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The American Citizens' Guide to Seeking Asylum Abroad

The American Citizens' Guide to Seeking Asylum Abroad
By JDzubow
09-17-2013 at 09:02 AM

This piece was originally published by http://www.wherevermag.com/ wherever magazine, an out of place journal of travel literature, travel culture, and travel politics. I will periodically be blogging for the new magazine, which seems like a very cool publication (probably too cool for the likes of me, but for now, I'm still in).

I wrote this piece because I am contacted pretty regularly by U.S. citizens who are seeking asylum abroad, or who are thinking about it. Some of these asylum seekers are not so legitimate in my estimation--criminals who hope to avoid the consequences of their crimes. Others represent sad situations that involve people who have been frustrated by their inability to receive help from the government. Victims of domestic abuse are one example in this category. Also, there are those who are engaged in political activity (or what they consider political activity) that could result in criminal penalties here. Edward Snowden falls into this category. So do certain cannabis activists and others in favor of drug legalization (people who consider drug use a political act).

Some people need to flee the U.S.; others just need to leave already.

OK, without further ado, the original piece is here (where you can also check out some interesting articles and photos), and a slightly shortened version is below:

Let’s say you’ve decided to flee the United State of America. You’re not some high-profile asylum seeker like Edward Snowden, who can count on help from a rival government (Russia). Instead, you’re just an ordinary asylum seeker, who will have to demonstrate that you qualify for protection under international law. How would you go about it?


(Not quite Latest Breaking News, but I thought I would share it while it's still fresh, anyway. Who hasn't had this thought, at some time?

FYI - Jason is a real immigration lawyer, and only half kidding.)

Human Rights Watch: Vast Majority Killed with Non-Military Ordinance on 8/21

On September 10, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its 22-page report on the chemical attacks in suburban Damascus. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta-0 That paper follows similar reports by the U.S. State Department, the Government of France, but offers a wealth of information and details missing in the governmental assessments.

HRW: Doubts Raised About Number of Areas Targeted, All Rockets Launched from Regime-Controlled Territory

Details of the HRW report have caused this writer to reassess some earlier conclusions, but it has also reinforced some other doubts raised about the accuracy and completeness of the U.S. and French reports. The HRW study does not back up the U.S. report that the deadliest attacks on eastern Damascus were launched from a "regime controlled" area, the number of neighborhoods attacked, or the number of rockets launched. Most fundamentally, it casts doubt on the conclusions drawn that the deadliest of these attacks had to be carried out by regime forces using military weapons.

One issue which HRW has helped to correct previous confusion regards the types of ordinance used. It had been previously thought that large numbers of rockets, each carrying a relatively small amount of Sarin were required to produce fatalities that number upwards of hundreds killed to 1426 claimed by the Kerry Report. Earlier assessments that many dozens of rockets had to used were predicated upon information that each rocket held only 1-2 liters of Sarin each. This report now makes it clear that there were in fact two types of chemical rockets used on separate neighborhoods, and that by far the deadlier attacks were carried out with a small number -- as few as eight -- crude but deadly improvised rockets of the type that have been previously used by militias inside Syria and by insurgent groups in several Mideast countries.

In contrast, the neighborhood in western Damascus targeted with standard Syrian Army munitions suffered relatively light casualties, and HRW finds there is no evidence of the type of military ordinance used there ever having been employed before in the civil war. The neighborhood closest to the military airbase and headquarters of the 4th Armored Brigade was attacked by seven or eight 140mm artillery rockets, a standard type of Soviet-era munition. Each of these rounds is relatively accurate but capable of carrying only 2 liters of Sarin over a range of up to about six miles. According to HRW, fewer than one-in-six of the fatalities occurred in that area where these military munitions were used.

However, according to the HRW Report, at least 8 larger improvised gas rockets (333mm in diameter) impacted in the eastern part of the city. Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), these bigger, deadlier, but clumsier devices are not standard military ordinance. During the same night, these improvised rockets were fired into the eastern Damascus suburbs in the area of Zamalka, and this type is estimated by HRW’s experts to have a capacity to carry upwards of 50 liters of Sarin in each warhead. While it carries a far larger amount of poisonous agent, and are proportionately more deadly over a larger area, these improvised devices are described as having poor flight characteristics with a more limited range and poor accuracy, except very close to the target:

The rocket is of a non-aerodynamic design . . . indicat(ing) that the rocket would be relatively short ranged and not capable of accurate targeting.

Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munition (IRAM)of Same Type Used in 8/21 Damascus Attack:

HRW Report Silent About State Dept. Allegation that All Attacks Launched from Regime-Controlled Territory

1) HRW Map of Targeted Damascus Neighborhoods (highlighted in Red)

One interesting aspect of the HRW report is that while the authors cite witnesses as stating that the smaller, more accurate rockets were observed to have come from the direction of Syrian military bases, the report is silent as to where the larger, deadlier improvised rockets were launched.* Nonetheless, the HRW paper specifies that the improvised devices killed far more people:

Human Rights Watch has collected the names of 80 individuals believed to have been killed in the August 21 strikes in Moadamiya in Western Ghouta. Two sources told Human Rights Watch that 103 people were killed in the Moadamiya attack.28 Because the attack on Eastern Ghouta involved a much larger affected area, and several small clinics where victims were brought, a total death toll is more difficult to establish. A member of the Zamalka media center, stated during an interview with Human Rights Watch on September 4, and in a separate interview with local journalists on the same day, that the local council in Zamalka had registered the full names of 734 persons who were killed during the attack in Zamalka neighborhood.

HRW states that witnesses counted some seven or eight of the smaller but more accurate 140mm rockets launched into the southwestern neighborhoods of Moadamiya near the military airfield at Mezzeh. The report states:

Two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the August 21 rocket attack on their area came from the direction of the Mezzeh Military Airport and the nearby Syrian 4th Armored Division base, which are located respectively four kilometers and five to seven kilometers from the site of the attack, and thus within the range of possible launching sites.

The other Sarin gas strikes were in a distant neighborhood identified as Zamalka, 16 kilometers to the East on the other side of Damascus. It becomes clear that these improvised rockets could not have been launched from the same site, as they simply do not have the range to reach any of the eastern targets, particularly the easternmost neighborhood of Duma that is 20 kilometers away from the Mezzah airfield and army base:

Human Rights Watch confirm(s) at least four strike sites in Zamalka where at least eight 330mm rockets struck on August 21. This is unlikely to be a complete account of the number of rockets used in the attack . . . The 330mm surface-to-surface rocket that appears to be associated with the August 21 attack on Eastern Ghouta is of a type not listed in standard, specialized, international or declassified reference materials. It is a rocket type that has not been documented before the outbreak of the current Syrian conflict . . .

< . . .>

Our analysis does not exclude the possibility that additional weapons delivery systems were used in the Eastern and Western Ghouta attacks that have not yet been identified and analyzed. However, the two analyzed by Human Rights Watch are the only known rocket systems identified as associated with the attacks, according to local activists who have closely inspected both the affected areas.

I therefore must revise my earlier assessment, and now acknowledge that in the Eastern suburbs it is entirely possible for just a handful of these larger rockets to have killed several hundreds of people by area saturation with large amounts of poison gas. Please, see, http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023576617

Something else that HRW tells us is that the large improvised rockets had to have been launched from relatively close range only a few kilometers away. Here, my earlier thinking appears to be confirmed. The State Dept. report alleges that all the rockets fired that night were from “regime-controlled territory”. However, when we look at the State Department map, below, and compare it with the HRW map, a couple things become clear. First, the area in the pink (regime-controlled) is at least six or seven miles from Duma, which the State Dept. identified as the easternmost target. Therefore, either the map or the State Department’s statement that it located the launching site for the larger rockets in western Damascus appears to be incorrect. Furthermore, HRW casts doubt on the conclusion drawn by the State Dept. that all the gas rockets were launched from inside the indicated government-controlled area. Finally, HRW was unable to confirm most of alleged target areas identified by the Kerry report, of which the State Department shows 12 (see 2nd map, at bottom of article) and the HRW could only confirm two.

2) State Department Report Map:

That brings us to the final question raised here. Why would the Syrian Army use crude, improvised munitions when as the French Report points out, it has large numbers of other types of modern chemical munitions and rockets, some of them with ranges that reach out to 75 kilometers and further with greater accuracy.

Indeed, this just reinforces persistent doubts that the Syrian Army units under the control of the Assad regime used these improvised munitions that killed most of the victims on 8/21. As Brown Moses Blog pointed out in June, these things were introduced into Syria last year and have previously been used there with conventional high explosive warheads by Hezbollah militias. Below, we see an IRAM that was previously identified by that source as having been used by a militia, not the Syrian military. One can see that it is closely related to the type, shown above, used in the Damascus gas attack. http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2013/06/diy-weapons-in-syria-hezbollah-deploys.html

IRAM Used Inside Syria by Militia Prior to 8/21

The HRW report and other new evidence do not support the conclusion drawn that the Syrian regime controlled all the gas rockets launched that night. While video has been presented that the military has tested or had demonstrated this type of rocket, by no means is it established beyond a reasonable doubt that it was units under orders of the civilian authorities that actually carried out the attack on Zamalka using improvised rockets.

It appears, contrary to the assertions made, that a lot of people in the Mideast besides the Syrian military have cobbled together their own IRAMs and could have both the means and motive to have used them in Eastern Damascus that terrible night. Details of the HRW report raise additional questions about the accuracy of key parts of the State Department report, including the location and number of targets, and that the Syrian military, alone, had the means to carry out the 8/21 attacks.

Al-Qaeda IRAM:

Similar IRAMs have been manufactured and used by a variety of groups, including al-Qaeda, across the region as we see here:

* Note that the Sept. 10 HRW study does not repeat initial reports from opposition activists that located the possible launch point of the rockets that struck Zamalka as the October War Museum, which is a mere 1.25 miles northwest of Zamalka, where most of the casualties occurred: "Activists in the area told him that 18 missiles, carrying what they said was a chemical agent, fired from the direction of the October War Panorama, a military museum in Damascus city, and of Mezzeh military airport, hit Zamalka, Ayn Tarma, Douma, and Moadamiya." http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/08/21/syria-witnesses-describe-alleged-chemical-attacks

He has to stop making sense. Heads are exploding across DC. It's the new Commie secret weapon. . .

RESPONSE TO POST: "The American people’s reply to Putin" by Dana Milbank

You can only spend and borrow so much on so many wars - something has to give.

In our case, it was the future that we had to give up. But, what the hell - we're totally exceptional, aren't we?

Well, maybe it is a good thing that the American building boom ran out before we erected megatowers in the Grand Canyon. Kinda cool, anyway - at least the cars and clothes of the future that never came, anyway.

I seem to recall those who tried to cover the US invasion from the "wrong" angle got blown up or put

on the No-Fly List. The Embedded or Dead approach to war journalism

RESPONSE TO POST: "Wonder if US will be as keen to show video of dead innocents from their bombing Syria"

The role of propaganda and provocations in both the Syrian and Libyan rebellions has been documented

You're leaving out the part about snipers and attacks on policemen and gov't buildings that provoked
the military crackdowns. Can't blame you really, that omission is a common thread in coverage of events that led up to the start of the civil wars in both Libya and Syria in the early months of 2011.

Here's what you and many others have omitted about Syria. The first weeks of open protests and government reaction were largely nonviolent, and remained that way until mid-March, 2011 when opposition mass demonstrations turned violent and gun battles with police started in the southern city of Daraa:

No significant events listed in the Syria Timeline between Feb. 27 and March 6, 2011: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Syrian_civil_war_%28January%E2%80%93April_2011%29

First opposition mass protests weren't even until March 15. There was one reported fatal shooting on March 20 in Daraa when protestors set fire to buildings housing the ruling Ba'ath Party. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/world/middleeast/21syria.html Opposition fatalities again occurred in Daraa on April 8, amidst shooting between snipers and police.

Here's the Chrononology of the Syrian civil war at Wiki:

First Syrian mass protests March 15, 2011

15 March – "Day of Rage"

External videos
First explicit demonstration against the Syrian regime Damascus, Syria, 15 March 2011 on YouTube

Simultaneous demonstrations took place in major cities across Syria. Thousands of protesters gathered in al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama. There were some clashes with security, according to reports from dissident groups. In Damascus, a smaller group of 200 men grew spontaneously to about 1,500 men. Damascus has not seen such uprising since the 1980s. The official Facebook page called "Syrian Revolution 2011" showed pictures of supportive demonstrations in Cairo, Nicosia, Helsinki, Istanbul and Berlin. There were also unconfirmed news that Syrian revolution supporters of Libyan descent, stormed into the Syrian Embassy in Paris.

Another recently released political figure, Suhair Atassi, became an unofficial spokesperson for the "Syrian revolution", when she was interviewed by dozens of Arab and international media channels regarding the uprising. There were reports of 6 arrested in Damascus. Atassi paid tribute to "the Syrian people who took the initiative ahead of the opposition," recalling the popular uprisings that shook Tunisia and Egypt After the first day of the uprising there were reports about approximately 3000 arrests and a few "martyrs", but there are no official figures on the number of deaths.

Armed resistance started on April 8, 2011. There were no significant demonstrations in Syria until a protest in Damascus involving a couple hundred people on February 5 following the first protest that followed the internet Call for Days of Rage a few days earlier.

Daraa, a city near the Jordanian border in Southern Syria, was the site of the first armed clashes and massacres in early April.

The fighting with military defectors was a battle that developed within the context of armed uprising in Daraa. The events of April 8 that led to the arrival two weeks later of large number of government troops are key to understanding how the violence was sparked and why the use of force by the regime escalated. There were three key actions that sparked the crackdown: snipers, the burning of the Ba'ath Party Headquarters by a large, armed mob, and the killing of 19 policemen and security personnel. http://en.wikipedia.org/...

8 April – "Friday of Resistance"
External videos
Unknown Gunmen Filmed at Syria Demo
(YouTube: Associated Press.)
8 April 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
Protests in Duma near Damascus

On the third Friday called "Friday of Resistance", thousands of protesters took to streets in Daraa, Latakia, Tartus, Edlib, Baniyas, Qamishli, Homs and the Damascus suburb of Harasta, in the largest protest yet.

27 anti-government protesters were killed in Daraa and many other were wounded when security forces opened fire with rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse stone-throwing protesters. The clashes started when thousands of prayers staged rallies following the Friday prayers. In a telephone call one of the activists told the news agencies that demonstrators, starting from three mosques, have marched to the city's main court where they were confronted by security forces dressed in civilian clothing. A witness told Reuters he saw "snipers on roofs." It was also reported that another resident has seen "pools of blood and three bodies" in the Mahatta area of Daraa. The protesters have also smashed a stone statue of Basil al-Assad, the brother of the current President of the country, and set fire to a Ba'ath Party outpost. The state-run Syrian Television reported that 19 police officers and members of the security forces have been killed in Daraa.

You may view the original AP Raw Feed from Daraa on April 8 which shows the mob and the snipers, here:

http://www.youtube.com/... - URL:

Raw Video: Deadly Day of Protests in Syria - YouTube
► 1:13► 1:13

www.youtube.com Apr 8, 2011 - 1 min - Uploaded by AssociatedPress
State-run Syrian TV says 19 police officers and security forces have been killed in southern city of Daraa. (April 8)

Here are some of the more specific parallel events in Libya:


A "Day of Rage" in Libya and by Libyans in exile was planned for 17 February. The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition asked that all groups opposed to the Gaddafi government protest on 17 February in memory of demonstrations in Benghazi five years earlier. The plans to protest were inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolution. Protests took place in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Derna, Zintan, and Bayda. Libyan security forces fired live ammunition into the armed protests. Protesters torched a number of government buildings, including a police station. In Tripoli, television and public radio stations had been sacked, and protesters set fire to security buildings, Revolutionary Committee offices, the interior ministry building, and the People's Hall. According to a report from the International Crisis Group, "much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the government's security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no security challenge".

On 18 February, police and army personnel later withdrew from Benghazi after being overwhelmed by protesters. Some army personnel also joined the protesters; they then seized the local radio station. In Bayda, unconfirmed reports indicated that the local police force and riot-control units had joined the protesters. On 19 February, witnesses in Libya reported helicopters firing into crowds of anti-government protesters. The army withdrew from the city of Bayda.

Did anyone else notice this? Obama just said that it may have been an unauthorized strike, here:

The transcript of the President's press conference at the G20 Summit was just released. It's unfortunately a very long transcript and he went on at length about the situation in Syria and the Administration's plans for dealing with it. However, there appears to be a very, very important acknowledgement by Obama buried in the tail end of his statements.

Toward the end of his statements and questions & answers with reporters at the G20 Summit, in response to cross-talk with "Major Garrett": http://swampland.time.com/2013/09/06/admitting-public-opposition-on-syria-obama-vows-to-push-forward-transcript/

Major Garrett?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Those of us who remember covering your campaign remember you saying that militarily when the United States acts, it’s not just important what it does, but how it goes about doing it. And that even when America sets its course, it’s important to engage the international community and listen to different ideas even as it’s pursuing that action.

I wonder if you leave here and return to Washington, seeing the skepticism there, hearing it here, with any different ideas that might delay military action. For example, some in Congress have suggested giving the Syrian regime 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, get rid of its chemical stockpiles, do something that would enhance the international sense of accountability for Syria, but delay military action.

Are you, Mr. President, looking at any of these ideas? Or are we on a fast track to military action as soon as Congress renders its judgment one way or the other?

OBAMA: I am listening to all these ideas. And some of them are constructive. And I’m listening to ideas in Congress and I’m listening to ideas here. Look, I want to repeat here. My goal is to maintain the international norm on banning chemical weapons. I want that enforcement to be real. I want it to be serious. I want people to understand that gassing innocent people, you know, delivering chemical weapons against children, is not something we do.

It’s prohibited in active wars between countries. We certainly don’t do it against kids. And we’ve got to stand up for that principle. If there are tools that we can use to ensure that, obviously my preference would be, again, to act internationally in a serious way and to make sure that Mr. Assad gets the message.

I’m not itching for military action. Recall, Major, that I have been criticized for the last couple of years by some of the folks who are now saying they would oppose these strikes, for not striking. And I think that I have a well-deserved reputation for taking very seriously and soberly the idea of military engagement.

So, we will look at these ideas. So far at least, I have not seen ideas presented that, as a practical matter, I think would do the job. But, you know, this is a situation where part of the reason I wanted to foster debate was to make sure that everybody thought about both the ramifications of action and…


QUESTION: So currently the — the only way to enforce this international norm is militarily and even giving the Assad regime extra time would not achieve your goals.

OBAMA: What I’m saying, Major, is that so far what we’ve seen is a escalation by the Assad regime of chemical weapons use. You’ll recall that several months ago I said — we now say with some confidence that at a small level Assad has used chemical weapons. We not only sent warnings to Assad, but we demarched, meaning, you know, we sent a strong message through countries that have relationships with Assad, that he should not be doing this. And rather than hold the line, we ended up with what we saw on August 21st.

So, this is not as if we haven’t tested the proposition that the guy — or at least generals under his charge — can show restraint when it comes to this stuff. And they’ve got one of the largest stockpiles in the world. But, I want to emphasize, that we continue to consult with our international partners. I’m listening to Congress. I’m not just doing the talking. And if there are good ideas that are worth pursuing, then I’m going to be open to them.I will take, last question, Tangy, AFP.

So, this is not as if we haven’t tested the proposition that the guy — or at least generals under his charge — can show restraint when it comes to this stuff.

That sounds like an acknowledgement to me that Obama is fully aware of the possibility -- perhaps, probability -- that the attack of August 21 was NOT ordered by Assad or the other civilian leaders, but may have been an unauthorized lauch by the military commander of the unit that carried out the attack.

So, we must ask, how can he expect that it will be either effective or even morally justifiable for the US to launch a punative attack against the Syrian government with the goal of regime change under these circumstances?

Syrian "gas rockets" appear homemade and incapable of flying 5-10 miles to target.

Photos of devices allegedly used to carry Sarin gas show they appear to be homemade and are clearly incapable of accurately reaching targets 5-10 miles away. That is crucially important because the State Department report asserts that the gas barrage was launched from gov't controlled territory. But the map (below) that accompanied that report shows that several of the targets were miles away from the area in pink shown to be under the control of government forces.

These rockets have only the crudest stabilizers, no guidance systems, and would be highly inaccurate at any significant distance, which is why they are unlikely to have been the weapon used in the attack of 8/21, if the US target map is accurate along with the statement that they were launched from government-held territory.

Here's a rocket similar to the ones described as being used in the attack:

Here's the State Dept. map of the 12 alleged targets in the North Damascus suburbs. Note the distances of some of the targeted neighborhoods from government-held territory (in pink):

Something is clearly wrong either with the State Department report or accounts that say that these types of rockets were used to deliver the Sarin gas that night.

On edit: Here's a photo from the Daily Mail showing a UN inspector taking samples nearby the same type of rocket:

NOTE: I am the OP. I am relying on this information contained in the State Dept. report:


The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

According to a Foreign Policy article:http://killerapps.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/28/were_syria_s_nerve_gas_rockets_based_on_an_american_design

(T)hese rockets have now became a cornerstone of the West's case that the Syrian military was behind the nerve gas massacre of more than a thousands people in the Damascus suburbs last week. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice tweeted earlier in the week that only the Assad regime "has capacity to launch CW [chemical weapons] with rockets." An American intelligence official told Foreign Policy on Tuesday that the rockets found at the scene of the attack on the East Ghouta region were a strong indicator that the strike involved chemical weapons. The rockets were largely intact -- rather than completely destroyed, as they would be if they been carrying high-explosive warheads.

Why is range, accuracy and sophistication of the rockets and delivery devices important? Sarin is not very effective over a large area unless the liquid is delivered in an aerosol form at just above ground level.* With crude rockets and warheads, that means that large numbers (many hundreds) of such weapons would have had to have been used in massed barrages to produce the level of mortality claimed. Because they are inaccurate beyond a short range, and cannot be aimed for mass barrages at long distance, these rockets may not have been effective for use in the way described in the report. We have not yet seen any evidence produced by the US government that these weapons are even capable of being used as the State Department claims.
*The best detailed treatise on Sarin, its manufacture, characteristics, and its effects and forensic details, is by Dan Kazseta, a US Army Chemical Corps veteran and consultant, available here (fairly long, but all informative): http://newsmotion.org/author/noreplybloggercom-brown-moses?page=1

Vietnam was started & fought by liberal Democrats, too. That war almost killed the Party

and gave us this guy:

NIXON: He's tanned, rested and ready for '16.

Why is the Administration Withholding Israeli-Provided Intercepts That "Prove" Responsibility?

This afternoon, nine days after the event, the U.S. Government issued its first official account of events in the northern Damascus suburbs. The State Department released a report, U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013, that alleges the following: http://www.c-span.org/uploadedFiles/Content/Documents/USGassessmentonSyria%281%29.pdf

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting. Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence . . .

The State Dept Report is missing something essential -- any specific evidence of command authorization for the attack. That is essential to a finding of governmental culpability that must be present if the US or anyone else is going to launch a punative military action against Syria.

Here's what the "declassified" document just released does not contain: any specific information, or reference to specific information, that in any way ties officials at the Minister of Defense or higher level in the planning and execution of this attack. What it does say is that the the Syrian Minister of Defense upon learning of the attack ordered it to cease.

Furthermore, the specific information provided by other sources shows that the Minister of Defense personally spoke with the unit commander after the attack, and the Minister is characterized as being panicked by the news he receives. Foreign Policy’s magazine The Cable reported on August 27: http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/27/exclusive_us_spies_say_intercepted_calls_prove_syrias_army_used_nerve_gas

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.”

That report goes on to express the uncertainties that have arisen in assigning culpability for the incident:

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?"

Nor are U.S. analysts sure of the Syrian military's rationale for launching the strike -- if it had a rationale at all. Perhaps it was a lone general putting a long-standing battle plan in motion; perhaps it was a miscalculation by the Assad government. Whatever the reason, the attack has triggered worldwide outrage, and put the Obama administration on the brink of launching a strike of its own in Syria. "We don't know exactly why it happened," the intelligence official added. "We just know it was pretty fucking stupid."

The UK National Post-Telegraph reflected that assessment that there is no certainty as whether this attack was ordered from above or the unauthorized work of a lower-ranking officer in the field:http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/08/28/intercepted-phone-call-helped-convince-u-s-that-syrian-regime-was-responsible-for-deadly-chemical-attack/

A report about the new evidence was published on Foreign Policy, an international affairs website, as President Barack Obama announced that the United States has “concluded” that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians. Yet U.S. intelligence officials say questions remain about whether it was an officially sanctioned attack or the work of an over-zealous officer.

The intercepted message does not conclusively establish who gave the order to use chemical weapons and could mean it was a mistake, analysts suggested.

Furthermore, another factor to consider is the accuracy of the assessments that have been produced. the source of the key intercepts was IDF Unit 8200, the Israeli NSA. This is from a report the following day in The Guardian (08/28): http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/28/israeli-intelligence-intercepted-syria-chemical-talk

The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime's deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.

The 8200 unit of the Israeli Defence Forces, which specialises in electronic surveillance, intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons, an unnamed former Mossad official told Focus. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.

The 8200 unit collects and analyses electronic data, including wiretapped telephone calls and emails. It is the largest unit in the IDF.

Israel has invested in intelligence assets in Syria for decades, according to a senior government official. "We have an historic intelligence effort in the field, for obvious reasons," he said.

Israel and the US had a "close and co-operative relationship in the intelligence field", he added, but declined to comment specifically on the Focus report.

Senior Israeli security officials arrived in Washington on Monday to share the latest results of intelligence-gathering, and to review the Syrian crisis with national security adviser Susan Rice.

Finally, we observe, Susan Rice and the Administration have been sitting on these Israeli-based intercepts for five days. Why does this report lack any direct reference to the Israeli NSA-based information which formed the basis for White House decisions. The Obama Administration can not credibly claim a need to protect sources and methods, particularly when in this case they have already been publicly described in several news media reports in the United States, the UK, and Israel.

Why are we, the American people who must bear the responsibility for the costs and consequences, intended and unintended, of Obama's reprisal attack, not being shown this critical evidence?
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