Monday, July 15, 2013

Norman Solomon

This is Norman Solomon:


For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers -- past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

For a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced -- but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: _power._




Here's what I think. We can only do so much when the MSNBC whores who pretend to be left make a point of attacking him. 

The airwaves are filled with attacks on Ed.

So we need to make part of our effort in exposing these hypocrites like Melissa Harris Perry.

She -- and people like her -- are ensuring that no real movement is going to take place.  Now or ever.

These people need to be exposed for the frauds they are.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"




Monday, July 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a mosque is targeted with a suicide bomber, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden remains in Russia, Bradley Manning's defense argues with the prosecution, and more.

Friday, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden addressed the world and met with representatives from various human rights groups.  While he continues to seek sanctuary, he remains in Russia.  BBC News reports, "The US authorities have in effect trapped fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has said."  RT notes:

The president stressed that the US basically trapped ex-CIA employee Snowden in Russia while he was in transit to other countries.
"He arrived on our territory without an invitation, he was not flying to us - he was flying in transit to other countries. But as soon as he got in the air it became known, and our American partners, in fact, blocked his further flight," Putin said, meaning that the US government revoked Snowden’s passport shortly after he arrived at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. 

"They scared other countries. No one wants to accept him,” he added. 
When asked about what was next for Snowden, Putin replied: “How should I know? That’s his life, his fate.” 


Reuters quotes Putin stating, "As soon as there is an opportunity for him to move elsewhere, I hope he will do that. The conditions for granting political asylum are known to him. And judging by his latest actions, he is shifting his position. But the situation has not been clarified yet."  RIA Novosti adds:



On Monday, Putin added that Russia would not give permanent asylum to Snowden because he refused to stop a “fight for human rights” that may strain Moscow’s ties with Washington.
The Russian leader cited Snowden as saying, “I want my work to go on. I want to fight for human rights. I think the US is breaking certain legal standards, international [rules], and is intruding into private lives. My aim for now is to fight it.”
But, according to Putin, the Russian side replied, ‘Go on without is, we have [other] things to fight for.’”
At the time, more than 100 teams of U.S. analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.


The spying scandal Ed Snowden blew the whistle on, has Iraq roots.  Today Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) notes "The Washington Post this morning has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux - the heart and soul - of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story."  The article by Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick is about a program developed by Alexander in Iraq:


At the time, more than 100 teams of U.S. analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.
“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”


At Salon, Marcy Wheeler offers a critique of the Post's report:


But the headline and the first paragraphs overstate the degree to which the story is about terrorism (even assuming every Iraqi targeting US troops in 2006 was a terrorist rather than a counter-occupation force). As it notes, Alexander’s urge to “collect it all” also stems from his mandate to protect against cyberattacks and—in his other role as the head of Cybercommand—to conduct offensive attacks such as the StuxNet sabotage of Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program.
Indeed, much later the story reveals a meeting where Alexander proposed having NSA operate on banks’ networks and in their databases in search of malware that might compromise their systems. What may have once been about protecting American service members in Iraq has become an imperative to protect private companies’ property at the expense of their customers’ privacy (and taxpayer dollars). “Wow. That’s kind of wild,” one of the executives present at the meeting described the financial executives’ response to the Post.
Moreover, the Post does not prove Alexander’s maximal approach worked.



It obviously did not work.  Violence actually increased after the program was implemented and the notion that the Post and Marcy Wheeler present is also wrong.  The program was not about protecting American troops, it was about lowering violence in Iraq.  The US forces were in charge of Iraq at that time, that was their mission, to provide stability.  This program was supposed to assist the US military in their mission just as much as it was supposed to provide protection for the US troops.  The program was an utter failure.  2006 and 2007 would be the most violent years in Iraq. 


Today, Iraq is repeatedly slammed with violence.  It's gone back to 2008 levels. This evening, Alsumaria reports, a suicide bomber targeted a Musayyib mosque leaving 5 people dead and 13 injured.  Attacks on any house of worship is shocking. But so much violence is taking place these days, very little of it registers individually and reports tend to focus more on the numbers and less on specific incidents.  For example,  Xinhua notes that "the death toll over the past four days to more than 160."  Prensa Latina offers, "Attacks in the first two weeks of July in Iraq have taken the lives of more than 370 people, bringing this year death toll to 2,600 so far." Iraq Body Count counts 437 violent deaths for the month so far through Sunday.  Michael Bassin (Times of Israel) explains, "The past three months have been particularly tragic for this splintered nation, during which 2,500 have been killed, including 150 in the past four days alone. According to the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the United Nations warns that the country may slide into full-fledged civil war before the end of the month." Linda Gradstein (National Post) speaks with the International Crisis Group's Maria Fantappie:



“The Iraqi government is increasingly relying on the security forces to maintain control over the country,” said Maria Fantappie who studies Iraq for the International Crisis Group and lives in Baghdad.
“The Sunni population within Iraq does not feel represented within the Baghdad central government.”
Ms. Fantiappe said a reliable census has never been done, but estimates are that between 20 and 40 percent of the population are Sunni. While Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki is a Shiite, Parliament Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi is a Sunni, and Maliki’s deputy, Roj Nuri Shawis, is Kurdish. About 17 percent of the population are Kurdish, and are fighting for a separate state in northern Iraq.
“There are more and more fears of the return of the sectarian violence because attacks have targeted both Sunnis and Shiites,” Ms. Fantiappe said. “On the social level, there is more and more mistrust among the different communities.”


On the violence, NINA reports "an anti-terrorism official" was shot dead in Baghdad, an oil engineer was kidnapped in Kirkuk, a Tuz  Khurmatu bombing left nine people injured, a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left a civilian injured, a Falluja bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured,  a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 police officer injured, a Mosul suicide bombing saw the bomber take his own life and that of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi civilian while injuring six other people, a Tikrit mortar attack claimed 7 lives and left fifteen injured, a bombing to the west of Kirkuk claimed 2 lives and left four injured, and an "anti-terrorism officer" was shot dead in Baghdad. At least some of the victims of the Tikrit attack were present to swim in the river, Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) explains and notes, "Young men used to swim at the bank of the river in the afternoon to escape the summer temperatures which usually soar to almost 50 degrees Celsius in Iraq."  AP also notes the victims were "trying to escape the blistering summer heat by swimming."

"Editorial: The land with no protection" that is Iraq, if you're not a government official or someone fortunate enough to have your own security team:



It's 2013.  Nouri has been prime minister since 2006.
Where's the security.
And where are the heads of the security ministries?
In July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."   Those ministries still have no ministers over them.  Nouri should have nominated people for the posts back in November 2010.  He didn't.  All this time later, he hasn't.  This not only spits on the Iraqi Constitution and sets a very bad precedent for future prime ministers, it does have to do with the increased violence in Iraq.
The average Iraqi has no bodyguard.  Even sadder, they have no functioning security.




Moving over to whistle-blower Bradley Manning, Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.  Independent.ie adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.


Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.


Think about all the people who knew -- in government and in the press -- about what Bradley exposed -- only they knew it years before and didn't feel the need to whistle-blow or report it.
Only Brad had the guts and concern to go public.  Think about all the people who have refused to call out counterinsurgency and how Brad stood up.  The Nation magazine has spent year avoiding the topic (Tom Hayden's article was an exception and speaks well of Tom, not of The Nation).  What was too much for the left institutions wasn't too much for Brad.   He took time to care and time to do something. 


On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include Bradley Manning, Guantanamo and much more.  We'll note Brad.


Michael Ratner:  A last short update, really more of a reminder, a reminder of the trial of Bradley Manning whistle-blower, who by his own admission uploaded documents to WikiLeaks -- some 700,000 documents -- continues on trial at Fort Meade in Maryland.  We are now in the defense phase and I think it's going well.  That doesn't mean Bradley Manning will be aquitted but it means the government's case has many holes in it.  And I'll give just one example, there was this claim in the case that Osama bin Laden had on his computer or made a request for documents from WikiLeaks.  And that request and those documents are the basis for the government charging that Bradley Manning, through the medium of essentially a journalist WikiLeaks furnished documents that were then read by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  That's the case for aiding the enemy, the most serious charge.  What just came out in court, is that bin Laden had actually not looked at or requested any WikiLeaks documents until Secretary of Defense [Robert] Gates publicly announced that WikiLeaks was aiding the enemy.  Apparently after Osama bin Laden saw that, that the Secretary of Defense felt that there was something that WikiLeaks was doing to help the enemy in some way, he then requested the WikiLeaks documents which, of course, led to Bradley Manning.  So that whole charge looks like a lot of smoke and mirrors.  Except who knows what the judge will do with it, it's a judge trial.  I expect the trial to go on a couple of more weeks.  Assuming there's -- I'm not going to assume anything.  But if there is a conviction on counts, they go right to the penalty phase where witnesses are brought in on Bradley Manning's character, etc.  So watch it carefully the next few weeks, look at the various writers who write on it and, in particular, if you can, if you're on the east coast, get yourself to that trial in Fort Meade.  People need to show their support for Bradley Manning.  Do it, it's not the easiest trip, but get there.  It's near the Baltimore airport, BWI, get to the trial of Bradley Manning.


Wednesday, July 10th, the defense rested in Brad's court-martial. (The segment Ratner was doing was likely taped the morning of the 10th, FYI.)   From that day's snapshot:



As for today,   Xeni Jardin (BoingBoing) reports:



Manning has not, did not, and today told the court he will not testify in his court martial.
The defense rested its case today after having called a total of ten witnesses in the trial. The last was Yochai Benkler, a Harvard professor who is the author a widely-cited paper on the role WikiLeaks plays in what he terms "the networked fourth estate." In his testimony for the defense today, he described Wikileaks as having played a legitimate role in a new world of journalism; he argued that the government's characterization of the group as an Anti-American espionage front was inaccurate."   



Adam Klasfeld (Courthouse News)  explains, "The last witness to testify for the defense, Benkler is considered an academic authority in the evolution of media in the age of the Internet, and the most widely cited scholar on WikiLeaks."  Ian Simpson (Reuters) adds of Benkler's testimony:

 WikiLeaks is "a clear distinct component of what in the history of journalism we see as high points, where journalists are able to come in and say, 'Here's a system operating in a way that is obscure to the public and now we're able to shine the light,'" said Benkler, the co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.




Brad Knickerbocker (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The essence of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s defense in his military court martial is that, yes, he released a trove of classified data to the controversial whistle-blower organization WikiLeaks, but that information did not seriously harm US national security – and it certainly did not aid the enemy in the war on terrorism."  RT notes, "The soldier’s court-martial is now recessed until next week, at which point government prosecutors plan to offer a rebuttal. Col. Denise Lind, the presiding military judge in the case, also is expected to weigh in next week on the defense’s recent request that the government acquit Pfc.
Manning on four of the more than 20 counts he has been charged with, including aiding the enemy."


 Xeni Jardin (BoingBoing) reported this morning:
 

Court will be called into session at 3pm ET. After the judge, Col. Denise Lind, rules on the possibility of a government rebuttal to the defense's case, we can expect motions to dismiss and closing arguments to be presented. Then Judge Lind will deliberate for an unknown period of hours or days. Then, a verdict, to be followed by a sentencing phase.
I traveled to the trial last week, and blogged about it here.

Offering further on this topic (which is what Michael Ratner was addressing on Law & Disorder), David T. Cook (Christian Science Monitor) reports that the prosecution and the defense argued before the judge regarding what charges should be dropped (defense) and which should be kept (prosecution), "The defense team, which rested its case last week, also argues that some of the information Manning leaked was already publicly available. In its new motion, the defense contends that the prosecution has not presented incriminating evidence on the seven charges, and therefore Manning should be acquitted."  On the issue of charges,  Amnesty International issued the following Friday:

The U.S. government should immediately drop the most serious charges against Pvt. Bradley Manning, Amnesty International said today after the conclusion of all testimony in the case.
“We’ve now seen the evidence presented by both sides, and it’s abundantly clear that the charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ has no basis.  The government should withdraw that charge,” said Widney Brown senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International.
Manning’s lawyers asked the judge to dismiss these and other charges in a motion filed over the weekend.
“The prosecution should also take a long, hard look at its entire case and move to drop all other charges that aren’t supported by the evidence presented,” said Widney Brown.
Last week, prosecutors withdrew a charge that Manning had leaked intelligence to a “classified enemy”.
To prove the charge that Manning has “aided the enemy,” the U.S. government has to establish that he gave potentially damaging intelligence information to an enemy, and that he did so knowingly, with what presiding judge Col. Denise Lind called “a general evil intent”.
The prosecution has struggled throughout the trial to make a convincing case for this charge. Its own witnesses repeatedly told the court that they found no evidence that Manning was sympathetic towards al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, that he had never expressed disloyalty to his country, that they had no evidence that he had ties to any government other than his own, and that they had no reason to believe he had ever collected money for the information he disclosed.
Instead, government witnesses testified, for example, that Manning was involved in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and is on “on the extreme Democratic side” in political terms.
“The government’s case for ‘aiding the enemy’ is ludicrous, and that’s not surprising,” said Widney Brown. “What’s surprising is that the prosecutors in this case, who have a duty to act in the interest of justice, have pushed a theory that making information available on the internet -- whether through Wikileaks, in a personal blog posting, or on the website of The New York Times -- can amount to ‘aiding the enemy.’”
In fact, at times it appeared that the prosecutors were putting Wikileaks, rather than Manning, on trial.  The charges against Manning do not include conspiracy with Wikileaks or any other actor, so the relevance of this aspect of the prosecution’s case was not clear.
The government faced challenges in proving lesser charges as well. He’s charged, among other offences, with the use of unauthorised software and other alleged violations of similar operating procedures. But one special agent testifying for the prosecution told the court that at least one of the programmes Manning was accused of illegally adding to his computer was in fact used by everyone in Manning’s intelligence cell. Other software used by Manning was not expressly prohibited by commanders, the court heard.


Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) has a piece on the peace movement's slow death in the US:


First and foremost, the closeness of some members of the larger coalition, UFPJ, to the Democratic Party essentially insured that anti-imperialist elements within the antiwar movement would ultimately be marginalized. Although ANSWER’s analysis was (and is) more consistently anti-imperialist, it has its own problems, especially in its appeal to many in the antiwar left and its tendency to avoid talking about the excesses of authoritarian leaders like Saddam Hussein. In my opinion, it is virtually impossible to oppose the machinery of US imperialism without an anti-imperialist understanding of the US role in the world. Any other approach limits the success and the goals of any antiwar movement. This is exactly what happened. The presence of the Democratic Party in the antiwar movement and its ability to siphon off so many activists into various politician and single-issue campaigns pretty much guaranteed the election of a Democrat in 2008; a Democrat who would tone down the US wars while maintaining Washington’s quest for world domination.
Another manifestation of the drawbacks in being so closely aligned with a major political party (Democrats) is that once that party is in power, any movement associated with it is almost certain to fizzle out. As Debra Sweet of World Can’t Wait wrote in an email, “The crowning blow to the mass movement against the wars was that the Bush regime was driven out — by a mass movement created from the top to support a president whose mission was to save the system, restore US credibility internationally, speak the language of multiculturalism, while essentially carrying out the program of empire as commander in chief.” Barack Obama is the current face of this charade.
From the moment the US invaded Afghanistan, the opposition to that action has been muted. Besides the anti-imperialists of the left and right most people in the US have at the least, tacitly supported the endeavor. Once again, the fact that it was not opposed by most of the US antiwar movement until late in the game is evidence of where the lack of an anti-imperialist understanding can lead. The US presence in Afghanistan, beginning at the very latest in the 1970s with US support of the anti-Soviet mujahedin, was never about freedom for the Afghan people or about capturing Osama bin Laden. It was always about extending the US presence into the region. So is the ongoing support for the regimes in Pakistan, no matter how repressive and anti-democratic they may be.









 





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