Saturday, June 28, 2014

40 Years Behind

On Wednesday, the[EPA] released a final risk assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used by artists, car mechanics, dry cleaners and others. The EPA’s in-depth report, released after a two-year analysis, shows that long-term exposure to TCE can cause cancer and other health issues, and recommends that workers take serious precautions if they must use TCE.

[...]

It was the first final risk assessment for a chemical issued by the EPA since 1986.

[...]

The law essentially says that any chemical in use before the TSCA [Toxic Substances Control Act] was passed is considered safe until proven otherwise and can be used without EPA oversight. That amounts to 62,000 chemicals, according to the EPA.

[...]

But without a legal mandate, the EPA says it doesn’t have enough staff or funding to carry out reviews in a timely manner, and doesn’t have the authority to require companies to hand over data on potentially harmful chemicals.

[...]

“There are thousands of chemicals used widely that have never been studied or proven safe,” said Richard Denison, a lead scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “We’ve dug ourselves in a very deep hole here.”

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The FBI Being Useful

A week-long operation across the US against child sex trafficking has resulted in the rescue of almost 170 children and the arrest of 281 pimps, according to the FBI.

The law enforcement operation represents the latest effort on behalf of the FBI’s Innocence Lost program, which since its 2003 creation has resulted in the recovery of some 3,600 children who faced sexual exploitation.

  RT

Monday, June 23, 2014

It Required a C-Section

On Friday afternoon, a young American in Tübingen [Germany] had to be rescued by 22 firefighters after getting trapped inside a giant sculpture of a vagina.

[...]

The mayor of Tübingen told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that he struggled to imagine how the accident could have happened, "even when considering the most extreme adolescent fantasies. To reward such a masterly achievement with the use of 22 firefighters almost pains my soul."

  
Yeah, so why did it take 22?

    

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


If We Say So

"The United States of America is not responsible for what happened in Libya, nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today," said [Sec State John] Kerry at a press conference in Cairo after a short visit to Egypt for talks with its newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as part of his Middle East tour.

  RT

Sunday, June 22, 2014

It's Sunday

Pope Francis had harsh words for the Italian Mafia on Saturday, describing one crime syndicate as "the adoration of evil" and saying all mafiosi "are excommunicated" from the church.

  alJazeera

Yep, Still Going Down

The militants of the Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS, also known as ISIL, have managed to capture three new towns in Iraq’s western province of Anbar on Sunday.

[...]

Iraqi troops have ceded control of four towns in the last two days.

  RT
Thank goodness we liberated the Iraqis.
The Iraqi government’s security spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassem Atta, said that the withdrawal from the three cities was “tactical.”
Uh-huh.

It's Sunday

By a narrow margin, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. voted Friday to divest from three firms that it says supply Israel with goods and services used in the occupation of Palestinian territory.

[...]

Supporters of the decision to sell stock in Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar said continuation to invest money in the three companies would run counter to the principles of the church, one of the oldest and largest Christian denominations in the U.S. Those against the move had argued that negotiation was a better route, and warned that an endorsement of the broader boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) protest may strain the church’s historical relationship with Jewish groups.

  alJazeera

It's Sunday

Hillary Clinton: Yale law school graduate, high powered attorney, eight-year White House resident, Senator from New York, Secretary of State. A woman who has received the very best education, politicked at the very highest levels, and seen more of the world than most of us ever will. The very model of worldly sophistication. So, Mrs. Clinton, what book led you down this path of steely-eyed realism?
New York Times: If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

Hillary Clinton: At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.
Sure, sure. How do you feel about bald eagles, though?

[...]

However you feel about Hillary Clinton, it is difficult to deny that she is one of the most cold and calculating political figures in all the land.

  Hamilton Nolan
Are we THAT gullible?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Look Forward




"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

  Barbara Bush 2004
Dick Cheney responded with one word in a recent interview when he was asked what he thought about polls that indicate two-thirds of Americans believe the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, that the cost in lives was not worth the gains.

[...]

“So?” the vice president said.

  The Moderate Voice

The Three Hundred

Barack Obama announced on Thursday that a contingent up to 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq's beleaguered army repel the advance of Sunni insurgents, but insisted the US would not be dragged into another bloody war in the country.

  The Guardian
Because "advisers" don't count.

They didn't get enough advice in the last ten years, I guess.

The troops, drawn from US special operations forces, will assist the Iraqi military to develop and execute a counter-offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Their mission is likely to spread to the selection of targets for any future air strikes, but Obama stopped short of accepting a plea from Baghdad to order US air power into the skies over Iraq immediately.

Instead, Obama said the option of air strikes would be held in reserve. Any such strikes would be “targeted” and “precise”, Obama said.
Aren't they all.  Aren't they all.

And,  really, provide your own comment on this:
According to a report in The Independent of London, the Obama administration has told senior Iraqi officials that it would intervene militarily only if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki left office. [...] Meanwhile in Washington, President Obama hosted top lawmakers to discuss whether he would need congressional approval for any military strikes in Iraq.

  Democracy Now!

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

Hey, Freedom Isn't Free

For the first time the location of several sites where [US-led forces in Iraq] fired some 10,000 depleted uranium rounds were released by the Dutch Defense Ministry, and published in a study by Dutch peace group PAX.

Most of the DU rounds fired by the US-led coalition were in heavily populated areas, the group says.

[...]

Wim Zwijnenburg, the author of the report, said the US Air Force knew of the consequences of using DU ammunition.

“The use of DU against these targets questions the adherence of coalition forces to their own principles and guidelines. They should be held accountable for the consequences,” Zwijnenburg said, citing a 1975 memo from the Air Force Office of the Judge Advocate that restricted the use of such ammunition.

“Use of this munition solely against personnel is prohibited if alternative weapons are available,” the memo said, because of “unnecessary suffering and poison.”

  RT

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Have We Been Properly Thanked Yet for Bringing Democratic Freedom to Iraq?

The White House has reportedly told senior Iraqi officials Maliki must go so that the Sunni and Shia can have a chance at reconciliation.

  RT

Monday, June 16, 2014

Regrettably

The International Monetary Fund slashed its forecast for US economic growth on Monday, citing a harsh winter, problems in the housing market and weak international demand for the country's products.

  Guardian
What products? Guns and warplanes?
In its annual review of the US economy, the IMF cut its growth forecast by 0.8 percentage points to 2%. At a press conference IMF managing director Christine Lagarde blamed the bad winter for much of the cut and said the setback should be temporary. But she warned: “Growth in and of itself will not be enough.”
So let me guess…austerity measures needed?
In its annual review of the US economy, the IMF cut its growth forecast by 0.8 percentage points to 2%. At a press conference IMF managing director Christine Lagarde blamed the bad winter for much of the cut and said the setback should be temporary. But she warned: “Growth in and of itself will not be enough.”
Say again?
[T]he IMF has called for an increase in the minimum wages in the US.

[...]

“We believe that a rise in the minimum wage would be helpful,” [Lagarde] said, especially if complemented with tax policies to help low-wage earners. “We are talking about significant numbers when you have 50 million living below poverty, many of whom are working. That’s why we are recommending it,” she said.
She’ll be out on her ear in no time.
While the impact of this winter’s frigid temperatures was now dissipating, Lagarde warned that extreme weather events were becoming more frequent and had an outsized impact on the economy. “I think that’s a valid reason to worry about climate change and how to deal with it,” she said.
Oh yeah. On her ear.
The IMF believes the US also needs to do more to mitigate the impact of its ageing population and to stimulate productivity. The best option would be for government to boost spending, notably on infrastructure, the IMF said. "But, regrettably, political agreement on such an approach remains elusive," the fund said.

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

And Counting

The Sunni militants fighting to make an Islamic state in Iraq have scored another victory in their move to control more territory. They captured Tal Afar, a city of 200,000 residents in north-west of the country.

  RT

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Iraq Re-Do?

The Obama administration has decided to hold any military intervention in Iraq in abeyance until it sees clear evidence that the country’s politics and governance are reforming, according to U.S. officials.

After near-nonstop crisis meetings since early this week, President Obama has ordered options prepared for possible airstrikes in Iraq as well as a wide range of direct military assistance short of American boots on the ground.

  WaPo
It is inevitable that events in Mosul have led to a re-run of the arguments over the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003. The key question obviously is what to do now. But because some of the commentary has gone immediately to claim that but for that decision, Iraq would not be facing this challenge; or even more extraordinary, implying that but for the decision, the Middle East would be at peace right now; it is necessary that certain points are made forcefully before putting forward a solution to what is happening now.

[...]

And there will be debate about whether the withdrawal of US forces happened too soon.

[...]

The reality is that the whole of the Middle East and beyond is going through a huge, agonising and protracted transition. We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this.

  Tony Blair, UK Independent op-ed
Maybe we can liberate ourselves militarily?
If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.

Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.

Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.

[...]

We intelligence analysts, and the officers to whom we reported, had access to a comprehensive overview of the war that few others had. How could top-level decision makers say that the American public, or even Congress, supported the conflict when they didn’t have half the story?

[...]

In contrast to the solid, nuanced briefings we created on the ground, the news available to the public was flooded with foggy speculation and simplifications.

  Chelsea Manning NYT op-ed
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Eric Holder Still Playing the Fool

U.S. officials offer conflicting accounts of how much they know about Snowden’s situation in Russia.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an interview. “We have done the appropriate things at this stage of the investigation, and we know exactly where Mr. Snowden is.”

[...]

The burst of activity during that period [when Snowden was in Hong Kong] — including the White House meetings, a broad diplomatic scramble and the decision to force a foreign leader’s plane to land — was far more extensive than U.S. officials acknowledged at the time.

President Obama in particular seemed to strike a dismissive pose, saying on June 27 that he was “not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

[...]

[White House homeland security adviser Lisa] Monaco was convening meetings nearly every day at the White House. Among the participants were the CIA’s head of counterintelligence, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and McFaul, who often took part by videoconference in sessions that got underway well after midnight in Moscow.

[...]

Then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III made more than half a dozen direct appeals to his FSB counterpart, Alexander Bortnikov [to have Snowden turned over to the US government], officials said, all for naught.

[...]

Others said the United States lacks answers to even basic questions about Snowden’s circumstances, including where he lives and — perhaps most important — the role of the Russian security service, the FSB, in his day-to-day life.

Asked whether the United States knows Snowden’s location, a U.S. official regularly briefed on the matter said, “That’s not our understanding.”

The gaps persist despite Snowden’s ability to meet with U.S. journalists in Moscow and make high-profile appearances, including during a call-in show with Russian President Vladi¬mir Putin.

[...]

“The FBI doesn’t have any capability to operate in Moscow without the collaboration of the FSB,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who served in the Russian capital.

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

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Billmon on McCain's Iraq Stance

https://storify.com/billmon1/with-john-mccain-as-our-co-pilot


Federal / Local Surveillance

The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned.

Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment.

  BigStory/AP
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Is Brat's Victory a Wake-Up Call to Washington Insiders?

We can hope so. But they're pretty isolated in their decades-long bubble of privilege.
From what I’ve observed, [David Brat, the college professor who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday,] has not talked like a forty-seven-per-cent conservative complaining about how tax dollars are being shovelled to the undeserving poor (although maybe he does believe that and didn’t emphasize it in the campaign). He comes across, instead, like a ninety-nine-per-cent conservative who sees the real villain as corporate America and its addiction to government largesse. One of his biggest applause lines is about how bankers should have gone to jail after the 2008 financial crisis. Brat is the Elizabeth Warren of the right.

[...]
I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits. But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.
[...]

Instead of lecturing the most vulnerable about the moral beauty of the marketplace, Brat targets the most well off. “Free markets!” he declared in Hanover, like a teacher about to reveal the essence of the lesson. “In a nutshell, what does it mean?”
It means no one is shown favoritism. Everyone is treated equally. Every firm, every business, and you compete fairly. And no one, if you’re big or small, is shown special attention. And we’re losing that.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the kind of rhetoric that Ralph Nader, and even Noam Chomsky, have used for many years to pillory the government for protecting the rich and the well connected from the vagaries of the free market.

[...]

Cantor was oblivious to the wave that was building back in his district, in the suburbs of Richmond [Virginia]. On the morning of the election, he was at a Washington coffee shop raising money from lobbyists.

  New Yorker

Is It Not the "Department of Just Us" Any More?

A federal judge today ordered the Department of Justice to hand over key opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as the “FISA court”) so the judge can directly review whether information about mass surveillance was improperly withheld from the public.

The order is another victory in EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the DOJ, which sought to reveal how the government uses Section 215 of the Patriot Act to secretly gather communications records from millions of American citizens. The suit has already forced the government to release thousands of pages of FISA court opinions, internal executive branch reports, congressional briefings, and other documents concerning Section 215. Documents released as part of the suit have shown the NSA repeatedly misled the FISA court concerning the operation of the bulk call records program, nearly leading the court to terminate the program altogether.

  EFF

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

And Him, Helpless

President Obama slammed members of Congress for being “terrified” of offending the National Rifle Association on Tuesday, just hours after two young people died in a shooting at an Oregon high school in suburban Portland.

[...]

. “We're the only developed country on Earth where this happens,” the president said. “And it happens now once a week. And it's a one-day story. There's no place else like this.”

  alJazeera
USA! USA! We’re number one!

So where’s that executive power and signing statements, eh? Seems to work for droning and targeted killings, spying and trading prisoners. ...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The NSA Beyond Control

In a remarkable legal filing on Friday afternoon, the NSA told a federal court that its spying operations are too massive and technically complex to comply with an order to preserve evidence [for a lawsuit brought by Electronic Frontier Foundation]. The NSA, in other words, now says that it cannot comply with the rules that apply to any other party before a court — the very rules that ensure legal accountability — because it is too big.

[...]

For an agency whose motto is "Collect It All," the NSA's claim that its mission could be endangered by a court order to preserve evidence is a remarkable one. That is especially true given the immense amount of data the NSA is known to process and warehouse for its own future use.

The NSA also argued that retaining evidence for EFF's privacy lawsuit would put it in violation of other rules designed to protect privacy.

  ACLU

Meanwhile, In the American-Freed Country of Iraq

Iraq’s prime minister has declared a state of emergency after armed fighters believed to be part of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh and freed hundreds of prisoners.

Overnight, hundreds of rebels launched an assault on the provincial capital Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, engaging in combat with troops and police, officials said on Tuesday.

“The city of Mosul is outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants,” an Interior Ministry official told news agency AFP, making it the second city to fall to anti-government forces this year.

  alJazeera

Monday, June 9, 2014

9/11 Cover Up

BBC talks to ex-counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke (the only government official to apologize to the public in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks) and ex-NSA agent Thomas Drake.

They Don't Need No Steenkeen Dollars?

Russia will start settling more contracts in Asian currencies, especially the yuan, in order to lessen its dependence on the dollar market, and because of Western-led sanctions that could freeze funds at any moment.

  RT

Saturday, June 7, 2014

NSA Not Welcome Here

Developers of secure server Protonet asked for some $136,000 on a local crowdfunding website – and were rewarded with $1 million in an hour and a half. The record campaign, one year after Snowden’s NSA leaks, ended with more than $2 million raised.

[...]

[T]he funders were not looking for entertainment, but instead lined up to buy small orange storage and communication devices, which they hope will protect their enterprises from the prying eyes of the spy agencies. Actually, Snowden’s revelations on the activities of the NSA and GCHQ were actively used in Protonet’s marketing campaign.

  RT

Friday, June 6, 2014

New Billboard Outside State Department

FBI Harming the Nation

The FBI apparently is not only responsible for many (if not most) of the terrorist attempts they foil by funding, enabling and entrapping the would-be terrorists.
[Jeremy] Hammond is currently serving the remainder of a 10-year prison sentence in part for his role in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the early 21st century. His 2011 breach of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) left tens of thousands of Americans vulnerable to identity theft and irrevocably damaged the Texas-based intelligence firm's global reputation. He was also indicted for his role in the June 2011 hack of an Arizona state law enforcement agency's computer servers.

[...]

Sealed court documents obtained by the Daily Dot and Motherboard, however, reveal that the attack was instigated and orchestrated not by Hammond, but by an informant, with the full knowledge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In addition to directly facilitating the breach, the FBI left Stratfor and its customers—which included defense contractors, police chiefs, and National Security Agency employees—vulnerable to future attacks and fraud, and it requested knowledge of the data theft to be withheld from affected customers. This decision would ultimately allow for millions of dollars in damages.

  Daily Dot
I’m beginning to think that without the FBI, we’d be a lot safer.

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

Bergdahl Footnote

The Obama administration has told senators it didn't notify Congress about the pending swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials because the Taliban had threatened to kill him if the deal was made public, three congressional officials have told The Associated Press.

  alJazeera
And they didn’t trust Dianne to keep her mouth shut?
Meanwhile on Thursday, Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said of the situation prior to the exchange: "They had intelligence that, had even the fact of these discussions leaked out, there was a reasonable chance Bowe Bergdahl would have been killed."
Sure they did.

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happy Anniversary

The first of Edward Snowden’s leaks occurred one year ago today. Hard to believe it’s been that long.
It’s been one year.

[...]

Today, our most intimate private records are being indiscriminately seized in secret, without regard for whether we are actually suspected of wrongdoing.

[...]

With every revelation, more and more light coursed through a National Security Agency that had grown too comfortable operating in the dark and without public consent. Soon incredible things began occurring that would have been unimaginable years ago. A federal judge in open court called an NSA mass surveillance program likely unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian.” Congress and President Obama have called for an end to the dragnet collection of the intimate details of our lives. Today legislation to begin rolling back the surveillance state is moving in Congress after more than a decade of impasse.

I am humbled by our collective successes so far.

[...]

[E]very American who jealously guards their rights must do their best to engage in digital self-defense and proactively protect their electronic devices and communications. Every step we can take to secure ourselves from a government that no longer respects our privacy is a patriotic act.

We’ve come a long way, but there’s more to be done.

  Ed Snowden

How Long Before This Gets Yanked?


Reset the Net

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is Your Email Encrypted Between Servers?

Google began encrypting email by default in 2010.

[...]

Tuesday, it highlighted for users that encryption only protects messages if both parties use it. And it called out other email providers – including Comcast and France’s Orange – for not using encryption.

[...]

Fewer than half of the messages sent to and from Micrososoft’s Hotmail servers were encrypted.

[...]

Christopher Soghoian, a technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, says Google’s step Tuesday could help drag other tech companies forward.

“Google’s naming. We can shame,” Soghoian said. “And we will.”

  WSJ

Net Neutrality

Watch this John Oliver clip and find out what is the equivalent of "needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo."



He says the correct name for net neutrality is "cable company fuckery."

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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

And Then There Was the Other Letter

Sometime after midnight on June 30, 2009, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life.

[...]

The furious search for Sergeant Bergdahl, his critics say, led to the deaths of at least two soldiers and possibly six others in the area. Pentagon officials say those charges are unsubstantiated and are not supported by a review of a database of casualties in the Afghan war.

  NYT

Brazilian Interview with Edward Snowden

Wherein he is asked and answers different questions than we've heard so far. Very interesting. The narrative is in Portugese, but the actual interview is, of course, in English (with Portugese subtitles).



Click the picture to go to the website with the video.

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

And Furthermore...

Controversy has arisen over the U.S. government deal that released five Taliban prisoners held for years in Guantánamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier captured and held in Afghanistan since June 2009. Critics have called the decision hypocritical.

There is a case that can be made for the allegation. The five Taliban were arguably among those who had actually committed crimes, if fighting foreign troops who invaded their country could be deemed an offense. At the very least, they had taken part in hostilities and might, originally, have been legitimately detained as bona fide prisoners of war — a position that would be more defensible if only the U.S. respected the Geneva Conventions.

Compare those five men to the 78 detainees remaining in Guantánamo Bay who have been held there for 12 years or more and yet have been cleared for release for half that time. With the Taliban five headed for freedom, the cleared prisoners now make up more than 52 percent of the 149 detainees left there.

  alJazeera
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.
As I’ve documented many times, even the promise itself was misleading, as it became quickly apparent that Obama — even in the absence of congressional obstruction — did not intend to “close GITMO” at all but rather to re-locate it, maintaining its defining injustice of indefinite detention.

But the events of the last three days have obliterated the last remaining excuse. In order to secure the release of American POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Obama administration agreed to release from Guantanamo five detainees allegedly affiliated with the Taliban. But as even stalwart Obama defenders such as Jeffery Toobin admit, Obama “clearly broke the law” by releasing those detainees without providing Congress the 30-day notice required by the 2014 defense authorization statute (law professor Jonathan Turley similarly observed that Obama’s lawbreaking here was clear and virtually undebatable).

  Glenn Greenwald
Oh, but there are “signing statements.”
[O]nce you take the position that Obama can override — i.e., ignore — Congressional restrictions on his power to release Guantanamo detainees, then what possible excuse is left for his failure to close the camp?
He needs an excuse?
As Jason Leopold notes in an astute article at Al Jazeera, this week’s episode “has led one human rights organization to question why the Obama administration has not acted to transfer dozens of other detainees who have been cleared for release for many years.”
The White House has apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for failing to alert her in advance of a decision to release Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay.

  The Hill
Oh, well, that’s okay then.
Administration officials have said in public that they did not have time to inform Congress of the prisoner swap because Bergdahl’s life was in danger and they did not know how long the Taliban would be willing to wait to finalize the deal.
They’ve been negotiating the deal for at least two years. A few minutes to inform Congress would have been too much. Riiiiight.

Welcome Home, Bowe

The United States may still choose to press charges against the American soldier released this week from Taliban custody after five years in captivity, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday.

At the center of the debate is whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, deserted the US Army before he was captured in Afghanistan in 2009

  RT
Because being a POW for five years isn’t punishment enough?
Former colleagues of Bergdahl have said in the days since that the soldier talked openly about leaving the Army ahead of his disappearance, and believe he had willingly deserted the service when he was caught in 2009. According to some, no fewer than six US troops died in the days after Bergdahl’s disappearance as a result of search efforts aimed at recovering the missing soldier. As RT reported earlier this week, some of those soldiers who’ve put the blame on Bergdahl are hoping the Pentagon opens a probe into the matter.
Adding to the GOP’s disapproval for negotiating (with terrorists) the trade in the first place.
“As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts,” Gen. Dempsey told the Associated Press. “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty.”
Only technically.
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that,” Pres. Obama added during an address in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday.
Regardless. He still gets a feather in his cap.

A little background reminder from a lengthy Rolling Stone article spelling out the known details and responses to Bergdahl’s disappearance in 2009:
On June 27th, he sent what would be his final e-mail¬ to his parents. It was a lengthy message documenting his complete disillusionment with the war effort.

[...]

"The future is too good to waste on lies," Bowe wrote. "And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting."

[...]

The e-mail went on to list a series of complaints: Three good sergeants, Bowe said, had been forced to move to another company, and "one of the biggest shit bags is being put in charge of the team." His battalion commander was a "conceited old fool." The military system itself was broken: "In the US army you are cut down for being honest... but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank... The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools." The soldiers he actually admired were planning on leaving: "The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same."

[...]

"I am sorry for everything here," Bowe told his parents. "These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live." He then referred to what his parents believe may have been a formative, possibly traumatic event: seeing an Afghan child run over by an MRAP. "We don't even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks... We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them."

[...]

On June 27th, at 10:43 p.m., Bob Bergdahl responded to his son's final message not long after he received it. His subject line was titled: OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!

[...]

In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause problems if I took my sensitive equipment?

Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.

Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags. He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary. Then he slipped off the outpost.

[...]

According to officials familiar with the internal debate, there are those in both Congress and the Pentagon who view Bowe as a deserter, and perhaps even a traitor.

  Rolling Stone
Interesting article not only for the information about Bergdahl, but about the total SNAFU that was his unit in Afghanistan.

 UPDATE:
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's hometown abruptly canceled plans Wednesday for a welcome-home celebration, citing security concerns over the prospect of big crowds — both for and against the former prisoner of war.

[...]

Organizers of the canceled homecoming event in Hailey, Idaho, said they lacked the resources to safely manage the thousands of supporters and protesters who were expected to converge on the small mountain community.

  alJazeera

Monday, June 2, 2014

Richard Clarke Interview

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Interesting interview on Democracy Now! with former Bush and Clinton counterterrorism head, Richard Clarke, discussing, among other things, his new novel and drones, and all but saying that Bush should be brought up on charges of war crimes.


(Links fixed)