Saturday, May 31, 2014

Snowden Follow Up

You may have heard that the NSA released one email Snowden sent to their lawyers asking about something that did not appear to be related to NSA abuses (after saying he never sent any emails to anyone). Snowden responded to that release:
If the White House is interested in the whole truth, rather than the NSA’s clearly tailored and incomplete leak today for a political advantage, it will require the NSA to ask my former colleagues, management, and the senior leadership team about whether I, at any time, raised concerns about the NSA’s improper and at times unconstitutional surveillance activities. It will not take long to receive an answer.

Ultimately, whether my disclosures were justified does not depend on whether I raised these concerns previously. That’s because the system is designed to ensure that even the most valid concerns are suppressed and ignored, not acted upon. The fact that two powerful Democratic Senators - Ron Wyden and Mark Udall - knew of mass surveillance that they believed was abusive and felt constrained to do anything about it underscores how futile such internal action is -- and will remain -- until these processes are reformed.

Still, the fact is that I did raise such concerns both verbally and in writing, and on multiple, continuing occasions - as I have always said, and as NSA has always denied. Just as when the NSA claimed it followed German laws in Germany just weeks before it was revealed that they did not, or when NSA said they did not engage in economic espionage a few short months before it was revealed they actually did so on a regular and recurring basis, or even when they claimed they had “no domestic spying program” before we learned they collected the phone records of every American they could, so too are today’s claims that “this is only evidence we have of him reporting concerns” false.


  Edward Snowden in the Washington Post
I think that’s a given.

Faithless: John Kerry

I was reading the lead story in the New York Times – "US Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016" – with a photo of American soldiers looking for caves. I recalled not the Secretary of State but a 27-year-old Kerry, asking, as he testified to the Senate about the US troops who were still in Vietnam and were to remain for another two years: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

  Daniel Ellsberg
I guess he knows now, huh?

Ellsberg responds to Kerry's shameful remarks about Edward Snowden (to which I will not give further space; if you haven't read them elsewhere, you will not see them here):
And then there he was on MSNBC an hour later, thinking about me, too, during a round of interviews about Afghanistan that inevitably turned to Edward Snowden ahead of my fellow whistleblower’s own primetime interview that night:
There are many a patriot – you can go back to the Pentagon Papers with Dan Ellsberg and others who stood and went to the court system of America and made their case. Edward Snowden is a coward, he is a traitor, and he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so.
On the Today show and CBS, Kerry complimented me again – and said Snowden "should man up and come back to the United States" to face charges. But John Kerry is wrong, because that's not the measure of patriotism when it comes to whistleblowing, for me or Snowden, who is facing the same criminal charges I did for exposing the Pentagon Papers.


Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. [...] (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment).


John Kerry's challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And what's amazing about that is that Kerry looks like the typical Washington insider - inside a bubble, that is - since Daniel Ellsberg has been very vocal and very public, very often, about his support of and praise for Edward Snowden since the leaks first came out.


Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was the only American solider held prisoner in Afghanistan, was set free early on Saturday, according to AP [in a trade for five prisoners in Gitmo].


"Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years," Obama said in a statement after the swap.


The five Guantanamo inmates were still at the US base on Saturday morning, but were being transferred into Qatari custody, the officials said.

The inmates will be banned from leaving the territory of Qatar for at least a year, according to the conditions of their release.

Five years. What took so long?

Who was released?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Post Mortem

Snowden apparently told Brian Williams that we didn’t need the secret NSA data collections after 9/11 precisely because the government had all the information it needed to prevent the attack.
Statements made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden regarding the 9/11 terror attacks were edited out of his NBC Nightly News interview with Brian Williams.


“You know this is a key question that the 9/11 commission considered, and what they found in the postmortem when they looked at all the classified intelligence from all the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed as an intelligence community, as a classified sector, as the national defense of the United States, to detect this plot,” Snowden said.

“We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we had.”


Snowden remarked on the government’s prior knowledge of the accused Boston bombers as well, also cut from the prime time interview.

‘If we’re missing things like the Boston Marathon bombings where all of these mass-surveillance systems, every domestic dragnet in the world, didn’t reveal guys that the Russian intelligence service told us about by name, is that really the best way to protect our country or are we trying to throw money at a magic solution that’s actually not just costing us our safety, but our rights and our way of life,” Snowden said.

Despite countless government officials pointing to 9/11 foreknowledge, whether missed or ignored, establishment media outlets have continually worked to keep such voices out of relevant reporting.


Despite the fact that the NSA leaks have proven the agency to be involved in issues unrelated to national security, such as economic espionage, the claim of using mass surveillance to stop terrorism deteriorates even further in light of recent decisions by the Obama Administration.

In 2013, President Obama waived a federal law designed to prevent the US from arming terrorists in order to provide military support to the “Syrian rebels.” Even with Syrian Revolutionary Front leader Jamal Maarouf admitting that his fighters work alongside the Al-Qaeda aligned Jabhat al-Nusra, the Obama Administration has continued its unflinching support.

The president’s support of Al-Qaeda was so transparent during the Libyan overthrow that former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich publicly questioned why the US-backed “Libyan rebels” had placed an Al Qaeda flag over the top of the courthouse in Benghazi.

  Info Wars
Apparently, these comments were posted on NBC’s website in some of the after-interview analyses back at NBC studios. ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

We Can All Rest Easy Now

The secretive Bilderberg conference began Thursday in Copenhagen, where a diverse group of political leaders as well as experts from industry, finance, academia and media are meeting to discuss major issues facing the world.


National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance and the Ukraine crisis are among the discussion topics this year, the Bilderberg group said in a brief press release.


This year’s guest list includes at least two members of European royalty, senior officials from Microsoft and Google, representatives from top U.S. universities, and executives from Western banks, car manufacturers and energy companies.

Also on the high-profile guest list are Keith Alexander, former NSA director; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of NATO; Philip M. Breedlove, NATO supreme allied commander in Europe; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund; Cengiz Candar, reporter for news websites Al-Monitor and Radikal; and John Micklethwait, editor in chief of The Economist magazine.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed? Why? ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Edward Snowden Interview

In case you missed it last night on TV, you can watch it online today:

It answers one question:  Glenn Greenwald was actually there, so it was indeed part of his plans, too.

And...after watching, I'm an even bigger fan of Edward Snowden than before.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Recovering Some of the Spotlight

Now that all eyes are on the upcoming (tomorrow night) Brian Williams interview with Ed Snowden...
Glenn Greenwald, who helped Edward Snowden leak sensitive documents about the National Security Agency spying on its citizens, says he’s set to publish his most dramatic piece yet, which will reveal those in the USA who were targeted by the NSA.

I think we have gotten the picture already that they will be people and organizations who have been speaking out against government policies, peace activists and the like.

And Justin Raimondo called it when he speculated that the stories Greenwald kept alluding to that were yet to come were revelations of specific NSA targets.

UPDATE:  Or maybe that was the plan....Snowden has things to reveal in a major forum (particularly so in the US) and then Greenwald reveals the targets.

FURTHER UPDATE:  Greenwald was in Moscow with Snowden and Williams.  As was Laura Poitras.  No doubt filming for her documentary-to-come on the Snowden affair.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

On the August Ballot in Missouri

Senate Joint Resolution No. 27, passed by the General Assembly in 2014, proposes amending the Missouri Constitution to include language stating that people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects.

  Governor Jay Nixon Newsletter
I don’t know how that would be enforced.

House Joint Resolution No. 11, passed by the General Assembly in 2013, proposes amending the Missouri Constitution to include language forever guaranteeing the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices.
Seriously? That was going to be a problem? Is there something they're not telling us?

Gotta do something up there in the capitol building. Busy, busy, busy.

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


Gas masks in place.

This is my vegetable garden, after 45 minutes of covering to prevent damage from herbicide spray drift when the yahoos come to treat the (very) nearby cornfield. It may be over-protected, but I've seen the damage to the neighbor's plants from the previous spraying they did near their gardens on a "very windy day" according to the neighbor, and I've seen the spray rig they used the last time they were here applying pre-emergent herbicide on the field before the corn was planted.  The boom was at least six feet off the ground.  (I hope these are not the "practices" that are to be getting legal approval.) So I'll go with over-protection.  I asked for warning when they were going to be here.  I just wish I had thought to ask what their idea of "first thing in the morning" is.  I really don't want to cook my vegetables in situ.  


Here's the hazard symbols on the MSDS for the herbicide they're spraying:

Friday, May 23, 2014


Glenn Greenwald is going to have to stop defending Snowden against claims that he's a narcissist who wants publicity, citing the fact that he's been asked by virtually every news source on the planet for an interview and has consistently declined.

NBC Prime Time

 Pretty big risk, since he won't have the final editing say.

Oh, well.  Greenwald sold the movie rights to his new book about the Snowden leaks to Sony, for heaven knows how many dollars.  Why do I get the feeling that we're not in Kansas any more?  EVERYthing is about the fame these days, isn't it?

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

Trouble with the Execution

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill into law allowing Tennessee to send death row inmates to the electric chair if the state is unable to obtain drugs used for lethal injections.

The law was drawn up as various states were encountering difficulty in obtaining drugs for lethal injections because many of the pharmaceutical companies that make them, mainly in Europe, object to their use in executions. Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the electric chair legislation in April, with the Senate voting 23-3 and the House 68-13 in favor of the bill.

"It gives us another option out there. We've had so many problems with lethal injection," said the bill's House sponsor Rep. Dennis Powers, who confirmed that Haslam signed the bill Thursday.

Seriously. If you’re going to execute people, what the hell is wrong with a bullet? It’s cheap, and properly placed, very quick. Or am I missing the point?

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Julian Assange Is Feeling Irrelevant

The NSA records almost all domestic and international phone calls in Afghanistan, similar to what it does in the Bahamas, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange said.


Assange says he cannot disclose how WikiLeaks confirmed the identity of the victim state for the sake of source protection, though the claim can be “independently verified” via means of “forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date and correlations with other NSA programs.”

I could have made the same claim.  And I don't think there are many people left on the planet who wouldn't guess that the other country is Afghanistan.

According to a book released by Der Spiegel entitled 'Der NSA Komplex', a program called ACIDWASH collects 30-40 million telephony metadata records per day from Afghanistan. ACIDWASH has been identified as being part of the MYSTIC program.


Sadly, for Julian, if he does not have the proof, he is still irrelevant.

Although, I do take his point: how can one person (or a committee, for that matter) decide what is in the public interest and what might cause harm by its revelation?  On the other hand, if you are the person holding the information, who else can make the decision?  YOU have to decide.  If you pass the information to someone else to make the decision, you've already decided that it might be okay to reveal it.

Life is hard.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Typical Government Reform

The Reform Government Surveillance coalition—whose members include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, DropBox, and Yahoo—issued a statement Wednesday announcing it was pulling its support of the USA Freedom Act. The legislation would take the storage of phone records out of government hands and keep them with phone companies.

But newly amended language in the bill has "moved in the wrong direction" of true surveillance reforms, the tech companies said.

"The latest draft opens up an unacceptable loophole that could enable the bulk collection of Internet users' data," the coalition said. "While it makes important progress, we cannot support this bill as currently drafted and urge Congress to close this loophole to ensure meaningful reform."

The loophole referred to is the Freedom Act's definition of a "specific selection term," which underwent changes in the newest version of the bill released this week. Earlier drafts, including the one passed two weeks ago by the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, defined selectors as "a person, account or entity." But the new language—which adds words like "address and "device" and the non-limiting term "such as"—is seen as more broad.

  National Journal
”Such as” is appropriate wording in a law??? That’s not a loophole, that’s freeway access.
Several privacy groups have already revolted against the bill, citing similar concerns with the new language. Harley Geiger, senior counsel with the Center for Democracy & Technology, said the bill would allow for "an unacceptable level of surveillance."

Just like they made Bush’s torture and warrantless wiretapping programs legal after the fact.
The House on Thursday passed the most sweeping changes to the country’s intelligence operations in over a decade, voting to limit the National Security Agency’s ability to snoop on communications. The USA Freedom Act, which passed 303-121, had run into opposition from some of the NSA's biggest critics, who warned that the legislation had been gutted in recent weeks. Fifty-one Republicans and 70 Democrats voted against the bill.


Now the bill heads to the Senate, where Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has pledged to take it up this summer.

Leahy, who authored the Senate version of the bill, and other lawmakers backing reform like Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), have voiced concerns about key measures that were scaled back in the House


Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), another outspoken civil liberties advocate and original cosponsor, voted no. “This morning's bill maintains and codifies a large-scale, unconstitutional domestic spying program,” he wrote in a post on Facebook.

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

Seattle Is About to Get Even More Awesome

I should have stayed.



We Don't Know What He Took, But We Know It 's Real Bad

The Guardian has obtained a copy of the Defense Intelligence Agency's classified damage assessment in response to a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) lawsuit filed against the Defense Department earlier this year. The heavily redacted 39-page report was prepared in December and is titled “DoD Information Review Task Force-2: Initial Assessment, Impacts Resulting from the Compromise of Classified Material by a Former NSA Contractor.”

The report’s conclusion is that “the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering.” Of course it is.
But while the DIA report describes the damage to US intelligence capabilities as “grave”, the government still refuses to release any specific details to support this conclusion.
Of course it does.
The entire impact assessment was redacted from the material released to the Guardian under a presidential order.


Ben Wizner, Snowden’s attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "This report, which makes unsubstantiated claims about alleged harm to national security, is from December of 2013. Just this month, Keith Alexander admitted in an interview that he doesn’t 'think anybody really knows what he [Snowden] actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting'. In other words, the government’s so-called damage assessment is based entirely on guesses, not on facts or evidence."

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

Thai Turmoil

Thailand’s army has temporarily suspended the constitution and imposed a curfew, also ordering TV and radio stations to broadcast only army material. The proclaimed military coup follows months of political stalemate and turmoil.


Gatherings of more than five people are banned with one year prison term for violators. A 10pm to 5am curfew has been proclaimed.


CNN and the BBC are unavailable at the moment, users on Twitter said.

No internet censorship has been reported as of yet.


Shortly before the coup was announced, hundreds of soldiers gathered at Bangkok's Army Club and forcibly removed the leader of the protests against the pro-Thaskin government.


Thursday marks the country’s 19th such event in 82 years.

So they know the drill by now.

Don't Count on Your Military in a Nuke War

In [last summer’s] drill the security team of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana was required to respond to a simulated capture of a Minuteman 3 nuclear missile silo. The guards had to recapture the seized nuclear weapon in the silo, but failed to do so, the report obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request indicated.

Perhaps that’s what led to an investigation that has resulted in the sacking of nine nuke commanders there.
The United States Air Force says it has taken unprecedented action by firing nine nuclear missile base commanders on Thursday amid an ongoing and exhaustive investigation surrounding allegations of cheating.


Dozens of additional employees described as junior officers at those bases will be disciplined as well


This past January, the Air Force said that 34 missile launch officers were implicated in the cheating scandal and stripped of their security clearances, though they may not have necessarily faked their way through their own exams. According to the AP’s latest however, upwards of 100 missile launch crew members from a single facility — the Malmstrom Air Force Base in the state of Montana — were at one point or another linked to the scandal.


Members of all three missile squadrons were implicated, he added, although no generals were formally punished.

Of course not. Too big to fail.
This week’s news is only the latest to stir up the Air Force’s nuke unit, which for months now has repeatedly come under fire due to a barrage of incidents. The Pentagon removed 17 of its officers from a base in North Dakota last year following a poor inspection rating, and last October it was reported that two US missile technicians assigned with launch keys were discovered repeatedly leaving a blast door open while sleeping on base.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"We Can't Hold Our Government Accountable Because We Truly Don't Know What It's Doing"

Very nice two-part series from Frontline on the national surveillance state, including the story of Edward Snowden's leaks, with interviews from pertinent players:

The Obama Legacy

Obama famously entered office promising the most transparent administration in history. But in light of the Snowden disclosures, the war on whistle-blowers, the impunity in the face of vast crimes, he leaves with the opposite, the most spied-on constituency the world has ever known.

Yes, the man has gotten himself a list of number one slots, aside from being the first “black” president. First to preside over a kill list. Most secretive administration ever. Twice as many Espionage Act cases against whistleblowers as all previous presidents combined. A fine legacy indeed.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Slow Internet? It's the NSA!

The United States government was apparently attempting something akin to omniscience; it was spying on everyone on the planet (or at least those who use technology to communicate) and trying to store it all in vast canyons of servers in Bluffdale, Utah. The NSA was grabbing and stashing so much across an astounding number of code-named programs that, according to one leaked slide, they even repeatedly slowed down the Internet.

  SFGate: Joel Whitney reviewing ‘No Place to Hide’

Gov't Will Not Appeal Court Order to Release Drone Kill Memo

The decision by the US Solicitor-General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. not to appeal April’s ruling was revealed by an anonymous administration official on Tuesday, and reached last week, according to AP. The court’s decision will demand the release of a memorandum laying out the foundations for drone killings of American citizens suspected of terrorism.

That’s good, huh?
However, only a part of the document will be revealed, and the date for its release is yet to be named.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

WikiLeaks vs. The Intercept

Despite warnings that doing so “could lead to increased violence” and potentially deaths, anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks says it plans to publish the name of a country targeted by a massive United States surveillance operation.


“We condemn Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation,” WikiLeaks tweeted on Monday.

“It is not the place of Firstlook or the Washington Post to deny the rights of an entire people to know they are being mass recorded,” WikiLeaks added. “It is not the place of Firstlook or WaPo to decide how a people will [choose] to act against mass breaches of their rights by the United States.”


When Greenwald defended his decision to publish the names of four countries where telephony metadata is collected by the NSA but withhold a fifth where content is recorded as well, WikiLeaks said it could be interpreted as meaning that the unknown country doesn’t deserve to know they’re being surveilled, but Greenwald said The Intercept was "very convinced" it could lead to deaths.


“When has true published information harmed innocents?” WikiLeaks asked. “To repeat this false Pentagon talking point is to hurt all publishers.”

“We will reveal the name of the censored country whose population is being mass recorded in 72 hours,” WikiLeaks wrote at 6:35 p.m. EST Tuesday evening.

And here's my question: How did Wikileaks come about that information?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Your Meaningless Civil Liberties

If my experience serves any purpose, it is to illustrate what most already know: courts must not be allowed to consider matters of great importance under the shroud of secrecy, lest we find ourselves summarily deprived of meaningful due process. If we allow our government to continue operating in secret, it is only a matter of time before you or a loved one find yourself in a position like I did – standing in a secret courtroom, alone, and without any of the meaningful protections that were always supposed to be the people's defense against an abuse of the state's power.

  The Guardian
Read the entire (short) article for Ladar Levison’s explanation of why he had to shut down Lavabit, and how he was treated by the US government.  Perhaps one day the Snowden Leaks will lead to changes that allow Mr. Levison to sue the US government for the loss of his business.

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

Speaking of Laws and Arguments...

The state of California is looking to pass a law stating the federal government would need a warrant from a judge if it wants to search residents’ cellphones and computer records. The bill passed the state senate with just one person voting against.


"The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution is very clear. It says the government shall not engage in unreasonable search and seizure," said the bill's author, Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu of Torrance, to Reuters.

It will be awkward for the US government to argue that collecting data records is not search and seizure, if that’s what they plan, since on the other hand, speaking on behalf of or in sympathy with a terrorist is defined by it these days as material aid.
California is one of eight states to introduce such measures, according to Lieu’s spokesman, Jeff Gozzo. Alaska, Arizona and Oklahoma are also looking to counter this problem, though America’s most populous state is the nearest to getting legislation passed. The bill will be heard before an assembly policy committee in June 2014.
Good luck with that. And good luck with enforcing it if you get it passed.

Modernizing the Law

North Carolina legislators are considering a bill that would make it a crime to publicly disclose toxic chemicals that energy companies use in the hydraulic fracturing process, with offenders on the hook for fines or even jail time.

Known as the Energy Modernization Act, the bill would make any unauthorized disclosure of fracking trade secrets – including the chemicals used – punishable with a Class I Felony, according to an Energywire report.

It would be hard to argue that punishing whistleblowers in this country is not modernization.

Soft Tissue Trauma

A top aide to the Turkish PM, Ysuf Yerkel, has been given a week’s sick leave for “leg trauma” he sustained after kicking a mourner following Turkey’s worst mining disaster in history.


Yerkel complained of a pain in his right knee, but told Dr. Servan Gokhan that it had come about after a fall. The aide was subsequently diagnosed with soft tissue trauma and granted a week of medical leave.


Yerkel claims that he was acting in self-defense, and that the man whom he kicked had attacked him. He also denounced the “provocations and insults” he had received and refused to apologize to his victim.

Oh, yes. You can see from the picture that it was obviously self-defense.

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

The soft tissue that has obviously been damaged is that of his brain.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

Justin Raimondo’s speculation was spot on. Greenwald’s latest story involves the specifics of who the NSA is collecting information from.
In March, The Washington Post revealed that the NSA had developed the capability to record and store an entire nation’s phone traffic for 30 days. The Post reported that the capacity was a feature of MYSTIC, which it described as a “voice interception program” that is fully operational in one country and proposed for activation in six others. (The Post also referred to NSA documents suggesting that MYSTIC was pulling metadata in some of those countries.) Citing government requests, the paper declined to name any of those countries.


SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.


All told, the NSA is using MYSTIC to gather personal data on mobile calls placed in countries with a combined population of more than 250 million people. And according to classified documents, the agency is seeking funding to export the sweeping surveillance capability elsewhere.


NSA documents indicate that SOMALGET has been deployed in the Bahamas to locate “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers” – traditional law-enforcement concerns.


Documents show that the NSA has been generating intelligence reports from MYSTIC surveillance in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, and one other country, which The Intercept is not naming in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. The more expansive full-take recording capability has been deployed in both the Bahamas and the unnamed country.


The NSA documents don’t specify who is providing access in the Bahamas. But they do describe SOMALGET as an “umbrella term” for systems provided by a private firm, which is described elsewhere in the documents as a “MYSTIC access provider.” (The documents don’t name the firm, but rather refer to a cover name that The Intercept has agreed not to publish in response to a specific, credible concern that doing so could lead to violence.)


By targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network, the NSA is intentionally collecting and retaining intelligence on millions of people who have not been accused of any crime or terrorist activity. Nearly five million Americans visit the country each year, and many prominent U.S. citizens keep homes there, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.


If the NSA is using the Drug Enforcement Administration’s relationship to the Bahamas as a cover for secretly recording the entire country’s mobile phone calls, it could imperil the longstanding tradition of international law enforcement cooperation that the United States enjoys with its allies.

  Glenn Greenwald
I doubt it. But it might require a court order to block access to certain VIPs.
“It’s surprising, the short-sightedness of the government,” says Michael German, a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice who spent 16 years as an FBI agent conducting undercover investigations. “That they couldn’t see how exploiting a lawful mechanism to such a degree that you might lose that justifiable access – that’s where the intelligence community is acting in a way that harms its long-term interests, and clearly the long-term national security interests of the United States.”
Not to worry. We’ve weaseled our way around worse revelations.
Informed about the NSA’s spying, neither the Bahamian prime minister’s office nor the country’s national security minister had any comment. The embassies of Mexico, Kenya, and the Philippines did not respond to phone messages and emails.
They’re all waiting for Big Boss USA to tell them what they can and cannot say.
Beyond a desire to bust island pot dealers, why would the NSA choose to apply a powerful collection tool such as SOMALGET against the Bahamas, which poses virtually no threat to the United States?

The answer may lie in a document that characterizes the Bahamas operation as a “test bed for system deployments, capabilities, and improvements” to SOMALGET. The country’s small population – fewer than 400,000 residents – provides a manageable sample to try out the surveillance system’s features. Since SOMALGET is also operational in one other country, the Bahamas may be used as a sort of guinea pig to beta-test improvements and alterations without impacting the system’s operations elsewhere.


[The] ability to record and replay the phone calls of an entire country appears to be a relatively new weapon in the NSA’s arsenal. None of the half-dozen former U.S. law enforcement officials interviewed by The Intercept said they had ever heard of a surveillance operation quite like the NSA’s Bahamas collection.
And probably wouldn’t say if they had.

UPDATE: 5/21 - Wikileaks says they're going to publish the name of the fifth country.

Cisco SAYS It Wants the NSA to Stop Intercepting Its Product

Updated below.
In a letter [to president Obama] dated May 15, John Chambers, chief executive officer and chairman of the networking equipment giant [Cisco], warned of an erosion of confidence in the U.S. technology industry and called for new "standards of conduct" in how the NSA conducts its surveillance.


The letter follows the circulation of pictures on the Internet showing NSA staff opening boxes of Cisco gear, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. "There have been allegations that the NSA has intercepted IT equipment in transit from manufacturers to customers to help monitor and gain information on surveillance targets," the paper wrote.


"We simply cannot operate this way, our customers trust us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security," Chambers said in the letter.


In a separate blog post on Cisco's site dated May 13, the company's general counsel, Mark Chandler, wrote that "...we ought to be able to count on the government to ... not interfere with the lawful delivery of our products in the form in which we have manufactured them."

A letter to the president and a blog post? How about a lawsuit against the US government and the NSA?  Oh, wait.  Let me Google and other social media companies, Cisco was complicit as long as it was a secret?

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


Well, what do you know.....
NSA presentation slide:

Did these guys not know this slide was out there?  Or maybe they figured not that many people would notice (or care)?

Further Update:  5/20/14:  In Glenn Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide, he states that there is no evidence in any of the Snowden documents that Cisco was either aware or cooperating with the NSA in this regard.


The Justice Department on Monday will announce charges against members of the Chinese military for cyber spying on American companies, according to multiple reports.

The charges would be the first time the United States brings criminal hacking charges against a foreign country.

Attorney General Eric Holder and senior Justice Department officials are expected to unveil the full set of charges on Monday morning.

  The Hill
The charges will name several individuals who are Chinese government employees, according to a U.S. official. "They used military and intelligence facilities to commit cyber espionage against U.S. companies," the official said.


[F]ormer Justice Department lawyer, Marc Zwillinger [: “The] only computers these days that are safe from Chinese government hackers are computers that are turned off, unplugged, and thrown in the back seat of your car."

And those have probably been secretly intercepted by the NSA and modified with a remote switch so they can turn them on.

So now, we’ll just be the global laughing stock.

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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's Sunday

Another Round of Austerity Fail

[Portugal] will become the second [...] country to leave the [euorozone] bailout after Ireland. Portugal underwent three years of painful austerity, in order to receive a 78-billion euro loan (106 billion US dollars), to help a nation that was on the verge of bankruptcy.


“There is a great need in Brussels and Berlin and other capitals to present Portugal and Ireland as success stories. They will claim that their reforms in Portugal have been a success- well, they haven’t, they have destroyed the society and economy,” Rui Tavares, an independent Portuguese MEP told RT in April.

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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gitmo Order

A federal judge late Friday ordered the Obama administration to halt the force-feeding of a Guantanamo prisoner and to preserve more than 100 videos that show the captive being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler's unprecedented ruling also temporarily barred military officials at the detention facility from subjecting the prisoner, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, to so-called forced cell extractions “for the purposes of” tube-feedings until May 21, the date of the next hearing in the case. Hunger striking prisoners who refuse to voluntarily leave their cells to be strapped into a restraint chair for feedings are forcibly removed by guards.

Dhiab has been cleared for release or transfer out of Guantanamo since 2009.

"Dhiab is cleared for release and should have been returned to his family years ago,” Crider added. “He is on hunger strike because he feels he has no other option left. I am glad Judge Kessler has taken this seriously, and we look forward to our full day in court to expose the appalling way Dhiab and others have been treated."

Last year, Kessler declined to rule on an attempt by Dhiab's attorneys to stop his force-feeding, saying she was powerless due to a congressional law that prohibited judges from making decisions over the treatment of Guantanamo prisoners. But she noted that the Obama administration could immediately end what she said was a "a painful, humiliating and degrading process."

A federal appeals court handed the case back to her in February, saying judges have "the power to oversee complaints by detainees about the conditions of their confinement at the military prison."

Earlier this week, Dhiab’s attorneys filed an emergency motion asking that Kessler order the government to preserve the videos. The Obama administration opposed the motion.


Kessler's order said the government must inform the court next Wednesday when it expects to produce the videos and Dhiab's medical records.
Videos? You mean the ones that will be accidentally erased tonight?


Friday, May 16, 2014

Are They There Yet? (UPDATED)

A retired United States Army colonel expects as many as 30 million like-minded individuals will descend on Washington, DC this week and demand that President Barack Obama and other members of his administration be booted from office.

Really? Thirty million?
[Col. Harry Riley, founder of “Operation American Spring,”] told Before Its News in January that he expects his Operation American Spring movement will provoke anywhere from 10 million to 30 million Americans to mobilize this week and arrive in DC, where they will participate in a “massive, gigantic effort as a last stand before America moves into a more devastating condition.”


To bring about that change, Riley says he hopes his group succeeds at shutting down the federal government.
Pipe dreams.
“Last October,‘10,000’ truckers were reportedly on their way to literally clog the Beltway and shut down traffic in protest of Washington politics,” Abby Ohlhiser wrote for The Wire on Thursday this week. “In reality, about 30 truckers showed up, and they caused no delays worth mentioning.”


[S]ome individuals are already claiming on the official Operation American Spring forums to have arrived in the DC area ahead of Friday’s planned demonstration: on Thursday morning, one member of the message board wrote that his truck had already finished the 2,750 mile haul to the DC region in around 50.5 hours and had set up a base at a compound 27 miles outside of the city in rural Virginia.
I'm assuming that means a trucker truck, not a pickup.  Seriously, if you can afford to drive a truck almost 3,000 miles just for a protest, you’re doing pretty well off the current state of the state.
According to other posts on the page, fellow Operation American Spring participants planned to meet at Arlington National Cemetery a stone’s throw from the District of Columbia on Friday morning, then march to the capital and stay there for days. Others on the forum have been attempting to arrange travel accommodations from as far away as Tucson, Arizona, Des Moines, Iowa and southeast Texas, and have been debating on the website where to camp in the DC area or whether or not to bring firearms along for the ride.
Why not?
On a separate page linked from the forums, Col. Reid wrote that “One million or more of the assembled 10 million must be prepared to stay in DC as long as it takes to see Obama, Biden, Reid, McConnell, Boehner, Pelosi and Attorney General Holder removed from office.”
That would be….let’s see…two and a half years. Good luck. Have some truckers haul in some homeless people.
”It’s now or never. God help us,” he wrote.
If God doesn’t, you’re looking at another fizzle.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Hoping to overthrow Obama’s “socialist-fascist-communist-Marxist dictatorial, tyrannical system,” organizers said they will install a tribunal led by GOP figures such as Sen. Ted Cruz and former congressman Allen West:
Those with the principles of a West, Cruz, Lee, DeMint, Paul, Gov. Walker, Sessions, Gowdy, Jordan, Issa, will comprise a tribunal and assume positions of authority to convene investigations, recommend appropriate charges against politicians and government employees to the new U.S. Attorney General appointed by the new President.
  Right Wing Watch
I wonder if they’ve been contacted. ;-)

“It’s a very dismal turnout,” said Jackie Milton, 61, a Jacksboro, Texas, resident and the head of Texans for Operation American Spring, to The Washington Times.


”It ain’t no millions. And it ain’t looking like there’s going to be millions. Hundreds is more like it.”

  Washington Times

Every Time You Turn Around

A ruptured oil pipe near the city of Glendale, Los Angeles County, has caused a massive leak as 10,000 gallons of crude oil spilled onto streets, which is knee high in some places, the Los Angeles Fire Department reports.


The oil spill has covered approximately a half-mile area, and is knee deep in some spots.

Are the oil industry companies not making enough money to keep their pipes maintained?
The company Plains All American later said the leak came from a pump station on one of its pipelines, and was due to a faulty valve.


LAFD spokesman Erik Scott said there was no "visible evidence" the oil had entered the city's storm drains, which carry excess rain water into the Los Angeles River, AP news agency reported.

Sure, sure. Video shows it pouring down rain at the time.
The LAFD originally estimated that 1,000,000 gallons had spilled, but later revised this to 50,000 gallons and then 10,000 gallons.
Damage control.
Four people reported breathing problems and two went to hospital.

A few commercial businesses were affected and a strip club was evacuated.
Noted only as “The Gentlemen’s Club” in the RT article.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Where We Are and Why It Matters

This Cato Institute interview with Glenn Greenwald is less about the specific Snowden leaks and more about the extent of America's evolution into an oligarchical surveillance state.

American Mercenaries in the Ukraine?

Perish the thought. American mercenaries don't even exist.
In eastern Ukraine, among pro-Russian separatists, the notion that elite American fighters are prowling the backroads and slag heaps of their region is oft repeated. After first surfacing in March, the rumors sounded like the sort of paranoid fantasies created in a war zone where anti-Americanism is rampant. But now the rumors are being repeated in Germany’s capital _ and resonating. That alone may count as a victory for Russian propagandists, even if there are no American mercenaries. The White House says there are not.

And, as we know, the White House NEVER lies.
According to Bild, the German intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, said the mercenaries were hired from Academi, an international security firm that rose from the scandal-ridden ashes of Blackwater, the now defunct company that made headlines worldwide for its allegedly wild ways in Iraq, where its contractors were accused, among other things, of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in a shooting spree in Baghdad’s Nisouri Square.
Academi published a statement of denial on its website, even denying any relationship to Blackwater.
“Some irresponsible bloggers and an online reporter have recently posted rumors that ACADEMI employees (operating under the name of Blackwater) are present in Ukraine,” the statement said. “They are not and ACADEMI has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince.


[Bild] has told Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office that it had unconfirmed reports that 400 Americans appear to be aiding the interim Ukrainian government in its fight against pro-Russian separatists.


The allegation that the information was presented to the chancellor’s office in a weekly briefing in April lends it gravitas. That such reports in Bild on more than one occasion have proved true enhances its credibility.


According to Bild, the German intelligence agency cited U.S. intelligence officials as its source.
And US intelligence services NEVER lie. Wait. What?

USA: We're Number One!

The United States is the only Western country _ and one of only three in the world _ that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who’ve taken maternity leave from their jobs, a new U.N. study reports.

Two other countries share the U.S. position of providing “no cash benefits during maternity leave,” according to the report, which was released Tuesday by the International Labor Organization: Oman, an absolute monarchy in the Persian Gulf; and Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific nation where the U.S. State Department says violence against women is so common that 60 percent of men in a U.N. study acknowledged having committed a rape.

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

In the Ongoing Saga: Abandoned by His Own

President Barack Obama has had a hard time getting his nominees for federal judgeships through the Senate confirmation process, but this time the resistance is coming from members of his own party.

Obama's nomination of conservative Democrat Michael Boggs as U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Georgia generated pushback from liberals, who grilled Boggs at a hearing Tuesday about his past votes to oppose repeal of the Confederate flag and ban same-sex marriage. Read more here:

Sometimes, oftentimes, it does seem like Obama was a Republican plant, doesn’t it?

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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


Two Democratic senators accused the Obama administration on Tuesday of seeking to “ignore or justify” statements it made to the Supreme Court about warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency, contributing to what they called a “culture of misinformation” by the executive branch.

In a letter to Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the senators, Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon, maintained that the Justice Department was not being forthright about what they portrayed as factual misrepresentations to the Supreme Court in 2012. The case involved a challenge to the constitutionality of a law permitting warrantless N.S.A. surveillance.


The Program

Part I of a Frontline special report is available here. It's a nice recap of the beginnings of the collect it all program of the NSA, the attempts of people in the past to have it reined in and/or stopped, repercussions for them, and a lead in to the Snowden leaks. Not just reminders of how we got here, and where we are, but revelations of things I had not known about the people involved in trying to get the information out.

You’ve seen the history of how the Bush administration launched an unprecedented surveillance campaign after 9/11 at the National Security Agency, and how Obama later expanded what had become known as “The Program.”

Now find out how the NSA got all that data.

On May 20, FRONTLINE continues the story of mass surveillance in America in part two of United States of Secrets, an investigation into the secret relationship between Silicon Valley and the National Security Agency.

Trailer for part 2.

Petition re government attempt to force reporter James Risen to reveal his sources:

You Got a Problem With That?

The White House brushed off questions about any ethical issues on appointing the vice-president's son, Hunter Biden, to a leading post at a Ukrainian gas company.


"Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice-president or president," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Nor does it have anything to do with Joe being US executive.
Curtis Ellis, executive director at American Jobs Alliance, told RT that it is a typical Washington politics to exploit a foreign crisis for personal gain.
The Biden board new appointment came just in time when Gazprom, Russian gas giant, moved Ukraine to a prepaid gas delivery regime and sent Naftogaz, Ukraine’s gas champion, a $1.66 billion bill that is due June 2, or Moscow will halt supplies.

Gazprom is demanding that Kiev pays $485 per 1,000 cubic meters, raised from $268.50 after Moscow was forced to cancel several discounts. Kiev rejects the new price as “politically motivated” and says it will only pay its debt if Gazprom lowers the price back to the previous rate.

Meanwhile, the US may use the critical energy situation in the country to promote its shale energy in Ukraine.
Hey, it’s just good business sense.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

That'll Be in the Movie

From a Vanity Fair article about Edward Snowden:
That was the first indication to the White House that there was a leak, but at this stage it seemed to be just a single document. Ackerman told her the paper intended to publish a story based on a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court order. Their deadline was 4:30 P.M. Hayden scrambled to assemble a conference call among Janine Gibson, the deputy directors of the N.S.A. and the F.B.I., and the general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence.

When the call finally happened, at 5:15, Gibson described the document and the paper’s intention to publish that night. The government players on the line listened, astonished, according to one person on the call. The document, dated April 25, 2013, and stamped TOP SECRET, outlined the bulk collection of all of Verizon’s customers’ phone records for a period of 90 days. It was a renewal notice—that is, the renewal of a standing court order from the FISA court.

It was a circular conversation, in which the government men were unable to discuss the document, and The Guardian was unwilling to budge unless they outlined a specific security threat that would result from the document’s publication. Gibson pressed; she thought it was possible the government could have done this as a one-off to investigate the Boston Marathon bombing. But for anyone from the intelligence community to even acknowledge the existence of a classified document may be a crime. One man on the line said tersely, “I’m not in the habit of committing felonies.” Gibson, who had practiced her talking points and was steady, stood her ground. “I think you’ll find, madam,” he replied, “that we are much better positioned than you are to say what is a national-security risk.”

“No serious news organization would do this,” said another government voice on the call. To which Gibson replied, “I think you’ll find, sir, that we are much better positioned than you are to say what is a story.”

  Vanity Fair

Greenwald re: New NSA Revelations

Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now! talks about NSA revelations in his new book, extent of NSA data collection, private corporation contracting to the US intelligence arm, and Edward Snowden himself.

Greenwald interview begins at 10:30 mark.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Survey Says

The survey, “The American Journalist in the Digital Age,” was carried out by researchers at Indiana University and is based on interviews with over 1,000 US journalists working for radio and TV stations, newspapers, magazines, wire services, and websites. According to the survey, fewer reporters than ever say they have “almost complete freedom” in selecting stories—a third said that in 2013, compared with 60 percent in 1982—and fewer members of the fourth estate are willing to get their hands dirty in the service of speaking truth to power.


[F]our out of ten respondents believe that their stories should be approved by the government or corporation they’re reporting on. In every way, journalists are more docile than before, with the survey finding that three quarters of journalists think it is wrong to obtain a job “to gain inside information,” while just 4.5 percent said it's sometimes OK to pay “for confidential information”—bizarrely, more journalists think “badgering unwilling informants” is justified (37.7 percent).


[A]s the survey suggests, journalists weren’t always so willing to shrug at crimes committed by those in power. Now, though, they are remarkably incurious creatures, with more reporters saying they would like to increase their knowledge of “podcast production” rather than their “knowledge of world affairs.”


Of those surveyed by the researchers at Indiana University, 92 percent were college graduates (fewer than six out of ten journalists had degrees 40 years ago), and 91.5 percent were white. And while more reporters are women these days, journalism is still by and large an old boys' club, with men representing 62.5 percent of all journalists. The median age of 47 is also the oldest on record; in 1982, the typical journalist was 15 years younger.


Less than a quarter of those surveyed said they were “very satisfied” with their jobs, compared with 49 percent in 1971.

Maybe they ought to ask themselves if their brand of journalism has anything to do with that.

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

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Six months after it was written to restrain the National Security Agency’s sweeping domestic surveillance, a privacy bill cleared a major legislative obstacle on Wednesday, even as its advocates worried that the compromises made to advance the bill have weakened its constraints on mass data collection.


Supporters in and outside of Congress concede the latest compromises have left the USA Freedom Act less protective of civil liberties than it was when introduced in October. Its distinctions from a rival bill written by the leaders of the House intelligence committee, the NSA’s strongest Capitol Hill advocates, are somewhat blurred, prompting civil libertarians to become less enthusiastic of a measure they have championed as a fix to the broad NSA powers exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.


[T]he revised USA Freedom Act permits the government to get phone data two “hops,” or degrees of separation, from the target of the order, which can mean millions of call records reaped from a single court order. The legal standard for that order, for counterterrorism purposes, will be “reasonable articulable suspicion” of connection to an agent of a foreign power, the NSA’s desired framework.

Significantly, the new version of the USA Freedom Act all but stripped out a provision preventing the NSA from combing through its foreign communications dragnets for Americans’ information, something Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon dubbed the “backdoor search provision,” an absence that has deeply upset supporters.


Section 215 of the Patriot Act is the provision cited by the NSA and blessed by the secret Fisa Court for bulk data collection.


As amended, the USA Freedom Act would push back the expiration of Section 215 to the end of 2017, when Section 702 is set to expire. The current expiration is 1 June of next year. Some legislators are already whispering that allowing Section 215 to expire wholesale in 2015 is a preferable reform.


Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who sponsored the USA Freedom Act in the Senate, hailed the committee vote, but said he was concerned that the text does not reform the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s national-security letters and makes insufficient changes on transparency and to the Fisa Court.

“I will continue to push for those reforms when the Senate Judiciary Committee considers the USA Freedom Act this summer,” Leahy said in a statement.

The original version would have banned all bulk collection by the government, the new version still allows the government to request records up to two degrees away from the target of an inquiry as long as they get the approval of a judge on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The earlier version would also have barred the NSA from gaining access to the content of Americans’ communications if collected while the agency is targeting sources believed to be abroad, dubbed “backdoor searches” by critics. The ACLU sent a letter to the judiciary committee leadership Wednesday that laid out ongoing concerns with the new version of the bill, including worries about how long the government is allowed to keep data after it obtains it. A series of amendments put forward by California Democrat Zoe Lofgren during the markup illustrated just how far the bill had moved from the original version. Lofgren proposed an amendment that would have barred “backdoor searches” that was easily voted down, with legislators indicating that any changes would alter the delicate compromise that had been reached. Sensenbrenner, referring to Lofgren’s proposal to ban backdoor searches, said the bill was on “the fast track,” and Lofgren’s amendment would “blow up” the bill’s chances of passage. Lofgren also proposed an amendment that would have raised the standard for requesting records from the “reasonable articulable suspicion” to probable cause, the same standard required for obtaining a warrant.


That amendment was not only voted down – Lofgren’s colleagues began to lecture her on legal precedent regarding the reduced standard for third-party records. Ironically, that argument figured heavily in the Obama administration’s defense of the very metadata collection program the new legislation is designed to end.

New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, one of the authors of the compromise, agreed with Lofgren that more protections for third-party records was needed but that her proposal was “not right” for the moment because of the need to preserve the agreement on the new legislation.

The committee did restore language proposed by Washington Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene, which made it easier for private companies to disclose details about government requests for data.

Senator Leahy, who chairs the Senate judiciary committee, said in a statement following the vote that he would seek to restore some of the provisions in the original proposal he authored with Sensenbrenner.


As it stands, the new, less sweeping version of the USA Freedom Act is now much closer to a rival proposal put together by the House intelligence committee.


Chevron's Pockets Are Deeper Than Yours - and Ecuador's

[Law firm] Patton Boggs today abandoned the Ecuadorian rain forest residents on whose behalf it had fought zealously to hold Chevron responsible for contamination in the northeastern oil-producing region of the Andean country. It’s almost unheard of, however, for a major law firm to humiliate itself in the fashion Patton Boggs has done in the face of Chevron’s threat to pursue pending fraud allegations against the Washington (D.C.) firm. Patton Boggs did not admit to any wrongdoing in connection with the settlement.


Patton Boggs also agreed to provide Chevron with supportive documents and testimony and to pay the company $15 million as a tangible symbol of its abasement.


The bizarre saga stems from a February 2011 judgment in an Ecuadorian trial court that Chevron is culpable for decades of oil contamination in that country. The liability verdict was upheld by Ecuador’s Supreme Court, but the $19 billion in damages was halved to $9.5 billion.

Chevron refused to pay, arguing that the architect of the judgment, New York plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger, fabricated evidence, coerced Ecuadorian judges, and participated in the ghostwriting of supposedly neutral expert reports and the February 2011 ruling itself. Chevron formalized those allegations in a U.S. civil racketeering suit against Donziger that produced a March 2014 verdict against the plaintiffs’ lawyer. Donziger denies wrongdoing and has appealed.


Patton Boggs [had] signed on as co-counsel with Donziger, agreeing to use its expertise and influence to help enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in courts around the world. That led to Chevron’s accusing the law firm of participating in the racketeering conspiracy pinned on Donziger by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. Patton Boggs, in turn, accused Chevron and its main outside law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, of abusive tactics. In the wake of Judge Kaplan’s March ruling against Donziger, however, Patton Boggs decided to throw in the towel.


Apart from Patton Boggs, a number of other former Donziger allies, including lawyers, scientific experts, and financiers, have disavowed their past relationships with the plaintiffs’ attorney and their allegations against Chevron.

  Business Week

Oh, for Fuck's Sake

The US Defense Department is conducting a counterterrorism program investigation of virtual currencies like Bitcoin and other new technologies, including smartphones and social media, to better understand if they pose security threats.

Run by the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), a division of the Pentagon that analyzes terrorism and irregular warfare capabilities, the program recently ended its open call for vendors that could help the US military understand the technologies and any threats they could potentially pose, the International Business Times reported.

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

Brakes on the NSA?

The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 to advance legislation that would put a halt to the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of internet and telephone records, exposed last year by whistleblower Edward Snowden.


Under the provisions of the bill, the NSA would be required to prove to the courts that an individual is somehow connected with terrorism before it could gain access to their personal information.


Now that the issue of NSA surveillance has gained forward momentum in Congress, it will be taken up next by the House Intelligence Committee, which has been kicking around its own NSA bill, entitled “FISA Transparency and Modernization Act,” before moving on to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which last year expressed support of the existing NSA program.


As for scaling back the powers of the NSA, should Congress fail to pass a bill into law this year, the provision underlying the NSA phone records collection (Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act) will expire in June 2015.

At that point, it will then be up to Congress and the president to decide whether to renew the legislation.

So can we expect a terror attack within the next year?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

And What a Surprise

In Afghanistan, his presence was enough to cause prisoners to tremble. Hundreds in his organization’s custody were beaten, shocked with electrical currents or subjected to other abuses documented in human rights reports. Some allegedly disappeared.

And then Haji Gulalai disappeared as well.


Because of his reputation for brutality, Gulalai was someone both sides of the war wanted gone. The Taliban tried at least twice to kill him. Despite Gulalai’s ties to the CIA and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, United Nations officials and U.S. coalition partners sought to rein him in or have him removed.


After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Gulalai was among a core group of Pashtuns recruited by the CIA to help the agency and U.S. Special Operations teams seize Kandahar


After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Gulalai was among a core group of Pashtuns recruited by the CIA to help the agency and U.S. Special Operations teams seize Kandahar.


Today, Gulalai lives in a pink two-story house in Southern California, on a street of stucco homes on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Well, he’ll probably be moving now.
Despite a substantial record of human rights abuses, Gulalai was able to bypass immigration barriers faced by Afghans whose work for the United States made them potential targets of the Taliban. Many have been turned away because of security objections submitted in secret by U.S. spy agencies.


CIA officials said the agency played no role in bringing Gulalai into the country. Officials at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security would not comment on his relocation or immigration status, citing privacy restrictions.
That’s rich. He has privacy rights, but, as we’ve seen from the NSA leaks, you don’t.
“They killed my cousins, four or five uncles, that’s why we came out here,” said [Gulalai’s son Raqib] Achakzai, who indicated that he works as a contractor for the U.S. military in North Carolina. He declined to discuss details of the family’s departure from Afghanistan, however, saying, “These are questions I’m not about to answer.”
Probably wouldn’t be wise.
CIA officials denied any involvement.
Of course.
Once in the country, Gulalai was granted asylum, said an official familiar with the case.

Asylum is designed to grant safe haven to foreigners who are likely to be arrested, tortured or killed if they return home. But U.S. law bars the granting of asylum to those who have persecuted others.


Gulalai has made several return trips to Afghanistan in recent months to sell property there, family members and associates said. If true, the visits could undermine the argument that Afghanistan had become too dangerous for him, potentially complicating his asylum claim


Gulalai secured permanent resident status in the United States last year and is moving toward citizenship.
And he should fit right in.

Kamal Achakzai aka Haji Gulalai