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Israel Could Benefit From Syrian Civil War as Hamas and Hezbollah Face Setbacks

By Nathan Guttman
Published June 09, 2013, issue of June 14, 2013.

WASHINGTON — In the world of realpolitik, one country’s devastation is, at times, the other’s advantage. And the Syrian civil war, with tens of thousands of casualties and millions of refugees, is no different.

For Israel, its neighbor in the South, the disintegration of the Syrian state entails some suprising short-term national security benefits. Analysts looking at the region see some of Israel’s key opponents there losing support, and the focus shifting away from Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and toward the burning issue of Syria.

“Compared to others, it makes Israel look less bad in the region,” said Bob Freedman, a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University. He noted that early on in the Syrian civil war, Sunni leaders accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of being “worse than Israel.”
But while experts see in Syria’s chaos some short-term benefits for Israel as a byproduct, all agree that the long run promises more perils than opportunities. The greatest risk of all, they say, will be the need to face a fractured Syrian entity lacking central control and awash with extremists who may have access to advanced weapons systems.

In the meantime, however, recent developments have, among other things, degraded the standing of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based, anti-Israel Shiite militia, which is fighting alongside Assad loyalists in Syria. The group has deployed thousands of fighters from their positions in Southern Lebanon into the Syrian battle theater, serving at times as the front force against the toughest opposition strongholds.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/178158/israel-could-benefit-from-syrian-civil-war-as-hama/?p=all#ixzz2VkL09jOE

What Was the Israeli Involvement in Collecting Communications Intel for NSA?

Were Israeli companies Verint and Narus the ones that collected information from the U.S. communications network for the National Security Agency?

The question arises amid controversy over revelations that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans every day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the United States. It also was disclosed this week that the NSA has been gathering all Internet usage - audio, video, photographs, emails and searches - from nine major U.S. Internet providers, including Microsoft and Google, in hopes of detecting suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

According to an article in the American technology magazine “Wired” from April 2012, two Israeli companies – which the magazine describes as having close connections to the Israeli security community – conduct bugging and wiretapping for the NSA.

Verint, which took over its parent company Comverse Technology earlier this year, is responsible for tapping the communication lines of the American telephone giant Verizon, according to a past Verizon employee sited by James Bamford in Wired. Neither Verint nor Verizon commented on the matter.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/178289/what-was-the-israeli-involvement-in-collecting-com/#ixzz2Vk6lbRkP

On Palestinians, Israel's Leadership Is Two-Faced

In late February 2002, shortly after Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah presented columnist Thomas Friedman with his famous Saudi peace plan, the director of Israel’s vaunted Mossad went to his boss, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. His advice: Welcome the initiative as a bold step toward peace.

The plan offered Israel full recognition and normalized relations with all 22 Arab states, plus a declared end to the Israeli-Arab conflict, in exchange for Palestinian statehood along the pre-1967 lines. The Arab League was due to discuss the plan at a summit in Beirut at the end of March. An Israeli green light would help it along.

Sharon responded warily, then-Mossad chief Efraim Halevy told me some years later. He wanted clarifications. They agreed to ask that Sharon be invited to Beirut to get answers first-hand. Halevy approached an Arab League contact, who returned with a question: What would Sharon say in Beirut? Sharon replied that he would decide once he got there. And that ended that.

In Beirut, emboldened by Israel’s silence, the Syrians demanded a poison-pill clause calling for a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem with an implied right of return. The drafters softened it with words requiring Israeli consent. Israelis hardly noticed; for them the plan had died a day before, on March 27, when Hamas bombed a community Seder in Netanya, killing 30 Israelis, in a declared attempt to derail the pact. In fact, it had been buried weeks earlier in the prime minister’s office.


Read more: http://forward.com/articles/178206/on-palestinians-israels-leadership-is-two-faced/?p=all#ixzz2Vk5lXnmk

US Unleashes Its Nuclear Site Bunker-Buster Bomb

UZI MAHNAIMI, TEL AVIV From: The Times June 10, 2013 12:00AM

THE US Air Force has used a 13-tonne bunker-busting bomb to destroy a replica of one of Iran's underground nuclear facilities, according to reports in Israel.

The results were passed by the Pentagon to Israeli officials in an attempt to convince them that the US is prepared to attack Iran's nuclear program and has the means to do so.

Details were leaked to Israeli newspapers last week.

The GBU-57B bomb took $US500 million ($526m) to develop and costs $US3.5m. Known as the massive ordnance penetrator, it is designed to be dropped from B-2 stealth bombers. Lieutenant-Colonel Jack Miller, a US Air Force spokesman, said last September that Global Strike Command had started to take delivery of the weapon.

The bomb can bore through more than 65m of rock and reinforced concrete at twice the speed of sound before detonating a three-tonne explosive charge. The 7m satellite-guided bomb is accurate to within 5m. Stealth technology is designed to make it invisible to Iranian air defences.



Attorney General Eric Holder Under Pressure To Open More Media Leak Investigations

By David Ingram and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Attorney General Eric Holder appears to have little choice but to launch a new round of investigations into media leaks, the very issue that consumed him for the last month and led to renewed calls for his resignation.

Holder’s Justice Department was called upon to identify the leaker of sensitive information when on Saturday the super-secret National Security Agency filed a report requesting a criminal investigation.

U.S. officials said an investigation will undoubtedly try to uncover the leaker who gave a secret court order to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, as well as whoever gave a document describing surveillance methods to both the Guardian and the Washington Post.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Saturday blamed the outlets for what he called “reckless disclosures” of classified spy agency material.

The test for Holder comes as he deals with fierce bipartisan criticism for his agency’s tactics in pursuing media records in other leak investigations. President Barack Obama ordered him last month to review Justice Department procedures for handling media cases, leading Holder to conduct a series of private meetings with news executives and lawyers.



White House Plays Down Data Program

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration tried Saturday to marshal new evidence in defense of its collection of private Internet and telephone data, arguing that a secret program called Prism is simply an “internal government computer system” designed to sort through court-supervised collection of data, and that Congress has been briefed 13 times on the programs since 2009.

After rushing to declassify some carefully selected descriptions of the programs, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, conceded for the first time that the Prism program existed. But in a statement, after denouncing the leak of the data to The Guardian and The Washington Post, Mr. Clapper insisted it was “not an undisclosed collection or data mining program.” Instead, he said it was a computer system to “facilitate” the collection of foreign intelligence that had been authorized by Congress.

Mr. Clapper also insisted that the government “does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers” of telephone and Internet providers, saying that information is turned over only under court order, when there is a “documented, foreign intelligence purpose for acquisition” of the data.

He appeared to be attempting to push back against early reports that the government had direct access to the huge computer servers at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and similar companies. Those firms have denied they give the government a “back door” to their systems.

But they acknowledge handing over material when ordered to do so by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, though they have not described the mechanism for complying with those orders. It appears the companies use some kind of electronic drop box, in which they place the material, so that the government can then harvest the information.



Free Gun Initiative Begins In Houston Neighborhood

HOUSTON (AP) — A nonprofit that offers free shotguns and firearms training to residents of high-crime areas has made a Houston neighborhood the site of its first gun giveaway.

Residents of the Oak Forest neighborhood, which has been hit by a rash of burglaries and robberies, say they are grateful for the self-defense help.

Amid the ongoing national debate on gun control, Houston-based Armed Citizen Project says it's trying to show that putting more guns in the hands of responsible owners can help combat crime.

Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/us/article/Free-gun-initiative-begins-in-Houston-neighborhood-4588826.php#ixzz2VeFDZNAS

KOCH PETCOKE: Detroit’s Mountains Of Petroleum Coke (Petcoke) Are ‘Dirtier Than The Dirtiest Fuel’

By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Saturday, June 8, 2013 4:40 EDT

It was the dirty secret of Alberta’s tar sands – until the black mountain of petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River grew to occupy an entire city block three storeys high.

Now it could become a familiar feature at storage yards and water fronts across the country as the oil industry in the US and Canada struggles to deal with a glut of waste from Alberta’s tar sands production.

“This is dirtier than the dirtiest fuel,” Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents the area where the pet-coke mountain has been accumulating, told the Guardian.

This particular pile is owned by Koch Carbon, which is controlled by the Koch brothers, oil billionaires and backers of ultra-conservative groups, including those which work to discredit climate science and block action on climate change.

Koch Carbon did not respond to requests for comment.



'Big Brother' Supermarkets Know Your Every Move

How supermarkets get your data – and what they do with it

We all know supermarkets use information about our shopping habits to target us with personalised vouchers and offers – but how would you feel about sitting down to watch a movie and being confronted with adverts based on what was in your shopping trolley a few hours earlier?

Or what would you think about Tesco using its Clubcard database to check what you are eating, and possibly offering vouchers for salad and fruit if your basket is usually groaning with unhealthy items?

These are just two of the ways the supermarket giants are planning to make use of the data they gather on us.

For every loyalty point or coupon that Sainsbury’s, Tesco and the like dish out, they gobble up a huge amount of information about our shopping habits. We are all familiar with targeted offers linked to loyalty cards, but you might be surprised at the amount of data the big retailers collect on all of their shoppers – and even potential customers – and what they do with it.

If you have opted out of taking out a loyalty card because you don’t want “Big Brother in your shopping basket”, then too bad, because the supermarkets also track debit and credit card payment data and till receipts – so someone, somewhere, knows about that bottle of wine you bought at 12.28pm on Tuesday, and that you recently switched your brand of athlete’s foot cream.



FLASHBACK: Watch This 2006 PBS ‘NewsHour’ Debate On The NSA’s Phone Call Surveillance Program

In May 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA, under then-CIA Nominee Gen. Michael Hayden's leadership, had, since 9/11, secretly collected tens of millions of phone call records from the nation's three largest telephone companies -- Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth.

We uncovered this conversation Jeffrey Brown held on May 12, 2006 with Bryan Cunningham, a former lawyer for the National Security Council in the Bush administration and with the CIA during the Clinton years, and Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, about the legal merits of the government's -- at the time -- alleged data collection program. Martin appeared again on Thursday's NewsHour.

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