Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 31, 2013

Syria: Obama's Climb-down - Congress Vote On All Out War

We were Awaiting Obama's Climb-down. Obama just delivered it. As explained here:
Obama is now in a catch 22. The House Republicans demand answers to detailed questions about the war Obama wants to wage that he will not be able to give. 80% of U.S. citizens want Obama to go to Congress before waging war. But if he calls Congress back from vacations to vote on a war resolution he will risk, like Cameron, utter defeat. If he does not call back Congress and proceeds with a strike he may face impeachment. He can of course stand down on the issue but will then be damaged goods in international affairs and a lame duck at home.
So Obama has chosen the first path, to ask Congress for a vote. He did so with some more heart bleeding nonsensical rhetoric. If Congress rejects the war Obama will not be able to wage it as that would very likely lead to impeachment.

Obama may have done this climb-down with two silent hopes in his mind:

  • he either doesn't want war and hopes that Congress saves him from the stupid red-line trap that he set for himself and that led to the false-flag incident on a Damascus suburb - or
  • he wants war and hopes that AIPAC with its phenomenal lobbying power will bring Congress in line and make it consent to wage another war for the sole benefit of Zionism.

Here is my hope that the people of the United States, even though they mostly despise the current Congress, will do all they can to prevent another U.S. war in the Middle East. Please, starting today, bother your Congressmen and Senators every day over the next ten days and urgently press them to vote "No!" on the upcoming war resolution. Keep in mind that if Congress would vote "Yes!" the war will NOT be limited to few air strikes or cruise missile shots.

If Congress votes for the war, it will - no matter what they will tell you before - become an all out very deadly conflagration over all the Middle East including Iran. The resolution would just be interpreted to mean whatever the president wants it to mean. There would then be lots of U.S. boots on the ground and many more people would die than in the war the U.S. waged on Iraq.

Posted by b on August 31, 2013 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (226)

Why Kerry's "Know" Speech Is Fundamentally Wrong

To assess something, without having confirmation, is fundamentally different from knowing something.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks on Syria on Aug. 30

what we know ... I know that ... what we know will ... some things we do know ... we really know ... we know that ... We know that the regime ... We know that the regime ... We know that for three days ... And we know that the Syrian regime ... We know that these were ... We know where ... We know where they ... We know rockets ... And we know, as does the world, ... And we know it was ... we know what ... now knows that ... We also know ... We know that ... We know this. ... And we know what they did ... as we now know ... things that we know ... what do we know ... we know what we know ... that we don’t already know. ... we know that after a decade ... these things we do know ... We also know ... because we know ... So that is what we know ... now know ... need to know
U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013
The United States Government assesses ... We further assess ... all-source assessments ... Our classified assessments ... A preliminary U.S. government assessment ... though this assessment will certainly evolve ... We assess with ... We assess that ... this assessment includes ... Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation.
Kerry may think something or believe something but, despite him using the word 35 times, he does not know s....

Posted by b on August 31, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (79)

August 30, 2013

No Climb-down Yet - But Lots of B...s...

Secretary of State Kerry just gave a press statement which he started 26 minutes late. I will spare you my rough notes and point to the Washington Post transcript.

Obama will go to Congress and the American people to make the case against Syria.

The unclassified intelligence assessment is here (pdf) There is also a unspecific map of the allegedly targeted areas.

Kerry cited intelligence that sounded weak to me. He claimed 1429 killed by "chemical weapons" in the recent incident. That doesn't make sense. The 30+ videos I have seen of the incident have shown about a 100 dead people max.

Then came some heart bleeding nonsense, the usual USA, USA, USA and the false claim that "the world stands with us".

He then promised some U.S. reaction but mentioned no legal base for that.

I'll take some time to read the assessment and will later let you known my opinion on it.

Update: Read through the very short unclassified assessment and it basically says "we know" and "trust us". Not one bit of something concrete or independently verifiable. Some circumstantial observations in a battlefield that may mean this or that. This sentence especially makes we very suspicious:

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure.
The issue here is that exposure to a nerve agent like Sarin should show certain symptoms that the people in the videos do NOT show. Sarin "closes the pupils and opens the anus". In those videos all people seem clean, none have defecated, none have thrown up. That is inconsistent with chemical weapon effects and not mentioned in the assessment.

Posted by b on August 30, 2013 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (140)

Awaiting Obama's Climb-down

The parliament of the United Kingdom voted against a war on Syria. For now. I am certain there will be an attempt to reverse this decision. The propaganda onslaught for ssuch an attempt already started with new BBC claims (vid) of another "atrocity". Several scenes in this video seem to me to be quite obvious fakes.

The U.S. Obama so far seems to continue to want to go it alone. But the "senior officials" quoted are probably all from the National Security Council and Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice is the one who drove this bus against the wall. Her utter mis-management of this incident - a rush to war then retreat, an attempt to block the UN observers thrn lrt them work, presenting dubious intelligence, bad management of potential allies - will end her career within the next few weeks.

Any claim of the U.S. would attack Syria in service of some "international community" is now proven to be utterly false. Let's count who is against bombing Syria: The United Kingdom parliament, the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations Secretary General, NATO, the U.S. military, the U.S. intelligence community, the public in the United States, Israel, Turkey and about everywhere else. Even France's gung-ho Hollande is wobbly.

The "intelligence" the U.S. claims to have that supposedly shows that the Syrian government used chemical weapons is so thin that its publishing had to be moved from yesterday to the Friday afternoon newsdump today. Even that thin intelligence is based on Israeli sources which lets one doubt its integrity.

Obama is now in a catch 22. The House Republicans demand answers to detailed questions about the war Obama wants to wage that he will not be able to give. 80% of U.S. citizens want Obama to go to Congress before waging war. But if he calls Congress back from vacations to vote on a war resolution he will risk, like Cameron, utter defeat. If he does not call back Congress and proceeds with a strike he may face impeachment. He can of course stand down on the issue but will then be damaged goods in international affairs and a lame duck at home.

It will be well deserved.

Posted by b on August 30, 2013 at 05:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (124)

August 29, 2013

UK Has No Case For War On Syria

The British government is trying to construct a case to allow itself to attack Syria.

To this purpose the British Joint Intelligence Organisations issued a two page paper on Syria: Reported Chemical Weapon Use (pdf). The paper cites the amount of propaganda Youtube videos of a certain incident as supporting "evidence":

Unlike previous attacks, the degree of open source reporting of CW use on 21 August has been considerable. As a result, there is little serious dispute that chemical attacks causing mass casualties on a larger scale than hitherto [..] took place.
It blames the Syrian government for the incident because the other side could not have done it.
It is being claimed, including by the regime, that the attacks were either faked or undertaken by the Syrian Armed Opposition. We have tested this assertion using a wide range of intelligence and open sources, and invited HMG and outside experts to help us establish whether such a thing is possible. There is no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate the claims or the possession of CW by the opposition. The JIC has therefore concluded that there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility.
The British JIO obviously needs some help in using the Google:
Al-Qa'ida and associated extremist groups have a wide variety of potential agents and delivery means to choose from for chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attacks.

Does the JIO find those reports implausible? The whole argument of the JIC is

  • Lots of propaganda videos show something bad happened.
  • Maybe Al Qaeda didn't do it.
  • Assad must have done it.

How can such a line of thought be called intelligence?

Even worse than the sloppy intelligence case is the legal case, based on the intelligence, the UK government is trying to assert:

If action in the Security Council is blocked, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures in order to alleviate the scale of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in Syria by deterring and disrupting the further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Such a legal basis is available, under the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, provided three conditions are met: ...
"Humanitarian intervention" is highly controversial (pdf) in international law because it contradicts the charter of the United Nations, which is established and binding law, and has been frequently used as sorry excuse for illegal wars. It is not even a "legal doctrine" but simply the opinion of some government lawyers. Such a case for "humanitarian intervention" could also be made on Egypt where the military junta killed over 1,000 people who protested against its coup against a democratically elected government. Why isn't Cameron making that more urgent case?

In fact both papers show that Cameron has nothing. No defining intelligence that the Syrian army used any chemical weapon nor is there a legal case for waging war on Syria. There would not be even be a case if the Syrian army had used chemical weapons. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 do not involve any enforcement clauses and Syria is not part of the Chemical Weapon Convention.

An AP report today about the U.S. intelligence case on the incident in Syria shows that it is just as weak as the JIO's thin assertions: AP sources: Intelligence on weapons no 'slam dunk'

[M]ultiple U.S. officials used the phrase "not a slam dunk" to describe the intelligence picture — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet's insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk" — intelligence that turned out to be wrong.

A report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining that evidence against Syria is thick with caveats. It builds a case that Assad's forces are most likely responsible while outlining gaps in the U.S. intelligence picture.

Are the U.S. and the UK really going to war based on a "most likely responsible" assertion fiddled from very thin and dubious actual information?

Posted by b on August 29, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (225)

August 28, 2013

U.S. Rush To Strike Syria Slowed Down

Following the deadly use of unknown chemicals by unknown sources in Syria the Obama administration tried to rush into some "punitive" strikes on Syria, which would have unintended consequences and little success. To this purpose it tried to derail an investigation into the incident by UN observers in Syria.

Today it looks like this rush has been blocked by several forces.

The claim by Secretary of State Kerry that Syria was too slow in accepting a UN probe proved to be a lie. The UN only asked Saturday, after the U.S. blocking was rejected, to start an investigation in Syria and was allowed to do so by Syria on Sunday. UN secretary Ban Ki Moon resisted U.S pressure and the UN team in Syria continues its investigation. It will need at least four days until its has some reasonable results. The UN declared that its observers so far have found some "chemical substances" which will have to be analyzed and it insisted that any strike would only be legal if the UN Security Council could agree on it.

The Obama administration has yet to provide any evidence that the alleged chemical attack came from the Syrian government. The only "evidence" purposefully leaked is from rather suspicious Israeli communication intercepts of alleged confused talk between Syrian military units AFTER the alleged attack happened. Those certainly ain't proof of Syrian military involvement.

While the UN insists that a strike could only be internationally legal following an UNSC affirmation, Bush lawyer Jack Goldsmith argues that such a strike, without congressional approval, would be illegal under U.S. domestic law.

In the UK premier Cameron faces resistance not only from the labour party but from a significant part of his fellow conservatives. A rush by Cameron today to get a Libya like UNSC resolution for "all necessary force" to "protect civilians" in Syria was rejected by Russia and China who insisted on voting only after getting results from the UN observers in Syria.

In Europe Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Norway have, for good reasons, spoken out against any use of force against Syria. Austria blocked its airspace for any air operation related to Syria. The Arab League blamed the chemical incident on the Syrian government but rejected to endorse any punitive measures.

The Turkish premier Erdogan, who would also like to strike Syria, is like Cameron running into problems with his own party. He also has a huge problem with the tanking Turkish Lira and rapidly increasing interest rates. The Turkish economy is currently taking a deep dive which is at least partly to blame on Erdogan's aggressive foreign policy.

In the U.S. skeptical voices against any further interference in Syria are getting some attention. The U.S. people seem to be solidly against any new war in the Middle East.

Today's slow down of the rush to war may only turn out as a delay that still ends in a catastrophe. But today showed that any strike will lack any international legitimacy. It also gives a shimmer of hope that the whole deadly nonsense may be avoided.

Posted by b on August 28, 2013 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (129)

Syria: The "Most Popular" List

The current Most Popular list on ForeignPolicy.com is quite revealing:

Note especially No. 4.

Whoever has the illusion that this will end with now seemingly imminent "limited strikes" needs to consult a psychiatrist.

(h/t billmon)

Posted by b on August 28, 2013 at 12:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (138)

August 27, 2013

At A Complete Loss

Alexei Pushkov, chair of the Russian Federation State Duma's international affairs committee, saying what I think:
"To us, it looks as though [George W.] Bush, [Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld never left the White House. [...] It's basically the same policy, as if US leaders had learned nothing and forgotten nothing in the past decade. They want to topple foreign leaders they regard as adversaries, without even making the most basic calculations of the consequences. An intervention in Syria will only enlarge the area of instability in the Middle East and expand the scope of terrorist activity. I am at a complete loss to understand what the US thinks it is doing."
Or maybe I am not yet enough of a cynic.

Posted by b on August 27, 2013 at 02:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (199)

August 26, 2013

To Read On Syria

To read on Syria:

President Assad's interview with Izvestia:
President al-Assad: Syria will never become a western puppet state, we will fight terrorism and freely build relationships that best serve the interests of the Syrians - Sana

How the Saudi Price Bandar is goading the Unites States into another Middle East war:
A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works To Build Support to Topple Assad - WSJ

Half of the CIA paid Fee Syrian Army's recruits from Jordanian refugee camps are under 18 and pressed into service through threats and/or bribes on their families
As losses mount, Syrian rebels turn to teenage soldiers - Washington Post

Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran - FP

Syria: Expert sees no military grade chemical weapon effect
What Happened? - If it isn’t Sarin, what is it? - Strongpoint Security

Posted by b on August 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (102)

August 24, 2013

What Is The Sudden Issue With Syria?

According to the insurgency supporting Syrian Observatory 136 people have been killed two days ago by some unknown substance released during ongoing fights by unknown perpetrators in some villages east of Damascus.

Based on that Washington is now all giddy about waging open war on Syria.

A few days ago the Egyptian military killed hundred of Muslim Brothers who were protesting against a military coup against the elected government.

Washington didn't care.

And what actually makes the hundred something people killed by some unknown substance in Syria different from those killed in Syria by the 3,500 tons of weapons the CIA got from Croatia and distributed to the insurgents in Syria?

I do not think that the U.S. will in any outright way attack Syria. The unknowns for the U.S., including the potential reactions by Russia and China, are just too many and too big.

Posted by b on August 24, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (217)

August 23, 2013

The War On Syria Now Coming To Lebanon

Yesterday some Jihaid group fired four rockets into north Israel. No one was hurt:
Al-Qaeda-linked militants asserted responsibility for firing four rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel on Thursday afternoon. Israeli missile defenses intercepted one of the missiles and the remaining three caused little damage, according to Israeli military officials.

No one was reported hurt in the attack, which the Israel Defense Forces blamed on “global jihad operatives” and not on longtime antagonist Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite political and militant organization.

Later Thursday, the Lebanese branch of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda, said it had carried out the attack. The group, known as the Ziad al-Jarrah Battalion, is named after a Lebanese Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker.

In "retaliation" for a strike by a Jihdi group Israel attacked some installation of the secular and leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command:

An Associated Press photographer in Naameh said the raid targeted a PFLP-GC base in a valley in the town. Lebanese troops in the area prevented journalists from reaching the base.
Why, if not to sow further chaos, would Israel target a leftist Palestinian group in "retaliation" for a hit by some super rightwing Jihadist group?

Just minutes ago two large explosions targeted two Sunni mosques in Tripoli, Lebanon when worshippers just started leaving. There is no word yet of the preachers, Sheikhs Bilal Baroudi and Salem Rafeii, having been hurt or killed but dozens were killed and wounded. In April Sheik Rafeii had escaped an assassination plot. Both Sheiks are Salafists and have called on Sunnis to fight against the Syrian government.

A week ago a car bomb hit a civilian area in south Beirut where lots of Hizbullah voters live. Whoever launched that bomb and hit the two mosques today, and it is unlikely to have been Hizbullah, clearly wants to escalate sectarian strife. Lebanon had so far been spared from much of of the fighting in Syria. But these attacks are an escalation and the up to now agreed upon truce in Lebanon will now unravel.

Posted by b on August 23, 2013 at 07:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (60)

August 22, 2013

Where Egypt Might Go

The former Egyptian president Mubarak has been released from prison and put under house arrest. One wonders if he will run in the next presidential elections. How many votes would he get?

Here is a quite interesting piece on the take down of the Muslim Brotherhood reign: Shallow Democracy v. Deep State: An Archaeology of the Crisis in Egypt. It is correct in demonstrating how all kind of nefarious powers within the military, the bureaucracy and judiciary worked together to make former president Morsi's job as difficult as possible. He did not manage to co-opt or reform those forces. But it still does not sufficiently explain why the Egyptian military intervened and kicked Morsi out.

There are all kinds of conspiracy theories around this issue. The Saudis bought off the military because they hate the Brotherhood. The U.S. wanted the military to take over. If you believe the more and more erratic Turkish premier Erdogan it was the Israelis that were behind the coup.

I doubt all these theories. They all deny agency to the Egyptian military. Are we to believe that the generals in Cairo, who see themselves in the tradition of Gamal Abdel Nasser, can simply be bought off? The generals likely had their very own interests in launching the coup and those were not their economic ones. Sure, the army and the generals own a lot of factories and land and profit from that. But those economic privileges were securely protected in the Morsi supported constitution.

But Morsi showed lenience towards takfiri jihadists in the Sinai and belligerence towards Syria and Shiite in general. He stood next to jihad preachers when they called for Egyptians to join the takfiris in Syria. The Egyptian military has for years fought, with quite some losses, against takfiri minded sectarian terrorists within central Egypt and in the Sinai. When Morsi openly supported those forces he practically incited the army's longtime enemy against it.

Hardly any military in the world would condone such a situation. This point, rather then some foreign influence, was what launched the military's move.

Will the Egyptian generals now fall into the trap of a dirty war like those we have seen after the coups in Latin America? Will General Sisi turn out to be another Pinochet? I have my doubts that an attempt of "repressive stability" in Egypt would be indeed stabilizing.

The military will have an interest in avoiding further trouble and will likely hand off the economic and political mess to some civilian government. It is at least working into that direction. The new amended draft of the Egyptian constitution, not much changed at all, will do away with some contentious issues introduced under Morsi and has a new prohibition against religion based parties:

Article 6 in its amended form states that "it is forbidden to form political parties or perform any activities on the basis of religious foundations or on the basis of discrimination in terms of gender or sex."
The Muslim Brotherhood, if it wants to participate in the next elections, will thereby not be able to act as one political movement but will have to split out over several parties with varying interests. It could be a chance for the Brotherhood to change from its highly hierarchical organization into some broader based political organization.

It was somewhat amusing to yesterday read two divergent pieces on the U.S. "leverage" in Egypt in the same paper. The first one, Cairo Military Firmly Hooked to U.S. Lifeline, argued that the Egyptian military depends on U.S. maintenance of its tanks and air planes:

[A] close look at the details of American military aid to Egypt shows why the relatively modest $1.3 billion may give the United States more leverage over the Egyptian military than it may seem,..
While an op-ed piece on another page more realistically claimed that America Has No Leverage in Egypt.

The second piece is correct. The $1.3 billion military aid to Egypt goes into the pockets of U.S. arm manufacturers. It will therefore be difficult to kill. But should it be killed the Russians will immediately stand by to sell their weapons. How would the U.S., and its sidekick Israel, like some brand new Russian build and Saudi financed Mig-35's in the Egyptian air-force?

The U.S. has no leverage in Egypt and can do little but stand by and watch how the Egyptian military sorts out the mess and imposes a system it can live with. It will likely not be the "democratic", "liberal" and "secular" system that liberal interventionist and neocons say they prefer. It will be some muddle through,  somewhat democratic system under strict military oversight that can at least partially satisfy most Egyptians. One hopes that it will be a bit more energetic and agile than the ossified Mubarak regime.

Posted by b on August 22, 2013 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

August 21, 2013

Syria: Another False Flag "Chemical Weapon" Attack

Whenever there is some international action with regards to Syria, a United Nations security council meeting or a G8 conference, the Syrian insurgents create and/or propagandize some "massacre" that they allege to have been perpetrated by the Syrian government.

On Monday UN chemical weapon inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate some older claims of chemical weapon use. Just in time a new incident happens with the insurgents alleging use of "chemical weapons" by the Syrian government just some 10 miles away from the inspectors hotel:

Syrian regime forces fired intense artillery and rocket barrages Wednesday on the eastern suburbs Damascus amid a fierce government offensive in what two pro-opposition groups claimed was a “poisonous gas” attack that killed dozens of people.

The claims came as a 20-member U.N. chemical weapons team was in Syria to investigate three sites where chemical weapons attacks had allegedly occurred in the past. The timing raises questions on why would the regime employ chemical agents during a visit by the U.N. experts.

The government promptly denied the reports of Wednesday’s chemical weapons’ attack as “absolutely baseless.”

Videos of the incident show many people, including children, with respiratory problems. But non of the first responders and medical personal in those videos wear any protection against chemical weapons.

Real chemical weapons, like Sarin, are persistent agents. They stick to the cloth of the victims and any contact with those victims would practically guarantee to kill the people who try to help them unless those people take serious precautions. Whatever happened in Syria today is therefore unlikely to be the consequence of military grade chemical weapons. Many other chemical agents, like insecticides based on organophospate or some industrial process chemicals, could induce the observed symptoms.

It would of course be totally irrational for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons just the moment that chemical weapon inspectors arrive in the country. But it makes a lot of sense for the insurgents and their foreign supporters to create such an incident, as the did previously, and to use it to renew their propaganda campaign against the Syrian government. It is therefore no surprise that the British government immediately jumped all over the case.

Simply answer "cui bono?" and you will know who is responsible for this incident.

Posted by b on August 21, 2013 at 06:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (114)

August 20, 2013

Attack On British Media: Covered In Germany - Suppressed In UK

The United States and its United Kingdom puppet are taking extraordinary measures to stop further publishing of the Snowden leaks. Reporting about these actions is well covered in many European countries but seemingly suppressed in one of them.

Yesterday the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who is one of the main journalists covering the NSA spying story, was detained in London-Heathrow on "terrorism" charges because he was thought to be carrying files from the Snowden collection. All his electronic equipment was confiscated. The United States government was "informed" about this before it happened.

But even more extraordinary than this detention are the threats and actions the UK government is taking against The Guardian as its editor, Alan Rusbridger, now explains:

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back." There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian's reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government's intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK.
...
And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Destroying hard drives of a media company containing files that the government does not want to see published is an incredible, (though totally useless), attack on the freedom of the press.

One would have expected that other British media would be up in arms over such an attack. The German media are. The news of British agents destroying Guardian harddrives is front page news in Germany and other countries. It is currently top news of Der Spiegel (screenshot), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (screenshot) and Sueddeutsche Zeitung (screenshot). It is front page covered at Bild (screenshot) and other German media.

The detention and the Guardian raid are also covered on the front page of the New York Times and it is the most popular story at the Washington Post website.

But in the United Kingdom there is nothing like that. There is nothing about the attack on the Guardian on the front pages of the London Times (screenshot), the Independent (screenshot), the Telegraph (screenshot), the Daily Mail (screenshot) and the BBC (screenshot). (All screenshots were taken during the last half hour.)

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" - "Who watches the guardians" is given a whole new meaning here. The British press in its 4th estate role should scrutinize the actions of the British governments. But it is not even able to watch out for one for its own.

How can this be? How come that the British media are not covering this attack on their freedom while the German media have all out coverage of it? Why is this censored and by whom? Why is the Guardian editor blogging this issue on the Guardians "Comment is free" section and not reporting it as general news? Why and how is this censored in the UK and by whom?

Posted by b on August 20, 2013 at 04:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (75)

August 18, 2013

Who Dictates U.S. Policies On Egypt?

Who is really setting U.S. policies on Egypt?

The NYT has the answer: How American Hopes for a Deal in Egypt Were Undercut

The Israelis, whose military had close ties to General Sisi from his former post as head of military intelligence, were supporting the takeover as well. Western diplomats say that General Sisi and his circle appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and the diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid.

Israeli officials deny having reassured Egypt about the aid, but acknowledge having lobbied Washington to protect it.

When Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, proposed an amendment halting military aid to Egypt, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to senators on July 31 opposing it, saying it “could increase instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.” Statements from influential lawmakers echoed the letter, and the Senate defeated the measure, 86 to 13, later that day.

Posted by b on August 18, 2013 at 04:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (214)

August 16, 2013

Egypt: Chaos But Brotherhood Lacks Support For Escalation

As I was traveling I could not follow the Muslim Brotherhood "Day of Rage" in Egypt today. The result seems to be more chaos. Some 70+ Muslim Brotherhood supporters died today as, according to the government, did some 24 policemen. The army has checkpoints on major streets in Cairo and some loyalists vigilants appear to create some anarchic form of neighborhood watch groups.

The Saudi and the U.S. government are against "terror" in Egypt and back the generals but cooperate in creating terror in Syria and Lebanon. But others, including Russia, also support the generals. No one in the international field seems to take the side of the Brotherhood.

That gives some hope that the situation in Egypt will not evolve into the proxy war like the one that is waged on Syria and now also on Lebanon.

Posted by b on August 16, 2013 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

August 15, 2013

Bits On Syria And A Technology Question

In east Syria insurgents from the Fee Syrian Army have been kicked out of the city of Raqqa by al-Qaida affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria:
Fighting between ISIS and the Ahfad al-Rasoul brigade for control of Raqqa – which fell out of the control of president Bashar Assad in March – has intensified over the last week. The battle culminated with the jihadist group detonating a car bomb early Wednesday at the city’s main train station, killing Rasoul commanders Abu Mazen and Fahd Hussein al-Kajwan.

The Al-Qaeda-linked ISIS clashed with Rasoul fighters at the brigade’s headquarters, which they eventually overran, with most of the group withdrawing to Turkey Wednesday.

While the ISIS terrorist have won this fight the conflict itself is a sign that the at least parts of the population is turning against them. Summary execution of children (video) does not make one friends with their parents.

In south Syria near the border to Jordan the insurgents have made a few small gains. These are attributed to new Saudi financed anti-Tank missiles:

The Saudi-financed missile shipments arrived in the last few weeks through Jordan after months of quiet Saudi pressure to prod Amman to open a supply route.

Jordanian officials privately say they are caught between appeasing the Saudis and the danger of reprisals by Assad, who earlier this year warned Amman it "would be playing with fire" if it supported rebels.
...
It follows close Saudi-American-Jordanian intelligence coordination to vet and track weapons to keep them out of "the wrong hands" of Islamist fighters, a regional diplomatic source and an Arab security source told Reuters.

While the Saudis financed the missiles the real physical supplier is more likely the CIA.

The Syrian army has consolidated in the south and the new missiles are unlikely effect its hold on the area. That might be one reason why General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just visited Jordan to tell King Abdullah to ask for more help:

“We did not talk about direct military intervention,” [Dempsey] said. “That actually never came up. What did come up was discussions about what we could do to help them build their capability and capacities, whether it was border surveillance and I.S.R.,” which stands for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The I.S.R. capability is needed to spy on on the Syrian army and to be able to maneuver the insurgents, who have been trained by U.S. special forces in Jordan, against it. But the Syrian president Assad had warned Jordan to refrain from supporting the insurgents and likely has some counteraction planned. Jordan's king might soon be in real trouble.

Before Dempsey came to Jordan he had visited Israel and he left with some curious statement:

The Israelis “of course want us to continue to present a credible military threat to support those diplomatic and economic efforts,” General Dempsey said, adding that he told them, “since I was here last year, we have better military options than we did a year ago.”

“That’s because we’ve continued to refine them,” he said. “We’ve continued to develop technology, we’ve continued to train and plan.”

He declined to provide details.

What technology development was Dempsey thinking of? Or was this just a fake?

Posted by b on August 15, 2013 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

August 14, 2013

Egypt: Repressing the Muslim Brotherhood

The ruling Egyptian military decided to shut down the weeks long Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo. This morning it started to clear the places and Mosques the Brotherhood occupied. As expected the Brotherhood supporters resisted and the situation quickly escalated.

The police used lots of tear gas, bird shots and bulldozers to clear the barricades and tents. Snipers were seen on roofs. Some hundred of Muslim Brotherhood followers died. Many more were wounded. Some were burned when the tents they were in caught fire. Others were killed in stampedes. An unknown number were shot. The protesters used Molotov cocktails and stones against the police. Some of the protesters were seen with firearms fighting against police units. Various pictures from the riots can be seen here.

While the clearing of the sit-ins in Cairo was ongoing supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in upper Egypt set fire to at least seven Coptic churches and ransacked several police stations. Brotherhood leaders were overheard by journalists advising outside supporters to not come to the sit-ins but to "burn down police stations". Police stations and police cars in Cairo were attacked, several policemen were killed.

A daughter of billionaire and Muslim Brotherhood big wig Khiret El-Shater and her husband were reportedly killed. A daughter of Muslim Brotherhood leader El Beltagy was killed at the Rabaa sit-in. The conflict will now be a very personal issue for them.

Journalists and TV staff were attacked by police as well as by protesters. Two were killed and several reported that their equipment was confiscated and/or stolen.

Later today the military will likely impose a curfew in Cairo and elsewhere around the country.

Earlier Secretary of State Kerry had said that the Egyptian military was "restoring democracy". There will come little condemnation from Washington today and what will come will be ignored by the new rulers in Egypt. In seldom unity Iran, Qatar and Turkey condemned the violence (insert pot kettle joke here). The iman of Al Aznahr, the center of Muslim teaching in Egypt, called on both sides to end the violence.

All attempts to find a political solution in recent weeks had failed. After today it is even less likely that that one will be found. The military will suppress any new Muslim Brotherhood activity and parts of the MB may consider to go underground and fight a guerrilla or terror war. That will only increase the pressure coming from the state. The political winner of the MB-military conflict will be the Salafi Nour party which had kept its followers away from the altercations. It has support from the Gulf states and the Egyptian economy currently depends on money from the Gulf. It is difficult to see how in the long term some balance between the transnational Islamic movements in Egypt and the nationalist, more secular forces can be found.

Posted by b on August 14, 2013 at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (223)

Why The NYT Should Finally Fire Tom Friedman

Tom Friedman for the NYT on August 14: Obama, Snowden and Putin
Considering the breadth of reforms that President Obama is now proposing to prevent privacy abuses in intelligence gathering, in the wake of Snowden’s disclosures, Snowden deserves a chance to make a second impression — that he truly is a whistle-blower, not a traitor. [...] To make a second impression, Snowden would need to come home, make his case and face his accusers.
Charlie Savage for the NYT on August 9: President Moves to Ease Worries on Surveillance
Mr. Obama showed no inclination to curtail secret surveillance efforts. Rather, he conceded only a need for greater openness and safeguards to make the public “comfortable” with them.
Editorial for the NYT on August 10: A Weak Agenda on Spying Reform
President Obama, who seems to think the American people simply need some reassurance that their privacy rights are intact, proposed a series of measures on Friday that only tinker around the edges of the nation’s abusive surveillance programs.
Peter Maass for the NYT on August 13: Q. & A.: Edward Snowden Speaks to Peter Maass
Edward Snowden: After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power — the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly. The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period.
Tho Friedman obviously does not read the newspaper he is opining for. If the NYT wants to "recover", it should fire him.

Posted by b on August 14, 2013 at 06:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

August 13, 2013

Stuff I Should Write About

Several issues I should but don't have time to write about :

NSA spying:

Syria:

There is a lot of hype over some Takfiri attacks on some small towns in Latakia. While these came as a surprise the Syrian army is already containing them. The Takfiris have received many new weapons over the last months. The truckloads of Anti Tank Guided Missiles they now have makes the use of tanks by the Syrian army more difficult but can be overcome with good artillery coverage. The Syrian army seems to have hunkered down a bit for now to let the Takfiris attack their defenses. That is smart to do. The casualties of the attackers are always higher than those of the defenders and at some point the stream of foreign Takfiris into Syria will slow down and stop. I still wonder though why Syria is not taking more (covered) action in Turkey. Erdogan must be put under pressure to close the border.

Yemen:

My impression is that the whole Al-Qaida "conference call" story, the closure of embassies in the Middle East and Africa and the current drone killing orgy in Yemen are an artificial diversions from the NSA spying. They failed as diversion but created lots of new enemies.

Miscellaneous:

Posted by b on August 13, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

August 12, 2013

Open Thread 2013-17

News & views ..

Posted by b on August 12, 2013 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

August 11, 2013

Samantha Power's Worldview

This is United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power's Twitter header picture:


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White men in uniform energetically unloading a UN helicopter while a downtrodden black civilian lingers in the background.

What does this tell us about her worldview?

(h/t Jon Schwarz)

Posted by b on August 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

August 10, 2013

The Most Transparent Administration Ever

Obama says phone spying not abused, will continue
To allay concerns, Obama endorsed modest oversight changes to a program he says already has plenty of it. None of them significantly changes the programs, and the president acknowledged they were intended to appease Americans, not to curtail the surveillance.
...
The White House chose to announce the changes and release the documents on a Friday afternoon in August when Congress was on vacation and much of Washington had cleared out.
Transparant. Indeed.

Posted by b on August 10, 2013 at 01:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

August 09, 2013

On "Punishing" Russia

There is a campaign building in the "western" media and by the "western" elite to "punish" Russia for not doing what those elites want it to do.

The theme the campaign is now using is a law the Russia parliament recently voted on that prohibits "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors". The existence of that law is used in a campaign to boycott the Olympics in Sochi in the name of LGBT "rights".

How much that Russian law really touches on "rights" is not yet obvious to me. The Russian LBGT groups for one have spoken out AGAINST such a boycott. But they will soon find that no one in the "west" really cares about them. The campaign against Russia it is not about LGBT rights but all about "punishing" Russia.

Yesterday president Obama joined the Russia LGPT rights bashing club:

"[I have] no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them" ... "One of the things I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly because that’s what we stand for, and I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America,” Obama said. “That’s just something that should apply everywhere.
So how about the gays Saudi Arabia hangs? What was the last time Obama showed "no patience" with the Saudi royal family? And all those people that get killed by Obama's drones are "treated fairly and justly"?

The Russian law may be stupid. But Russia does not kill anyone for his or her sexual preferences. To use such an issue to call for a boycott of the Olympics, against the declared will of the Russians effected by the law, is rather embarrassing.

To think that such calls or even an Olympics boycott would change Russia's behavior is childish. Russia is again an independent country. It can no longer be "punished".

Posted by b on August 9, 2013 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (89)

August 08, 2013

Welcome To The Sorwellance State

A U.S. citizen living in the U.S. is not supposed to have her emails fleeced by the National Security Agency. Even when communication crosses the borders the NSA is only supposed to read the emails when one side of the communication is a foreign "target". But then someone at the NSA read George Orwell's 1984 and confused it with a manual.

Thus we learn that the NSA collects and searches through everything that crosses the borders. The helpdesk and accounting of your phone provider has been outsourced to India? Well, there you are. The NSA will sniff through all your communication with them. The remote radiological diagnosis of your computer tomography is done in Great Britain? Write an email to that radiologist and your mail will be read by not only him:

The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.
The NSA and the secret FISA court, in a secret opinion, have redefined the word "target". For them it now means "possible information about a possible target". As "possible information about a possible target" might be in any email or web-dialog crossing the border all of those are searched. The NSA will search for email-addresses, telephone numbers, certain keywords or “selectors” that are somehow "related" to possible "targets". Should by chance some accounting number in your email be similar to a "suspect" telephone number in maybe Timbuktu your email will be stored and forwarded to a human analyst. If that analysts somehow finds any information in your email that is "of interest" she may store it and/or forward it to other agencies. Next a police SWAT team raids your home in 3, 2, 1 ...

So while the NSA is supposed to target only foreigners by this new definition anything that might give somehow some information about a "target", even when completely unrelated, can and will be searched.

The NSA collects the data it wants to look through by copying and collecting all data streams on international fiber cables and probably also national ones. But it does not call this "collecting". Because the data (allegedly) is deleted if it was unsuccessfully searched for certain "selectors", the NSA argues, there is no "collecting" happening at all:

The senior intelligence official argued, however, that it would be inaccurate to portray the N.S.A. as engaging in “bulk collection” of the contents of communications. “ ‘Bulk collection’ is when we collect and retain for some period of time that lets us do retrospective analysis,” the official said. “In this case, we do not do that, so we do not consider this ‘bulk collection.’ ”

That senior intelligence official is doubleplusgood versed in newspeak. "Bulk collection" is only when the NSA stores it for retroactive search. But in previous cases the NSA argued that not even storing for retroactive search is a "collection". That "collection" only happens when the stored data is sniffed through. So which is it?

On Tuesday Obama claimed:

“We don’t have a domestic spying program”
As in NSA newspeak "relevant" does not mean relevant, "target" does not mean target and "collecting" does not mean collecting we will also have to pass Obama's sentence through the de-Orwellifier:

"We don't have" means: "Others have"? "It's outsourced"? "We don't have yet but will have tomorrow"?

Not "domestic" means: "It is a universal program and it does not make that distinction"?

Not "spying" means: "Read your mail only to prevent terrorists killing you?" ".. only to prevent crime"? ".. only to prevent tax evasion?"

Not "a program" means: "There are several active projects"? "There are machines"?

Looked at this way Obama's claim "We don’t have a domestic spying program" is NSA newspeak consistent with the sentence "We pay Booz Allen Hamilton to run several projects that search through all global communication, including yours, to prevent all people who communicate from whatever bad be might think of."

Welcome to the sorwellance state.

Posted by b on August 8, 2013 at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

August 07, 2013

Sources: NSA Invited To Al Qaeda Conference Call

The Daily Beast has a scoop (slightly modified):
It wasn’t just any terrorist message that triggered U.S. terror alerts and embassy closures—but a conference call of more than 20 far-flung al Qaeda operatives, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin report.

The crucial intercept that prompted the U.S. government to close embassies in 22 countries was a conference call between al Qaeda’s senior leaders and representatives of several of the group’s affiliates throughout the region.

The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.
...
Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. Also attending the call were Charles Mason, Elvis, Karl Marks and the NSA.

Sources explained that the call was conducted via strings tied to aluminum tubes.
So the intelligence people thought it useful to tell the public exactly how Al Qaeda communicates? What's the next nonsense they will try to sell to the public? The San Fransisco-Honolulu bridge?

Posted by b on August 7, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

August 06, 2013

The Washington Post All About The Washington Post

Yesterdays sale of the Washington Post is exhibit one of what Washington DC is about. Washington DC is all about Washington DC.

Sure, the Washington Post is a prominent paper and while its purchase by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is certainly a legitimate news story it is not a worldshaking development that deserves extended frontpage coverage. But look how the Washington Post, which still believes itself to be some serious news outlet, reports on its change of ownership.

This is the current Washington Post homepage with 12(!) stories on the issue and very little else:


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And here is the paper editions frontpage, again nothing else but its change of ownership:


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Washington DC, to the politicians, lobbyists and media there, is all about themselves. How can one take a news media seriously when its obsession with itself trumps anything else that is happening in this world?

Even worse, in all the Washington Post coverage the real story and question is left out.

The growth of Amazon from a garage bookselling website into an online retail mammoth was heavily subsidized by the U.S. taxpayers. While local retail business had to pay local and state sales tax, Amazon and other "virtual" businesses did not do so. They could therefore offer lower consumer prices for their products than the local storefront retail businesses could.

The negative effects of this subside were threefold. Local storefront business could not compete with Amazon and had to close with their workers becoming unemployed. Sure, in some places Amazon also created some jobs. But those were concentrated rather brutal and low paying warehouse jobs instead of qualified local sales personal. States and local communities that relied on sales taxes had to make up the $11 billion shortfall per year elsewhere or cut back in their services. With online sales growing and local sales in decline Amazon, like Ebay and a few others, are gaining near monopoly positions which will allow them to press for lower wholesale prices while increasing their consumer prices.

The completely unjustified tax subsidy for Amazon has cost the U.S. public dearly. That leads to the question of why Jeff Bezos would buy a dying paper like the Washington Post. None of the pieces on its frontpage really analyzes that questions.

It could be that Bezos is looking for synergies between Amazon and a nation wide newspaper. But it might also be because he is simply buying a most effective lobbying shop that will allow him to influence in Congress and to have a say on how an internet sales tax, should it pass Congress at all, might get implemented. There are also some court cases in which a backing from the Washington Post might help Amazon to win.

Bezos is not a raider but a long term investor. But he is still seaking rofits not the public interest. It remains to be seen if he wants to makes these profits through a genuine interesting news product, the Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate fame, or through using it for lobbying or as a byproduct for his main businesses.

The selfish coverage by the Washington Post of its change of ownership does not make one optimistic that a true journalistic route is in the offering.

Posted by b on August 6, 2013 at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

August 05, 2013

NSA Snooping Used But Hidden By DEA, Others

On June 27 I wrote Some Thoughts On The Snowden Fallout:
The NSA's spying on U.S. citizen may not yet have such consequences. Unless there is a huge case where NSA spying is directly connected to a Watergate like scandal Congress will do nothing to reign the NSA in. But the scandal will come. As a former East German STASI officer says:
“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. ..."
The huge case has not yet been made are but we getting nearer to it.

Just yesterday an NYT piece claimed that access to the enormous mounts of data the National Security Agency collects through its borderless spying activities is only rarely given to other agencies:

The National Security Agency’s dominant role as the nation’s spy warehouse has spurred frequent tensions and turf fights with other federal intelligence agencies that want to use its surveillance tools for their own investigations, officials say.

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the security agency’s vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say.
...
Intelligence officials say they have been careful to limit the use of the security agency’s troves of data and eavesdropping spyware for fear they could be misused in ways that violate Americans’ privacy rights.
...
Smaller intelligence units within the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service, the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security have sometimes been given access to the security agency’s surveillance tools for particular cases, intelligence officials say.

But more often, their requests have been rejected because the links to terrorism or foreign intelligence, usually required by law or policy, are considered tenuous.

According to the exculpatory piece DEA and other agencies only get access to the NSA's trove for "particular cases" and for which the law requires "links to terrorism or foreign intelligence".

But a Reuters exclusive which just came out shows that the above is not even near to the full truth. Agencies like the DEA seem to have automatic access to big parts of the NSA spying machine, use it to generate new domestic investigations and then outright lie to judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to hide this fact:

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
...
The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.

Today, much of the SOD's work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked "Law Enforcement Sensitive," a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.

"Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use "normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD."

So there is a somewhat secret DEA unit which has access to at least some data (likely all) in the NSA collection, uses such data to search for leads and to launch new domestic investigations. That sounds quite different than to getting access only for "particular cases" and with "links to terrorism".

When those leads and investigations lead to trials the involvement of the DEA's SOD and of the NSA data trove is concealed which makes legal defense in such trials on the base of possible agency wrong doing in starting the investigation impossible.

If the NSA data collection and processing through domestic and/or international snooping finds a potential drug deal and hands the data over to the DEA, the agency will conceal the illegal act that started the investigation. This is likely a circumvention of fruit of the posionous tree rules, of illegally obtained evidence that is not permissible in court.

The DEA (and likely other agencies too) do not conceal these because of security concerns. They conceal the source of their tips because these are gained illegally. The NSA is not allowed to wiretap domestically but the example Reuters gives seems to be a purely domestic one:
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. "You'd be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.' And so we'd alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it," the agent said.

After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as "parallel construction."

Though this is not yet completely proving that illegal domestic NSA spying is used to generate these DEA investigations, the fact that the DEA goes to such great length to conceal the sources of their investigations and even orders its agents to lie about them in court points to that very direction.

The NSA's "collect it all" attitude generates demand from other agencies to have access to all that data. Despite the NYT's piece claim that the NSA is not giving wide access to its collection, the DEA seems to have quite significant access to it and is using it while hiding the fact that it does so.

We can reasonably assume that the DEA is not the only agency behaving like this. Reread this from the NYT:

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain ...

The NSA is indeed distributing much more than is usually admitted:

The National Security Agency is handing the Justice Department information, derived from its secret electronic eavesdropping programs, about suspected criminal activity unrelated to terrorism.
...
Current and former federal officials say the NSA limits non-terrorism referrals to serious criminal activity inadvertently detected during domestic and foreign surveillance.

What is a "serious criminal activity"? What if the agencies involved in "copyright infringement" consider it a "serious criminal activity" and have the same access like the DEA and are also hiding this source? The NSA minimization procedures permit the NSA to keep evidence of threats to property. Could the NSA snooping detect your kid's downloads. Could this initiate an copyright infringement investigation? Would your ever learn how that came to pass?

Cheatsheet - The answers are: yes, yes and no.

Posted by b on August 5, 2013 at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

August 03, 2013

Crying Wolf, Wolf, Wolf

After weeks  under heavy pressure for limitless spying on people everywhere the U.S. intelligence services conviniently detect a "threat" of some undefined future attacks. The "detection", we are of course told, was only possible because of limitless spying on people everywhere:
The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.

The intercepts and a subsequent analysis of them by American intelligence agencies prompted the United States to issue an unusual global travel alert to American citizens on Friday, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates beginning Sunday through the end of August.

Just a month ago we were told that the "terrorists" are changing their communication because of the NSA snooping leaks:
The Al-Qaeda and other terrorist are reportedly changing their communication methods in light of the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden about US led NSA 'surveillance programme'.
...
US officials said that virtually every terrorist organization including Al-Qaeda is changing the way they communicate to hide from the US surveillance after the revelations about the leaks were reported in the media.
...
Private analysis firm IntelCenter's Ben Venzke said that the leaks by Snowden serve as a wake-up call to extremists and other hostile actors to analyse how they are working and improve their security.

Is it not a bit weird that just a month after that "wake-up call" and the "changed communications" talks between "senior operatives of Al Qaeda" are now easily detectable by the same intelligence services that warned of those changes?

And what is it about these "terrorists" that the "threat" from them ends after August 31?

Even some "analysts and Congressional officials" the NYT mentions in one short paragraph find this somewhat suspicious:

Some analysts and Congressional officials suggested Friday that emphasizing a terrorist threat now was a good way to divert attention from the uproar over the N.S.A.’s data-collection programs, ...

Ahh - you don't say ...

But the sentence continues:

... and that if it showed the intercepts had uncovered a possible plot, even better.
So it would be even better if now, as a warning has been given, something would happen to some U.S. embassy in the Middle East. That then would justify the warning and of course also justify the intelligence services NSA's limitless spying on people everywhere that made the warning possible.

Hmm - how much does it cost, let's say in Yemen, to have some guys on a motorcycle fire a few shots at an embassy guard?

Posted by b on August 3, 2013 at 08:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

August 02, 2013

After Snowden's NSA Exposure People Wake Up

The Obama administration is miffed about Russia giving temporary asylum to Edward Snowden and is now foolishly thinking of how to "punish" the Russian Federation and its President Vladimir Putin. The New York Times report on the issue mentions several "issues" the U.S. is claiming to have with Russia. These are the Snowden case, the war on Syria, Iran's non-existing nuclear weapon program and nuclear disarmament.

But as can be gleaned from the comment sections of U.S. news outlets and various polls in all these issues many, many people are not on the side of their government. With currently some 50 recommendations the most reader valued comment on the NYT report is this one by one Mark Thomason from Clawson, MI.

I am disgusted. The Russians, THE RUSSIANS, are on the right side of all four issues, and we look like evil.

In Syria, we are backing al Qaeda, and the whole machine of the same Sunni fanatics we were fighting in Iraq.

With Snowden, we are exposed in crimes against a vast number of friends and allies and our own people, exposed in lies we told and still tell (some under oath), and we are begging people to believe we won't torture or kill him while many for good reason don't believe us.

We broke the ABM Treaty, and we are messing with nuclear arms deterrence and safety from nuclear war. We made a deal with the Russians not to expand into Eastern Europe if they dissolved the Warsaw Pact, and we broke the promises and did exactly that, and with ABM's too.

We are the ones who won't talk to the reformist new guy to settle what we say it a huge crisis, even as we say the basis of the crisis is not true, that the Iranians do not have a nuclear weapons program, and the one guy we demonized is going.

We look like what we used to think of our enemies. This is sick.

I fully concur. On all these issues the NSA is the only government entity listening to the people. That Snowden exposed this fact seems to have been the proverbial drop in bucket. A majority of U.S. people are now speaking out against the imperial security state. For the first time in more than a decade one can hope that the bucket's overflow will have some effect beyond comment section rants.

Posted by b on August 2, 2013 at 05:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (69)

Did Kerry Call For A Coup In Pakistan?

Yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry visted Pakistan. In an interview with Geo TV he remarked on Egypt:
SECRETARY KERRY: [...] The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence. And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgment so – so far. To run the country, there’s a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy. And the fact is --

QUESTION: By killing people on the roads?

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, no. That’s not restoring democracy, and we’re very, very concerned about, very concerned about that. And I’ve had direct conversations with President Mansour, with Vice President ElBaradei, with General al-Sisi, as have other members of our government. And I’ve talked to the Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, so I’ve been in touch with all of the players there. And we have made it clear that that is absolutely unacceptable, it cannot happen.

Now, as you know, these situations can be very confusing and very difficult. We’re working very hard right now with Lady Catherine Ashton, with various officials, with other foreign ministers of other countries, in order to try to see if we can resolve this peacefully. But the story of Egypt is not finished yet, so we have to see how it unfolds in the next days.

The story of Egypt is certainly not finished yet. The military has ordered the interior ministry to clear the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins. That will likely be a bloody affair and the U.S. will merely comment on it. "Absolutely unacceptable" will be the public stand. The private call to General Sisi will probably be "congratulations, well done."

But saying the military in Egypt "were restoring democracy" is not only about Egypt.

Indeed the context of an interview in Pakistan is very important here. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was recently elected for the third time. Sharif is a conservative Islamist and is not pro-American. Both of his former premierships were terminated by the Pakistani military. In 1993 he pressed to step down by the military and during his second term in 1999 then Chief of Staff General Musharraf removed Nawaz Sharif in a military coup.

Despite Kerry's visit and somewhat friendly words to Pakistan there is a lot of trouble brewing between the U.S. and Pakistan over U.S. drone strikes and the U.S. infringement on Pakistan's sovereignty. The U.S. is also very much against Sharif's support for the Afghan Taliban and his plans for reconciliation with the Pakistani Taliban.

The military "restoring democracy" remark can thus be understood as an invitation to the Pakistani military to repeat in Pakistan what happened in Egypt. Prepare some "popular protests", launch a coup against Sharif, put in a compliant "civil" government and you will be lauded by the United States government for "restoring democracy".

That is certainly what the Pakistani military in Rawalpindi will take away from Kerry's interview. A few month from now, when Sharif starts to implement his agenda, strings can be pulled and confidential phone calls made to again coup against a somewhat popular elected government. All in the name of "restoring democracy."

One also wonders what the rather paranoid Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan may think about Kerry's "restoring democracy" remark. Were those protests over Gezi Park, which Erdogan blames on foreign intervention and the "interest lobby" aka the Jews, really about one of the few green spots in Istanbul or were the about "restoring democracy"?

Posted by b on August 2, 2013 at 03:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

 
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