Sieve #1 (June 19, 2017)

Sieve is a newsletter I am going to attempt to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday depending on the amount of interest it gets. It will consist of a series of news items, many of them under-covered by the mainstream press, on issues of interest to me and others on the left. It will also occasionally contain original research, analysis and links to official documents that I find while digging around. I do not plan on going into long-form pieces in this newsletter.

This first issue is available for free but most, if not all, later ones will be available to Patreon subscribers only. Subscriptions cost $1 per month.

Border agents raid humanitarian camp

Agents of the US Border Patrol launched an "unprecedented" raid on a humanitarian camp in the Arivaca, AZ border region established by the immigrant solidarity group No More Deaths. According to a press release issued by the organization "approximately 30 armed agents raided the camp with at least 15 trucks, two quads, and a helicopter to apprehend four patients receiving medical care." The heavy-handed action reflects an increasingly militaristic approach to immigration enforcement that was once pioneered by the Clinton administration, accelerated by Bush and Obama and now appears to be apexing under Trump. (Read more from me on this here).

Report: World Bank complicit in "land grabs" in Africa

A report by a group of watchdog NGOs released on May 1 has documented the financing of agricultural "land grabs" in Africa by the World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation (IFC). The study focuses on 11 IFC-funded projects that have "transferred approximately 700,000 hectares of land to foreign investors." The IFC is alleged to have been complicit in "forcible population transfer" in Ethiopia, rainforest-devastating palm plantations in Gabon and a Guinean gold mine that evicted 380 families.

Rural jails lobby for immigration detainees as revenue source

The Vera Institute of Justice has released a report that focuses on the role played by "small and rural county jails" in detaining large numbers of ICE detainees. It is apparent that many Sheriff's offices around the US see renting out jail space to outside agencies as an important source of revenue and it is not hard to see why this may create a nasty perverse incentive. "Between 1970 and 2013... small and rural counties increased the number of jail bed rentals by nearly 888 percent... customers include the Federal Marshals, Bureau of Prisons and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement."

Racist school discipline in New Orleans

Writing in The Progressive, organizer and student advocate Ashana Bigard writes about the racist disciplinary practices that are prevalent in New Orleans school system. She details cases of black students suspended, prevented from graduating and expelled for minor infractions. As it turns out, a principal at one of these schools "marched in support of keeping the confederate monuments in place in New Orleans. He waved a confederate flag, and flashed white supremacist regalia, for which he subsequently lost his job."

Union organizers on melon plantations under attack in Honduras

Fyffes, described as the "leading supplier of honeydew melons into the U.S. market," is accused of running plantations in Honduras that systemically violate labor rights and intimidate union organizers. On April 13, the secretary general of an agricultural union was attacked by four armed men who beat him, searched his phone, and slashed his face with a machete. In his words: "They knew exactly who I was. They knew I was in charge of the organizing movement on the plantations and if I continued my union work, I would face the consequences."

UAE accused of abduction and torture in Yemen

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands accused of operating a militia in Yemen that is kidnapping hundreds of men for alleged membership in Al Qaeda. Human rights activists claim that the militia is in charge of a secret prison at al Riyyan airport, located in the southeast of the country. Detainees are said to be held in metal shipping containers and subjected to brutal beatings and insults as part of a sadistic "welcoming ceremony." Satellite images examined by the UK Bureau of Investigative Journalism appear to confirm the existence of the secret prison. The UAE is a close ally of the US and there has long been reports of close collaboration between its forces and US forces in counterterrorism operations within Yemen.

State Department releases history of 1953 Iran coup

The US State Department's Office of the Historian has released its long-anticipated Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) publication on the US instigated coup against Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953. The publication is a collection of declassified government documents that includes "records describing planning and implementation of the covert operation." An earlier volume of FRUS released in 1989 asserted to be a history of the coup that conveniently did not make a solitary reference to US and UK complicity. This glaring omission led one historian to declare the volume a "fraud" and a New York Times editorial compared it to "'Hamlet' without the Prince of Denmark--or the ghost." The backlash to this release from the public and Congress lead the State Department Historian to attempt a fuller account of the coup. Stonewalling by elements within the State Department and the CIA, pressure from the UK government and concerns about preserving the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal have all played a role in delaying this publication.

Lawsuit filed to halt deportation of Chaldean Christians to Iraq

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit requesting a stay of removal for more than 100 Iraqi immigrants recently arrested in Detroit. The lawsuit asserts that "law abiding individuals who have been fully compliant with their conditions of supervision suddenly found themselves arrested and transferred several hours away to a detention center in Youngstown, Ohio." A great deal of the detainees are Chaldean Christians, and the suit claims that they would likely face "persecution or torture" if deported back to Iraq.

Make What You Will:

Recommended Reading:

Documents of Interest:


Sieve #2 (June 21, 2017)

Israeli defense industry caters to armed forces from all over the world

From June 6 to 8, the 8th Premier International Defense and HLS Exhibition (ISDEF) was held in Israel. According to its official site, the expo "brings together government and military officials, industry members, end users and decision makers from Israel and around the world." One celebratory report from a pro-Israel news source declared the event a great success with "15,000 visitors from over 90 countries" in attendance. Human rights activists questioned the presence of delegations from countries such as Central African Republic, Congo and Myanmar. As Haaretz noted, "some of the countries [with delegations present], such as Indonesia, for example, have no official diplomatic relations with Israel."

In related news, it has been revealed the "Defense Ministry approved 99.8 percent of requests from local manufacturers to export weapons over the past five years."

US security agenda in Mexico and Central America challenged

37 members of US Congress have sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to express concerns about plans to cooperate more closely with Mexico in security matters in its southern border region. As various advocacy groups have pointed out in their petition before the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Mexico and the US "create and condone an environment of hyper-violence and impunity in which upwards of 90 percent of Central American migrants are raped, robbed, or assaulted—often multiple times—and even murdered, as the price for seeking refuge" and also "systematically detain interdicted Central Americans for howsoever long as it may take to adjudicate asylum claims." Perhaps needless to say, this is not a trend that began under Trump's administration. In mid-2015, the Washington Office on Latin America asserted that Mexico was detaining more Central American immigrants than the US:

Between October 2014 and April 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol detained 70,448 "Other than Mexican" citizens at its border. The overwhelming majority of these were Central Americans, but we do not yet know exactly how many. During this same period, Mexican authorities detained 92,889 Central Americans in Mexico.

Also notable are the US State Department-funded efforts in post-coup Honduras to have US Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTAC) train Honduran police to interdict their own citizens traveling northwards.

Obama admin oversaw massive increase in US training of foreign militaries

A report from the Center for International Policy (CIP) details the "record highs" reached by the US' training of foreign military personnel in FY 2015. From FY 2014 to FY 2015, the number of trainees grew from 56,346 to 79,865. Countries that saw some of the greatest increases in trainees from FY 2014 to FY 2015 were Cameroon (84 to 2,028), Ukraine (176 to 720) and Georgia (441 to 1,481). Ukraine and Georgia are both considered close allies against Russian influence. The report expresses concern over the US being involved in training some "240 soldiers from Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Battalion, which Amnesty International has accused of systematic human rights violations."

Other Various Items:


Sieve #3 (June 30, 2017)

Fears of wider clash between US forces and Syrian government resurface

As the headline of a recent Washington Post article makes clear ("U.S. on collision course with Syria and Iran once de facto Islamic State capital falls"), there is much reason to worry that the US may start an all out assault on forces loyal to the Syrian government as ISIS' territory keeps shrinking. It is also the case that concerns about the spread of Iranian influence are increasingly motivating US actions in the country. 

While the nominal goal of the US and its allies in Syria remain the fight against ISIS, US officials talking to the Washington Post have asserted that countering pro-Assad forces is necessary for the long term goal of "progress toward a political settlement in the long-separate rebel war against Assad, intended to stabilize the country by limiting his control and eventually driving him from power." With this, it is clear that regime change remains an intrinsic part of the agenda.

Another piece in Foreign Policy covers the dispute within the White House and the US national security establishment over the wisdom of confronting Assad and his allies. Two officials in the National Security Councils are cited as being particularly hawkish on Iran. One of them, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the "the senior director for intelligence" on the NSC was reported by the New York Times as telling "other administration officials that he wants to use American spies to help oust the Iranian government." Derek Harvey, "the NSC's top Middle East advisor," is also named as desiring a more aggressive stance against pro-Assad forces in southern Syria. 

Court case may further expose collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland

Gary Haggarty is a former leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force who has pled guilty to "more than 200 terrorist crimes ... including five murders" that took place between 1991 and 2007. He was a paid informant for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) at the time many of these crimes were committed. The specific branch of the RUC Haggarty reported to was notorious for allowing certain loyalist informants to continue committing crimes and made no effort to prevent them.

In 2007, the province's police ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, reported that many retired Special Branch officers had refused to assist her inquiry into allegations of collusion, or had provided false or misleading information. Important evidence, including logs and witness statements, was missing from official police files, she said. And she identified cases in which police informants who were arrested in connection with terrorist crimes were interrogated in ways that ensured they would not be prosecuted.

It is hoped that Haggarty's testimony in exchange for sentence reductions could be used to prosecute ex-RUC officers for collusion with paramilitaries.

Provisions in police union contracts hamper accountability

An important investigative piece in In These Times focuses on labor negotiations between the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the city of Chicago. A coalition of reform groups have so far identified 14 provisions in the current contract that make it harder to investigative misconduct and brutality:

One such provision allows police officers to wait 24 hours to give a statement after shooting someone. Another prohibits anonymous complaints against officers. [...] A January Reuters investigation examined contracts in 82 cities and found a pattern of protections that create hurdles for citizens in reporting police abuse. Most contracts require destruction of police disciplinary records after a certain period. Nearly half allow officers to view the evidence against them before being questioned about alleged misconduct. Chicago’s FOP contract contains both of these provisions.

The article further goes into a great detail about specific cases in which abusive officers have repeatedly violated the rights of Chicago's residents and cost the city millions in litigation and legal settlement costs but are rarely disciplined in any meaningful way.

Make What You Will:


Sieve #4 (July 8, 2017)

Right-wing New Zealander runs comprehensive online blacklist of left activists

If you've browsed or searched for anything relating to left-wing activism, you may have encountered a site called It bills itself as a "bipartisan knowledge base focusing primarily on corruption and the covert side of politics in the United States and globally." In reality, the site is nothing but a modern-day blacklist of left-wing activists with a disturbing amount of its information gleaned from private Facebook groups. While many of its 80,000+ entries are nothing but stubs based on names found in petitions or subscription lists, an increasingly large amount of its pages boast comprehensive details about associations and occasional information about family members.

Needless to say, the prominent display of numerous activists' online trail neatly listed under their real name on a publicly accessible wiki is a cause for concern. The site can be seen as extension of private right-wing surveillance and blacklisting groups established after the fall from grace of Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), such as the Western Goals Foundation and the Church League of America. Indeed, many of the source notes on KeyWiki refer back to a defunct publication known as Information Digest, run by private spy and Congressional aide John Rees and which counted numerous law enforcement agencies among its subscribers. It is clear that whoever is compiling this wiki has access to a large archive of right-wing sources on the left that goes back at least half a century.

The webmaster is a self-proclaimed "libertarian" from New Zealand named Trevor Loudon. It is intriguing to note that someone with the identical full name is listed as a representative for the Sugar Industry Central Board in apartheid-era South Africa. It could be someone with the same name, it could be someone related to him or it could be him. Either way, Loudon has an apparent interest in demonizing Nelson Mandela and KeyWiki approvingly links to a blog that accuses the ANC of being "black-nationalist" and "racist." Is something more personal going on here?

French president proposes permanent clampdown on civil liberties in name of anti-terrorism

President of France, Emmanuel Macron, recently proposed a draft law that would "wind down" the state of emergency imposed on the country by making many of its powers permanent. Such powers include the ability to temporarily close mosques for purported extremism, less judicial oversight for searches and raids and an increased authority to ban public demonstrations. The proposal has provoked outrage from civil liberties and Muslim groups, who point out that France has already conducted 4,000 searches and put 400 people under house arrest under the current state of emergency imposed in November 2005 (WaPo, June 22). Amnesty International has also documented the rejection of some "150 petitions for public protests in recent months" (France24, June 9).

Ex-CIA contractor arrested for murder in Pakistan credits country's leaders for current freedom

Ex-CIA contractor Raymond Allen Davis has asserted that high-ranking officials in Pakistan aided him in getting out of the country after he shot on killed two men riding a motorcycle in Lahore on January 27, 2011. Davis was initially arrested and charged with double murder as Pakistan denied that diplomatic immunity applied to him (he was posted to the US consulate in Lahore at the time). Davis was released that March when the families of the victims showed up in court to "forgive" him, very likely as a pro-quid-quo for the $2.4 million in compensation they received.

Davis claims in his recently published book that those who served as Pakistan's president, prime minister, and head of the Inter-Services Intelligence at the time all played a role in springing him from detention by "using an antiquated sharia law, which permits the release of a wrongdoer by the relatives of a victim, if sufficient money is given to them." Even more shocking are his claims that the $2.4 million was given by Pakistan instead of the US and that they were coerced into accepting it (IntelNews, July 4).

Random Historical Items: