A guide to Russia’s high tech tool box for subverting U.S. democracy

Garrett M Graff writes: A dead dog in Moscow. A dead dissident in London. Twitter trolls run by the Kremlin’s Internet Research Agency. Denial of service attacks and ransomware deployed across Ukraine. News reports from the DC offices of Sputnik and RT. Spies hidden in the heart of Wall Street. The hacking of John Podesta’s creamy risotto recipe. And a century-old fabricated staple of anti-Semitic hate literature.

At first glance these disparate phenomena might seem only vaguely connected. Sure, they can all be traced back to Russia. But is there any method to their badness? The definitive answer, according to Russia experts inside and outside the US government, is most certainly yes. In fact, they are part of an increasingly digital intelligence playbook known as “active measures,” a wide-ranging set of techniques and strategies that Russian military and intelligence services deploy to influence the affairs of nations across the globe.

As the investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election—and the Trump campaign’s potential participation in that effort—has intensified this summer, the Putin regime’s systematic effort to undermine and destabilize democracies has become the subject of urgent focus in the West. According to interviews with more than a dozen US and European intelligence officials and diplomats, Russian active measures represent perhaps the biggest challenge to the Western order since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The consensus: Vladimir Putin, playing a poor hand economically and demographically at home, is seeking to destabilize the multilateral institutions, partnerships, and Western democracies that have kept the peace during the past seven decades.

The coordinated and multifaceted Russia efforts in the 2016 election—from the attacks on the DNC and John Podesta’s email to a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. that bears all the hallmarks of an intelligence mission—likely involved every major Russian intelligence service: the foreign intelligence service (known as the SVR) as well as the state security service (the FSB, the successor to the KGB), and the military intelligence (the GRU), both of which separately penetrated servers at the DNC.

Understanding just how extensive and coordinated Russia’s operations against the West are represents the first step in confronting—and defeating—Putin’s increased aggression, particularly as it becomes clear that the 2016 election interference was just a starting point. “If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it,” former director of national intelligence James Clapper said this spring. “I hope the American people recognize the severity of this threat and that we collectively counter it before it further erodes the fabric of our democracy.”

Indeed, Western intelligence leaders have warned throughout the spring that they expect Russia to use similar tricks in German parliamentary election this fall, as well as in the 2018 US congressional midterms and the 2020 presidential race. “Russia is not constrained by a rule of law or a sense of ethics—same with ISIS, same with China,” says Chris Donnelly, director of the UK-based Institute for Statecraft. “They’re trying to change the rules of the game, which they’ve seen us set in our favor.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Poll: Half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it

Ariel Malka and Yphtach Lelkes write: Critics of President Trump have repeatedly warned of his potential to undermine American democracy. Among the concerns are his repeated assertions that he would have won the popular vote had 3 to 5 million “illegals” not voted in the 2016 election, a claim echoed by the head of a White House advisory committee on voter fraud.

Claims of large-scale voter fraud are not true, but that has not stopped a substantial number of Republicans from believing them. But how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Democracy as contained conflict

Saul Frampton writes: The fall of Mycenaean power, the intervening Dark Ages, and the dawn of a new civilisation during the ‘Greek miracle’ of the Archaic period is one of the most fascinating stories in ancient history. After the collapse of the Mycenaean palace system around 1100 BCE, Greece experienced centuries of social and economic devastation. Pylos, Mycenae and Thebes were abandoned and burned to the ground. A dwindling population was attacked by invaders from the north and from the sea. What remained of Bronze Age culture was according to one historian ‘very little’, and ‘that little then dwindled away to almost nothing’. Writing at the end of the period, the 8th-century poet Hesiod described the degeneration of the human race, from glittering Bronze Age heroes, down to his own violent ‘Age of Iron’. He looked into the near future and saw children born grey, families at war with themselves, and society self-destructing. He concluded miserably: ‘I wish that I … had either died sooner or been born later.’

But it was at this moment that a new vision of society began to emerge. As the classical scholar Gilbert Murray put it in 1907 : ‘There is a far-off island of knowledge, or apparent knowledge; then darkness; then the beginnings of continuous history.’ The archaic period (800-480 BCE) represents the start of this history, when ‘darkness gives way to dawn’, according to the archaeologist J N Coldstream. And at its heart is the birthplace of the Western intellectual and political tradition: the polis or Greek city-state.

A polis was a self-governing city or town and its surrounding territory. In terms of size, it wasn’t necessarily big: Aristotle said that all the citizens of a polis (i.e, men) should be able to be assembled by the voice of a single herald. Plato gave an ideal citizenry of 5,040. Some poleis were smaller, but few were much larger. A typical city-state such as Plataea in Boeotia had a total population of fewer than 10,000. But from its modest beginnings, the idea of the polis soon spread. At the highpoint of Greek civilisation (c400 BCE), around 1,000 had migrated across the shores of the Mediterranean – as Plato put it: ‘like frogs around a pond’.

Given these geographic variations, many chose to define the polis anthropologically. ‘Not well-built walls, nor canals and dockyards make the polis: but men do,’ said Alcaeus of Lesbos. In Thucydides, the Athenian general Nikias states that: ‘It is men that make the polis, not walls or ships.’ Aristotle defined man as politikon zoon, a political animal: he ‘whose nature is to live in a polis’. At its heart was a conception of government for the people, by the people: of normative rules and collective decision-making. For the writers and philosophers of 5th-century Athens, this culminated in an ability to step back, not only from politics but from life itself, and subject it to something like objective scrutiny.

But the reasons for the success of the Greek city-state still remain unclear. Did it result from an expanding population or the group-think of the armoured hoplite phalanx? Were improvements in trade crucial, or was it the rise of sophisticated urban elites? Was it maintained by abstract ideals of democracy (demokratia), freedom (eleutheria) and free speech (parrhesia)? Or was the rise of the polis somehow the astonishing aftereffect of the simple act of drawing a line? [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Putin critic Alexei Navalny thinks there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll be killed

CBS News reports: Russia’s main opposition figure thinks there’s a 50 percent chance he will end up dead for speaking out against President Vladimir Putin, a fate that has befallen many of the Kremlin’s enemies in recent years.

Alexei Navalny, 41, is Russia’s most outspoken critic of the Putin regime, and is campaigning to challenge Putin in Russia’s presidential election in 2018, even though he is officially barred from the ballot.

Correspondent Ryan Chilcote spent a week with Navalny for the second episode of “CBSN: On Assignment,” ahead of mass protests in June against government corruption. Thousands of young people took to the streets in cities across Russia, with protesters marching through Moscow carrying signs that read “Navalny 2018” and chanting “Putin is a crook.” More than 1,000 people were arrested, including Navalny, who spent 25 days in jail.

A lawyer by training, Navalny has been convicted three times over the past five years as his anti-corruption campaign has attracted the wrath of the Kremlin. Both he and his brother Oleg were convicted of embezzlement in 2014 and sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

After widespread protests against the conviction, Alexei’s sentence was suspended. Oleg, however, remains in prison.

Alexei said he “absolutely” feels responsible for Oleg’s prison sentence, saying the Kremlin targeted Oleg to punish Alexei for speaking out against the regime. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Democracy is dying – and it’s startling how few people are worried

Paul Mason writes: A rough inventory of July’s contribution to the global collapse of democracy would include Turkey’s show trial of leading journalists from Cumhuriyet, a major newspaper; Vladimir Putin’s ban on the virtual private networks used by democracy activists to evade censorship; Apple’s decision to pull the selfsame technology from its Chinese app store.

Then there is Hungary’s government-funded poster campaign depicting opposition parties and NGOs as puppets of Jewish billionaire George Soros; Poland’s evisceration of judicial independence and the presidential veto that stopped it. Plus Venezuela’s constituent assembly poll, boycotted by more than half the population amid incipient civil war.

Overshadowing all this is a three-cornered US constitutional face-off between Trump (accused of links with Russia), his attorney general (who barred himself from investigating the Russian links) and the special prosecutor who is investigating Trump, whom Trump is trying to sack.

Let’s be brutal: democracy is dying. And the most startling thing is how few ordinary people are worried about it. Instead we compartmentalise the problem. Americans worried about the present situation typically worry about Trump – not the pliability of the most fetishised constitution in the world to kleptocratic rule. EU politicians express polite diplomatic displeasure, as Erdoğan’s AK party machine attempts to degrade their own democracies. As in the early 1930s, the death of democracy always seems to be happening somewhere else. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The past week proves that Trump is destroying our democracy

Yascha Mounk writes: America is on its way to a full-blown constitutional crisis.

Over just a few days last week, President Trump and his allies stepped up attacks on Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the campaign’s connections to Russia. They tried to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of office. They thought out loud about whether the president can pardon himself.

This all points to the same conclusion: Mr. Trump is willing to deal a major blow to the rule of law — and the American Republic — in order to end an independent investigation into his Russia ties.

It is tempting to picture the demise of democracy as a Manichaean drama in which the stakes are clear from the start and the main actors fully understand their roles: Would-be dictators rail against democracy, hire violent thugs to do their bidding and vow to destroy the opposition. When they demand expanded powers or attack independent institutions, their supporters and opponents alike realize that authoritarianism has arrived.

There have, in fact, been a few times and places when the villains were quite as villainous, and the heroes quite as heroic. (Think Germany in the 1930s.) But in most cases, the demise of democracy has been far more gradual and far easier to overlook.

In their first years in office, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Viktor Orban in Hungary claimed that they wanted to fix, rather than cripple, democratic institutions. Even as it became clear that these strongmen sought to consolidate power, most of their opponents told themselves that they were saving their courage for the right moment. By the time the full extent of the danger had become incontrovertible, it was too late to mount an effective resistance.

In some ways, the United States seems far from such a situation today. The Trump administration, after all, appears weak: It is relatively unpopular, mired in scandal and divided by infighting — Anthony Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure is just the latest example. And it faces determined opposition from courts, the news media, state and local governments and ordinary citizens. If Mr. Trump’s presidency ends in humiliation, future generations may well conclude that it was bound to fail all along.

But in other respects the United States is already well on the way to what I have, in my academic work, called “democratic deconsolidation.” Mr. Trump is increasingly emulating the playbook of popularly elected strongmen who have done deep, lasting damage to their countries’ democratic institutions. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Sally Yates: Protect the Justice Department from President Trump

Sally Yates, a deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, writes: The spectacle of President Trump’s efforts to humiliate the attorney general into resigning has transfixed the country. But while we are busy staring at the wreckage of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ relationship with the man he supported for the presidency, there is something more insidious happening.

The president is attempting to dismantle the rule of law, destroy the time-honored independence of the Justice Department, and undermine the career men and women who are devoted to seeking justice day in and day out, regardless of which political party is in power.

If we are not careful, when we wake up from the Trump presidency, our justice system may be broken beyond recognition.

Over the past few days, many people from both parties have rightly expressed their dismay at how President Trump has publicly lambasted the attorney general, noting the president’s lack of loyalty to a man who has been consistently loyal to him.

And while this is indeed true, it misses the larger and more dangerous consequences of the president’s actions.

President Trump claims that it is very “unfair” that Mr. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, a recusal indisputably necessary given Mr. Sessions’ role in the campaign that is now under investigation. At its core, the president’s complaint is that he doesn’t have a political ally at the Justice Department to protect him from the Russia investigation. And he is apparently trying to bully Mr. Sessions into resigning so that he can put someone in place who will. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Poles fought the nationalist government with mass protests — and won

Anne Applebaum writes: If an illiberal government — democratically elected, but determined to change the rules — tries to do something unconstitutional, what can the public do? What can the political opposition do? This is a dilemma we now know from several countries — Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and possibly soon Greece. The prospects are pretty gloomy, as I’ve argued before, for those who want to stay within the bounds of the law.

One partial answer is peaceful street demonstrations, though that is a frustrating path. Most people don’t have time to stand in a crowd every day or every evening; the chants and speeches can be repetitive; and, more to the point, the government has no obligation to listen. The effort can seem pointless, and it often is — unless it can move the hearts and minds of the leaders of the ruling party. In Poland, over the past week, that’s exactly what just happened. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Poland’s president will veto a controversial law that critics said would weaken democracy

BuzzFeed reports: In a surprise move, and following intense public outcry, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday morning announced he would veto a controversial law taking power away from the country’s Supreme Court and placing it in the hands of the ruling right-wing party. Many saw the law as a step away from democracy.

Under the law, all current Supreme Court justices — there are over 80 — would be required to resign.

A minister from the government — currently the Law and Justice Party, a right-wing populist party that has ruled since 2015 — would then have handpicked new justices. The government would also have power to remove justices.

Prior to the announcement of Duda’s veto, thousands of Poles took to the streets and protested outside of courthouses against the law, which they decried as draconian, with an estimated 50,000 attending a protest in the capital, Warsaw, on Thursday.

Protesters also gathered this week outside the presidential palace, begging Duda to carry out a veto. The demonstrations continued over the weekend, with huge crowds in the streets of Warsaw on Sunday evening. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

‘Letting go of every principle’: Tunisia’s democratic gains under threat

Monica Marks writes: It has been a dangerous week for Tunisia’s fragile democracy. Two retrogressive bills appear likely to pass parliament, possibly within days. The first would effectively give an to amnesty public officials who committed crimes in pre-revolutionary Tunisia. The second would grant corrupt security forces more leeway to violate human rights.

Both bills undermine the quest for dignity and justice embodied in Tunisia’s 2010-11 revolution
Both bills undermine the quest for dignity and justice embodied in Tunisia’s 2010-11 revolution. They will almost surely become law within days or weeks unless Tunisian civil society and international actors, most importantly the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), manage to convince the government to reverse course.

Tunisia has debated both pieces of legislation since 2015. That spring, newly elected President Beji Caid Essebsi, who insisted Tunisia must focus on future development rather than on past abuses, proposed the first bill. Called the Reconciliation Law, it initially offered amnesty to two groups: corrupt businesspeople and public officials.

Defenders of the law touted its supposed economic benefits. Lifting the threat of prosecution, they said, would encourage investment in Tunisia’s cash-strapped economy. They also argued that the law did not give an amnesty to the corrupt, since it promised that guilty parties would be required to repay ill-gotten gains.

The Reconciliation Law faced immediate opposition from civil society as well as international legal experts. They argued that the law lacked independent enforcement mechanisms and would undermine the work of the Truth and Dignity Commission, a constitutionally supported body that is pursuing transitional justice against state abuses, including financial crimes. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Jaroslaw Kaczynski is driving Poland away from European democracy

Der Spiegel reports: The nucleus of Poland’s political power lies not in the parliament in Warsaw, not in the presidential palace, but in a windowless, slightly strange looking building that most resembles a multistory car park. It’s not quite part of Warsaw’s city center, although downtown’s many new glass and steel skyscrapers are still just in sight.

Every day, an official car picks up Jaroslaw Kaczynski from his apartment in the Zoliborz neighborhood and brings him to this office block at 84-86 Nowogrodzka. The building houses a sushi restaurant, a copy shop and an insurance company — and the headquarters of Kaczynski’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Its chairman uses a separate entrance. In the mornings, a team of young staff members supplies him with books, newspapers and printouts. All in Polish, because Kaczynski only reads Polish sources. At midday, a procession of black limos starts arriving, delivering ministers — and occasionally the president of the Polish National Bank — to the Nowogrodzka office to pick up directives and seek advice.

Despite holding no formal government office, Kaczynski is Warsaw’s undisputed leader. Together with his late twin brother, Lech, he founded the PiS party in 2001 and twice led it to victory. In 2015, he hand-picked its presidential candidate Andrzej Duda, at the time an unknown member of the European Parliament, who went on to win the vote. He also personally selected current Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. Both politicians are widely seen as Kaczynski’s willing stooges. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

This is why Polish people are protesting to defend their democracy

BuzzFeed reports: Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets on Thursday to protest a law that subordinates the country’s Supreme Court to Poland’s nationalist ruling party. An estimated 50,000 people came out to protest the law in the capital Warsaw alone, with tens of thousands more joining in other cities and smaller towns across the country.

Despite growing protests at home and warnings from the EU, the lower house of the Polish parliament passed a bill strengthening the grip of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) over the judiciary. Under the new law, all current judges on the Supreme Court will be dismissed and the justice minister will appoint new ones.

The bill still has to be passed by the upper house of the Polish parliament, the Senate, and signed into effect by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

In a last desperate attempt to block what they see as the end of democracy in the country, the opposition called on protesters to gather outside the presidential palace in Warsaw demanding that Duda veto the law. Poles also brought candles to local courthouses and chanted “Free Courts!” across the country. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

I’m a scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration

Joel Clement writes: I am not a member of the deep state. I am not big government.

I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, as of today, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science.

Nearly seven years ago, I came to work for the Interior Department, where, among other things, I’ve helped endangered communities in Alaska prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. But on June 15, I was one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments. Citing a need to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,” the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.

I am not an accountant — but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up. A few days after my reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that the department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees; the only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers. Some of my colleagues are being relocated across the country, at taxpayer expense, to serve in equally ill-fitting jobs.

I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities. During the months preceding my reassignment, I raised the issue with White House officials, senior Interior officials and the international community, most recently at a U.N. conference in June. It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

White House releases sensitive personal information of voters who expressed concern about threats to their privacy

Christopher Ingraham writes: The White House on Thursday made public a trove of emails it received from voters offering comment on its Election Integrity Commission. The commission drew widespread criticism when it emerged into public view by asking for personal information, including addresses, partial social security numbers and party affiliation, on every voter in the country.

It further outraged voters by planning to post that information publicly.

Voters directed that outrage toward the Trump White House and the voter commission, often using profanity-laced language in the 112 pages of emails released this week.

“You will open up the entire voting population to a massive amount of fraud if this data is in any way released,” one voter wrote.

“Many people will get their identity stolen, which will harm the economy,” wrote another.

“I respectfully request, as an American-born citizen legally eligible to vote for two decades, that you leave my voter data and history alone, do not publish it, and do nothing with it,” said another.

Unfortunately for these voters and others who wrote in, the Trump administration did not redact any of their personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public. In some cases, the emails contain not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment of people worried about such information being made available to the public. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Russia’s global anti-libertarian crusade

Cathy Young writes: One of the surreal twists of the past year in American politics has been the rapid realignment in attitudes toward Russia. Democrats, many of whom believe that Russian interference was key to Donald Trump’s unexpected victory last November, are now the ones sounding the alarm about the Russian threat. Meanwhile, quite a few Republicans—previously the keepers of the anti-Kremlin Cold War flame—have taken to praising President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and Moscow as an ally against radical Islam. A CNN/ORC poll in late April found that 56 percent of Republicans see Russia as either “friendly” or “an ally,” up from 14 percent in 2014. Over the same period, Putin’s favorable rating from Republicans in the Economist/YouGov poll went from 10 percent to a startling 37 percent.

The dominant narrative in the U.S. foreign policy establishment and mainstream media casts Putin as the implacable enemy of the Western liberal order—an autocratic leader at home who wants to weaken democracy abroad, using information warfare and covert activities to subvert liberal values and to promote Russia-friendly politicians and movements around the world.

In this narrative, President Donald Trump is like the French nationalist Marine Le Pen, whose failed presidential campaign this year relied heavily on loans from Russian banks with Kremlin ties: a witting or unwitting instrument of subversion, useful to Putin either as an ideological ally or as an incompetent who will strengthen Russia’s hand by destabilizing American democracy.

At its extremes, the Russian subversion narrative relies on a great deal of conspiratorial thinking. It also far too easily absolves the Western political establishment of responsibility for its failures, from the defeat of European Union supporters in England’s Brexit vote to Hillary Clinton’s loss in last November’s election. Putin makes a convenient boogeyman.

Nonetheless, there is a real Russian effort to counter American—plus NATO and E.U.—influence by supporting authoritarian nationalist movements and groups, such as Le Pen’s National Front, Hungary’s quasi-fascist Jobbik Party, and Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. Today’s Russia is no longer just a moderately authoritarian corrupt regime trying to maintain its regional influence. Cloaked in the mantle of religious and nationalist values, the Kremlin positions itself as a defender of tradition and sovereignty against the godless progressivism and the migrant hordes overtaking the West. It has a global propaganda machine and a network of political operatives dedicated to cultivating far-right and sometimes far-left groups in Europe and elsewhere.

Tom Palmer, vice president for international programs at the Atlas Network, has been actively involved in projects promoting liberty in ex-Communist countries since the late 1980s; he has taken to warning against a new “global anti-libertarianism.” Writing for the Cato Policy Report last December, Palmer noted that “Putin, the pioneer in the trend toward authoritarianism, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into promoting anti-libertarian populism across Europe and through a sophisticated global media empire, including RT and Sputnik News, as well as a network of internet troll factories and numerous made-to-order websites.”

Slawomir Sierakowski of Warsaw’s Institute for Advanced Study and Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute have also warned about the rise of an “Illiberal International” in which Russia plays a key role.

Of course, for many libertarians, the post–Cold War international order that Putin seeks to undo is itself of dubious value. For one thing, that order is based on America’s role as GloboCop, which isn’t very compatible with small government. For another, it enforces its own “progressive” brand of soft authoritarianism, from over-regulation of markets to restrictions on “hate speech” and other undesirable expression. Yet for all the valid criticisms of the Western liberal establishment and its foreign and domestic policies, there is little doubt that the ascendancy of hardcore far-right or far-left authoritarianism would lead to a less freedom-friendly world. And there is little doubt that right now, Russia is a driving force in this ascendancy. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Liu Xiaobo’s fate reflects fading pressure on China over human rights

The New York Times reports: Liu Xiaobo, China’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, catapulted to fame in 1989, when the Communist Party’s violent crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square created an international uproar.

Now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Liu has died of cancer while in state custody, a bedridden and silenced example of Western governments’ inability, or reluctance, to push back against China’s resurgent authoritarians.

Mr. Liu’s fate reflects how human rights issues have receded in Western diplomacy with China. And it shows how Chinese Communist Party leaders, running a strong state bristling with security powers, can disdain foreign pleas, even for a man near death.

“It’s certainly become more difficult,” said John Kamm, an American businessman and founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, who for decades has quietly lobbied China to free or improve the treatment of political prisoners. He said his attempts to win approval for Mr. Liu to leave China for treatment, as Mr. Liu and his wife requested, got nowhere.

“I tried my best. I did everything I could,” he said before Mr. Liu died. “Things are pretty difficult right now. It’s hard for me to get the kinds of responses I need.” [Continue reading…]

Nicholas Kristof writes: The Mandela of our age is dead, and Liu Xiaobo will at least now find peace after decades of suffering outrageous mistreatment by the Chinese authorities.

Liu, 61, is the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since the Nazi era, and his death is an indictment of China’s brutal treatment of one of the great figures of modern times.

Even as Liu was dying of cancer, China refused to allow Liu to travel for treatment that might have saved his life. In a move that felt crass and disgusting, the Chinese authorities filmed the dying Liu without his consent to make propaganda films falsely depicting merciful treatment of him.

In the coming weeks, China will probably try to dispose of Liu’s remains in a way that will prevent his grave from becoming a democratic pilgrimage spot. The authorities no doubt will attempt to bully and threaten Liu’s brave widow, Liu Xia, and perhaps confine her indefinitely under house arrest to keep her silent.

Will Western leaders speak up for her? I fear not, any more than they forcefully spoke up for Liu Xiaobo himself. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Voter access, not voter fraud, is a pressing national security issue

Jake Laperruque writes: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — a body set up by President Donald Trump to investigate “the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections,” including vulnerabilities that could lead to voter fraud — is widely seen as perpetuating the myth of mass fraud in the 2016 election in order to facilitate voter intimidation and suppression, including selectively purging voter rolls.

Of the fifty states to receive a request for voter roll data from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his role as vice chair of the commission, 44 (and the District of Columbia) have already either totally or partly refused to comply. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann went as far as to declare, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” and in his position as Secretary of State of Kansas, Kobach was legally bound to refuse his own request to himself.

But our nation needs more than a vociferous rejection of Kobach’s efforts. We need to put civics before partisanship and promote proactive policies to ensure accessibility and ease of voting, and the stakes for doing so are higher than ever. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail