21 Jun 2014

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book

Earlier this week, Washington Post reporter Adam Goldman described a scuttled CIA plan to distribute demon-faced Osama bin Laden dolls to Pakistani children as part of an influence campaign. Today’s guests, Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, discuss their book on the golden age of CIA influence campaigns, The Zhivago Affair.

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13 Apr 2014

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance

Back in July 2012, long before Edward Snowden’s leaks heightened the general public’s concern about online privacy, then Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin set off on a picaresque quest to find some kind of online privacy. The chronicle of that quest, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Surveillance, serves as a kind of user’s guide for our new dragnet world.

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13 Apr 2014

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance

Back in July 2012, long before Edward Snowden’s leaks heightened the general public’s concern about online privacy, then Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin set off on a picaresque quest to find some kind of online privacy. The chronicle of that quest, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Surveillance, serves as a kind of users guide for our new dragnet world.

I decided, against all odds, to try to evade the dragnets. I would attempt to avoid being monitored during everyday activities such as reading and shopping. I would obscure my location–at home and while out and about. I would seal my e-mails and texts with the digital equivalent of hot wax. I would find ways to freely associate with people and ideas. I would try to find a way to protect my kids from building a digital trail that would haunt them later in their lives.

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12 Jan 2013

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Trevor Aaronson, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism

In the days before Thursday’s start to the trial for alleged Portland Christmas Tree bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud, pre-trial hearings revealed two new details. First, the government failed to reveal to the defense an effort to “pitch” Mohamud on October 27, 2009, 13 months before they arrested him in an FBI-created plot. This comes on top of earlier revelations about a key meeting the FBI failed to tape, another failure to reveal FBI contacts, and Abu Zubaydah’s brother’s claim that, as an FBI informant, he was asked to track the then-16 year old Mohamud as early as 2008.

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12 Jan 2013

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Trevor Aaronson, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism

In the days before Thursday’s start to the trial for alleged Portland Christmas Tree bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud, pre-trial hearings revealed two new details. First, the government failed to reveal to the defense an effort to “pitch” Mohamud on October 27, 2009, 13 months before they arrested him in an FBI-created plot. This comes on top of earlier revelations about a key meeting the FBI failed to tape, another failure to reveal FBI contacts, and Abu Zubaydah’s brother’s claim that, as an FBI informant, he was asked to track the then-16 year old Mohamud as early as 2008.

In addition, the defense revealed that,

… banter between FBI employees (when Mohamud was not present) includes comments about whether superiors at FBI headquarters will find the case “sexy enough”; mention of a possible book deal; and what [Mohamud’s lawyer] described as a gleeful statement that their suspect was “done for.”

The FBI’s efforts to hide its years-long cultivation of Mohamud as a “terrorist,” juxtaposed with its banter about looking for “sexy” cases to please FBI superiors, demonstrates the importance of Trevor Aaronson’s The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism.

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28 Jan 2012

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Nada Prouty, Uncompromised: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of an Arab American Patriot in the CIA

At one level, Prouty’s life story—before the FBI targeted a woman who had done so much for the Agency—reads like a classic, exceptional, immigrant success story. But so much of what the government used against her has been used on Muslims and other Arab-Americans without the means to fight back:

Secret evidence
National Security Letters
Threats of deportation (which in her case would have been lethal) and to family members
Border exception searches
Badly managed informants (in this case, Prouty’s own brother)
Trial in the public sphere

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28 Jan 2012

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Nada Prouty, Uncompromised: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of an Arab American Patriot in the CIA

In her memoir, Uncompromised: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of an Arab American Patriot in the CIA, Nada Prouty cites this passage from Malcom X’s Autobiography to describe her excitement as she felt herself adopting her new nationality:

Yes, one only truly becomes an American through a kind of conversion, and that conversion arises out of a desire to join in a common hunger for the rule of law, for equality for all, and for the benefits of cultural heterogeneity.

I found it a striking choice for an American immigrant to describe what it means to be American. Malcom X had such troubles achieving this American dream. But as it turned out, Prouty has had to fight to get America’s promised rule of law and equality, too.

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22 Oct 2011

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People

You can summarize the story of Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People with his assessment of the scams Iraqis pulled off with reconstruction dollars: “It wasn’t so much we were conned, it was as if we demanded to be cheated and would not take no for an answer.” The book describes what he saw of the various reconstruction efforts in Iraq, particularly his experience serving on a State Department Provisional Reconstruction Team in 2009.

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22 Oct 2011

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People

Host, Marcy Wheeler:

You can summarize the story of Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People with his assessment of the scams Iraqis: “It wasn’t so much we were conned, it was as if we demanded to be cheated and would not take no for an answer.” The book describes what he saw of the various reconstruction efforts in Iraq, You can summarize the story of Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People with his assessment of the scams Iraqis pulled off with reconstruction dollars: “It wasn’t so much we were conned, it was as if we demanded to be cheated and would not take no for an answer.” The book describes what he saw of the various reconstruction efforts in Iraq, particularly his experience serving on a State Department Provisional Reconstruction Team in 2009.

While the book catalogs the great variety of stupid projects we funded—including a chapter of the greatest hits—it’s also a book about the power structure of our imperial project in Iraq. Van Buren offers this taxonomy of the “tribes” in his Forward Operating Base in Iraq, from the soldiers driven to enlist for financial reasons, the three different shades of KBR contractors distinguished by their tasks and the size of their biceps, the Iraqi-Americans from Detroit hired though an Alaskan pass-through, and the Ugandans guarding the base, probably working for slave wages. And all that’s before you get to the Embassy, with its impossible green lawn and complete isolation from the rest of Iraq.

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15 Jul 2011

Thanks to FDL!

We’re still kicking around the tires a bit, but if you’d like to help us kick those tires, the new home for emptywheel is at emptywheel.net. As I’m leaving what has been home for the last three and a half years, I wanted to, first of all, wish Kevin Gosztola

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