June 4, 2023

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A US senator this afternoon urged Attorney General Bill Barr to provide an account of how surveillance technology has been deployed against Americans during protests over the death of George Floyd.

Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat, told Barr that peaceful protesters “should not be subject to invasive surveillance” and asked whether the Department of Justice had authorized the use of facial recognition, unmanned aircraft, or cellphone tracking technology in connection with the rallies, Reuters writes.

Ed Markey at a Black Lives Matter protest in Boston.
Ed Markey at a Black Lives Matter protest in Boston. Photograph: Allison Dinner/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Concerns have risen amid sightings of drones and other surveillance aircraft deployed over American cities and reports about government plans to spy on protesters. A recent BuzzFeed News report said the Drug Enforcement Agency had been authorized to conduct “covert surveillance” at the gatherings. The news has intensified a backlash against the surveillance of protesters and surveillance technology in general.

On Tuesday, 35 members of Congress issued a letter to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, describing urban drone flights as a “vast overreach of federal government surveillance” and demanding that officials “cease surveilling peaceful protests immediately and permanently.”

Companies that make and market the technology have also come under pressure from Congress. IBM lawmakers Monday it “no longer offers general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software.” Amazon said it was imposing a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition software, dubbed Rekognition.

In a separate statement on Thursday, Markey said he was not satisfied by Amazon’s move. “Pressing pause on the use of this technology by law enforcement is a positive step, but what Amazon should really do is a complete about-face and get out of the business of dangerous surveillance altogether,” he said.

Judges at the International Crimnal Court gave the green light in March to an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, and began an investigation into crimes by Israeli and Palestinian forces in December. In his remarks, secretary of state Mike Pompeo made clear the newly announced US sanctions against the ICC were also aimed at defending Israel.

David Bosco, an associate professor at Indiana University who wrote a book on the court, “Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics,” sent this comment on the Trump measures against the ICC: “I think this is as much directed at the looming Palestine situation as it is at the Afghanistan investigation. The executive order clearly allows for sanctions against ICC personnel who investigate US allies who have not consented to the court’s jurisdiction.

“The actual effect on the court’s Afghanistan investigation will probably not be significant. That investigation faces many logistical and evidentiary obstacles already and will take years to complete.”

The ICC was set up in 2002, as an attempt to extend the effort to impose international humanitarian law for war crimes and crimes against humanity begun by the war crimes tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Over 120 countries, including Washington’s closest allies in Europe, are party to the Rome Statute, the founding document of the ICC.

Bill Clinton signed for the US in 2000, but said the statute would not be sent to the Senate for ratification until the US had assessed the court’s operations. George W Bush informed the UN in 2002 that the US would not join the court.

The Trump administration is launching an economic and legal offensive on the International Criminal Court in response to the court’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes carried out by all sides, including the US, in Afghanistan.

The US will not just sanction ICC officials involved in the investigation of alleged war crimes by the US and its allies such as Israel, the administration declared it was launching a counter-investigation into the ICC for alleged corruption.

The secretary of state Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, defence secretary Mark Esper and attorney general William Barr gave a presentation of the decision at the state department, but then left without taking questions.

Barr made clear that this was the beginning of a sustained campaign against the ICC, and that Thursday’s measures were just an “important first step in holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its mandate and violating the sovereignty of the United States”.

“The US government has reason to doubt the honesty of the ICC, the Department of Justice has received substantial credible information that raises serious concerns about long history of financial corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of the office of the prosecutor,” Barr said.

Various measures of support for the Black Lives Matter movement were agreed upon at Thursday’s meeting for the restarted Premier League.

A minute’s silence will also be held before each match in the first round of the restarted league to honour those who have died with Covid-19, and heart-shaped badges paying tribute to NHS workers will be embroidered into team kit.

The Guardian understands that the league will have no problem if players or teams wish to take a knee before games, as some clubs have done before recent friendlies. The names on the back of players’ shirts will be replaced, for at least the first set of games, by the words Black Lives Matter, following an initiative driven by club captains this week. One club explained that their kit staff had been primed to order shirts reflecting the change.

Black Lives Matter badges are also likely to be displayed on shirts, along with their NHS equivalents, although their exact placement is yet to be finalised.

The issue of what happens if a player removes his shirt to reveal a slogan in support of the movement was raised, after referees expressed concerns about the appropriateness of issuing a mandatory yellow card in such cases. Officials are expected to be asked to use their discretion.

Original News : https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2020/jun/11/george-floyd-protests-donald-trump-jefferson-davis-statue-live

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