Even UN Notices Eroding US Human Rights


Privacy and Human Rights trickling away…

Intro by Stuart Lyle

It is not hard to spot creeping authoritarianism in the US.  The Snowden document cache makes clear that the government has a voracious appetite for data, our data: the digital traces we leave whenever we are online.  It is no longer an unsubstantiated suspicion.  The UN has documented and ranked the US.  Nothing to be proud of… particularly a “D” for not providing “effective remedies.”

The article below by Peter Van Buren originally appeared in a July 31, 2015 post to his We Meant Well blog.

Peter Van Buren

For a nation that goes out of its way to tell everybody else what to do about freedomism, and which still has, on paper at least, Constitutional Fourth Amendment guarantees against unlawful search and seizure, America fails miserably in assuring its citizens their rights.

In fact, according to a UN study, the self-proclaimed “Exceptional Nation” ranks with China, Bolivia and Djibouti. Yea us!

A United Nations Human Rights Committee issued midterm report cards for several countries based on how well they adhered to and implemented its recommendations related to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty outlining the rights of all individuals. The U.S. performance overall was “not satisfactory.”

In particular, the committee noted that the U.S. government failed to establish an adequate oversight system to make sure privacy rights are being upheld, and failed to make sure that any breaches of privacy were regulated and authorized by law, such as requiring a warrant. The lowest grade reflected America’s failure to “ensure affected persons have access to effective remedies in cases of abuse.”

The committee also expressed dismay at the U.S. failure to “establish the responsibility of those who provided legal pretexts for manifestly illegal behavior.”

Last year, the Human Rights Committee submitted recommendations to the United States on areas where it could improve the privacy rights of its citizens, following revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. But according to the midterm review, many of those suggestions were not addressed.

So shut the hell up Americans. You’ll get your freedom when and if the authorities decide to give any to you.

10 thoughts on “Even UN Notices Eroding US Human Rights

  1. RE: 10-A from Fareed Zakaria’s GPS Sunday Aug. 2nd 2015

    “But first here’s my (Fareed’s) take. Since 9/11 America has responded aggressively to the danger of terrorism. Taking extraordinary measures, invading two countries, launching military operations and many others, and spending over $800 billion on homeland security.

    Americans have accepted an unprecedented expansion of government powers and invasions of their privacy to prevent attacks. Since 9/11 74 people have been killed in America by terrorists according to “New America.” And calculating using CDC data in the same period, over 150,000 Americans have been killed in gun homicides.

    And to tackle that problem, we have done nothing. Our attitude seems to be one of fatalism. Another day, another mass shooting, which is almost literally true. The Web site ShootingTracker.com documents that in the first 207 days of 2015 America had 207 mass shootings. After one of these takes place now, everyone goes through a ritual of shock and horror and then moves on, aware that nothing will change, accepting that this is just one of those quirks of American life. But it is 150,000 deaths. That’s almost three Vietnams. After last week’s incident in Lafayette, Louisiana, the governor of the state and presidential candidate, Bobby Jindal, pointed his finger at what has now become the standard explanation for these events. Three days after the tragedy he said on “Face the Nation” —

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [the video will be eventually posted @: http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/fareed.zakaria.gps/%5D

    GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every time this happens it seems like the person has a history of mental illness.


    ZAKARIA: But it makes little sense to focus on mental health. Look at these statistics for the United States and other countries provided by gunpolicy.org which uses official data. America has a gun homicide rate that’s at least a dozen times higher than those of most other industrialized countries. It is 50 times higher than Germany’s, for example. We don’t have 50 times as many mentally disturbed people as Germany does. But we do have many, many, many more guns.

    Former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s solution is to loosen the few restrictions on guns that do exist so that in the Lafayette movie theater other patrons would have been armed and could have shot the gunman.

    The notion that the solution, in dark, crowded movie theaters, is a mass shootout is so dangerous that frankly it should rule Perry out as a serious candidate.

    When asked about such proposals after the last mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, William Bratton, who has been police chief in three major American cities, dismissed the notion entirely. To him the solution is obvious. “We need some sanity in our gun laws. Gun control can reduce these numbers of incidents,” he told CNN.

    [10:05:16] We have done the opposite. We have actually loosened restraints on the ability and ease with which people can buy, own and carry guns. This is partly because, in June 2008, the Supreme Court broke with 200 years of precedent and in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia created an individual right to gun ownership that has made common sense regulation of guns much harder.

    In his powerful dissent in that case, Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out that Scalia’s opinion was an act of extreme judicial activism that for two centuries federal courts have recognized that the government had the power to regulate the sale of firearms and that the Supreme Court in particular had for at least seven decades consistently ruled in this way.

    It is not an act of fate that has caused 150,000 Americans to die over the last 15 years. It is a product of laws, court decisions, lobbying and pandering politicians. And we can change it.”

    Ironically ‘big data’ and intrusion into the past records of those wanting to buy a gun can very likely reduce killings with firearms. If a statistical evaluation of those records indicates a tendency to violence the individual could be denied the ‘right’ to ‘keep and bear’. Such a system would not be 100% effective, but no system is …
    So should government invade the privacy of individuals wanting to buy a firearm?

  2. Your question, equote, is tricky. It is the same than to ask, is atomic energy good?, is the internet system good?, is vaccination good?, is a money system good? are antibiotics good? Is your question philosophical or it involves the participation of humans to become an actual fact? We can move this forum to a Greek market or agora, and talk about infinite logical answers to the possibility and I am sure that if we do not involve actual humans using them, the answer will always be a categorically yes. Best example, love. What is wrong with this concept by itself? Nothing. How much harm humans can do to other humans with love? The human condition stopped spiritually evolving in the majority of cultures sometime ago. Spiritual development was replaced with a fix set of values determine by different beliefs. Belief requires faith which does not leave room for logical thought. You are good if you comply with those values, you are bad if you don’t. And the worst part is that values are not the same in every culture. So, yes, I am against weapons in general. My Father was a business man that travelled to all corners of America. He had a rifle and a fishing rod that he took with himself in his trips. Why? Because he loved to visit native communities wherever he went. I am talking about the 40’s and 50’s in Latin America. He loved the cultures in the Amazon. He would arrive to the village and tell the men, let’s go and get the food. He was an extraordinary man, he always checked the selected animal same as the local men did before the killing. No mothers, no young children, no head of the heard, etc. the natives knew their natural surroundings and sometimes without a language in common they understood each other. He never killed more than one creature. All that was needed for the dinner that night. And he usually killed with the first bullet. No hunting trophies, sometimes a photograph. The natives used all the parts of the killed animal. He also went fishing with them. Same careful evaluation in this case of the catch. Otherwise return it to the river. Was I fortunate with the parents I had? Very much! So I do not judge anybody. Not everybody was so lucky. But I am not blind. I see the greed, the lust for power and control around me. Hence, I do not expect any positive results of anything that is enacted to control others. It is OK with me if they want to do a careful revision of the antecedents of the person who wants to buy a gun. I will sign a petition for it and I believe that it can save some lives, but the bad, corrupted man will find one thousand ways to get a weapon without any prior check of his antecedents. I am too old to believe in prohibition of any kind. The good and bad must be ruled by the equilibrium in our minds. And that equilibrium is the most important lesson parents can and must teach to their children. That is why I am for choice, we are not all born to be parents and least of all good parents.

    • I agree with you completely. The collective wisdom of mankind has had the answer for some time and it is almost universal. Look at this link for verification: http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm
      “Every individual wishes, if possible, to be exempt from the compacts that bind the rest
      of mankind.” (Cesare Becarria in ‘An Essay on Crimes and Punishment). Not everyone seeks to be exempt, so how can we deal those do.

  3. I applaud Zakaria for asserting that “we can change” the way gun control is implemented (and viewed perhaps) as part of reducing gun violence. I accept gun ownership as both a right and a responsibility. As long as specific legal remedies are in that spirit, we should be open to changes. I wish it were that someone could elaborate consise proposals that would be agreed upon by the sane & commonsensical.
    Zakaria did perhaps gloss over the mental health issue. There does appear to be a problem for our society that too too many individuals are becoming sick to such a wretched degree as to commit killings. I think Graciela’s remark that “the human condition stopped spiritually evolving” is trenchant. I think our society could operate according to a “kinder” template.
    I don’t know that we should “focus” (as Fareed said) on the mental health aspect of the gun violence problem, but it’s worth considering.

  4. I’m glad someone at the U.N. Is noticing. But the U,N. notices lots of things.

    This “report card” isn’t surprising, but the thing that really sticks out is the disregard for ensuring that “affected persons have access to effective remedies in cases of abuse”. If we don’t have that…

  5. Somehow I am not shocked that the US government will not investigate and prosecute its personnel who engaged in torture under the previous (or current) administration. Indeed, I stated in this forum long ago that this will never happen; it would set a dangerous precedent from perspective of those in power. I just watched a 2013 documentary, “Gore Vidal: United States Of Amnesia.” Mr. Vidal was speaking out against the insanity of US society pretty well up to his death in 2011, including withering criticism of the response to the events of 9/11 and the ever escalating intrusiveness of the National Security State imposed on us. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND VIEWING THIS FILM. (I rented it on DVD, and feel compelled to purchase a copy for my video library. Gore Vidal was a national treasure!)

    • Greg…if you haven’t viewed the ABC news presidential convention coverage 1968 in which Vidal and William Buckley are featured, you may enjoy. Found on YouTube, this set of “debates” was fascinating to me. Always liked & appreciated Vidal.

      • A documentary film was just released Friday that purports to collect all the Vidal-Buckley ABC encounters. It will be a while before I can see this, as I don’t have a streaming device and have to rent DVDs. If this film is posted on YouTube already it must be bootlegged. I don’t patronize bootlegged material and very seldom go to YouTube at all. Thanks for mentioning this, though.

  6. “…the NSA voluntarily shares the raw data it collects on American citizens with Israel.
    This includes raw data on U.S. government officials. This not only raises major privacy concerns for American citizens, but it might mean that Israel is spying on the American Congress and other high-level politicians.
    Indeed, leaked NSA documents show that U.S. intelligence officials are concerned that the NSA may be putting Israel’s security needs ahead of America’s.
    Moreover, top NSA officials have told Washington’s Blog that mass surveillance by the NSA is really aimed at blackmail. … spying on one’s own people is always aimed at crushing dissent.

    interesting prospect …

    • NBC Evening News showed a snippet from a TV ad that I assume is being aired in US, especially in D.C., wherein Israel “commands” US Congress to scrap Obama’s deal with Iran. Truly noxious conduct by that pariah nation, which was South Africa’s best bud in the UN under Apartheid!!

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