[Marxism] State Department hacks to watch out for

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 12 09:53:19 MDT 2012

IMO this article should be read in its entirety, so activists can be
properly forewarned against the individuals and groups named. We should
stay WAAAAAAY the hell away from every single person and organization
referred to in it, past, present and soon-to-be-born. And any genuine
activist who is already involved with any of them because of ignorance of
the imperialist interests behind them should be brought up to speed ASAP so
s/he can get the heck out.

June 11, 2012
Groups to Help Online Activists in Authoritarian Countries By SCOTT

WASHINGTON — From Egyptian bloggers to Russian Twitterati, activists around
the world have turned the Internet into a tool for political change, even
as governments have learned its usefulness for surveillance.

Now two small American human rights groups, one co-founded by a 30-year-old
State Department official turned Google executive and one by an 89-year-old
veteran activist who once championed Soviet dissidents, are joining forces
to support online activists in authoritarian countries. Google has no
direct involvement in the venture, but intends to donate money, with the
amount still being discussed, according to a company official who spoke on
the condition of anonymity.

The merger involves Movements.org, co-founded in 2008 by Jared Cohen, now
the director of Google Ideas <http://www.google.com/ideas/>, the company’s
research arm, and Advancing Human Rights <http://advancinghumanrights.org/>,
created two years ago by Robert L. Bernstein, a retired publishing
executive who started Human Rights Watch <http://www.hrw.org/> in 1978.
Their age difference gives the combination an intergenerational character
that both men said added to its appeal.

“I’m learning a lot,” Mr. Bernstein said in an interview. “My grandkids
work these machines like crazy, and I’m catching on.”

Mr. Bernstein said that in more than three decades as a rights advocate,
“What I’ve discovered is that it’s difficult to lecture people in other
countries. So what you can do is free up speech.” In the merged
organization, which will retain the name Advancing Human Rights, he said,
“We will be trying to say to people in closed societies that we will do
everything we can to give you a voice.”

Mr. Cohen, a State Department official when he helped start Movements.org,
said his group decided to look for a partner and reviewed many rights
organizations before approaching Advancing Human Rights. Besides Mr.
Bernstein’s decades of experience, Mr. Cohen said, the group was impressed
by the activists abroad who had been connected by one of its programs,
CyberDissidents.org, run by David Keyes, 28. An advocate and a pioneer in
online activism, Mr. Keyes is also executive director of Advancing Human

“David is a creative young guy with a phenomenal network of cyberactivists
in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mr. Cohen said. “The combination of
Bob and David was irresistible.”

In addition to providing connections, technical advice and other support to
dissidents abroad, Advancing Human Rights intends to publish their work in
a series of e-books, as Mr. Bernstein, the retired chairman of Random
House, once published the work of the physicist Andrei Sakharov and other
Soviet dissidents.

Apart from its online orientation, Advancing Human Rights is distinguished
by its embrace of a disputed philosophy in the human rights world: it will
focus exclusively on authoritarian countries.

In 2009, Mr. Bernstein broke publicly with Human Rights Watch, where he was
chairman for 20 years, over what he had come to believe was its excessive
attention to the misdeeds of Israel. More broadly, he said, he thought the
group devoted too much energy on “open societies” like Israel and the
United States, rather than on dictatorships.

“Open societies are far from perfect, but they have a lot of institutions
other than human rights groups working on making things better,” he said.
He argued in a 2009 Op-Ed article in The New York
Human Rights Watch should concentrate on the most repressive
countries. The organization’s leaders considered his
rejected it, saying it would be “a violation of our core principle
human rights are universal” to ignore problems in Israel or the United

In 2008, Mr. Cohen was serving as an aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice when American officials learned that a protest involving millions of
Colombians against kidnappings by a rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had been organized in part via Facebook.

On the State Department’s policy staff, Mr. Cohen said, he became “the
go-to person on tech stuff just because I was young.” He found that few
American embassies were tracking online activists around the world, and he
helped to start an annual summit of the activists. The summits gave rise to
Movements.org and have linked older, traditional dissidents with younger
masters of the Web.

In a sense, that is what is happening with Advancing Human Rights, which
has raised about $2 million with an initial budget goal of about $3 million
a year, Mr. Bernstein said.

Advancing Human Rights is already getting a steady stream of requests for
help. In recent days, Mr. Keyes said, he received a call via Skype from a
Saudi woman who fears that she could become a victim of an honor killing by
her family.

“I’ll get an e-mail every other day from activists in Syria or Saudi Arabia
or somewhere else,” Mr. Keyes said. They are looking for help reaching the
international news media, contacting American officials, learning about
asylum laws or simply linking up with like-minded activists, he said.

“These guys have jobs and families and limited time and resources,” he
said. “I think we can help thousands of people.”

More information about the Marxism mailing list