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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
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PRISM: The US Government is mad at Bradley Manning for doing to it what it is Doing to All of US


PRISM: The US Government is mad at Bradley Manning for doing to it what it is Doing to All of US
Posted on 06/07/2013 by Juan Cole

Bradley Manning, who spilled the beans on the US blowing away of unarmed Iraqi journalists and released thousands of low-level cable messages, has been charged by the US government with thereby being a traitor, giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It is not clear which enemy benefited from the catty remarks in some embassy cables, or how exactly their revelation harmed national security. What did happen was that millions of people in the US and around the world discovered the good and the bad of how US diplomacy is practiced. The treason charge against Manning is outrageous, and has been pursued because otherwise what he did is not obviously very serious and even a military judge might not return a severe sentence.

It turns out that Manning, in making government correspondence available for us to read, was just turning the tables on the US government, which The Guardian and the Washington Post today reveal has a back door called PRISM into all our internet communications (emails, over-the-internet phone calls, browser search history, etc.) with 9 major companies, including Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! (but not, interestingly, Twitter). The program is detailed in a Powerpoint slide presentation for initiating new NSA employees into its workings.

The sordid police states that have a paltry few tens of thousands of domestic spies monitoring the activities of ordinary citizens turn out to be minor players in this game compared to the home of the brave and the land of the free. Eat your hearts out, North Korean secret police and Baathist mukhabarat in Syria!

The NSA is supposed to use the back door only for communications going abroad or originating abroad, but it only has to be 51% certain that there is a foreign component. That is a low bar. But anyway nowadays how many of us have no email or social media communication with people living overseas? In practice, domestic communications will inevitably be swept up in this program. And, someone should explain to me why Americans’ correspondence going abroad is suddenly without Fourth Amendment protections? The FBI appears to be deeply involved in the operation, and how likely is it that, say, Occupy Wall Street activists or environmentalists haven’t been subject to surveillance?
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 7, 2013, 07:37 AM (0 replies)

Obama pledged investigation of Alleged Taliban Prisoner Massacre by US-Backed Afghan Warlords; Where


Obama pledged investigation of Alleged Taliban Prisoner Massacre by US-Backed Afghan Warlords; Where is it? (Currier)
Posted on 06/06/2013 by Juan Cole

In his first year in office, President Barack Obama pledged to “collect the facts” on the death of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war at the hands of U.S.-allied Afghan forces in late 2001.


When asked by ProPublica about the state of the investigation, the White House says it is still “looking into” the apparent massacre. Yet no facts have been released and it’s far from clear what, if any, facts have been collected.

Human rights researchers who originally uncovered the case say they’ve seen no evidence of an active investigation.

The deaths happened as Taliban forces were collapsing in the wake of the American invasion of Afghanistan. Thousands of Taliban prisoners had surrendered to the forces of a U.S.-supported warlord named Abdul Rashid Dostum. The prisoners, say survivors and other witnesses, were stuffed into shipping containers without food or water. Many died of suffocation. Others were allegedly killed when Dostum’s men shot at the containers.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jun 6, 2013, 07:51 AM (0 replies)

NSA-Verizon Surveillance: Welcome to the United States of Total Information Awareness


NSA-Verizon Surveillance: Welcome to the United States of Total Information Awareness
Posted on 06/06/2013 by Juan Cole

It turns out that the National Security Agency demanded and got Verizon phone records of all US telephone calls, mobile and otherwise, within the US and between the US and abroad, from mid-April of this year. The order, obtained by The Guardian and which I guess the government would say it is illegal for us to even look at, is being reprinted in the US press.

The secret demand, which itself was classified, was made under the so-called USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, which desperately needs to be repealed or struck down as unconstitutional.

Note that the NSA did not do wiretapping. It isn’t looking at the content of the calls. Nor is personal information attached, so it is just records of one number calling other numbers. They have been data-mining the millions of records. By now the NSA and CIA have databases of numbers used by suspected al-Qaeda operatives, against which the calls could be matched. If an interesting pattern emerged (30 US Chechens regularly calling a certain number in Daghestan, e.g.), the NSA would have to get a warrant to discover the identities of the callers. But of course they could easily arrange that, having established that a pattern exists that justifies further investigation.

This sort of fishing expedition can sometimes be useful to counter-terrorism, but fishing expeditions into private papers and records are a violation of the US constitution. The government should only be allowed to see private information if there is reasonable cause to think something illegal is going on. Going looking into private records to see if patterns emerge that suggest illegality is the action of a totalitarian government, not a democratic one. The USA PATRIOT Act was a Sovietization of American law and practice and 2001 was year one of the fall of the Republic, when the Fourth Amendment and aspects of the First Amendment were abrogated.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jun 6, 2013, 07:47 AM (0 replies)

Testimony in hearing says Brig. Gen. Sinclair offered to plead guilty in sexual misconduct case; Arm


Testimony in hearing says Brig. Gen. Sinclair offered to plead guilty in sexual misconduct case; Army declined
By Paul Woolverton
Published: 08:02 AM, Wed Jun 05, 2013

Fort Bragg Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair offered last summer to plead guilty in his sexual misconduct case, but the Army said no deal.

The plea offer surfaced during testimony Tuesday in a pretrial hearing for Sinclair's pending court-martial, which is scheduled to start in July.

Three generals, including the general in charge of all Army forces in the continental United States, testified Tuesday about their actions during the investigation and the decisions to prosecute Sinclair.

Two appeared to lose patience with Sinclair's lawyers because their questions often were repetitive as they sought to dig into the generals' thought processes.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jun 5, 2013, 09:11 AM (0 replies)

Pakistan's New Prime Minister: US Drone Attacks 'Must End'


Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif was returned to his previous position as prime minister on Wednesday and said one of his priorities will be to compel the US to cease bombing its sovereign territory along the Afghanistan border

Pakistan's New Prime Minister: US Drone Attacks 'Must End'
- Jon Queally, staff writer
Published on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 by Common Dreams

In a speech before the Pakistan parliament on Wednesday, newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received overwhelming applause when he declared that forcing the US government to end its drone bombing campaign in the nation's tribal areas would be one of his top priorities.

"This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed," Sharif said to widespread applause in the parliament hall. "We do respect others' sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty."

Sharif, who was removed from power by a military coup in 1999, was returned to his former position as prime minister following a majority vote in the 342-seat parliament and now begins an unprecedented third term.

The deadly US drone strikes in the tribal areas have been a source of consistent and widespread outrage in Pakistan, but the US government under President Obama has continued the practice despite popular popular and government warnings saying that they undermine stability in the country and generate more anti-Americanism throughout the region.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jun 5, 2013, 08:27 AM (0 replies)

Kansas farmer sues Monsanto over unapproved genetically modified wheat


Kansas farmer sues Monsanto over unapproved genetically modified wheat
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, June 4, 2013 20:09 EDT

A Kansas wheat farmer has sued Monsanto after news of the discovery of unapproved genetically modified wheat on an Oregon farm, alleging harm from falling wheat prices.

The farmer, Ernest Barnes, lodged a civil lawsuit in a US federal court against Monsanto on Monday, alleging “gross negligence” and seeking compensation for damages, according to the suit.

“The case may be the first of many Monsanto faces over alleged wheat contamination,” said the legal firm representing the farmer, Susman Godfrey, in a statement.


Because of the discovery of Monsanto’s genetically modified wheat, “farmers are now facing sharply declining prices and outright bans on the importation of their wheat in foreign countries,” the complaint said.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jun 5, 2013, 05:49 AM (14 replies)

Bipartisan Defense Experts Urge Congress, Sec Def Hagel To Close Bases, Change DoD Pay


Bipartisan Defense Experts Urge Congress, Sec Def Hagel To Close Bases, Change DoD Pay
By Colin Clark on June 03, 2013 at 8:13 AM

CAPITOL HILL: In an extraordinary letter to defense lawmakers and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, experts from nine Washington think tanks on the left and the right call for fundamental fixes to the defense budgets that, left undone, “threaten the health and long-term viability of America’s volunteer military.”


Mackenzie Eaglen, defense expert at the American Enterprise Institute, offered the most concise summary of the enormous problems faced by the Pentagon as sequestration begins to bite and the drawdown from Afghanistan accelerates.

Law and policy makers must choose between two promises we make to the American military. First, and probably most important, is the nation’s pledge to always ensure they are not in fair fight. That means they must have the best weapons, the finest training and the most responsive intelligence and materiel support. The other promise: we will pay you decently and provide benefits to ensure our warriors are decently cared for and do not have to live in penury after serving their country and risking their lives.

“In the interests of preserving one set of perceived promoses we are risking another set of promises,” Eaglen argued. Her point was that pay and benefits are not sacred, nor can they be viewed in isolation. Providing a soldier with the best gun, the best tank, the best plane, the best intelligence, the best body armor and the best training to use them to greatest effect is a somber commitment that may be even more important to the soldier’s life and well being, not to mention to the nation as a whole.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jun 4, 2013, 10:31 AM (1 replies)

HASC Finds $5 Billion Fix For Sequester Damage, But It Won’t Matter


HASC Finds $5 Billion Fix For Sequester Damage, But It Won’t Matter
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on June 03, 2013 at 1:44 PM

CAPITOL HILL: Like water rushing downhill, flowing over or around or through every obstacle in its path, money in Washington will find a way. Today’s example is the newly released House Armed Services Committee’s “mark up” of the 2014 national defense authorization act.

Striving to address shortfalls in military readiness created by this year’s hasty and inefficient sequestration cuts, which are undermining everything from buying fighter aircraft to stopping drug shipments, cunning congressional staffers found over $5 billion above and beyond what was in the Pentagon’s budget request. In a particularly nifty trick, that extra money would even count as supplemental spending, which is outside the sequester. (Specifically, it would be part of the sequester-exempt “overseas contingency operations” (OCO) fund that the House set at $85.5 billion for 2014. The base Defense Department budget is set at $552.1 billion, which sequester does affect.)

Even in the Pentagon, $5 billion would go a long way to undo this year’s damage to the Army, the Air Force, the Navy and Marines — except that all this money is pretty much fool’s gold. Just like the president’s budget request and the budget resolutions passed by both the House and Senate, the HASC mark effectively ignores the fact that the sequestration cuts will continue in 2014 (and for the next eight years) as well, taking away more money than the mark managed to add — unless Congress and the White House can finally agree on a “grand bargain” to change the law.

“He’s obligated to mark to the House budget,” said an aide to House Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon, briefing reporters this morning. As powerful as the chair of HASC can be — especially since it’s the last committee left in the House that actually passes its annual authorization bill — McKeon can’t set his own, more realistic funding levels that disagree with the budget written by the House leadership and passed by his colleagues, even though that budget ignores the $52 billion elephant in the room. The fact that everyone — House, Senate and the president — is using the same sequester-not-included numbers doesn’t make them any less fictional. (To congressional Republicans’ credit, the House budget does attempt to reflect sequester by setting total discretionary spending at $966 billion, but it protects defense spending at the expense of non-defense in a way Democrats will never accept).
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jun 4, 2013, 10:27 AM (0 replies)

DDG 51 Multiyear Procurement Contract Awarded


DDG 51 Multiyear Procurement Contract Awarded
Story Number: NNS130603-25Release Date: 6/3/2013 8:53:00 PM
From Naval Sea Systems Command
Office of Corporate Communication

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy awarded two contracts for the DDG 51 fiscal years (FY) 2013-2017 multiyear procurement (MYP) for DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers June 3.

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (BIW) is being awarded a $2,843,385,450 fixed-price incentive firm target (FPIF) contract for the design and construction of four DDG 51 class ships, one in FY 2013 and one each in FY 2015-2017. This award also includes a contract option for a fifth ship.

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) is being awarded a $3,331,476,001 fixed-price-incentive firm target (FPIF) contract for the design and construction of five DDG 51 class ships, one each in FY 2013-2017.

These multiyear procurement awards are for a total of nine ships, with an option for a tenth ship. The Navy's objective is to procure the tenth ship as part of the planned FY 2013-2017 MYP. The Navy will work with Congress to resolve funding shortfalls resulting from sequestration reductions before contracting for the 10th ship.

"These contract awards represent great value to the taxpayer and will ensure our warfighters have the ships and systems they need to prevail in any situation," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "By leveraging competition in the DDG 51 class shipbuilding program, these shipbuilders will continue their proud histories in delivering these highly capable ships to the fleet while meeting critical operational requirements for integrated air and missile defense capability."

A competitive allocation strategy used in the DDG 51 class shipbuilding program since 1996, known as profit related to offers, or PRO, uses FPIF contracts to ensure reasonable prices while maintaining the industrial base. Congressional approval for the use of MYP contracts facilitated program budget savings of more than $1.5 billion while enabling the shipbuilders and equipment manufacturers to more efficiently plan future workloads.

"I am proud of the success of the DDG 51 program and appreciate Congress' continued support and approval of the Navy's multiyear procurement request," said Mabus. "This award enables stability in our industrial base and ensures the Navy and the nation get the most efficient and affordable build plan for these destroyers."

The destroyers are being procured in a Flight IIA configuration, relying on a stable and mature infrastructure while increasing the ship's air and missile defense capabilities through spiral upgrades to the weapons and sensor suites.

The Navy plans to introduce the first DDG 51 Flight III on the second ship in FY 2016. Once Flight III requirements are approved, the new baseline will be implemented as an engineering change proposal. It is anticipated that the Flight III design will replace the Aegis AN/SPY-1D radar with the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) and provide for more electrical power and cooling capacity, providing the next generation of integrated air and missile defense and joint battle space awareness.

unhappycamper comment: "$2,843,385,450 fixed-price incentive firm target (FPIF) contract for the design and construction of four DDG 51 class ships",

DDG 51s cost around $1.8 billion dollars, delivered. (That's almost twice the cost of the Queen Mary II which comes in at $1 billion dollars..)
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jun 4, 2013, 10:19 AM (1 replies)

Afghanistan: Is It Really the End Game?


U.S. Army Spc. Devon Boxa, 7-158th Aviation Regiment, admires the Afghanistan landscape out the back door of her CH-47D Chinook helicopter as another Chinook follows. The choppers were flying from Kabul to Jalalabad Dec. 17, 2010.

Afghanistan: Is It Really the End Game?
Monday, 03 June 2013 14:01
By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus | Op-Ed

There is nothing that better sums up the utter failure of America's longest war than international forces getting ambushed as they try to get the hell out of the Afghanistan. And yet the April 1 debacle in Balochistan was in many ways a metaphor for a looming crisis that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States seem totally unprepared for: with the clock ticking down on removing most combat troops by 2014, there are no official negotiations going on, nor does there seem to be any strategy for how to bring them about.

"I still cannot understand how we, the international community and the Afghan government have managed to arrive at a situation in which everything is coming together in 2014 - elections, new president, economic transition, military transition - and negotiations for the peace process have not really started," as Bernard Bajolet, the former French ambassador to Kabul and current head of France's foreign intelligence service, told the New York Times.

When the Barack Obama administration sent an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan in 2009 as part of the "surge", the goal was to secure the country's southern provinces, suppress opium cultivation, and force the Taliban to give up on the war. Not only did the surge fail to impress the Taliban and its allies, it never stabilized the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Both are once again under the sway of the insurgency, and opium production has soared. What the surge did manage was to spread the insurgency into formerly secure areas in the north and west.

With the exception of the current US commanders in Afghanistan, virtually everyone has concluded that the war has been a disaster for all involved.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jun 4, 2013, 09:32 AM (0 replies)
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