| US softens Deadline for Deal to keep troops in Afghanistan!

U.S. Softens Deadline for Deal to Keep Troops in Afghanistan ~ , NYT.

KABUL, Afghanistan — With about a week left in the year, the Obama administration is backing away from a Dec. 31 deadline for securing a deal to keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, though it is standing by its warning that a total military withdrawal is still possible if delays continue, American and Afghan officials said.

The decision is a tacit acknowledgment of what has become obvious in both Kabul and Washington: Neither a hard sell nor soft persuasion has yet induced President Hamid Karzai to go along with the American-imposed timeline for the agreement.

It is also an embarrassing turn after weeks of threats by some senior administration officials, including Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, that a complete American withdrawal from Afghanistan — the so-called zero option — would be considered if Mr. Karzai did not sign the deal by the year’s end.

Instead of prompting Mr. Karzai to action, however, setting a boundary appears to have only reinforced his sense that American officials will back down if he refuses their demands — a lesson that has been repeated often over the past 12 years.

“I don’t know if I would call it bluffing,” said one American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “But it looks like that’s what we were doing, and now it looks like Karzai is calling us out.”

The official insisted that planning for a potentially final withdrawal in 2014 was still underway, and that it was still a very real possibility. “But if we want a deal,” the official continued, “we’re going to have to wait.”

The question now is how long the administration is willing to wait. American officials have been careful in recent interviews not to suggest any new deadlines. “I think it’s pretty obvious why,” one administration official said.

The officials spoke only in vague terms about timelines that stretched into the new year, and reiterated earlier statements about how the administration’s preferred outcome is to reach a deal that would permit a small American force, along with some European troops, to stay on to train and advise Afghan soldiers and the police.

Mr. Karzai, after initially agreeing to the wording of the security deal, known as a bilateral security agreement, or B.S.A., said he wanted to wait until after the April 2014 presidential elections before signing.

But American officials say they need a deal finalized soon, in part to give European allies, who lack the robust logistics capability of the United States military, time to plan for an extended mission in Afghanistan. They also said the longer they waited, the more likely those in the administration — and the public — who want a complete withdrawal would gain support.

“We’ve been clear that our preference is to conclude the B.S.A. by the end of the year, and that if we cannot conclude a B.S.A. promptly thereafter, then we will be forced to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan,” said Laura Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the White House. “That has not changed.”

With the deal in limbo, the official focus in Kabul has shifted to talks on a companion agreement that would allow other NATO members, such as Italy and Germany, to keep forces in Afghanistan after the alliance’s combat mission formally ends next year.

The NATO-led coalition here announced the start of talks in a statement this past weekend. The statement was carefully worded, Western officials said, to head off any talk from Mr. Karzai of cutting out the Americans and trying to work only with European allies, an idea he has previously floated in meetings with Western officials.

“The NATO status of forces agreement will not be concluded or signed until the signature of the bilateral security agreement between the governments of Afghanistan and the United States,” the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussensaid in the statement.

But Mr. Karzai appears to still be holding out for a better deal with the United States, despite the original accord’s endorsement last month by a grand council of Afghans, known as a loya jirga, and economic signs that public confidence is falling in the absence of an agreement.

“I want this security agreement with the U.S.,” a statement from the presidential palace quoted Mr. Karzai as saying in an off-the-record meeting with Afghan journalists on Sunday. “But Afghans’ homes should be protected from American operations, and Afghanistan should not become the battleground of a continuous war.”

Mr. Karzai reiterated that a formal peace process with the Taliban must begin before he signs, and that the United States commit itself to Afghanistan’s peace and security.

“The conditions that we have put forward for the signing of the security agreement are ridding Afghanistan of instability and war,” Mr. Karzai told the journalists.

He would sign, he said, “as soon as they are ready to accept our conditions, because we are not in a rush.”

American officials have expressed frustration with Mr. Karzai’s demands, saying that the Taliban have not yet shown a willingness to negotiate seriously. And they emphasize that the United States has spent the past 12 years and hundreds of billions of dollars trying to stabilize Afghanistan.

They have also said the deal approved last month by the loya jirga is no longer open for negotiation.

But some American officials say there are ways to meet Mr. Karzai’s demands without reopening talks. Addenda could be added, or letters could be sent to Mr. Karzai from President Obama that address the Afghan president’s concerns.

First, though, American officials would have to start delivering consistent messages to Mr. Karzai, and to one another, said the American official.

“I think if you want to explain what’s going on, you have to look at why it’s confusing,” the official said. “We’ve never spoken with one voice. One person says sign now, another tells Karzai that he has time. It’s not been clear what’s going on.”

Habib Zahori contributed reporting.

Pool photo by Mark Wilson

United States Marines at Camp Bastion, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

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| An Awkward Silence – Burying the Hersh Revelations of Obama’s Syrian Deceit!

An Awkward Silence – Burying The Hersh Revelations Of Obama’s Syrian Deceit ~ David Cromwell, Media Lens.

‘All governments lie’, the US journalist I.F. Stone once noted, with Iraq the most blatant example in modern times. But Syria is another recent criminal example of Stone’s dictum.

An article in the current edition of London Review of Books by Seymour Hersh makes a strong case that US President Obama misled the world over the infamous chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21 this year. Hersh is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who exposed the My Lai atrocity committed by American troops in Vietnam and the subsequent cover-up. He also helped bring to public attention the systematic brutality of US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

After the nerve gas attack at Ghouta, Obama had unequivocally pinned the blame on Syrian President Assad, a propaganda claim that was fervently disseminated around the world by a compliant corporate news media. Following Obama’s earlier warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’, he then declared on US television on September 10, 2013:

‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people …We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’

There was global public opposition to any attack on Syria. But war was only averted when the Americans agreed to a Russian proposal at the UN to dismantle Syria’s capability for making chemical weapons.

Based on interviews with US intelligence and military insiders, Hersh now charges that Obama deceived the world in making a cynical case for war. The US president ‘did not tell the whole story’, says the journalist:

‘In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.’

Obama did not reveal that American intelligence agencies knew that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had the capability to manufacture considerable quantities of sarin. When the attack on Ghouta took place, ‘al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.’ Indeed, the ‘cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.’

Hersh notes that when he interviewed intelligence and military personnel:

‘I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a “ruse”.’

Hersh continues:

‘A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.’

The former official said that this ‘distortion’ of the facts by the Obama administration ‘reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam.’

Hersh adds:

‘The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: “The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, ‘How can we help this guy’ – Obama – ‘when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?’ “‘

Hersh does not actually use the word ‘lie’ or ‘deceive’ in his article. But, given the above account, he might as well have done.

In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Hersh notes that:

‘there are an awful lot of people in the government who just were really very, very upset with the way the information about the gas attack took place.’

He makes clear that he is not making any claims for who conducted the sarin attack at Ghouta; he does not know who did it. ‘But there’s no question my government does not’ know either. The essence of the revelations, Hersh emphasises, is that Obama ‘was willing to go to war, wanted to throw missiles at Syria, without really having a case and knowing he didn’t have much of a case.’

‘Our Media Lie Entirely In Sync With Our Governments’

The independent journalist Jonathan Cook spells out an important conclusion from Hersh’s vital reporting:

‘not only do our governments lie as a matter of course, but our media lie entirely in sync with our governments. Hersh exposes a catalogue of journalistic failures in his piece, just as occurred in Iraq. He even points out that at one vital White House press conference, where the main, false narrative was set out, officials refused to invite a critical national security correspondent, presumably fearing that he might expose the charade.’

It is noteworthy that Hersh’s article did not appear in The New Yorker, his usual outlet in recent years. Hersh said ‘there was little interest’ for the story at the magazine, and New Yorker editor David Remnick did not respond to the news website BuzzFeed asking for an explanation for a piece it published discussing Hersh’s revelations.

The Washington Post also turned down Hersh’s article, even though it was originally going to run there. Hersh was told by Executive Editor Marty Baron ‘that the sourcing in the article did not meet the Post’s standards.’ The journalist finally turned to the London Review of Books which, ironically, published his piece after it had been ‘thoroughly fact checked by a former New Yorker fact checker who had worked with Hersh in the past.’

Given the resistance from both The New Yorker and the Washington Post, Cook is right to say that there should be no ‘false complacency’ that Hersh’s exceptional role in exposing state deceptions demonstrates that our media is anywhere close to being ‘free and pluralistic.’ Cook makes the astute observation that:

‘There will always be the odd investigative reporter like Hersh at the margins of the mainstream media. And one can understand why by reading Hersh closely. His sources of information are those in the security complex who lost the argument, or came close to losing the argument, and want it on record that they opposed the government line. Hersh is useful to them because he allows them to settle scores within the establishment or to act as a warning bell against future efforts to manipulate intelligence in the same manner. He is useful to us as readers because he reveals disputes that show us much more clearly what has taken place.’

‘Several Hours Of Googling’ Trumps Hersh

Some commentators have attempted to dismiss Hersh’s article by misrepresenting it as pinning the blame on Syrian rebels for the Ghouta chemical weapons attack. Brian Whitaker, a former Middle East editor of the Guardian, has a blog piece based on this skewed reading. Whitaker asks his readers to treat Seymour Hersh, a veteran journalist with an impressive track record, with more scepticism than Eliot Higgins ‘who sits at home in an English provincial town [Leicester] trawling the internet and tweets and blogs about his findings under the screen name Brown Moses.’ Whitaker argues with a straight face that Hersh’s in-depth journalism has been trumped by a blogger who has performed ‘several hours of Googling’.

Whitaker wrote a follow-up blog piece prompted by criticism he’d received from Media Lens via Twitter. Again, he seemingly failed to grasp the point of Hersh’s article – that Obama had no solid case and knew it – and Whitaker instead blew some diversionary smoke about ‘a conflict between two different approaches [i.e. those of internet-researcher Higgins and ‘traditional’ Hersh] to investigative journalism and the sources that they use’. There followed an excellent rebuttal from the ever-insightful Interventions Watch. First, citing Whitaker:

‘he [Hersh] has often been criticised for his use of shadowy sources. In the words of one Pentagon spokesman, he has “a solid and well-earned reputation for making dramatic assertions based on thinly sourced, unverifiable anonymous sources”.’

Interventions Watch then noted that:

‘Hersh has spent decades shining lights into places “Pentagon spokesmen” types don’t want him to look. So it’s not surprising that they’d try and discredit his work. Would Whitaker, for example, quote an Iranian military spokesman to try and rubbish the work of an Iranian dissident journalist? I doubt it. And the fact he does it here perhaps says much about his unexamined assumptions and biases.’

It is hardly surprising that Higgins, a blogger who presents a view conforming to the ‘mainstream’ narrative, should be given special attention by Whitaker, an establishment journalist. As Interventions Watch observes:

‘At this point in his career, it’s not like Higgins is some obscure, insurgent outsider. He has had his work published in The New York Times and Foreign Policy, has had a lengthy profile written about him in The New Yorker, has worked with Human Rights Watch, and has been interviewed more than once on T.V. News. Does this make him wrong? Of course not. But the line between him and “old media” isn’t quite as defined as Whitaker would like to make out.’

Phil Greaves, a writer on US-UK foreign policy, likewise questions the role of Higgins who has recently:

‘jump[ed] to the fore with his YouTube analysis in order to bolster mainstream discourse whilst offering the air of impartiality and the crucial “open source” faux-legitimacy. It has become blatantly evident that the “rebels” in both Syria and Libya have made a concerted effort in fabricating YouTube videos in order to incriminate and demonize their opponents while glorifying themselves in a sanitized image. Western media invariably lapped-up such fabrications without question and subsequently built narratives around them – regardless of contradictory evidence or opinion.’

The same spotlight of corporate media approval shines on the grandly-named Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a man who owns a clothes shop, operating from his Coventry home – and the volunteer-run Iraq Body Count, whose numbers are routinely cited by journalists in preference to the much higher death-toll estimates from the Lancet epidemiological studies.

To emphasise once again, culpability for the Ghouta chemical attack is not the key thrust of Hersh’s article at all. It is that significant elements of the US intelligence community were angered and dismayed by the Obama administration’s manipulation of the facts, and that the White House falsely claimed certainty in its bid to make a self-interested case for war. It takes considerable skill in mental and verbal contortions to avoid these simple truths.

No Need For A Memory Hole

To date, searches of the Lexis newspaper database reveal that not a single print article has appeared about Hersh’s revelations in the entire UK national press. Notably, the Guardian and the Independent, the two flagship daily newspapers of British liberal journalism, have steered well clear of embarrassing Obama. For the entire British press not to even discuss, far less mention, Hersh’s claims is Orwellian – or worse. Why worse? Because there is not even the need for amemory hole if the story never surfaced in the first place. This represents an astonishing level of media conformity to the government narrative of events. In fact, the silence indicates complicity in the cynical distortion of the truth for war aims.

To its credit, the Daily Mail did publish a web-only article which was a fair summary of Hersh’s article, and Peter Oborne had a short blog piece on the Telegraph website: all of five brief paragraphs. Oborne’s piece then prompted his colleague Richard Spencer, a Telegraph foreign correspondent, to write his own web-only article denouncing Hersh’s careful journalism as ‘conspiracy theory’. Spencer did so based in large part on his reliance on the googling work of Eliot ‘Brown Moses’ Higgins, mentioned above, and a second blog ‘of admittedly variable quality’. That appears to have been the sum total of press attention devoted to genuinely shocking revelations about the Nobel Peace Prize-winning US president.

As far as we can tell, there has been no coverage by BBC News, ITV News or Channel 4 News. (Certainly google searches of their websites yield not a single hit.) In the US, the media has likewise ‘blacked out’ coverage of Hersh’s strong claims.

Imagine if a respected and experienced journalist published an in-depth piece reporting that an official enemy had deceived the world over chemical weapon claims in order to agitate for war. It would be plastered over every front page and given headline coverage on every major news programme.

As the days rolled on following the publication of Hersh’s article, several Media Lens readers emailed journalists asking why they hadn’t covered the revelations and urging them now to do so. Justin Webb of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was a rare voice in responding:

‘Thanks for this note – the answer is that we will and should [be covering the Hersh revelations] but we need to work out how much weight to give them. But yes it’s obviously important.’ (Posted on the Media Lens message board by Robert, December 12, 2013; temporary link.)

But, so far, nothing has been broadcast.

Another reader challenged Michael White, a Guardian assistant editor, who also had the decency to respond. White said:

‘thanks for the note, was not aware of the piece, but he’s a man to take seriously is Sey [sic] Hersh, so I will ask around among colleagues concerned with these matters’ (Email, December 12, 2013)

Within an hour, White had replied again:

‘a well informed friend says:

‘ “short answer: it was widely attacked and discredited by people who are genuinely expert on the subject and use open sources rather than anonymous spooks.

‘”http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/09/sy_hershs_chemical_misfire#sthash.UKt3cjE9.dpbs

‘ “the article was rejected by wash post and new yorker apparently”.’

Who is the ‘well informed friend’ – a Guardian colleague perhaps? – and who are these unnamed ‘people who are genuinely expert on the subject’? White didn’t say. The Foreign Policy link was, inevitably, to an article by one Eliot Higgins. So in less than 60 minutes, White had gone from saying Hersh ‘is a man to take seriously’ to dismissing him on the basis of being ‘discredited’ by a blogger whose output conforms to Western governments’ propaganda.

Finally, in his Democracy Now!  interview, Hersh notes how easy it is for powerful leaders like Obama to go unchallenged:

‘you can create a narrative, which he did, and you know the mainstream press is going to carry out that narrative.’

He continued:

‘I mean, it’s almost impossible for some of the mainstream newspapers, who have consistently supported the administration. This is after we had the WMD scandal, when everybody wanted to be on the team. It turns out our job, as newspaper people, is not to be on the team. […] It’s just not so hard to hold the people in office to the highest standard. And the press should be doing it more and more.’

The fact that Hersh’s revelations have been met by an almost total silence in the corporate media is stunning but sadly unsurprising. After all, this is simply the standard performance by ‘mainstream’ news media that have demonstrated decades of adherence to state-corporate power. That this is still happening after the horrendous war crime of Iraq, which was facilitated by intense media boosting of Western propaganda claims, is utterly shameful.

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to:

Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor
Email: alan.rusbridger@guardian.co.uk
Twitter: @arusbridger

Amol Rajan, Independent editor
Email: a.rajan@independent.co.uk
Twitter: @amolrajan

Jon Snow, Channel 4 News
Email: jon.snow@itn.co.uk
Twitter: @jonsnowC4

Please blind-copy us in on any exchanges or forward them to us later at:
editor@medialens.org

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| America’s Gulag: Obama sentences political prisoner Lynne Stewart to Death!

America’s Gulag: Obama Sentences Political Prisoner Lynne Stewart to Death ~ Stephen Lendman, Global Research.

Lynne’s crime was compassion. She was imprisoned for doing the right thing. She did it honestly, admirably and courageously.

She did it defending some of America’s most disadvantaged for 30 years.

She’s dying. She has Stage Four cancer. She was given 12 months to live. She qualifies in all respects for compassionate release.

Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) authorities denied her. Doing so reflects official Obama administration policy. In Lynne’s words, BOP “stonewall(ed) since August.”

“They know (she’s) fully qualified.” Over 40,000 supporters “signed on to force (BOP) to do the right thing which is to let (her) go home to (her) family and receive the advanced care in New York City, (her) home.”

“Yet they refuse to act. I must say it is entirely within the range of their politics and their cruelty to hold the political prisoners until we have days to live before releasing us,” Lynne stressed.

Indeed so! Longtime political prisoners Herman Wallace and Marilyn Buck were treated this way. On October 1, Wallace was released. On October 3, he died. He was too ill to be saved.

Buck called prisons warehouses to “disappear the unacceptable to deprive their captives of their liberties, their human agency, and to punish (and) stigmatize prisoners through moralistic denunciations and indictment based on bad genes – skin color (ethnicity, or other characteristics) as a crime.”

Many thousands of prisoners aren’t incarcerated because they’re criminals, she said.

They’re locked in cages for their activism and beliefs, she stressed. For advocating peace, not war.

For resisting injustice. For defending freedom, equality and other democratic values. For struggling courageously for beneficial change.

On July 15, 2010, BOP authorities released Buck. On August 3, she died. She served 25 years of an 80 year sentence.

Her crime was opposing racial injustice and US imperialism. In 2009, she was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma.

With proper timely treatment she might have lived. Obama prison authorities wanted her dead.

They kept her imprisoned long enough to kill her. They’re treating Lynne the same way.

She’s one of thousands of wrongfully incarcerated political prisoners. They’re confined in US gulag hell.

It’s bar far the world’s largest. It’s the shame of the nation. It reflects the worst of unconscionable ruthlessness. It’s the American way.

Around 2.4 million prisoners languish in federal and state facilities, local jails, Indian, juvenile, and military ones, US territories, and separate Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities.

Many are imprisoned for supporting right over wrong. The Free Dictionary call political prisoners people “imprisoned for holding or advocating dissenting political views for holding, advocating, expressing, or acting in accord with particular political beliefs.”

In the 1960s, Amnesty International (AI) coined the term “prisoner of conscience.”

It denotes anyone incarcerated for their race, religion, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, beliefs, or lifestyle.

Incarceration is an instrument of social control. Prisoners are denied all rights. They languish under cruel and inhumane conditions. Some die. Others fade slowly.

Many endure punishing years of isolation. Proper medical care is denied. Abuse is commonplace. Perfunctory parole hearings are a travesty of justice.

A November ACLU report is titled “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses.”

“Ever wonder what could land you in prison for the rest of your life,” asked ACLU?

For thousands it was “shoplifting a few cameras from Wal-Mart, stealing a $159 jacket, or serving as a middleman in the sale of $10 of marijuana.”

Children young as 13 get life sentences without parole for nonviolent crimes, invented ones, or dissenting political beliefs.

“People convicted of their first offense will be permanently denied a second chance,” said ACLU.

“Many young Black and low-income men and women will be locked up until they die. And taxpayers will spend billions to keep them behind bars.”

Dissenting advocacy is considered terrorism. ACLU’s report focused on extreme sentences for minor property and drug-related crimes.

America’s criminal injustice system “reached absurd, tragic and costly heights,” it said.

Locking nonviolent people in cages longterm reflects sentencing them to death slowly. Imprisoning children this way is unconscionable.

So is incarcerating people for their political beliefs and advocacy. ACLU calls life imprisonment without parole (LWOP) “the harshest imaginable punishment.”

Any hope for freedom is denied. LWOP is “grotesquely” unconscionable. It “offends the principle that all people have the right to be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity.”

ACLU documented thousands of ruined lives. Families suffer with loved ones behind bars. Wives are separated from husbands, husbands from wives, children from fathers or mothers, extended families from one of their cherished members.

America spends billions of dollars annually keeping people locked in cages. Decades ago, historian Arnold Toynbee said:

“America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defence of vested interests.”

“She now stands for what Rome stood for: Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor…and since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number.”

Criminal injustice defines US policy. It’s morally and ethically reprehensible.

America spends more on prisons than education. In the last two decades, prison spending increased around 570%. Education funding grew only one-third.

One year in prison costs more than Harvard’s annual tuition. America has 5% of the world’s population. It incarcerates 25% of world prisoners.

Many thousands are held for their political beliefs and advocacy. HL Menchen once said:

“The most dangerous man to any government (is someone) who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.”

“Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”

Attorney/activist Stan Willis said earlier:

“The United States is very, very concerned when its citizens begin to raise (uncomfortable) questions.”

America “prefers to posture itself, including the Obama administration, as the leader of the free world and that they don’t have any human rights violations, and they certainly don’t have any political prisoners, and we have to dispel that notion in the international community.”

US officials want this issue hidden from public view. It preaches democracy at home and abroad.

It practices injustice writ large. It locks thousands in cages unconscionably. It does so for political reasons.

It sentences them to slow death. It violates constitutional law doing so. The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”

The First Amendment guarantees free speech. Democratic principles include equal justice under law.

In Griffin v. Illinois (1956), the Supreme Court said “there can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.” Nor when core constitutional rights are denied.

Everyone is entitled to constitutional protections. Too few get it. Thousands are denied it for their political beliefs and advocacy. They’re imprisoned for doing the right thing.

Judicial unfairness is US official policy. Guilty by accusation is standard practice. Constitutional scholar Thomas Emerson (1908 – 1981) once said:

The FBI is an instrument of repression. It “jeopardizes the whole system of free expression which is the cornerstone of our society (raising) the specter of a police state.”

“In essence, the FBI conceives of itself as an instrument to prevent radical social change in America. The Bureau’s view of its function leads it beyond data collection into political warfare.”

It protects privilege from beneficial social, political and economic change. Criminal injustice in America denies fundamental constitutional rights.

Society’s most vulnerable are harmed most. So is anyone for dissenting political views and advocacy.

Howard Zinn called dissent “the highest form of patriotism. (It) means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand,” he said.

“(T)he right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we’re exercising that right, (it’s) patriotic.”

“One of the greatest mistakes (about) patriotism (is thinking it) means support(ing) your (government right or wrong).”

“(W)hen governments become destructive (of life, liberty and equality), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish (it).”

Michael Tigar is Washington College of Law Professor Emeritus. He’s a constitutional law expert. He’s one of America’s most respected defense attorneys.

He’s written extensively on litigation, trial practice, criminal law, capital punishment, and the role of criminal defense attorneys. He represented Lynne. He did so at the district court level.

He called it a “great honor” to do it. He represented her struggle for freedom and justice. “The entire legal profession ought to be standing up and shouting about (her) case,” he said.

He called charges against her “an attack on the First Amendment right of free speech, free press and petition.”

Lynne was targeted for “speaking and helping others to speak.” Doing so was fundamentally unconstitutional.

So-called evidence against her “was gathered by wholesale invasion of private conversations, private attorney-client meetings, and private faxes, letters and emails. I have never seen such an abusive use of government power,” said Tigar.

Convicting Lynne was chilling. It warned other defense attorneys. It intimidated them. Representing clients prosecutors want convicted is dangerous. Doing so leaves them vulnerable going forward.

US police state laws are menacing. Anyone can be targeted for supporting right over wrong. America is unfit to live in.

Thousands of political prisoners reflect its harshness. Justice is a four-letter word. It’s systematically denied.

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LYNNEhourglass1

| Paradigm shift: US in secret talks with Hezbollah?

US in Secret Talks with Hezbollah ~ Keith Jones, World Socialist Web Site.

Washington has reportedly begun secret talks with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia closely allied with Iran, and whose fighters have helped Syria’s government withstand a US- and Saudi-backed Sunni Islamist insurgency.

Britain is reportedly facilitating the negotiations. According to stories in the Kuwaiti press that were subsequently confirmed by the Jerusalem Post, British diplomats are meeting with Hezbollah representatives to apprise them of the Obama administration’s demands and deliver their responses to Washington.

This roundabout method has supposedly been adopted because the US officially designates both Hezbollah’s military and political wings as terrorist organizations, making it illegal for US officials to meet Hezbollah leaders.

The revelation of the US-Hezbollah talks comes just days after the US and its allies reached an interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran’s bourgeois-clerical regime and its regional allies— including Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, and the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad—have hailed this agreement as a “victory.”

In fact, Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear program and subject it to unprecedentedly intrusive inspections regime in exchange for the US and European Union relaxing only a small fraction of the punitive economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Revelations of wide-ranging US negotiations with Iran’s Middle East allies underscore that the US disputes with Iran were about far more than simply its nuclear program. Washington is moving to mend relations with various Shia populist or bourgeois nationalist forces across the Middle East in order to more effectively dominate the world’s leading oil-exporting region.

Fearing that Iran’s economic crisis could provoke working class-led social unrest, the leadership of the Islamic Republic has signaled that it is ready to make huge concessions to Washington. These include giving the US and European Union energy giants privileged access to Iran’s oil and natural gas and assisting Washington in suppressing opposition to its foreign policy across the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Lebanon.

“If in Geneva a deal was struck, doors to other deals might be possible” an unnamed “senior Iranian official” told the Washington-based Al-Monitor this week. “Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and also Afghanistan just a few weeks before the United States withdraws.” In a message clearly directed at Israel and Saudi Arabia—US regional allies who for their own strategic reasons fear a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran—the Iranian official added: “We prefer that regional powers understand new details are to be added to the equation.”

Over the past week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have launched a diplomatic charm offensive aimed at US allies in region. At the beginning of the week, Turkey’s foreign minister visited Tehran and, at a press conference with Zarif, made a joint appeal for an immediate cease-fire and political settlement in Syria. On Thursday, it was the turn of the UAE foreign minister to be welcomed to Tehran.

Iran has also announced it is considering an invitation from Bahrain to visit the capital, Manama. In an attempt to reassure the kingdom’s Sunni rulers of its support, it stressed that Iran did not instigate the popular revolt against the monarchy mounted by Bahrain’s majority-Shia population.

Rouhani’s mentor, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has announced that he is ready to travel to Saudi Arabia to mend Tehran’s relations with Riyadh. In an interview with the Financial Times, Rafsanjani, who has repeatedly indicated his unhappiness with Tehran’s backing for the Syrian regime, said Iran “could play a better role” in Syria. He added that “we have no right to interfere” if Syrians want Assad to go.

As the interim nuclear deal was being finalized last weekend, the Obama administration let it be known that it had initiated secret talks with Iran last March and that these talks, which continued over the next six months, paved the way for the nuclear accord.

The Kuwaiti daily, Al-Rai, said the indirect talks between Washington and Hezbollah had been confirmed by senior British diplomatic sources. TheJerusalem Post cited “diplomatic sources in Washington” as saying the talks “are aimed at keeping tabs on the changes in the region and the world, and [to] prepare for the upcoming return of Iran to the international community.”

The US is exploring to what extent Hezbollah is prepared to accommodate US strategic interests. Immediately at issue is Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian war and its readiness to assist the US in working out a “political solution” that would see much of the US-backed, Islamist-led opposition brought into a “transitional government” in Damascus.

Less than three months ago the Obama administration was on the brink of launching war on Syria, a war that could have rapidly triggered war with Iran. Instead, it has chosen to see if it can harness Tehran to its strategic agenda, using it and its allies to help stabilize the region under US hegemony. One of its leading concerns is concentrating its military resources on the so-called “pivot to Asia”—an effort to militarily isolate, and if necessary, confront China.

Like Tehran, Hezbollah has indicated that it is looking for a bargain, welcoming Tehran’s own overtures to the US and entering into secret talks with Washington. So as not to disrupt this process, both Tehran and Hezbollah have chosen to downplay the significance of the November 19 bombing at Iran’s Lebanese embassy, which killed 6 Iranians and 17 passers-by in a Shia Beirut neighborhood dominated by Hezbollah.

Israel, meanwhile, is clearly disturbed by the reports of secret talks between Washington and Hezbollah. While there has been no official Israeli comment, within hours of the talks being revealed, the Jerusalem Post carried a report that claimed it has learned from army sources that Hezbollah “is carrying out massive preparations” for war with Israel.

The report begins: “On both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and Hezbollah are quietly and intensively preparing for the next clash between them, a conflict both expect will surpass previous wars, in the scope of firepower each side will seek to employ.”

 

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On the other hand, this news is likely fake:

How a political lie becomes a news story: this is a true story ~ the angry arab news service.

 
A Kuwaiti tabloid newspaper, Al-Ra’y (which has a history of fabrications–and let me give readers a hint: whenever you read a story or an interview attributed to a Kuwaiti newspaper, safely assume it is a lie) carried a story that US officials conducted secret negotiations with Hizbullah officials (which is against US laws and even against the wishes of Hizbullah leader).  So the Jerusalem Post carried the story and attributed to a “Kuwaiti newspaper”, not mentioning that it is leading voice in the yellow journalism of the region.  So the Daily Mail of London carried the story and attributed to Jerusalem Post.  Then Drudge Report AND Qatari and Saudi media reported the “story” and attributed to “British media” (Qatari-funded Al-Qauds Al-`Arabi went further and attributed to it “various sources”).  You now learn how a lie becomes a news story, widely circulated. 
 
Posted by As’ad AbuKhalil

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BrainwashMethod

| Mission Creep: As opposition to war mounts, Pentagon plans massive attack on Syria!

As opposition to war mounts, Pentagon plans massive attack on Syria ~ Bill Van AukenWorld Socialist Web Site.

Facing overwhelming opposition to its war plans among the American people, the prospect of losing a vote in Congress on a resolution authorizing military force, and unprecedented isolation on the world stage, the Obama administration has reportedly ordered the Pentagon to plan a far wider attack on Syria than had originally been indicated.

Obama is “now determined to put more emphasis on the ‘degrade’ part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria—to ‘deter and degrade’ Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons,” the New York Times reported Friday, citing unnamed Pentagon officials.

According to the Times, as well as similar reports by the Wall Street Journal and CNN, the Syria war plan is evolving to include not just a salvo of cruise missiles from a US naval flotilla deployed in the eastern Mediterranean, but a sustained bombing campaign involving US warplanes flying from bases in the region as well from the US itself.

The Journal reported that the use of Air Force bombers, which are capable of delivering a greater payload than the ship-borne missiles, is being considered for strikes on “hardened targets” and “follow-on strikes if the first wave doesn’t destroy the targets.”

“Among options available are B-52 bombers, which can carry cruise missiles; low-flying B1s that are based in Qatar and carry long-range, air-to-surface missiles; and B-2 stealth bombers, which are based in Missouri and carry heavy guided bombs,” according to the Journal .

In the face of such preparations, only the willfully ignorant can still believe that the attack being prepared against Syria has anything to do with upholding “international norms” and punishing the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons.

The Obama administration has yet to present a shred of verifiable evidence to substantiate its claim that the Assad regime was responsible for the alleged August 21 chemical attack outside Damascus.

The American president suffered an unmitigated fiasco at the G20 summit in Russia, where he was unable to convince a single government to support US military action. If evidence of such an attack could be shared anywhere, it would presumably be with the heads of state gathered in St. Petersburg. But Obama has no such proof, and every government in the world knows it.

The August 21 event was a provocation staged by Washington and its proxies, the armed Islamist militias led by Al Qaeda, to provide the justification for not only an attack on Syria, but a far wider war.

In the first instance, what is being prepared is a full-scale assault on the Syrian government and its military. Among the objectives will be the assassination of Assad and the wiping out of much of the Syrian army. In the process, thousands of Syrian civilians—men, women and children—will be killed as well.

These aims are being spelled out clearly within the US ruling establishment. A report published September 5 by Anthony Cordesman, a leading analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and former Pentagon intelligence official, is entitled “Shaping a Meaningful Outcome to US Strikes and Intervention in the Syrian Civil War.”

“If the US is to accomplish any lasting strategic result, it must carry out a truly major cruise missile strike and focus on changing the outcome of the Syrian civil war, rather than focus on Syria’s chemical weapons,” Cordesman writes. “In the short term, this means a focus on high value military targets that will have an impact on the civil war rather than a focus on chemical weapons.”

He continues by insisting that “making a limited, short-term tilt in the balance will not be enough.” The US attack, he argues, must be accompanied by a major escalation of the arming of the so-called “rebels,” the fascistic Islamist gunmen carrying out a sectarian civil war on Washington’s behalf.

This is already taking place. The Times of London reported Friday, “The CIA is supervising fresh weapons consignments from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to Syria’s rebels to help them to capitalise on a US bombing offensive that could start next week.”

The massive new infusion of weaponry includes antitank weapons and surface-to-air missiles as well as other arms. It likely also involves chemical weapons from the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, to be used should another provocation be required.

These weapons will go to Al Qaeda-led militias, with which the US government is now working in the closest operational unity, to carry out sectarian massacres across the country and in Damascus itself.

The aim of this campaign is not limited to Syria, but is directed at preparing a wider regional war, targeting Iran, with the aim of removing all impediments to US imperialist hegemony over the oil-rich and strategically vital regions of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. Obama is pursuing the same predatory aims that lay behind the wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan over the entire past decade.

The US Senate convened briefly Friday to allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to formally introduce the Authorization for the Use of Military Force resolution adopted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The full Senate returns from its recess on Monday and is expected to vote on the measure backing war on Syria as soon as next Wednesday.

The resolution provides for up to 60 days of air strikes on the already devastated Middle Eastern nation, with another 30-day extension should the Obama administration determine that more attacks are required.

Whatever the text of the legislation, and whether or not it is passed by both houses of Congress, which appears increasingly doubtful, the administration has already made clear the far-reaching scope of its military aims with the draft it first submitted. This resolution allowed it to use virtually unlimited military force “in connection with” Syrian chemical weapons and the proliferation “within, to or from Syria,” of such weapons or any components or materials associated with them. Such language would allow attacks on Iran or Russia or virtually any other country that the US determined was “connected” with Syria or providing it with aid.

That this remains the aim of the US intervention was indicated by last week’s presence in Washington of a large delegation of top Israeli military and intelligence officials and the steady drumbeat of propaganda to the effect that the Syrian intervention is necessary to deter Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.

As the New York Times noted Friday, the Obama administration is counting heavily on Zionist lobbying organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to pressure members of Congress to back the authorization of military force.

Whatever the results of the congressional deliberations, this will be the last time any legislative debate is carried out in the US over the impending war. Such is the depth of the crisis of US capitalism, it is driven to a war of aggression, regardless the attitude of the American people, as a means of offsetting its economic decline and intense internal contradictions.

This is a government of conspiracy, dominated by its vast military and intelligence apparatus and totally subservient to the interests of the corporations, the banks and the super-rich. It is dragging the American people into war on the basis of wholesale lying and under conditions where the overwhelming majority of the population opposes military action—something Obama and his supporters acknowledge. Ultimately, this can be carried out only by means of massive repression.

The only thing that can stop the coming war is the mobilization of mass popular opposition. This requires the independent action of working people, students and youth in opposition to the Obama administration, the Congress and both big-business political parties. The struggle against war must be joined with the fight to defend living standards and basic democratic rights, which are under relentless assault by the same capitalist system and ruling financial oligarchy that are the source of militarism and imperialist aggression.

The Socialist Equality Party is fighting to organize this opposition, holding meetings and calling demonstrations across the US and internationally. We call upon all of our readers and supporters to join this fight today.

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WAR_path_Peace2

US Barb2

| Saudi Arabia’s “Chemical Bandar” behind the Chemical Attacks in Syria?

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Chemical Bandar’ behind the Syrian chemical attacks? ~

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist, award-winning author and geopolitical analyst, RT, Global Research.

Nothing the US claims about what happened in Syria adds up. We are being asked to believe an illogical story, when it is much more likely that it was Israel and Saudi Arabia who enabled the Obama Administration to threaten Syria with war.

U.N. chemical weapons experts visit a hospital where wounded people affected by an apparent gas attack are being treated, in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya, August 26, 2013 (Reuters / Abo Alnour Alhaji)

U.N. chemical weapons experts visit a hospital where wounded people affected by an apparent gas attack are being treated, in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya, August 26, 2013 (Reuters / Abo Alnour Alhaji)

The Obama Administration’s intelligence report on Syria was a rehash of Iraq. “There are lots of things that aren’t spelled out” in the four-page document,according to Richard Guthrie, the former project head of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. One piece of evidence is the alleged interception of Syrian government communications, but no transcripts were provided.

Just as with the Obama Administration’s speeches which all fall short of conclusively confirming what happened, nothing was categorically confirmed in the intelligence report. Actually it comes across more as a superficial college or university student’s paper put together by wordsmiths instead of genuine experts on the subject.

Going in a circle, the report even depends on “unnamed” social media and accounts as sources of evidence or data. Lacking transparency, it states that “there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel, videos, witness accounts, thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area, journalist accounts and reports from highly credible non-governmental organizations.”

Chances are that these unnamed sources are actually foreign-funded insurgents, Israeli media, Saudi media, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – which includes fighters in the ranks of the insurgency and salutes Saudi Arabia as a model democracy – or the NGO Doctors Without Borders. These are the same sources that have been supporting the insurgency and pushing for regime change and military intervention in Syria.

Moreover, one of the main sources of the intelligence and communication interceptions that are supposed to be a smoking gun is none other than Israel, which is notorious for doctoring and falsifying evidence.

The US intelligence report also claims to have advanced knowledge about the plans to launch a chemical weapons attack several days before it happened. A leading expert on chemical weapons, Jean Pascal Zanders, who until recently was a senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies, asks why the US government did not tell the world about it and issue warnings about a chemical attack at that time.

An Israeli-Saudi-US conspiracy?

The US-supported anti-government forces fighting inside Syria are the ones that have a track record of using chemical weapons. Yet, Obama and company have said nothing.

 

Reuters / Loubna Mrie
Reuters / Loubna Mrie

 

Despite the anti-government forces accusations that the Syrian military launched a chemical weapon attack on Homs at Christmas in December 2012, CNN reported that the US military was training anti-government fighters with the securing and handling of chemical weapons. Under the name of theDestructive Wind Chemical Battalion, the insurgents themselves even threatened to use nerve gas and released a video where they killed rabbits as a demonstration of what they planned on doing in Syria.

According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, two brigades of anti-government fighters that were trained by the CIA, Israelis, Saudis, and Jordanians crossed from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan into Syria to launch an assault, respectively on August 17 and 19, 2013. The US must have invested quite a lot in training both anti-government brigades. If true, some may argue that their defeat prompted the chemical weapons attack in Damascus as a contingency plan to fall back on.

However, how they came by chemical weapons is another issue, but many trails lead to Saudi Arabia. According to the British Independent, it was Saudi Prince Bandar “that first alerted Western allies to the alleged use of sarin gas by the Syrian regime in February 2013.” Turkey would apprehend Syrian militants in its territory with sarin gas, which these terrorists planned on using inside Syria. On July 22 the insurgents would also overrun Al-Assal and kill all the witnesses as part of a cover-up.

report by Yahya Ababneh, which was contributed to by Dale Gavlak, has collected the testimonies of witnesses who say that “certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the gas attack.”

The Mint Press News report adds an important dimension to the story, totally contradicting the claims of the US government. It quotes a female insurgent fighter who says things that make a link to Saudi Arabia clear. She says that those who provided them with weapons “didn’t tell them what these arms were or how to use them” and that they “didn’t know they were chemical weapons.” “When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she is quoted.

There is also another Saudi link in the report: “Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a ‘tube-like structure’ while others were like a ‘huge gas bottle.’”

So it seems that the Saudis enabled the chemical attack while the Israelis provided them cover to ignite a full-scale war, or at the very least enable a bombing campaign against Damascus. Israel and Saudi Arabia have empowered the Obama Administration to threaten war on Syria.

Obama wants to change the balance of power in Syria

The moralistic language coming out of Washington is despicable posturing. The hypocrisy of the US government knows no bounds. It condemns the Syrian military for using cluster bombs while the United States sells them en mass to Saudi Arabia.

 

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Scanpix Sweden / Jessica Gow)US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Scanpix Sweden / Jessica Gow)

 

The UN inspectors entered Syria in the first place on the invitation of the government in Damascus. The Syrian government warned the UN for weeks that the anti-government militias were trying to use chemical weapons after they gained control of a chlorine factory east of Aleppo. As a precaution, the Syrian military consolidated all its chemical weapons into a handful of heavily guarded compounds to prevent the anti-government forces from reaching them. Yet, the insurgents launched a chemical weapon attack against the Syrian government’s forces in Khan Al-Assal on March 19, 2013. Turning the truth on its head, the insurgents and their foreign backers, including the US government, would try to blame the Syrian government for the chemical attack, but the UN’s investigator Carla Del Ponte would refute their claims as false in May after extensive work.

Concerning the alleged August attack the Obama Administration has been lying and contradicting itself for days. They say that traces of chemical weapons cannot be eliminated, but that the Syrian government destroyed that same evidence that cannot be eradicated. They want an investigation, but say they already have all the answers.

The claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the suburb of Ghouta defy logic. Why would the Syrian government unnecessarily use chemical weapons in an area that it controls and shoot itself in the foot by presenting the US and its allies with a pretext to intervene? And of all the days it could unnecessarily use chemical weapons, the Obama administration wants us to believe that the Syrian government picked the day when United Nation inspectors arrived in Damascus.

Even the biased and misleading state-run British Broadcasting Corporation admitted that there was something strange about the event. The BBC’s own “Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen says many will ask why the [Syrian] government would want to use such weapons at a time when [United Nations] inspectors are in the country and the military has been doing well militarily in the area around Damascus.”

The US is deliberately pointing the finger for the use of chemical weapons at the Syrian government.

American officials have a track record of lying to start wars against other countries. This has been the consistent modus operandi of the US from Vietnam to Yugoslavia, and from Iraq to Libya.

It is not Syria that is going against the international community, but the warmongers in Washington, which include the Obama Administration.

Washington is threatening to attack Syria as a means of prolonging the fighting inside Syria. The US government also wants to have a stronger hand in the country’s future negotiations by restoring the balance of power between the Syrian government and America’s anti-government insurgent allies, thus weakening the Syrian military and ending its winning momentum against the insurgency. If not softening Damascus up for the insurgents, America wants to level the equation and undermine the Syrian government before a final negotiation takes place.

Now is the time for the “responsibility to prevent war”—the real R2P—to come into play.

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Bandar2

 

US Barb2

| 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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un-syria-resolution-veto-by-russia-china1

 

| Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill: Is journalism being criminalised?

| Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill: Is journalism being criminalised? ~ YouTube.

In the wake of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leak of NSA files, Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and featured reporter in the new documentary film of the same name, says under the Obama administration journalists are being intruded upon and whistleblowers are being charged with crimes. Scahill is also a national security correspondent for the Nation.

URLhttp://youtu.be/6aIcq_ftu2E 

Source: Guardian,
Length: 6min 27sec.

 


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Propaganda Dummies1

land free01 no-free-speech-for-you

 

| Chomsky: Obama ‘running biggest Terrorist Operation that Exists!’

Noam Chomsky: Obama Is ‘Running Biggest Terrorist Operation That Exists’Andrew Kirell,


Continuing his streak of fiercely criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy and civil liberties record, pre-eminent left-wing scholarNoam Chomsky told GRITtv that this administration is “dedicated to increasing terrorism” throughout the world via its own “terrorist” drone strikes in foreign lands.

Speaking with GRITtv host Laura Flanders about the National Security Agency snooping scandal, Chomsky remarked that “the Obama administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism; it’s doing it all over the world.”

He continued: “Obama is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history: the drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it […] All of these operations, they are terror operations.” Drone strikes are “terror” because, Chomsky said, the attacks have the effect of “terrorizing” locals.”

“You are generating more terrorist operations,” Chomsky pointedly said. “People have a reaction” when they lose a loved one to an American drone strike, he added. “They don’t say, ‘Fine, I don’t care if my cousin was murdered.’ They become what we call terrorists. This is completely understood from the highest level.”

He recalled the recent congressional testimony of a Yemeni man named Farea al-Muslimi, who described how a single drone strike managed to “radicalize” his entire village against the United States.

“People hate the country that’s just terrorizing them,” Chomsky concluded. That’s not a surprise. Just consider the way we react to acts of terror. That’s the way other people react to acts of terror.”

Watch below, via GRITtv:

[h/t Raw Story]

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chomskyA

| Put the NSA on trial!

Put the NSA on trial ~  , Salon.

With potential perjury by top officials, and new questions about spying, let’s stop assuming everything is legal!

Put the NSA on trialJames Clapper, Keith Alexander(Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta/Ann Heisenfelt)

“When the president does it that means it is not illegal.” These infamous words from Richard Nixon appear to summarize the public legal justification for the Obama administration’s unprecedented mass surveillance operation. Perhaps worse, Permanent Washington would have us believe that this rationale is unquestionably accurate and that therefore the National Security Administration’s surveillance is perfectly legal.

For example, Richard Haas of the Council on Foreign Relations said of Edward Snowden: “‘Whistleblower’ is person who reveals wrongdoing, corruption, illegal activity. none of this applies here even if you oppose U.S. government policy.” Likewise, the Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender insists, “I wish media would stop calling Snowden a whistleblower — it maligns those who truly reveal corrupt or illegal activity.” And the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin definitively states: “These were legally authorized programs.”

The idea here, which has quickly become the standard talking point for partisans trying to defend the NSA program and the Obama administration, is that while you may object to the NSA’s mass surveillance system, it is nonetheless perfectly legal as is the conduct surrounding it. Therefore, the logic goes, Snowden isn’t an honorable “whistle-blower” he’s a traitorous “leaker,” and the only criminal in this case is Snowden and Snowden alone.

The first — and most simple — way to debunk this talking point is to simply behold two sets of testimony by Obama administration national security officials. In one, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper categorically denies that the government “collect(s) any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” In another, the Guardian reports that NSA Director General Keith Alexander “denied point-blank that the agency had the figures on how many Americans had their electronic communications collected or reviewed.”

Both of those claims, of course, were exposed as lies by Snowden’s disclosures. So at minimum Snowden deserves the title “whistle-blower” (and the attendant protections that are supposed to come with such a title) because his disclosures outed Clapper and Alexander’s statements as probable cases of illegal perjury before Congress. In other words, in terms of perjury, the disclosures didn’t expose controversial-but-legal activity, they exposed illegal behavior.

That’s not some technicality, by the way; the whole reason perjury before Congress is considered a serious crime is because if executive branch officials like Clapper and Alexander are permitted to lie to the legislative branch, then that branch cannot exercise its constitutional oversight responsibilities. Harsh punishment for perjury is considered a necessary deterrent to such deception.

There’s also the issue of whether the NSA’s surveillance itself is legal, and whether Snowden’s disclosures show the NSA is continuing to break U.S. federal statutes (we’ll get to the Constitution in a second). Yes, you read that right: The word “continuing” is appropriate because back in 2009, NSA officials admitted they were breaking the law.

As the New York Times reported at the time, the agency “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress.” Additionally, the Times noted that “several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed” about the illegal activity “described the practice as significant and systemic.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., yesterday declared that his review of the program proved it violates federal statutes.

“When I saw what was being done, I felt it was so out of sync with the plain language of the law,” he told MSNBC.

In light of the NSA itself already admitting it broke the law in “systemic” fashion; in light of a prominent senator saying the program is illegal; and in light of the “Boundless Informant”disclosure showing the NSA may be broadly surveilling domestic (rather than exclusively foreign) communications as statutes are supposed to curtail: In light of all that, why would anyone simply assume at face value that the program Snowden exposed is perfectly legal?

Finally, over and above whether the NSA program is complying with federal statutes, there’s the issue of the program’s constitutionality — aka the ultimate definition of “legality.”

Permanent Washington and Obama partisans who support the NSA surveillance program cite the Patriot Act and the fact that NSA obtained a FISA warrant as proof that the program is legal and as a way to ignore the constitutional questions. They would have us not only ignore the NSA’s own aforementioned admissions of illegal behavior, but additionally have us believe the constitutionality of NSA’s unprecedented surveillance and of such a broad-sweeping “ongoing”FISA warrant has already been definitively established, even though, of course, it hasn’t. Not even close.

Four cases are particularly relevant here. In the first two (ACLU vs. NSA and the al-Haramain charity case), district courts ruled for plaintiffs in their arguments that the NSA’s warrantless surveillance is illegal. There was also the Clapper vs. Amnesty International case, which challenged the constitutionality of the underlying FISA law, which authorizes the kind of surveillance that Snowden’s disclosures document. And, according to Mother Jones, there is “an 86-page court opinion that determined that the government had violated the spirit of federal surveillance laws and engaged in unconstitutional spying.” In that latter case, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence actually admits that the NSA has engaged in behavior that is “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment” and that “circumvented the spirit of the law.”

In the first three cases, technicalities won the day when they were all eventually overturned not on grounds that the NSA’s mass surveillance is constitutional, but on grounds that the plaintiffs supposedly didn’t have standing. Summing it up, Reuters reports, to date, “The (Supreme Court) has refused to review government surveillance practices adopted since the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Why weren’t all these plaintiffs granted standing, you ask? As legal expert Marcy Wheeler notes, it’s all related to — you guessed it! — secrecy.

“The government has gone to great lengths to say because this is all secret, no one can prove they’ve been surveilled, so (plaintiffs) can’t make a harm argument,” she said.

Put another way, it’s difficult to prove a case against the government when the government is allowed to keep case-critical information classified.

Meanwhile, on the fourth case reported by Mother Jones, the government is still fighting to keep the court ruling secret.

All of that brings us back to Snowden’s disclosure. With his whistle-blowing, more germane details about the NSA’s entire surveillance operation are now public, meaning other plaintiffs may now have access to information necessary to achieve standing. And there are, indeed, already other plaintiffs: For instance, Sen. Rand Paul (R) is promising to mount a Supreme Court challenge to the constitutionality of the broad FISA warrant at issue in Snowden’s disclosure (at issue will be the yet-to-be-adjudicated question of whether such an “ongoing” warrant that allows spying on millions of Americans really comports with the Fourth Amendment’s “probable cause” precept). Similarly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation already has a case against NSA surveillance pending.

Those cases coupled with the information from Snowden could, in turn, compel an explicit Supreme Court ruling on the entire surveillance system’s legality.

Looked at from a constitutional perspective, then, we shouldn’t simply assume Snowden’s disclosures are about a controversial-but-legal NSA program, as NSA defenders and Obama loyalists assert. Instead, it’s quite possible they may help definitively prove the illegality of the surveillance operations.

No doubt, all these statutory and constitutional questions surrounding the NSA’s surveillance operations are why when publicly claiming that the program is perfectly legal, Obama officials also, according to Businessweek, refuse to make public their jurisprudential justifications for such a claim. They clearly fear that when subjected to scrutiny, the program will be shown to be, as Sen. Merkley put it, “Out of sync with the plain language of the law.”

Thus, the administration’s strategy is to at once stonewall on the details and insist ad nauseam that everything is perfectly legal, when that assertion is, at best, a fact-free assumption, and more likely a devious misdirect. That Permanent Washington and so many Obama loyalists would nonetheless echo such a misdirect is a commentary on how political self-interest and partisanship now trumps everything else — even the law of the land.

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