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Current location: Potlandia
Member since: Fri Sep 28, 2007, 04:39 PM
Number of posts: 10,482
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Top 10 Things That Don’t Make Sense About NSA Surveillance, Drones and Al-Qaida
Aug 6, 2013 * By Juan Cole * Truthdig dot com
In a Reuters Exclusive, John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke reveal that the National Security Agency shares information it gleans from warrantless surveillance of Americans with the Special Operation Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which then uses the metadata to develop cases against US citizens. The DEA then routinely lies to the judge and defense attorneys during discovery about how its agents initially came by their suspicions of wrongdoing. But you could imagine a situation where a young woman repeatedly called a boyfriend who was secretly known to the DEA to be a drug dealer, but whose crimes were unknown to her. And you could imagine law enforcement entrapping her into making a small drug buy. And then you could imagine their secretly basing their case against her in part on her phone calls to a known dealer. But this latter information would be denied to her defense attorney and the judge, making it harder to discern the entrapment.
All these stories about the government’s quest for Total Information Awareness about the phone calls, email, internet searches, etc. of 312 million ordinary Americans raise some questions in my mind. There are so many things about these stories that don’t make sense.
1. The government says that they need everyone’s phone records because they want to see who calls known overseas terrorists from the US. But if the NSA had a telephone number of a terrorist abroad and wanted to see if it was called from the US, why couldn’t it just ask the telephone company for the record of everyone who called it? It isn’t true that it would take too much time. It would be instant. Obviously, the government wants the telephone records of millions of Americans for some other reason.
2. If the real reason they are getting our phone records from the phone companies is to check for drug sales and other petty crime inside the US not related to terrorism, and if they are lying to judges about how they initially came to know of these crimes, aren’t the NSA, DEA and other government officials violating the Constitutional guarantee of due process? Are they focusing on drug buys because law enforcement can confiscate the property of drug dealers, whereas busting other kinds of crime actually costs time and money? And, hasn’t their dishonesty and its revelation just put in danger thousands of drug convictions?
For 3-10: http://www.truthdig.com/juan_cole/
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Tue Aug 6, 2013, 04:45 PM (16 replies)
Welcome to Post-Constitution America
What If Your Country Begins to Change and No One Notices?
Monday, August 5, 2013 * by Peter Van Buren * Common Dreams
On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress created the first whistleblower protection law, stating “that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds, or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states.”
Two hundred thirty-five years later, on July 30, 2013, Bradley Manning was found guilty on 20 of the 22 charges for which he was prosecuted, specifically for “espionage” and for videos of war atrocities he released, but not for “aiding the enemy.”
Days after the verdict, with sentencing hearings in which Manning could receive 136 years of prison time ongoing, the pundits have had their say. The problem is that they missed the most chilling aspect of the Manning case: the way it ushered us, almost unnoticed, into post-Constitutional America.
The Weapons of War Come Home
Even before the Manning trial began, the emerging look of that new America was coming into view. In recent years, weapons, tactics, and techniques developed in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the war on terror have begun arriving in “the homeland.”
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Aug 5, 2013, 01:22 PM (5 replies)
Members of Congress denied access to basic information about NSA
Documents provided by two House members demonstrate how they are blocked from exercising any oversight over domestic surveillance
By Glen Greenwald * The Guardian * Sunday 4 August 2013
Members of Congress have been repeatedly thwarted when attempting to learn basic information about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the secret FISA court which authorizes its activities, documents provided by two House members demonstrate.
From the beginning of the NSA controversy, the agency's defenders have insisted that Congress is aware of the disclosed programs and exercises robust supervision over them. "These programs are subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate," President Obama said the day after the first story on NSA bulk collection of phone records was published in this space. "And if there are members of Congress who feel differently, then they should speak up."
But members of Congress, including those in Obama's party, have flatly denied knowing about them. On MSNBC on Wednesday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct) was asked by host Chris Hayes: "How much are you learning about what the government that you are charged with overseeing and holding accountable is doing from the newspaper and how much of this do you know?" The Senator's reply:
But it is not merely that members of Congress are unaware of the very existence of these programs, let alone their capabilities. Beyond that, members who seek out basic information - including about NSA programs they are required to vote on and FISA court (FISC) rulings on the legality of those programs - find that they are unable to obtain it.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Aug 5, 2013, 01:10 PM (0 replies)
Snowden: Vanguard of an American insurgency?
By Rick Staggenborg, MD * OpEdNews * 8/2/2013
You would think that everything that could be said had been in the hundreds (thousands?) of blogs about Snowden and the NSA gas been said. However, I have not seen anyone who thinks that he is anything but a hero, an opportunist or a spy with an agenda. To me, the last comes closest to the truth. The difference between my theory and others I have read is that his agenda may not be the Machiavellian plot these conspiracy theorists assume it to be. Instead, it could be the best reason to hope that the firestorm Snowden ignited will actually shake things up in a way that no other whistleblower has.
Look at the facts: He was with the CIA much longer than with the NSA. He clearly went into the job as an NSA consultant with a plan to acquire as much critical data as he could, and he managed to collect an amazing amount of key information in a short time. To many (myself included), it seems clear that he is still working for the CIA, but what does that mean? The theories I have seen all assume that he is either working for a foreign power such as Israel, engaged in interagency rivalry to embarrass the NSA, working for Israel to embarrass the US government, or even representing the interests of remnants of the Third Reich or Soviet Empire. At one point, a blogger suggested confidently that Snowden had been given the assignment of frightening Americans with the idea that "the government will get you" if you dare to tell the truth, as if they hadn't already made the point with the witch hunt against whistleblowers that began during the Bush administration and that has mushroomed under Obama.
I think we can rule out the last one. Snowden has made a mockery of the US ability to capture one lone leaker despite extraordinary efforts. How did he do it? Did I mention he has friends in the CIA? It is important to recognize that the CIA as a whole does not work for the President to the extent that he challenges the corporate interest. If it did, Kennedy would have USSR and Cuba and we might not be facing the prospect of living through the creation of what could become a permanent fascist New World Order. However, those who pull the strings in the White House by virtue of their control of intelligence agencies and the military do not control every individual in either. If that were true, we would never have heard of Bradley Manning, Coleen Rowley, Sibel Edmonds, John Kiriakou and all the other whistleblowers who have risked their careers and even their lives to alert us to the dangers we face.
For each one of these brave men and women, there must be many others in the military and intelligence agencies who understand as they do that there is a difference between loyalty to the government and loyalty to the nation. Those who do surely recognize that blind obedience to the corrupt and out-of-control US government amounts to treason. How many are just waiting for a chance to make a difference, unwilling to sacrifice themselves until they believe they can? Perhaps there are cells within the CIA and other intelligence agencies of patriots who told Snowden what information to take, what to do with it and how to evade capture. If so, that is the best possible news that those of us struggling to expose what is going on behind our backs in an increasingly secretive government, one that is openly curtailing our civil liberties while conducting wars and proxy wars against nations that do not submit to domination by the international corporations that dictate US foreign policy.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Sat Aug 3, 2013, 06:43 PM (9 replies)
No, says State Dept., Drone Attacks in Pakistan Will Not Be Ending 'Very, Very Soon'
State Department backtracks following Kerry's comments on drone program
Friday, August 2, 2013 * Common Dreams * Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Following comments made by Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday, in which he said U.S. drone operations in Pakistan will end "very, very soon," the State Department immediately backtracked saying there is no time-line for such a plan.
Speaking at a press briefing following Kerry's comments made during a trip to Pakistan, Marie Harf—State Department Deputy Spokesperson—responded to questions over Kerry's comments by saying "there is no exact timeline to provide," and "Obviously, a lot of this is driven by the situation on the ground."
Pushing the issue further, one reporter posed: "Well, he says he hopes it’ll be very, very soon. Is there any reason to think that it will be very, very soon? Are you talking about ending it very, very soon?"
Harf responded without clarifying any foreseeable end point, insinuating that the drone program will continue until the U.S. believes it has defeated al-Qaida in the region:
...the Secretary was making the point that we have made, as we’ve talked about, significant progress against core al-Qaida in this region, and that we will continue to do so – that they are a shadow of what they once were, and I think he was reinforcing that point. But again, no timeline to provide right now.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Sat Aug 3, 2013, 12:08 PM (6 replies)
Why Do We Have an Espionage Act?
by Ira Chernus * Friday, August 2, 2013 * Common Dreams
Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. In a civilian court, anyone accused of a crime has the right to trial by a jury of their peers. In the military, a soldier accused of a very serious crime can be tried without any jury at all. In a civilian court, the judge explains the decision as soon as it’s handed down. In the military, the judge just announces the decision and passes sentence.
In Bradley Manning’s case, Judge Denise Lind did say “she would issue findings later that would explain her ruling on each of the charges.” We don’t know how long “later” may be. All we know now is that Judge Lind does not think Manning was aiding the enemy.
Which raises an interesting question: If you take classified documents, but you don’t do it to help some enemy, apparently you haven’t done any harm to the United States. So why is it a crime? Why does it count as “spying” at all? I always thought “spying” meant one side stealing secrets from the other side.
Manning said he did it on behalf of a nation—his own. He did it on behalf of all of us. I haven’t heard of any reason to doubt him. Yet he’s getting applause only at the left end of the political spectrum. Across the rest of the spectrum the responses range from uncertainty to outright condemnation. So the public verdict on Manning, like the judge’s verdict, is decidedly mixed: “Hero to some, traitor to others,” an AP story called him.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Fri Aug 2, 2013, 10:42 PM (4 replies)
Edward Snowden has been welcomed by Russia – but it had little choice
To leave Snowden languishing in Sheremetyevo airport indefinitely would have dented the Kremlin's credibility
by Natalia Antonova * Friday 2 August 2013 08.52 EDT * The Guardian
With Snowden, the Kremlin did the moral thing – and the moral thing also happened to be the only thing the Kremlin could do in this instance. Essentially denied safe passage to Latin America, Snowden was marooned, and letting him languish in Sheremetyevo indefinitely would have dented the Kremlin's credibility at home and abroad.
In recent years, Moscow has excelled at snubbing Washington over anything it could, but the Snowden situation was different from the start. It prompted unusually cautious words from Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, who said that Snowden could remain in Russia provided he would do no more damage to the US government, which Putin referred to as the Russian government's partner.
Other prominent members of the government have pointed out that Russia was left with little choice in the matter. The head of the State Duma committee on international affairs, Alexei Pushkov, said: "Even though Obama said that he wouldn't ground a plane over some '29-year-old hacker', they trapped Snowden after they grounded the Bolivian president's plane."
"Any other decision would have meant that Russia would lose face," deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov told Kommersant. "If we didn't give Snowden asylum, no one would take us seriously – and the Americans would be the first to do this."
Whole Article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/02/edward-snowden-russia-little-choice
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Fri Aug 2, 2013, 01:38 PM (1 replies)
This is so disgusting, I don't have words; except to say it makes me ashamed
to be a US citizen.
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Bureau Investigation Finds Fresh Evidence of CIA Drone Strikes on Rescuers
If proved, US targeting of rescuers who respond to scene of earlier explosions are clearly "war crimes"
Thursday, August 1, 2013 * Bureau of Investigative Journalism * Chris Woods with additional reporting by Mushtaq Yusufzai
A field investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Pakistan’s tribal areas appears to confirm that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) last year briefly revived the controversial tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers at the scene of a previous drone strike. The tactic has previously been labelled a possible war crime by two UN investigators.
The Bureau’s new study focused mainly on strikes around a single village in North Waziristan – attacks that were aimed at one of al Qaeda’s few remaining senior figures, Yahya al-Libi. He was finally killed by a CIA drone strike on June 4 2012.
Congressional aides have previously been reported as describing to the Los Angeles Times reviewing a CIA video showing Yahya al-Libi alone being killed. But the Bureau’s field research appears to confirm what others reported at the time – that al-Libi’s death was part of a sequence of strikes on the same location that killed up to 16 people.
If correct, that would indicate that Congressional aides were not shown crucial additional video material.
The CIA has robustly rejected the charge. Spokesman Edward Price told the Bureau: ‘The CIA takes its commitment to Congressional oversight with the utmost seriousness. The Agency provides accurate and timely information consistent with our obligation to the oversight Committees. Any accusation alleging otherwise is baseless.’
The Bureau first broke the story of the CIA’s deliberate targeting of rescuers in a February 2012 investigation for the Sunday Times. It found evidence of 11 attacks on rescuers - so-called ‘double-tap’ strikes – in Pakistan’s tribal areas between 2009 and 2011, along with a drone strike deliberately targeting a funeral, causing mass casualties.
Reports of these controversial tactics ended by July 2011. But credible news reports emerged a year later indicating that double-tap strikes had been revived.
International media including the BBC, CNN and news agency AFP variously reported that rescuers had been targeted on five occasions between May 24 and July 23 2012, with a mosque and prayers for the dead also reportedly bombed.
The Bureau commissioned a report into the alleged attacks from Mushtaq Yusufzai, a respected journalist based in Peshawar, who reports regularly for NBC and for local paper The News.
Over a period of months, Yusufzai – who has extensive government, Taliban and civilian contacts throughout Waziristan – built up a detailed understanding of the attacks through his sources.
His findings indicate that five double-tap strikes did indeed take place again in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque. In total 53 people were killed in these attacks with 57 injured, the report suggests.
Yusufzai could find no evidence to support media claims that rescuers had been targeted on two further occasions.
No confirmed civilian deaths were reported by local communities in any of the strikes. A woman and three children were reportedly injured in one of the attacks. Yusufzai says: ‘It is possible some civilians were killed, but we don’t know’.
However a parallel investigation by legal charity Reprieve reports that eight civilians died in a double-tap strike on July 6 2012 (see below), with the possibility of further civilian deaths in a July 23 attack.
Islamabad-based lawyer Shahzad Akbar says Reprieve’s findings are based on interviews with villagers from affected areas.
‘On both occasions our independent investigation showed a high number of civilians who were rescuers were killed in the strikes,’ says Akbar.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Thu Aug 1, 2013, 02:36 PM (29 replies)
US senators rail against intelligence disclosures over NSA practices
Officials say bulk phone records collection was not 'the most important tool' – contradicting previous statements to Congress
Spencer Ackerman and Paul Lewis * The Guardian * Wednesday 31 July 2013 12.50 ED
The bipartisan leaders of a powerful Senate committee questioned the truthfulness of the US intelligence community in a heated Wednesday morning hearing as officials conceded that their controversial bulk phone records collection of millions of Americans was not "the most important tool" – contradicting statements they previously gave to Congress.
Two senators said they now planned to introduce new legislation before the August recess that would significantly transform the transparency and oversight of the bulk surveillance program. The chairman of the committee has already advocated for ending the bulk phone records collection and plans his own legislative push to shut it down.
Just before the hearing began, the US director of national intelligence declassified and released documents shedding more light on how the bulk surveillance occurs. Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, denounced the move as "ad hoc transparency."
Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, said: "We need straightforward answers, and I'm concerned we're not getting them."
Leahy, joined by ranking Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, criticised director of national intelligence James Clapper for making untruthful statements to Congress in March about the bulk phone records collection on Americans, and NSA director Keith Alexander for overstating the usefulness of that collection for stopping terrorist attacks.
Grassley called Clapper's recent apology to senator Ron Wyden and the intelligence community "especially disturbing".
"Nothing can excuse this kind of behavior from a senior administration official," Grassley said. "Especially on a matter of such importance."
"Each tool plays a different role," Joyce said. Discussing the phone records bulk collection, he said: "I'm not saying it's the most important tool."
Senators Wyden and Mark Udall, members of the intelligence committee, have repeatedly said that there is no evidence that the controversial bulk phone records collection has disrupted any terrorist plots. They criticized intelligence officials for conflating to Congress the value of the phone records database and the internet communications surveillance. Last week, the House of Representatives came within seven votes of defunding the program.
"We are open to re-evaluating this program in ways that creates greater public confidence and trust," Robert Litt, the top lawyer for the US intelligence community, testified.
Wyden and Udall argued Tuesday night on the Senate floor for ending the bulk phone records collection. They accused intelligence officials, including Clapper, of deceiving Congress about the extent of abuses of NSA's databases, which Clapper described as accidental.
Before the Wednesday hearing, the first in the Senate on the bulk NSA surveillance, Clapper declassified new documents about the programs. One of them was a heavily redacted April order from the Fisa court on the rules for NSA to handle the bulk phone records it collects, complementing the one published by the Guardian in June.
Two senators said they would introduce legislation as early as Thursday that would change the transparency rules and the structure of Court oversight around the bulk surveillance.
Franken said he would introduce a bill forcing the NSA to disclose how many Americans have had their data collected, and how many Americans' data the NSA has analysed once placed in its databases. Last year, the NSA denied it had any way of estimating that number, and told Wyden that providing it would violate Americans' privacy.
Documents published by the Guardian that Snowden provided, however, revealed an NSA analytic tool called Boundless Informant that displays the country of origin of collected communications.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said he would also submit a second bill on Thursday to significantly reform the Fisa court process, including the introduction of security-cleared special advocates, to challenge the position of the administration.
He said the Fisa court needed to become more adversarial. "I think the current design of the Fisa courts is stacked against the protection of our civil liberties and can be improved and enhanced, without sacrificing either speed or security."
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Wed Jul 31, 2013, 01:27 PM (0 replies)
Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial
By: Julian Assange Tuesday July 30, 2013 4:39 pm
Today Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ‘espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.
The ‘aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ‘espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.
Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.
This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.
President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.
In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.
Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.
The only ‘victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.
The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.
The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.
The US first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. What part of ‘no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?
Crossposted from Wikileaks.org
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Tue Jul 30, 2013, 07:02 PM (12 replies)