Saturday, August 3, 2013


On NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, there was a report on pickling:

Mike Odette, chef and co-owner of Sycamore Restaurant in Columbia, Mo., is trolling the local farmer's market. He usually hunts for ingredients for his next menu, but today he's searching for veggies to take on a picnic.

A slaw using creamy mayonnaise might spoil in the summer heat. So Odette favors a simple summer vinaigrette that's equal parts cider vinegar and sugar. He recommends making it the night before.

"It benefits from sitting in the refrigerator overnight," he says, "so the flavors can develop, and you could even dress your slaw on your picnic."

He also adds cut apples, celery and onions. Odette says a slaw like this is the perfect foil for any kind of meat served at a picnic.

So are refrigerator pickles — and not just cucumbers. They could be other fruits or vegetables, chilled overnight in a brine of white vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices.

The transcripts not up yet.  But it was an interesting report.  I knew about pickling cucumbers because it wasn't summer growing up without having pickled cucumbers at my grandma's.  She would use the Parkay plastic containers, slice up all these cucumbers, toss in some garlic, pepper and vinegar (and who knows what else) and set it aside.  And when we'd go over, I'd eat it and eat it and she'd have it all summer long.

But I never thought about pickling other stuff. 

The cucumbers were my favorite because I would get the bowl and just eat and eat and eat.  The way you do potato chips or popcorn.

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

Friday, August 2, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the Garden of Eden pops up in Iraqi coverage, Nouri blames Moqtada al-Sadr for violence, the US Embassy in Baghdad closes Sunday as does the US Consulate in Erbil, Ed Snowden remains in the news, and more.

Today that State Dept Tweeted:

  1. is issuing immigrant visas to same-sex couples. Answers to FAQs is available at .
  2. MT : "We are tearing down the unjust & unfair barrier that stood in the way of same-sex families traveling"

Good for the State Dept and good for John Kerry.  That said, the above does not erase The Drone War, the illegal war on Libya and assorted other actions of the US government in the last few years.  Nor does it erase Kerry's problem with regards to taking his oral promises regarding women's rights and failing to follow them (see Ava's "Secretary Kerry doesn't really support women's rights").  I know John Kerry, I like him (I like Tereasa as well and have strong admiration for her).  In 2003, there was no question that John would get my support and I have no regrets for that.  I also happen to agree 100% with what Ava wrote.

My point here is that there are contradictions.  The US government can take needed actions.  It can also do highly destructive things (actions which destroy lives).  NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden is in Russia and that's supposed to be suspect -- especially now that he has temporary asylum -- and supposed to discredit him in some way.

On Democracy Now! today (link is text, video and audio), Amy Goodman spoke with US House Reps John Conyers and Thomas Massie regarding the ongoing spying and the disclosures of the spying that whistle-blower Ed Snowden made.  Excerpt.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Massie, what are your thoughts about Russia granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, who really started this ball rolling by revealing what—what the intelligence officials of this country, from Keith Alexander to James Clapper, have long denied, but now admitted they weren’t telling the truth about, that the U.S. is spying on American citizens?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE: Well, clearly his disclosures have changed the course of human history, really. And I think his initial disclosures were a service to our country, because now we’re having this conversation. And we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I can’t speak for Mr. Snowden’s actions now. He’s basically a person looking out for his own life at this point. But what he did initially was a service to our country. We need to facilitate a way for whistleblowers to do that in a better fashion. And I don’t think our current whistleblower laws would have provided for him to do what he’s done in a better fashion, so I’d like to see some reform there, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Russia was right to grant him temporary asylum?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE: I’m not going to comment on what Russia should have done with Mr. Snowden.

AMY GOODMAN: But do you feel that Mr. Snowden did the right thing?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE: I think initially he did. And now, it would be hard for me to fault his actions at this point. He’s a person who fears for his life, and so, you know, he’s doing what he can, I think, to stay alive at this point.

Those were some strong statements that Massie made -- and good for him for making them at a time when too many in Congress are either silent or else attacking Ed.  He's right that Ed's choices are limited at this point.

But the point I want to make, as elements of the US press repeatedly attempt to churn up outrage, is that the Russian government's record does not make Russia evil.  Whatever country you live in, hopefully you're able to turn your head from one side to the other and see people you are glad to know.  People are not their governments.  Governments frequently lie to the people, mislead them, ignore them.  That's true in the US, that's true in Russia, it's true pretty much everywhere.

The Russian government's actions?  In some ways, the government of Russia is worse than the US.  If you look at the domestic actions of both, Russia's efforts at censorship and targeting its LGBT community are appalling.  But over one million Iraqis have not died in the last ten years as a result of the Russian government.  The State Dept does an annual report and its honest if you think it's fair for the US government to finger point at other countries while failing to examine itself in the same way.

Russia's a wonderful country with many wonderful people.  The government is flawed (as are all governments) and has some outrageous and criminal behaviors -- as does the US government.  Ed Snowden's options are limited -- as a direct result of shameful actions on the part of the US government.  He did not intend to stay in Russia, it was to be a stop on the way to somewhere else.  He now has a one year, temporary asylum.  His taking that fortunate offer does not make him suspect.

Amnesty International made this point very strongly (far better than I have above) in a statement yesterday:

Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum is a positive development and should allow governments and civil society to focus on the sweeping nature and unlawfulness of the US government’s surveillance programmes.
“The drama of the five weeks since Snowden’s arrival in Russia has distracted attention from the key issue: how the ever-burgeoning security apparatus in the US has used secret courts to undertake massive, sweeping and systematic invasions into the right to privacy of people living in the USA,”said Widney Brown, senior director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
“Let’s not lose sight of why Snowden was forced to seek asylum in Russia.  Once he disclosed the full scope of the US government’s actions, they cancelled his passport and called him a criminal.
“Freedom of expression – a fundamental human right – protects speech that reveals credible evidence of unlawful government action. Under both international law and the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, the US government’s actions are unlawful.”
With regard to Snowden’s temporary asylum status, the organization is concerned that he has been told that he should not disclose any further information that could harm the USA.
“Everybody has the right to seek asylum. That right can’t be contingent on a promise not to speak out or disclose information on a matter of public concern,” said Widney Brown.
“We urge the Russian authorities to ensure that his rights are respected. He should be allowed to travel freely, including outside of Russia, if he wishes.”
“The US government has been more intent on persecuting Edward Snowden than in addressing or even owning up to its flagrant breaches of international law. It is time that the USA desists from its deplorable attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s efforts to seek asylum now or in the future.”

Prensa Latina reports on Snowden's attorney Anatoli Kucherena, "Although at first moment Kucherena announced that Snowden would stay in this country and could apply for temporary residence and then citizenship, he now admits that his client will decide that in the future. He himself will announce it, he said."  With the knowledge that Ed is (at least) temporarily safe, that he has found a place to live, and that he has at least one job offer,  let's turn to his revelations and the US government's response.

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."  Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson explains, "Intelligence officials in the Obama administration and their allies on Capitol Hill paint the fugitive analyst as nothing but a traitor who wants to harm the United States. Many of those same officials grudgingly acknowledge, however, that public debate about the NSA’s domestic snooping is now unavoidable."

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."

The revelations continue.  Wednesday, Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) reported:

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian's earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.

Amy Goodman covered the report:


AMY GOODMAN:  On Wednesday, The Guardian newspaper revealed details about another secret NSA program called XKeyscore, based on leaked documents provided by Snowden. XKeyscore allows analysts to search, with no prior authorization, through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals. According to a slide presentation provided to The Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden, XKeyscore gives NSA analysts real-time access to, quote, "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet." In its own training materials, the NSA calls XKeyscore its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the Internet. While the program is supposed to target overseas Internet users, The Guardian reports XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even Americans for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant. Edward Snowden first hinted at the program during an interview with The Guardian in June.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email.
AMY GOODMAN: The Guardian published its exposé on Wednesday morning just minutes before the Senate Intelligence Committee opened an oversight hearing on the NSA’s surveillance programs.

And Ed was right. Thomas R. Eddlem (New American) points out:

The XKeyscore was discussed on today's first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- link is audio and transcript):

CBS News and Slate's John Dickerson:   The president said he welcomes a conversation. He doesn't welcome a conversation. But this is the conversation that's now taking place. And then the other big development was a new set of documents that were released about another program... 

Diane Rehm:  Called the XKeyscore.

John Dickerson: XKeyscore. And that is a basic scraping of the Internet for overseas or so, the administration claims, that basically captures people's conversations, email, basically everything that you can do online. 

Wall St. Journal's Jerry Seib:  I think what you got a sense of at that Senate hearing and then in the aftermath of it was a feeling that's -- which is a bipartisan feeling, to some extent at least, that the NSA took a program that Congress actually wanted to happen and legally authorize it. It wrote the law that allows the program to happen but then stretched it out of proportion to what the lawmakers intended. And there is now some pushback developing, which is -- but it's difficult because most people in Congress, and this is also bipartisan, actually want the program to continue. They just think the fencing around it ought to be a little sturdier, and that, I think, is something that you're gonna hear discussed. I don't think anybody wants to eliminate it. I think they wanna bring it more under control.  

If Seib's speaking of the ridiculous Senate Judiciary Comittee and it's cowardly members, he's correct, they don't want to eliminate it.  They don't want to protect the Constitution.  As Trina observed early this morning:

It's a good column [Dave Lindorff's]  but what it actually reminded me of was the Wednesday Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that C.I. reported on "Iraq snapshot," Wally's "THIS JUST IN! RUSS FEINGOLD WHERE ARE YOU NOW!" and Cedric's "Punchline: US Senate,Ava's ""Blumenthal disappoints (Ava)," Wally's ""Leahy and Feinstein are disgraces," Ann's ""The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing" and Kat's "The Constitution has been shredded."  Read their reports. The Committee didn't want to address how outrageous it was that spying was going on, they wanted to put a few limits on the spying so it could continue.  It was disgusting.

But they are not the only members of Congress and Seib should damn well know that the Amash - Conyers amendment came very close to passing last week -- an amendment that would have indeed ended it.  Diane would do her listeners a world of good if she'd pay attention to what her guests say and correct them.

I'm about to do the unthinkable again.  When the Bradley Manning story first got attention in 2010, one journalist lied and whored more than any other.  That would be The General's Best Friend, yes, Nancy Youssef.

But Youssef's with McClatchy so we must never call her out.  E-mails could not believe anyone from McClatchy would get called out.  McClathy is a mediocre outlet that doesn't do anything that great.  Their reputation is built around the work of Knight Ridder from right before the Iraq War.  That was Knight Ridder, that was not McClatchy.  Knight Ridder went under and, in a tag sale, McClatchy purchased it.  That's all they did, bought Knight Ridder in 2006.  And since being bought, the chain's become an embarrassment.

Nancy pronounced Bradley guilty from the start.  She's still lying about him.  Here she is from the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today:

Diane Rehm:  And his father [Ed Snowden's father Lou Snowden] has said he's going to visit him in Russia. He, his father said he doesn't want him to return to the United States, Nancy? 

Nancy Youssef:  That's right and he also made a distinction between his son and Bradley Manning because of the verdict that came against the former private for leaking documents to Wiki leaks. He was sentenced to as many as 136 years in prison and so he's trying to make a distinction between his son and Bradley Manning and he has come out and said that while, as an American, he's retired from the Coast Guard, that he was saddened by this. 

 I'm sorry, what did she just say?

And it's not corrected.

Bradley Manning's sentencing continues.  It has not wrapped up.  Click here for Kevin Gostola's coverage of today's arguments made to Lind in the ongoing sentencing portion.  Arguments being made by the prosecution and the defense and the military judge, Colonel Denis Lind, has yet to sentence Brad to anything.  Nancy Youssef is an embarrassment and her conduct throughout on Brad has been appalling.  Today, she went on live radio and announced that Brad had been sentenced when no such thing has yet to take place.

When journalists can't get their facts right, they need to close their mouths.  And grown ups need to hold them accountable.

If you want to see who's been telling the truth, Thomas R. Eddlem (New American) points out, it's been Ed Snowden and not the government:

With the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and reporter Glenn Greenwald, there seem to be only two possibilities regarding claims by House Permanent Intelligence Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers: He either boldly lied about the breadth of NSA surveillance of the American people, or he didn't know and was therefore engaged in incompetent oversight of the NSA.
Either possibility has huge implications for American constitutional government: If Rogers didn't know, what does that say about congressional oversight of these shadowy NSA programs? And if he did know, and was willingly lying to the American people, is that any better?
Rogers, a liberal Michigan Republican (51 percent cumulative Freedom Index score, one of the lowest scores among Republicans), claimed in debate on the Amash amendment, which would have forbidden the NSA from spending any of its funding on the bulk collection of Americans' electronic messages, July 24: “We should have time and education on what actually happens in the particular program of which we speak. And I'll pledge each and every one of you today, and give you my word, that this fall, when we do the Intel authorization bill, we will work to find additional privacy protections with this program, that has no emails, no phone calls, no names and no addresses.”

Some of the effects of the reported revelations?  Michael Hirsh (National Journal via Gov.Exec) notes:

A groundswell of congressional support for major new restrictions on the NSA, combined with pressure from the nation's most powerful tech companies, is almost certain to force some of those changes into being.  And the battle lines are already being formed between the judiciary and intelligence committees in both the House and Senate. Firebrand defenders of privacy rights on the judiciary committees are seeking to shut down or fundamentally overhaul surveillance, while Intelligence committee members who tend to stand behind the NSA are trying to preserve as much as they can of what they consider an essential program. 
The ideas range from the extreme, shutting the telecommunication and Internet monitoring programs down altogether—something almost certain not to happen—to more feasible ideas that might preserve the heart of the program but add more transparency to the process. Such ideas include one that is gaining momentum in both the House and Senate—appointing a privacy advocate to take the other side against government requests for surveillance in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—declassifying portions of the FISA orders, making them available to more members of Congress, and redesigning the phone-records collection program so that the NSA does not take possession of all the data itself.

 Another impact?  BBC News notes, "Germany has cancelled a Cole War-era pact with the US and Britain in response to revelations about electronic surveillance operations.  Details of snooping programmes involving the transatlantic allies have been leaked to the media by former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden."

 Some would argue that Ed Snowden's revelations also exposed Barack Obama but the reality is Barack exposed himself.  Paul Craig Roberts (Global Research) observes:

As Washington loses its grip on the world, defied by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and now Russia, the US government resorts to public temper tantrums. The constant demonstration of childishness on the part of the White House and Congress embarrasses every American. 

Washington’s latest outburst of childish behavior is a response to the Russian Immigration Service granting US whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum in Russia for one year while his request for permanent asylum is considered.

Washington, having turned the US into a lawless state, no longer has any conception of legal procedure. Law is whatever serves Washington. As Washington sees it, law is nothing but Washington’s will. Any person or country that interferes with Washington’s will is behaving unlawfully. 

Because Obama, like Bush before him, routinely disobeys US law and the US Constitution, the White House actually thinks that Russian President Putin should disobey Russian and international law, overturn the Russian Immigration Service’s asylum decision, and hand over Snowden to Washington. 

Today, the United Nations announced:

2 August 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of Nickolay Mladenov of Bulgaria as his Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
Mr. Mladenov has extensive experience in public service. As former Foreign Affairs Minister of Bulgaria, he led his country’s diplomatic engagement with a large number of partners, including in the Middle East. He also served as Minister of Defence for his country and as a Member of the European Parliament, including its Foreign Affairs Committee and the Delegation for Iraq.
Mr. Mladenov has held several positions in the inter-governmental and non-governmental sectors, including at the World Bank, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republic Institute.
He will replace Martin Kobler of Germany. In a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, the Secretary-General expressed his gratitude for Mr. Kobler’s dedicated service and leadership of UNAMI.
Established in 2003, UNAMI is mandated to advise and assist the Government and people of Iraq on a number of fronts including advancing political dialogue and national reconciliation, assisting in the electoral process, facilitating regional dialogue between Iraq and its neighbours, and promoting the protection of human rights and judicial and legal reform.

The 41-year-old Mladenov has also served (for two years) in the European Parliament.  He was also the subject of a February 2010 State Dept cable from the US Embassy in Sofia.  WikiLeaks posts the cable here and it notes his appointment to Foreign Minister:

Mladenov, 37, is one of the youngest and brightest stars in Borissov's cabinet. A former Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Mladenov was the first person to become Minister of Defense without military experience. Mladenov is modern-thinking and western oriented. He is dynamic, with a famous work ethic and the strategic vision to challenge entrenched interests inside the military and his ministry. While Minister of Defense, Mladenov made deepening the United States-Bulgaria relationship his top priority and worked to expand deployments to Afghanistan and find creative new uses for the joint bases. While he made progress, much of his time and attention was drawn into cleaning up the legal, structural, and budgetary mess left behind by the previous Minister. We can expect Mladenov to take his reformist, transatlanic attitude with him to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). It is rumored that he will continue to have input into important security decisions, though how this will work in practice is not yet clear. He will undoubtedly represent Bulgaria well in his new role and will put a young, modern face on Bulgaria.

Why were they so high on him?  Because, among other things, he's also worked with the World Bank and the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.  Those are organizations that the US government loves.  They are not organizations beloved by the people.

He has work cut out for him.  Today,  the State Dept issued the following:


Worldwide Travel Alert
August 2, 2013

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August. This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013.

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.

We continue to work closely with other nations on the threat from international terrorism, including from al-Qa'ida. Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.
We recommend U.S. citizens register their travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website. We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens Traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don't have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Internet website at where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes or Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips.

In addition to information on the internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).

CNN's Elise Labott pointed out (on the second hour of today's Diane Rehm Show), "That's absolutely, I mean, the reason that all of these embassies are being closed not just in the Middle East and North Africa but also in Asia, abundance of caution since Benghazi. The U.S. doesn't want to be liable if, God forbid, something happens.  here was a specific threat to the U.S. embassy in Yemen. That's where the primary concern is coming from but when you take that threat that is also kind of ambiguous and then you take this Ramadan special, days of Ramadan that Nancy just mentioned.  You have Benghazi in everybody's mind. You also have the anniversary of the U.S. embassies, the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania coming up. So all of this just leads to a heightened abundance of caution and the U.S. isn't taking any chances."  Fox News has a list of the closings -- and in edition to the US Embassy in Baghdad being closed Sunday, the US Consulate in Erbil is also being closed Sunday.  Jennifer Jones (Christian Today) observes, "The U.S. Embassies, which would normally be open this Sunday, will be closed and possibly for more days. The U.S. diplomatic offices are usually open on Sunday, where it is the start of the workweek in Muslim countries." State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf explained yesterday that "the Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4th.  The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations that indicate we should institute these precautionary steps. The Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety."

On violence, NINA notes 1 security agent was shot dead in Kirkuk, the Iraqi military killed a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq commander, an armed attack in Kirkuk left 3 soldiers dead and three more injured, an attack on a Mosul checkpoint left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Baaj bombing left 2 people dead and three more injured, and a Falluja roadside bombing left two people injuredAlsumaria adds a Kirkuk bombing left 4 Iraqi soldiers dead and two more injured.

World Bulletin reports today that reporters who attempted to cover a protest in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, "A group of journalists wanted to go to Tahrir Square to follow the protests which are to be held for the improvement of security standards in the state, but were detained by Iraqi security officials, sources said. The journalists' cameras and video cameras were also confiscated."  Nouti's back to imprisoning journalists.  Will anyone bother to condemn his latest attack on the press?

This protest was part of the Consolidated Friday theme and included recognition of International Quds Day.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that it featured "hundreds of members of the League of the Righteous, Hezbollah, Badr Organization and other parties" took part in actions which were "called by Iranian Imam Khomeini."   In Baghdad, All Iraq News notes, hundreds turned out.  Looking at the photo with the article, you'll see that it should probably be changed to "thousands."  They explains "International Quds Day is an annual event that began in Iran in 1979 that is commemorated on the last Friday of Ramadan, expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people and opposing Zioneism as well as Israel's control of Jerusalem."  But NINA makes clear, that the Baghdad Tahrir Square demonstration also included those who were "demanding the government to address the security file and the elimination of terrorism as well as the abolition of the use of broken sonar devices in the multiple checkpoints in Baghdad and of other provinces.

Iraqi Spring MC notes that Nouri's SWAT forces cut off roads leading to Tahrir Square.  In addition, the SWAT forces began arresting people in Tahrir Square and downtown Baghdad.  And they turned out in Baghdad's Adhamiya, in Baiji, in Jalawla,  and these protests also took place today in Basra and in Karbala.   The protests have been going on since December 21st (and today's theme was Consolidated Friday which allowed the ongoing protests to also include the Quds focus).

Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) reports on how activists and members of the media remain targets in 'free' Iraq:

According to a report by the JFO, Iraq has recorded 259 cases of murder of Iraqi and foreign media activists in the last 10 years. Furthermore, 64 activists were abducted, most of whom were killed, while 14 of them are still missing. The perpetrators of these crimes have still not been revealed, given that the crimes were all committed under mysterious circumstances. These violations were neither legally nor politically pursued.
Civilian activists in Iraq are divided into two main categories: governmental and non-governmental. The second category faces a very serious risk. It is targeted by government forces, militias and terrorist organizations all at once. Moreover, the government does not feel responsible for them and abstains from providing them with a minimum level of protection. The Iraqi government continuously passes laws against civil liberties related to social activists through a number of institutions that are concerned with this matter.
These laws include a law to “protect journalists.” This law was totally taken from the former Iraqi laws that criminalize the publication of information in different cases and allows the imprisonment of journalists for up to seven years when they insult the government, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Meanwhile a national park gets declared and quickly becomes declared sacred ground?  Wednesday, National Geographic's Lara Sorokanich reported:

Iraq decreed its first official national park last week, after years of planning and bargaining within its governmental council. The new title will help protect the central marshes of Iraq, which are currently threatened by the country’s increasing urbanization and development.
One integral part of the legislation’s passing was Nature Iraq, an environmental group whose founder and president Azzam Alwash was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize earlier this year for his work in Iraq’s marshlands. The group played a key role in developing the park’s management plans—along with the Ministries of Water Resources and Environment and the National Park Committee—and has also worked for several years to reflood the area’s drained marshes.

Environment News Service adds today, "The Mesopotamian Marshlands of southern Iraq were once the third largest wetlands in the world, originally extending between 12,000 and 15,000 square kilometers and partially covering the three southern governorates of Iraq: Missan, Thi Qar and Basrah." Janet Falk (Smart Planet) noted yesterday, "This vast Mesopotamian marshland in the south of the country is widely held to be the location of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were created (and subsequently cast out)." Fred Pearce (New Scientist) insists, "The 'Garden of Eden' has been saved, even as chaos grows all around.

If it turns out to be sacred ground, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki might want to visit.  He could use a blessing right about now as the security unravels and he's the one responsible.  Aso Fishagy (Rudaw) explains how Nouri's handling his failures:

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is blaming opponents and allies alike for his government’s failures, accusing a deputy of giving him wrong information about power outages and charging that the Shiite Mahdi Army was behind the recent escape of prisoners from Baghdad jails.
In an interview with Al Iraqiya TV, a semi-official channel in Iraq that gathered Maliki and a number of Iraqi political commentators, the premier said that electricity blackouts across the country were not his fault.
“Hussein Shahristani, Iraqi deputy PM for energy affairs, has given me incorrect information about the level of electricity production in Iraq,” said Maliki, whose Shiite-led government has been adrift as attacks and bombings have risen dramatically, and the country’s large Sunni and Kurdish minorities no longer regard him as the man to lead Iraq.
“Unfortunately these mistakes happen at a time when the Iraqi PM has three deputies. Each deputy prime minister should have acted responsibly towards the problems of social services,” said Maliki, providing a glimpse into the turmoil and disunity inside his own inner circle.
In the same interview, Maliki blamed the fellow-Shiite Sadr Movement’s Mahdi Army for this month’s attacks on teahouses and cafes in Baghdad.  

Nothing's ever Nouri's fault.  An underling (Shahristani) is at fault for having "given me incorrect information."  The violence?  It's Moqtada al-Sadr!  That won't play in Iran where they're tired of Nouri and eager to back Moqtada to be Iraq's new prime minister.   Last week's prison breaks resulted in hundreds of escapees.  Haider Najm (Niqash) reports:

It was like a scene from the 2002 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Collateral Damage. During the movie Colombian guerrillas break into a prison to free their fellow members. In Iraq last week, there were similar scenes as armed extremists used mortars, rockets and suicide bombers to break prisoners out of the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons. A power cut, rioting in the prison by prisoners affiliated with the attackers and prison guards who colluded with the attackers were also part of the real-life incident. 

The attacks on Abu Ghraib were spectacularly successful, lasting ten hours and leading to the escape of around 500 prisoners; that number included senior members of the Sunni Muslim extremist group, Al Qaeda. Over 300 of the escapees have already been recaptured but others remain at large. The attack on Taji prison was not as successful – it resulted in the deaths of over a dozen soldiers and six militants but there were no escapes.  

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has connections with Al Qaeda. “The organization announced that hundreds of Muslim detainees, among them some 500 of the best fighters ever born, were freed,” the London-based Middle Eastern news website, Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

Film clips were also posted on the Internet that showed the prison attack underway. The clips were posted on sites known for their affiliation with Al Qaeda and members of the sites wrote messages underneath the clips, congratulating each other on the success of the operation.  

But even as the events were being widely reported on, the recriminations and conspiracy theories had already started in Baghdad. 

Apparently the Iraqi National Intelligence Service actually warned local security forces of the attacks a few hours before they happened. The militants themselves apparently warned locals living nearby to stay away. Word leaked out that Iraq’s secret service had sent a total of seven messages to local security forces over a period of two months, which detailed, among other things, the date on which the attack was planned. According to investigators dispatched by the Iraqi government to find out why the Abu Ghraib jail break succeeded so well, the local security forces did not react quickly enough to the warnings they received nor did they take them seriously enough.

Also in line for criticism was Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Prime Minster didn’t comment on the attack until the following day and many said he didn’t treat the matter as seriously as he should have. At a meeting in his office that was organized by his office, to which three media commentators were invited, al-Maliki even sought to put the blame elsewhere, saying that he thought the Shiite Muslim militia, the Mahdi Army, were probably involved.

Turning to veterans issues, Guy Kovner (Santa Rosa Press Democrat) reports, "Three local Iraq veterans are hosting the first annual PTSD Awareness Walk, an event open to the public Saturday at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa. The 1-mile walk around Lake Ralphine, which starts at 10 a.m., is intended to 'increase awareness and raise funds to help break the stigma' around post-traumatic stress disorder in Sonoma County, the organizers said."  Yesterday on Here and Now (NPR -- link is audio and text), host Jeremy Hobson explored veterans suicides with Derk Bennett:

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:  It's HERE AND NOW. A new survey of thousands of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that suicide is the biggest issue they are concerned with. Almost 40 percent say they know a vet who killed themselves. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America conducted the survey, and its chief of staff is Derek Bennett. He is a former Army captain who served two tours in Iraq. Derek joins us now from NPR in New York. Welcome.

DEREK BENNETT: Thank you very much for having me.

HOBSON: Well, let's start with these suicide numbers, just shocking if you think about it. Thirty percent of respondents to your survey have thought of taking their own lives. Forty-five percent know an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide.

BENNETT: It's epidemic. Both of those numbers are frightening. It's not new. We've seen similar trends in the previous three years that we've done the survey. And I think it's something that we're not talking enough about in this country. The number of veterans and the number of active-duty individuals who have committed suicide is actually higher than the number of folks we've lost to the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

HOBSON: Well, what's going on? Because the military has upped its suicide prevention programs. These have been an issue that's been around for a while. People have been talking about it. 

BENNETT: It's been around for a while, but like so many things in this space, there's not a lot of reliable good data, which is why this survey, to us, is so important. The Army specifically didn't really start consistently and methodically counting suicides until about 2002. And that only counts active-duty folks. Since they've started counting, now they've implemented some suicide prevention work, and there's still a lot more that needs to be done. They need to better understand the problem itself, who's most at risk.
They have the National Institute of Health and some other folks who have done a lot of research that indicates that deployments actually in Iraq and Afghanistan specifically may not be correlated with the increase in suicide. But that's all the data that's available for active-duty individuals. Once someone transitions and leaves the DOD and they become a veteran, no one counts whether or not a veteran commits suicide. So we actually don't have a reliable number for how many veterans are committing suicide. We believe - some of the best research in this right now indicates it's somewhere around 22 a day, which is unbelievable.

In other veterans news, Chapel Hill News reports that Iraq War veteran Viv Taylor has been named as the new Executive Director of Integrity USA which works "for full LGBT inclusion in the Episcopal Church"  and, "Taylor is among the first transgender women to enter the Episcopal ordination process and will be the first openly trans woman to lead a major mainline Protestant denominational organization in the U.S., according to an Integrity news release. Integrity has been the leading grassroots voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Episcopal Church and for equal access to its rites since its founding in rural Georgia in 1974."  In 2013, Senator Patty Murray became the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and Senator Bernie Sanders replaced her as Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair.  Murray continues to serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee and she continues to work on behalf of service members and veterans.  Yesterday, her office issued the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, August 01, 2013                                                                                    (202) 224-2834
Murray Special Victims Counsels Receive Full Funding
Senate Defense Appropriations bill includes $25 million for trained military lawyers to help victims of sexual assault take action against attackers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee approved $25 million to fully fund Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Special Victims Counsels (SVCs) program aimed at providing victims of military sexual assault, in all branches, with a trained lawyer to guide them through the legal process. The House of Representatives has also approved full funding for the SVC program in their Department of Defense spending legislation. In May, Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the bipartisan Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, which has been included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act.
“I’m pleased this bill supports several important initiatives, starting with expanding the highly successful Special Victims’ Counsel program across the whole military,” said Senator Murray.  “The SVC program will provide victims of sexual assault with the legal assistance they need to pursue justice and be protected from retaliation, while getting to the heart of effectively addressing this tragic epidemic. Thank you to Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Cochran for their leadership in putting forward a strong, bipartisan Defense appropriations bill that puts a priority on tackling this scourge within the ranks.”
“We include $25 million in this bill to implement their great idea of a Special Victims Counsel program across all services to address the issues of sexual harassment,” said Chairman Dick Durbin during the hearing. “The Air Force has good program.  We’re going to incorporate this across the services with the $25 million here. I think this will have a greater positive impact than many of the other issues that are being debated that should make our military more welcoming.”
In a statement endorsing the Murray-Ayotte SVC legislation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said, “The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) pilot program, while very new, has shown positive results and provides a robust support program for victims of sexual assault.  Hundreds of victims have availed themselves of SVC services in the Air Force in just the past several months since it was implemented.  Many of those victims who initially filed restricted reports of sexual assault decided to change their report to unrestricted, allowing full investigation of the offenses committed by their assailant.  As the early reports have been so promising, I expressed in my May 20, 2013, letters to Senators Levin and Inhofe that the proposed SVC legislation had merit. I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource.”
The Senate Defense Appropriations legislation also addresses Senator Murray’s priorities to continue oversight of the struggling integrated electronic health record system, funding for Army National Guard Behavioral Health programs, and includes $10 million for the Office of Suicide Prevention.
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834





Thursday, August 1, 2013


Yesterday, I wrote about the Senate hearing.  Now I'm writing about DC.

First, let me clear up something, I didn't leave my baby alone yesterday.  Ava has a child. Her mother lives in NYC but has taken out a very nice place in DC to be here when Ava and C.I. and Kat and Wally are here at C.I.'s place.  C.I. got a place here because they probably spend 30 weeks (at least) in DC each year covering Congressional hearings. 

Early on, they were staying in Georgetown at one of C.I.'s friends' homes but it made sense to get her own place.  This is usually their base each week.

That's where I stayed, at C.I.'s.  But Ava's mother kindly offered to watch our son.  He was sleeping like a little lamb.  I told her, "I can't believe he's slept this late" and warned her he would be a crier when he woke up.  But she insisted it wouldn't be any problem and that I should go.  I called as soon as the hearing was over and she swore he was no problem.  So I said, "I'll have lunch and be right back."  She said stay gone and enjoy the day but I didn't feel right about doing that to her.

So we ate at a place called 7th Street (or maybe that was just the address) because it had seafood and Cedric, Wally and I wanted seafood.  Kat decided she'd tag along.  (Ava and C.I. were off to talk to members of Congress and they ate later.)  I loved it.  The food was wonderful.  I loved it, but I love fish.

I also loved the ceiling in the place.  But I loved it period.  It was so clean and the staff so friendly and after the ugly room the Senate Judiciary Committee held their hearing in -- the unclean and ugly room -- this was a huge improvement.

I went back and got our son.  He was up but he wasn't crying.  This was the longest I'd been away from him.  Ava's mother was taking Ava's daughter to the park and so I went along and I believe it was called Turtle Park.  It was really nice and my son mainly looked around.  (What you thought he was old enough to go down the slide at less than 3 months?)  It was just great.

Then we all went out to eat that night and then I went with Ava and C.I. to speak to a group (Ava and I both brought our kids) and that was fun as well.  It's been a great change of scenery for me.  Remember I'm on family leave right now. 

So those are my DC thoughts.

And, to pull a Kat, I mentioned:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Wally of The Daily Jot,

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


Thursday, July 1, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq reaches record levels of violent deaths for the month of July, Nouri orders house searches in Baghdad, questions need to be asked about Iraq but apparently won't be in the US, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden is granted temporary asylum in Russia, and more.

Breeze driftin' on by you know I feel
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me
-- "Feeling Good," written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse and still best recorded by Nina Simone

Today is a new day and, in fact, the first day of August.  Now that July is over, death tolls are being released for the month's violence in Iraq.  Iraq Body Count is missing Thursday the 31st but for the other 30 days, they note their total is 968  AFP offers 875  -- Prashant Rao is not in Iraq currently.  When he's in Iraq, the spreadsheet is done regularly.  The fact that he's been out of Iraq may account for the huge undercount.  Yesterday, Iraq's government ministries released their total:  989.  This morning,  the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued their totals for violent deaths and the number of people left injured in July:

Baghdad, 1 August 2013 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 1,057 Iraqis were killed and another 2,326 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in July.

The number of civilians killed was 928 (including 204 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 2,109 (including 338 civilian police). A further 129 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed and 217 were injured. 

“The impact of violence on civilians remains disturbingly high, with at least 4,137 civilians killed and 9,865 injured since the beginning of 2013,” the Acting Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, warned. “We haven’t seen such numbers in more than five years, when the blind rage of sectarian strife that inflicted such deep wounds upon this country was finally abating. I reiterate my urgent call on Iraq’s political leaders to take immediate and decisive action to stop the senseless bloodshed, and to prevent these dark days from returning.”

Baghdad was the worst-affected governorate in July with 957 civilian casualties (238 killed and 719 injured), followed by Salahuddin, Ninewa, Diyala, Kirkuk and Anbar (triple-digit figures).
Babil, Wasit and Basra also reported casualties (double-digit figures).

Since UNAMI began publicly releasing their monthly tolls, this is the quickest they've done so and they accomplished that under the leadership of  Gyorgy Busztin who is serving as the acting UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq.  In terms of the numbers, many outlets are announcing a Hawija moment, such as Yang Yi (Xinhua), "However, April 23 was a turning point in the Sunnis' protests when security forces backed by helicopters stormed a rally in the city of Hawijah, some 220 km north of Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens of protesters."  The April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

The massacre in Hawija was a major event and many outlets and observers have pointed to it as some form of a turning point.  Though it surely hardened resolve against Nouri -- as all governmental  slaughters against innocents hardened opinions against leaders -- the reality is the violence was already on the rise in Iraq.  We'd been noting the increase throughout 2012 and throughout 2013 prior to the April 23rd massacre.  Iraq analyst Kenneth J. Pollack (a centrist) pointed out this week:

2012 saw a 10 percent increase in Iraqi deaths (from 4,100 in 2011 to nearly 4,600 in 2012), the first annual increase since 2006. 3 This year is s haping up to be even worse. Iraq could experience as much as a 100 percent increase in violent deaths over 2012, with roughly 3,000 killed in the first six months of 2013 already -- roughly 1,000 in May alone -- according to the United Nations.

Again, I don't doubt that the massacre on the innocents of Hawija hardened resolve but violence was already increasing before Nouri used his US-trained SWAT forces to attack the people.  This point has been bungled by many (including Thomas E. Ricks).  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) probably puts it better than anyone in the press when observing today, "The killings significantly picked up after Iraqi security forces launched a heavy-handed crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija on April 23. A ferocious backlash followed the raid, with deadly bomb attacks and sporadic gunbattles between insurgents and soldiers -- this time members of the Iraqi security forces rather than U.S. troops."  Reporter Jane Arraf is a longtime observer of Iraq so when she offers an analysis, it's worth considering her judgments.  Today she offers one for the Christian Science Monitor which includes:

Despite the Iraqi government’s attempt to combat a record wave of bombings, the attacks across central and southern Iraq are paralyzing the country, leaving many Iraqis to suffer through a long hot summer with neither public services nor security.
But seven years after an Al Qaeda bombing of a Shiite shrine touched off a civil war, attacks aimed at reigniting a sectarian battle have failed to provoke wider conflict. Although the country continues to reel from the explosions, enough has changed since 2006 that even continued attacks are unlikely to bring Iraq back to the brink of war, officials and many analysts say.

It's really difficult to ascertain what she's saying -- other than she thinks Iraq is not going to move into civil war.  The analysis would have benefited from another page.  Her argument needs more room.

It's especially needs more room since it's contrary to the US government's take -- a take that is neither discussed nor mentioned in passing the column.

Dropping back to the July 23rd snapshot:

"Iraq is now back in a civil war, US officials tell NBC," Richard Engel announced this morning.  And that's not surprising except for the fact that if US officials believe Iraq is "back in a civil war," you'd think they'd be addressing that and asked about it in press briefings.  Engel reported that fact on this morning's Today show.  Hours later at the White House press briefing, no one bothered to raise the issue and, even later, at the State Dept press briefing no one raised the issue.

The same evening, on Nightly News with Brian Williams, Richard Engel reported on Iraq.

Richard Engel: Iraq is back in a civil war -- bad for Iraqis.  More than 600 killed just this month in bombings and Sunni versus Shi'ite vengeance.  And bad for Americans -- after all nearly 4,500 US troops died to bring stability to this strategic, oil rich country A trillion dollars was spent, hundreds of thousands of American troops were deployed and deployed again.  But now Iraq is tearing itself apart again.  al Qaeda in Iraq won a big victory this weekend, perhaps enough to reconstitute itself.  They staged a major prison break, a major assault on Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib Prison.  Hundreds of militants were freed from their cells.  Iraqi officials today said at least 250.  al Qaeda in Iraq puts the number even higher at 500.  Militants stormed the prison, car bombs blasting open the gates, as suicide bombers rushed in and reinforcements fought off guards with mortars and assault rifles.  Nothing good seems to come from Abu Ghraib.  It was Saddam Hussein's dungeon.  After his fall, it held US detainees and became infamous for graphic images of prisoner abuse and humiliation.  And now a prison break releasing militants who will likely target the Iraqi government but who also have years of training fighting American troops. Richard Engel, NBC News.

The US government saying Iraq is in a civil war does not make it so.  (For the record, I happen to agree with the assessment.)  But if Jane Arraf is going to argue a counterpoint a week after the US government's position is known, the column would be stronger if she would acknowledge that.   To provide a counter-argument to that position would be even better but even acknowledging the position would have improved her analysis.  (And her analysis may be 100% correct or a majority correct.  I have no idea.  But I do agree with the assessment of the US government -- and not because "IT'S THE US GOVERNMENT!" -- the US government is often wrong.  But the violence has been on the increase and I'm not a Nouri apologist.  Jane Arraf frequently is.)

Earlier, we were noting Kenneth Pollack on the violence for the last two years.  Pollack made his points earlier this week, when the Brookings Institute released his analysis entitled (PDF format warning) "The Fall and Rise and Fall of Iraq."   Excerpt.

The problems reemerged after Iraq’s 2010 national elections. Ayad Allawi’s mostly - Sunni Iraqiyya garnered slightly more votes than Maliki’s overwhelmingly Shi’a State of Law coalition. But Maliki refused to believe that he had lost, and refused to allow Allawi to take the first shot at forming a government. He pressured Iraq’s high court to rule that he could get the first chance to form a government.
Rather than insist that Allawi be given the first chance, as is customary in most democracies and was clearly what was best for Iraqi democracy, the United States (and the United Nations) did nothing. Ten months of bickering, backstabbing and political deadlock followed. In the end, the Iranians forced Muqtada as - Sadr to back Maliki, uniting the Shi’a behind him. At that point, the Kurds fell into place, believing that the prime minister had to be a Shi’a, and Iraqiyya’s goose was cooked. But so too was Iraqi democracy.
The message that it sent to Iraq’s people and politicians alike was that the United States under the new Obama Administration was no longer going to enforce the rules of the democratic road. We were not going to insist that the will of the people win out. We were willing to step aside and allow Iraq’s bad, old political culture of pay - offs, log - rolling, threats and violence to re - emerge to determine who would rule the country -- the same political culture that the U.S. had worked so hard to bury.
It undermined the reform of Iraqi politics and resurrected the specter of the failed state and the civil war. Having backed Maliki for prime minister if only to end the embarrassing political stalemate, the Administration compounded its mistake by lashing itself uncritically to his government. Whether out of fear of being criticized for allowing him to remain in office in the first place, or sheer lack of interest and a desire to do what required the least effort on the part of the United States, the Administration backed Maliki no matter what he did -- good, bad or indifferent.
You cannot divorce the violence from Nouri al-Maliki.  Yes, he is prime minister but he's also in charge of more than that.

The 2010 parliamentary elections saw Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law.  It was a major (press) upset since so many (in the press) had been saying not only that State of Law would come in first but that it would do so by a huge margin.  NPR's Quil Lawrence could be heard, right after the election, announcing State of Law's victory.

But State of Law didn't win.  Someone might want to ask Quil if he was paid by the hour for that whoring?  What happened was not surprising.  As we've noted repeatedly since the results of 2010 were announced, they confirmed the trend of the 2009 parliamentary elections -- both results were a move against sectarianism towards a broader based Iraqi national identity.   Pollack makes the same assessment in his analysis this week so maybe everyone who wanted to argue that reality with me over the course of the last three years will take Pollack's word for it now? (I'm not referring to drive-by e-mails from visitors, I'm referring to the members of the press who wanted to argue the meaning of the results with me.)

Nouri refused to step down even though, per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi was now supposed to be named prime minister-designate and then, if he could assemble a Cabinet in 30 days, he was to be named prime minister.

But Nouri wouldn't step down.  For eight months he refused to do so.  Prior to the 2010 elections, General Ray Odierno, then the top commander in Iraq, had seen this as a likely outcome and had warned that the US should not only prepare for the possibility but should plan how to ensure democracy triumphed.  But the White House didn't want to listen.  The idiot Chris Hill was in the midst of his disaster turn as US Ambassador to Iraq and Hill was bad mouthing Odierno to the White House and insisting that he needed support (which translated as Hill wanting the White House  to tell Odierno to stop talking to the media -- Hill's real beef was that his own press presence wasn't more important and high profile). As Nouri turned a demand for a recount into a long political stalemate where he would not leave the office he had lost, then-Secretary Robert Gates was made aware of the problems with Hill (who was lazy, too cozy with Nouri, anti-Sunni and more eager to plan 'fun functions' for staff than to do diplomatic work), He went to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with those facts and how Odierno's observations had been ignored.  The two of them then met with US President Barack Obama to explain the problems.  This is when the White House stops backy the idiot Chris Hill and asks for his resignation. Hill did not want to leave. That needs to be underscored because he's repeatedly treated today -- by outlets like NPR -- as if he's some sort of genius on Iraq.

He didn't know the facts about Iraq before he was confirmed for the post.  When Hill was nominated the press was all over itself, licking one another, purring and cooing, humping and moaning.  I had no opinion of Hill until I attended the confirmation hearing (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one) and it became very clear that he was uninformed, ignorant and full of himself (with no reason to be).  It was also conveyed to me (as I noted here before the confirmation point) that Hill's own State Dept personnel record made a strong case for him not being named ambassador.  All of this was ignored and, as a result, any headway in terms of diplomacy that Ambassador Ryan Crocker had made in 2008 and early 2009 was lost.  Hill didn't know Iraq, didn't want to know Iraq.  We pointed that all out ahead of his confirmation.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

If you read that book, you'll find many of the things we pointed out in real time.  Hill's disrespect for the Iraqi people, for example.  We noted it repeatedly here.  The book reveals that it was not just an open secret among the US diplomatic staff (which is why I knew about it) but that Hill even showed the disrespect in front of Iraqis.  At one point, he's trashing the country and its people and doing so in front of an Iraqi.  You think that didn't get out?

Hill was a disaster.

Nouri was about three months into his eight month struggle to hold onto the position he didn't win the votes for.  The White House was unsure what to do -- it's very difficult for Barack to make a decision (and that will be widely known after he's out of office and all the books come out) -- he surveyed everyone and, sadly, placed the least weight on Vice President Joe Biden's take.  Biden had been the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  In that capacity, he had chaired hearings on Iraq, had made multiple visits to Iraq as a Senator (and as Vice President).  He damn well knew you couldn't trust Nouri.  But Barack didn't want to listen.

Instead, he placed his faith in the so-called expertise of Samantha The Problem From Hell Power and Susan Rice.  When the stalemate became unavoidable, the French government began exploring the United Nation setting up a caretaker government while issues got resolved.  Susan Rice's sole Iraq 'expertise' was in ensuring that didn't happen.  She and Samantha argued that Nouri had "experience"  and that Nouri would be the best choice because why change horses in the midst of a race?  One person on the National Security Staff was so appalled by these recommendations because they made no sense (you don't steal the Iraqi people's votes and tell them they have democracy) and because the idiotic argument had been a campaign talking point for Bully Boy Bush's 2004 race.  So they were stupid and aping the Republican party.  In addition, Samantha Power was known for being petty and vindictive towards anyone who raised objections to suggestions she made in front of Barack. She used her long standing relationship with Barack to smear anyone who disagreed with her.

So the idiots said support Nouri (who had been installed by the Bush administration in 2006 -- over Ibrahim al-Jafaari whom the Parliament wanted) and Barack did.

The votes didn't give Nouri a second term.  The Constitution didn't give him a second term.  The laughable 'court verdict' by the Baghdad court he controlled had no meaning or weight.  First of all, it was only revealed after Nouri came in second even though, it turned out, Nouri got the court to give him that verdict before the election even took place.  He just didn't publicize it until he needed it.

But if the votes don't give him a second term and the Constitution doesn't, how can the White House give him a second term?

The decision was made (chiefly by Samantha Power) to go around the Constitution and create a legal contract.  This is the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  It was sold to the leaders of the other political blocs as, "Nouri's being a child throwing a tantrum.  But, here's the thing, he could keep throwing that tantrum for another year.  Iraq needs leadership.  You be the mature adult and do what's best for Iraq.  Give Nouri a second term and, we'll put this all in writing, in exchange, you can demand concessions from Nouri."  The Kurds, for example, wanted Article 140 implemented.

But that was where people should have been smart but were stupid.  Article 140 is in the Iraqi Constitution -- which Nouri helped draft and supported.  It was voted into effect as 2005 wound down.  Nouri becomes prime minister-designate in the spring of 2006.  Article 140 is supposed to be implemented (it settled the disputed region of oil-rich Kirkuk via a census and referendum --both the central government out of Baghdad and the KRG insist that Kirkuk belongs solely to them).  Per the Constitution, it's supposed to be implemented by the end of 2007.

I'm sorry to be the one to point out the obvious but only stupidity explains believing, in 2010, that a new legal contract will make Nouri implement Article 140.  If the country's Constitution required for him to do that (and to do it by the end of 2007) and yet in 2010 he still has refused to do it, why in the world would you believe that Nouri would now do it because a legal contract said he would?

Maybe because the US officials repeatedly told the Iraqi leaders that The Erbil Agreement would have the full backing of the US government?

Maybe so.  If so, hopefully they've learned that the US government is not to be trusted.

Ayad Allawi was walking out of Parliament's first session in November 2010, right after Nouri was named prime minister-designate because Nouri immediately declared that promises in the contract would have to wait.  The White House was on the phone to Allawi, insisting he (and his supporters) return to the Parliamentary session, swearing The Erbil Agreement was a bind contract that would be enforced.

Allawi went back in.

Nouri didn't implement The Erbil Agreement.  By the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, the Kurds and cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr were all demanding that Nouri implement The Erbil Agreement (as he was supposed to in November 2010).  He refused to do so.  (Just like he has refused to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.)  This is what causes the political crisis in Iraq -- the one that's still ongoing.  Nouri holds an office he didn't win and he refuses to honor the contract that gave the office to him.

This was a disaster.  It said to the Iraqi people that their votes didn't matter.

What a stupid, stupid thing for the White House to do.

The Iraqis were going for a national identity and rejecting sectarianism.  That should have been applauded, lauded and rewarded.  Instead, the White House spat on the Iraqi people and made clear that democracy didn't exist in Iraq.

The 2012 provincial elections saw a low turnout.

Is that really a surprise?  When Iraqis saw their own votes overridden by a foreign leader (Barack), why the hell should they feel the need to vote?

It was destructive and it was disgusting.  Barack will be remembered for this historically.  The Cult of St. Barack can write all the features fawning over him they want, history will remember the truth.

All of that's backstory on Nouri and how his being prime minister causes tensions and trouble today.  But it's also why the violence is to blame him.

Back 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 positions were supposed to have been filled before the end of December 2010.  They were not.  Per the Iraqi Constitution, you do not become prime minister if  you cannot get a Cabinet together in 30 days (that's nominating and getting each member approved by Parliament).  But the Constitution was circumvented.  The Erbil Agreement was extra-constitutional.

It's how Nouri got in power and so he never had to follow the Constitutional outlines about becoming Prime Minister.  So he never put together a full Cabinet.

The Whores of the US Press, in late 2010 and January 2011, insisted this was no problem.  They filed multiple reports on how Nouri would get around to filling out his Cabinet in February.  Ayad Allawi said in January 2010 that Nouri would never fill those security ministries, that this was a power grab on Nouri's part.

The way it works is you are nominated by Nouri to be the Minister of Defense.  Your nomination is sent to Parliament.  Parliament then votes.  If they say no, you're not the Minister.  If they say yes, then you are the minister.  If you're the Minister confirmed by Parliament, you then do your job -- as you feel you need to.  Nouri can't remove you.  Only Parliament can.

In December of 2011, Nouri had another one of his tantrums -- brought on by his never ending paranoia (first noted in 2006 by the State Dept) -- and he went after Iraqiya.  Specifically, he wanted Tareq al-Hashemi (Vice President) stripped of his title and thrown in jail.  Tareq had committed many 'crimes' but the chief one was being suspected of outing Nouri on the secret prisons.  Nouri's repeatedly run secret prison and repeatedly been caught.  Tareq had made the prisons one of his issues, calling for reforms, visiting the prisons, etc.  Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that Nouri was becoming Saddam Hussein.  That's why Nouri went after al-Mutlaq.  Both men belonged to Iraqiya and were Sunnis.  Nouri's attacks didn't encourage faith among the Sunnis.  But the real lesson for Nouri was he couldn't get his way.

Tareq al-Hasehmis has been convicted in absentia and sentenced to the death penalty several times over.  He is not, however, the "ex-Vice President."  Anytime you read that, a journalist has just confessed to how stupid they are or how far they'll go to whore for Nouri.  Tareq has never been stripped of his post.  Only Parliament can do that.  They have refused.  Tareq may be in Turkey, may be in Jordan, certainly isn't in Iraq, yet he remains Vice President.  (And his kangaroo court convictions are meaningless because he can't be tried on criminal charges while holding his office.)  Nouri also struck out in having al-Mutlaq stripped of his title (and Nouri conceeded that in May of 2011 when he gave up that fight).

So if you are now the Ministry of Defense, that's your job.  You call the shots, you're in charge of the military (or the police if you're Minister of the Interior).

Allawi was correct.  This was a power grab.  Nouri has created 'acting' Ministers for the security ministries.  They have no power.  They've never been confirmed by Parliament so they do what Nouri tells them or he strips them of their post.

That's contrary to the Constitution and you can thank Barack Obama for that.

Violence has been on the increase bit by bit until it boiled over in 2013 so much that even the press had to note it.  If the security ministries have had no real leader (Nouri is there leader since 2010) during this time as violence has skyrocketed, that's on him.  He's responsible.

Let's go back to centrist Pollack's analysis which is much kinder than mine:

The Obama Administration has excused the prime minister’s misdeeds and refused to take a public stance against him. Through it all, the United States has continued to do little. The U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad, Steve Beecroft, and several other mid - level officials have tirelessly implored all sides to do the right thing, but they have been given painfully little to work with. Washington made no effort to build up new sources of leverage with Baghdad when the troops departed. 
Some of Obama’s senior most aides recognized the importance of translating the U.S. - Iraqi Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) into a wide - ranging set of programs by which Iraq would receive American assistance for its political, economic, military, educational and social development as a way of giving average Iraqis and their leaders a continuing stake in the relationship with the United States. This, in turn, would have preserved a considerable amount of U.S. government influence in Baghdad. Yet it never happened. Instead, or perhaps because of this failure, the Obama Administration has excused the prime minister’s misdeeds and refused to take a public stance against him. 
They have tried quiet diplomacy, but without leverage it has had little effect. Instead, they have loudly blamed the various opposition groups — the Sunnis, Kurds, and others. 
None of them are blameless. 
All of them share in Iraq’s dismantling. 
But in fixing on them, the Obama Administration has reminded many Iraqis, particularly many Sunnis, of the early years of the Bush occupation, when Washington turned a blind eye to Shi’a warlords using the government as a weapon against the Sunni community. And the Kurds fear that they will be next. At this point, there is no reason to believe that Iraq is going to get better any time soon. All of the evidence indicates that it is going to get worse. The real questions now are how bad will it get and how quickly? 

And yet few are asking those questions.

They need to be.  Especially since All Iraq News is reporting:

The member of the Iraqiya Slate stressed “The Premier, Nouri al-Maliki, seeks assuming the PM post for a third term rather than to resign from his post.”
He stated to AIN “We do not have a culture of resignation in Iraq when the officials fail in performing their duties,” noting that “We wished any official to resigne giving the priority for the interests of Iraq.”

Not only is Nouri a failure, he told AFP in early 2011 (when there were widespread protests against him) that he wouldn't seek a third term.  Will AFP remind people of that interview?  Will anyone?  Many should because they ran headlines and stories praising Nouri for the decision.  While they did that, we pointed out that Nouri would most likely break that promise.

Iraq briefly came up in today's US State Dept press briefing conducted by spokesperson Marie Harf


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There’s a report that there was over a thousand deaths in July, which sets a record for the last few years, and I was wondering if the State Department had a comment on that.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we are deeply concerned by the nature of these attacks that we’ve seen and by the levels of violence in Iraq. The targeting of innocent people in an effort to sow instability and division is obviously outrageous and reprehensible.
I would make a point that we believe that the rise in violence is driven by terrorists who are not representative of Iraqi society writ large. The vast majority of Iraqi people continue to reject this violence and call for political dialogue to resolve tensions. And I would underscore that we are encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence and that they have continued to explore ways to address the ongoing political and security issues.

And that passes for the US government 'discussing' Iraq.  How shameful.  How many billions is the State Dept going to spend in Iraq each year and yet fail to inform the American people of how that money is spent and what the results are? 

The Voice of Russia's Rob Sachs spoke with Michael O'Brien about the violence today and, at the end of the interview, a point was made that really applies:

 At this point, ten years out, Americans are tired of hearing about violence in Iraq, tired of hearing about efforts to stop it, but why should average Americans care at this point?

Well, you know, that's a real good question. Average Americans probably don't, but if you are an American that believes in right and wrong, if you're an American that believes in consequences, if you're an American that believes in the Constitution and also strictly focused on the defense of our country, then you'd be an American that would be going, "Why did we go over there in 03?" And you'd be an American that would be saying not only that, but "No one has been held accountable for us going there." And I'm talking about American leadership.

Asking questions, paying attention might mean questioning the Pentagon's decision to provide $2 billion more in weapons and training to Nouri's forces.  As Allen McDuffee  (Daily Beast) notes:

“I believe our national strategy towards Iraq might soon need to be reassessed,” said Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. “Business as usual with arms sales to a government that is in some ways stoking an internal conflict may need to be rethought.”
“I’m not sure any arms sales make sense, or at least not any new ones, until we see Maliki stop harassing people like [former Iraqi deputy prime minister Rafi] al-Issawi,” said O’Hanlon.
In 2011, as finance minister, al-Issawi warned of the risks of providing arms to a sectarian army.
“It is very risky to arm a sectarian army,” el-Issawi told the New York Times. “It is very risky with all the sacrifices we’ve made, with all the budget to be spent, with all the support of America — at the end of the day, the result will be a formal militia army.”

 And the violence continues today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Falluja shoot out led to the death of 1 rebel, an Anbar sticky bombing left at least one Sahwa injured, 1 crane operator in Basra has been shot dead, Nouri's forces shot dead 1 truck driver outside of Mosul suspecting him of being a bomber, and a Diyala Province bombing left 1 person dead and another injuredWorld Bulletin adds that a Baquba cafe bombing claimed 5 lives and left twenty people injured.

Asharq al-Aswat reports on a meet-up of the National Iraqi Alliance headed by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, "A statement issued after the meeting said 'the attendees have expressed their great concern about the recent deterioration in the security situation. They stressed the importance of taking necessary and urgent measures to deal with security breaches and intensify efforts to instill security'."

How does Nouri deal with such concerns?

All Iraq News reports: "The Commander General for Armed Forces, Nouri al-Maliki instructed the Ground Forces Command, Baghdad Operations Command and the Anti-Terrorism Department to launch raids and search campaigns in some areas in Baghdad and its outskirts."

Yet again, Nouri's 'answer' requires pissing off a lot of people.  And this is who the US government keeps backing and keeps arming.

The State Dept didn't want to talk about Iraq but, goodness, didn't they want to talk about Ed Snowden.

This morning, Ed Snowden left the Moscow airport he has been at since June 23rd.  He's been granted asylum in Russia.  Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reports, "The temporary refugee status allows Mr. Snowden to move freely within the country and is valid for one year, Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer assisting Mr. Snowden with the asylum request, said in a telephone interview."  BBC News adds, "Despite the heavy presence of news organisations at the airport, his departure was apparently not spotted by media."   WikiLeaks has Tweeted:


Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia for a year and has now left Moscow airport under the care of WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison

 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."

Not everyone will be pleased with today's news.  For example, the very sorry excuses for Senators Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein  will not be happy.  The CBS News on air who laughed on air yesterday about what the Bradley Manning verdict might mean to Ed is not pleased (to be clear, the on air was caught laughing on audio -- the camera was on Bob Orr while she laughed).

But not everyone's unhappy, Ed's father Lon spoke to Rossiya 24 (Russian television) yesterday:

Lon Snowden:  I would also like to thank President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government for the -- what I believe -- the courage and the strength and the conviction to keep my son.  Like any mother or father who loves their child, I love my son.  And I will be forever grateful for what you have done for my son. But considering the actions taken, particularly with grounding [Brazilian President] Evo Morales' airplane when they thought my son was on that, I feel that Russia has the strength and resolve and conviction to protect my son, to keep him out of the reach of those who would wish him harm.  That's why I would, if it were me, I would stay in Russia and that's what I hope my son would do.

RT reports, "With his newly-awarded legal status in Russia, Snowden cannot be handed over to the US authorities, even if Washington files an official request. He can now be transported to the United States only if he agrees to go voluntarily."  Again, for the CBS 'talent' (as opposed to reporter) who laughed on air yesterday morning, today's news must be devastating.  But no doubt, wasting everyone's time with celebrity gossip and puff interviews -- which really is CBS This Morning -- will have her mended and back on the superficial track in no time at all.

 WikiLeaks Tweeted:

  1. We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle--now the war.

RT notes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke (via video link) at a conference yesterday:

The world is witnessing the creation of a new world order that involves the security state apparatus as an overwhelming force, Julian Assange said during his speech at OHM2013 Observe, Hack, Make conference.
“We are seeing the doubling of the power of the national security agency every four years,” Assange said, adding that even some experts might not have “enough perspective about what is going on."  

A statement from Barack's administration -- one offering no thank you to Russia -- is expected later this morning.  Ben Brumfield (CNN) reports:

Snowden's father told Anderson Cooper that the FBI had wanted to fly him to Moscow to encourage the National Security Agency leaker to come home to the United States.
But Lon Snowden said he backed out because it was not clear he would be able to speak to his son.
When he asked FBI agents if they would be able to set up communications, they hesitated, he said. It made him suspicious.
"I'm not going to get on a flight and go to Moscow and sit on a tarmac to be an emotional tool for you to use against him. I want to first be able to speak to my son," he told them.

The news of the asylum was raised at today's State Dept press briefing:

 QUESTION: Can we start with U.S. relations with Russia?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I’ve obviously seen what the White House has said about your extreme disappointment with this and also that the U.S. Government is reevaluating the utility of a summit. Is it fair to conclude that your reevaluation of the utility of a summit with President Putin is directly in response to this one event, or is it part of a wider set of issues including that arms control talks don’t appear to be going very far with the Russians?

MS. HARF: I would say that it is directly related to this very disappointing event, yes.

QUESTION: And are you considering any additional steps to manifest your unhappiness with this unfortunate step including, for example, canceling the so-called 2+2 meeting that I think is supposed to happen later this month?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have an announcement for you yet on the 2+2. Obviously, as the White House said, this is not a positive development. And we are also reevaluating the utility of that as well.

QUESTION: And had you ever set a date for that? Because I saw the Secretary said back in Brunei in July that it would be during the month of July. Interfax, I think, has said August the 8th. Was there ever a date in mind?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Arshad. I’d have to check into whether we actually set a date or not.

QUESTION: And one other thing. Why – I mean, I understand that you’re reevaluating the utility. That doesn’t mean you’re going to cancel it. Might there not be some utility in talking to your Russian defense and foreign minister counterparts to see if there’s some way to try to work out the Snowden case?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we continue to work, to talk to the Russian Government about this today, and we will in the future as well. In terms of whether that would be part of any such summit, we’re still reevaluating that right now.

QUESTION: And last one for me on this. U.S. officials are always saying that they have a very broad agenda with the Russians, that you work with them when you can and you disagree when you can’t on, for example, on things like human rights. Why reevaluate the – given the breadth of your interests with Russia, given such issues as Iran, North Korea, arms control, why would you be so piqued by one incident such as this that you would consider throwing away a summit meeting that has long been planned?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a few points. First, no decision has been made. We have nothing new to announce at this point about the 2+2 summit, so I don’t want to get ahead of where that process is.
You’re right, we do have a broad agenda that we talk to the Russian Government about. There are issues where we work together, as you know, Afghanistan, Iran sanctions, and elsewhere. But there are times when we very strongly disagree. I think that today’s action, as my colleagues at the White House said, is extremely disappointing. And so in light of the fact that they have taken such action, it behooves us to evaluate where the relationship is, whether the summit makes sense. But again, I don’t want to get ahead of any decision on that at this point.
Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Marie, can we get into some more of the nitty-gritty?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When this came out, when the news broke, was the State Department surprised? Because after all, you’ve been talking with the Russians for quite a long time now about this subject. Was it a surprise that he was given temporary asylum?

MS. HARF: We were not informed in advance of this move. We are currently reaching out to the Russian Government for formal confirmation and to discuss the issue further.

QUESTION: And what is Secretary Kerry doing today concerning this? I know he has a busy schedule in Pakistan.

MS. HARF: He does. He has a schedule in Pakistan. If I have any updates on his involvement I will be sure to let you know. I’ll check in with the traveling party again. Ambassador McFaul and our Embassy there have discussed our views with the Russian Government, including today. But I will update you if there are additional contacts to read out.

QUESTION: And there are some very strong comments coming from the Hill. I think probably the strongest is Senator McCain, who’s saying relook at the entire relationship – I mean, missile defense, Georgia, you name it. Do you think he is right? Is this time at this point where it’s being interpreted as Putin really poking his eye – sorry – poking his finger in the eye of the United States? Is it really time now to relook at the relationship?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we and President Putin himself have been clear that we don’t want this issue to broadly negatively affect our bilateral relationship, because as you said, there are places where we work together including in Afghanistan, with Iran sanctions, with reductions in our nuclear arms arsenals. So we’ve both been very clear that this is an example of something that we want to treat separately, that we don’t want it to adversely affect the whole relationship. That being said, this was an extremely disappointing step. I don’t want to get ahead of any discussions about where we’re going to go from here other than to say again that we continue to press with the Russian Government that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States where he will face a free and fair trial.

QUESTION: So in other words, you’re going to just kind of put this on the backburner in a way as separate?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say on the backburner at all. Clearly, we are coming out very strongly today in saying this is an issue of importance to us and that we’re very disappointed. I wouldn’t – so I wouldn’t characterize it in that way, but I would put it into the context of the fact that we’ve all said throughout this process that we don’t want it to affect the relationship. That’s why – in part why today’s news is so disappointing.

QUESTION: But why won’t it affect – I mean, how can you possibly divorce this?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously no issue is discussed in a vacuum, clearly. But it’s not about divorcing it. It’s about saying, as Arshad said, there are areas where we work together. We’ll continue to do so because it’s in our interest to do so. There are areas where we disagree, as we’ve talked about, not just Snowden but others. And again, we’re evaluating our summit, the 2+2. We’re looking at that right now. So clearly this could have an impact, but the relationship is a broad one where we have many national security interests as well.

QUESTION: The issue of the Sochi Olympics which has come up, not only in the context of Snowden but in the context of the issues on LGBT rights, has there been any decision or – obviously probably not a decision at this point, but is there any further view on Sochi whether a boycott would be useful?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything further for you on that. I just – I haven’t heard about any of those discussions that are ongoing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) talking about seeking further confirmation of the decision on Snowden.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that going on through the Embassy, through McFaul or people here are involved?

MS. HARF: Well, Ambassador McFaul is certainly in touch. A number of our other folks are as well. We’ve said throughout the process that we’re also working through the appropriate law enforcement channels. So I know lots of people are involved in this and on the phone right now, and we’re looking for a little more clarity. But I think one point I would underscore, and that everyone’s underscoring with the Russians, that this move by the Russian Government undermines a longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombings. So we will continue to make that point with the Russian Government at all points in this process.

QUESTION: The Boston Marathon bombing was not particularly long ago.

MS. HARF: That was just one example of our longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation.
More on Snowden?

QUESTION: Just – I mean, do you – I mean, you’re mentioning about the cooperation’s been there in the past.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, do you think in the course of this, was it made clear to the Russians the repercussions this would have for the relationship by making a decision like this? Was it explicitly said that this would be the case?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into details of our diplomatic conversations with the Russians. We’ve, again, been making privately the same points we’ve been making publicly, that Mr. Snowden is wanted on very serious charges and that he needs to be returned to the United States to face those charges.

QUESTION: Russia --

QUESTION: Could you ask you a question – oh, sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a clarification. On that 2+2, are the subjects, these kind of broader issues like missile defense, nuclear arms reduction, crisis in Syria, can you at least – even if it doesn’t happen or it does, is that what they are talking about?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a preview of what that would entail. It’s my understanding it would be a broader agenda. And again, setting aside a specific summit, we are clearly going to keep talking with the Russians about all of these issues. So we’re not going to stop engaging with them on Syria, on the way forward, on missile defense, on any of these issues because one meeting does or does not happen. So I wouldn’t read that into whether or not this meeting happens.

QUESTION: Can I just ask also on Mr. Snowden himself --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it’s been said in Russia that he’s no longer in the airport. Has the U.S. had any contact or made any attempt to have any contact or to find out his whereabouts?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any knowledge of any of that. Again, it’s a moving situation on the ground, and not to my knowledge has anyone tried to reach out to him.

QUESTION: And there’s the idea that he could get a new passport, that the United States would be happy to provide him a passport.

MS. HARF: We would be happy to provide him the necessary travel documents to return to the United States to face trial, absolutely.

QUESTION: Do you think that – do you have any reason to think that the verdict against Bradley Manning this week had any impact on the Russians’ decision to grant temporary asylum?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to venture a guess as to why the Russian Government did this, to make any links between any two cases. I think I said from the podium here yesterday that we don’t make links between cases, so I would not want to even venture a guess as to what their motivation was.

QUESTION: But they haven’t, in Ambassador McFaul or other officials’ contacts with them since this was announced, they haven’t conveyed that to you?

MS. HARF: Not that I’ve heard of, but again, I don’t have a full readout of every conversation that’s going on. We are treating this as an individual case, again, making the same points that we’ve been making for months now.

[. . .]

 QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more quick one on Snowden.

MS. HARF: On Snowden?

QUESTION: Yeah. And given that this is a temporary asylum he’s been granted in Russia, are you continuing to stay in touch with other countries that he might be headed to after this point?

MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t have any new outreach to update you on. I think we’ve made clear throughout this process – and our position on that has not changed – that any third country where he might attempt to transit through or eventually resettle to needs to instead send him back to the United States where he should face trial.

QUESTION: Do you know if there’s been more communication, or has there been any communication with Mr. Snowden’s father? He’s been quite public in his remarks, saying he’s relieved that Russia has provided him with asylum. Has there been any communication with him, as far as you know?

MS. HARF: From the State Department? Not to my knowledge, no.

So many words, so little meaning.  Lesson?  Never mistake the government's bulls**t for diplomacy.

the associated press
sameer n. yacoub