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Member since: Fri Sep 28, 2007, 04:39 PM
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Journal Archives

UN: Press should NOT be 'intimidated into silence' over state secrets

UN: press should not be 'intimidated into silence' over state secrets
Representatives criticise UK government following detention of David Miranda, and call for public debate over NSA surveillance
Josh Halliday and Ewen MacAsk * The Guardian, Wednesday 4 September 2013

Two senior UN representatives have warned the British government that the protection of state secrets must not be used as an excuse to "intimidate the press into silence" following the detention of David Miranda under the Terrorism Act.

Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, issued the caution as he called for a public debate on the mass surveillance revelations exposed by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"The protection of national security secrets must never be used as an excuse to intimidate the press into silence and backing off from its crucial work in the clarification of human rights violations," said La Rue. "The press plays a central role in the clarification of human rights abuses."

La Rue and Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, have written to David Cameron's government requesting further information on the legality of Miranda's detention at Heathrow airport on 18 August.

Documents and electronic devices carried by Miranda, the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, were seized by the Metropolitan police when he was held for questioning for nine hours under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. La Rue said: "It is clear that the revelations on the extensive mass surveillance initiatives implemented by some governments needs to be widely debated.

"The intimidation of journalists and newspapers questioning alleged abuses by intelligence bodies is certainly not a contribution to the open debate that needs to take place. Under no circumstances, journalists, members of the media, or civil society organisations who have access to classified information on an alleged violation of human rights should be subjected to intimidation and subsequent punishment."


The Nation/John Nichols: Attack Syria? 'Nobody Wants This Except the Military-Industrial Complex'

Attack Syria? 'Nobody Wants This Except the Military-Industrial Complex'
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 * The Nation (via Common Dreams) * by John Nichols

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, backs President Obama’s request for authorization to intervene militarily in Syria, as does House Democratic Minority Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is similarly “in,” while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, in mum. The president has done a pretty good job of selling his plan to congressional leaders. He has not, however, sold it to the American people.

Thus, when members of Congress decide which side they're on in the Syrian intervention votes that are expected to take place next week, they will have to consider whether they want to respond to pro-war pressure from inside-the-Beltway – as so many did when they authorized action against Iraq – or to the anti-war sentiments of their constituents.

Reflecting on the proposed intervention, Congressman Alan Grayson, D-Florida, allowed as how: "Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex.” The level of opposition might not be quite so overwhelming. But it is strikingly high. And, even as the president makes his case, skepticism about intervention appears to be growing.

A Pew Research survey released Tuesday found support for air strikes had collapsed from 45 percent to 29 percent, while opposition had spiked. “The public has long been skeptical of U.S. involvement in Syria, but an April survey found more support than opposition to the idea of a U.S.-led military response if the use of chemical weapons was confirmed,” Pew reported Tuesday. “The new survey finds both broad concern over the possible consequences of military action in Syria and little optimism it will be effective.”


How Israel Is driving the US to War in Syria

How Israel Is driving the US to War in Syria
The threat of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran if the US does not act on Syria is slowly seeping into American media.
September 3, 2013 * by Max Blumenthal * Alternet

Editor's note: What is the driving force in the building U.S. campaign to launch attacks on Syria? Max Blumenthal below argues that Israel's military intelligence and political leadership are forcing the issue, and a recent New York Times article described the Israel lobby as a powerful presence in the White House's deliberations. Other journalists, like the Guardian's Nafeez Ahmed have suggested that the impetus for attacking Syria is part of a larger regional multi-year project to sustain control over the production of oil and gas by Western oil companies. Noam Chomsky, long-time scholar and commentator on the Mideast has argued persuasively that the Israel lobby's influence in the United States is overstated; essentially arguing that Israel is a satellite of US power, and that its priorities are addressed to the extent that the US is in agreement with its wishes.

President Barack Obama’s August 31 announcement that he would seek congressional authorization to strike Syria has complicated an aggressive Israeli campaign to render a US attack inevitable. While the Israelis are far from the only force in bringing the US to the brink of war – obviously Assad’s own actions are the driving factor – their dubious intelligence assessments have proven pivotal.

On April 25, the head of the Israeli army’s Military Intelligence research and analysis division, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, delivered a high profile lecture at the military-linked Institute for National Security Studies. “To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has used lethal chemical weapons,” Brun declared, referring to March 19 attacks near Damascus and Aleppo.

“The very fact that they have used chemical weapons without any appropriate reaction,” Brun said, “is a very worrying development, because it might signal that this is legitimate.”

The stunning statement by the Israeli army’s top intelligence analyst was significantly stronger than suspicions expressed days before by the UK and France about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. It was clearly aimed at Obama, who had declared in the summer of 2012 that chemical weapons attacks on civilian targets would transgress a “red line” and trigger US military action. But the White House pushed back against the Israeli ploy, dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to demand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supply more conclusive evidence.

“I don’t know yet what the facts are,” Kerry said after a phone call with Netanyahu, “I don’t think anybody knows what they are.”

Meet Barret Brown: Jailed Anti-surveillance state activist, now has been gagged!

This is getting so obscene and blatantly Orwellian.

Jailed Activist Barrett Brown Fights Government Attempt to Gag Him
Anti-surveillance state activist already faces 100 years—now prosecutors want to silence him as well.
The Guardian * Sept. 4, 2013 * By Ed Pilkington

Federal prosecutors will attempt to place a gag order on the jailed activist-journalist Barrett Brown and his legal team on Wednesday that would prevent them from talking to the media about his prosecution.

The US attorney Sarah Saldana will call on the federal court for the northern district of Texas, in Dallas, to impose a stringent gagging order on Brown and his lawyers. Brown faces up to 100 years in prison for alleged offences relating to his work exposing online surveillance.

In legal papers lodged with the court last month, the government asked the judge to instruct the defence to refrain from making "any statement to members of any television, radio, newspaper, magazine, internet(including, but not limited to, bloggers), or other media organization about this case".

Media observers will be watching the hearing closely as it is widely seen as the latest in a succession of prosecutorial moves under the Obama administration to crack down on investigative journalism, official leaking, hacking and online activism.

Brown's lead defence attorney, Ahmed Ghappour, has countered in court filings, the most recent of which was lodged with the court Wednesday, that the government's request for a gag order is unfounded as it is based on false accusations and misrepresentations. The lawyer says the attempt to impose a gagging order is a breach of Brown's First Amendment rights as an author who continues to write from his prison cell on issues unconnected to his own case for the Guardian and other media outlets.

Chomsky: Bombing Syria Would be a "War Crime"

Noam Chomsky: Bombing Syria Would Be a 'War Crime'
The nation's leading left-wing thinker had harsh words on the plans to bomb Syria.
September 3, 2013 * Altenet * By Alex Kane

A U.S. strike on Syria without a United Nations mandate would be a war crime, Noam Chomsky told the Huffington Post. The nation’s leading left-wing thinker made the comments after President Barack Obama announced that he would go to Congress to ask for authorization for an attack on Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack.

“As international support for Obama’s decision to attack Syria has collapsed, along with the credibility of government claims, the administration has fallen back on a standard pretext for war crimes when all else fails: the credibility of the threats of the self-designated policeman of the world,” said Chomsky. “That aggression without UN authorization would be a war crime, a very serious one, is quite clear, despite tortured efforts to invoke other crimes as precedents.”

Before he decided on a Syria strike, President Barack Obama weighed in on the UN mandate issue in an interview with CNN.Obama said that “ if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it.” While the president has presented evidence that he says shows the Assad regime carried out a chemical weapons attack, there’s no chance of a UN resolution authorizing force. Russia and China are adamantly opposed to striking Syria.

Chomsky’s comments come as Congress is debating whether to approve Obama’s resolution that would authorize a Syria strike. The legality of the strike under the laws of war, though, is not something that has been a key point of debate.


Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?

Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?
Monday, September 2, 2013 * Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) * Jim Naureckas

Let's compare a couple of accounts of the mass deaths apparently caused by chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21. One account comes from the U.S. government (8/30/13), introduced by Secretary of State John Kerry. The other was published by a Minnesota-based news site called Mint Press News (8/29/13).

The government account expresses "high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack" on August 21.


The Mint report bore the headline "Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack." Which of these two versions should we find more credible?

The U.S. government, of course, has a track record that will incline informed observers to approach its claims with skepticism–particularly when it's making charges about the proscribed weapons of official enemies. Kerry said in his address that "our intelligence community" has been "more than mindful of the Iraq experience"–as should be anyone listening to Kerry's presentation, because the Iraq experience informs us that secretaries of State can express great confidence about matters that they are completely wrong about, and that U.S. intelligence assessments can be based on distortion of evidence and deliberate suppression of contradictory facts.

Comparing Kerry's presentation on Syria and its accompanying document to Colin Powell's speech to the UN on Iraq, though, one is struck by how little specific evidence was included in the case for the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons. It gives the strong impression of being pieced together from drone surveillance and NSA intercepts, supplemented by Twitter messages and YouTube videos, rather than from on-the-ground reporting or human intelligence. Much of what is offered tries to establish that the victims in Ghouta had been exposed to chemical weapons–a question that indeed had been in some doubt, but had already largely been settled by a report by Doctors Without Borders that reported that thousands of people in the Damascus area had been treated for "neurotoxic symptoms."


Unlike the U.S. government, Mint does not have much of a track record, having been founded only about a year and a half ago (CJR, 3/28/12). The founder of the for-profit startup is Mnar Muhawesh, a 24-year-old Palestinian-American woman who believes, reasonably enough, that "our media has absolutely failed our country" (MinnPost, 1/18/12). One of its two reporters on its Syrian chemical weapons piece, Dale Gavlak, is a longtime Associated Press Mideast stringer who has also done work for NPR and the BBC. AP was one of the few US corporate media outlets to question official assertions about Iraqi WMDs, contrasting Powell's assertions with what could be discerned from on-the-ground reporting (Extra!, 3-4/06).

Mint takes a similar approach to the Syrian story, with a reporter in Ghouta–not Gavlak but Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian freelancer and journalism grad student–who "spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents." The article reports that "many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out" the chemical attack. The recipients of the chemical weapons are said to be Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda-linked rebel faction that was caught possessing sarin nerve gas in Turkey, according to Turkish press reports (OE Watch, 7/13).


Will USA's "CARE PACKAGE" of 200 Tomahawk Missiles Contain any Depleted Uranium?

This is an old Common Dreams post from 2003, but it illustrates Obama's lose/lose dilemma
regarding Syria and the use of chemical weapons. Depleted Uranium being abbreviated "DU"
is admittedly unfortunate.

```` * ```` * ```` * ```` * ```` * ```` * ```` * ```` * ```` * ```` *

Uranium Warheads May Leave Both Sides a Legacy of Death for Decades
Sunday, March 30, 2003 * Los Angeles Times via Common Dreams * by Susanna Hecht

Although the potential human cost of the war with Iraq is obvious, not many people are aware of a hidden risk that may haunt us for years.

Of the 504,047 eligible veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, about 29% are now considered disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the highest rate of disability for any modern war. And most are not disabled because of wounds.

These guys were rough, tough, buff 20-year-olds a decade ago. The vast majority are ill because of a complex of debilities known as the Gulf War syndrome.

These vets were exposed to toxic material from both sides, including numerous chemicals, fumes and weird experimental vaccines. But the largest number of the more than half a million troops eligible for VA benefits -- 436,000 -- lived for months in areas of the Middle Eastern desert that had been contaminated with depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium, or DU, is a highly toxic heavy metal that continues to emit low levels of alpha radiation. It is a byproduct of nuclear power plants and various military activities.

The United States has hundreds of thousands of tons of DU lying around, and for the Gulf War it developed a new use for the stuff: load it into warheads.

Though not technically "nuclear," because the material is not really fissionable, uranium is a heavy metal ideal for lethally effective "warhead penetrators" that can pierce through armored tanks and fortified positions. When the munitions explode, the area is bathed in a fine dust of DU that can be easily inhaled. These aerosols also taint soil and water and pollute ground water.

If the penetrators do not explode, their casings gradually oxidize, releasing DU into the environment.

DU warheads are essentially dirty bombs -- not very radioactive, but poisonous, and this is why there is an increasing global outcry against using DU in combat as tips for armor-piercing rounds as well as in artillery shells and Tomahawk missiles, among others.

Such warheads were used very successfully by the U.S. in the Gulf War, when more than 350 tons of depleted uranium were dropped on Iraq, and later in Kosovo when about 13 tons of DU were exploded in the conflict there.

The "Balkan syndrome" that emerged among the military and civilians after the U.S. bombing there bears a similarity to the Gulf War syndrome.

Though the findings are controversial, many scientists now see these afflictions as the result of heavy metal poisoning and possibly exposure to very low levels radiation.

DU is implicated in respiratory and kidney problems, rashes and, longer-term, bone cancer, as well as damaged reproductive and neurological systems.

Iraqi civilians -- many more than the 100,000 who died in the conflict or as a result of the war -- also suffer from a range of similar health problems.

Families of soldiers should be very worried.

A huge amount of ordnance has already been unleashed in Iraq, and there is no way of knowing how many thousands of tons of depleted uranium will find "permanent storage" in the rubble of Iraq, its soil and the bodies of its people and U.S. occupying forces.


Pepe Escobar: Sarin massacre was "pipeline geopolitics ... false flag" by Bandar Bush & Mossad

Agree with Escobar or not, me thinks this whole Bandar Bush thing is not just some wacko RW concoction.

Audio interview of Escobar at link

NOTE TO ATTACK-THE-MESSENGER BRIGADE: I know Escobar is a controversial figure, convincingly charged with
plagiarism on several occasions, etc. However, he does have a well-informed point of view that deserves to be
heard. i.e. I doubt he is "plagiarizing" this.

ON EDIT: I ran across this TYT broadcast, of Col. Wilkerson also saying that it could easily have been an Israeli-driven false flag.

Moyers: "Losing our democracy to the Mercenary Class..."

Three minutes of pure truth. Thank you Bill Moyers. I'm SO-O
happy you are back in the saddle, speaking truth like it's going
out of style (which it is).

Bill Moyers says the parody and satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen
Colbert pay Washington the disrespect it deserves
, but in the end
it’s predatory mercenaries who have the last laugh


Kerry: 'FUCK Congress!! POTUS is bombing the shit out of Syria anyway' <-paraphrase

did I get that right?

"The Obama administration indicated on Sunday that it would launch
military strikes against Syria even if it failed to get the backing of the
US Congress
, claiming evidence that sarin gas had been used in
chemical attacks outside Damascus last month."
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