| White House reportedly losing patience with Israel’s stooges in Congress!

White House reportedly losing patience with Israel’s stooges in Congress ~ Redress Information & Analysis.

For decades successive United States administrations have tolerated the fact that Congress is riddled with traitors who routinely put Israel’s interests above those of their own country. However, ominous clouds are hovering over the heads of Israel’s settlers on Capitol Hill.

According to an unnamed American official quoted by Israel Radio on 23 January, the White House, in particular President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, are losing patience with “Jewish activity” on behalf of Israel in Congress.

Obama and Kerry, the official said, have had enough of the Israel stooges’ constant criticism of the US government and their attempts at enabling Israel to set US policy.

As is known, Israeli Trojan horses in Congress, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Zionist Organization, have been trying to sabotage US policy towards Iran by sponsoring a bill that would impose a new round of sanctions on Iran.

The Iranian government has made it clear that if new sanctions are imposed, it would abrogate the interim nuclear deal reached with Western powers last November.

The sanctions bill is sponsored by senators Mark Kirk (Republican, Illinois) and Robert Menendez (Democrat, New Jersey) and has so far won support from 59 senators, 16 of which are from the Democratic party. It is currently only eight senators short of the votes needed in order to assure that the president cannot veto the legislation.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether White House displeasure with Israel’s interference, through the Zionist stooges, in US domestic affairs will translate into concrete actions.

What is clear is that Obama and Kerry don’t have much time left before the fifth columnists in Congress pull the rug from underneath their feet.

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| So who’s in charge: Israel or the USA?

Who’s in charge: Israel or the USA? ~ Uri AvneryRedress Information & Analysis.

This is not merely a fight between Israel and the US. Nor is it only a fight between the White House and Congress. It is also a battle between intellectual titans.

On the one side there are the two renowned professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. On the other, the towering international intellectual Noam Chomsky.

It’s all about whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog.

Six years ago the two professors shocked the US (and Israel) when they published a book, The Israel lobby and US Foreign Policy, in which they asserted that the foreign policy of the United States of America, at least in the Middle East, is practically controlled by the state of Israel.

To paraphrase their analysis, Washington DC is in effect an Israeli colony. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Israeli-occupied territories, much like Ramallah and Nablus.

This is diametrically opposed to the assertion of Noam Chomsky that Israel is a US pawn, used by American imperialism as an instrument to promote its interests…

Intellectual theories can seldom be put to a laboratory test. But this one can.

The Israeli-American crisis

It is happening now. Between Israel and the US a crisis has developed, and it has come into the open.

It’s about the putative Iranian nuclear bomb. President Barack Obama is determined to avert a military showdown. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to prevent a compromise.

For Netanyahu, the Iranian nuclear effort has become a defining issue, even an obsession. He talks about it incessantly. He has declared that it is an “existential” threat to Israel, that it poses the possibility of a second holocaust. Last year he made an exhibition of himself at the UN General Assembly meeting with his childish drawing of the bomb.

Cynics say that this is only a trick, a successful gimmick to divert the world’s attention away from the Palestinian issue. And indeed, for years now the Israeli policy of occupation and settlements has has been advancing quietly, away from the limelight.

But in politics, one gimmick can serve several purposes at once. Netanyahu is serious about the Iranian bomb. The proof: on this issue he is ready to do something that no Israeli prime minister has ever dared to do before: endanger Israeli-American relations.

This is a momentous decision. Israel is dependent on the US in almost every respect. The US pays Israel a yearly tribute of at least three billion dollars, and in fact much more. It gives us state of the art military equipment. Its veto protects us from UN Security Council censure, whatever we do.

We have no other unconditional friend in the world, except, perhaps, the Fiji Islands.

If there is one thing on which practically all Israelis agree, it is this subject. A break with the US is unthinkable. The US-Israeli relationship is, to use a Hebrew expression much loved by Netanyahu , “the rock of our existence”.

So what does he think he is doing?

Netanyahu’s game

Netanyahu was brought up in the US. There he attended high school and university. There he started his career.

He does not need advisors on US affairs. He considers himself the smartest expert of all.

He is no fool. Neither is he an adventurer. He bases himself on solid assessments. He believes that he is able to win this fight.

You could say that he is an adherent of the Walt-Mearsheimer doctrine.

His present moves are based on the assessment that in a straight confrontation between Congress and the White House, Congress will win. Obama, already blooded by other issues, will be beaten, even destroyed.

True, Netanyahu was proved wrong the last time he tried something like this. During the last presidential elections, he openly supported Mitt Romney. The idea was that the Republicans were bound to win. The Jewish casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, poured money into their campaign, while at the same time maintaining an Israeli mass-circulation daily for the sole purpose of supporting Netanyahu.

Romney “couldn’t lose” – but he did. This should have been a lesson for Netanyahu, but he didn’t absorb it. He is now playing the same game, but for vastly higher stakes.

We are now in the middle of the fight, and it is still too early to predict the outcome.

The Zionist lobby

The Jewish pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), supported by other Jewish and Evangelical organizations, is marshalling its forces on Capitol Hill. It’s an impressive show.

Senator after senator, congressman after congressman comes forward to support the Israeli government against their own president. The same people who jumped up and down like string puppets when Netanyahu made his last speech before both houses of Congress, try to outdo each other in assertions of their undying loyalty to Israel.

 

Several senators and congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA.

 

This is now done in the open, in an exhibition of shamelessness. Several senators and congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA. Not one of them said the opposite.

This would have been unthinkable if any other country was involved, say Ireland or Italy, from which many Americans are descended. The “Jewish state” stands unique, a kind of inverse anti-Semitism.

Indeed, some Israeli commentators have joked that Netanyahu believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the famous – and infamous – tract fabricated by the secret police of the Czar. It purported to expose a sinister conspiracy of the Jews to rule the world. A hundred years later, controlling the US comes near to that.

The senators and representatives are no fools (not all of them, in any case). They have a clear purpose: to be re-elected. They know on which side their bread is buttered. AIPAC has demonstrated, in several test cases, that it can unseat any senator or congressman who does not toe the straight Israeli line. One sentence of implied criticism of Israeli policies suffices to doom a candidate.

Politicians prefer open shame and ridicule to political suicide. No kamikaze pilots in Congress.

The White House vs Israel’s congressional stooges

This is not a new situation. It is at least several decades old. What is new is that it is now out in the open, without embellishment.

It is difficult to know, as of now, how much the White House is cowed by this development.

Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, know that American public opinion is dead set against any new war in the Middle East. Compromise with Iran is in the air. This is supported by almost all the world’s powers. Even the French tantrums, which have no clear purpose but to throw their supposed weight around, are not serious.

President Francois Hollande was received in Israel this week like the harbinger of the Messiah. If one closed one’s eyes, one could imagine that the happy old pre-de Gaulle days were back again, when France armed Israel, supplied it with its military atomic reactor and the two countries went on escapades together (the ill-fated 1956 Suez adventure).

But if Obama and Kerry hold fast and stay their course on Iran, can Congress impose the opposite course? Could this turn into the most serious constitutional crisis in US history?

As a sideshow, Kerry is going on with his effort to impose on Netanyahu a peace he does not want. The secretary of state did succeed in pushing Netanyahu into “final status negotiations” (nobody dared to utter the word peace, God forbid), but nobody in Israel or Palestine believes that anything will come out of this. Unless, of course, the White House puts the whole might of the US behind the effort – and that seems more than unlikely.

Kerry has allotted nine months to the endeavour, as if it were a normal pregnancy. But the chances of a baby emerging at the end of it are practically nil. During the first three months, the sides have not progressed a single step.

So who will win? Obama or Netanyahu? Chomsky or Walt/Mearsheimer?

As commentators love to say: time will tell.

In the meantime, place your bets.

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| Criminal Hypocrisy of Kerry: From dove to hawk!

“Criminal Hypocrisy”: Vietnam John Kerry -vs- Syria John Kerry ~ Christopher MatarYouTube Video.

42 years after Vietnam testimony, Kerry returns to Congress with Syria plea. In 1971, a young Naval lieutenant named John Kerry pleaded with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to stop a war. Four decades later, Kerry will return to that same committee table, this time as Secretary of State, to advocate for U.S. military action in Syria.

 August 09, 2013

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42 years after Vietnam testimony, Kerry returns to Congress with Syria plea ~ , MSNBC.

John Kerry, 27, testifies about the war in Vietnam before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, April 22, 1971. (Photo by Henry Griffin/AP)

John Kerry, 27, testifies about the war in Vietnam before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, April 22, 1971. (Photo by Henry Griffin/AP)

In 1971, a young Naval lieutenant named John Kerry pleaded with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to stop a war. Four decades later, Kerry will return to that same committee table, this time as Secretary of State, to advocate for U.S. military action in Syria.

Kerry will be joined Tuesday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel–the two men both military veterans who served for years together on the senate panel that will hold hearings on Syria and President Obama’s quest for Congressional approval of military action there. The chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey will also testify. Kerry will testify before the House Foreign Affairs committee Wednesday.

Tuesday’s testimony will be a significant marker in a career that began for Kerry in that same Senate room 42 years ago. Kerry became a national figure at age 27 when he testified in uniform before the committee. He seemed to captured the national sentiment of a country growing weary with the Vietnam War when he asked senators: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” Kerry was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts for his service.

Recalling those formative experiences in Vietnam, a much older Kerry noted in remarks last week that his country is tired of war. Yet he has quickly emerged an outspoken advocate of a hard-line approach against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. government has said it has evidence that indisputably shows the Assad regime ordered chemical attacks against civilians in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21, killing more than 1,400, including hundreds of children.

During his confirmation hearing in January, Kerry commented on how the world had changed from the Vietnam War era to the current fight against terrorism.

“Nearly 42 years ago, Chairman Fulbright first gave me the opportunity to testify before this committee during a difficult and divided time for our country,” Kerry said. “Today I can’t help but recognize that the world itself then was in many ways simpler, divided as it was along bi-polar, Cold War antagonism. Today’s world is more complicated than anything we have experienced.”

In two speeches last week, Kerry called the chemical attack “a moral obscenity,” and “a crime against humanity.” He told a war-weary nation, and a skeptical world arena, that “fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility.”

Then on Saturday, Obama said he would seek congressional approval before launching a military campaign in Syria that he described as limited in scope and duration.

Asked what direction the president would take if Congress fails to authorize military action, Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, “I do not believe the Congress of the United States will turn its back on this moment.”

“The challenge of Iran, the challenges of the region, the challenge of standing up for and standing beside our ally, Israel, helping to shore up Jordan—all of these things are very, very powerful interests and I believe Congress will pass it.”

The White House sent Congress a draft resolution and officials quickly called for an unclassified meeting with members of Congress as part of a “flood the zone,” strategy to gain support. But Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that lawmakers would amend the administration’s draft proposal for the action, saying that it is currently too broad in scope.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—both outspoken advocates for tougher military measures against Syria—met with Obama at the White House over Labor Day. The two senators have faulted Obama’s proposal as too little, too late, and have urged him to intervene further on the side of the rebels.

“We cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the president’s stated goal of Assad’s removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict, which is a growing threat to our national security interests,” McCain and Graham said in a joint statement.

If Obama is able to gain their support, the resolution to authorize military action in Syria would stand a greater chance of passage in the Senate.

Kerry worked much of Labor Day to persuade fellow Democrats to vote with the president. In a Monday conference call, Kerry reportedly told House Democrats that they face a “Munich moment” as they weigh whether to approve striking Syria, two sources with knowledge of the call told NBC News.

Kerry was referencing the 1938 Munich Pact which ceded control of part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany—a moment that history has harshly judged as an appeasement of Adolf Hitler that strengthened him ahead of World War II.

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| Let’s analyse Obama’s Case to Congress!

The Case to Congress ~ emptywheel.

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As you’ve no doubt heard, President Obama gave a statement today in which he said he had decided to strike Syria. But then said he plans to have Congress approve the strike.

Here’s how the Administration plans to sell this to Congress:

And they detailed the coming campaign to get Congress on board:

  • Hammer home the potential threat to staunch ally Israel’s security
  • Provide detailed intelligence about the alleged attack
  • Underline that the United States ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, and make a case that American legitimacy — not just his own — is at stake.
  • Make the argument that failure to act could lead, one day, to terrorists acquiring chemical weapons from regimes like Assad’s — and turning them on America.

Item One: Assad’s alleged decision to use Chemical Weapons that he originally obtained to deter Israel against rebels presents “a potential threat to staunch ally Israel’s security.”

Item Two: In recent months, Israel has successfully struck at Syria twice, and Syria didn’t even try to retaliate. Why does the US have to take a stand for the norm against using CW, when the Israelis are perfectly capable of doing so. I get that Israel can never be viewed as a neutral party with Syria, they do have unrivaled ability to stand against the use of gas against civilians.

Item Three: The US ratified the Chemical Weapons Treaty. But Syria did not. In the same way that Israel didn’t sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Why do we expect Syria to abide by the former when we don’t require Israel to abide by the latter?

Item Four: A strike on Assad is likely to strengthen the Syrian rebels. Who are made up, increasingly, of a bunch of extremists with ties to al Qaeda. If we make it easier for the rebels to replace Assad, doesn’t that actually raise the likelihood terrorists will get Assad’s CW?

I’m glad the Administration has decided to go to Congress. But their argument is just as weak as it was.

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| US Republicans demand to be consulted over Syria response!

US Republicans demand to be consulted over Syria response ~ Reuters.

Republican members of the US Congress have urged President Barack Obama to consult them as he decides how to respond to last week’s apparent poison gas attack in the Damascus suburbs, with some complaining that they have not been fully informed.

Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a tough statement, saying that the suspected chemical weapons attack was a “moral obscenity” and accused Syria’s government of covering it up.

He added that the Obama administration was consulting with allies and members of Congress and would decide soon how to respond.

But some politicians and congressional staff members, particularly Republicans, have called for more communication with Congress by the Democratic administration, even as many expressed strong support for “decisive” action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner had “preliminary communication” with the White House about the situation in Syria on Monday afternoon, said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Republican leader.

“The Speaker made clear that before any action is taken there must be meaningful consultation with members of Congress, as well as clearly defined objectives and a broader strategy to achieve stability,” Buck said in a statement.

Republican Representative Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Mr Obama must act “decisively” on Syria and that US credibility is on the line. But he said Congress must be involved in any decision.

“I expect the Commander in Chief would consult with Congress in the days ahead as he considers the options available to him,” he said in a statement after Kerry’s remarks.

The international talks on how to respond to Syria come as the House and Senate are away from Washington for their five-week August recess. They are not due back until Sept. 9.

The Obama administration could benefit from wide support in Congress, especially as Americans are wary of US involvement in Syria.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday showed that about 60 per cent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria’s civil war, while just 9 per cent thought Mr Obama should act.

Edited by Bonnie Malkin

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| On Prism, partisanship and propaganda!

On Prism, partisanship and propaganda ~

Addressing many of the issues arising from last week’s NSA stories.James Clapper NSA

James Clapper, on Saturday decried the release of the information and said media reports about it have been inaccurate Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

(updated below – Update II – Update III)

I haven’t been able to write this week here because I’ve been participating in the debate over the fallout from last week’s NSA stories, and because we are very busy working on and writing the next series of stories that will begin appearing very shortly. I did, though, want to note a few points, and particularly highlight what Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez said after Congress on Wednesday was given a classified briefing by NSA officials on the agency’s previously secret surveillance activities:

“What we learned in there is significantly more than what is out in the media today. . . . I can’t speak to what we learned in there, and I don’t know if there are other leaks, if there’s more information somewhere, if somebody else is going to step up, but I will tell you that I believe it’s the tip of the iceberg . . . . I think it’s just broader than most people even realize, and I think that’s, in one way, what astounded most of us, too.”

The Congresswoman is absolutely right: what we have reported thus far is merely “the tip of the iceberg” of what the NSA is doing in spying on Americans and the world. She’s also right that when it comes to NSA spying, “there is significantly more than what is out in the media today”, and that’s exactly what we’re working to rectify.

But just consider what she’s saying: as a member of Congress, she had no idea how invasive and vast the NSA’s surveillance activities are. Sen. Jon Tester, who is a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said the same thing, telling MSNBC about the disclosures that “I don’t see how that compromises the security of this country whatsoever” and adding: “quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn’t aware of before because I don’t sit on that Intelligence Committee.”

How can anyone think that it’s remotely healthy in a democracy to have the NSA building a massive spying apparatus about which even members of Congress, including Senators on the Homeland Security Committee, are totally ignorant and find “astounding” when they learn of them? How can anyone claim with a straight face that there is robust oversight when even members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are so constrained in their ability to act that they are reduced to issuing vague, impotent warnings to the public about what they call radical “secret law” enabling domestic spying that would “stun” Americans to learn about it, but are barred to disclose what it is they’re so alarmed by? Put another way, how can anyone contest the value and justifiability of the stories that we were able to publish as a result of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing: stories that informed the American public – including even the US Congress – about these incredibly consequential programs? What kind of person would think that it would be preferable to remain in the dark – totally ignorant – about them?

I have a column in the Guardian’s newspaper edition tomorrow examining the fallout from these stories. That will be posted here and I won’t repeat that now. I will, though, note the following brief items:

(1) Much of US politics, and most of the pundit reaction to the NSA stories, are summarized by this one single visual from Pew:

pewThe most vocal media critics of our NSA reporting, and the most vehement defenders of NSA surveillance, have been, by far, Democratic (especially Obama-loyal) pundits. As I’ve written many times, one of the most significant aspects of the Obama legacy has been the transformation of Democrats from pretend-opponents of the Bush War on Terror and National Security State into their biggest proponents: exactly what the CIA presciently and excitedly predicted in 2008 would happen with Obama’s election.

Some Democrats have tried to distinguish 2006 from 2013 by claiming that the former involved illegal spying while the latter does not. But the claim that current NSA spying is legal is dubious in the extreme: the Obama DOJ hasrepeatedly thwarted efforts by the ACLU, EFF and others to obtain judicial rulings on their legality and constitutionality by invoking procedural claims of secrecy, immunity and standing. If Democrats are so sure these spying programs are legal, why has the Obama DOJ been so eager to block courts from adjudicating that question?

More to the point, Democratic critiques of Bush’s spying were about more than just legality. I know that because I actively participated in the campaign to amplify those critiques. Indeed, by 2006, most of Bush’s spying programs – definitely his bulk collection of phone records – were already being conducted under the supervision and with the blessing of the FISA court. Moreover, leading members of Congress – including Nancy Pelosi – were repeatedly briefed on all aspects of Bush’s NSA spying program. So the distinctions Democrats are seeking to draw are mostly illusory.

To see how that this is so, just listen to then-Senator Joe Biden in 2006 attack the NSA for collecting phone records: he does criticize the program for lacking FISA court supervision (which wasn’t actually true), but also claims to be alarmed by just how invasive and privacy-destroying that sort of bulk record collection is. He says he “doesn’t think” that the program passes the Fourth Amendment test: how can Bush’s bulk record collection program be unconstitutional while Obama’s program is constitutional? But Biden also rejected Bush’s defense (exactly the argument Obama is making now) – that “we’re not listening to the phone calls, we’re just looking for patterns” – by saying this:

I don’t have to listen to your phone calls to know what you’re doing. If I know every single phone call you made, I’m able to determine every single person you talked to. I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive. . . . If it’s true that 200 million Americans’ phone calls were monitored – in terms of not listening to what they said, but to whom they spoke and who spoke to them – I don’t know, the Congress should investigative this.”

Is collecting everyone’s phone records not “very intrusive” when Democrats are doing it? Just listen to that short segment to see how every defense Obama defenders are making now were the ones Bush defenders made back then. Again, leading members of Congress and the FISA court were both briefed on and participants in the Bush telephone record collection program as well, yet Joe Biden and most Democrats found those programs very alarming and “very intrusive” back then.

(2) Notwithstanding the partisan-driven Democratic support for these programs, and notwithstanding the sustained demonization campaign aimed at Edward Snowden from official Washington, polling data, though mixed, has thus far been surprisingly encouraging.

A Time Magazine poll found that 54% of Americans believe Snowden did “a good thing”, while only 30% disagreed. That approval rating is higher than the one enjoyed by both Congress and President Obama. While a majority think he should be nonetheless prosecuted, a plurality of young Americans, who overwhelmingly view Snowden favorably, do not even want to see him charged. Reuters found that more Americans see Snowden as a “patriot” than a “traitor”. A Gallup poll this week found that more Americans disapprove (53%) than approve (37%) of the two NSA spying programs revealed last week by the Guardian.

(3) Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower who was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Obama DOJ, writes in the Guardian that as a long-time NSA official, he saw all of the same things at the NSA that Edward Snowden is now warning Americans about. Drake calls Snowden’s acts “an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience.” William Binney, the mathematician who resigned after a 30-year career as a senior NSA official in protest of post-9/11 domestic surveillance, said on Democracy Now this weekthat Snowden’s claims about the NSA are absolutely true.

Meanwhile, Daniel Ellsberg, writing in the Guardian, wrote that “there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago.” He added: “Snowden did what he did because he recognized the NSA’s surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity.”

Listen to actual experts and patriots – people who have spent their careers inside the NSA and/or who risked their liberty for the good of the country – and the truth of Snowden’s claims and the justifiability of his acts become manifest.

(4) As we were about to begin publishing these NSA stories, a veteran journalist friend warned me that the tactic used by Democratic partisans would be to cling to and then endlessly harp on any alleged inaccuracy in any one of the stories we publish as a means of distracting attention away from the revelations and discrediting the entire project. That proved quite prescient, as that is exactly what they are attempting to do.

Thus far we have revealed four independent programs: the bulk collection of telephone records, the Prism program, Obama’s implementation of an aggressive foreign and domestic cyber-operations policy, and false claims by NSA officials to Congress. Every one of those articles was vetted by multiple Guardian editors and journalists – not just me. Democratic partisans have raised questions about only one of the stories – the only one that happened to be also published by the Washington Post (and presumably vetted by multiple Post editors and journalists) – in order to claim that an alleged inaccuracy in it means our journalism in general is discredited.

They are wrong. Our story was not inaccurate. The Washington Post revised parts of its article, but its reporter, Bart Gellman, stands by its core claims(“From their workstations anywhere in the world, government employees cleared for Prism access may ‘task’ the system and receive results from an Internet company without further interaction with the company’s staff”).

The Guardian has not revised any of our articles and, to my knowledge, has no intention to do so. That’s because we did not claim that the NSA document alleging direct collection from the servers was true; we reported – accurately – that the NSA document claims that the program allows direct collection from the companies’ servers. Before publishing, we went to the internet companies named in the documents and asked about these claims. When they denied it, we purposely presented the story as one of a major discrepancy between what the NSA document claims and what the internet companies claim, as the headline itself makes indisputably clear:

prismThe NSA document says exactly what we reported. Just read it and judge for yourself (Prism is “collection directly from the servers of these US service providers”). It’s endearingly naive how some people seem to think that because government officials or corporate executives issue carefully crafted denials, this resolves the matter. Read the ACLU’s tech expert, Chris Soghoian, explain why the tech companies’ denials are far less significant and far more semantic than many are claiming.

Nor do these denials make any sense. If all the tech companies are doing under Prism is providing what they’ve always provided to the NSA, but simply doing it by a different technological means, then why would a new program be necessary at all? How can NSA officials claim that a program that does nothing more than change the means for how this data is delivered is vital in stopping terrorist threats? Why does the NSA document hail the program as one that enables new forms of collection? Why would it be “top secret” if all this was were just some new way of transmitting court-ordered data? How is Prism any different in any meaningful way from how the relationship between the companies and the NSA has always functioned?

As a follow-up to our article, the New York Times reported on extensive secret negotiations between Silicon Valley executives and NSA officials over government access to the companies’ data. It’s precisely because these arrangements are secret and murky yet incredibly significant that we published our story about these conflicting claims. They ought to be resolved in public, not in secret. The public should know exactly what access the NSA is trying to obtain to the data of these companies, and should know exactly what access these companies are providing. Self-serving, unchecked, lawyer-vetted denials by these companies don’t remotely resolve these questions.

In a Nation post yesterday, Rick Perlstein falsely accuses me of not having addressed the questions about the Prism story. I’ve done at least half-a-dozen television shows in the last week where I was asked about exactly those questions and answered fully with exactly what I’ve written here (see this appearance with Chris Hayes as just the latest example); the fact that Perlstein couldn’t be bothered to use Google doesn’t entitle him to falsely claim I haven’t addressed these questions. I have done so repeatedly, and do so here again.

I know that many Democrats want to cling to the belief that, in Perlstein’s words, “the powers that be will find it very easy to seize on this one error to discredit [my] NSA revelation, even the ones he nailed dead to rights”. Perlstein cleverly writes that “such distraction campaigns are how power does its dirtiest work” as he promotes exactly that campaign.

But that won’t happen. The documents and revelations are too powerful. The story isn’t me, or Edward Snowden, or the eagerness of Democratic partisans to defend the NSA as a means of defending President Obama, and try as they might, Democrats won’t succeed in making the story be any of those things. The story is the worldwide surveillance apparatus the NSA is constructing in the dark and the way that has grown under Obama, and that’s where my focus is going to remain.

(5) NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen examines complaints that my having strong, candidly acknowledged opinions on surveillance policies somehow means that the journalism I do on those issues is suspect. It is very worth reading what he has to say on this topic as it gets to the heart about several core myths about what journalism is.

(6) Last week, prior to the revelation of our source’s identity, I wrote that “ever since the Nixon administration broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychoanalyst’s office, the tactic of the US government has been to attack and demonize whistleblowers as a means of distracting attention from their own exposed wrongdoing and destroying the credibility of the messenger so that everyone tunes out the message” and “that attempt will undoubtedly be made here.”

The predictable personality assaults on Snowden have begun in full force from official Washington and their media spokespeople. They are only going to intensify. There is nobody who political officials and their supine media class hate more than those who meaningfully dissent from their institutional orthodoxies and shine light on what they do. The hatred for such individuals is boundless.

There are two great columns on this dynamic. This one by Reuters’ Jack Shafer explores how elite Washington reveres powerful leakers that glorify political officials, but only hate marginalized and powerless leakers who discredit Washington and its institutions. And perhaps the best column yet on Snowden comes this morning from the Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers: just please take the time to read it all, as it really conveys the political and psychological rot that is driving the attacks on him and on his very carefully vetted disclosures.

UPDATE

The New York Times reports today that Yahoo went to court in order to vehemently resist the NSA’s directive that they join the Prism program, and joined only when the court compelled it to do so. The company specifically “argued that the order violated its users’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

If, as NSA (and Silicon Valley) defenders claim, Prism is nothing more than a harmless little drop-box mechanism for delivering to the government what these companies were already providing, why would Yahoo possibly be in court so vigorously resisting it and arguing that it violates their users’ Fourth Amendment rights? Similarly, how could it possibly be said – as US government officials have – that Prism has been instrumental in stopping terrorist plots if it did not enhance the NSA’s collection capabilities? The denials from the internet companies make little sense when compared to what we know about the program. At the very least, there is ample reason to demand more disclosure and transparency about exactly what this is and what data-access arrangements they have agreed to.

UPDATE II

My column that is appearing in the Guardian newspaper, on the fallout from the NSA stories, is now posted here.

UPDATE III

Underscoring all of these points, please take two minutes to watch this amazing video, courtesy of EFF, in which the 2006 version of Joe Biden aggressively debates the 2013 version of Barack Obama on whether the US government should be engaged in the bulk collection of American’s phone records:

That’s the kind of debate we need more of.

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| Defective Remedy: Giant loophole in Feinstein Amendment to NDAA!

Giant Loophole In The Feinstein Amendment To The NDAA ~ Michael Kelley, Business Insider.

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An amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and passed by a 67-29 vote late Thursday has been hailed as a way to end the prospect of indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.But it isn’t, because there’s a catch.Here’s the key sentence of the amendment:

“An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent lawmakers a letter that said “the clause ‘unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention‘ could be read to imply that there are no constitutional obstacles to Congress enacting a statute that would authorize the domestic military detention of any person in the United States.”

Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) seemed to agree: “This is a big ‘unless,'” he said.

Michael McAuliff of The Huffington Post points out that Levin himself said that he believes “the 2001 authorization for the use of military force [AUMF] authorized the detention of U.S. citizens when appropriate in accordance with the laws of war.” The AUMF gives the president the authority to indefinitely detain anyone involved in carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

And, as we reported yesterday, lawyer Bruce Afran said that the 2013 NDAA “states that persons lawfully in the U.S. can be detained under the [AUMF]” because it equates the AUMF with section 1021 of the NDAA, which allows the president to indefinitely detain anyone who commits a “belligerent act” or provides “substantial support” to the Taliban, al-Qaeda or “associated forces.”

“Therefore, under the guise of supposedly adding protection to Americans, the new statute actually expands the AUMF to civilians in the U.S,” Afran said.

That means that the 2013 NDAA may be the only statute that Congress would need to pass to “authorize the domestic military detention of any person in the United States.”

Or, as Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) put it, “that Act of Congress is the 2012 NDAA, which renders the rest of the Feinstein amendment meaningless.”

The blog Belligerent Acts echoes Afran and Amash: “The Feinstein-Lee Amendment, in the guise of protecting Constitutional rights, has instead simply extended the unconstitutional powers that the 2012 NDAA granted to the President, also to the Congress.”

Both the ACLU and Amnesty International have detailed what they consider other issues with the legislation.

SEE ALSO: Actually, The Newest Version Of NDAA Makes It EASIER To Detain Citizens Indefinitely

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Don’t Be Fooled by New NDAA Detention Amendment

Chris Anders, ACLU, Washington Legislative Office.

The Senate is once again debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is within a day or two of voting yet again on the issue of indefinite detention without charge or trial in the United States itself.

Last year, Congress passed the NDAA and made permanent very broad authority for the military to throw civilians into prison without charge or trial. While military detention without charge or trial is illegal in the United States, some key senators urged that even American citizens and others picked up in the United States could be detained under NDAA.

They did not succeed. The NDAA that was signed into law on New Year’s Eve last year was bad enough, but it did not authorize military detention within the United States. Some in Congress now want to have a second crack at it-some to make it better and some to make it worse.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced an amendment that superficially looks like it could help, but in fact, would cause harm. Feinstein was a forceful leader last year against the NDAA detention provisions and believes that she is doing the right thing this year. But the problem is that the actual text of her amendment is bad.

It might look like a fix, but it breaks things further. Feinstein’s amendment says that American citizens and green-card holders in the United States cannot be put into indefinite detention in a military prison, but carves out everyone else in the United States.

There are three problems with her amendment:

  • It would NOT make America off-limits to the military being used to imprison civilians without charge or trial. That’s because its focus on protections for citizens and green-card holders implies that non-citizens could be militarily detained. The goal should be to prohibit domestic use of the military entirely. That’s the protection provided to everyone in the United States by the Posse Comitatus Act. That principle would be broken if the military can find an opening to operate against civilians here at home, maybe under the guise of going after non-citizens. This is truly an instance where, when some lose their rights, all lose rights — even those who look like they are being protected.
  • It is inconsistent with the Constitution, which makes clear that basic due process rights apply to everyone in the United States. No group of immigrants should be denied the most basic due process right of all — the right to be charged and tried before being imprisoned.
  • It would set some dangerous precedents for Congress: that the military may have a role in America itself, that indefinite detention without charge or trial can be contemplated in the United States, and that some immigrants can be easily carved out of the most basic due process protections.

The executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League just wrote to Congress:

The [Feinstein] amendment is of particular concern to the Japanese American Citizens League because of our historic concern stemming from the Japanese American incarceration experience during World War II.  Nearly half of the internees were not United States citizens, and would not have been protected by this amendment.  In consideration of due process and the rule of law within the United States, we urge you to oppose the Feinstein amendment, unless revised to protect all persons in the United States from indefinite detention without charge or trial.

There are good ways and bad ways to amend the NDAA. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has introduced two amendments that would change the NDAA in good ways. But Sen. Feinstein, despite good intentions, has introduced a harmful amendment.

There is still time to stop it. Call your senators now and say “Vote NO” on the Feinstein amendment, unless it is fixed to make the entire United States off-limits to indefinite detention without charge or trial by the military. The congressional switchboard number is 202-225-3121. This amendment goes to the very heart of who we are.

And here is a letter from a coalition of organizations urging a NO vote:
http://www.aclu.org/national-security/due-process-guarantee-letter-re-opposition-feinstein-amendment-3018-ndaa.

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| Restore the Constitution + remedy dysfunctionality: Solutions worth Debating!

Solutions Worth Debating ~ Ralph NaderCommon Dreams.

America has some big problems and it needs equally big solutions. In this current media-frenzied presidential race, the American people are looking to the two major party candidates — Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama — for solutions. However, they are coming back empty-handed as the candidates continue to push their party agendas, speaking in talking points rather than addressing real problems.

Should the candidates care to consider and debate real solutions, they need not work too hard. The country is full of them — applied here and there or ready on the shelf. I propose many in my new book, The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Either candidate is welcome to adopt any of these ideas for ways to improve the lives of all Americans. It is ironic that with the billions of dollars in campaign funds raised in this election, neither party has been willing to put forward solutions to the problems that plague us so.

Here are a few for them.

Let’s start with an issue that Obama and Romney won’t address — the violent and thieving corporate crime wave that has swept the country and drained the hard-earned savings, health and safety of millions of people, with little to no law enforcement. Remember Charles Ferguson, director of the Academy Award winning documentary Inside Job who took the stage to accept his Oscar in 2011 and said: “Three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.” Rampant corporate crime is going to continue unless we start punishing crime in the suites with at least as much fervor and budgets as we do the crime in the streets.

Let’s address Congress, the governing body that has increasingly produced less and rewarded itself more, though it has kept the minimum wage far below that of 1968, adjusted for inflation. I offer two suggestions to this worsening problem — ideas that have always been met with passion and applause when I’ve suggested them at rallies all over the country. First — if Congress and/or the president plunges our country into war, then immediately all age-qualified, able-bodied children and grandchildren of members of Congress are drafted into the armed forces. That’ll concentrate Congress’ pre-war attention on their constitutional duties that they cannot give up to the White House. It’s only fair that if Congress is going to ask the American people to send their sons and daughters to fight and die on foreign soil, they send their own as well. Did you know that during George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, only six members of Congress had children in the military?

Another simple and transformative suggestion is that members of Congress should not give themselves benefits unless the rest of the country is given them as well. No health insurance, no life insurance, no big pensions and fancy gym facilities unless they see fit to provide them for everybody. That’s their job, isn’t it? If we want Congress to work for our best interests, Congress needs to have skin in the game and the moral authority to govern.

Finally, let’s address the issue of civil liberties in America — just recently, Mitt Romney dodged a question about his stance on indefinite detention. These are the very questions that need to be answered by our leaders. For over a decade, the civil liberties of United States citizens have been under attack by the politics of fear. Recall Benjamin Franklin’s famous words, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And so it is, in 2012, the people of the United States find themselves living under the mantra “whatever it takes to protect the American people.” Rampant claims of “executive privilege” and “state secrets” and violations of due process have led to “Big Brother” — The Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, the continued imprisonment-without-trial of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and in the U.S., the invasive TSA agents who harass travelers.

And, of course, the assassinations via drone strikes, including ones on American citizens in Yemen, based on secret grounds by a president acting as prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner and cover-upper. These are wrongs that need to be addressed and righted by the Executive Branch, or if it fails to do so, by an awakening Congress.

Those are just some of the points in The Seventeen Solutions. Now is the time to elevate expectations and take on the greatest challenges that face America. As Romney and Obama incessantly debate the status quo, let us start a new discussion vectored toward action.

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| Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Iraq: Who benefited from one of the biggest lies in American history?

Iraq: who benefited from one of the biggest lies in American history? ~ Dennis KucinichCommon Dreams, Stop the War Coalition.

After ten years, we have never held anyone accountable for the one of the biggest lies in American history. Perhaps it would be a useful to look at who benefited from the war.

Ten years ago, on October 10, 2002, the United States House of Representatives made one of the most calamitous mistakes of a generation. Congress, with willful blindness, voted to attack, invade and occupy a sovereign, oil-rich nation in the Middle East that did not attack us and did not pose a threat to the American people.

The war in Iraq will ultimately cost the United States five trillion dollars. Four thousand, four hundred, eighty eight Americans were killed. Tens of thousands of Americans were injured. At least one million innocent Iraqis were killed. Iraq has become a home to Al Qaida which it certainly was not before our intervention.

Resentment against the United States has made pursuing peace more difficult. And we still have thousands of armed contractors in Iraq – paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

Many are trying to rewrite the history of the Iraq war. The people who led us into a war based on lies want us to believe that the intelligence community was duped. They don’t want us to ask questions, because they don’t want to be held accountable. Those repeating the myth that America was duped are perpetuating one of the biggest lies in American history.

Iraq did not pose a threat to the United States. Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction. Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. We were not duped. We were not fooled. It was obvious at the time. The evidence was in publicly available reports for anyone who cared to look.

I personally distributed this memo to Members of Congress. In it I address the false justifications for war, point-by-point and establish the truth. I made the case in an hour-long presentation on the House floor. 133 Members of Congress were not duped; they voted against going to war with Iraq. The Bush Administration lied to the Congress and the American people to sell its war. The intelligence community wasn’t duped, The American people were duped we are still paying the price.

Why did they lie? After ten years, we have never held anyone accountable for the lies. Perhaps it would be a useful to look at who benefited from the war.

The Neoconservatives in the Bush Administration wanted to show the world American power by destroying an enemy. They thought that American power and American bombs could redraw the maps and ensure American hegemony and American access to cheap oil for a new century.

Certainly the bombmakers and war profiteers have gained from a decade of war. The elite chattering class of State Department sponsored spokespersons from so-called “independent” think tanks have also benefitted. This professional chattering class receives funding and attention by hyping threats and war. Who else benefited from the war?

America needs a period of truth and reconciliation. How can we avoid future wars if we don’t understand how consent was manufactured for a war against Iraq?

This article was originally published at CommonDreams.org.

 

Weapons of mass distraction: the big, long lie about Iraq lingers still.

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| Cross Examine Authority! A Dangerous Lack of Rigour!

A Dangerous Lack of Rigor ~ BRIAN J. FOLEY, Counterpunch.

 

Two recent events reveal the lack of rigor that has come to pervade our public sphere: the failure of the UN (or anybody else) to question seriously the case for war against Iran, and the first presidential “debate.”

At its annual meeting, the UN General Assembly squandered an opportunity to invite U.S. and Israeli officials to produce their evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, and to substantiate their claims that if Iran builds a bomb, it presents a threat to world peace and security that cannot be “contained.”  As I’ve written here, such a process would be easy to set up in the UN or Congress. Indeed, any country could host such a tribunal.

Instead, the world slouches toward a replay of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The case against Iraq was built on flimsy and fraudulent evidence. That’s common knowledge – now.  But it could have been common knowledge then if the case against Iraq had been tested rigorously beforehand.

What’s painfully missing in our public discourse is cross-examination.  Lawyers have long agreed with jurist John Henry Wigmore’s assessment: “Cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” Indeed, a criminal defendant’s right to cross-examine witnesses against him is enshrined in the Constitution.  In cross-examination, the questioner can probe where the facts came from and whether they’re built on faulty perceptions, mistaken memory, flawed methodology, untamed ambiguity, bias, or outright lies. The questioner can pin down a person’s position, clarify ambiguities, expose inconsistencies and logical flaws.  People are cross-examined every day in countless minor court cases across America, yet we routinely fail to cross-examine officials who claim it’s necessary to send U.S. troops to their deaths, kill and maim thousands of innocent people, and spend billions of dollars. We apply more rigor to a restaurant’s application for a liquor license than to a President’s war cries.

Had then-Secretary of State Colin Powell been cross-examined during his now-infamous February 5, 2003 presentation to the Security Council– a presentation mainstream U.S. media patsies reported as convincing  – the U.S. case would have been exposed as built on coerced confessions, lies, illogic, forged evidence, fear-mongering, and an interest in stealing Iraq’s oil.  Support for the war would have eroded. It’s shocking that such inquiry isn’t required by law, given U.S. leaders’ track record of defrauding Americans into war.

The U.S. case against Iran appears at least as flimsy – if not an out-and-out con job  – as its case against Iraq.  The UN, Congress, and corporate media’s failure to examine it is unconscionable.  It’s not as if no one knows this is a problem.  The New York Times and Washington Post actually issued mea culpas in 2004 for failing to ask rigorous questions about the U.S case against Iraq. No lesson was learned, apparently.  Instead of questioning the case against Iran, U.S. corporate media appear to be helping the Obama Administration make its case for war.

A brief example: On this year’s anniversary of 9/11, the Associated Press treated readers to an “exclusive” story that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees inspections under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), had “received” new intelligence about Iran’s bomb-building, from the U.S., Israel, and “at least two other Western countries.”  (George Jahn, “AP Exclusive: New Intelligence on Iran Nuke Work”)  The AP’s sources: six anonymous diplomats.  Anonymous diplomats? Really? This was newsworthy only in that it revealed a patent, comically cynical attempt to manipulate a public already over-manipulated with 9/11 remembrances into supporting a war.

A lack of rigor also pervaded the October 3 presidential “debate.”  These debates follow a format negotiated by the candidates with the business-funded Commission on Presidential Debates.  Not surprisingly, the debates are set up to avoid serious questioning – there’s no cross-examination! You can’t be on a college, or even high school, debate team if you refuse to submit to cross-examination, but you can rule the most powerful and destructive country in the world.

It’s a sign of our lame-brained, select-a-fact times that our leaders never have to face serious questioning, even when they threaten to get us into another war. Maybe that’s what it means to run the country as a business: empty-suited CEOs drive their companies over cliffs while espousing platitudes to angry, scared – and silent – employees. But we’re still a country, not a company. We must question authority.  If we don’t, history’s judgment will be against us.

Brian J. Foley is a law professor.

See his blog:  Lawpaganda.

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