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Obama expands NSA spying
George Gallani
WSWS.org
 
With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump only days away, the Obama administration announced on Thursday a vast expansion of the spying power of American intelligence agencies. Under the new rules, the National Security Agency (NSA) can now share raw bulk data consisting of private communications with 16 other intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
In response to the recent rules set forward by the Obama administration, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Tweeted on Thursday, “As he hands the White House to Trump, Obama just unchained NSA from basic limits on passing raw intercepts to others.”
 
NSA to share intelligence with others
Previously, NSA analysts were required to sift out information they judged irrelevant and withhold the names of individuals deemed innocent before passing along information to other agencies. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, which grants multiple agencies access to “raw signals intelligence information,” on January 3. The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., approved the measure on December 15, 2016.
Executive Order 12333, enacted into law by the Ronald Reagan administration and then expanded by the George W. Bush administration, serves as the quasi-legal basis for much of the NSA’s vast surveillance dragnet. Through it, the NSA gathers information from around the world via phone and internet servers and connections, from sites such as Google, and consumes entire phone call records from whole countries and monitors satellite transmissions.
In 2014, The Intercept disclosed that the NSA used Order 12333 to search over 850 billion phone and internet records and amass raw, unfiltered information on the activities of millions of American citizens.
The new rules stipulate the NSA to share explicit surveillance information and feeds to different agencies only if the information is deemed pertinent to that agency’s surveillance operations.
Agencies may be granted access if they intend to use the raw bulk data for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence investigations, and if an American citizen is found to be an agent working for a foreign country. In other words, agencies will use the raw data to spy on foreign individuals across the globe and American citizens in the United States.
In an attempt to present some kind of checks and balances to its new sharing capacities, according to the New York Times, the NSA will only grant agencies access to information “it deems reasonable after considering factors like whether large amounts of Americans’ private information might be included and, if so, how damaging or embarrassing it would be if that information were ‘improperly used or disclosed.’”
 
Danger of new rule
This will do nothing. Given that the personal information of millions upon millions of people has already been amassed and carefully combed through by the NSA and other intelligence agencies, it is unlikely any agency will be denied access.
In short, raw data previously investigated by the NSA will be thrown open to 16 other agencies, with entire personal information of millions of people exposed to and combed through by the CIA, FBI, and other agencies.
Perhaps most significant, under the new rules, any incriminating information of American citizens will be sent to the Justice Department, setting forth a wave of possible new accusations and investigations for thousands of people, if not more.
The Obama administration has sought to downplay the significant dangers of the new rules. Robert S. Litt, the general counsel to Clapper, stated, “This is not expanding the substantive ability of law enforcement to get access to signals intelligence. It is simply widening the aperture for a larger number of analysts, who will be bound by the existing rules.”
In reality, this is another step in the attack against democratic rights and a turn towards more authoritarian forms of rule, which has characterized the legacy of outgoing president Barack Obama.
During the last eight years, Obama has not only continued the illegal spying on billions of people around the world, but has dramatically increased it.
In May 2011, Obama signed three provisions of the widely-hated USA Patriot Act. Under the new provisions, spy agencies were granted access to using “roving wiretaps,” the authorization to intercept all communications of suspects; unlimited access to business, purchases, and travel records of suspects; and the surveillance of individuals with no suspected connections to foreign organizations.
In July 2013, Obama renewed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which forces US telecommunications companies to turn over bulk telephone records to spy agencies. The FISA act was used by the George W. Bush administration to warrantlessly wiretap millions of people.
 
Obama’s hypocrisy
The revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden showed the NSA had, under the Obama administration, illegally collected phone records from over 120 million Verizon customers. Snowden also revealed the existence of the massive surveillance program known as PRISM, which collected the e-mails, phone calls, text and video chats from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple and other tech giants of both foreigners and Americans.
In the aftermath of Snowden’s revelations, the Obama White House crafted an NSA “reform” package, based on recommendations by a panel representing the spy agencies themselves, that further institutionalized the NSA’s illegal domestic spying operations, while putting in place stringent security measures to prevent disclosures of its crimes.
The Obama Administration has prosecuted more whistle-blowers than any presidency in American history, and has viciously victimized those who sought to expose this program, imprisoning Chelsea Manning and forcing Julian Assange to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and Edward Snowden to go into hiding in Russia.
Throughout his term, Obama worked to defend and facilitate the crimes of the intelligence agencies, working with the CIA to suppress the revelations of the Senate’s report on torture under the Bush Administration and shielding the architects of the torture program from prosecution.
The complete cynicism and hypocrisy of Obama was on full display during his farewell speech in Chicago on Tuesday. Touting himself as a champion of American democracy, he neglected to mention the mass state spying apparatus which he has expanded and prepared for Donald Trump.

Comment

George Gallani
WSWS.org
 
With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump only days away, the Obama administration announced on Thursday a vast expansion of the spying power of American intelligence agencies. Under the new rules, the National Security Agency (NSA) can now share raw bulk data consisting of private communications with 16 other intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
In response to the recent rules set forward by the Obama administration, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Tweeted on Thursday, “As he hands the White House to Trump, Obama just unchained NSA from basic limits on passing raw intercepts to others.”
 
NSA to share intelligence with others
Previously, NSA analysts were required to sift out information they judged irrelevant and withhold the names of individuals deemed innocent before passing along information to other agencies. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, which grants multiple agencies access to “raw signals intelligence information,” on January 3. The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., approved the measure on December 15, 2016.
Executive Order 12333, enacted into law by the Ronald Reagan administration and then expanded by the George W. Bush administration, serves as the quasi-legal basis for much of the NSA’s vast surveillance dragnet. Through it, the NSA gathers information from around the world via phone and internet servers and connections, from sites such as Google, and consumes entire phone call records from whole countries and monitors satellite transmissions.
In 2014, The Intercept disclosed that the NSA used Order 12333 to search over 850 billion phone and internet records and amass raw, unfiltered information on the activities of millions of American citizens.
The new rules stipulate the NSA to share explicit surveillance information and feeds to different agencies only if the information is deemed pertinent to that agency’s surveillance operations.
Agencies may be granted access if they intend to use the raw bulk data for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence investigations, and if an American citizen is found to be an agent working for a foreign country. In other words, agencies will use the raw data to spy on foreign individuals across the globe and American citizens in the United States.
In an attempt to present some kind of checks and balances to its new sharing capacities, according to the New York Times, the NSA will only grant agencies access to information “it deems reasonable after considering factors like whether large amounts of Americans’ private information might be included and, if so, how damaging or embarrassing it would be if that information were ‘improperly used or disclosed.’”
 
Danger of new rule
This will do nothing. Given that the personal information of millions upon millions of people has already been amassed and carefully combed through by the NSA and other intelligence agencies, it is unlikely any agency will be denied access.
In short, raw data previously investigated by the NSA will be thrown open to 16 other agencies, with entire personal information of millions of people exposed to and combed through by the CIA, FBI, and other agencies.
Perhaps most significant, under the new rules, any incriminating information of American citizens will be sent to the Justice Department, setting forth a wave of possible new accusations and investigations for thousands of people, if not more.
The Obama administration has sought to downplay the significant dangers of the new rules. Robert S. Litt, the general counsel to Clapper, stated, “This is not expanding the substantive ability of law enforcement to get access to signals intelligence. It is simply widening the aperture for a larger number of analysts, who will be bound by the existing rules.”
In reality, this is another step in the attack against democratic rights and a turn towards more authoritarian forms of rule, which has characterized the legacy of outgoing president Barack Obama.
During the last eight years, Obama has not only continued the illegal spying on billions of people around the world, but has dramatically increased it.
In May 2011, Obama signed three provisions of the widely-hated USA Patriot Act. Under the new provisions, spy agencies were granted access to using “roving wiretaps,” the authorization to intercept all communications of suspects; unlimited access to business, purchases, and travel records of suspects; and the surveillance of individuals with no suspected connections to foreign organizations.
In July 2013, Obama renewed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which forces US telecommunications companies to turn over bulk telephone records to spy agencies. The FISA act was used by the George W. Bush administration to warrantlessly wiretap millions of people.
 
Obama’s hypocrisy
The revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden showed the NSA had, under the Obama administration, illegally collected phone records from over 120 million Verizon customers. Snowden also revealed the existence of the massive surveillance program known as PRISM, which collected the e-mails, phone calls, text and video chats from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple and other tech giants of both foreigners and Americans.
In the aftermath of Snowden’s revelations, the Obama White House crafted an NSA “reform” package, based on recommendations by a panel representing the spy agencies themselves, that further institutionalized the NSA’s illegal domestic spying operations, while putting in place stringent security measures to prevent disclosures of its crimes.
The Obama Administration has prosecuted more whistle-blowers than any presidency in American history, and has viciously victimized those who sought to expose this program, imprisoning Chelsea Manning and forcing Julian Assange to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and Edward Snowden to go into hiding in Russia.
Throughout his term, Obama worked to defend and facilitate the crimes of the intelligence agencies, working with the CIA to suppress the revelations of the Senate’s report on torture under the Bush Administration and shielding the architects of the torture program from prosecution.
The complete cynicism and hypocrisy of Obama was on full display during his farewell speech in Chicago on Tuesday. Touting himself as a champion of American democracy, he neglected to mention the mass state spying apparatus which he has expanded and prepared for Donald Trump.

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US decline accelerates as Trump places son-in-law in White House
Jon Schwarz
The Intercept
 
Donald Tump’s intention to name his son-in-law Jared Kushner to a senior White House post violates ethical standards – and the smell test.
A 1967 anti-nepotism law states that a government official can’t hire relatives “in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control.” Kushner’s lawyers are said to be preparing to argue that the White House is somehow not an “agency” and so Trump can do as he wishes, but they are probably wrong and without a change to the law the appointment of Kushner would likely lead to litigation aimed at forcing him out.
 
‘Extremely creepy vibe’
And legalities aside, a world leader turning his son-in-law into one of his foremost advisers has an extremely creepy vibe, because it’s straight out of the third world dictator playbook. Raul Castro’s son-in-law has worked for him for decades and now runs the Cuban military’s businesses. Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law was perhaps his top deputy and supervised his WMD programs during the 1980s. Further back, Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law served as his foreign minister (until Mussolini had him executed).
Also, as a major real estate investor himself, Kushner will also bring with him glaring conflicts of interest almost as labyrinthine as Trump’s. Kushner could of course sell all his assets and put the proceeds in a blind trust, but as with Trump the law does not require it and Kushner appears to have no intention of doing so.
As the New York Times recently reported, throughout the presidential campaign Kushner was negotiating a deal with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese financial conglomerate with likely ties to the country’s leadership. Just days after Trump’s victory, Kushner joined the company’s Chinese executives for a celebratory meal featuring $2,100 bottles of wine. Yet when the Chinese government contacted the Obama White House to express its unhappiness about Trump’s post-election call to the president of Taiwan, the administration didn’t pass the news along to Trump’s security team but to Kushner.
According to the Times, Kushner also is developing luxury apartments with unnamed Chinese investors and has received loans from an Israeli bank being investigated by the Justice Department for helping rich Americans evade taxes.
If Kushner joins the Trump administration, he will have to file executive branch financial disclosure forms that will reveal more about his holdings. He also will be required to recuse himself from decisions that would have a “direct and predictable effect” on his finances.
 
Fishy background
In addition, Kushner’s lawyer has said that he will divest himself of “substantial assets,” which apparently will include his stake in the building at 666 5th Avenue, his company’s flagship and the subject of the deal with Anbang. But this may largely be cosmetic since the company’s other owners are members of Kushner’s family and the company itself is not going to sell its interest.
All this matters because Kushner may be the single most important influence on Trump. Before the election the Times called Kushner Trump’s “de facto campaign manager,” and a Trump adviser referred to him as “the final decision-maker” in Trump’s inner circle — despite the fact that Kushner had no official title.
Kushner appears to have the power to persuade Trump to reverse significant decisions: After Trump asked Chris Christie to be his running mate, Kushner encouraged him to rescind the offer and choose Mike Pence instead. Then, when Trump surprised the world by winning, Kushner prevailed upon him to fire Christie from his position running the transition and again replace him with Pence.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Kushner seems to be a Trump Mini-Me — like his father-in-law born to real estate wealth and not particularly talented at anything, but with a family taste for power and personal vengeance.
Kushner’s successful developer father, Charlie Kushner, gave $2.5 million to Harvard in 1998 when Jared was looking at colleges. Shortly afterward, Harvard admitted him – even though, as an official at Kushner’s high school put it, “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen.” After Harvard, Kushner was admitted to the law school at New York University. Coincidentally, his father had recently given NYU $3 million and rented the school office space at below-market rates.
 
Kushner equally vengeful
Kushner’s father also became a major funder of area politicians, giving more than $1.4 million to New Jersey Democrats like Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. Hillary Clinton came to the Kushner house for dinner after she won her New York Senate seat in 2000.
But in 2005, Charlie Kushner pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, and making illegal campaign donations. The witness tampering involved his hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and secretly photograph them having sex. The prosecutor in the case? Chris Christie. The fact that Kushner has now whacked Christie twice suggests he has no qualms about using power to settle family grudges.
With his father in jail, Jared Kushner took over the family’s real estate empire. In 2007, soon after Charlie Kushner got out of jail, the family bought 666 5th Avenue for $1.3 billion, mostly borrowed. In 2011, Jared Kushner tried to get one of his family’s creditors to write down some of the debt. The creditors declined. By this time Kushner also owned the New York Observer, a newspaper largely devoted to obsessively chronicling the lifestyles of the richest and most famous Manhattanites. In another unsettling vendetta, Kushner demanded that his reporters smear the creditor; they declined, because what Kushner wanted them to write wasn’t true.
Just like Trump himself, Kushner has been a horrendous landlord, harassing rent-stabilized tenants so he could force them out and jack up the rent on their apartments.
Kushner has also struck up an unusual friendship with Rupert Murdoch, who is 50 years his senior. Murdoch and his then-wife Wendi are apparently responsible for Kushner’s marrying Ivanka Trump in the first place, getting them back together after they’d dated for several years and then broken up.
When Trump played footsie with anti-Semites on Twitter, Kushner, who is Jewish, defended him. One of his employees at the Observer wrote:
“Please do not condescend to me and pretend you don’t understand the imagery of a six-sided star when juxtaposed with money and accusations of financial dishonesty. I’m asking you, not as a ‘gotcha’ journalist or as a liberal but as a human being: how do you allow this?”

Comment

Jon Schwarz
The Intercept
 
Donald Tump’s intention to name his son-in-law Jared Kushner to a senior White House post violates ethical standards – and the smell test.
A 1967 anti-nepotism law states that a government official can’t hire relatives “in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control.” Kushner’s lawyers are said to be preparing to argue that the White House is somehow not an “agency” and so Trump can do as he wishes, but they are probably wrong and without a change to the law the appointment of Kushner would likely lead to litigation aimed at forcing him out.
 
‘Extremely creepy vibe’
And legalities aside, a world leader turning his son-in-law into one of his foremost advisers has an extremely creepy vibe, because it’s straight out of the third world dictator playbook. Raul Castro’s son-in-law has worked for him for decades and now runs the Cuban military’s businesses. Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law was perhaps his top deputy and supervised his WMD programs during the 1980s. Further back, Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law served as his foreign minister (until Mussolini had him executed).
Also, as a major real estate investor himself, Kushner will also bring with him glaring conflicts of interest almost as labyrinthine as Trump’s. Kushner could of course sell all his assets and put the proceeds in a blind trust, but as with Trump the law does not require it and Kushner appears to have no intention of doing so.
As the New York Times recently reported, throughout the presidential campaign Kushner was negotiating a deal with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese financial conglomerate with likely ties to the country’s leadership. Just days after Trump’s victory, Kushner joined the company’s Chinese executives for a celebratory meal featuring $2,100 bottles of wine. Yet when the Chinese government contacted the Obama White House to express its unhappiness about Trump’s post-election call to the president of Taiwan, the administration didn’t pass the news along to Trump’s security team but to Kushner.
According to the Times, Kushner also is developing luxury apartments with unnamed Chinese investors and has received loans from an Israeli bank being investigated by the Justice Department for helping rich Americans evade taxes.
If Kushner joins the Trump administration, he will have to file executive branch financial disclosure forms that will reveal more about his holdings. He also will be required to recuse himself from decisions that would have a “direct and predictable effect” on his finances.
 
Fishy background
In addition, Kushner’s lawyer has said that he will divest himself of “substantial assets,” which apparently will include his stake in the building at 666 5th Avenue, his company’s flagship and the subject of the deal with Anbang. But this may largely be cosmetic since the company’s other owners are members of Kushner’s family and the company itself is not going to sell its interest.
All this matters because Kushner may be the single most important influence on Trump. Before the election the Times called Kushner Trump’s “de facto campaign manager,” and a Trump adviser referred to him as “the final decision-maker” in Trump’s inner circle — despite the fact that Kushner had no official title.
Kushner appears to have the power to persuade Trump to reverse significant decisions: After Trump asked Chris Christie to be his running mate, Kushner encouraged him to rescind the offer and choose Mike Pence instead. Then, when Trump surprised the world by winning, Kushner prevailed upon him to fire Christie from his position running the transition and again replace him with Pence.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Kushner seems to be a Trump Mini-Me — like his father-in-law born to real estate wealth and not particularly talented at anything, but with a family taste for power and personal vengeance.
Kushner’s successful developer father, Charlie Kushner, gave $2.5 million to Harvard in 1998 when Jared was looking at colleges. Shortly afterward, Harvard admitted him – even though, as an official at Kushner’s high school put it, “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen.” After Harvard, Kushner was admitted to the law school at New York University. Coincidentally, his father had recently given NYU $3 million and rented the school office space at below-market rates.
 
Kushner equally vengeful
Kushner’s father also became a major funder of area politicians, giving more than $1.4 million to New Jersey Democrats like Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. Hillary Clinton came to the Kushner house for dinner after she won her New York Senate seat in 2000.
But in 2005, Charlie Kushner pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, and making illegal campaign donations. The witness tampering involved his hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and secretly photograph them having sex. The prosecutor in the case? Chris Christie. The fact that Kushner has now whacked Christie twice suggests he has no qualms about using power to settle family grudges.
With his father in jail, Jared Kushner took over the family’s real estate empire. In 2007, soon after Charlie Kushner got out of jail, the family bought 666 5th Avenue for $1.3 billion, mostly borrowed. In 2011, Jared Kushner tried to get one of his family’s creditors to write down some of the debt. The creditors declined. By this time Kushner also owned the New York Observer, a newspaper largely devoted to obsessively chronicling the lifestyles of the richest and most famous Manhattanites. In another unsettling vendetta, Kushner demanded that his reporters smear the creditor; they declined, because what Kushner wanted them to write wasn’t true.
Just like Trump himself, Kushner has been a horrendous landlord, harassing rent-stabilized tenants so he could force them out and jack up the rent on their apartments.
Kushner has also struck up an unusual friendship with Rupert Murdoch, who is 50 years his senior. Murdoch and his then-wife Wendi are apparently responsible for Kushner’s marrying Ivanka Trump in the first place, getting them back together after they’d dated for several years and then broken up.
When Trump played footsie with anti-Semites on Twitter, Kushner, who is Jewish, defended him. One of his employees at the Observer wrote:
“Please do not condescend to me and pretend you don’t understand the imagery of a six-sided star when juxtaposed with money and accusations of financial dishonesty. I’m asking you, not as a ‘gotcha’ journalist or as a liberal but as a human being: how do you allow this?”

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(0)



First person: ‘I voted for Modi for change but not for hatred’

Sadhavi Khosla
 
For someone who comes from a lineage of freedom fighters, only two things matter – patriotism and Gandhian ideologies. For me, it is my state, Punjab, too. My love for Punjab has given me the strength to fight a battle against drugs and the drug-favouring political environment in the state. And my love for my country has made me stand up against the malicious campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the self-proclaimed trolling yodhas of its social media cell.
For nearly three years now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been following me on Twitter. Today, I am a nobody and my association with the BJP is being questioned. Peeved by my truthful revelation in Swati Chaturvedi’s book I am a troll, my name is being deprecated by the anonymous faces of the BJP’s social army.
 
Witch hunting
They are proving me right – the voice of truth will be silenced if it is against the prime minister and his government. My decision to come out openly and state the facts is not based on my brief association with the Congress but is a sincere effort to stop gospel from becoming truth.
In today’s age of instant news, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, people believe the typed word more than the underlying truth that gets layered under negative campaigning. By the time truth leaves the substrata, the harm has been done.
In 2013, I was as disgruntled as any other upright citizen of India with the way our great nation was being shaped by previous governments. I exercised my right to vote for the first time in 2014 and cast my ballot in favour of Modi, because I believed in him and his vision of a better India. This belief motivated me to join the BJP’s Mission 272+ team of volunteers. Little did I know that the mission’s “innovative campaigning ways” also involved trolling, defaming and construing truth to cloud the fair judgement of people.
In November 2015, when Aamir Khan expressed his sentiments on the state of affairs in the country, the BJP’s IT cell, headed by Arvind Gupta, organised a social media campaign to pressure e-commerce firm Snapdeal to drop the actor as its brand ambassador. We (volunteers at the BJP social cell) were ordered to troll the actor and smear his name on various platforms and instigate people to boycott his movies.  My ideologies and conscience did not permit me to be a part of the BJP’s bigotry brigade. Disenchanted, I left. In January 2016, Snapdeal gave in to the pressure and severed its ties with Khan.
We don’t realise the greater repercussion of such acts. An actor, who for years lived in our homes and ruled our hearts, suddenly became a “Muslim”! Social media has become a dangerous tool to spread hatred, which sometimes can lead to communal disharmony. Even religion did not divide us the way politics has.
 
Tagged anti-national
For nearly two years, I passionately supported the prime minister on Twitter, actively campaigned for the BJP and helped its leaders such as Smriti Irani and Kirron Kher in their agendas. When the time was apposite, I even criticised the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance for its lack of leadership and diluted policies.     During the same time, my passion for Punjab led me to expose the horrifying drug menace in the state and I made a documentary about the same. To bring the alarming facts to the prime minister’s notice, I sent message after message via Twitter. In his electoral mandate, Modi had promised a fight against drugs. But he ignored my calls for help.
His neglect made me turn to the Congress. Rahul Gandhi heard my plea whereas Narendra Modi, whom I vehemently supported, ignored it. Thanks to the BJP’s trolling army, social media is rife with my pictures with the Congress vice-president. My disclosure of a secretly guarded game is being shown as part of my political agenda. Rahul Gandhi released my documentary in Amritsar on March 18, 2016. And that is my only connection with the Congress.
The 2014 elections have changed the face of Indian politics. The media-savvy prime minister is reaching out to the masses through the internet. He is communicating with the people through Twitter and Facebook. He is being followed by millions but is following a select few, many of whom are known for being abusive trolls. From time to time, these abusive trolls have been invited to meet and greet the prime minister. If the BJP claims that it has never encouraged trolling, why hasn’t the prime minister spoken against the malpractice, especially when it is originating from its own warehouse.
 
The truth hurts
Instead of using the social media platform for constructive development, the BJP is using its ground army to disparage those who hold opposing views. Positive criticism is healthy for the development of any individual, institute or society, but to criticise in a derogatory manner and malign the character is uncalled for. People and their characters are denigrated in the name of supporting the prime minister. It only exposes the tenebrous picture of vote bank politics.  Hired volunteers are given directives to calumniate the image of opponents, journalists, politicians and just about anybody else.  Anyone with a different viewpoint is termed anti-Modi and anti-national. Women and minorities are targeted in the filthiest possible way. The names of Rahul Gandhi and his mother, Sonia Gandhi, are smeared with muck and journalists like Barkha Dutt are issued death and rape threats.
But public support has poured in from all walks of life. The story has travelled to the farthest corners of India and people are questioning the misuse of social media by the ruling party to suppress opposing views. Both the author Swati Chaturvedi and I are at the receiving end and the BJP’s social media army and supporters have been attacking us with slanderous and sexual remarks, threats and intimidation. All this, because their darkest secret has been exposed. The truth hurts.
I have followed my inner voice and my thought that it is my duty to my beautiful nation to let its people know how social media is being used to carry out malicious campaigns against opponents/public figures with opposing views.
It is sad that hate spreads more rapidly than love. I voted for Modi for change but not for hatred. I have said what I had to. I did what I believed in. This is my voice of truth.
 
The writer is a social activist and political analyst.

Comment

Sadhavi Khosla
 
For someone who comes from a lineage of freedom fighters, only two things matter – patriotism and Gandhian ideologies. For me, it is my state, Punjab, too. My love for Punjab has given me the strength to fight a battle against drugs and the drug-favouring political environment in the state. And my love for my country has made me stand up against the malicious campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the self-proclaimed trolling yodhas of its social media cell.
For nearly three years now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been following me on Twitter. Today, I am a nobody and my association with the BJP is being questioned. Peeved by my truthful revelation in Swati Chaturvedi’s book I am a troll, my name is being deprecated by the anonymous faces of the BJP’s social army.
 
Witch hunting
They are proving me right – the voice of truth will be silenced if it is against the prime minister and his government. My decision to come out openly and state the facts is not based on my brief association with the Congress but is a sincere effort to stop gospel from becoming truth.
In today’s age of instant news, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, people believe the typed word more than the underlying truth that gets layered under negative campaigning. By the time truth leaves the substrata, the harm has been done.
In 2013, I was as disgruntled as any other upright citizen of India with the way our great nation was being shaped by previous governments. I exercised my right to vote for the first time in 2014 and cast my ballot in favour of Modi, because I believed in him and his vision of a better India. This belief motivated me to join the BJP’s Mission 272+ team of volunteers. Little did I know that the mission’s “innovative campaigning ways” also involved trolling, defaming and construing truth to cloud the fair judgement of people.
In November 2015, when Aamir Khan expressed his sentiments on the state of affairs in the country, the BJP’s IT cell, headed by Arvind Gupta, organised a social media campaign to pressure e-commerce firm Snapdeal to drop the actor as its brand ambassador. We (volunteers at the BJP social cell) were ordered to troll the actor and smear his name on various platforms and instigate people to boycott his movies.  My ideologies and conscience did not permit me to be a part of the BJP’s bigotry brigade. Disenchanted, I left. In January 2016, Snapdeal gave in to the pressure and severed its ties with Khan.
We don’t realise the greater repercussion of such acts. An actor, who for years lived in our homes and ruled our hearts, suddenly became a “Muslim”! Social media has become a dangerous tool to spread hatred, which sometimes can lead to communal disharmony. Even religion did not divide us the way politics has.
 
Tagged anti-national
For nearly two years, I passionately supported the prime minister on Twitter, actively campaigned for the BJP and helped its leaders such as Smriti Irani and Kirron Kher in their agendas. When the time was apposite, I even criticised the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance for its lack of leadership and diluted policies.     During the same time, my passion for Punjab led me to expose the horrifying drug menace in the state and I made a documentary about the same. To bring the alarming facts to the prime minister’s notice, I sent message after message via Twitter. In his electoral mandate, Modi had promised a fight against drugs. But he ignored my calls for help.
His neglect made me turn to the Congress. Rahul Gandhi heard my plea whereas Narendra Modi, whom I vehemently supported, ignored it. Thanks to the BJP’s trolling army, social media is rife with my pictures with the Congress vice-president. My disclosure of a secretly guarded game is being shown as part of my political agenda. Rahul Gandhi released my documentary in Amritsar on March 18, 2016. And that is my only connection with the Congress.
The 2014 elections have changed the face of Indian politics. The media-savvy prime minister is reaching out to the masses through the internet. He is communicating with the people through Twitter and Facebook. He is being followed by millions but is following a select few, many of whom are known for being abusive trolls. From time to time, these abusive trolls have been invited to meet and greet the prime minister. If the BJP claims that it has never encouraged trolling, why hasn’t the prime minister spoken against the malpractice, especially when it is originating from its own warehouse.
 
The truth hurts
Instead of using the social media platform for constructive development, the BJP is using its ground army to disparage those who hold opposing views. Positive criticism is healthy for the development of any individual, institute or society, but to criticise in a derogatory manner and malign the character is uncalled for. People and their characters are denigrated in the name of supporting the prime minister. It only exposes the tenebrous picture of vote bank politics.  Hired volunteers are given directives to calumniate the image of opponents, journalists, politicians and just about anybody else.  Anyone with a different viewpoint is termed anti-Modi and anti-national. Women and minorities are targeted in the filthiest possible way. The names of Rahul Gandhi and his mother, Sonia Gandhi, are smeared with muck and journalists like Barkha Dutt are issued death and rape threats.
But public support has poured in from all walks of life. The story has travelled to the farthest corners of India and people are questioning the misuse of social media by the ruling party to suppress opposing views. Both the author Swati Chaturvedi and I are at the receiving end and the BJP’s social media army and supporters have been attacking us with slanderous and sexual remarks, threats and intimidation. All this, because their darkest secret has been exposed. The truth hurts.
I have followed my inner voice and my thought that it is my duty to my beautiful nation to let its people know how social media is being used to carry out malicious campaigns against opponents/public figures with opposing views.
It is sad that hate spreads more rapidly than love. I voted for Modi for change but not for hatred. I have said what I had to. I did what I believed in. This is my voice of truth.
 
The writer is a social activist and political analyst.

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