1.

The prison system in the United States is a profit-making industry.

Private corporations operate over 200 facilities nationwide and are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
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Prison privatization in its current form began in 1984 as a result of the War on Drugs. While crime rates otherwise remained steady dating back to 1925, the number of arrests quickly exploded. While the War on Drugs initially had a small impact on incarceration, it was President Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 that kickstarted the prison boom.[1]

Photo of Correctional Officer's patch
CCA houses over 80,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities across the US.

From 1970 to 2005, the prison population rose 700 percent, while violent crime remained steady or declined.[2] Between 1990 and 2009, the populations of private prisons shot up 1,600 percent.[3] Today, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world – 754 inmates per 100k residents as of 2008.[1] This is roughly 600% that of the rest of the civilized world, with England and Wales having 148, and Australia 126 inmates per 100k residents.[1] As of 2010, private corporations house over 99,000 inmates in 260 facilities nationwide.[4]

Corrections Corp. of America and other private contractors became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a non-profit 501(c)(3) association that advocates “tough on crime” legislation.[5] In their 2010 report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corp. of America discussed how drug policy reform threatens their business model:

The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.[6]

To ensure those pieces of legislation aren't passed, Corrections Corp. of America spent $970,000[7] and GEO Group spent $660,000[8] lobbying Congress in 2010 alone. In Corrections Corp. of America’s Feb 2011 press release, CEO Damon Hininger stated, “...we are pleased our populations have remained strong, in excess of the 80,000 inmate milestone we surpassed late in 2010.”[9] With the 3.2% increase in inmate population over the previous year, Corrections Corp. of America was able to make $511.26M profit, earning their CEO over $3,000,000 in compensation.[9][10]

Private prison proponents claim that private corporations are able to provide the same service more efficiently than the government. However, according to the Department of Justice’s “Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons” report, private prisons offer at best a 1% cost savings over their government operated counterparts, while at the same time having 49% more assaults on staff and 65% more assaults on other inmates.[11]

Phoning in Profit

Corporations owning correctional facilities is not the only way that prisons and the War on Drugs have been used as a source of income. For instance, even in government-ran facilities, inmates and their families are regularly subject to price gouging by phone carriers.[12][14] While the average cost of a phone call in the United States is 3 cents per minute[15], inmates and their families end up paying between 16 cents and $5.00 per minute.[13] The profits are then split between the carrier and the government body who awarded the contract. In fact, it is not uncommon for the government body to receive a signing bonus from the carrier, like $17M in the case of Los Angeles County.[14] Unlike the public, the Federal Communications Commission has no safeguards against price gouging when it applies to those behind bars.

In the federal prison system, all able-bodied inmates who are not a security risk are forced to work for UNICOR or another prison job.[17] UNICOR, also known as Federal Prison Industries, is a government-created corporation that provides many products and services, including clothing, electronics, furniture, data entry and military hardware.[16][18] UNICOR enjoys a “mandatory source clause” that according to US laws & regulations, forces all federal agencies with the exception of the Department of Defense to purchase products offered by UNICOR instead of the private sector. However, despite the Department of Defense not being required to purchase its products, many defense contractors take advantage of the cheap labor offered by prisons.[18] For example, inmates make as little as 23 cents an hour manufacturing components used in Patriot missiles, which then sell for $5.9 million apiece. Prisoners also made helmets for the military, until 44,000 defective units were recalled due to their inability to stop bullets.[19] Despite its shortcomings, UNICOR generated $854.3M in sales for fiscal year 2008 – of which 4% went to inmate salaries.[16] Much of this money later ends up in the hands of the local government, as the inmates use their salary to pay for phone calls home. In New York, inmates refusing work assignments have been known to be placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day until work is resumed.[20] At the same time, it is illegal to import products made using prison labor into the United States.[21]

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2.

Six corporations control virtually all American media.

News Corp. owns over 27 television stations and over 150 newspapers. Time Warner has over 100 subsidiaries including CNN, Time Magazine, and The CW.
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Just six corporations[1] own the vast majority of media outlets in the United States. Through years of relentless mergers, acquisitions and consolidations, a handful of corporations have been able to dominate most of what Americans read, see and hear on a daily basis.

Media ownership chart

There is much debate on the legitimacy of the consolidation of media, with strong proponents[2][3][4] and opponents[5][6][7] bringing forth a wide variety of arguments.[8]

Regardless of your position on the viability of the concentration of media ownership into fewer and fewer hands, it is an irrefutable fact that over the past few decades the corporations controlling the preponderance of American media have lessened considerably.[9]

As of 2011, the largest media corporations in the United States in terms of revenue and profit are: General Electric[10], Walt Disney, News Corp., Time Warner, CBS and Viacom.[11]

Walt Disney – or more specifically Disney Media Networks – controls a staggering amount of media outlets.[12] In the field of motion pictures, they own Walt Disney Pictures (which includes Pixar Animation Studios), Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures. They then distribute these films through Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment while distributing soundtracks and original music under Walt Disney Records and Hollywood Records.

They also own the entire ABC Television Network (which includes ABC Daytime, ABC Entertainment Group and ABC News), the Disney Channel, ABC Family, SOAPnet, 80% of ESPN (along with ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD, ESPN Regional Television, ESPN International, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Enterprises, ESPN Zones, ESPN360, ESPN Mobile Properties, ESPN On Demand, ESPN Interactive and ESPN PPV) and television distribution divisions of Disney-ABC Domestic Television and Disney-ABC ESPN Television.

Walt Disney also owns large shares of A&E Television Networks and Lifetime Entertainment Services[12], while ABC Television Network boasts over 200 affiliated stations which together reach 99% of American household televisions, and that isn’t even getting in to Walt Disney’s control of radio, publishing and other holdings.

News Corp., now infamous for the News International phone hacking scandal in the UK[13], owns Fox, MyNetworkTV and other stations totaling some 27 television stations in the United States alone, with Fox Television Stations reaching over 35% of American television homes with six duopolies in the top 10 television markets.[14]

Fox International owns 120 channels around the globe while News Corp. also owns production and distribution companies like Fox Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox Film Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Blue Sky Studios, Fox 2000 Pictures and more on an international scale.

General Electric (GE) owns a 49% stake in NBC-Universal[15] and NBC Networks (includes NBC News, NBC Sports, NBC Television, NBC Universal, CNBC, CNBC World (Arabia, India, Asia, Europe), MSNBC, Bravo, SyFy Channel, Telemundo, USA, Oxygen and more) along with 46 NBC affiliate stations and more stations internationally.

In the realm of film production and distribution, GE owns Universal Pictures, Focus Features, and Rogue Pictures with production agreements with more companies and distribution through Universal Studios Home Entertainment. They also control NBC.com, CNBC.com etc. along with Hulu.com (a News Corp. and NBC Universal joint venture) MSNBC.MSN.com and more.

Then comes Time Warner, the largest media conglomerate[17] with the second highest revenue behind Disney, both of which have holdings which far exceed the space here[17] and include a wide variety of industries including monopolies on cable service in some locations.[20]

As with many of the other powerful media groups, Time Warner Inc. was formed with the merger of Warner Communications, Inc., Time Inc., and Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.[19] and now encompasses a plethora of properties in television, the Internet (like AOL, CNN, TMZ, People.com, Moviefone, Advertising.com, NASCAR.com and more), film, publishing (including comic books and more than 150 magazines) along with marketing companies as well.

Viacom owns a massive amount of television properties including MTV Networks (and the many variants including MTV Networks International which operates in 160 nations), BET Networks, CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, TV Land, and VH1.[20] They also control several film production companies under Paramount Pictures Corporation and a massive internet presence.

CBS Network consists of 30 stations and a 50% share of the CW Network, the other 50% belonging to Time Warner along with 130 radio stations, major book publishers like Simon & Shuster, prominent online holdings, CBS Outdoor and more.[22]

The case against increased media conglomeration is a strong one[22] with countless supporting factors, although many individuals seem to come to this conclusion naturally when seeing how the vast majority of the media they are exposed to come from just a few corporations, all of which have close relationships with each other.

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3.

The FBI admits to infiltrating & disrupting peaceful political groups in the United States.

The Womens’ and Civil Rights movements were among those targeted, with their members being beaten, imprisoned, and assassinated.
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Following the end of the Second World War, the spread of communism was considered to be the #1 threat to the United States. The Soviet Union’s ability to secure a nuclear weapon, coupled with the communist ideology spreading across the globe, fueled a state of fear during this time.[1] Even in the United States, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) was gaining traction as a legitimate political party. The CIA was tasked with combating this threat abroad, and the FBI at home.[1]

Church Committee Report on CoIntelPro
Congressional report on CoIntelPro

In 1956, the FBI instituted a Counter Intelligence Program (CoIntelPro) which among its goals, was to maintain “the existing social and political order.”[2][4] This initially meant targeting the CPUSA, who was implicated in the passing of nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union several years prior. However, operating in secrecy with very little oversight, CoIntelPro’s scope was later widened to include any group the FBI deemed “subversive.”[2] Among these groups were the Womens’ Rights Movement, the Civil Rights movement, and the growing anti-war movement. Individual students demonstrating against the Vietnam War were targeted by the FBI, along with American luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein.[2][6]

The assistant to the Director of the FBI, William C. Sullivan, described the methods employed during CoIntelPro as “rough, tough, and dirty.”[4] The tactics ranged from selectively enforcing tax codes & government regulations, to fabricating evidence and using perjured testimony to illegally incarcerate Americans.[4] The FBI conspired with local police departments to commit crimes ranging from illegal break-ins and vandalism, to assaults, beatings, and assassinations of American citizens.[4][5]

The FBI’s actions were successfully kept a secret for over 15 years, until a group called the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI burglarized an FBI Field Office in Media, Pennsylvania.[6] Several dossiers acquired during the burglary were passed to news agencies, who initially refused to publish the information. Within the year, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover declared that CoIntelPro was over. In 1976, the Church Committee conducted an investigation into the actions of the FBI during CoIntelPro.[4] Despite Hoover’s statement, the Church Committee concluded that “...CoIntelPro-type activities may continue today under the rubric of ‘investigation.’”[4]

Terrorism as the new Communism

Those taking part in political activity three decades after the official conclusion of CoIntelPro still find themselves under scrutiny by federal officials.[10][11][12] The New York Times reported in 2004 that the FBI conducted interviews of 40 to 50 activists in the lead-up to the presidential elections. Several were tailed by federal agents, others had their friends and family interviewed, and some were subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury.[10] There were ultimately no arrests as a result.

In 2009, The Department of Homeland Security sent a confidential memo to law enforcement in Missouri that listed supporters of several political candidates and third parties as potential terrorists.[11] Americans opposed to the bailout and the income tax were also listed in the same group as Neo-nazi’s and bombers of abortion clinics. After appearing on the Wikileaks website, letters of apologies were sent to Representive Ron Paul, Former Congressman Bob Barr, and Presidental Candidate Chuck Baldwin – all of whom were listed by name in the document.[12]

In the same year, the ACLU discovered materials used to train Department of Defense personnel that listed protesting as a form of terrorism.[13] In a multiple choice test for the annual Level 1 Anti-terrorism Awareness course, participants were asked, “Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorist activity?” To correctly answer, one must select “protests” among the options of attacking the Pentagon, committing hate crimes and using IED’s.[13] In an interview with Fox News, the DoD stated that they have since removed the question.[14]

In 2012, it was reported that FBI trained its agents that they can “bend or suspend the law” at will.[15] The training materials were uncovered during a six-month internal review of the Bureau’s training policies. Despite its findings, the review has not resulted in any disciplinary action, nor did it require any re-training.[16]

With the “terrorism” label being used so loosely, many are critical of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Signed into law by President Obama, the 2012 NDAA is heavily criticized for declaring that American citizens can be held without trial indefinitely on the mere suspicion of supporting terrorism.[17][18] It also contains provisions that allows citizens to be transferred to the custody of foreign nations for interrogation, trial, and/or imprisonment – an act known as “rendition.”[17] While suspected enemy combatants found on the battlefield were already subject to these conditions since the Bush administration, this is the first time that these powers will apply American citizens on American soil.

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4.

In 1977 it was revealed that random American citizens were abducted & tortured for research by the CIA.

Project MK Ultra was the code name for a series of covert activities in the early 1950’s.
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Following the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945, the predecessor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), sought to recruit Nazi scientists for employment by the United States. Under the directions and supervision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Operation Paperclip recruited Nazi scientists who had a broad skill-set, ranging from rocketry to torture.[1]

Washington Post article on MK-Ultra
Washington Post report on MK-Ultra

Using the newly gathered intelligence, the United States Navy started Project Chatter and the CIA started Project Artichoke, both of which studied the effects of drugs for the purposes of interrogation.[1] The CIA’s project used hypnosis, forced morphine addiction, and the use of other chemicals and methods.[2]

On April 13, 1953, Project MK-Ultra was officially approved.[3][4] MK-Ultra initially began its human experimentation on CIA employees and military personnel, but soon began to include prostitutes, the mentally ill, and abducted American & Canadian citizens.[1][3][4] Operating under the umbrella of Project MK-Ultra, Operation Midnight Climax consisted of a web of CIA-run safe houses in San Francisco, Marin, and New York.[4][5] Prostitutes on the CIA payroll were paid to lure clients to these safe houses, where the men would be drugged and monitored behind one way glass.[4][5] This method of experimentation was desired because the victims, when released, would be too embarrassed to discuss the events. In 1962, the use of these safe houses were significantly scaled back following the recommendation of CIA Inspector General John Earman.[5]

With the CIA safe houses no longer in operation, human experimentation under MK-Ultra continued in Canada under the supervision of psychiatrist Donald Ewen Cameron, who previously served on the medical tribunal at the Nuremberg trials in the late 1940’s.[1][4] From 1957-1964, Cameron was paid $69,000 by the CIA to conduct experiments at the Allan Memorial Institute of McGill University in Quebec.[1] It was here that the most disturbing experiments took place, which included heavy doses of LSD and electroshock therapy at 30-40 times the normal power.[6] Subjects were also intentionally placed in comas, where recordings of noise or simple statements would be played on a loop for periods of time ranging from several weeks up to three months.[6] When awakened, the patients were severely and often permanently damaged. They suffered from losing control of their bodily functions, amnesia, forgetting how to speak, and some thought the doctors were their parents. Cameron later became the first chairman of the World Psychiatric Association, as well as president of the American and Canadian psychiatric associations.[7]

In 1973, CIA director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all documents pertaining to MK-Ultra.[8] Due to the destruction of these records, it is difficult or impossible to perform additional research into MK-Ultra or the 150 individually funded sub-projects that operated under the MK-Ultra banner. Regardless, The New York Times reported that the CIA had conducted illegal domestic activities, including experiments on U.S. citizens[11], which prompted Congress to intervene and conduct investigations. The Church Committee and Rockefeller Commission both released reports in 1975 that revealed that the CIA and Department of Defense conducted experiments on citizens without their consent.[2][3] The Church Committee concluded in their report that “[p]rior consent was obviously not obtained from any of the subjects.”[3] With the program now in the open, both the Canadian and American governments fought a number of court battles related to MK-Ultra’s experiments. The Canadian government settled out of court, paying each of the 127 victims $100,000 each.[1] The American government aggressively contested any court cases relating to MK-Ultra, some of them successfully. Several plaintiffs received compensation through court orders, out-of-court settlements, and acts of Congress.[1] President Ford and CIA director William Colby met with the family of Frank Olson, a man who died as a direct result of MK-Ultra, to publicly apologize. Olson’s family also received $750,000 via a special act of Congress.[11]

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5.

A plan to attack American cities to justify war with Cuba was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962.

Rejected by President Kennedy, Operation Northwoods remained classified for 35 years.
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In 1959, an armed revolution by Fidel Castro succeeded in overthrowing the US-backed Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Castro became the first communist leader in the western hemisphere, just 90 miles from the American mainland.

Declassified Operation Northwoods document
Declassified Northwoods document

The US government sought ways of replacing the Castro regime with one more in line with American policies, with President Eisenhower creating a plan to overthrow the Cuban government using anti-Castro forces from Cuba and the surrounding area.[1] After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, it was desirable to use the United States military to conduct a large scale invasion of Cuba instead of relying on rebel fighters.[3] However, it was important for the United States to not look like the aggressor.

Operation Northwoods was a plan drawn up by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 which outlined ways to generate support for American military operations in Cuba. In a nutshell, it consisted of a number of attacks, some real and some simulated, that would be performed by American forces and then blamed on the Cuban government.[2][3] The document, which has since been declassified and can be read in its entirety over a cup of coffee, outlined plans that ranged from blowing up unmanned drones and performing mock funerals, to conducting legitimate attacks on US military installations and American cities.[2] At one point it states, “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington.”[2]

On March 16, 1962, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lemnitzer, presented Operation Northwoods to President Kennedy. Nothwoods was rejected and Lemnitzer was quickly removed from his seat as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Operation Northwoods was successfully kept a secret until 1997, when the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review board declassified 1,521 secret military records dated 1962-64.[5]

While Operation Northwoods was officially rejected and never put into action, elements of the plan sprung up elsewhere in American history. Operation Dirty trick was a plot to blame Castro if the 1962 Mercury space flight carrying John Glenn crashed, stating, “The objective is to provide irrevocable proof that, should the Mercury manned orbit flight fail, the fault lies with the Communists et al. Cuba [sic].”[6] It continues, “This to be accomplished by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans.”[6] Even following the departure of General Lemnitzer, a Department of Defense policy paper in 1963 outlined the possibility of making it appear that Cuba attacked a member of the Organization of American States. The attacked party would request American assistance, giving the US a way into all-out war with Cuba.[7]

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