Snowden left Hong Kong headed to Russia and by way of Cuba will head to South America.  Needless to say it’s quite complicated and is beginning to sound like a game of “Where in the world is Carmen Diego?”

NBC News

NSA leaker Edward Snowden was reportedly traveling to Ecuador on Sunday to pursue political asylum, and the question on many casual observers’ lips is: Why?

The move comes a year after the small South American nation offered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange safe haven at its London embassy.

And Assange is now lending his support to Snowden.

“He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks,” the anti-secrecy group said in a statement, noting that they are giving the one-time CIA contractor legal counsel. “Once Mr. Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.”

WikiLeaks said that Snowden — who is charged with espionage for allegedly leaking information about top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs — was “accompanied” by former Spanish judge Balthasar Garzon, who is WikiLeaks’ counsel and Assange’s personal lawyer.

It was not immediately obvious why, exactly, Snowden chose to seek asylum in Ecuador, although the country’s association with Assange may offer some clues, said Fordham Law School professor Andrew Kent.

“Ecuador clearly has some kind of history of sticking their finger in the eye of the United States on security issues,” Kent said.

Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s left-leaning third-term president, is a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy and Western economic influence in Latin America. And he is part of a cadre of Latin American leaders — including Raúl Castro of Cuba and the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — perceived to have an anti-American political worldview.

A sense of political kinship often helps an asylum-seeker decide where to go, said Robert J. Anello, a New York attorney who has handled extradition cases.

“A lot of people choose a country where they think the government will be sympathetic,” Anello said.

Ecuador is among 109 countries that have a bilateral extradition treaty with the U.S., according to the State Department. However, the treaty does not specify espionage as an extraditable offense, Kent said.

“There’s nothing that really obviously covers what Snowden allegedly did,” Kent said.

Other crimes listed in the treaty — including larceny, obtaining property by false pretenses, and fraud — could conceivably be used by officials to extradite someone accused of espionage, he said.

Yet while Ecuador is seemingly turning into a haven for digital desperadoes, the country has a mixed track record on press freedoms.

The Ecuadorean legislature earlier this month passed a restrictive media law, establishing government-run media overseers and imposing sanctions on citizens who tarnish “people’s good name,” the Associated Press reported. The measure created several government commissions authorized to level civil and criminal penalties against journalists.

The legislation could run counter to statements made by Correa in June 2011 in an interview with Assange, just weeks before the president offered the WikiLeaks firebrand political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy, where he remains.

“We believe, my dear Julian, that the only things that should be protected against information sharing and freedom of speech are those set in the international treaties, in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights: the dignity and the reputation of people, and the safety of people and the State,” Correa said during an appearance on Assange’s defunct television talk show.

“The rest, the more people find out about it, the better.”

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden Leaves Hong Kong: Plane Believed To Be Carrying Leaker Lands In Moscow

Given Vladimir Putin’s very chilly reception toward President Obama at the recent G8 summit, this comes as no surprise.   Does this mean that Edward Snowden will turn over his “secrets” to Moscow?  I suppose we’ll have to wait and see…

The Huffington Post

A former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the United States for revealing highly classified surveillance programs has been allowed to leave for a “third country” because a U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, the territory’s government said Sunday.

An Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong believed to be carrying Edward Snowden landed in Moscow. Russia’s state ITAR-Tass news agency cited an unnamed Aeroflot airline official as saying Snowden was on Flight SU213, which landed on Sunday afternoon in Moscow. The report said he intended to fly to Cuba on Monday and then on to Caracas, Venezuela.

Snowden had been in hiding in Hong Kong for several weeks since he revealed information on the highly classified spy programs. The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group said it was working with him and he was bound for an unnamed “democratic nation via a safe route for the purpose of asylum.”

The White House had no immediate comment about the departure, which came a day after the United States made a formal request for his extradition and gave a pointed warning to Hong Kong against delaying the process of returning him to face trial in the U.S.

The Department of Justice said only that it would “continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel.”

The Hong Kong government said in a statement that Snowden left “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”

It acknowledged the U.S. extradition request, but said U.S. documentation did not “fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.” It said additional information was requested from Washington, but since the Hong Kong government “has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”

The statement said Hong Kong had informed the U.S. of Snowden’s departure. It added that it wanted more information about alleged hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies which Snowden had revealed.

The signal that Hong Kong had let Snowden go on a technicality appears to be a pragmatic decision aimed at avoiding a drawn out extradition battle. The move swiftly eliminates a geopolitical headache that could have left it facing pressure from both Washington and Beijing.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, has a high degree of autonomy and is granted rights and freedoms not seen on mainland China, but under the city’s mini constitution Beijing is allowed to intervene in matters involving defense and diplomatic affairs.

Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but the document has some exceptions, including for crimes deemed political.

Russian officials have given no indication that they have any interest in detaining Snowden or any grounds to do so. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Russia would be willing to consider granting asylum if Snowden were to make such a request.

Russia and the United States have no extradition treaty that would oblige Russia to hand over a U.S. citizen at Washington’s request.

WikiLeaks said it was providing legal help to Snowden at his request and that he was being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from the group. Its founder, Julian Assange, who has spent a year inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about sex crime allegations, told the Sydney Morning Herald that his organization is in a position to help because it has expertise in international asylum and extradition law.

Continue reading here…

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: June 4, 2013

A protestor looks on during clashes with Turkish police near Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office in Istanbul, on June 4.

The Week

A federation of labor unions in Turkey launched a two-day strike on Tuesday to show support for demonstrations against what opponents call the “fascism” of the governing party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. A demonstrator was shot and killed in a town near the Syrian border Monday night at a rally to denounce Erdogan’s government. Erdogan said the protesters were “arm-in-arm with terrorism.” [CNN]

The Supreme Court — split 5-4 — ruled Monday that police can take DNA samples when booking suspects for serious crimes. The majority, narrowly upholding a Maryland law, said the government has the same legitimate interest to collect DNA as it does to take photographs or fingerprints. Critics called the practice an unlawful search. The ruling could clear the way for more widespread collection of DNA samples. [Washington Post]

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the Senate’s oldest member and its last World War II veteran,died early Monday of complications from viral pneumonia, his office said. He was 89. Lautenberg had battled stomach cancer in recent years. Admirers mourned Lautenberg, who wrote some of the nation’s most sweeping health and safety laws, as one of the left’s unsung heroes. [USA Today]

Olympic sprinter and double amputee Oscar Pistorius, who is facing murder charges for the Valentine’s Day shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, appeared in a South African court Tuesday for the first time since he was released on bail in February. After 15 minutes, a Praetoria magistrate granted a prosecution request to delay the trial until August so police can have more time to complete their investigation. [BBC News]

A military judge will allow Maj. Nidal Hasan to represent himself at his murder trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, which left 13 people dead. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, plans to use a “defense of others” strategy. Legal experts say that suggests he will argue he was protecting fellow Muslims from soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday, but Hasan is asking for a three-month trial delay to prepare his defense. [CBS NewsAssociated Press]

United Nations investigators said Tuesday that they had “reasonable grounds” to believe that chemical weapons had been used in Syria’s civil war. The latest report says witnesses and victims have accused both government forces and rebels of using the banned weapons, although there is more evidence pointing at the Syrian military. [Reuters]

On the opening day of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial, prosecutors said Monday that some of the classified information that the former Army intelligence officer sent to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks was found in Osama bin Laden’s hideout after the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader. Defense lawyers said in their opening statement that Manning was “a little naïve, but good-intentioned,” and thought he was helping the world by leaking U.S. secrets. [NBC News]

The College Republican National Committee released a stinging report Monday, saying that the GOP failed to win over young voters last year because people under age 30 see the party as “closed-minded, racist, rigid, [and] old-fashioned.” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus praised the report, calling it a great step toward figuring out how the party can win over young voters. [Politico]

The last of the Boston Marathon bombing victims left a Boston hospital Monday. Erika Brannock, 29, lost a leg in the April 15 blasts. She said now she wants to return home to Baltimore and hug her family, eat steamed crabs, and be reunited with her preschool students at Trinity Episcopal Children’s Center. “I just want to sit on the floor with them and read them a story,” Brannock said. [Associated Press]

The Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers in game seven of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night, advancing to the NBA championship playoff for the third straight year. Tensions were high as the Heat, with their reign as NBA champions on the line, squared off against the Pacers one last time, coming off of Miami’s worst offensive game of the season in game six. In the end, however, the Heat demolished the Pacers, 99-76, with star LeBron James scoring 32 points. [ESPN]

U.S. Politics

Ten Reasons to Avoid Doing Business With Amazon.com

I’m re-posting this article for TFC readers not as a suggestion to stop using Amazon, but more on the basis of “information we all should know about Amazon dot com”.

Everyone should make their own decision on this matter.

The Nation

Even with Borders gone and independent booksellers struggling to get by, the war for the future of publishing rages on. As Steve Wasserman explains in “The Amazon Effect,” which appears in this week’s special issue of The Nation, booksellers and publishers have shifted toward digital books, and Amazon.com, which sells more electronic Kindle books than physical hardcovers, is well positioned to overpower its rivals. But what’s at stake in the battle over e-commerce and why should you avoid doing business with Amazon.com?

1.  Amazon Dodges Taxes and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Doesn’t Contribute to Local Economies Through Charity

Last year, the Greenlining Institute reported that Amazon’s tax rate was among the lowest, at just 3.5 percent, of all companies included in the study. Yet despite the massive savings Amazon enjoys from exploiting tax loopholes, the company contributessurprisingly little to charities around its Seattle-area headquarters.

2.  Amazon’s Business Model Is Monopolistic

Amazon is the world’s largest bookseller, offering more than 2 million titles. In an effort to lower prices, the company has demanded additional discounts from distributors—which, as Colin Robinson points out, is illegal under anti-trust law that prevents companies from selling a product at different prices to different customers. The company has been accused of having a “monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.”

3.  Amazon Contributes to the Demise of Small, Independent Businesses

Amazon offers bestsellers at a loss in order to attract customers, a practice that has upended traditional publishing in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be this way, as Germany’s bookselling model illustrates.

4.  Amazon Collects Your Information

Amazon.com states that it is “not in the business of selling” customers’ private information—e.g., what you buy, what you review, how you browse—to other companies, but last year Amazon.com was embroiled in a class-action lawsuit (Del Vecchio et al. v. Amazon.com) for allegedly bypassing customers’ privacy settings. Others have raised concerns about Kindle Fire’s web browser, fearing it would allow the company “to track customer behavior all over the Web, gathering data and marketing intelligence as it goes,” according to the New York Times.

5.  Amazon Removed WikiLeaks from its Cloud Server

Under political pressure, Amazon removed WikiLeaks from its cloud server in 2010, prompting this question from Keir Thomas of PC World: “In an idyllic future where we make heavy use of the cloud, what happens if a cloud service provider removes content it deems inappropriate, or just doesn’t like?”

6.  Amazon Was a Long-time Member of ALEC

Amazon was late to pull out of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative, pro-business nonprofit that recently came under fire for helping spread voter-identification and “Stand Your Ground” laws. Amazon, which has fought state-level taxation, focused on tax laws in ALEC.

7.  Amazon Fights Unionization

When the Communications Workers of America launched a campaign to unionize Amazon’s customer-service representatives, the company argued that “unions actively foster distrust toward supervisors” and “create an uncooperative attitude among associates by leading them to think they are ‘untouchable’ with a union,” according to theNew York Times. To make matters worse, many Amazon employees are temporary workers who do not receive basic benefits like healthcare, and for whom forming a union is “virtually impossible.”

8.  Amazon Abuses Its Workers

Working conditions at Amazon.com warehouses can be brutal. Last fall, the Morning Callreported that employees were being “pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain” in warehouses where the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, causing workers to feel light-headed and pass out.

9.  Amazon Has Turned Searching Into Another Way To Collect Users’ Information

Amazon has made searching easier and more efficient, providing free information about books and, in some cases, permitting readers to “look inside” them. However, as Anthony Grafton explains in “Search Gets Lost,” the company has gradually cut back on its search capabilities, instead inviting the customer to provide information of every sort for Amazon to digest and profit from.

10.  Amazon Is Just Too Big

In 2011, Amazon’s $48 billion in revenue exceeded that of all six major publishing conglomerates combined. It now resembles an “online Walmart” rather than a bookseller, writes Steve Wasserman, and has begun to colonize movie, baby product and shoe retailer websites, as well as the high-end fashion industry. For more on Amazon’s outsized power, be sure to read all of the articles in this week’s special issue on the retail giant.

The Fog of War · Wikileaks

WikiLeaks cable: U.S. troops handcuffed, shot Iraqi children in raid

I must admit that when I read this story at around 8:00 am on the McClatchey site, I was hesitant about reporting it for various reasons which I won’t detail here.

I will not post the horrifying picture that accompanies the story on either McClatchey or The Raw Story.  One would have to click on the link to either site to witness the horrific graphic detail.

In every war this country has ever fought, there are a few soldiers, who for whatever reason, have sunken into the darkest depths of the so-called fog of war.

The Raw Story

According to a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, U.S. troops massacred an Iraqi family in the town of Ishaqi in 2006, handcuffing and then shooting 11 people in the head including a woman in her 70’s and five children ages five and under.

McClatchy is reporting that the soldiers then called in an air strike on the house to cover up evidence of the killings.

This account differs sharply from an official version of the 2006 incident, which indicated that coalition forces captured an al Qaeda in Iraq operative in the house, which was destroyed in a firefight. The WikiLeaks cable, however, corroborates accounts by Ishaqi townspeople and includes questions about the incident by Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The cable is dated twelve days after the incident, which took place March 15, 2006. In it, Alston says that autopsies performed in Tikrit on bodies pulled from the wreckage of the farmhouse indicated that all of the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head.

The victims included “at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha (aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.”

Here is the cable…