Report Exposes ‘Revolving Door’ Within Corporate-Dominated TTIP Talks

We believe the revolving door exacerbates the corporate capture of TTIP negotiations,” says lobby watchdog

by: Lauren McCauley

As European delegates met with stakeholders in Brussels Wednesday to discuss the details of a massive, pending trade deal between the U.S. and Europe, a new report highlights the revolving door that exists between negotiators of the deal and the industries expected to profit from it.

Watchdog groups have long warned that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will benefit multinational corporations at the expensive of public and environmental health, labor rights, and state sovereignty. 

The study, published by Brussels-based watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), highlights at least fifteen examples of officials who once held positions of power within the European Commission or the UK government and are now actively lobbying the TTIP negotiations on behalf of some of the biggest food, telecom, pharmaceutical, and other industries. 

While the revolving door phenomenon is nothing new, the report notes that it creates great potential for conflicts of interest, particularly when it comes to TTIP and other trade negotiations.

“The fact that so many can cross smoothly from the public to private sectors or vice versa, indicates the shared interests and ideologies that can exist,” states CEO. “Whether the revolving door is a cause or an outcome of these synergies is not so easy to determine. But the synergies are there and we believe the revolving door exacerbates the corporate capture of TTIP negotiations.”

CEO research has further shown that European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, her Cabinet, and the Directorate General (DG) for Trade have met with industry representatives and lobbyists in more than 80 percent of declared meetings; whereas public interest groups were only included 17 percent of the time. Data shows that agribusiness and food industry groups dominated those talks, while telecommunications and Big Pharma interests were not far behind.

Indeed, on Wednesday, the European Commission hosted a TTIP Stakeholder Presentations Event, whose participants ran the gamut from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to corporate bigwigs Dow Chemical and Pfizer.

Rallying outside the talks on Wednesday, protesters bearing an inflatable Trojan horse chanted “Stop the TTIP” and reportedly sang Les Miserables’ “Do you hear the people sing?”

Critics of the deal are mobilizing after the European Parliament last week passed a draft text of the trade deal which, despite widespread opposition, included a version of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which establishes a parallel legal system enabling corporations to sue governments if public policy harms their profits.

Over 2.3 million people are backing a European Citizens Initiative to end TTIP negotiations altogether. In April, a global day of action against the deal saw tens of thousands of protesters across the European continent.

Source: Report Exposes ‘Revolving Door’ Within Corporate-Dominated TTIP Talks | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Japan’s Continued Lurch Toward Militarism Prompts Public Outcry

‘If Japan becomes another regular nation which goes to war like the United States, Japan will lose its singular brand,’ says protester

by Deirdre Fulton

Inciting public protests and a walkout by opposition lawmakers, Japan’s lower house of parliament passed a set of controversial security bills on Thursday, paving the way for the country’s military to potentially fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

The move offered further evidence of the pacifist nation’s march toward militarism, with one protester telling NBC News: “This is going to make it easier to go to war. It’s wrong.” According to news outlets, hundreds of protesters stood outside the parliament building on Thursday, chanting anti-war slogans during the debate and vote. Some held banners that read: “No to war legislation!”

“By upholding our constitution, I think we’ve earned the respect and trust from the world… and its something that has been carefully protected for 70 years. If Japan becomes another regular nation which goes to war like the United States, Japan will lose its singular brand.”
—Norikazu Hamada, protester

According to Irish Times reporter David McNeill in Tokyo, most members of Japan’s opposition parties walked out of the chamber in protest before the vote on Thursday afternoon. Some shouted “shame” and held signs calling the bills “unforgivable.” 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose ruling coalition put forth the bills, wants Japan’s armed forces to join in military activities abroad and defend allies under attack—principally the United States—a policy Abe hasdubbed “proactive pacifism.”

The New York Times reports that “Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them had it been free to act.”

But legal scholars counter that Japan’s constitution explicitly disavows war. Article 9 of the nation’s constitution, which came into effect on May 3, 1947, states: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

Opposition lawmaker Yukihisa Fujita told CNN this week that the change will “damage the way Japanese people and country is viewed. It will damage the view of Japanese as a diplomatic nation.”

And according to the Associated Press, polls show about 80 percent of Japanese oppose the bills and the majority believe the legislation is unconstitutional. Sheila Smith, writing at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog, states that “[c]itizen activism against the prime minister’s policies is spreading, and on the streets and in town halls across Japan, there is a push to build a coalition of opposition to Abe’s effort at defense policy reform.”

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partners hold a two-thirds majority, which is needed to approve bills, in the lower house. The upper house, where the LDP and partners also hold a majority, now has 60 days to rule on the bills. Even if it rejects them, the bills would be sent back to the more powerful lower house, which can then pass them into law.

According to the Japan Times:

One of the two security bills will establish a new permanent law to allow the [Self-Defense Forces, or SDF] to provide logistic support for a foreign military engaging in U.N.-backed operations, while the second will amend 10 security-related laws and remove various restrictions on the SDF’s operations.

The latter bill would allow Japan to use the right of collective self-defense as defined under the United Nations charter, or the right to use force to aid an ally under attack even if Japan itself is not.

Japan marks 70 years since the end of the second World War next month.

“By upholding our constitution, I think we’ve earned the respect and trust from the world… and its something that has been carefully protected for 70 years,” said 34-year-old protester Norikazu Hamada on Thursday. “If Japan becomes another regular nation which goes to war like the United States, Japan will lose its singular brand.”

Unsurprisingly, the United States has supported Abe’s push. “We certainly welcome, as we’ve said before, Japan’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the alliance and to play a more active role in regional and international security activities,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby reportedly said Wednesday.

Late last week, Reuters reported that Japan is interested in joining a 12-nation NATO missile building consortium that would give Tokyo its first taste of a multinational defense project. The news outlet wrote: “Two Japanese sources familiar with the initiative said discussions in Tokyo were at an early stage, although joining the consortium would dovetail with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s more muscular security agenda, which included the lifting last year of a decades-old ban on arms exports.”


Source: Japan’s Continued Lurch Toward Militarism Prompts Public Outcry

Amid Torture Scandal, APA Officials Step Down

American Psychological Association leaders, including CEO, follow ethics director out the door

by: Nadia Prupis

Amid ongoing revelations that the American Psychological Association (APA) aided the U.S. government’s secret torture program, several APA officials on Tuesday announced their resignation from the organization, including its chief executive officer.

Dr. Norman Anderson, who became CEO of the APA in 2003, said he was leaving in order to “allow the association to take another step in the important process of organizational healing,” according to a press release.

Also stepping down from their posts are deputy CEO Dr. Michael Honaker, who will leave on August 15, and communications director Rhea K. Farberman.

Those three officials, along with several other senior APA members, were named in a 542-page report released last month by law firm Sidley Austin examining the APA’s role in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s torture program.

Honaker supervised the APA’s ethics director, lawyer and psychologist Stephen Behnke. Behnke left his post last week.

As David Luban, founding editor of Just Security and Georgetown University Law Center professor, wrote in an op-ed on Monday, the report—known as the Hoffman report for Sidley Austin’s lead investigator, David Hoffman—portrayed Behnke as “the impresario of the organization’s campaign to depict itself as a human rights champion, while quietly permitting its members to engage in coercive interrogations and shielding them from ethics complaints.”

“If the APA is taking steps to right this ship, the departure of the people who were implicated [in the Hoffman report] is essential,” Luban told Common Dreams.

In one instance outlined in the report (pdf), Behnke told Honaker that he had done contract work for the Department of Defense (DOD), giving paid ethics lectures to agents participating in interrogation training at a U.S. Army base.

“Honaker did not provide this information to CEO Norman Anderson or the Board,” the report states. “Honaker said that it did not occur to him that the Board would need to know or discuss this information, because he saw it as a standard example of Behnke providing ethics training to an important group of psychologists, as he does in a variety of settings.”

“If the APA is taking steps to right this ship, the departure of the people who were implicated [in the Hoffman report] is essential.”
—David Luban, Just Security

Behnke’s communications with Anderson, Honaker, Farberman, and others at that time showed an intention to curry favor with intelligence agencies.

The APA’s involvement in the CIA torture program hasbeen known for some time, but the report made clear the extent of the association’s role. In another case, Debra Dunivin, then a member of the Guantanamo Bay Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), pushed for the inclusion of certain military and DOD officials on the APA’s Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) task force.

Dunivin’s husband, APA practice directorate chief Russ Newman, acted as an “observer” to the task force, ostensibly to provide input to the creation of interrogation guidelines—but, as the report states, no one at the APA brought up the “obvious” conflict of interest arising from Newman and Dunivin’s marriage. Neither Anderson, Honeker, Behnke, Gilfoyle, APA President Ron Levant, or APA President-Elect Gerald Koocher, took any steps to “disclose or resolve the conflict.”

But that was far from the only problem found during the Hoffman investigation. During one meeting of the PENS task force, Farberman reportedly “made comments about not implying that torture occurred at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay.”

At another time, Dunivin reportedly “conveyed to Farberman the need to stay the course and place BSCTs in a ‘positive light’ in APA’s communications efforts, Farberman said,” according to the report.

And it was business as usual on Tuesday, with the APA quietly announcing Anderson, Honaker, and Farberman’s resignations with little to indicate that the torture scandal influenced their decisions.

“Ms. Farberman and the Board are in agreement that going forward APA plans to hire a chief communications officer who can provide a fresh start to the association’s communications needs as it grapples with the problems identified by the Hoffman report,” the press release stated.

Earlier this month, psychologists Stephen Soldz and Steven Reizner, who have led the charge for the last decade to remove psychologists from the interrogation business, delivered remarks to the APA board about the Hoffman report which outlined necessary steps to rectify the association’s influence on the torture program. That included the firing of Behnke, Anderson, Honaker, and Farberman, among other staff members.

“But,” Soldz and Reizner added, “housecleaning is a small piece of what is necessary for full accountability: How do we hold leadership and governance itself accountable? How do we answer the question, how did this happen and what must we do to insure it doesn’t happen again?”

Source: Amid Torture Scandal, APA Officials Step Down | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community