Saturday, August 31, 2013

Whistleblower Award to Edward Snowden in Germany

Transcript of Snowden's comments.

Progress in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia has passed an unprecedented law that criminalizes domestic violence against women, children and domestic workers, a human rights official said Thursday. Rights activists hailed the development but cautioned that Saudi Arabia, named by the World Economic Forum as one of the five worst countries in which to be a woman, still has a long way to go.

"This is just the beginning, and it's an excellent step, but the road is long," Ibrahim Almugaiteeb, president of Human Rights First Society in Saudi Arabia, told Al Jazeera. "It will be like the civil rights movement was in the United States."


Friday, August 30, 2013

Drip, Drip, Drip

U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats, according to the government’s top-secret budget.

The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former ¬intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny.


The 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence Program details the successes, failures and objectives of the 16 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, which has 107,035 employees.


Among the notable revelations in the budget summary: ●Spending by the CIA has surged past that of every other spy agency, with $14.7 billion in requested funding for 2013. The figure vastly exceeds outside estimates and is nearly 50 percent above that of the National Security Agency, which conducts eavesdropping operations and has long been considered the behemoth of the community.


●U.S. intelligence officials take an active interest in friends as well as foes. Pakistan is described in detail as an “intractable target,” and counterintelligence operations “are strategically focused against [the] priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel.” The latter is a U.S. ally but has a history of espionage attempts against the United States.

Hoo Boy. We are in trouble now. Just kidding, Israel.
●The governments of Iran, China and Russia are difficult to penetrate, but North Korea’s may be the most opaque. There are five “critical” gaps in U.S. intelligence about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and analysts know virtually nothing about the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.


The summary provides a detailed look at how the U.S. intelligence community has been reconfigured by the massive infusion of resources that followed the 2001 attacks. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence during that period, an outlay that U.S. officials say has succeeded in its main objective: preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack in the United States.


“It was a titanic struggle just to get the top-line budget number disclosed, and that has only been done consistently since 2007,” said Steven Aftergood, an expert at the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington-based organization that provides analyses of national security issues. “But a real grasp of the structure and operations of the intelligence bureaucracy has been totally beyond public reach. This kind of material, even on a historical basis, has simply not been available.”


Lee H. Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who chaired the House Intelligence Committee and co-chaired the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, said that access to budget details will enable an informed public debate on intelligence spending for the first time.
What? Is this a democracy, or something?
The CIA’s dominant position [in funds received by the entire intelligence community] is likely to stun outside experts. It represents a remarkable recovery for an agency that seemed poised to lose power and prestige after acknowledging intelligence failures leading up to the 2001 attacks and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The surge in resources for the agency funded secret prisons, a controversial interrogation program, the deployment of lethal drones and a huge expansion of its counterterrorism center. The agency was transformed from a spy service struggling to emerge from the Cold War into a paramilitary force.


The NSA is planning high-risk covert missions, a lesser-known part of its work, to plant what it calls “tailored radio frequency solutions” — close-in sensors to intercept communications that do not pass through global networks.


The document describes programs to “mitigate insider threats by trusted insiders who seek to exploit their authorized access to sensitive information to harm U.S. interests.”


For this year, the budget promised a renewed “focus . . . on safeguarding classified networks” and a strict “review of high-risk, high-gain applicants and contractors” — the young, nontraditional computer coders with the skills the NSA needed.


“NSA will initiate a minimum of 4,000 periodic reinvestigations of potential insider compromise of sensitive information,” according to the budget, scanning its systems for “anomalies and alerts.”
Which may indicate why Snowden appeared when he did. He had access to the files that let him see that coming.

One Good Thing

source: The Hill

Gay Strides

On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury announced that legally married same sex couples can now jointly file their taxes. This is a sea change from just nine years ago when George W. Bush’s re-election team used the issue of stopping same sex marriage to drive conservative voters to the polls.

“Democrats were terrible on the issue as well,” [TV Host Rachel] Maddow said, pointing to Bill Clinton’s two major anti-LGBT legacies, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“Thanks for nothing, Bill Clinton,” she said, adding that it seems almost inconceivable in hindsight that things would change so quickly.

  Raw Story
And, BTW, in that same article, it’s mentioned that Ms. Maddow talked about marijuana laws.
She moved on to Thursday’s historic change in marijuana laws. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government will not be taking action for now against Colorado and Washington for legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. The Department of Justice sent a memo to U.S. Attorneys with new guidelines on marijuana prosecution, urging them not to prosecute low level users.
These two things alone should bring out the religious right in droves come election day. Drugs and gays. God will be very angry.

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

New York Police to Wear Lapel Cameras?

Lawyers representing the city of New York have filed a request for a stay of Judge Scheindlin's decision and court order pending appeal. Scheindlin found components of the NYPD's stop and frisk unconstitutional in her decision and ordered several remedies, including the installation of independent oversight, changes to the UF250 (stop and frisk) form, an overhaul of the stop and frisk program itself and mandatory lapel cameras for police officers.

  Raw Story
I wonder how many lapel cameras will malfunction, be knocked off in a scuffle, be obscured behind an object...

Obama Legacy: Made the Nobel Committee Look Foolish

Lifted from Dependable Renegade

Thursday, August 29, 2013

There You Go (Wish I'd Thought of It)

But, hey, take a look at the UK Daily Mail. (Glenn Greenwald says, "The Onion couldn't have done better.")

Seems That Way

Such Nerve

Thousands of fast-food and retail workers are set to go on strike across the United States Thursday to push for a $15 hourly wage, after a similar action last month bolstered confidence but not pay, organizers said.

"If you work in a fast-food or retail store anywhere in the country, we urge you to join our growing movement," striker Terrance Wise said in a news release earlier this month.

Wise, 34, is a Kansas City-based father of three who says he earns $9.30 an hour at Burger King, where he has worked for eight years.


The more than 4 million fast-food workers in the United States made an average annual wage of $18,130 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What? And they’re not happy just to have a job?

I heard on NPR this morning that the average age for a fast food worker these days is 29.

And, BTW, if you have an hour, watch this talk by Black Agenda Report editor Glen Ford regarding political economics. If you have only a half hour, start in at about 30 minutes. He explains his belief that America’s imperialism is on the way out simply due to the realities of the economic political laws by which an economy based on finance rather than industry is governed. Very interesting, and perhaps hopeful, even though it doesn’t offer a rosy economic outlook for us. If you’ve got the hour, he lays out some nice history in the first half.

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

What Luck!

That chemical weapons attack in Syria and the cyber attack as well, coming along when they did, gives us some other news focus than the NSA spying. Wasn't that lucky timing? I mean, all this time that the Syrian conflict has been dragging on with conventional tools.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oh, Now You REALLY Want to Go After 'Em

The Syrian Electronic Army has claimed access to a number of Twitter’s international domains shortly after bringing down the New York Times’ website. The attack was apparently made through Melbourne IT.

The SEA managed to alter both contact details and domain name servers of the New York Times and Twitter after reportedly having gained access to their registry records in Melbourne IT. The SEA also claimed responsibility for hacking the Huffington Post UK domain.

As a result of the attack the New York Times’ website has been disabled for the second time in under a month. The newspaper attributed the outage to a “malicious external attack” widely thought to have come from hackers affiliated with the Syrian Electronic Army.

I guess the chemical attack that should have crossed Obama's red line wasn't doing the trick.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Now THAT's Graffitti As Art

A Soviet Army monument in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia has had a subversive makeover in an anonymous commemoration of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, which crushed the Prague Spring uprising 45 years ago. The bronze relief sculpture was painted a flamboyant pink in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and covered with the captions: "Bulgaria Apologizes" and "Prague '68." This isn't the first time the monument has been given a new paint job -- in 2011, unknown artists turned the soldiers into American pop culture icons including Captain America and Ronald McDonald. The monument is a permanent source of contention in Bulgaria, which, in 1990, became the last country to apologize for the 1968 military intervention.

This isn't the first time the monument has gotten a new paint job -- in 2011, unknown artists turned the soldiers into American pop culture icons, including Captain America and Ronald McDonald.

  Der Spiegel
I can see how the “pinko” job could have been done quickly, but those pop icons must have taken a long time. Apparently the monument isn’t well guarded. Nice work.

A Spacey Business Model: Give the Audience What They Want

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Black Agenda Report Managing Editor Bruce Dixon Takes TV "Journalists" to Task

Bruce Dixon is at the 20 minute mark.  (You might also care to listen to the first part of the cast, with BAR editor Glen Ford interviewing Cornell West.)

Drip, Drip, Drip (Faster Now)

Just over two weeks ago, Obama made a promise to the world. "The main thing I want to emphasize is that I don't have an interest and the people at the NSA don't have an interest in doing anything other than making sure that (...) we can prevent a terrorist attack," Obama said during a hastily arranged press conference at the White House on August 9. He said the sole purpose of the program was to "get information ahead of time (...) so we are able to carry out that critical task," adding: "We do not have an interest in doing anything other than that." Afterward, the president flew to the Atlantic island of Martha's Vineyard for his summer vacation.


To mark the official opening of the [new offices for the European Union UN delegation] in September 2012, EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy flew in from Brussels, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was on hand as guest of honor.


For the National Security Agency (NSA), America's powerful intelligence organization, the move was above all a technical challenge. A new office means freshly painted walls, untouched wiring and newly installed computer networks -- in other words, loads of work for the agents. While the Europeans were still getting used to their glittering new offices, NSA staff had already acquired the building's floor plans. The drawings completed by New York real estate company Tishman Speyer show precisely to scale how the offices are laid out. Intelligence agents made enlarged copies of the areas were the data servers are located.


The floor plans are part of the NSA's internal documents relating to its operations targeting the EU. They come from whistleblower Edward Snowden, and SPIEGEL has been able to view them.


The classified documents, which SPIEGEL has seen, demonstrate how systematically the Americans target other countries and institutions like the EU, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna and the UN. They show how the NSA infiltrated the Europeans' internal computer network between New York and Washington, used US embassies abroad to intercept communications and eavesdropped on video conferences of UN diplomats. The surveillance is intensive and well-organized -- and it has little or nothing to do with counter-terrorism.


The espionage attack on the EU is not only a surprise for most European diplomats, who until now assumed that they maintained friendly ties to the US government. It is also remarkable because the NSA has rolled out the full repertoire of intelligence-gathering tools -- and has apparently been taking this approach for many years now.


Beyond their infiltration of the EU, the Americans are also highly interested in intelligence on the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA.


The NSA has its own team stationed at the UN, with each of the specialists disguised as diplomats. A secret crew from Washington regularly comes to town to bolster the team's ranks before each session of the General Assembly.


Snooping on negotiating partners is so rewarding that the NSA engages in this activity around the world, and not just on its home turf. There are secret eavesdropping posts in 80 US embassies and consulates around the world, internally referred to as the "Special Collection Service" (SCS) and jointly operated with the CIA.


The existence of bugging units in embassies and consulates is to be kept secret under all circumstances, as it says in the material: If it were leaked, this would "cause serious harm to relations between the US and a foreign government."


With few exceptions, this electronic eavesdropping not only contravenes the diplomatic code, but also international agreements. The Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations of 1946, as well as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, long ago established that no espionage methods are to be used. What's more, the US and the UN signed an agreement in 1947 that rules out all undercover operations.

  Der Spiegel
Ask the Native Americans how we are with agreements.

Sure It Will

Quebec Prime Minister Pauline Marois said Sunday that proposed legislation banning religious dress for public sector workers will unite the province, according to reports.


What Was the Deal?

Edward Snowden was forced to stay in Russia after the US threatened Cuba with “adverse consequences” should the NSA whistleblower get on board Aeroflot’s Moscow-Havana flight, Kommersant newspaper has learnt.

Under US pressure the Cuban authorities informed Moscow the Aeroflot plane would not be able to land in Havana, a source told the Russian newspaper.

One of the sources close to the US State Department stated that Cuba was one of the countries whose authorities were warned of “adverse consequences” if it helped Snowden.


We Can Do What We Want

A response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria is possible without the unanimous consent of the UN Security Council, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

“I would argue yes it is, otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes, and I don't think that's an acceptable situation," Hague said on BBC radio, when asked whether it would be possible to respond to the use of chemical weapons without the backing of the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Royal Navy is reportedly moving ships into place for a possible strike with the US on Syria in the next few days.

Did you think we were operating a democracy here? Or a global consortium?  International law?

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Drip, Drip, Drip

The US National Security Agency (NSA) successfully cracked the encryption code protecting the United Nations’ internal videoconferencing system, according to documents seen by Germany’s Der Spiegel.

The United States was not just busy spying on the European Union, the report revealed, but had its surveillance apparatus trained on the international body as well.

The publication reported on Sunday that the electronic breaching of the UN, which is headquartered in New York, occurred in the summer of 2012.


On August 15, Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economics and Technology, Philipp Rösler, said Germany will take definite action to limit the NSA’s ability to spy on European Union communications.

The first step will be to build “a strong European information technology industry that can offer alternatives” to US-owned firms that collaborate with the NSA, said Rösler.


Bad Monkey

No, I'm not talking about Carl Hiaasen's latest novel, I'm talking about Carl Hiaasen.

"Bad Monkey" is the first Hiaasen novel I read (I know), and I have been chain-reading others since.  Two people told me they didn't like "Bad Monkey" as much as his earlier books, and I have to agree, although I liked it well enough to start in on the others. 

If you don't know, Hiaasen is, besides a novelist, a Miami Herald columnist.  He has recently written a satirical column which derides Snowden's "choice" of Russia as a place to avoid prosecution in the US.  I'm not giving you the link.  Look it up if you want to read it. 

Bad monkey, Carl.

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

It's Sunday

Honor the Treaties

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Just one day before his expected hearing, an ex-colleague within the ranks of [Hector] Monsegur's cyber-clan published a statement in which he suggested the US government gave Anonymous the ammunition to take down foreign targets, and directed those orders through a cast of characters who took direction from the infamous informant.

RT reported previously that Monsegur, better known by his Internet handle “Sabu,” was scheduled to be sentenced on Friday after a federal judge decided twice already to postpone previous hearings that would have sealed the turncoat’s fate. For the third time in 12 months, however, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York elected once again to adjourn the hearing Friday morning without handing out a punishment.

A spokesperson for the court told RT over the phone on Friday that Monsegur’s sentencing has been moved to October 25, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. Should District Judge Loretta Preska make a determination at that time, it will come 28 months after Monsegur was arrested for his connection with a series of hacks that impacted the websites and servers of Sony, PBS, News Corp, Stratfor and others. Those operations were carried out by hacktivists aligned to Anonymous and its offshoots Lulz Security and Anti-Sec, and a number of individuals in the US and abroad have been arrested, indicted, convicted and sentenced already for their involvement with those groups thanks to Monsegur’s cooperation with the authorities.

Assistant US Attorney James Pastore said previously that Monsegur has been cooperating with the government proactively since “literally the day he was arrested.” When Judge Preska authorized a sentencing hearing for Monsegur that was slated for six months ago, she signed-off on postponing her decision “in light of the defendant’s ongoing cooperation with the Government.”

This statement comes from Jeremy Hammond, one of several Anonymous hackers, who is now behind bars. It is expected that Hector Monsegur will be testifying against Hammond.
It is widely known that Sabu was used to build cases against a number of hackers, including myself. What many do not know is that Sabu was also used by his handlers to facilitate the hacking of targets of the government’s choosing – including numerous websites belonging to foreign governments. What the United States could not accomplish legally, it used Sabu, and by extension, me and my co-defendants, to accomplish illegally. The questions that should be asked today go way beyond what an appropriate sentence for Sabu might be: Why was the United States using us to infiltrate the private networks of foreign governments? What are they doing with the information we stole? And will anyone in our government ever be held accountable for these crimes?
I think we know.

The more you know about what’s going on out there, the more you realize just how brilliant Edward Snowden is.

Guardian/NYT Partnering on Snowden Files

The Guardian has struck a partnership with the New York Times which will give the US paper access to some of the sensitive cache of documents leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The arrangement was made when the Guardian was faced with demands from the UK government to hand over the GCHQ files it had in its possession.

"In a climate of intense pressure from the UK government, the Guardian decided to bring in a US partner to work on the GCHQ documents provided by Edward Snowden. We are working in partnership with the NYT and others to continue reporting these stories," the Guardian said in a statement.

  UK Guardian
I understand the need, but I’m not sure the NYT is the proper paper. After all, they were willing to postpone revelation of the warrantless wiretapping program for a year at the request of the White House so that George W. Bush could be re-elected. Although, I don’t know a better option.


National Security Agency intelligence analysts knowingly and purposely broke rules meant to prevent against unlawful spying on US citizens, the agency said in an admission that contradicts President Obama's claim that violations were accidental.

A report from the NSA inspector general – an internal, independent watchdog – found that analysts ignored “minimization processes” meant to curb any violations.


NSA Director General Keith Alexander told a New York conference on August 8 that “no one has wilfully or knowingly disobeyed the law or tried to invade your civil liberties or privacy.”

During an interview with CNN, Obama said he was comfortable telling Americans that the NSA surveillance has been “done the right way.”

“Because there are no allegations, and I am very confident – knowing the NSA and how they operate – that purposefully somebody is out there trying to abuse this program or listen in on people’s email,” he said.

Because no one has complained about something that’s been kept secret from the public. How very Catch-22.
Signal intelligence [...] is expressed by SIGINT. Analysts monitoring their lovers so often was apparently popular enough to be designated a code of its own: LOVEINT. Officials told The Journal that all employees discovered to have engaged in such activity were either reprimanded or terminated.
“I am reviewing each of these incidents in detail,” Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, said in a statement, after the NSA confirmed to Bloomberg News yesterday that some analysts deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans.

If DiFi is on the case, then the NSA has nothing to worry about.
“Any case of noncompliance is unacceptable, but these small numbers of cases do not change my view that NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” Feinstein said.
These cases were known a long time ago. (ABC News 2008) No one seemed to be very concerned at the time.
Since the revelations of confirmed National Security Agency spying in June, three different "investigations" have been announced. One by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), another by the Director of National Intelligence, Gen. James Clapper, and the third by the Senate Intelligence Committee, formally called the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

All three investigations are insufficient, because they are unable to find out the full details needed to stop the government's abuse of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The PCLOB can only request—not require—documents from the NSA and must rely on its goodwill, while the investigation led by Gen. Clapper is led by a man who not only lied to Congress, but also oversees the spying. And the Senate Intelligence Committee—which was originally designed to effectively oversee the intelligence community—has failed time and time again.

So, don’t worry. We now have the New Boodle Board.

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

"Technical" Problems at Gitmo

Defense lawyers for five Guantanamo detainees said email correspondences they sent were never received, investigative records that took years to compile had disappeared and external monitors were unable to access their internet searches. Even the prosecuting and defense teams had been given access to each other's files.


The five defendants are accused of training and funding the hijackers who allegedly crashed four commercial jets into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people.


The technical problems had started earlier in the year but by April they had become so severe that the chief defense counsel, Air Force Colonel Karen Mayberry, ordered defense lawyers not to use their Pentagon computers for any confidential casework.

The situation became so dire that when Pentagon officials wished to convey messages to legal advisors in other cities, they had to place the sensitive data onto external drives, head to Starbucks and file them via Wi-Fi using their personal computers and personal email accounts, Wright revealed.

Defense attorney James Harrington, who represents Yemeni prisoner Ramzi bin al Shibh, said he had been forced to draft motions with pen and paper.


This is not the first time that the maximum-security tribunal has suffered from ‘ghosts in the machinery.’  
Judge Pohl in January convened an emergency meeting after it was discovered that some outside source was cutting the audio feed when particular subjects in the trial were being discussed. 


Pentagon technical personnel have said it would take “up to 111 days” to fix the glitches once a contract was signed and money allocated, and that it was doubtful the work could be finished before the start of 2014.


Friday, August 23, 2013

And So It Goes

It gets old, doesn't it?

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

As the Dust Is Settling Around Chelsea Manning

Here's a partial, but lengthy, listing of the information that came out of the Manning leaks:


[Mayor of Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games] Rocky Anderson says the agency lied and committed federal crimes during the Olympics by allegedly spying on people through monitoring their emails and text.

The NSA’s actions come from a report by the Wall Street Journal, a story Anderson says he did not hear about until he opened the morning newspaper.


According to the Wall Street Journal report, the NSA and FBI worked with then Qwest Communications to monitor all email and text messages in the Salt Lake City area during the games.


"We have to stand up,” said Anderson to 2News Dan Rascon inside his Salt Lake City home on Thursday. "All of Salt Lake City should be out in the streets outraged."


"Every instance of surveillance like this without a warrant in 2002 was a federal felony under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” said Anderson.


Anderson says he's working the phones and contacting several organization that may support him in filing a lawsuit.

According to the [Wall Street Journal] article, the NSA started setting up Internet intercepts well before 2001, and that after the September 11 attacks, intercept systems were expanded as the government began working with key Internet providers.

  Deseret News

Just a Reminder

Following its bombing of Iraq in 1991, the United States wound up with military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Following its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the United States wound up with military bases in Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia.

Following its bombing of Afghanistan in 2001-2, the United States wound up with military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Yemen and Djibouti.

Following its bombing and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States wound up with Iraq.


Fifty-eight years after World War II ended, the United States still has major bases in Germany and Japan; firfty years after the end of he Korean War, tens of thousands of American armed forces continue to be stationed in South Korea.

This is not very subtle foreign policy.  Certainly not covert.  The men who run the American Empire are not easily embarrassed.

--Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, by William Blum, Updated Edition 2004, p.383

We assert that no nation can long endure half republic and half empire, and we warn the American people that imperialism abroad will lead quickly and inevitably to despotism at home. -- 1900 Democratic Party National Platform, presumably when the Democratic Party actually was.

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

Muddying the Waters: British Government Transparency

"It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post's disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act."—Edward Snowden
The Independent this morning published an article - which it repeatedly claims comes from "documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden" - disclosing that "Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies." This is the first time the Independent has published any revelations purportedly from the NSA documents, and it's the type of disclosure which journalists working directly with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have thus far avoided.


In other words: right as there is a major scandal over the UK's abusive and lawless exploitation of its Terrorism Act - with public opinion against the use of the Terrorism law to detain David Miranda - and right as the UK government is trying to tell a court that there are serious dangers to the public safety from these documents, there suddenly appears exactly the type of disclosure the UK government wants but that has never happened before.


One other matter about the Independent article: it strongly suggests that there is some agreement in place to restrict the Guardian's ongoing reporting about the NSA documents. Speaking for myself, let me make one thing clear: I'm not aware of, nor subject to, any agreement that imposes any limitations of any kind on the reporting that I am doing on these documents. I would never agree to any such limitations.

  Glenn Greenwald

Drip, Drip, Drip

The National Security Agency paid millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program after a court ruled that some of the agency's activities were unconstitutional, according to top-secret material passed to the Guardian.

The technology companies, which the NSA says includes Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook, incurred the costs to meet new certification demands in the wake of the ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court.


The material provides the first evidence of a financial relationship between the tech companies and the NSA.


The disclosure that taxpayers' money was used to cover the companies' compliance costs raises new questions over the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA. Since the existence of the program was first revealed by the Guardian and the Washington Post on June 6, the companies have repeatedly denied all knowledge of it and insisted they only hand over user data in response to specific legal requests from the authorities.

An earlier newsletter, which is undated, states that the Prism providers were all given new certifications within days of the Fisa court ruling. "All Prism providers, except Yahoo and Google, were successfully transitioned to the new certifications. We expect Yahoo and Google to complete transitioning by Friday 6 October."


A Yahoo spokesperson said: "Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government. We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law."

Asked about the reimbursement of costs relating to compliance with Fisa court certifications, Facebook responded by saying it had "never received any compensation in connection with responding to a government data request".

Google did not answer any of the specific questions put to it, and provided only a general statement denying it had joined Prism or any other surveillance program. It added: "We await the US government's response to our petition to publish more national security request data, which will show that our compliance with American national security laws falls far short of the wild claims still being made in the press today."

Microsoft declined to give a response on the record.


The Guardian informed the White House, the NSA and the office of the director of national intelligence that it planned to publish the documents and asked whether the spy agency routinely covered all the costs of the Prism providers and what the annual cost was to the US.

The NSA declined to comment beyond requesting the redaction of the name of an individual staffer in one of the documents.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Your Independent Panel of Privacy Rights Investigators

A group of veteran security experts and former White House officials has been selected to conduct a full review of U.S. surveillance programs and other secret government efforts disclosed over recent months, ABC News has learned.


Joining [Michael] Morell on the panel will be former White House officials Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire.

Flashback:  January 2010
Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama’s closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama’s head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.”


Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government).


[Sunstein] acknowledges that some “conspiracy theories” previously dismissed as insane and fringe have turned out to be entirely true (his examples: the CIA really did secretly administer LSD in “mind control” experiments; the DOD really did plot the commission of terrorist acts inside the U.S. with the intent to blame Castro; the Nixon White House really did bug the DNC headquarters). Given that history, how could it possibly be justified for the U.S. Government to institute covert programs designed to undermine anti-government “conspiracy theories,” discredit government critics, and increase faith and trust in government pronouncements? Because, says Sunstein, such powers are warranted only when wielded by truly well-intentioned government officials who want to spread The Truth and Do Good — i.e., when used by people like Cass Sunstein and Barack Obama.

  Glenn Greenwald at Salon

Yes, good men.

Return to January 2010:
Consider the recent revelation that the Obama administration has been making very large, undisclosed payments to MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber to provide consultation on the President’s health care plan. With this lucrative arrangement in place, Gruber spent the entire year offering public justifications for Obama’s health care plan, typically without disclosing these payments, and far worse, was repeatedly held out by the White House — falsely — as an “independent” or “objective” authority.
So much for Cass Sunstein. How about the others?
Morell was acting director of the CIA until March, when John Brennan was sworn in as director.

Wow. Head of the CIA. There’s a great recommendation for a watchdog for civil liberties and privacy rights.
Morell has worked at the CIA since 1980, holding a variety of senior positions, according to the CIA. In fact, he was serving as President George W. Bush's intelligence briefer on the day of the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks.
[Peter] Swire served as the Clinton Administration’s Chief Counselor for Privacy, in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, as the only person to date to have government-wide responsibility for privacy issues. Among his other activities when at OMB, Swire was the White House coordinator for the HIPAA Medical Privacy Rule and chaired a White House Working Group on how to update wiretap laws for the Internet age.

  Future of Privacy Forum
Right. They’ve been updated beautifully to be stacked totally in favor of the government, in secret.

Mr. Swire is also Chair of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Do Not Track Process, Tracking Protection Working Group. Doing very nicely there, as well.  We are all being tracked by the biggest beast in the kingdom.

We heard most about Richard Clarke when he was the only government official to apologize for the government letting down the American people on 9/11.  He shall be remembered as the guy who tried but failed. Is he there for aesthetics or perhaps to come forward shamefacedly again in the future to apologize for not protecting us?

These guys should be about as useful as cartoonist Matt Bors envisions a privacy advocate Obama is promising to put in the FISC arena.

FISC Ruling Declassification Mad Libs

How nice of the government to declassify the document.
On Wednesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a 2011 FISA Court ruling striking down a top-secret National Security Agency online-surveillance program. The court, whose opinions are normally classified, found that the agency had accessed as many as 56,000 electronic communications (such as emails) from American citizens and foreign nationals over a three-year period by tapping into fiber-optic cables.

The ruling is 86 pages long, but don't expect to read all of it.


[T] ake your best guess at what the redacted opinions should say with our NSA Choose-Your-Own-[Redacted] Mad Libs:
Click to play at Mother Jones:

What's Left of King's Dream

The commemoration of the March on Washington has been ruined. President Obama, the global assassin, protector of Wall Street, and reigning Great Mass Incarcerator, will star in the production on the National Mall. “Dr. Martin Luther King serves as a mere prop in the ceremony.” In their embrace of Power, the organizers have desecrated the Black American legacy of struggle.


For those who seek an independent Black politics that is faithful to the historical Black consensus for peace and social justice, the inclusion of President Barack Obama in the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is a desecration. The ancestral sanctum is to be utterly defiled by the presence of the very personification of imperial savagery and a ballooning domestic police state.


When the [1963 march on Washington] is taken out of the context of what happened before and after, all that remains is the “picnic” and the self-censored, deliberately non-confrontational speeches – most notably Dr. King’s vague “dreaming.” Which perfectly suits the needs of today’s Black Misleadership Class, who have no intention of confronting Power – ever! On the contrary, they cling to the garments of Power, in the person of the First Black President, and wrap themselves in the flag of Empire.


Dr. King rejected U.S. empire, and broke with President Lyndon Johnson over the "inter-related" issues of foreign war and and domestic poverty. There is not a shadow of a doubt that King would denounce Obama in the strongest terms, were he alive, today. Yet, those who pose as his political and moral descendants hug the presidential scorpion to their bosoms.


Malcolm [X]’s critique of the 1963 March does not seem so dated if one substitutes the words “Obama” or “Democrats” for “white liberals”:

“The white liberals [Democrats/Obama] control the Negro and the Negro vote by controlling the Negro civil rights leaders. As long as they [Democrats/Obama] control the Negro civil rights leaders, they can also control and contain the Negro's struggle, and they can control the Negro's so-called revolt.”

This August 28th will be a day of control and containment – amid a love-fest with Power.

  Black Agenda Report
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Another Cartoonist Finds the Nerve

And Why Not? You've Already Been Repeatedly Screwed By a Bunch of Dicks

Bradley Manning, the army private sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks, announced Thursday that he wanted to live as a woman.

“As a transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female,” Manning said in a statement read by his attorney, David Coombs, on the “Today” show.

“I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible,” he added.

  The Hill

Say... about ten years, if you're lucky enough to get that parole.

High Court Ruling on Miranda Suit

Lawyers acting for the journalist's partner held for nine hours under anti-terror laws have won an order to stop the Government and police "inspecting, copying or sharing" data seized from him - except "for the purpose of protecting national security".

David Miranda's legal team were granted the order, which will run until Friday 30 August.

The High Court will then consider further Mr Miranda's application for an interim injunction to stop examination "until the legality of that seizure has been determined by this court".

  UK Independent
The High Court said the authorities could examine the seized material for the defence of national security and also to investigate whether Mr Miranda, 28, is a person who is or has been concerned with the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

Jonathan Laidlaw, a lawyer representing the Metropolitan Police, told the court a criminal investigation has been launched following inspection of the material seized from Miranda.


The Metropolitan Police have called what happened "legally and procedurally sound" and said it came after "a detailed decision-making process."

Which involved discussion with US authorities.

Kind of a wash, isn't it?  Authorities can examine the property for the purpose of national security only but they may examine it to determine whether Mr. Miranda contained a threat to national security.  Or is that a Catch-22?

Don't Go There

A Canadian dentist is hoping to clone John Lennon using DNA from one of the singer’s rotten teeth. Michael Zuk, who bought Lennon’s molar at a 2011 auction, has begun sequencing the former Beatle’s DNA – the first step in a process set out by scientists who propose to clone a woolly mammoth.

  Raw Story
Rumors circulated for years about cloning JFK, and they had a lot more than rotten teeth.

Let’s say you could do that. Is there no legal requirement in place that you have to have the permission of the person you’re cloning? Who owns your remains anyway?

Metaphysical Ben Bernanke

And Good Luck to You, Sir

The owner of the now-shuttered encrypted email service used by Edward Snowden told RT that he plans to fight for a strong precedent via the court system so that US internet providers can refuse to hand over customers’ personal info and communications.

Ladar Levison abruptly shut down his company, Lavabit LLC, on August 8 to avoid being forced to hand over customers’ personal information and communications.


Levison said he hopes his case can help set such a legal precedent. In the meantime, he is entertaining the possibility of moving his service overseas, though he is not yet confident such an arrangement could achieve security for his customers free of US spying.


Levison said last week he believes he could face criminal charges for refusing to comply with the secret order.


“When you say no to the government, they have the ability to take everything,” he said of defying the government by continuing Lavabit and not complying with the order. “They have the ability to take your business, take your money and take your freedom. And there really isn’t all that much you can do about it. I was looking at the very real possibility of an impossible debt and possibly being put in jail and still not being able to tell people why I was even in jail.”


“I’m going to keep standing on my soapbox and shouting as loudly as I can for as long as people will listen. My biggest fear when I shut down the service was that nobody would notice, nobody would care and my biggest hope was that when I shut down the service it would lead to some positive change. I’m going to continue fighting for a strong precedent via the court system and I’m going to continue to lobby Congress for change in the laws,” he said.

If only we had a Congress.

Click image for video interview:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Re: the Manning Sentence

The WikiLeaks files have been a useful and important part of what had been about a dozen underdeveloped debates about our wars and foreign policy. The prosecutors, despite using words like betrayal frequently, had trouble, at the sentencing, showing specific harm, as opposed to diffuse embarrassment. And against thirty-five years, a hundred and twelve days seems like a paltry penalty for Manning’s extreme solitary confinement and his abuse. Where is the deterrent for that?

Was the deterrent meant to be the number of years—because twenty is already a lot—or the threat of the Espionage Act itself? There are laws against giving away classified files, including those Manning offered to plead guilty to. Why was it so important to call him a spy? An answer is that we have reached a point where our government, and allies like Britain, can’t tell the difference between leak investigations and espionage and terrorism.

  New Yorker
No. They know. They’re just hoping to make sure that we can’t tell the difference.

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

Manning's Lawyer to Ask for a Pardon

“I will file a request,” Coombs said in a Wednesday afternoon presser, “a request that the president pardon Pfc. Manning, or at the very least commute his sentence to time served.”

Yes, I think that’s the least you could do.


The National Security Agency unlawfully gathered as many as tens of thousands of e-mails and other electronic communications between Americans as part of a now-discontinued collection program, according to a 2011 secret court opinion.

The 86-page opinion, which was declassified by U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, explains why the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled the collection method unconstitutional. The judge, John D. Bates, found that the government had “advised the court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe.”

In the opinion, Bates also expressed deep frustration with the government, saying that it had “disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program” three times in less than three years.


In addition to the October 2011 court ruling, which was heavily redacted, U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday released other documents, including a follow-up order about the NSA’s revised collection methods.

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I wonder how long before the FOIA will be struck down.

UPDATE:  Declassified....and heavily redacted.

Chemical Weapons in Syria

Syrian activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of launching a gas attack that reportedly killed hundreds Wednesday. If confirmed, the attack would be the worst reported use of chemical arms in the two-year-old civil war, and would cross what President Barack Obama has called a "red line." In June, the U.S. said it had conclusive evidence that Assad's regime used chemical weapons against opposition forces -- prompting a U.S. decision to begin arming rebel groups, although that has yet to happen.

  al Jazeera
Uh-huh. We weren’t in Cambodia either.
The U.S. and other Western and regional countries called for U.N. chemical weapons investigators -- who arrived in Damascus just three days ago -- to be urgently dispatched to the scene of what appears to be one of the deadliest incidents of Syria's war.
What fortuitous timing.

Opposition groups blame Assad. Assad’s supporters are saying the opposition did it themselves to draw international aid. I even heard one Syrian on NPR saying that the videos are all fake.

Whatever the case, my money is on the CIA. I have good reason – a very long history.

Bradley Manning Sentence

According to the military, Manning is required to serve one-third of the [35-year]sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.


Manning will receive a credit of 1,293 days for the time he has been confined prior to the sentence, including 112 days of credit for abusive treatment he was subjected to in the brig at the Quantico Marine Base.


RT Live report

Let's All Move Along Now

The Los Angeles County coroner's department concluded its investigation of the fatal Hollywood car crash of investigative journalist Michael Hastings on Tuesday, ruling his death an accident. The report should lay to rest any doubts about Hastings' death

The coroner's department investigation found no history of suicidal behavior, but the report does mention reckless behavior in Hastings' past, including a "traffic collision in which decedent collided into a pole several years ago, believed as under the influence at the time, with report decedent had been misusing Ritalin at about this time."

  Mother Jones

Ill Chosen Guard

The War on Journalism at the Local Level - Wisconsin

Liberal writer and [Govenor Scott] Walker critic Matt Rothschild was arrested by [Madison] Capitol police on a misdemeanor obstruction and resisting arrest charge and released on $300 bail after photographing the arrests of other demonstrators singing in the rotunda. Rothschild said he didn't comply with an officer's order to move from the area of the arrest but did identify himself as a working journalist.


. Rothschild was also arrested at the Capitol in November 2011 for wearing a sign and taking pictures in the Assembly gallery, both practices that lawmakers in that body have not allowed.

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

The Five Eyes Are Apparently Near-Sighted

More than two months after documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden first began appearing in the news media, the National Security Agency still doesn’t know the full extent of what he took, according to intelligence community sources, and is “overwhelmed” trying to assess the damage.

Officials, including NSA Director Keith Alexander, have assured the public that the government knows the scope of the damage, but two separate sources briefed on the matter told NBC News that the NSA has been unable to determine how many documents he took and what they are.

Sources said authorities believe the trove of unreleased materials includes details of data collection by U.S. allies, including the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These English-speaking allies, known along with the U.S. as the "Five Eyes," are critical to U.S. intelligence efforts.

And by the way, New Zealand...

New Zealand has passed a hotly-disputed bill that radically expands the powers of its spying agency. The legislation was passed 61 votes to 59 in a move that was slammed by the opposition as a death knell for privacy rights in New Zealand.


Attorney Jonathan Turley's Spooky Legal Encounter with Area 51

Last week, the U.S. government declassified a report about a secret facility in Nevada. Such declassifications are nothing new but, from the report’s 400 pages, two words immediately jumped out: Area 51. The government had finally acknowledged the name of a controversial base in the desert north of Las Vegas where it conducted top-secret research.


During the 1990s, I represented Area 51 workers in two lawsuits. The suits, which forced the first official recognition of the base — though not its name — were the first against a “black facility,” one whose very existence is denied by the government. Over the course of the litigation, the contents of my office were classified, I was threatened with arrest, workers and their families were threatened with prosecution and we had to go as far as Moscow to find images to prove the existence of the base.


When workers at Area 51 first came to me in the 1990s, they described how the government had placed discarded equipment and hazardous waste in open trenches the length of football fields, then doused them with jet fuel and set them on fire. The highly toxic smoke blowing through the desert base was known as “London fog” by workers. Many came down with classic skin and respiratory illnesses associated with exposure to burning hazardous waste. A chief aim of the lawsuits was to discover exactly what the workers had been exposed to so they could get appropriate medical care.


After [my client]’s death, an analysis of tissue samples from his body found unidentifiable and exotic substances that one of the nation’s premier scientists could not recognize.

The newly released report doesn’t clear up those questions, and it comes after the statute of limitations has passed for any crimes that may have been committed there.


The first [legal] hurdle was the government’s refusal to acknowledge even the existence, let alone the name, of the facility. We supplied pictures of the base. We supplied affidavits from workers at the base. We even submitted pictures of planes taking off in Las Vegas and then the same planes landing at Area 51. At one point, I offered to drive the judge personally to the base and point at it from a mountaintop. (The government then acquired the mountaintop and barred the public.) Ultimately, the government confirmed the existence of the base only after we located Russian satellite pictures. It turned out that the Russians had a virtual catalog of pictures of Area 51 for public sale. You just needed a credit card.

That did not end the bizarre character of the litigation.

  Jonathan Turley
Read on for the rest of the story.

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

And Did I Mention....

The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain's intelligence gathering programmes.


The Guardian Incident

[S]ince this is 2013, not 1958, destroying one set of a newspaper's documents doesn't destroy them all, and since the Guardian has multiple people around the world with copies, they achieved nothing but making themselves look incompetently oppressive.

But conveying a thuggish message of intimidation is exactly what the UK and their superiors in the US national security state are attempting to accomplish with virtually everything they are now doing in this matter.


[T]he US and the UK governments go around the world threatening people all the time. It's their modus operandi. They imprison whistleblowers. They try to criminalize journalism. They threatened the Guardian with prior restraint and then forced the paper to physically smash their hard drives in a basement. They detained my partner under a terrorism law, repeatedly threatened to arrest him, and forced him to give them his passwords to all sorts of invasive personal information - behavior that even one of the authors of that terrorism law says is illegal, which the Committee for the Protection of Journalists said yesterday is just "the latest example in a disturbing record of official harassment of the Guardian over its coverage of the Snowden leaks", and which Human Rights Watch says was "intended to intimidate Greenwald and other journalists who report on surveillance abuses." And that's just their recent behavior with regard to press freedoms: it's to say nothing of all the invasions, bombings, renderings, torture and secrecy abuses for which that bullying, vengeful duo is responsible over the last decade.

  Glenn Greenwald
Including an attack on a hotel in Iraq where journalists were staying, resulting in the deaths of several journalists, and a direct attack on an al Jazeera office resulting in the death of a cameraman.
If the goal of the UK in detaining my partner was - as it now claims - to protect the public from terrorism by taking documents they suspected he had (and why would they have suspected that?), that would have taken 9 minutes, not 9 hours. Identically, the UK knew full well that forcing the Guardian UK to destroy its hard drives would accomplish nothing in terms of stopping the reporting: as the Guardian told them, there are multiple other copies around the world. The sole purpose of all of that, manifestly, is to intimidate.
And just so you know, don’t discuss your secrets in a room with windows or plastic cups.
The same two senior officials who had visited the Guardian the previous month returned with the message that patience with the newspaper's reporting was wearing out.

They expressed fears that foreign governments, in particular Russia or China, could hack into the Guardian's IT network. But the Guardian explained the security surrounding the documents, which were held in isolation and not stored on any Guardian system.

However, in a subsequent meeting, an intelligence agency expert argued that the material was still vulnerable. He said by way of example that if there was a plastic cup in the room where the work was being carried out foreign agents could train a laser on it to pick up the vibrations of what was being said. Vibrations on windows could similarly be monitored remotely by laser.


The Guardian's lawyers believed the government might either seek an injunction under the law of confidence, a catch-all statute that covers any unauthorised possession of confidential material, or start criminal proceedings under the Official Secrets Act.

Either brought with it the risk that the Guardian's reporting would be frozen everywhere and that the newspaper would be forced to hand over material.

"I explained to British authorities that there were other copies in America and Brazil so they wouldn't be achieving anything," Rusbridger said. "But once it was obvious that they would be going to law I preferred to destroy our copy rather than hand it back to them or allow the courts to freeze our reporting."

Any such surrender would have represented a betrayal of the source, Edward Snowden, Rusbridger believed. The files could ultimately have been used in the American whistleblower's prosecution.


Furthermore the computer records could be analysed forensically to yield information on which journalists had seen and worked with which files.

Rusbridger took the decision that if the government was determined to stop UK-based reporting on the Snowden files, the best option was destroy the London copy and to continue to edit and report from America and Brazil. Journalists in America are protected by the first amendment, guaranteeing free speech.

We still have the First Amendment? It’s on its deathbed if we do. We knew it was in bad shape when the country adopted “Free Speech Zones” during the reign of George the W.

Interview with Guardian Editor on Miranda and Destruction of Documents

If the video below doesn't work for you, go directly to the Guardian link:

Make no mistake: essentially forcing a newspaper’s editor into exile over a report it doesn’t like sounds like a story from the 18th century reign of King George III, not of a supposed 21st century democracy.

While this episode exposes despicable and ignorant actions taken by the UK government—again, actions that are normally reserved for the worst of authoritarian regimes—we should also take notice of journalistic bravery on the part of Rusbridger and his Guardian staff.

Rusbridger has had the courage to keep publishing in the face of government pressure, prior restraint, and possibly the financial stability of his newspaper. He is commendably putting his newspaper at risk to get the truth to the world’s citizens. We need more editors like him.

  Freedom of the Press Foundation

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What? You Got Something to Hide?

Civil libertarians have long ago lost faith in Barack Obama’s and his continuing expression of support for privacy and individual rights. Just in case anyone is still not convinced, consider the petition this month to the Supreme Court by the Obama Administration. Just last week, Obama waxed poetic about his commitment to privacy. Yesterday however, his Administration took another major swipe at privacy and asked the Supreme Court to reverse the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which held that the police could not conduct warrantless searches of your cellphone when you are arrested.


The war on privacy is now truly one of the most prominent elements of the Obama legacy. More than any modern president, his Administration has led a full frontal attack on privacy and has largely succeeded as Democratic leaders follow sheepishly in his wake.

This is an important case and the potential loss for civil liberties could be immense. It is the right Court and the right technology for the Obama Administration to add to a growing list of unchecked police powers in the United States.

  Jonathan Turley

Cartoonist Protections

The partner of Glenn Greenwald (one of the journalists who broke the Snowden/NSA story) was detained for 9 hours at London’s Heathrow airport. As an American and an editorial cartoonist, this is a very disturbing development.


Every time I’m interviewed I always talk about how we American cartoonists never have to face the types of threats other cartoonists around the world do because we have the First Amendment to protect us. This is the first time I truly feel the situation has changed

  Ann Telnaes
I haven’t noticed the most popular liberal cartoonists take this on yet. Kudos to Ann.

How long before cartoonists take the heat and receive governmental threats for these types of images like they have over cartooning the Prophet and Islam in the Middle East? Because that is exactly where we're headed here.

By the way, it has been revealed that the British government informed the United States ahead of their detention of David Miranda that he was on a flight coming through Heathrow.  Why was that, do you suppose?

David Miranda's Lawyers Respond

You saw this coming…
Lawyers for the partner of the Guardian journalist who exposed mass email surveillance have written to home secretary Theresa May and the head of the Metropolitan police warning them that they are set to take legal action over what they say amounted to his "unlawful" detention at Heathrow airport under anti-terror laws.


His lawyers at the London firm Bindmans are seeking an official undertaking that there will be "no inspection, copying, disclosure, transfer, distribution or interference, in any way with our client's data".

But they say if there has already been an inspection of his laptop and other equipment it should not be disclosed to any third party, domestic or foreign and should be kept secure pending the outcome of the legal action.

That gives me pause, because until just this moment I had not thought of the possibility of agents of the US, UK, or other allied governments passing some unique piece of material from a confiscated device to an enemy of those countries and creating the impression that the person to whom the device belongs is trading secrets.
The letter says the decision to detain Miranda "amounted to a frustration of the legislative policy and objects of the Terrorism Act 2000" and was for "an improper purpose and was therefore unlawful".

Bindmans say if the undertakings are not given by Tuesday afternoon they will have no option but to seek an urgent interim injunction in the high court.

The lawyers say they will also be seeking a "quashing order" confirming that his detention was "unlawful" and a mandatory order that all data seized is returned and copies destroyed.


Bindmans say the police used the anti-terror laws in order to have "deliberately bypassed" the normal statutory procedures for seeking confidential journalistic material such as court orders under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Using Pace police can get permission to search premises and seize property but some classes of material are protected, including journalistic material.

Musharraf Charged in Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan's former military leader Pervez Musharraf was formally charged by a court on Tuesday with murdering Benazir Bhutto, the ex-prime minister who was assassinated at a political campaign rally in 2007.


Bradley Manning's Sentencing Hearing

I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion. I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down. Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.

  David Swanson/ War Is a Crime
No kidding. And when I heard that in the sentencing hearing the prosecutor asked the judge for a 60-year sentence, the defendant’s attorney asked for 20 years instead, I had the same feeling I had when the whole thing first started and the defense was to be that Bradley Manning was a disturbed young man who shouldn’t have been given the position he held with the Army. I had a similar feeling when Manning apologized using that same defense at the end of his trial. It almost makes me feel like Bradley Manning doesn’t deserve the support he’s been getting from people who realize what exactly he revealed through his leaks. I pity Mr. Manning, but I don’t admire him. His defense should have been classic whistleblower defense, and his lawyer should have demanded sentencing to time served with retribution for having been tortured during that time.
I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy. He's on trial in a system rigged against him. The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago. He's been convicted. The judge has been offered a promotion. The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor. Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence? Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong.


This was the sentencing phase of the trial, but there was no discussion of what good or harm might come of a greater or lesser sentence, in terms of deterrence or restitution or prevention or any other goal.


This was the trial of the most significant whistleblower in U.S. history, but there was no mention of anything he'd blown the whistle on, any of the crimes exposed or prevented, wars ended, nonviolent democratic movements catalyzed. Nothing on why he's a four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Nothing.


What was discussed on Wednesday was as disturbing as what wasn't. Psycho-therapists, and relatives, and Bradley Manning himself --- defense witnesses all --- testified that he had been wrong to do what he'd done, that he'd not been in his right mind, and that he is a likable person to whom the judge should be kind.

Should likable people get lesser sentences?


What, I wanted to scream, about the likability of blowing the whistle on major crimes? Shouldn't that be rewarded, rather than being less severely punished?


The first witness on Wednesday was a therapist who had consulted with Manning while he was in the Army and in Iraq. This man noted that Manning had problems with his occupation, but gave no indication of what that occupation was. Manning was under stress, but the moral crisis discussed in [Manning's] chat logs [with the snitch who turned him in] was never mentioned. Instead, Manning's lawyer directed the witness to discuss "gender issues."


The next witness was a therapist hired to work for the defense. He said that Manning suffered fits of rage in the military. Shouldn't he have? If you'd been dropped into the war on Iraq and seen what it was, how would you have most healthily reacted? This therapist believed Manning suffered from gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder. The whole room seemed to suffer from basic human decency dysphoria. [...] Manning, we heard, had been stressed out over his boyfriend, and as a result of his alcoholic parents. The notion that war could cause stress didn't enter the courtroom.


Manning suffered from Post-Adolescent Idealism (if only that were contagious! I wanted to scream).


Manning's sister said that he had calmed down and matured during the past three years. No mention of his naked isolation cell. No mention of the existential threat hanging over him. No mention of how clear-minded and principled he appears to have been back when he was supposedly immature.


Manning wanted to end wars that the majority of Americans think were wrong ever to have begun, and he helped to end them --- at least in the case of Iraq. He'd had clearly degree. A full-blown public debate on abolishing the institution of war is yet to come.
Don't hold your breath.

And, Manning himself, I think, blew it. I can’t really blame him, either, I suppose. I’m sure he knows the depths to which he can be further punished. Perhaps he was assured that if he pled this way he would be shown leniency in his future captivity. Who knows? It was his choice to make. Still, he has helped, but then set back immensely the cause of justice and, while I don't believe there is any chance of preventing future wars, at least prevention of future war crimes.