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Post-Snowden, Emmerson Tells ICP of “Conceptual Censorship,” Foreign Fighters Q

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 23 -- When UN human rights rapporteur Ben Emmerson held a press conference on his report on mass surveillance on October 23, Inner City Press asked him to review the Obama administration's and its Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board's response to the spying revelations by Edward Snowden and others, and if any dangers are posed by the “foreign fighters” resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in September. (The latter question was not answered.)

  Emmerson began diplomatically, calling the PCLOB's reports “worth reading,” but then said that the debate and proposal legislation is confined to the “detailed fringes.” He said the key question is whether the right to privacy simply will not apply to the means of communications most in use today, given government's appetite for surveillance.Video here and embedded below.

  He said as long as governments -- like that of the United States -- won't disclose their surveillance programs, the debate is subject to “conceptual censorship.”

  The UN set aside the first question for the old UN Correspondents Association, which asked a softball question leading Emmerson to reply, “read the report.” (It has been online for some time, here.)

 The new Free UN Coalition for Access objects to set-asides, and to UNCA's function as the UN's Censorship Alliance, having tried to order Inner City Press to remove factual articles from the Internet, and then getting Google to block from its search leaked copies of anti-Press complaints filed with the UN, here. We'll have more on this.

First Look's "The Intercept" has revealed that the US National Security Agency and FBI spied on at least five Americans, all Muslims, and used place-holder code names like "Raghead," click here for that.

   Those spied on included a Republican candidate for the Virginia legislature, Faisal Gill; Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor; lawyer Asim Ghafoor; Nihad Awad of CAIR; and "Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights."

 It's shameful, but who can stand up to the United States?

  The United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has already said he thinks Snowden "misused" information, as Inner City Press reported here.

  Back on March 14 when the US delegation to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva took the floor, it was a full court press. Of the elephant in the room, NSA spying, the speaker from the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice used a single line: DOJ is "monitoring" a number of private actions. You don't say.

  The head of the US delegation, Mary McLeod, said but did not explain why the US Administration has "no current expectation to become a party to the optional protocol" to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- which the US says does not apply to its actions outside of its borders.

The session closed with a slew of questions: Walter Kalin asked why the US deports people to Haiti even amid the cholera epidemic -- for which, Inner City Press notes, the US has said the UN should be immune.

  The US repeated that argument on July 7, which Inner City Press has covered here. Watch this site.


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