Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Oh Yes He Could

The next installment of the Snowden leaks from Greenwald:
The NSA boasts in training materials that [their] program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.


"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.


The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a "selector" in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.

Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.


To search for emails, an analyst using XKS enters the individual's email address into a simple online search form, along with the "justification" for the search and the time period for which the emails are sought.

The analyst then selects which of those returned emails they want to read by opening them in NSA reading software.


An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages.

  Glenn Greenwald
Much more in the article, including many images of software screenshots and slides.

The NSA has issued a statement to the Guardian, which does not now appear to deny the capabilities of XKeyscore, but merely to defend its use.

"NSA's activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests,” said the NSA.

Flashback, October 9, 2008:
Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.


Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."


David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.


Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk.

I can certainly see how pillow talk would be “necessary to protect our nation and its interests.” Keep up the good work, NSA,

The Manning Verdict

Army Private First Class Bradley Manning was found not guilty on Tuesday morning on charges of knowingly aiding enemies of the U.S. by transferring 750,000 pages of military files to WikiLeaks, the Associated Press reported.

  Raw Story
Bradley Manning, the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, faces a possible maximum sentence of 136 years in military jail after he was convicted on Tuesday of most charges on which he stood trial.

  UK Guardian
Yes, 17 guilty charges.
Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. "Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty," she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning – on top of the three years he has already spent in detention – dawned.
Oh, but she’s a fair judge all right.
A further 112 days will be taken off the sentence as part of a pre-trial ruling in which Lind compensated him for the excessively harsh treatment he endured at the Quantico marine base in Virginia between July 2010 and April 2011. He was kept on suicide watch for long stretches despite expert opinion from military psychiatrists who deemed him to be at low risk of self-harm, and at one point was forced to strip naked at night in conditions that the UN denounced as a form of torture.
A whole 112 days.
“While we’re relieved that Mr. Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project head Ben Wizner said in his organization’s statement.

  Raw Story
Not much of a relief for Manning that he was acquitted on aiding the enemy when he could still be sentenced to 130 years.  It’s not like he would have ended up with anything worse than life in prison. But the avoidance of the precedent that would have set could be a relief to anyone else considering leaking anything. That is if they don't have 20 other charges tossed in.
“Since Manning already plead guilty to charges of leaking information – which carry significant punishment — it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”

“We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free,” CCR’s statement read.
Indeed we do. Indeed we do.
Amid the controversy, [Iowa Sen. Chuck] Grassley has introduced a Senate resolution marking Tuesday as National Whistleblower Day.


Grassley wants Americans to recognize the sacrifices he has seen whistle-blowers make over the past three decades he has spent advocating on their behalf.

"Anything we can do to uphold whistle-blowers and their protection is the right thing to keep government responsible," Grassley said. "If you know laws are being violated and money's being misspent, you have a patriotic duty to report it."

  USA Today
And the subsequent privilege of having your life destroyed by that same government. Because, if they can waste billions of dollars, they can certainly afford to harass, persecute and prosecute you till the end of your days.
Grassley views his involvement as his duty to protect truth-tellers. Quoting his longtime inspiration Fitzgerald, Grassley said: "The only crime whistle-blowers commit is telling the truth."
Which turns out to be one of the MOST heavily prosecuted crimes in our country.
The verdict [comes] on the same day that America passed its first whistleblower protection law. The law passed by the Continental Congress on July 30, 1778, declared that it was the “duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by an officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”


Manning did not go to Congress with his information but had he gone to Congress it is a virtual guarantee that he would have lost his security clearance for trying to provide information to Congress that included evidence of torture and other war crimes. The world would never have seen the information he disclosed to WikiLeaks.


[The 1778 law] was passed unanimously in response to a whistleblower, Marine Captain John Grannis, who presented a petition to the Continental Congress on March 26, 1777, to have a commander of the Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, suspended after he tortured British sailors who were captured.

  The Dissenter
So just what DID we learn from the Manning leaks?
Take the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack, which shows two Reuters journalists being gunned down in Baghdad. The soldiers in the video known as “Collateral Murder” feature soldiers begging superior officers to give them orders to fire on individuals, who are rescuing wounded people. Soldiers also openly hoped a wounded man crawling on the sidewalk would pick up something resembling a weapon so they could finish him off. And, “The most alarming aspect of the video,” as Manning said, is “the seemingly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have.”

Consider the military incident reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, which he thought “represented the on the ground reality of both of the conflicts” the US was waging in those countries. In Afghanistan, the reports obtained by WikiLeaks and released as the “Afghan War Logs” showed an assassination squad, Task Force 373, was operating. It kept classified lists of enemies and went on a mission on June 17, 2007, to target “prominent al Qaeda functionary Abu Laith al-Libi.” The squad staked out a “Koran school where he was believed to be located for several days.” An attack was ordered. The squad ended up killing seven children with five American rockets. Al-Libi was not killed.

Reports from Iraq, also obtained by WikiLeaks and released as the “Iraq War Logs,” revealed an order, Frago 242, which the US and the UK appeared to have adopted as a way of excusing them from having to take responsibility for torture or ill-treatment of Iraqis by Iraqi military or security forces. The reports also showed US interrogators had threatened Iraqi detainees with the prospect of being turned over to the “Wolf Brigade” or “Wolf Battalion,” which would “subject” them “to all the pain and agony that the Wolf Battalion is known to exact upon its detainees.”

If those revelations are not enough to make him a whistleblower, over 250,000 US diplomatic cableswere slowly released (up until 100,000 were rapidly published on to the Internet by WikiLeaks in August 2011), and they revealed: US diplomats spying on United Nations leadership, the Yemen president agreed to secretly allow US cruise missile attacks that he would say were launched by his government, Iceland’s banking crisis had partly been a result of bullying by European countries, US and China joined together to obstruct a major agreement on climate change by European countries, US government was well aware of rampant corruption in the Tunisian ruling family of President Ben Ali, the FBI trained torturers in Egypt’s state security service, both the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama pressured Spain and Germany not to investigate torture authorized by Bush administration officials, and foreign contractors managed by DynCorp hired Afghan boys to dress up as girls and dance for them.

Should that still not be enough, Manning also provided WikiLeaks with more than 700 detainee assessment reports on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. The assessments showed children and elderly men were imprisoned, information from a “small number of detainees” who were tortured was relied upon by US authorities and al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj had been sent to the prison “to provide information” on the “al Jazeera news network’s training program, telecommunications equipment and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview” of bin Laden.

  The Dissenter
And none of that will be punished.  But Bradley Manning is going to spend the rest of his life in the brig.  Nice going, America.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.   And watch this (scroll down a bit for the video):

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Dying

Wonderful twitter account by journalist Scott Simon as he sits by his mother's side while she's dying. (I know. That doesn't sound like anything that would ever come from me. But there you have it.)

Here's just one tweet.  Not representative necessarily, but having spent some time sitting in ICU wondering if my little boy would make it, I totally relate:

And after her death:

My apologies if you decide to read this lovely account and feel you've been misled into thinking you won't get your tears jerked.

You Can Fight Nationalism

But you can’t win.

RIP Garry Davis.

Peace activist Garry Davis, who dramatically renounced his US citizenship in the dark days of the Cold War and founded a government for self-declared "world citizens" like himself, has died.

Davis passed away in a hospice in the New England state of Vermont, where he had lived for many years, last Wednesday.


He would have been 92 last Saturday. The cause of death was not known, but he had been suffering from cancer in recent years.

"Garry Davis was an astonishing human being," said David Gallup, the current president of the World Service Authority, who spoke with him almost daily.

"He was working up to the very last minute... I thought he was going to go on forever," Gallup told AFP.

A one-time Broadway actor who flew B-17 bombers over Germany in World War II, Davis was 26 when he walked into the US embassy in Paris in 1948, renounced his American citizen and declared himself a citizen of the world.


Davis -- like many people in the aftermath of World War II -- dreaded the prospect of a third global conflict, this time involving nuclear weapons.

In a move that stirred up a lot of publicity, he disrupted a session of the UN General Assembly in Paris in September 1948 and called for the newly-formed world body to transform itself into a single government for the entire planet.

His idea attracted support from the likes of physicist Albert Einstein, novelist Albert Camus and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, and more than 20,000 people turned out for a rally he organized in the French capital.


Lacking papers from any traditional government, Davis traveled on a "world passport" issued by the World Government [which he founded], promoting what came to be known as the One World Movement -- and getting arrested or deported on several occasions as he did so.


Based in Washington, the non-profit World Service Authority still issues machine-readable, 30-page World Passports which, it says, have been stamped with visas by more than 150 countries "on a case-by-base basis."

One passport has been issued to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and another to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden after his US passport -- though not his US citizenship -- was revoked.


Over the decades, some 1.5 million people have registered as world citizens, while the World Service Authority has issued some five million identity documents of various kinds, including up to 750,000 passports, Gallup said.

A World passport. What a great idea.


The biggest superpower on the earth is still battling the tiny island of impoverished Cuba - and still losing.
The US government has spent more than $24 million to fly a plane over Cuba and forcibly broadcast American propaganda on television. The plot was neutralized by the Cubans, who have consistently blocked the transmissions with their own signal.

Dubbed AeroMarti, the initiative has attempted to give Cubans an alternative to the government-controlled media for several years running. It first debuted nearly two decades ago and has cost taxpayers close to $25 million over the past six years alone.


The plane is currently suspended because of government sequestration – federally mandated spending cuts that put many government duties on pause because of the ongoing fiscal crisis – but its ultimate fate lies with the House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Committees.


The US Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees AeroMarti and, according to Foreign Policy magazine, has asked Congress to discontinue the program two years in a row, admitting it has been a failure.

Proponents of the program say we can’t stop doing it because it would send a bad message to the Cuban government,” said John Nichols, a communications professor at Penn State University in Pennsylvania. “That’s bogus: It’s ineffective, it wastes a huge amount of money and the compromise we make to keep it on air, knowing it violates international law, is not at all worth it.”

AeroMarti has cost American taxpayers more than a billion dollars since debuting in the mid-1980s.

I wonder how many wasted dollars have been spent on failed missions to take down Cuba over the decades since Fidel kicked out the mafia. This obsession is unhealthy.

Free Socialized Health Care in,,,,,Montana!

A year ago, Montana opened the nation's first clinic for free primary healthcare services to its state government employees. The Helena, Mont., clinic was pitched as a way to improve overall employee health, but the idea has faced its fair share of political opposition.

A year later, the state says the clinic is already saving money.


The state contracts with a private company to run the facility and pays for everything — wages of the staff, total costs of all the visits. Those are all new expenses, and they all come from the budget for state employee healthcare.

Even so, division manager Russ Hill says it's actually costing the state $1,500,000 less for healthcare than before the clinic opened.

"Because there's no markup, our cost per visit is lower than in a private fee-for-service environment," Hill says.

Physicians are paid by the hour, not by the number of procedures they prescribe like many in the private sector. The state is able to buy supplies at lower prices.


Montana recently opened a second state employee health clinic in Billings, the state's largest city. Others are in the works.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Et Tu España?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Two Steps Back?

In a new interpretation of the Espionage Act, a federal judge made it easier for prosecutors in leak cases to meet their burden of proof, while reducing protections for accused leakers.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the prosecution in the pending case of former State Department contractor Stephen Kim need not show that the information he allegedly leaked could damage U.S. national security or benefit a foreign power, even potentially.


The prosecution must still show that the defendant “reasonably believed” that the information “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation” and that the defendant “willfully” communicated it to an unauthorized person. But it would no longer be necessary for prosecutors to demonstrate that the information itself could potentially damage national security or benefit an adversary.

  Secrecy News
So it doesn’t matter that the information could cause no harm. It’s all about intent. Is that what’s happening here? If so, I don’t see how, as the article begins that is an easier burden of proof. It would actually seem more difficult to me.
The Kim defense had argued that the requirement to show that the leaked information could cause at least potential damage was essential to a proper understanding of the Espionage Act statute. Without it, defense attorneys argued, the Espionage Act would become something like an Official Secrets Act, enabling the government to punish disclosure of anything that was designated classified, even if it was improperly classified.
That part is true, and not good, because now they can nab you for telling anything. I suppose even if it’s harder to prove you intended to harm the US, they can still make ruin your life by bringing charges for anything. But I think they could do that anyway, though.  This administration seems to be very fond of pulling out the Espionage Act to charge or just threaten people who embarrass it.
In a subsequent reply, the defense added that “The requirement that disclosure of the information be ‘potentially damaging’ is ‘implicit in the purpose of the statute and assures that the government cannot abuse the statute by penalizing citizens for discussing information the government has no compelling reason to keep confidential’ .”
As I said, it seems they do that anyway. Assurance or no. Perhaps this is due to one of the complaints that keeps coming up: things are overclassified which leads to people being charged with crimes they shouldn’t be charged with. Now, the judge is saying, you won’t be able to argue that any more.  The Espionage Act can cover anything we say it does. 

This ruling was apparently handed down in May and just now “unsealed.” It’s part of the messy case in which Fox News reporter James Rosen finds himself over political intelligence regarding North Korea leaked to him by someone in the NSC – currently several fingers are pointing and deflecting blame – which Rosen reported and which apparently had no potential national security harm at all.

Another victim in Obama's war on journalists and whistleblowers.

White House Desperation?

Circling the wagons or just a power play?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Oh, My. What a Surprise.

President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are set to meet for lunch Monday.

The private lunch between the president and the woman many Democrats hope will succeed him in office was announced Sunday by the White House press office. No reason for the powwow was given.

  The Hill
No reason needs to be given. She’s next in line. But there may be a glitch in the works with this NSA revelation. Hillary is certainly not known for her civil liberties and human rights stance. Unless Obama gets on the stick and pulls some liberalism out of his ass, the growing relationship between progressives and tea partiers over civil liberties may lose her the election.
Obama will then meet with civil rights leaders on strengthening the Voting Rights Act in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling striking down a key provision which forced many states and municipalities to preclear voting and election law changes with the federal
I don’t think that’s going to be enough. Counting on the black vote may be misguided this time around. They might want to use their vote for someone who will actually work toward equality and justice for them, not just talk pretty about it.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Again with the Wyden Accolades

Sure, he’s better than the Congressional members who knew and didn’t speak out against government abuse and illegality, and a damn sight better than the ones who actively support it, but certainly not better than those who didn't know or were misled, and being better than the bad isn’t really much of an accolade.
[Ron] Wyden finally has the audience he sought. All it took was Snowden. This is an awkward fact of Wyden’s success: To get anyone’s attention, the senator needed somebody else to break the laws that he would not.

“This debate should have started long, long, long ago. And it should have been started by elected officials and not by a government contractor,” Wyden said Friday.

So, what is he, but an elected official?

How proud he must be that he didn’t break any law. Only because not turning in another lawbreaker (in this case the NSA) is not against the law. At least not for Congressmen.
He said he spent years trying to start the debate, without actually saying what the debate was about.
And what kind of sense does that make? I want to start a debate that’s very, very important, but I can’t tell you what that debate is about. Pray tell, asshat, how do I debate something when I don’t know the facts?  Since when did governing become a game of charades?  "Three words.  First word: Sounds like..."
In March, for instance, Wyden asked Clapper about domestic ¬intelligence-gathering.

“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” he asked.

Wyden knew the answer. Clapper knew the answer. The answer was yes.

“No, sir,” Clapper said.
And now Wyden is talking trash about Clapper for having lied. Well, what if we had put Ron Wyden on the stand and asked him a direct question like that? Since he says he couldn’t break the law, or the oath he had taken, he would have had to lie, wouldn’t he? The double standard is astounding.
But Wyden counts it a success and a necessary move (he also says he warned Clapper about the question beforehand). He said he wanted to establish a public marker to show that the administration had been spreading untruths about the reach of domestic spying.

“You can’t do vigorous oversight if the leaders of the intelligence community are misleading the American people, and Congress, in public hearings,” Wyden said.
Nor when the men and women who are charged with oversight aren’t willing to correct the record.
Now, Wyden says he will press — along with allies such as Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) — for legislation to end the bulk collection of telephone records and to declassify some decisions by the secret court.
And where would we be if Edward Snowden hadn’t come forward with what Ron Wyden and Mark Udall should have?  Perhaps it is simply a lesson for all American citizens who have the sense to see it, that we cannot entrust our lives and our rights to group of dollar-dependent pantywaists on a hill.
“We’re starting to put some points on the board,” Wyden said, noting the close vote on Amash’s amendment. “There is no question in my mind that our side is going to grow, and we’re going to stay at it until this is fixed.”
”Our side.” Why don’t you take credit, Mr. Wyden, while Edward Snowden sits in a foreign airport transit zone facing serious punishment, including the possibility of kidnap and rendition, and maybe even at BEST is looking at life in prison? Big brave defender of justice.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

US Lawmakers Keep Their Morals in Their Wallets

The numbers tell the story — in votes and dollars. On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA’s phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 “no” voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 “yes” voters.

That’s the upshot of a new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley-based non-profit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member’s vote on the Amash amendment than party affiliation. House members who voted to continue the massive phone-call-metadata spy program, on average, raked in 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it.

[W]ith a few rare and noble exceptions, the Intelligence Committees in both houses of Congress are filled with precisely those members who are most slavishly beholden to, completely captured by, the intelligence community over which they supposedly serve as watchdogs. Many receive large sums of money from the defense and intelligence industries.


In particular, the two chairs of those committees - Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and Mike Rogers in the House - are such absolute loyalists to the NSA and the National Security State generally that it is usually impossible to distinguish their behavior, mindset and comments from those of NSA officials.


In sum, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are the pure embodiment of the worst of Washington: the corrupting influence of money from the very industries they are designed to oversee and the complete capture by the agencies they are supposed to adversarially check. Anything that comes out of those two Committees that is labeled NSA reform" is almost certain to be designed to achieve the opposite effect: to stave off real changes in lieu of illusory tinkering whose real purpose will be to placate rising anger.


If I had to pick the most astonishing aspect of this episode so far, it would be that everyone now knows that the Obama administration's top national security official, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, outright lied to the Senate about NSA programs, and everyone knows that he did. And yet - as I said on ABC yesterday morning - not only isn't being prosecuted for that crime but still has his job. That, of course, is because the "law" does not apply to high-level Washington officials.

  Glenn Greenwald
Which is another issue crying out for reform, along with the ruling that corporations' cash contributions amount to free speech, both of which have far less chance of reform than reining in the security state.

Get Ready for Another Big Terror Attack

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Hope He Likes His New Home

Edward Snowden's father, Lon Snowden, said in a telephone interview to AP that his son was vilified by the Obama administration and members of Congress, and is better off staying in Russia.

The elder Snowden said that he has lost faith in recent weeks that his son would be treated fairly by the US Justice Department. He added that his son should avoid returning to the US if possible, until an administration which respects the Constitution comes into office.


Could be a very long wait.

Big Brother - the Next Installment

“The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and email in their databases. What these programs are are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things: it searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered; and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or connected to that IP address do in the future. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst.”


Following up on Edward Snowden’s earlier claim that he could wiretap anybody as a low-level defense contractor—a claim denied by NSA officials and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers—Glenn Greenwald appeared on This Week With George Stephanopoulos and claimed that his forthcoming reporting would prove exactly that. “It’s an incredibly powerful and invasive tool,” Greenwald said of the program Snowden used, “exactly the type that Mr. Snowden described. NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I’ve just said.”


Guess What?

The kidnap from a foreign country, rendition and torture of an Islamic cleric living in asylum in Italy is true. If you didn’t want to believe the cleric or any of dozens of other sources, now you can hear it from an ex-CIA agent who was actually involved.
A former CIA officer has broken the U.S. silence around the 2003 abduction of a radical Islamist cleric in Italy, charging that the agency inflated the threat the preacher posed and that the United States then allowed Italy to prosecute her and other Americans to shield President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials from responsibility for approving the operation.


De Sousa, 57, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India’s state of Goa, was one of 23 Americans convicted in absentia in 2009 by a Milan court for Nasr’s abduction. She received a five-year sentence. An appeals court in 2011 added two more years, and Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence. Nineteen of the Americans, De Sousa said, “don’t exist,” because they were aliases used by the CIA snatch team.

Back up a second. The United States allowed Italy to prosecute? Since when does the United States have any control over whether or who Italy prosecutes? The CIA folks must really believe that the US is in control of the whole world for everything. (They may be in the midst of getting schooled on the matter by Russia these days.)

But, go on.
Confirming for the first time that she worked undercover for the CIA in Milan when the operation took place, Sabrina De Sousa provided new details about the “extraordinary rendition” that led to the only criminal prosecution stemming from the secret Bush administration rendition and detention program.


Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr [aka Abu Omar], was snatched from a Milan street by a team of CIA operatives and flown to Egypt, where he was held for the better part of four years without charges and allegedly tortured. An Egyptian court in 2007 ruled that his imprisonment was “unfounded” and ordered him released.


More than 130 people were “rendered” in this way, according to a February 2013 study by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a U.S.-based group that promotes the rule of law. Many were tortured and abused, and many, including Nasr, were freed for lack of proof that they were hatching terrorist plots, said Amrit Singh, the study’s author.


The Bush and Obama administrations have never acknowledged U.S. involvement in the Nasr rendition, which makes De Sousa’s decision to speak publicly about it significant, Singh said.


The CIA declined to comment, but a former senior U.S. intelligence official called De Sousa’s narrative “fairly consistent” with the recollections of other former CIA officials with knowledge of the operation.


Calling the operation unjustified and illegal, De Sousa said Italy and the United States cooperated in “scape-goating a bunch of people . . . while the ones who approved this stupid rendition are all free.”


The Senate and House intelligence committees enabled the coverup, De Sousa added, by failing to treat her as a whistleblower after she told them of the lack of prosecutable evidence against Nasr and what she called her own mistreatment by the CIA that compelled her to resign in 2009.


According to De Sousa, the Bush administration had two thresholds for an extraordinary rendition: A target had to be on a U.S. list of top al Qaida terrorists who posed “a clear and imminent danger” to American and allied lives, and the nation where an operation was planned had to make the arrest.

Neither occurred with Nasr, De Sousa said.

A cleric who preached holy war against the West, Nasr, who is also known as Abu Omar, was living in Italy under a grant of political asylum when he was accosted Feb. 17, 2003, by black-suited men on a Milan street as he walked to his mosque. He was bundled into a white van and driven to Aviano, from which he was flown to Germany and then to Egypt.
And Edward Snowden has nothing to worry about, right?
De Sousa said her assertions are based on classified CIA cables that she read before resigning from the agency in February 2009, as well as on Italian legal documents and Italian news reports. She denies that she was involved in the operation, though she acknowledges that she served as the interpreter for a CIA “snatch” team that visited Milan in 2002 to plan the abduction.


“I don’t have any of the cables with me. Please put that down,” De Sousa added with a nervous laugh.
Of course, we can already, as good American citizens will surely want to, dismiss DeSousa:  sour grapes (the CIA mistreated her, causing her to resign), and she doesn’t have the cables for proof.

Details of the operation are in the McClatchy article. The mistreatment she is claiming is a result of the Italian case against her which the CIA obstructed her ability to defend or have dismissed, and included collusion of “successive U.S. intelligence leaders, the CIA inspector general’s office, members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees, [Condoleeza] Rice, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder.”
De Sousa wanted to resign from the CIA earlier than she did, but, she said, her attorney persuaded her to wait for Barack Obama to take office because he might be more sympathetic to her case.
Hope, huh?
“My life has been hell,” De Sousa said.


[H]er treatment, she said, provides a warning to U.S. employees serving around the world. If they get prosecuted while doing their jobs, she said, “You have no protection whatsoever. Zero.”
I think that’s in the contract they sign, isn’t it?

I don’t mean to demean Ms. DeSousa’s position – well, I guess I do, because I’m going to do it – but her life has not been “hell” - compared to that of the man she helped render for torture, let’s say. Nor compared to Bradley Manning, who actually exposed atrocities when he saw them. Or ex-CIA agent John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the CIA – on waste in spending – and is now serving time in prison. Now that the public and insincere political tide has turned in the wake of ex-CIA/NSA employee Edward Snowden’s selfless heroic whistleblowing, we may be seeing more people like Ms. DeSousa – who do indeed have a legitimate complaint, but, like Ron Wyden and many others, didn’t come forward when there was any real danger to them, only after it looked safe to come out from under their respective rocks. Better late than never may be true, but it’s not better than on time.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

TransCanada Pipeline: Presidential Tease

Bell’s Brewery, which bills itself as the oldest and largest brewery in Michigan, has just filed a lawsuit against the company Enbridge and if that name doesn’t ring a bell, think back to July 26, 2010 when an Enbridge pipeline broke and spilled an estimated 843,00 gallons of Line 6B oil into the Kalamazoo River, making it the largest tar sands oil spill in US history. [...] The Enbridge cleanup is not nearly complete after three full years, and EPA has all but admitted that up to 168,000 gallons of oil will remain in the Kalamazoo River indefinitely.

  Raw Story
Barack Obama has given the strongest indication to date that he holds reservations about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying the project would not create many jobs and could raise gasoline prices.

  Raw Story
Oh, don’t get your hopes up.
Obama said – as he did in his climate change address last month – that his decision on the pipeline would be based on the pipeline’s effects on climate change.

“I’m going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.”
You see how that works? Talk like you’re leaning against the project and lay the responsibility on Canada for doing something that will “allow” you to support it. Go ahead, Canada. Pretend you’re doing something “more” to prove this won't "significantly" contribute to atmospheric carbon.

Russia Continues to Call Our Bluff

The Russian Ministry of Justice has announced it is working on a reply to a letter it received from US Attorney General Eric Holder, in which he assured that Edward Snowden will not be tortured or given the death penalty if he is returned to the US.

The Ministry does not specify what the answer will be or when it will be sent to the US.

Perhaps we can surmise the gist.
The Russian Ministry of Justice said in a statement that according to the country’s laws, former CIA employer Snowden can stay inside the international transit zone for as long as he pleases, even though his travel documents were revoked by the United States.

The ministry also replied to US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul’s earlier tweet that the US was not seeking Snowden's extradition, but was instead asking for his return. The ministry explained that it could not comply with such a request, simply because the term “forced return” does not exist in international law.

The US Ambassador to Russia tweets decisions. Leaving that aside, how quaint. Russia says it has never extradited anyone and will not do so now. So the US says, we’re not asking for extradition, we’re asking for “return”. Tell me, how would returning him be accomplished without extradition? They’re saying what the US always says, “Go ahead and do this thing that is wrong, just call it something else. Works for us.”

International law, bah.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Sorry" Doesn't Cut It

Italy, France, Spain and Portugal have apologized to Bolivia's president Evo Morales for denying his plane to cross their airspace after being prompted from the US to do so. I don't see an apology from Austria, who let the plane land and refuel but actually boarded it to search for Edward Snowden.
"We accept the apologies of the four countries as a first step because we want to continue with respectful relationships between our countries, relationships of complementarity and solidarity," Morales said, though he added that Bolivia reserves the right to file complaints over the incident with international organizations.

  Indian Country
And should.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Ron Wyden Has a Problem

“From a policy standpoint, it is in my view representative of the problem that this debate was started by Mr. Snowden as opposed to the Congress and the elected officials of this country.”

  National Memo
I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Ron Wyden is a member of Congress who was privy to the secret law interpretations and the NSA’s data mining, and he has a problem with the fact that Snowden broke the news and not Congress?  As a congressman, Mr. Wyden wouldn’t even have had to flee the country had he broken the news publicly, much less taken it to the entire Congress, which he did not.
I was already aware of the fact that millions and millions of records were being collected on law-abiding people. And I had spent all that time dealing with the fact that the head of the NSA had said, “we don’t collect any data at all,” and I kept trying to pin that down because, again, it just cried out for follow-up. We weren’t able to get answers, and that’s why I notified [Director of National Intelligence] General [James] Clapper the day before the public hearing, that I was going to ask him on the record to respond… He had said repeatedly that they don’t collect data. We were very troubled by all those comments because they were in a public forum…So I think I’ll leave it at that.
We noticed.

Perhaps Bradley Manning Should Be Personally Thanking Edward Snowden

Reports on Bradley Manning’s defense team’s strategy in the early stages indicate it was to portray him as an unbalanced young man to whom the military should never have entrusted the job he had, because the military knew he was unbalanced. That’s when I stopped following the Manning proceedings very closely. Now look at the actual closing arguments recently from his attorney:
In his closing arguments, defence lawyer David Coombs said Manning was simply a "young, naive and good-intentioned" whistleblower.

He said Manning was not seeking attention and is willing to accept the price for what he has done.

Mr Coombs said Manning was dismayed by what he saw in Iraq and hoped his leak of secret files would ignite public debate.

"He was hoping to spark worldwide discussion... hoping that things would change based on that information," he said.

During his final argument, Mr Coombs played a video Manning leaked of an Apache helicopter crew gunning down Iraqi civilians.

The video shows the Apache opening fire on unarmed men retrieving a wounded Iraqi, with the crew joking afterward.

Mr Coombs implored the judge to understand it from the perspective of "a guy who cared about human life".


"He was hoping to spark worldwide discussion... hoping that things would change based on that information," he said.   ABC
Pathetic. Taken right out of the Snowden headlines. And what they should have been arguing from the beginning if it's true. (And even if it's not.)

Manning is not as smart as Snowden, and he went to the wrong people beginning to end.  But he certainly has shown a great deal of stamina and ability to withstand the government's turning of the screws on him, and hold up under overwhelmingly negative public and political  opinion.

Now let's see what the judge decides.

While Russia Calls Our Bluff

The US State Department does not believe that imposing international sanctions because of Snowden would be of any use, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

What? Nobody trembled at the possibility? Where’s that super power?
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has recently proposed that the US State Department set penalties against those nations that seek to help former NSA contractor Edward Snowden avoid extradition to the US.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved the proposal unanimously by voice vote as an amendment to 2014 diplomacy and international aid bill.

“We have not seen the text of the proposed bill, but we feel that in general legislation imposing sanctions under these circumstances would not be helpful,” Psaki shared, adding that she is not going “to make a prediction about any step we may or may not take.”

“Our focus in this specific case is having Mr. Snowden returned to the United States, and we still feel Russia has the opportunity to do that and to take the right steps,” the spokesperson stressed.
And Holder is reduced to making like Cruella DeVille. “I just love puppies and children. No harm could ever come to them in my care. Trust me. Give me the puppy.”

Friday, July 26, 2013


I thought our government couldn't possibly make me say "unbelievable" again. But I was wrong.
US Attorney General Eric Holder has promised Moscow that Snowden will be given a fair trial, and will not be tortured or sentenced to death. The pledge was made in a diplomatic letter Holder sent earlier this week.

“The United States will not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States. The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes,” said the missive, which was addressed to Russian Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov.

In the letter, the US also promised that Snowden would receive a public jury trial in the civil courts, and would not be subjected to anything but “voluntary questioning” in the lead-up to his trial.

“Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States,” wrote the attorney general.


That should reassure everybody.  Give him back, now.   We promise we won't hurt him. 

Twisted.  Evil.  Gives you the creeps, doesn't it? 

Eric Holder and his boss are the dark heart of devil slime, and I'm sorry, that insults the devil. 

Good luck, Edward. 

Holder said that it wasn’t true that, with his passport revoked, Snowden couldn’t go anywhere without asylum: the government would gladly give him “a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States.”

  New Yorker
Gee, that’s mighty white of you.
What is striking, though, reading his letter, is how non-obvious these very obvious things have become. The United States has tortured, as much as the Obama Administration has disowned the practice. It has played fast and loose with the question of venues, keeping both American and non-American citizens out of the civilian courts where they belong.


[T]he Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has, as it stands, been shaped above all by the legal imagination of Chief Justice John Roberts, who has named all of its members. What was once a check on illegal domestic wiretapping has become a workshop where words are re-defined and precedents are strung together, all out of public view—to the point where one can get a letter from the Attorney General, written in plain language, and not have any idea what it means.

NSA Leaks Interview with Glenn Greenwald

By far, in my opinion, the best and most thorough Greenwald interview on the Snowden leaks to date. Although there have been some good ones, this one is very thoughtful and enlightening about the significance and why the leaks were made, as well as Greenwald's processes in vetting them and Snowden, and his reactions and thoughts on why they have made the impact they are making.

This is a YouTube video, and the video portion is ridiculous - the interviewer sits in front of a mike silently while playing the 40-minute recorded interview. If you don't watch the introductory seven minutes and go straight to the recorded interview (begins at 07:30), and then close your eyes, you'll be doing yourself a favor.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

National Security

A pair of high-tech Army blimps is coming to the greater Washington, DC area, and soon they will be able to provide the military with surveillance powers that spans hundreds of millions of acres from North Carolina to Niagara Falls, Canada.

The airships are part of Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, and when all is said and done they’ll offer the United States military what the defense contractor calls “an affordable elevated, persistent over-the-horizon sensor system” that relies on “a powerful integrated radar system to detect, track and target a variety of threats.”

When do we get to officially call this a police state?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Obama's War on Journalism

The Obama administration's war on journalism does not stop at its secret collection of journalists phone calls and emails, nor at its forcing journalist James Risen to testify against his source, nor at its harassment of journalists like Laura Poitras coming and going across US borders, nor at its unrelenting attempts to get at Julian Assange, but it also extends to other supposedly sovereign nations.  And President Obama is personally involved.
Prominent Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye has been released from prison after being held for three years on terrorism-related charges at the request of President Obama. Shaye helped expose the U.S. cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children in December 2009. Then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced his intention to pardon Shaye in 2011, but apparently changed his mind after a phone call from Obama. In a statement, the White House now says it is "concerned and disappointed" by Shaye’s release.


Abdulelah Haider Shaye went to the scene, he took photographs of what were clearly U.S. cruise missile parts with "General Dynamics" on them, "Made in the United States" on them, and because of the WikiLeaks cables showing that General David Petraeus, who at the time was the CENTCOM commander, conspired with the Yemeni dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, for the United States to begin bombing Yemen in the form of drones and cruise—drone strikes and cruise missile strikes and to have the Yemeni government publicly take responsibility for it. So when Abdulelah Haider Shaye exposed this and it became clear to the world that the Obama administration was starting to bomb Yemen, he was abducted by Yemen’s U.S.-backed political security forces. He was taken to a jail and beaten and told that if he continued to report on the U.S. bombing campaign in Yemen, that he would be put back in jail. He went straight from his beating onto the airwaves of Al Jazeera and said, "I was just abducted by Yemen security forces, and they threatened me." And then, some months later, his house was raided in a night raid, and he was snatched and disappeared for 30 days. He was then brought into a court that was set up specifically to prosecute journalists who had committed crimes against the U.S.-backed dictatorship and was sentenced to five years in that court [...] following a trial that was condemned by many human rights and press freedom groups. Shaye’s release Tuesday reportedly comes in the form of a presidential pardon that requires him to remain in Sana’a for two years. This could prevent him from traveling to the sites of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, a topic he has previously reported on. Shaye was first imprisoned in 2010 after he helped expose the United States’ role in a 2009 cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children. The Yemeni government initially took credit for the strike, saying it had targeted an al-Qaeda training camp. But it was later revealed through WikiLeaks cables that it was in fact a U.S. attack.


”And why is it that the Obama administration has never had to publicly state why they killed 14 women and 21 children in the first strike that President Obama authorized? And, you know, cruise missiles are a devastating weapon, and cluster bombs, which are banned internationally—the United States is one of the only nations on earth that continues to use cluster bombs. These are like flying land mines that shred people into ground meat. [...T]his White House should have to explain why that strike was in the interest of U.S. national security.”

  Democracy Now


Huffington Post reporter Matt Sledge read my Boing Boing post earlier today about reports from the Bradley Manning trial of dramatically-increased security measures for press. Those measures including armed military police standing behind journalists at their laptops, snooping on their screens.

He reports that the new, oppressive security measures were ordered directly by the judge because reporters were violating court rules (which no one can find a copy of), and carrying "prohibited electronics." For this, the government needs armed military police standing right behind reporters as they type, in the media room.


I presume Col. Lind is referring in part to the leaked audio of Bradley Manning's statement before the court, which Freedom of the Press Foundation received from an anonymous source and published online.

Armed military police peering over journalists' shoulders, no Internet access in the remote media room, Army staff frisking everyone for phones -- those weren't the only obstacles for reporters covering the trial today. The military also refused to publish key documents the government used to build its closing argument.

  Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Acute Observation

Halliburton Pleads

US multinational Halliburton has agreed to admit it destoryed evidence related to its part in the huge 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the US Department of Justice announced.

Halliburton will pay the maximum fine available, be on probation for three years and continue to cooperate with the government's criminal investigation, a news release by the department said on Thursday. It did not spell out the fine amount.

But it must have not been as much as they figured they would lose if they didn’t cop to that plea.
The Houston-based multinational also made a separate, voluntary $55 million payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, US Justice Department said, adding that it was not a condition of the court agreement.
Including that.
According to the US Department of Justice news release, Halliburton recommended to BP that the Macondo well contain 21 centralisers - metal collars that can improve cementing. BP chose to use six.

The release also said that during an internal probe into the cementing after the blowout, Halliburton ordered workers to destroy computer simulations that showed little difference between using six and 21 centralisers.
Suppose anyone will do any jail time? Me neither.

Halliburton Energy Services to pay a maximum $200,000 fine for destroying evidence related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which the Gulf of Mexico is yet to recover from. The company will also donate $55 million towards wildlife protection.

$200,000? That’s it. To Halliburton, does that even compare to a penny fine for you or me?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Interfering with the Right to Seek Asylum

The Senate Appropriations Committee said Thursday that they want the Department of State to consider imposing sanctions on any nation willing to assist NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

A hearing held by the 30 member, bi-partisan Senate committee Thursday afternoon in Washington ended with a unanimous decision by way of voice vote to move towards sanctioning countries coming to the aid of the former intelligence analyst.

You know that's a violation of Snowden's human rights, don't you?  I really think it's time for other countries to start sanctioning the US.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We Take It Back

Snowden is NOT leaving the airport yet.
Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena says Snowden [...] will have to stay at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, but confirmed that the NSA-leaker will live in Russia.

Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena talked to RT minutes after he met Snowden. He confirmed that the NSA leaker is not planning to leave Russia after receiving refugee status.

However, Kucherena did not give any specific date when asylum documents should be issued. Asked about reasons for that, he explained that the delay in issuing all necessary papers to Snowden is due to the uniqueness of the situation.


"So according to general rules, this is what the FMS does: When they study all the papers that come in, first they issue a temporary document, and then they consider the request. Today there was some misinformation saying that this paper has been issued and Edward can leave the airport. But this paper has not been issued and the papers are still being considered."


Kucherena says he brought Snowden some fresh clothes and books by Russian writers Dostoevsky and Chekhov [as well as Karamzin, the history of Russia, the history of Moscow, all in English.]. He assures the man is staying in good condition.


”I told him that for example if the migration service turns down his request and we get an official refusal, we can appeal this decision in court. So I can say that he is just waiting. Of course he is trying to cheer up, he tries to figure out the situation he is in. He is very thankful to Russia for not abandoning him. [He is thankful] for the fact that Russia has some wonderful people. He had many positive comments about the staff of the airport. He asked me to say hello to all the journalists covering him in an objective way. And for all the people who call and offer help, money, and their homes as a temporary residence.”

“Any move that would allow Mr. Snowden to depart the airport would be deeply disappointing," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been awarded the "Whistleblower Prize" by the German branch of human rights organization Transparency International. Established in 1999, the prize comes with 3,000 euros of prize money. It is given to those who "reveal grave abuses and dangerous developments for people and society, democracy, peace and the environment in the public interest.” The organization’s representatives say the award money will be passed on to Snowden.

The US government will be deeply disappointed.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Of Course It Was

The first major legislative challenge to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records from millions of Americans was defeated by only a narrow margin on Wednesday, sending a clear signal to the Obama administration that congressional anger about the extent of domestic surveillance is growing.

  UK Guardian
Oh sure.

 It was defeated. I think that’s all he needs to know.


I listen to a portion of NPR pretty much every day several minutes at a time, and sometimes I simply cannot bear to listen to the reports and shut it off.  Just now was one of those times.

The reporter was talking with a foreign "correspondent" stationed in Argentina where Coca-Cola has rolled out its new green can.  What, she wanted to know, was it like there?

"Well," says the foreign correspondent, "it's very new, and I've only heard from a few people around me, but when you go into the stores, where you expect to see the normal red or black can, you see these green cans, and it's really, really bizarre." 

Another question, and then, the foreign correspondent says, "Yes, there's not even any red or black on the can."  To which, the reporter replies, "Wow!"

Click.  I kid you not.  That's what they were saying.

For the love of Pete, NPR, WTF?  That's news?  That's journalism? That's a public interest story? That's what has the whole world talking?  Your reporters making out like this is a fantastic unheard of before event - that a green aluminum can is revolutionary - THAT's what's "really, really bizarre."

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Loose Lips Can Sink Ships

Congress has launched an investigation of the helicopter crash [on Aug. 6, 2011] that killed 30 Americans in Afghanistan, including members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 unit.


Charlie Strange, whose son Michael was among those killed, said he asked President Obama two years ago at Dover Air Force Base to fully investigate. The death toll in the crash was the largest of any single incident for the U.S. military during the Afghanistan war.

Obama praised Michael’s service to Strange, who responded, “I don’t need to know about my son. I need to know what happened to my son.”

The president promised he would investigate, Strange said, but he never heard back from the White House. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has provided him and others with incomplete and contradictory information, he said.

  The Hill
Now why do you suppose they would be resisting ?
Administration leaks that emerged after the bin Laden raid prompted members of Team 6 to worry about their safety.
But Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are traitors whose leaks put Americans’ lives at risk.

I remember my son, who served a tour in Iraq, being incredulous that the government was “outing” the SEALS. NObody is supposed to know who or where the SEALS are, he said.
Shortly before the CH-47 Chinook helicopter took off on a rescue mission (operation Extortion 17), seven Afghan commandos who were on the passenger list were replaced by other Afghan military officials.

It remains unclear why the manifest was incorrect, raising red flags among the victims’ families. They have noted that their sons didn’t trust Afghan soldiers. One was quoted as saying, “They are loyal to the highest bidder.”

In the transcript related to the Pentagon’s probe, a Defense official confirmed that all seven names of the Afghan soldiers were incorrect.

The official said, “I cannot talk to the back story of why…” before being interrupted by another Department of Defense employee.

The Chinook was shot down by Afghan militants, and all 38 on board perished. Among the dead were 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALS, seven Afghan soldiers and one Afghan translator. Their bodies were later recovered, but the helicopter’s black box was not. Pentagon officials have said that it could not be recovered, citing a flash flood that happened soon after the assault.

All the bodies were cremated. The Pentagon has defended the cremation to the soldiers’ families, saying the bodies were badly burned.
So? There’s no law against burying badly burned bodies that I’m aware of.
Chaffetz, however, said he has seen a photo of a deceased SEAL that was not. “The body I saw didn’t need to be cremated,” Chaffetz said, adding that the Department of Defense’s explanation of its failure to find the helicopter’s black box seems “awfully odd.”

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

White House Equivalent of Scrambling Jets

The Obama administration has forcefully urged the defeat of a legislative measure to curb its wide-ranging collection of Americans' phone records, setting up a showdown with the House of Representatives over domestic surveillance.


The White House urged House members to vote against a measure from Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, that would stop the NSA siphoning up the telephone records of millions of Americans without suspicion of a crime.

"This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process," said the statement emailed from the White House.

  UK Guardian
Do you suppose they are smug bastards or clueless irony-deficient idiots?
Wyden noted during his speech at the administration-aligned thinktank that he thought the administration had agreed with him when it first came to office about the problems of maintaining widespread secrecy over surveillance.

"In the summer of 2009 I received a written commitment from the justice department and the office of the director of national intelligence that a process would be created to start redacting and declassifying Fisa court opinions so that the American people could have some idea of what the government believes the law allows it to do," Wyden said. "In the last four years exactly zero opinions have been released."
Yes, and we’ve heard SO much about Mr. Wyden’s repeated attempts in those four years to get those opinions released, haven’t we?
The White House – which did not release much information about the secret bulk surveillance efforts it has maintained after inheriting the regime from the Bush administration – portrayed itself on Tuesday as open to a continuing dialogue about the proper limits of surveillance. It framed Amash's amendment as rashly ending the bulk surveillance of phone records, while the administration was committed thoughtfully reforming it, although it has yet to publicly announce any reforms.

"In light of the recent unauthorised disclosures the president has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens," said the statement attributed to Carney.

"We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress."

That's Right, They Have No Shame

I filed a request last week for emails between NSA employees and employees of the National Geographic Channel over a specific time period. The TV station had aired a friendly documentary on the NSA and I want to better understand the agency's public-relations efforts.


The NSA is a "supercomputing powerhouse" with machines so powerful their speed is measured in thousands of trillions of operations per second. The agency turns its giant machine brains to the task of sifting through unimaginably large troves of data its surveillance programs capture.

But ask the NSA, as part of a freedom of information request, to do a seemingly simple search of its own employees' email? The agency says it doesn’t have the technology.

"There's no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately," NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told me last week.

Total bullshit.  Their "records" of email all go through an email server.  That's how they're "set up" "at this time" and at any time.  I'm pretty sure they don't use Google mail.  But, even if they did, Google techs could get that information.  Give any internet tech person ten minutes with the NSA mail server, and they can get that information for you.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday urged the United States to revamp its surveillance laws and practices, warning that the country will "live to regret it" if it fails to do so.

"If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it," Wyden said during a keynote address on the National Security Agency's data collection programs hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.


Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that people's smartphones can be used as a tracking device to monitor their whereabouts and activities. He argued that privacy protections need to be put in place so the government cannot engage in mobile phone tracking in the future.


"Without adequate protections built into the law there’s no way that Americans can ever be sure that the government isn’t going to interpret its authorities more and more broadly, year after year, until the idea of a tele-screen monitoring your every move turns from dystopia to reality," Wyden added.

  The Hill
And there’s no way they can be sure no matter what laws Congress passes. We have laws now, and the government is breaking them. There is no such thing as “adequate protection” any more. Not with “special” interests and rampant greed running the country world. As George H.W. Bush correctly identified American citizens, we are but “fodder units.”

Wyden, who was privy to a lot of what was going on, wasn’t bold enough to risk his neck like Edward Snowden and do anything but hint at overreach, so I don’t think anyone in Washington is going to be moved by Ron Wyden. But go ahead, big guy.
Wyden claims "there is nothing in the Patriot Act that limits this sweeping bulk collection to phone records." He said the government could use its authority under the law to collect and store sensitive information such as medical records or credit card purchases, or "develop a database of gun owners or readers of books and magazines deemed subversive."
Database of gun owners? Well, now, maybe he’s hit the right note, there.

Watch Your Back, Son

And be careful crossing streets.
Edward Snowden, who is wanted in the US on espionage charges, has been granted documents allowing him to leave Moscow's airport, Russia's RIA news agency has reported, citing security sources.

A lawyer met Snowden to give him the documents on Wednesday that permitted him to leave the terminal.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Cue an Admonishment to the Russian Government

Edward Snowden has expressed hope that he will be granted documents which will allow him to leave the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport by Wednesday, according to his Russian lawyer who spoke to Reuters on Monday.

"He should get this certificate (allowing him to leave the airport) shortly," Anatoly Kucherena said. Kucherena helped the former NSA contractor file a request for temporary asylum in Russia on July 16. If successful, Snowden will be able to finally leave for the city center after a month-long stay at Sheremetyevo which has strained US-Russian relations. His bid for temporary asylum could take three months to process, but the preliminary response to his request will allow him to leave through customs.

I'm thinking he might be safer in the airport.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

They're Hopping Like Rabbits Now

But not on the big stuff. Little hops. Bunnies.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing to fast-track legislation that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing emails and other private online messages.

Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) goal is for the Senate to unanimously approve his bill before the August recess, according to one of his committee aides. Any opposition could delay a vote until after Congress returns in the fall.


Leahy's bill would not affect the NSA programs, but it would curb the ability of local and federal law enforcement officials to access private online messages.


Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, police only need a subpoena, issued without a judge's approval, to force Internet companies to turn over emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old.

  The Hill
A subpoena issued without a judge’s approval?

   ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Meanwhile, in Recently Liberated Iraq...

A manhunt is under way for hundreds of inmates, including four high-ranking al-Qaeda members, who escaped two Iraqi prisons following deadly attacks.

Fifty-six people were killed in Sunday's attacks on Taji prison, north of Baghdad, and the Abu Ghraib facility, west of the Iraqi capital.

The dead include 26 members of the security forces and 20 inmates. Ten of the attackers also died.

The digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is leading an unlikely and broad coalition of 19 groups to sue the National Security Agency on account of its surveillance program that collects the telephone records of American citizens.

And here’s your weapons of mass destruction:
Cancer is more common than flu in the Iraqi city of Najaf, about 160 km south of Baghdad, one local doctor told RT. After the start of the war rates of leukemia and birth defects “rose dramatically” due to use of depleted uranium by the US military.

“Every single residential street that we’ve visited in several neighborhoods, we found multiple cases of families whose children were ill, families who had lost children who had to bury children, families who had many relatives who were suffering from cancer,” RT correspondent Lucy Kafanov said.

Dr. Chris Busby has researched the effects of depleted uranium in detail. He says the only source of uranium in Iraq was the use by the American-led forces of uranium weapons.


Another report, funded by the Norwegian government, has recently found that depleted uranium was used against civilian targets in populated areas in Iraq, in 2003. It emphasizes a lack of transparency by coalition forces over the use of depleted uranium, but also describes one incident in Najaf where a Bradley armored fighting vehicle fired 305 depleted uranium rounds in a single engagement.