Saturday, July 27, 2013

David Brooks and other embarrassments

Yesterday on All Things Considered (NPR), David Brooks showed what an ass he was and probably spoke for a million and one pundits in the process:

SIEGEL: One other topic. The House of Representatives voted this week against limiting the gathering of phone data by the National Security Agency. The vote was, and you can take your pick now, either a near-win for what Idaho Tea Party Congressman Raul Labrador called the wingnut coalition, right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats, or an actual win for pro-security, pro-establishment Republicans and Democrats.

What happened this week, and what do you guys make of it? David?

BROOKS: I'd say it's a moral victory for the wingnuts. And, you know, you look at the moment. What are we faced with? We're faced with a rising libertarianism, both on the left and the right. That is the movement that's really rising in power. We saw in a bipartisan way in the Congress today.

SIEGEL: Chris Christie says it's dangerous, rising libertarianism.

BROOKS: I agree with that, but it's there.

DIONNE: I don't view it that way. I actually thought this was kind of a wonderful thing. Justin Amash, 33-year-old libertarian, John Conyers, 84-year-old liberal, say wait a minute, we have some questions to ask about the NSA. And the vote was as bipartisan as you'll ever find, 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats for it.

I don't think this is a vote to make us less secure. I think people have a lot of legitimate questions about the national security state. Great piece in David's paper about this FISA court, all the appointees being Republican. Let's open this debate. This was a vote to keep it open.

BROOKS: Well, I think we do have the debate, but we do have a situation where according to most of the people who actually know what they're talking about, these programs have saved lives.

You'll notice Robert Siegel isn't much better.  "Chris Christie says it's dangerous, rising libertarianism."  Oh, does Chris Christie say that?  And we care for what reason?  He's one of fifty governors and he's not anyone I'd listen to.  Presumably if Siegel's just quoting Christie, that means there are 49 governors who made no such statement.

Isn't that interesting that 205 members of Congress vote for something and Brooks refers to them as "wingnuts"? 

Maybe David Brooks is the real wingnut?




This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Friday, July 26, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, Nouri prepares to spend more money on weapons (while protesters demand basic public services like drinkable water and electricity), one of the prison escapees is caught in a Baghdad mosque, Bradley Manning's defense offers closing arguments, the US government insists that they have no desire to kill Ed Snowden, and more.



Today, protesters gathered across Iraq.  Iraqi Spring MC reports protesters gathered in Baghdad, in Basra, in Shirqat,  in Tikrit, in Samarra,  Protesters noted the increased violence and the lack of public services, the government's budget (and wondered what it was actually spent on).  National Iraqi News Agency notes Ramadi and Falluja saw "thousands" turn out.  In Ramadi, Imam Sheikh Saad Fayyad declared the government had an obligation to protect Sunnis from the militiasIn Diyala, there was a call to curb the militias and for "the federal government to release detainees."  In Samarra, Sheikh Samir Fouad called for the "government to stop the killing crimes against sons of Sunnis component by militias."   Alsumaria notes Shirqat protesters demanded improved security and improved living conditions. And Alsumaria reports that "hundreds" camped out in Baghdad's Firdous Square calling for an end to corruption.  In addition, protesters in Basra continue protesting.  Kitabat reports  that the Basra protests continue and that Shi'ites there are calling for a new government to be formed.  Al Mada notes that demonstrators in Anbar, Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Diyala Province all demanded that the government stop the targeting of Sunnis and, in Kirkuk, called on the Arab League and the United Nations to end the genocide of Iraq's Sunnis.


Since December 21st protests have been ongoing in Iraq. It has been seven months.  Many, possibly basing their conclusions on 2011 events, wrongly thought that the holy month of Ramadan would stop the protests.  While Ramada continues through August 7th, the fact is that Ramadan did not stop the protests or greatly reduce the turnout.  There's one Friday left. 

As for demands regarding public services, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that members of Parliament's Energy Committee state that the failure of the ministries to corrodinate and the mismanagement of government have left Iraq worse off in terms of power and that Nouri al-Maliki's two years of foot dragging with regards to a contract with Shell has left Iraq no where near able to provide the needed electricity to the citizens.  Nouri's government can't provide the basic public services.  The Iraq Times reports that Nouri is gearing up to purchase 12 helicopters and assorted other items from the United States.  Kitabat adds that Nouri's prepping to spend 2 billion.  Paul McLeary (Defense News) notes, "The Defense Department notified Congress on Thursday that it is working on three deals with the government of Iraq to sell $1.9 billion worth of military equipment and logistical support to the country, including Stryker infantry vehicles, helicopters and maintenance and logistical support for its fleet of American-made ground vehicles."

Yesterday, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency issued the following notice:


WASHINGTON, July 25 , 2013 – The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of Multi - Platform Maintenance a nd associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $ 750 million . 
The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale to provide for a five year follow - on maintenance support for the M88A1 Recovery Vehicle, M88A2 Hercules, M113 Family of Vehicles, M109A5 Howitzers, M198 Howitzers, M1070 Heavy Equipment Trailer and Truck (HETT), M977 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT ), High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and the Tactical Floating River Bridge System (TFRBS) Including, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, Quality Assurance Teams, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of program and logistics support. The estimated cost is $750 million. 
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner . This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States. 
Helping Iraq maintain, sustain, and effectively utilize the equipment it has purchased or received from the United States over the past decade is a U.S. priority. This proposed sale is essential to provide Iraq with the support, spares, services, and equipment necessary to continue its effective use of its ground - based vehicle fleet. 
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. 
The principal contractor involved in this program is unknown at this time . There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. 
Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Iraq over period of (5) years to establish maintenance support, on - the - job (OJT) maintenance training and maintenance advice for program and technical support and training. 
There will be no adverse impact on United States defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. 
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.


Meanwhile Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) argues that Iraqi politicians have grown estranged from the people that they are supposed to represent:

In the local elections, talk of a 50-70% boycott of the voting process was a real wake-up call. The politicians should have felt and handled the reasons for this boycott, so that it does not turn into a growing phenomenon challenging the legitimacy of the whole democratic system.
Today — less than eight months before the general elections are to be held — politicians should take to the street, share the street’s ideas, feel the suffering of the population and initiate launching social campaigns that prove the candidates are rooted in their communities.
Simply relying on pictures and slogans launched a few days prior to the elections does not show that Iraq is a serious political society. Yet, it repeatedly demonstrates that Iraq is controlled by the experiments of amateurs who don't possess the keys to the future.


The protests continue, the violence continues. Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 807 violent deaths so far this month.  July 2013 is on track to be the most violent month in Iraq since at least 2007.   NINA reports Nouri's SWAT forces raided Badush Prison and the raid resulted in the deaths of 2 prisoners, am armed attack in Balad left one police officer dead, a missile attack in Tikrit left two Iraqi soldiers injured, and police in Diyala killed 1 suicide bomber.  Alsumaria reports an armed attack to the south of Mosul has left Colonel Saad Khalil Saleh deadAl-Shorfa quotes the Ministry of the Interior's Colonel Hikmat Mahmoud al-Masari, "A bomb targeted a wedding ceremony in al-Ameriya neighbourhood, western Baghdad, on Thursday night, killing four civilians and wounding 11 others."




RT spoke with Stop the War's John Rees about the increase in violence.  Excerpt.


RT: It's a really alarming death toll we're talking about here. Does this mean Iraq's incapable of maintaining security on its own?
 

John Rees: I think what we are seeing is a long-term effect of the war and occupation. In order to occupy Iraq the Western forces, British and American, adopted a policy of divided rule. They made a sectarian conflict where there wasn’t one before. They created Al Qaeda in Iraq where there was no Al Qaeda before. So I think that the country is suffering under the most enormous strains as the result of that war and occupation. And those strains are being reinforced by the conflict in Syria where actually all sides are now attempting to gain leverage in that conflict through Iraq as well as in Syria.
 

RT:  But does Iraq really have enough resources to contain the violence?
 

JR: We must hope that they do so but truth of the matter is a terrifically weak government. It’s apparently divided in the middle between the people who are sympathetic to Iran’s position in the region and those who feel dependent on Washington. The government only last year made a contract with Russia, as you probably know, to become the second largest arm supplier after US to Iraq. Turkey is constantly impinging on Iraqi air space in order to pursue Kurds in the Iraqi Kurdish region. So it’s the state that’s been left in a catastrophically weak position by  the occupation and which economic positions in the Middle East are weakening still more.

Geoffrey Ingersoll (Business Insider) offers his take on the problems:


As the American presence dissipated, the Shi'ite majority, led by Maliki, quickly sought to consolidate power and mete out retribution on their former Sunni rulers.
Maliki's aggressive consolidation of power immediately aggravated domestic tensions. Rising to power in mid-2006, by 2007 he had staffed the higher positions of government with Shia loyalists. Then he began distancing his government from Sunni and Kurdish leaders, despite Petraeus' reassurances to Sunni leaders.
In 2009, he accused the Sunni security forces, known as the Sons of Iraq, of being infiltrated by Al Qaeda and Saddam-loyal Ba'athists — and analysts expressed worry that Maliki would actually declare war on the Sons of Iraq the moment the U.S. exited the country. This was rough treatment for the group that was largely responsible for taming Al Qaeda in Iraq and bringing peace to the restive western Anbar province.
Maliki could have reached out an olive branch to his rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose Sunni-backed, secular-Shiite coalition — called Iraqiya — represented a marginalized but relevant political body in Iraq. Instead, he turned to Iran, seeking monetary backing from the orthodox Shi'ite government.




Alsumaria reports that one escapee from Abu Ghraib prison was arrested today in an eastern Baghdad mosque.  The Sunday prison attacks and breaks only became news outside of Iraq when the number of prisoners who escaped (between 500 and one thousand) was announced on Monday.   Since then, the attacks on two prisons and the escape of prisoners earlier this week have prompted a great deal of the commentary on Iraq.  Today, Jon Lee Anderson (New Yorker)  weighs in:


The latest prison breakout includes, it is said, many senior terrorists, including a number who had been sentenced to death. It took place this past Sunday night, after a complex and bloody attack that included mortars and suicide bombers, as well as an assault by commandos. Several guards and inmates were killed. It comes a year to the day after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Iraq’s Al Qaeda chief, promised to free men from Iraq’s prisons. In the meantime, the Iraqi and Syrian affiliates of Al Qaeda have merged into what is called, with typical grandiloquence, “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
That Baghdadi has been able to fulfill his promise so blatantly and violently, under the noses of the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, is extremely alarming. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been surging back, with almost daily suicide attacks or car bombings, in a sectarian campaign against Shiites, as well as with attacks on the Iraqi security forces. Nearly three thousand people have died since April, and over seven hundred have died in July alone. On Thursday, more than forty people were killed in attacks that included the bombing of a café and the execution, by Al Qaeda commandos who, posing as security officers, set up a false checkpoint, of Shiite drivers and passengers.



While the prison news has gotten attention from outside Iraq,  to Iraqis another event this week has resonance as well.  Marwan Ibrahim (Middle East Online) observes:



Sunni militants summarily executed at least 14 Shiites on Thursday after setting up a roadblock north of Baghdad, stopping trucks and checking the IDs of drivers, Iraqi officials said.
The nighttime attack was reminiscent of the darkest days of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian bloodshed in Iraq in 2006-2007, when thousands of people were killed because of their religious affiliation or forced to abandon their homes under threat of death.



Kitabat notes that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has termed the prison breaks to be a major scandal and one that puts many Iraqis at risk.  All Iraq News quotes Sadr bloc MP Suzan al-Saad calls the prison breaks "the most dangerous threat to national security" and calls for the investigation to be sent "to Maliki's office because the intelligence system is unable to settle this issue."   On political issues, we drop back to yesterday's snapshot:


Shocking news was reported in Iraq today but there was no effort by the US press to pick it up nor was there any effort to ask a single question about Iraq in today's State Dept press briefing. Dar Addustour reported that certain elements of the Iraqi government (these would be Nouri and pro-Nouri elements -- that goes unstated in the article) are considering a six-point plan that these elements state will address the rising violence and curtail it.  The plan will do no such thing.  What it will actually do, if implemented, is inflame tensions even further and cause the slow building civil war to erupt in raging flames.  So what's Nouri's plan?


Dissolve the Parliament, abolish the Constitution, declare martial law, allow only Iraqi military forces (central Iraq -- this would eject the Peshmerga from all non-KRG areas -- and it would overrule provincial forces -- to the outrage of many), continue executions under emergency law (this would bypass the approval currently required from the presidency) and cut off all telecommunications and internet.
This is not a plan for stability.  It is a plan to carry out mass killings and to do so as far away from the world's eye as possible.  And the most shocking thing may be that the western press hasn't even noted this report.
In this already tense climate, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Parliament is contemplating what is being termed a government of salvation which would call for the resignation of Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in an effort to reduce violence and to address the political crises.  The plan is said to be discussed by members of Iraqiya, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and the Turkmen Front. All Iraq News reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is stating that a salvation government is not possible and that, "The current government will not resign because the remaining time of its term is very short.  We need a national agreement and to nominate the security ministers and to have a transparent revelation of what is going on in the country."


Earlier this week National Iraqi News Agency reported that Nouri had declared that the Constitution was a failure "not fit to build a state."  Nouri's disrespect for the Constitution is also evident in his refusal to appear before the Parliament.  NINA also notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declared yesterday that Nouri continues ro refuse to appear despite ongoing requests.  (The Constitution gives Parliament the power to question Nouri in a public session.)  All Iraq News quotes Iraqiya MP Waleed al-Muhamadi talking about the ongoing political crises in Iraq and noting, "Maliki talked about the situation in Iraq as if it is advanced and progressed and blamed all other sides excluding himself over the deterioration in Iraq.  If we want to overcome crises, we have to admit mistakes and failures."  Iraqiya is the political slate that beat Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 parliamentary elections. The head of Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi.  All Iraq News quotes Allawi stating that Nouri refuses to follow the Constitution, "Despite our repeated and honest calls for Maliki to adhere to the constitution, he did not respond to our calls."

Also on the Parliament, All Iraq News notes, "MP, Etab al-Dori, of the Iraqiya Slate called to adhere to the Open-slate system during the next parliamentary elections to avoid involving the corrupted in the formation of the next government and to increase the representation of women in about third of the seats of the next parliament. "

Iraq was briefly raised in today's US State Dept press briefing:


QUESTION: Can you confirm, or have you seen the reports that Iran has expressed the desire for direct talks with the U.S. regarding its nuclear program? And if so, what kind of role will Iraq play in that, if any?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen reports. Of course, Iraq is a partner of the United States, and we’re in regular conversations with Iraqi officials about a full range of issues of mutual interest, including Iran. As we’ve said many times, we’re open to direct talks with Iran in order to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. And we work through, as you all know, the P-5+1 and Under Secretary Sherman just had a meeting, I believe a couple of weeks ago, with her counterparts. But it is – the ball is in Iran’s court to take the necessary steps to abide by their international obligations. And that has not changed.

QUESTION: Do you know --

QUESTION: What about --

QUESTION: Do you know if Prime Minister Maliki has offered himself up, or offered his services as an intermediary?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you.

QUESTION: So you don’t know it’s that’s the case.

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything on it for you. I don’t have any more information on that.

QUESTION: So, the – you’re saying --

MS. PSAKI: It would also be – I would point you to the Government of Iraq and Iran on that specific –

QUESTION: Did you ask people in this building if that was the case?

MS. PSAKI: Of course we discuss these issues frequently. I don’t have anything more to tell you.

QUESTION: And they wouldn’t – and so they wouldn’t answer you. You got no answer?

MS. PSAKI: That – Matt – (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. The whole point of the story that she was caught talking, that the question is based on --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is that according to notes taken from a meeting with the U.S. – with U.S. diplomats in Iraq, the Prime Minister made this offer. That’s the whole --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to tell you, Matt. That’s all – I’m going to leave it at that.


Today the defense made their closing argument in the court-martial of Bradley Manning.  Richard A. Serrano  (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Young, naive, gay and good-intentioned, wanting to save lives in a combat zone, feeling responsible for U.S soldiers and Iraqi citizens and hoping they all make it home safely -- that is the true Pfc. Bradley Manning, his chief defense attorney asserted Friday on the final day of his Army court-martial."    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.




For truth telling, Brad's being punished by the man who fears truth: Barack Obama.  A fraud, a fake, a 'brand,' anything but genuine, Barack is all marketing, all facade and, for that reason, must attack each and every whistle-blower.  David Delmar (Digital Journal) points out, "President Obama, while ostensibly a liberal advocate of transparency and openness in government, and of the 'courage' and 'patriotism' of whistleblowers who engage in conscientious leaks of classified information, is in reality something very different: a vindictive opponent of the free press willing to target journalists for doing their job and exposing government secrets to the public."


 The Voice of Russia reports on the defense's closing argument:

"You have to see it through the eyes of someone who cares about everybody," said Coombs, referring to the 25-year-old Manning. "It is naive to feel a duty to everybody, but what a beautiful feeling."
He said it wasn't anti-American to have such feelings, arguing that it was one of the principles the United States was founded on.
Coombs replayed a video recording that Manning released to Wikileaks of an helicopter attack that killed civilians and Reuters journalists in Iraq.
He asked Judge Denise Lind how she would have felt seeing that as a 21-year-old, as Manning was at the time.
"What do you do when you can't disengage, when these pictures are burnt into your mind?" Coombs asked.


Ed Pilkington (Guardian) adds:

Over four hours of intense closing arguments at Fort Meade in Maryland, David Coombs set up a moral and legal clash of characterisations, between the Manning that he laid out for the court, and the callous and fame-obsessed Manning sketched on Thursday by the US government. "What is the truth?" the lawyer asked Colonel Denise Lind, the presiding judge who must now decide between the two accounts to reach her verdict.
"Is Manning somebody who is a traitor with no loyalty to this country or the flag, who wanted to download as much information as possible for his employer WikiLeaks? Or is he a young, naive, well-intentioned soldier who has his humanist belief central to his decisions and whose sole purpose was to make a difference."
Coombs answered his own rhetorical question by arguing that all the evidence presented to the trial over the past seven weeks pointed in one direction. "All the forensics prove that he had a good motive: to spark reforms, to spark change, to make a difference. He did not have a general evil intent."


Why would Coombs do that?  By refusing to go before a jury, a defense is left with making the case that laws are in conflict (we pointed that out some time ago, June 3rd) because then you're appealing to the judge's inherent vanity.  You present various conflicts and appeal to the judge's vanity to navigate through it, to make a ruling that only s/he can do because this law conflicts with that law and that law with this . . .  Inviting the judge into the maze is the defense's only hope at this point.  And the defense should have done that throughout the trial (but didn't) and the defense should have questioned (and didn't) every superior on how they were punished.  None were.  If Brad's actions were so outrageous, punishment should have gone up the chain of command.  It didn't.  Stressing that with each witness could have made that point clear.

And the prosecution?  They finished closing arguments yesterday.  While the defense took four hours today, the prosecution took five hours yesterday. Adam Klasfeld (Courthouse News) notes:

 Both the defense and prosecution quoted Pfc. Manning telling an online confidant at the age of 22, "If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months what would you do?"
     Defense attorney David Coombs began his opening arguments with the second half of the quote, in which Manning says he saw "incredible things, awful things, things that belonged on the public domain."
     "That is a whistle-blower," Coombs said. "That is somebody that wants to inform the American public."



On the prosecution's closing,  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reported:

The government’s prosecution of Pfc Bradley Manning has always tried to stretch the law to its breaking point to tack on as many charges as possible, and has often played fast and loose with the facts, creating growing signs of an unprofessional witch hunt attitude.
But today lead prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein sought to kick it up another notch, and with closing arguments nearing appears to have thrown any semblance of reality out the window in favor of furious rhetoric and ad hominem attacks.

Last night, Marcia wondered, "How do they live with themselves.  They are supposed to be following a moral/ethical code, after all.  They are supposed to care more about honor than the civilian prosecutors.  So exactly how do the military prosecutors lying about Bradley live with themselves? In the months and years after the verdict, will they be haunted by their actions?  Will they be sickened by their actions?"  The DoD does have standards of conduct so Marcia's question is one worth asking.

Today, FAIR's Jim Naureckas Tweeted:



  1. Journalists who decline to cover the Bradley Manning trial are missing a chance to attend their own funeral.


Explains Gloria Goodale (Christian Science Monitor):

The decision this past week by the presiding military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, to refuse to dismiss charges of "aiding the enemy," which carry a potential death sentence (though prosecutors have said they will not pursue it), is particularly important. Colonel Lind said Private Manning's military training would have given him knowledge that the information he divulged could be seen by America’s foes.
"He was knowingly providing intelligence to the enemy," she said, according to Reuters.
But that standard is an almost impossible one in the Internet era, when anything published is instantly available worldwide, Manning's supporters say. The result is that anyone who wants to inform fellow Americans about secret government actions – as Manning’s defense lawyers claim he was trying to do – is in danger of life in prison, or perhaps even death.


Barack's not just attempting to go after whistle-blower Bradley Manning, he's gone after anyone who threatens to tell the truth.  Let's turn to the NSA and this is from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

July 26, 2013, New York – Last night, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a request that the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reconsider the dismissal of its lawsuit against President Barack Obama, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and the heads of the other major national security agencies, challenging warrantless government surveillance of international telephone calls and emails under the program first disclosed in December 2005 by The New York Times. The dismissal came just five days after the publication of the first of Edward Snowden’s revelations of broad NSA surveillance and the PRISM program.  The filing highlights the importance of judicial review of secret NSA surveillance given the intense public debate about the legality of the NSA’s tactics.  
 
Said Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Shayana Kadidal, “Today’s filing challenges a catch-22 set up by the court: if members of the public find proof they were subject to surveillance, the proof is kicked out of the case as a state secret, but without such proof, even the most rational fears of surveillance will be rejected as ‘too speculative’ to support standing. Given recent revelations about the breadth of NSA surveillance, the plaintiffs’ fears are far from speculative.”
 
The suit, CCR v. Obama, was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of itself and its legal staff working on national security cases whose communications fit the criteria used by the NSA for targeting calls and emails under its surveillance program. CCR attorneys argued the program flouted existing surveillance statutes and had forced them to take costly and burdensome countermeasures to minimize the risk of having their privileged communications intercepted by the NSA.
 
The case, initially filed in 2006 against President George W. Bush, sought an injunction that would prohibit the NSA from conducting warrantless surveillance within the United States. When, in response, the government claimed it had shut down the program in January 2007, the CCR asked the court to order the government to destroy any records of surveillance that it still retains from the illegal NSA program. The lower court refused to do so, holding that a plaintiff challenging a secret surveillance program must be able to prove they were actually eavesdropped upon by the program in order to be able to challenge it in court, and the case moved to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision, relying on the Supreme Court’s February 2013 dismissal of a similar challenge to the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, Clapper v. Amnesty International.
 
To date the Obama administration has refused to take a position on whether or not the original NSA program was legal. 
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.


Ed Snowden is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights."  Former US President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."


The more Barack attempted to defend the spying, the more ridiculous he came off.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reviewed Barack's appearance on The Charlie Rose Show and observed of the 'explanations' offered, "None of that actually explains why this program is necessary. If there's a phone number that the NSA or the FBI gets that is of interest, then they should be able to get a warrant or a court order and request information on that number from the telcos. None of that means they should be able to hoover up everything."  As US House Rep John Conyers noted, "But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else.  You've already violated the law, as far as I am concerned."  Barack couldn't deal with that reality but did insist, in the middle of June, that this was an opportunity for "a national conversation."  He's always calling for that because, when it doesn't happen, he can blame the nation.  It's so much easier to call for "a national conversation" than for he himself to get honest with the American people. And if Barack really believes this has kicked off "a national conversation" then demonizing Ed Snowden is a really strange way to say "thank you."  Ed Snowden remains in Russia.  As Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) rightly noted last month, the pursuit of Ed has "has turned into a public humiliation for the White House."


 Today RT reports, "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has reassured his Russian counterpart that whistleblower Edward Snowden will not be tortured or given the death penalty if Moscow extradites him. The information emerged after the US Department of Justice disclosed the contents of a July 23 letter, which had generated fevered speculation on both sides of the Atlantic."

At the US State Dept today, the issue of the mistreatment of LGBTs in Russia was raised and State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki said it was an issue that would be raised but that was about it which led to the following exchange.

QUESTION: Can I – recalling – if you’ll recall that you just agreed with my statement that sometimes you do comment on pending legislation or draft legislation, I’d like to ask a Russia-related question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And this has – it’s not really Russia, but it’s Snowden and Senator Graham’s proposal from yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that would require sanctions against any country that takes him in or helps him out. What does the Administration think of that?

MS. PSAKI: I believe – let me – I have something on this, I believe, Matt. Let me just check. And if not, I’ll get you something right after the briefing. Well, in this case, we have not seen the text of the proposed bill, but we feel that in general legislation imposing sanctions under these circumstances would not be helpful.

QUESTION: And is that because that you believe that it should be the executive branch’s prerogative to do this if and – to do it if and when you see fit?

MS. PSAKI: Sanctions?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction about any --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you said --

MS. PSAKI: -- step we may or may not take.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: We just don’t think this particularly helpful.

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but – I understand what you’re saying.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I would echo the why do you not think it’s helpful. But also, I mean, is it just – is it a general objection that you don’t want Congress legislating foreign policy?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so. I’m not sure where you’re going with this.

QUESTION: I’m just asking. I mean, is the – if the objective is only that this is unhelpful, this specific thing is unhelpful, can you explain why you think it’s unhelpful? But in general, the Administration and past administrations have resisted attempts by Congress –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to legislate foreign policy.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: And so I’m wondering if your objection to this is related to that.

MS. PSAKI: Our focus in this specific case, as you know, is having Mr. Snowden returned to the United States, and we still feel Russia has the opportunity to do that and to take the right steps.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Beyond that, I just don’t have any more evaluation or analysis for you.

QUESTION: No, but I’m talking about Senator Graham’s proposal.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I just don’t – I don’t have anything more on that for you.

QUESTION: Because it’s – but you are – but it says you think that – you’ve said that you think it’s unhelpful, right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. So why is it unhelpful? Or is it just more broadly there’s an objection because it would be Congress legislating the executive branch’s ability to conduct foreign policy?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to talk more to our legislative team, Matt. I just don’t have any more specifics than what I offered.

QUESTION: Because it seems to me that these days or nowadays, after yesterday at least --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that it doesn’t really matter what Congress enacts into law, because you can just choose to ignore it if you feel like you want to.

MS. PSAKI: It certainly does matter. That’s why we’re continuing to work closely with them on Egypt. I knew you were going somewhere with this.

QUESTION: No, I wasn’t. That just occurred to me at the very end.


Meanwhile, the Belarusian Telegraph Agency reports:

It is high time Russia granted political asylum to Snowden, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told media on 26 July, BelTA has learned.
 “The matter has been spun out of control and it is likely that today Russia’s leadership may not know what to do with Snowden. In their place I would not stress myself too much but would go ahead and grant political asylum to him,” said the Belarus President.
Alexander Lukashenko explained his view by saying that America has given shelter to hundreds of Russian traitors. “They have given shelter to so many people, have stolen so many secrets from us, they have sheltered so many terrorists, whose extradition Russia demands,” the Belarusian leader said.





 iraq


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The fate of the nation

Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) observes:



It’s now painfully clear that the president has put out a contract on the Fourth Amendment. And at the Capitol, the hierarchies of both parties are stuffing it into the trunks of their limousines, so each provision can be neatly fitted with cement shoes and delivered to the bottom of the Potomac.
Some other Americans are on a rescue mission. One of them, Congressman Justin Amash, began a debate on the House floor Wednesday with a vow to “defend the Fourth Amendment.” That’s really what his amendment — requiring that surveillance be warranted — was all about.
No argument for the Amash amendment was more trenchant than the one offered by South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan, who simply read the Fourth Amendment aloud.



What a legacy, being responsible for the death of the Fourth Amendment.  But he clearly doesn't care about his legacy or he wouldn't have persecuted the press, Ed Snowden, Bradley Manning and so many others.  Barack is the biggest fraud of the century and people are waking up to that.  It's why he's tanking in the polls and has reached a new level when it comes to Americans insisting the president is doing a lousy job.

He may be able to leave office even more despised than Bully Boy Bush.  It wouldn't surprise me at this point.

On the topic of Ed Snowden, Eric London (WSWS) reports:


Snowden has been trapped in the transit zone for over a month because of efforts by the Obama administration to capture and jail the young whistle-blower. These attempts have included threatening phone calls and the forced grounding of the flight of Bolivian president Evo Morales.
But Snowden’s status as an asylum seeker remains tenuous. Despite the entrance certificate, Snowden has not yet been granted temporary asylum, a deliberation process which authorities with the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) say may take three months.
For its part, the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin has refused to grant Snowden safe asylum unless he stops all “political activity.” An official with the FMS said on Wednesday that once released from the airport, Snowden will “only be allowed to stay in places designated by Russian law enforcement agencies.”



This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Thursday, July 25, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a new report asserts Nouri is contemplating martial law and more, some in Parliament want to initiate a protective government, Ed Snowden remains in Russia, the poll about the huge shift is actually a poll revealing no real shift and no real poll, some members of the US Congress try to end the illegal spying while others embrace it, and more.


The Press Trust of India notes, ""The US is not asking for 'extradition', but simply the return of Mr Snowden. We have sent many people back to Russia," ambassador Michael McFaul wrote on Twitter." Michal McFaul is an idiot who is openly hostile to Russia and has been for decades so it's another one of Barack's failed appointments.  Extradition is the term.  "Return" is not the term.  McFaul is not only an idiot, he's also a liar (a fairly common trait, many would say, among those who were Hoover Institute fellows).  He knows the difference.  Ed Snowden is in another country and the US government wants him in the US to charge him with crimes.  Russia is being asked to participate in extradition.  Just because McFaul is one of the few ambassadors Barack's appointed who didn't buy his seat doesn't mean that he has integrity.


Snowden is whistle-blower Ed Snowden who remains trapped in a Russian airport as an elderly man mocks him on TV, as outlets claim the American public is turning against him and as the US Senate contemplates measures against Russia.  What is going on?


A great deal, but first reality,  Ed Snowden is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights." The more Barack attempted to defend the spying, the more ridiculous he came off.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reviewed Barack's appearance on The Charlie Rose Show and observed of the 'explanations' offered, "None of that actually explains why this program is necessary. If there's a phone number that the NSA or the FBI gets that is of interest, then they should be able to get a warrant or a court order and request information on that number from the telcos. None of that means they should be able to hoover up everything."  As US House Rep John Conyers noted, "But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else.  You've already violated the law, as far as I am concerned."  Barack couldn't deal with that reality but did insist, in the middle of June, that this was an opportunity for "a national conversation."  He's always calling for that because, when it doesn't happen, he can blame the nation.  It's so much easier to call for "a national conversation" than for he himself to get honest with the American people. And if Barack really believes this has kicked off "a national conversation" then demonizing Ed Snowden is a really strange way to say "thank you."


An elderly man mocks him?  David Letterman, the true definition of ass -- actually the true definition of ass with nose hair. Up close, David Letterman's nose hair is probably his most distinguished characteristic and, no, that's not a plus.  Last night the angry, bitter and, yes, highly sexist, talk show host decided the thing to do was a skit mocking Ed Snowden (again mocking, actually).  That's because David is incredibly stupid.  That's why women have long complained about their treatment on his show and why CBS is eager to move Letterman to the door.  Long after he's forgotten -- and he's no Johnny Carson -- Ed Snowden's revelations will have still made a difference and maybe that's what pisses Dave off the most these days?  No, what pisses him off the most is that his staid and dull CBS program is a lousy way to end the career especially when compared to NBC's Late Night with David Letterman -- a program that actually found him offering some cultural significance.  But that's when Merrill Markoe was in charge of the smiling creation known as "Dave" and not the hack writers Letterman pays on the cheap these days.  Today, tired, old Letterman has all the significance and cachet of Shecky Greene.  Attacking Ed Snowden in skits only ensures that he fades all the quicker.

The US Senate isn't fading away anytime soon ("sadly," some may add).  But Press TV reports they're "considering possible trade sanctions against Russia" should it grant asylum to Ed Snowden.  Having failed at his efforts to kill the Winter Olympics, Senator Lindsey Graham is now pushing this because, clearly, nothing matters more to the citizens of South Carolina than this issue.  See, things are perfect in South Carolina and -- Oh, wait, unemployment has gone up.   Well, at least your seat is safe and -- Oh, wait.  David Sherfinski (Washington Times) reports that a significant conservative challenge is mounting against you for the 2014 GOP primary.  Well, at least you'll be known as the senator obsessed with Russia.  Certainly, the unemployed and those fearful of becoming unemployed will be thrilled with your focus on that.  Reuters reports, "A US Senate panel voted unanimously Thursday to seek trade or other sanctions against Russia or any other country that offers asylum to Edward Snowden. The 30-member Senate Appropriations Committee adopted by consensus an amendment to a spending bill that would direct Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with congressional committees to come up with sanctions against any country that takes Snowden in."

 Which brings us to the poll.  After weeks and weeks of attacks from MSNBC (and Letterman), ABC and the Washington Post want to do a new poll and how it was shopped around, the results.  Or, if you know a damn thing about polling, the 'results.'  I really hoped someone else would do the work this time but we can only wait so long.


Question 13 is the one that everyone's zoomed in on.  Well, no, they haven't.  That would require work.  They've zoomed in on what has been billed as the results of the poll but it's question 13.  The false claim is presented by Jon Cohen and Dan Balz (Washington Post) when they insist, "In the new poll, 53 percent say Snowden should be charged with a crime, up 10 percentage points in a month."  They at least fail to lead with that -- probably because they realize it's trumped up and not reality.   Gary Langer (ABC News) opens with,  "Public attitudes have shifted against Edward Snowden, with more than half of Americans now supporting criminal charges against the former security contractor who’s disclosed details of surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency."  Out of the mouths of idiots.

So what's the reality? 

As always, go to the raw data.  There you'll find the question: "A former government contractors named Edward Snowden has released information to the media about intelligence-gathering efforts by the U.S. National Security Agency.  Do you support or oppose Snowden being charged with a crime for disclosing the NSA's intelligence-gathering efforts?  Do you fell that way strongly, or somewhat?"

First up, the question has changed since June.  When you alter the wording -- which they admittedly did (follow the note by the asterisk), you can't claim you're measuring the same thing.  So let's lose the notion that the respondents in both polls are responding to the same question.  And since the new phrase is a charged one that benefits the administration, let's really stop comparing the June and July results -- whores can continue to compare them because whores busy their bodies so much that their minds never have time for actual thought.

The reality is 36%  favor prosecution, 19% oppose it (in the case outlined in the question).  Somewhat?  The case is known.  If you have an opinion on either side, you have a strong opinion, you have a firm one.  This story didn't just emerge yesterday.  When you add the somewhats you get 36%.  That's the figure of people who feel they have to give an answer but don't really have an opinion and they need to be lumped in with the 11%.  That gives you 47% of Americans have no opinion.

If you think Ed's action warrant criminal prosecution, you have a strong feeling.  If you think (as I do) that Ed doesn't deserve to be criminally prosecuted, you have a strong feeling.  Those of us in the two camps know where we stand.  The 47% of Americans do not.

There are numerous reasons why Americans now feel more 'fogged' about the issues involved than they did a month ago.  This can include the attacks from MSNBC as well as the near daily attacks by the State Dept (I believe there have been only two State Dept press briefings that did not demonize Ed) and by the White House.  It can also include, and this is probably the largest effect, the reports on Ed that divorced his presence in Russia from the actual story (of revelations by him and the government's demonization of him).  I would also include a chunk in there (small but significant) for China and Russia in terms of fears of Americans that he's going to reveal state secrets to those two governments.  That's not going to happen and probably within six to eight weeks that small chunk of people responding based upon that will be an even smaller chunk and no longer significant.

We've taken on polls here since 2004.  You can check our online record, there are no mistaken interpretations here thus far.  We've taken on polls with results we agreed with as well as with results we opposed.  It has nothing to do with either (though I'm more inclined to explore a poll whose 'reported' 'results' raise my eyebrows).  The analysis above is what the data says.  People may like it or they may hate it but that's the reality of the data.  It's a real shame that common sense is in such short supply at ABC where they try to run with a finding that's both extreme and false.  At least the Washington Post, running with the same finding, didn't lead with it.

I would further add that when taking responses in the United States, you do so in the native tongue.  If you're speaking -- as they were in administering the poll (again, look at the raw data) -- in Spanish, I think you're poll is clouded.  Why?  Because you're presenting this as a national security issue, that's what your poll is doing.  If a respondents isn't comfortable responding in English, that usually means they hail from another country.  Asking a person who has immigrated questions about national security in a host country can alarm the respondent.  This is a polling no-no.  You do not know where the person hails from, you do not know if they left their country of origin due to safety concerns, you do not know how safe they feel their answers are, you do not know if they are a resident who can be deported.  Any of these factors can result in a respondent giving a false response to a poll on US national security issues and government spying.  The entire poll is flawed and those administrating it wasted everyone's money.


The spying took place and it will now continue.  The Voice of Russia (link is audio) noted this development.


Crystal Park:  Despite the major public uproar caused by Edward Snowden's revelation the NSA is spying on Americans' phone records, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has announced the controversial program has been renewed for another three months. Since Snowden's bombshell, President Obama and other government officials have defended the NSA program as a necessary tool to fight terrorism. They have not, however, released the legal reasoning to justify the surveillance, and energy is clearly building in Congress to narrow its scope and challenge its legality.


Crystal Park discussed the issues with the ACLU's Patrick Toomey.  Excerpt.


Patrick Toomey:  The fact that the NSA disclosed the extension of the order, we think, was a self-serving strategy to show that the court has not been shaken in its confidence and its reasoning in support of the program and that it reauthorized the phone record collection of all Americans' phone calls despite the public uproar that's followed Mr. Snowden's disclosures.  But I would note for the public that the NSA has not yet revealed the legal reasoning that stands behind the program, the court order is still secret that the FISA court has not released that order to the public and, therefore, the public has no way of really scrutinizing the legal interpretations that went into it.

Crystal Park: Sure, the Americans are not going to know the nitty gritty and the legality of the program but do you think that this is a precedent that Edward Snowden has set just by revealing the fact that the program exists and the NSA realizes that they have an angry public to answer to?  Do you think that, in one way, this is something good that has come out of the revelation from Edward Snowden?

Patrick Toomey:  We certainly think it's good that the public is learning more.  You know, it is unfortunate that the NSA's hand was forced in this way and we don't believe that their commitment to transparency goes anywhere beyond really what they view as mere necessity in their management of public relations.  They clearly do not want to be having this discussion.  They think that the debate over the legality of this program should be off the table.  We are glad that Mr. Snowden has spurred this debate but we really hope that it will produce much more transparency than just the NSA's disclosure that the program itself has been extended.  We really want the public to have an open debate about the balance between national security and their liberties.  And that debate is still developing and still really needs to happen in a public way.

Crystal Park:  So, Patrick I assume that you believe the only reason why the NSA has come out to announce the program has extended is simply because of what happened with Edward Snowden, otherwise they wouldn't have done such a thing.

Patrick Toomey: That's exactly right.  I think that apart from that, it would not have come out.


Last night, the US House of Representatives had a chance to end the spying.  They failed to do so.    BBC News reports:


In a 205-217 vote, lawmakers rejected an effort to restrict the National Security Agency's (NSA) ability to collect electronic information.
The NSA's chief had lobbied strongly against the proposed measure.
The vote saw an unusual coalition of conservatives and liberal Democrats join forces against the programme.



 A fact sheet on the amendment noted:

The Amash-Conyers amendment ends NSA’s blanket collection of Americans’ telephone records.  It does this by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation.
The amendment has three important practical effects.  First, it ends the mass surveillance of Americans.  The government no longer is authorized under Sec. 215 to hold a pool of metadata on every phone call of every American.  Second, the amendment permits the government to continue to acquire business records and other “tangible things” that are actually related to an authorized counterterrorism investigation.  The government still has access to this tool under the amendment, but it’s forced to comply with the intent of Congress when it passed Sec. 215.  Third, the amendment imposes more robust judicial oversight of NSA’s surveillance.  The FISA court will be involved every time NSA searches Americans’ records, and the court will have a substantive, statutory standard to apply to make sure the NSA does not violate Americans’ civil liberties.
What steps would the government take to collect records if the Amash-Conyers amendment were enacted?  The government would have to provide facts to the FISA court to show that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought (1) are relevant to an appropriately authorized national security investigation and (2) pertain to the person (including any group or corporation) under investigation. 
We know that the government can use that process effectively in its investigations because it already does.  Based on the government’s public statements, it appears that the government routinely goes to the FISA court for Sec. 215 orders for tangible things pertaining to persons under investigation.  If the government uses non-bulk collection for other Sec. 215 orders, there is no good reason why the government needs bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata.


Shaun Waterman (Washington Times) also notes the vote:

Top intelligence officials from the Obama and Bush administrations, along with senior House lawmakers from both parties, succeeded Wednesday in heading off the first legislative challenge to the domestic snooping program exposed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Arrayed against them was an equally odd cross-section of the political spectrum. Tea party libertarian Republicans and Democratic civil rights advocates — generally at odds — were united behind an amendment to a must-pass defense spending bill that would defund the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records.

The amendment was proposed by US House Rep Justin Amash and US House Rep John Conyers.  Following the vote, Amash Tweeted this:


  • We came close (205-217). If just seven Representatives had switched their votes, we would have succeeded. Thank YOU for making a difference. We fight on to defend liberty.

    22 hours ago
At US House Rep John Conyers Twitter feed, many of those who voted for the amendment were noted:




  1. Thanks to Rep. for your leadership defending privacy rights of Americans
  2. Voted for -Conyers but lost 205-217
  3. Voted for amend to DOD Approps. Would have prevented $ for domestic surveillance program from data mining Oregonians. Didnt pass
  4. Russ Feingold was right on Patriot Act. I'm voting YES on amendment to end invasion of privacy.
  5. This Capitol was built on the balance of govt. protecting this country and our privacy. I voted for .
  6. We must restore the proper balance between privacy & security. That's why I voted YES to the amendment.
  7. I voted YES on amdt to stop collecting every Americans phone record metadata. We were close: 205-217
  8. House vote on amendment = sign of growing support to reform programs:
  9. Will be voting YES on Amash amendment regarding NSA



  10. Ready to vote "yes" on the to rein in the . Thanks to everyone in who called in today to voice their opinions!

For a breakdown of the votes, click here.  94 Republicans voted for the Amendment, 111 Democrats voted for it (12 House members did not vote).  Among the idiots voting for it?  Corrine Brown.  The woman with the ugly wigs who can't even get them on straight, the woman who can't speak functional English had a vote.  Shame on Florida's Fifth District for allowing that idiot to represent them.  When we called out Corrine (that got louder when she thought she was going to be the new Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee) a few visitors e-mailed the public account to insist that she had not done a 360 to whore for Barack. Yes, she has.  She disgraced herself making excuses for the VA when veterans were waiting for their GI BIll checks -- she blamed the veterans, she blamed the colleges. She's a disgrace.  When Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House, she couldn't stop complaining about illegal spying. Instead of defending this idiot, you need to hold her accountable.  She's voted for the Libyan War, she's voted to keep US troops in Afghanistan, go down the list.  She's a joke and every time she opens her mouth, the entire country laughs at the Fifth District of Florida.
Of the vote, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) offers:

The amendment failed, unfortunately, but the 205-217 vote showed that many in the House were willing to buck party leadership in favor of the American public’s demands to see the NSA powers curbed.
Public [opinion] is overwhelmingly against the NSA’s surveillance, but it takes a long time for it to trickle into the halls of Congress, and even longer to find its way into the Senate. That the Amash Amendment managed not only to get a hearing but to come within a hair’s breadth of passing is an encouraging sign that public sentiment is starting to get noticed on this issue.

 Today, Ed Snowden was yet again a topic in the US State Dept press briefing.  Marie Harf was the spokesperson handling the briefing.

 QUESTION: Do you have any – do you have an update on Edward Snowden, anything new?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update. It’s still our belief that he’s in the transit lounge at the Moscow Airport, and nothing new on that.
QUESTION: And the Senate bill that was passed yesterday about getting the State Department to advise lawmakers on punishments for asylum-seekers, where are you on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that, but I’m happy to look into it and get back to you.
QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes.

[. . .]

 
QUESTION: Can we have one on Snowden?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday, and I think even before the U.S. was seeking clarity – I mean, how long does it take to seek clarity? Can we get – did you get any clarity from the Russians about what they plan to do?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been in discussions through appropriate channels, as you know, with the Russians on this. We continue to make the point that he needs to be returned to the United States. I think the clarity that Jen mentioned yesterday was in reference to his current status, because yesterday when we were down here, there was a lot of question if he was leaving or not. It is our belief, it is our understanding, that he is still in the transit lounge of the airport. So, yes, we do have clarity on that.
QUESTION: And what is Russia’s intent?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: And do you know what Russia is saying that it wants to do? I mean, or is it telling you?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to read out private diplomatic conversations or speculate on what their intent is. We’ve made it clear what our position is, that he needs to be returned to the United States to face these charges as soon as possible.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I think the U.S. has given Russian citizens, about 2,500 Russian citizens, asylum automatically. I think the number for China is, like, 40,000. These are numbers from the Justice Department. Do you have some empathy with Moscow considering this case is deep as it is, considering so many thousands of their nationals have been given asylum here?
MS. HARF: Well, what we said to the Russians is what we will continue to say, that he is a U.S. citizen accused of very serious felony charges. This – we’re not comparing this case to any other. He needs to be returned to the United States, where he will be afforded a free and fair trial.
I would also underscore that we are asking Russia to build on our cooperative history of working together on law enforcement issues, particularly in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. So we continue to press this with the Russians, and will do so going forward.
Yes.
QUESTION: But there are two – specifically two Russians that are considered – that Russia considers terrorists who came to the United States. I believe they are Chechens. I gave the names – I’m sorry I don’t have them right with me, but I gave them to the State Department yesterday.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And they’re specifically saying that these guys are terrorists, and the United States did not extradite them; therefore, why do you expect us to extradite anyone back to you? So, could we get an answer to that?
MS. HARF: Let me double-check on the names. I know that you gave them to us, and I’ll check on where that stands.
But again, we are not comparing this to any other case. We’ve been clear with the Russians that he is a U.S. citizen wanted on very serious charges here, and he needs to be returned to the United States. But I can check on those, Jill. I know you gave those to us. I’ll check on that for you.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Jen mentioned that there were hundreds of Russians who have been returned back to Moscow at their request, and I asked for some more details. Do you have those details?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional details for you on that today. I’m happy to provide them as we get them.
QUESTION: And also, I thought yesterday the clarity that was being sought was whether Russia had actually issued him with a document that would allow him to leave the transit lounge.
MS. HARF: I think what Jen said was that we were seeking clarity on his current situation, because there were a lot of conflicting reports about whether he had left or was leaving or was looking for certain documents. Again, he is – remains in the lounge at the airport, so we have clarity on where he is, and we will continue to make our case with the Russians.
QUESTION: Do you know whether Moscow has actually issued him with this document that would allow him to leave?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any details on that for you.


Ed Snowden was also noted on Democracy Now! today (link is text, audio and video) as guest Jeremy Scahill noted that the White House attempts war on the press in foreign countries as well as they attempted to block the release of journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye from a Yemeni prison.  Excerpt.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about the White House’s response to the release of Shaye. Jeremy Scahill contacted the National Security Council for a response. This is what the National Security Council spokesperson, Bernadette Meehan wrote. She wrote, quote, "We are concerned and disappointed by the early release of Abd-Ilah-Shai, who was sentenced by a Yemeni court to five years in prison for his involvement with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula." Jeremy Scahill, talk about what they have said.
JEREMY SCAHILL: First of all, we should—we should let that statement set in. The White House is saying that they are disappointed and concerned that a Yemeni journalist has been released from a Yemeni prison. The White House is citing his conviction, that he supposedly was a supporter of al-Qaeda, in a kangaroo court, a court that was condemned by every major international media freedom organization, every major international human rights organization, that it was a total sham trial, where he was kept in a cage during the course of his prosecution and was convicted on trumped-up charges. So, Mr. Constitutional Law Professor President is saying that this Yemeni court, that has been condemned by every international human rights organization in the world, is somehow legitimate.
Secondly, when I’ve asked the White House and the State Department for a shred of evidence that Abdulelah Haider Shaye was guilty of anything other than journalism, critical journalism, they won’t provide it. They just say what they often do: "State secrets. Trust us."
The fact is, Abdulelah Haider Shaye is a journalist who did very critical interviews with people like Anwar al-Awlaki. If you go back and you read his interviews with Awlaki, he’s challenging him on his praise of the underwear bomb attempt, saying, "But that was a plane full of civilians. How was that a legitimate target?" In fact, I would put forward that Abdulelah Haider Shaye asked more critical questions of figures within the al-Qaeda organization in Yemen than a single member of the "Caviar Correspondents Association" in the United States, those jokers who sit in the front row and pretend to play journalists on television.
This was a man who was put in prison because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children. And the United States had tried to cover it up. They had the Yemeni government take responsibility for the strikes. The U.S. role was not initially owned. They said that they had blown up an al-Qaeda training camp. The reality was, women and children were killed. And why do we know that? We know it for two reasons. One is because Abdulelah Haider Shaye went to the scene, he took photographs of what were clearly U.S. cruise missile parts with "General Dynamics" on them, "Made in the United States" on them, and because of the WikiLeaks cables showing that General David Petraeus, who at the time was the CENTCOM commander, conspired with the Yemeni dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, for the United States to begin bombing Yemen in the form of drones and cruise—drone strikes and cruise missile strikes and to have the Yemeni government publicly take responsibility for it. So when Abdulelah Haider Shaye exposed this and it became clear to the world that the Obama administration was starting to bomb Yemen, he was abducted by Yemen’s U.S.-backed political security forces. He was taken to a jail and beaten and told that if he continued to report on the U.S. bombing campaign in Yemen, that he would be put back in jail. He went straight from his beating onto the airwaves of Al Jazeera and said, "I was just abducted by Yemen security forces, and they threatened me." And then, some months later, his house was raided in a night raid, and he was snatched and disappeared for 30 days. He was then brought into a court that was set up specifically to prosecute journalists who had committed crimes against the U.S.-backed dictatorship and was sentenced to five years in that court.
So, my question for the White House would be: You want to co-sign a dictator’s arrest of a journalist, beating of a journalist, and conviction in a court that every human rights organization in the world has said was a sham court? That’s the side that the White House is on right now, not on the side of press freedom around the world. They’re on the side of locking up journalists who have the audacity to actually be journalists.
[. . .]
 Yeah, I mean, look at this White House’s position on whistleblowers and on journalists. You had the seizure of the Associated Press phone records. You have record numbers of prosecutions and indictments under the Espionage Act. You have what I think amounts to a criminalization of independent reporting. This White House seems intent on having the only information that journalists have access to official leaks, when it is meant to make the White House look noble and saving the world for peace, freedom and democracy. And any independent reporting or talking to sources that are not official is frowned upon, and at times prosecuted.
There was a recent court decision that I think is very disturbing. James Risen of The New York Times has been ordered to testify against a source of his who was a whistleblower. You have Bradley Manning’s trial coming to conclusion. The charge against him of aiding the enemy boils down to an assertion that anyone who provides information on the Internet, that then can be read by a terrorist, is somehow aiding the enemy. They’re actually contending that Bradley Manning, in leaking the diplomatic cables, aided Osama bin Laden directly, because Osama bin Laden was reported to have read some of the WikiLeaks cables. If that charge sticks, it should be chilling not just for journalists, but for the public at large, in the day of social media, when everyone is a journalist of sorts.
So, this administration has been utterly shameful in its approach toward a free press, toward whistleblowers, and it fundamentally undermines the notion that we have a free press in a democratic society. The fact that they had a Yemeni journalist jailed in a Yemeni court and kept him in prison there and are now deeply concerned and upset that he’s been released speaks volumes about this administration’s attitude toward journalists.



Shocking news was reported in Iraq today but there was no effort by the US press to pick it up nor was there any effort to ask a single question about Iraq in today's State Dept press briefing. Dar Addustour reported that certain elements of the Iraqi government (these would be Nouri and pro-Nouri elements -- that goes unstated in the article) are considering a six-point plan that these elements state will address the rising violence and curtail it.  The plan will do no such thing.  What it will actually do, if implemented, is inflame tensions even further and cause the slow building civil war to erupt in raging flames.  So what's Nouri's plan?

Dissolve the Parliament, abolish the Constitution, declare martial law, allow only Iraqi military forces (central Iraq -- this would eject the Peshmerga from all non-KRG areas -- and it would overrule provincial forces -- to the outrage of many), continue executions under emergency law (this would bypass the approval currently required from the presidency) and cut off all telecommunications and internet.

This is not a plan for stability.  It is a plan to carry out mass killings and to do so as far away from the world's eye as possible.  And the most shocking thing may be that the western press hasn't even noted this report.

In this already tense climate, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Parliament is contemplating what is being termed a government of salvation which would call for the resignation of Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in an effort to reduce violence and to address the political crises.  The plan is said to be discussed by members of Iraqiya, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and the Turkmen Front. All Iraq News reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is stating that a salvation government is not possible and that, "The current government will not resign because the remaining time of its term is very short.  We need a national agreement and to nominate the security ministers and to have a transparent revelation of what is going on in the country."

Meanwhile, Kitabat reports thousands are protesting in Basra today against the government, its inability to provide security and the lack of public services.  What makes this especially news worthy is that Basra is predominately Shi'ite (the non-Shi'ite population is less than 15% of the total population).  There have been ongoing protests against the government since December 21st but the worldwide press has repeatedly portrayed it as a "Sunni protest."  It has not been just Sunnis but it is harder to portray the protest in Basra as "Sunni."  Most likely, this protest is in response to Moqtada al-Sadr's weekend remarks noting that people should be in the streets protesting the lack of security and the failure of the government to provide the basics.

Former Prime Minister Ibrahiam al-Jaafari spoke of Nouri today.  Kitabat reports he called out Nouri's recent verbal attacks on Moqtada and maintains that Nouri's remarks are an effort to create a crisis which will help distract from the two prison breaks this week.  Alsumaria notes that, in a press conference today, Speaker of Parliament al-Nujaifi noted that a Parliamentary commission is investigating the prison breaks and will have findings to release by this Sunday. Alsumaria also notes that the Human Rights Commission of Iraq is stating the prison breaks are a "disgrace" and a stain for Nouri.  All Iraq News notes that Nouri is supposed to meet later today with Osama al-Nujaifi.

On today's Morning Edition (NPR -- link is text and audio),  Dina Temple-Raston covered the prison break:

TEMPLE-RASTON: AQI, al-Qaida in Iraq, took credit for this week's prison attacks. And that's Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University. He says al-Qaida's arm in Iraq has been staging a comeback for months. [. . .]  Hoffman says the latest prison break was exceptionally well-planned.


HOFFMAN: The stereotype is that terrorists attack, you know, innocent civilians, soft accessible targets. When you're hitting a prison, you're talking about - at least in theory - one of the most hardened target sets within a country. And when you could hit two of them simultaneously and successfully, that's very worrisome.


TEMPLE-RASTON: Worrisome not just because of the sophistication of the attacks, but also because the prison breaks provided the group with hundreds of new recruits.


MYRIAM BENRAAD: I'm Myriam Benraad. I'm research fellow in Middle East studies at Science Po Paris Center for International Research and Studies.


TEMPLE-RASTON: Benraad has been writing about Iraqi prisons for nearly a decade, and she says this operation is a little different from what happened in Yemen, because this time, the men who escaped were ordinary recruits.

BENRAAD: They're mostly Salafists, some of them known for being former insurgents. There's no real figure, high-level figure of al-Qaida in the prisons.


In other (or possibly related) news, Dar Addustour reports that State of Law's Haider al-Abadi and Citizen bloc MP Aziz Okkaily got into a physical altercation in Parliament on Wednesday.



Outside of Parliament, violence continues as well.  Iraq Body Count counts 759 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month through yesterday.  Earlier today,  National Iraqi News Agency reported 2 suspects were shot dead in Mosul, a Kirkuk car bombing left six police officers injured, an attack on the Peshmerga in Erbil left 1 taxi driver dead and four security elements injured, and a home in Basra that allegedly sold alcohol was bombed.   This evening the violence continued.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinana Salaheddin (AP) report that a Noufel cafe was bombed resulting in 16 deaths and twenty people being injured and a cafe near Baghdad was bombed leaving 2 people dead and six injured.  Xinhua adds, "In a separate incident, a truck driver and two companions were shot dead by gunmen while they were travelling in their truck loaded with foodstuff in Adheim area, about 60 km north of Baquba, the source said."


Yesterday, the United Nations noted:

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) until 31 July 2014 so it can continue to advise and support the country, which has been hit by the worst violence in years, to progress on the path to stability and development.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body also called on the Government of Iraq to continue to provide security and logistical support to the Mission, and on Member States to continue to provide it with sufficient resources.
Further, the Council decided that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq and UNAMI shall continue their mandate with regard to overseeing outstanding issues relating to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The mandate renewal comes amid an upsurge in violence and terrorist acts that have targeted mainly civilians and civilian infrastructure in Iraq, resulting in high civilian casualties at levels not seen since 2008, according to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on UNAMI.













 


 
 
 
 



 


 
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