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Insurgents could quickly bounce back in Afghanistan, analysis warns


A member of a U.S. military route-clearance team works in Kunduz province in April. Security conditions in Afghanistan probably will worsen regardless of whether the U.S. keeps troops in the country, according to a new, classified assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Insurgents could quickly bounce back in Afghanistan, analysis warns
By David S. Cloud
December 29, 2013, 6:38 p.m

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies warn in a new, classified assessment that insurgents could quickly regain control of key areas of Afghanistan and threaten the capital as soon as 2015 if American troops are fully withdrawn next year, according to two officials familiar with the findings.

The National Intelligence Estimate, which was given recently to the White House, has deeply concerned some U.S. officials. It represents the first time the intelligence community has formally warned that the Afghan government could face significantly more serious attacks in Kabul from a resurgent Taliban within months of a U.S. pullout, the officials said, speaking anonymously to discuss classified material.

The assessment also concludes that security conditions probably will worsen regardless of whether the U.S. keeps troops in the country.

"It's very pessimistic about the future, more pessimistic than ever before," said one of the officials.

unhappycamper comment: D'oh. Evidently someone in National Security took at look at wikipedia or read some history:


Fall of Saigon

Evacuation of CIA station personnel by Air America on 29 April 1975.

Chaos, unrest, and panic broke out as hysterical South Vietnamese officials and civilians scrambled to leave Saigon. Martial law was declared. American helicopters began evacuating South Vietnamese, U.S., and foreign nationals from various parts of the city and from the U.S. embassy compound. Operation Frequent Wind had been delayed until the last possible moment, because of U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin's belief that Saigon could be held and that a political settlement could be reached.

Schlesinger announced early in the morning of 29 April 1975 the evacuation from Saigon by helicopter of the last U.S. diplomatic, military, and civilian personnel. Frequent Wind was arguably the largest helicopter evacuation in history. It began on 29 April, in an atmosphere of desperation, as hysterical crowds of Vietnamese vied for limited space. Martin pleaded with Washington to dispatch $700 million in emergency aid to bolster the regime and help it mobilize fresh military reserves. But American public opinion had soured on this conflict.

In the United States, South Vietnam was perceived as doomed. President Gerald Ford had given a televised speech on 23 April, declaring an end to the Vietnam War and all U.S. aid. Frequent Wind continued around the clock, as North Vietnamese tanks breached defenses on the outskirts of Saigon. In the early morning hours of 30 April, the last U.S. Marines evacuated the embassy by helicopter, as civilians swamped the perimeter and poured into the grounds. Many of them had been employed by the Americans and were left to their fate.
Victorious NVA troops at the Presidential Palace, Saigon.

On 30 April 1975, NVA troops entered the city of Saigon and quickly overcame all resistance, capturing key buildings and installations. A tank from the 324th Division crashed through the gates of the Independence Palace at 11:30 am local time and the Viet Cong flag was raised above it. President Dương Văn Minh, who had succeeded Huong two days earlier, surrendered.[249]


Occupations are difficult to win. What makes you think this outcome will be any different than Vietnam?
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 06:00 AM (2 replies)

NSA diverted computers and laptops from shipping facilities to install spyware


NSA diverted computers and laptops from shipping facilities to install spyware
By Scott Kaufman
Sunday, December 29, 2013 14:39 EST

Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations” (TAO) has been diverting desktops and laptops shipped to U.S. consumers and installing spyware on them.

According to the report, the process, which TAO calls “interdiction,” involves intercepting packages on their way from manufacturers like Dell, Cisco, and Seagate, and installing bugs or spyware on them at a “secret workshop.”

The packages are then reintroduced into the delivery pipeline and arrive at their destination without the consumer ever realizing their machine has been compromised.

When contacted by Der Spiegel, Cisco senior vice president John Stewart said that his company is “deeply concerned with anything that may impact the integrity of our products or our customers’ networks,” and that Cisco does “not work with any government to weaken our products for exploitation.”


Previous thread on TAO: http://www.democraticunderground.com/11782868
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 05:36 AM (33 replies)

The Year of the 'Leaker'


The Year of the 'Leaker'
by Robert Parry | December 28, 2013 - 10:39am


But there is another factor in this discussion: Secrecy often has empowered U.S. government propagandists to manipulate the people and to trick them into policies that, in turn, have cost lives, inflicted damage to national security and created hatred toward America that its enemies can then exploit. In other words, secrecy is the enabler of deception which has undercut precisely those interests that the Manning/Snowden critics say they want to protect (diplomacy and innocent life).

While one could take note of the secrecy and lies that cleared the paths into the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Iraq, let’s look at a less known case that I faced in 1988 as a correspondent at Newsweek: At the time, the Reagan administration – having suffered political damage from the Iran-Contra scandal – was trying to get its proxy war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government back on track.

President Ronald Reagan’s skilled propaganda team seized on what they claimed was Sandinista repression of Nicaragua’s Catholic Church and its Cardinal Obando y Bravo. All right-thinking Americans, especially Catholics, were incited to outrage over affronts to religious freedom. Because of this Sandinista behavior, the White House put political pressure on Congress to send more money and weapons to the Contra rebels who were killing thousands of Nicaraguans in towns near Honduras and Costa Rica.

But there was another side of the story that was hidden behind a veil of U.S. government secrecy. For years, the CIA and the White House had been funneling money through the Catholic Church into Nicaragua to destabilize the government. In effect, the Reagan administration had an inside-outside game going, Cardinal Obando and a group of right-wing Catholic priests were spreading around money to subvert Nicaragua from the inside while the Contra rebels were inflicting bloody havoc from the outside.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 07:24 AM (0 replies)

A criminal government at work!: The NSA Paid to Steal Your Private Data


A criminal government at work!: The NSA Paid to Steal Your Private Data
by Alfredo Lopez | December 27, 2013 - 9:40am

As the people of this country, and much of the world, observe the year-end holidays, we can look back on 2013 as the year when any illusion of genuine democracy was dashed by the remarkable revelations about the police-state surveillance that watches us. Last week, we saw a deeply disturbing stroke added to that incrementally developing picture.

In the ever-expanding and groan-provoking saga of the NSA's attack on our privacy, it was revealed that the agency paid a major Internet security firm to insert a flawed encryption formula into the company's software. The news, sparked by leaks from Edward Snowden and first reported by Reuters, raises serious questions about the security of popular encryption programs and indicates that the U.S. government was consciously involved in massive and very destructive fraud.

The revelations indicate that the NSA paid $10 million to RSA, one of the most prominent encrytion software companies in the world, to include the NSA's own encryption formula in a very popular and heavily used encryption product called "Bsafe". While Bsafe offers several encryption options, the default option (the one you use if you don't specifically choose any) is the NSA's own code.

The massive attack on encryption by the NSA has been reported before but this recent revelations about payments made demonstrate an intentionality to defraud and a complete disregard for the law, honesty and people's rights. RSA offered a partial and fairly weak statement of defense. The NSA has yet to comment.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 07:20 AM (4 replies)

The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus


The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus
by Bill Berkowitz | December 27, 2013 - 10:06am

While Pope Francis is getting most of the media attention related to all things Catholic, a Catholic lay organization that has been around for more than 130 years is starting to be the object of some well-deserved scrutiny. The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic lay organization in the world. It is well known for its charitable work. There's a good chance that somewhere in America on just about any weekend, the Knights of Columbus is holding an event to raise money to help the poor, feed the hungry, provide disaster relief, and support families in need. Its bake sales and pancake suppers are events that many communities eagerly look forward to and support wholeheartedly. Unbeknownst to many cookie or pancake enthusiasts, however, is the reality that a portion of the money – read that, millions of dollars -- raised by the Knights is being poured into anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage campaigns.

That is a side of the Knight of Columbus that is rarely reported on. According to a new report by Catholics for Choice, "The order has pushed a conservative agenda ranging from the highly specific—a complaint against highschoolers reading Catcher in the Rye—to systemic opposition to reproductive choice and marriage equality through sizable donations to programs run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other conservative organizations."

The Knights of Columbus: Crusaders for Discrimination pointed out that the organization "uses its manpower and money to push for legislation that does not match the beliefs of many Catholics or the
 will of the electorate. The Knights continue to wage a decades-long battle against abortion legislation, but what stands out now is the scale of its political expenditures—more than $10 million since 2004—and this does not include funds from the thousands of local fraternity councils and assemblies. The Knights' funding of anti-same-sex marriage campaigns goes towards a cause that is rejected by most Catholics—polling data reflects a stronger support for same-sex marriage among Catholics than any other Christian faith group, or the American population as a whole."

Between 2004-2012, the Knights of Columbus -- a fraternal benefit society which is a 501(c)(8) tax-exempt not-for-profit entity -- funded a who's who of the American right, with donations going to such anti-choice and anti-gay organizations as the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the National Organization for Marriage, the Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund, Americans United for Life, the Federalist Society, the Susan B. Anthony List, the Human Life Foundation. (According to the IRS, "political activity is not considered a fraternal activity," but fraternal orders "may engage in some political activities, including intervention in political campaigns on behalf of, or in opposition to, candidates for public office, without jeopardizing its exempt status."
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 07:15 AM (2 replies)

'Never Bend': Thousands Protest New Air Base After Okinawa Switch


Protesters hold signs reading 'Never Bend' outside of governmental offices in Okinawa Friday

'Never Bend': Thousands Protest New Air Base After Okinawa Switch
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Published on Friday, December 27, 2013 by Common Dreams

The U.S. military base in Okinawa, which has been surrounded in scandal in its decades of existence, will finally be closed after years of mass protest, officials announced Friday.


Agence France-Presse reports:

More than 17 years after the two allies agreed to move the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Station from a densely populated urban area, the local government has finally consented to a landfill that will enable new facilities to be built on the coast.

The agreement will burnish the credentials of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the U.S., possibly taking some of the sting out of American criticism of his provocative visit Thursday to a war shrine seen by China and Korea as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

The issue has been deadlocked for years, with huge opposition to any new base among Okinawans fed up with playing host to an outsized share of the U.S. military presence in Japan, and who want it moved off the island altogether.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 07:02 AM (1 replies)

Investigation Reveals Rampant Fraud by Privatized Hospice Groups


Siphoning billions of Medicare dollars, for-profit hospice companies found recruiting non-dying patients

Investigation Reveals Rampant Fraud by Privatized Hospice Groups
- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Published on Friday, December 27, 2013 by Common Dreams

A Washington Post investigation into the world of hospice care published Thursday found that what was initially intended to be a peaceful end-of-life alternative led by religious and community organizations, has now evolved into a $17 billion for-profit industry ripe with scams and abuse.

Hospice care, which focuses on providing comfort to the terminally ill rather than finding a cure, is funded primarily by Medicare—which makes an estimated 85 to 90 percent of all payments to hospices.

Quick to capitalize on this booming industry, since 2000 the number of hospices run by for-profit companies has jumped from 30 percent to nearly 60 percent—with an even larger share of the patients; during the same period, Medicare expenditures on hospice jumped from $2.9 billion to $15.1 billion.

And as the Post investigation reveals, in order to maximize profits, these for-profit hospice groups have begun aggressively recruiting patients who aren't actually dying.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 06:57 AM (3 replies)

Judge on NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn’t Actually Support His Ruling


Judge on NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn’t Actually Support His Ruling
by Justin Elliott
Published on Saturday, December 28, 2013 by ProPublica

In a new decision in support of the NSA's phone metadata surveillance program, U.S. district court Judge William Pauley cites an intelligence failure involving the agency in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. But the judge's cited source, the 9/11 Commission Report, doesn't actually include the account he gives in the ruling. What’s more, experts say the NSA could have avoided the pre-9/11 failure even without the metadata surveillance program.

We previously explored the key incident in question, involving calls made by hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar from California to Yemen, in a story we did over the summer, which you can read below.

In his decision, Pauley writes: "The NSA intercepted those calls using overseas signals intelligence capabilities that could not capture al-Mihdhar's telephone number identifier. Without that identifier, NSA analysts concluded mistakenly that al-Mihdhar was overseas and not in the United States."

As his source, the judge writes in a footnote, "See generally, The 9/11 Commission Report." In fact, the 9/11 Commission report does not detail the NSA's intercepts of calls between al-Mihdhar and Yemen. As the executive director of the commission told us over the summer, "We could not, because the information was so highly classified publicly detail the nature of or limits on NSA monitoring of telephone or email communications.”
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 06:53 AM (0 replies)

Coal Trains Run into Stiff Resistance in U.S.


Activists say the coal trains lose one pound of toxic dust per car per mile.

Coal Trains Run into Stiff Resistance in U.S.
By Matthew Charles Cardinale
Published on Saturday, December 28, 2013 by Inter Press Service

SPOKANE, Washington -- Citizens and activists in the U.S. Pacific Northwest are fighting three different proposed coal terminals, including one in Oregon and two in Washington.

Meanwhile, three formerly proposed coal terminals have already been defeated. Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign recently cited these defeats as signs of progress in the broader campaign to retire the use of coal plants across the U.S. altogether.

“There are three main reasons we oppose coal exports,” Trip Jennings, organizer for Portland Rising Tide, told IPS.

“The first reason – I think the most important for us – is the fact that we’re closing down power plants in the U.S.,” he said. “Oregon and Washington will be totally coal-free in a number of years. We as a community and as citizens decided we didn’t want to burn coal. If we allow corporations to export… it undercuts all the work that we’ve done to address the climate crisis.”
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 06:49 AM (2 replies)

Do we really want to share so much info?


Do we really want to share so much info?
Rasheed Abou-Alsamh
Published — Sunday 29 December 2013


A few months ago I was startled to find out that my local pharmacy here in Brasilia had been keeping track of every single purchase I made there by insisting that I enroll in their discount program. Years ago I had given them my CPF number, which is a taxpayer’s number that every adult resident in Brazil must have. Without a CPF you cannot buy a SIM card for your mobile phone, or make any purchase of appliances, automobiles or plane tickets. Without giving them my CPF number I would not have gotten the significant discounts on prescription medicines that I had been getting so far. I found out when I bought two boxes of a prescription medicine for my neck. The pharmacy had only one box, but said they would order another one for me, and that I could come back the next day to get the other one. It was when the clerk turned her computer screen around to confirm my details with me that I was horrified to see a long list of medicines and the dates of when I had bought them. Did I really want them to be able to call up this list and see that I had bought antibiotics last January for a sinus infection? Or that I had bought baby formula for my maid’s baby in March? Not really.

But if we stop and think about it, companies constantly indulge in such bargaining for our information. The most used method is that of the age-old discount. Who doesn’t like saving money on a purchase? In exchange we are usually asked to give up personal information such as our birthdate, gender, home address, e-mail address, and phone number. My pharmacy is collecting purchasing information on all of its clients and in exchange gives us a discount on medicines. But how is this information stored and protected? Who has access to it? From the look of it, any employee of my pharmacy, which is part of a local chain, could punch in my CPF number and then print out a long list of all of my purchases since 2009!

This illustrates a very interesting shift in capitalism in which more than just money is needed to get full benefits out of the trading system. Businesses are not just asking us to give up personal information to get discounts, but they sometimes try to influence our behavior. Recently a Brazilian friend asked me if I wouldn’t like to attend a free concert near the National Museum here in Brasilia. I said sure, not knowing that in order to get the supposedly “free” ticket I had to register online, giving them my CPF number and home address, and then I had to take one broken electronic item that I happened to have laying around at home to specially designated collection centers in order to get my ticket. In other words, they were trying to get the concertgoers to be “green” and recycle their electronic trash instead of just throwing it out. They may have had a noble intention but for me it was too complicated, and I wasn’t desperate enough for a free ticket to jump through so many hoops!

I don’t think my pharmacy, or any business for that matter, should be allowed to demand that customers hand over their personal information in order to get a discount. That is anti-democratic and unfair. A legal loophole should exist for those of us, who like me, refuse to allow businesses collect our buying information in order for us to be able to get discounts. We want our discounts but without giving up our privacy.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 29, 2013, 06:27 AM (0 replies)
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