NSA, Spying, Syria, Google Headline Weekend News

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 25, 2013

Julian AssangeAdvocates of such arbitrary federal authority claim it must be used for what President Bush used to call a global war against terror, which now falls under war for democracy and human rights. A White House official, granted anonymity by a lapdog media, argued for war preparations against Syria based on supposed secret evidence.

But these rationales do not justify an end-run around Constitutional requirements that endured even during World Wars and the Cold War.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy -- all World War combat veterans who devised the creation of the NSA and CIA -- long ago opposed the agencies' growth at the start of what they feared might become today's "Intelligence Industrial Complex." Now, it appears to be more powerful than the Constitution, Congress or the courts.

Much of the news and commentary below on these issues is from foreign and alternative media not widely read in the United States.

  • Der Spiegel reported based on documents from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden that the NSA has been bugging the United Nations headquarters in New York City, along with diplomatic outposts of 80 nations.
  • AP reports Edward Snowden Covered Electronic Tracks, Government Officials Suspect
  • President Obama is preparing to name four former senior American officials to probe the NSA, as reported by the Washington Post, Former U.S. officials to be named to surveillance panel. Especially interesting is former Obama White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, husband of UN Ambassador Samantha Power and also author of a notorious paper arguing in 2008 that the government secretly hire academics and journalists to infiltrate groups that believe in conspiracies
  • White House rebuffs Syrian offer of inspections and its claims that U.S.-backed rebels used deadly chemicals; military preparations underway without UN approval
  • Finally, WikLeaks Founder Julian Assange, shown at right in a photo via Creative Commons, shared his personal experiences with Google CEO Eric Schmitt, including his opinion that Schmitt and Google work closely with government leaders.

Details are below. The Assange column is excerpted at great length than the others:

"So just how close is Google to the US securitocracy?" Assange wrote in a column published Aug. 24 in The Stringer and excerpted below for space. I recommend the entire columni via its link.

Back in 2011 I had a meeting with Eric Schmidt, the then Chairman of Google, who came out to see me with three other people while I was under house arrest. You might suppose that coming to see me was gesture that he and the other big boys at Google were secretly on our side: that they support what we at WikiLeaks are struggling for: justice, government transparency, and privacy for individuals. But that would be a false supposition. Their agenda was much more complex, and as we found out, was inextricable from that of the US State Department. The full transcript of our meeting is available online through the WikiLeaks website.

The pretext for their visit was that Schmidt was then researching a new book, a banal tome which has since come out as The New Digital Age. My less than enthusiastic review of this book was published in the New York Times in late May of this year. On the back of that book are a series of pre-publication endorsements: Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Michael Hayden (former head of the CIA and NSA) and Tony Blair. Inside the book Henry Kissinger appears once again, this time given pride of place in the acknowledgements.

Schmidt’s book is not about communicating with the public. He is worth $6.1 billion and does not need to sell books. Rather, this book is a mechanism by which Google seeks to project itself into Washington. It shows Washington that Google can be its partner, its geopolitical visionary, who will help Washington see further about America’s interests. And by tying itself to the US state, Google thereby cements its own security, at the expense of all competitors.

The Sunstein appointment shows how President Obama reassures the public. Sunstein and his wife, fellow Harvard professor Samantha Power, are close friends of the President.

In 2008, Sunstein co-authored a paper, "Conspiracy Theories," suggesting that the government might forbid, tax, or thwart via deception the erroneous idea possessed by millions of voters that the federal government engages in conspiracies. Sunstein opted for the latter solution as best of the three options. In the paper, Sunstein floated the idea that the government secretly work with sympathetic academics and journalists to disrupt those circles whose members possess mistaken and dangerous beliefs. His solution to what others consider freedom of thought attracted such criticism and ridicule that journalists and other commentators who court favor with the White House, Harvard or similar elite circles seldom mention the article when citing Sunstein's many published works.

Power authored A Problem from Hell, a book opposing genocide and is now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She is instrumental in conveying to the world the administration's messaging, including justifications for actions the United States might take without UN support for higher purposes.

In my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters, I wrote of the role of Sunstein, who became the head of all federal regulation at the Obama Office of Management and Budget.

Sunstein is widely regarded as a brilliant liberal, as is his wife, White House National Security Advisor Samantha Power. Conventional wisdom is that Sunstein stands outside of “Chicago School” free market conservatives, and is a potential Obama Supreme Court nominee in a second term after bringing new efficiency to government deregulation. Similarly, his wife is in the forefront of fighting terrorism and genocide with innovative methods to foster intervention by the United States, overcoming traditional barriers to new wars.

But Sunstein also suggested, in a 2008 law review article, that the government secretly hire academics and journalists to thwart the spread of dangerous ideas. Sunstein and his co-author floated their idea in regard to conspiracy theories involving national security. Yet the concept could have wide application. Obama installed Power and Sunstein in high-ranking administration posts, with Power initially an aide to Clinton at the State Department. Then she moved to the White House on the National Security staff. Her specialty was identifying human rights violations in other nations as a rationale for United States actions to topple the offending government. This argument would become an extremely valuable tool in post-colonial statecraft.

Presidents often create jobs for old friends. Nonetheless, Sunstein’s elevation after what one pundit [Glenn Greenwald] aptly called his “spine-chilling proposal” to hire secret government agents in academia and journalism was yet another sign of Obama’s comfort-level with secret and ever-expanding presidential power.

 

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Update

Democracy Now! via OpEdNews, Seymour Hersh: Obama "Cherry-Picked" Intelligence on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike, Amy Goodman, Dec. 10, 2013. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (below right) joins us to discuss his new article casting doubt on the veracity of the Obama administration's claims that only the Assad regime could have carried out the chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta earlier this year. AMY GOODMAN:  Lay out your case for what it is that the Obama administration did or didn't tell us. SEYMOUR HERSH: Actually, Amy, it's really not my case; it's the case of people in the administration who believe when they -- when they take the oath, they take the oath of office to the Constitution and not to their immediate general or admiral or not to the -- or not to the president even. It's about truth.... There's -- it's a real rebel war there, civil war. And the point was that at no Seymour Hershtime did the United States ever consider al-Nusra to be a potential target of investigation. They were simply excluded from the conversation. And the narrative was Bashar did it. And it was bought by the mainstream press, as we all know, and by most people in the world. And this is why, you know, creepy troublemakers like me stay in business.

FireDoglake, Seymour Hersh: Obama Administration Cherry-Picked Syria Intelligence, Avoided Al-Qaeda Connection, DS Wright, Dec. 9, 2013. In a piece that was rejected by both the New Yorker and Washington Post, legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, right, writes that the Obama Administration cherry-picked Syria intelligence and that President Barack Obama misled the American public on the case that the Assad regime were the ones guilty of using sarin gas. Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. 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

London Review of Books, Whose sarin? Seymour M. Hersh, Dec. 8, 2013. Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. 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.

 

Related News

NSA and National Security

Pat LeahyUpdate: FireDogLake, Senate Hearing: US Intelligence Leaders Confronted for Misleading Public on Effectiveness of NSA Programs, Kevin Gosztola, Oct. 2, 2013. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 2, the chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, confronted NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander and Director for National Intelligence James Clapper. Leahy, left, pointed to the fact that there have been repeated claims about terrorist plots being thwarted under a business records provision of the PATRIOT Act, Section 215, and under a provision of the FISA Amendments Act, referred to as 702. “That’s plainly wrong, but we still get it in the letters to members of Congress,” Leahy declared. “We get it in statements. These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all thwarted." Leahy continued, “We get more in the newspapers than we do in the classified briefings that you give us.” He asked if the NSA was compiling profiles or dossiers on the American people. Leahy pressed Alexander. He asked, what authority are you using to do this analysis? And are you saying the Times is flat out wrong in their article?" The Times is “flat out wrong in saying we’re creating dossiers on Americans,” Alexander said. [Author's Note: The Times report never alleged the NSA was compiling dossiers. That is merely the impression numerous individuals got from reading the story.]

Washington Post, NSA chief defends collecting Americans’ phone records, Ellen Nakashima, Sept. 25, 2013. NSA chief defends collecting Americans’ phone records. Gen. Keith Alexander says database can help “connect the dots” between domestic and foreign threats.

Washington Post, AP leak case has many lessons, Walter Pincus, Sept. 25, 2013. The case offers lessons concerning media, national security and justice.

Robert MuellerWashington Post, Mueller tells how 9/11 reshaped FBI’s mission, Billy Kenber, Aug. 22, 2013. The outgoing director, left, reflects on how the bureau was transformed after the attacks from a domestic crime-fighting force into a counterintelligence service with a key role in combating terrorism.

FireDogLake, NSA Bugged the United Nations’ Headquarters, DSWright, Aug. 25, 2013. According to a report by German newspaper Der Spiegel the NSA bugged the New York Headquarters of the United Nations. The NSA is said to have hacked into the UN’s video conferencing system and coded communications. The documents referenced came from Edward Snowden raising questions about a possible connection to David Miranda’s trip to Germany. In the summer of 2012, NSA experts succeeded in getting into the U.N. video conferencing system and cracking its coding system, according one of the documents cited by Der Spiegel. “The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!),” Der Spiegel quoted one document as saying, adding that within three weeks the number of decoded communications rose to 458 from 12.  The documents also exposed spying on the EU delegation in New York and a larger program called the “Special Collection Service.”  According to the documents, the NSA runs a bugging program in more than 80 embassies and consulates worldwide called “Special Collection Service”. “The surveillance is intensive and well organized and has little or nothing to do with warding off terrorists,” wrote Der Spiegel.

FireDogLake, Obama Lied: NSA Scans 75% Of American Internet Traffic, DSWright, Aug. 21, 2013. Does President Obama know what his own government is doing or is he actively lying? According to the Wall Street Journal the NSA scans 75% of all American internet traffic often snatching emails and other communication information from Americans within the United States. This while Obama goes on television to tell Americans “we don’t have a domestic spying program.”

Wall Street Journal, New Details Show Broader NSA Surveillance Reach, Programs Cover 75% of Nation's Traffic, Can Snare Emails, Siobhan Gorman and Jennifer Valentino-Devries,  Aug. 21, 2013 (Subscription required). (5-minute viewable video here.) The NSA's surveillance network covers more Americans' Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, reaching roughly 75 percent of all U.S. internet traffic.

Government Prosecution of Whistleblowers, Leakers and Media

AP via Huffington Post, Edward Snowden Covered Electronic Tracks, Government Officials Suspect, Adam Goldman and Kimberly Dozier, Aug. 24, 2013. The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs, government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information Snowden viewed or downloaded. The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly. The disclosure undermines the Obama administration's assurances to Congress and the public that the NSA surveillance programs can't be abused because its spying systems are so aggressively monitored and audited for oversight purposes: If Snowden could defeat the NSA's own tripwires and internal burglar alarms, how many other employees or contractors could do the same? 

Huffington Post, Ellsberg Warns: 'Beginning of Police State,' Staff report, Aug. 22, 2013 (video). The NSA surveillance of millions of emails and phone calls. The dogged pursuit of whistleblower Edward Snowden across the globe, regardless of the diplomatic fallout. And the sentencing of Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for giving a cache of government files to the website WikiLeaks. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg sees these events as signs that the United States is becoming a police state. "We have not only the capability of a police state, but certain beginnings of it right now," Ellsberg said. "And I absolutely agree with Edward Snowden. It's worth a person's life, prospect of assassination, or life in prison or life in exile -- it's worth that to try to restore our liberties and make this a democratic country."

FireDogLake, Guardian-New York Times Partnership on NSA Files from Snowden a Symptom of Crackdown on Press Freedom, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 23, 2013. A partnership between The Guardian and The New York Times on documents provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has been arranged so that reporting on British government intelligence agency, GCHQ, can continue to be produced.

Huffington Post, FBI Agent: We've Dismantled The Leaders Of Anonymous, Gerald Smith, Aug. 22, 2013. The hacker collective Anonymous has not produced as many high-profile cyber attacks as it once did, a drop-off that can be directly attributed to the arrests of the group's core members, an FBI official told The Huffington Post this week. Starting in late 2010, Anonymous captured worldwide attention through a series of attacks against U.S. companies and government agencies, stealing data and defacing or crashing websites.  But the arrests last year of five members of Lulz Security, an influential splinter group of hackers, had a "huge deterrent effect" on Anonymous by creating an "added layer of distrust" within the hacking group, according to Austin P. Berglas, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's cyber division in New York.

Washington Post, NSA had history of misleading top-secret court, judge says, Ellen Nakashima, Aug.  21, 2013. In a 2011 ruling that rebukes the agency’s collection of tens of thousands of Americans’ e-mails, FISA judge hints the NSA may have violated a criminal law.

Washington Post, Federal court curbs appeal rights for ‘sensitive’ defense jobs, Josh Hicks, Aug.  21, 2013. Labor groups and whistleblower advocates are concerned about due process after the ruling. A federal appeals court on Tuesday curbed the appeal rights of two Defense Department employees in a case that critics say will have broad implications for civil service protections. The 7-3 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit prohibits the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) from hearing cases involving “non-critical sensitive” workers, a ruling that alarms labor groups and whistleblower advocates who say it strips away civil due process for employees.

Washington Post, A federal appeals court decision could leave many federal employees with nowhere to turn, Joe Davidson, Aug.  21, 2013. A ruling Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit strips workers whose jobs are deemed “noncritical sensitive” — even those without access to classified information — of some due process rights.  Once designated, the employees are in a much weaker position to appeal personnel actions such as a suspension or firing. The danger is that agencies could use the classification maneuver as a way to punish employees without worrying about an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Monitoring the NSA

Cass SunsetinWayne Madsen Report, Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, and the Naval War College, Wayne Madsen, right, Aug. 22, 2013 (Subscription required). President Obama has played a cruel joke on critics of National Security Agency surveillance by naming to his Review Committee on NSA Programs his former chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein, left. Also known as Obama's "information czar," Sunstein, who is married to UN ambassador Samantha Power, left the administration to return to Harvard Law School. Sunstein also works out of the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress in Washington, DC. Sunstein is an advocate of using sock puppets and infiltrators to disrupt what he calls "conspiracy" websites critical of the U.S. government and its policies. However, what constitutes a "conspiracy" website is open to interpretation in Sunstein's world. In 2009, the U.S. Air Force initiated a program to counter bloggers and websites that were critical of the Obama administration and the Air Force. Some of the 27 teams under the U.S. Cyber Command, NSA's collateral activity and also headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, employs offensive bloggers who can employ multiple screen names and identities to post government propaganda and personal s mear articles on blogs and comments sections of news websites.  Palantir Technologies, the firm that is believed to have developed the PRISM meta-data collection program for NSA, also developed persona management software and other offensive information warfare programs for use by the government and private sector. It now appears that the U.S. Navy has also joined the government's cognitive dissonance, social engineering, and counter-blogging program by permitting such operations to be centered at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. There, a professor on staff named John Schindler and who operates as "20 Committee" on Twitter with his Naval War College affiliation on clear display, is at the center of a smear campaign that targets journalists who have exposed various facets of NSA surveillance. Schindler's targets range from Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald and author James Bamford to McClatchy's Jonathan Landay and this editor.This weekend's news featured federal spying, media management, and preparations for a potential new U.S. war in Syria.

Washington Post, Former U.S. officials to be named to surveillance panel, Andrea Peterson and Scott Wilson, Aug. 22, 2013. President Obama is preparing to name four former senior American officials — including three who worked in his administration — to the review board he announced earlier this month to examine U.S. surveillance policies. The board members will include former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, onetime economic policy adviser Peter Swire, Obama’s former “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein, and Richard A. Clarke, a National Security Council staff member in previous Republican and Democratic administrations, according to a U.S. official familiar with the selections. Obama announced the creation of the review panel at an Aug. 9 news conference after weeks of controversy over the scope and legality of the National Security Agency’s phone data collection and Internet monitoring programs. He said the panel would comprise “a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies” and provide a report no later than Dec. 15 assessing the right way to balance national security imperatives and privacy protections. Some privacy groups expressed disappointment with the selections — which were first reported by ABC News — saying that the board would benefit from the inclusion of representatives who have worked outside the government.

New York Times, Powerful Shaper of U.S. Rules Quits, With Critics in Wake, John M. Broder, Aug. 3, 2012. See also, Harvard Law, and University of Chicago Law School Working Papers, Conspiracy Theories, Cass R. Sunstein & Adrian Vermeule, Jan. 15, 2008. For criticism of the Sunstein working paper, see: Griffin, David Ray. Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee’s Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory. Olive Branch, 2011; and Salon, Obama Confidant’s Spine-Chilling Proposal, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 15, 2010.

BizPakReview, New UN Ambassador vacationing during critical meetings; only 19 days on job, Cheryl Carpenter Klimek, Aug. 24, 2013. U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power has been on the job less than three weeks, but appears to have skipped an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria Wednesday because it interfered with her vacation. “Where exactly was Ambassador Power that she could not take part in this emergency Security Council session?” Fox News reporter James Rosen asked State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “Where exactly was she?” Psaki said she wanted to be as “transparent as possible,” but would only reveal that the ambassador was on a “pre-arranged trip.”  Power has been on the job as U.N. ambassador just 19 days, and in addition to missing the meeting on how to handle Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons, she also missed a Friday afternoon meeting regarding armed conflicts in Sudan.

Reuters via Washington Post, British government defends destruction of Snowden data, Karla Adam, Aug. 21, 2013. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says files the Guardian possessed posed a national security risk. Britain’s deputy prime minister on Wednesday defended his government’s decision to order a top civil servant to ask the Guardian newspaper to return or destroy files leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In an article published by the Guardian late Monday, Alan Rusbridger, the editor, described how intelligence agents oversaw the physical destruction of hard drives containing information disclosed by Snowden about the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. Rusbridger called it “one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history.”

FireDogLake, Barrett Brown, Glenn Greenwald, and the Mafia State, DSWright, Aug. 20, 2013. Many were shocked by the nastiness of the British government – with America’s approval -– holding Glenn Greenwald’s partner under an anti-Terrorism law for nine hours during which time they interrogated him and stole his property. As the Editor in Chief of the Guardian puts it: "The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes -– and, increasingly, it looks like 'when.'” Some were also surprised that the FBI would target Barrett Brown’s mother, the action that provoked Brown to make a YouTube video that would land him in prison. I was surprised by neither action, nor should you be.

Reuters via Huffington Post, Glenn Greenwald To Publish UK Secrets After Britain Detains Partner, Pedro Fonseca, Aug. 19, 2013. The journalist who first published secrets leaked by fugitive former U.S. intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden vowed on Monday to publish more documents and said Britain will be "sorry" for detaining his partner for nine hours. British authorities used anti-terrorism laws on Sunday to detain David Miranda, partner of U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald, as he passed through London's Heathrow airport. Miranda, 28, a Brazilian citizen, said he was questioned for nine hours before being released without charge, minus his laptop, cellphone and memory sticks, which were seized.

Huffington Post, Guardian Editor: U.K. 'Security Experts' Entered Offices And Destroyed Hard Drives, Adam Goldberg, Aug. 19, 2013. Adam Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, wrote on Monday about an unsettling encounter with "security experts" from the U.K.'s GCHQ intelligence agency. According to Rusbridger, "a very senior government official" contacted him about two months ago demanding the surrender or destruction of all materials in the publication's possession relating to the surveillance operations uncovered by Edward Snowden. About a month later, Rusbridger recalls receiving a phone call "from the centre of government" in which he was told, "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back."

Washington Post, U.S. had advance notice of plan to detain Glenn Greenwald’s partner, Billy Kenber and Karla Adam, Aug. 19, 2013. Partner of journalist linked to Edward Snowden was held by London police for 9 hours under anti-terrorism law.

Guardian, Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation, Glenn Greenwald, Aug. 18, 2013. The detention of my partner, David Miranda, by UK authorities will have the opposite effect of the one intended. If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world—when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today—all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.

FireDogLake, Greenwald: Brazil’s Intervention Likely Kept Partner from Being Charged Under UK Terrorism Law, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 18, 2013. The partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald was detained by United Kingdom authorities at Heathrow Airport for nine hours, the maximum period under a provision of a terrorism law in the country. The Brazilian government put out a statement: "The Brazilian government expresses grave concern about the episode today in London, where Brazilian citizen was detained and held incommunicado at Heathrow for a period of 9 hours in action based on British legislation to combat terrorism. It is unjustifiable as it involves [an] individual against whom do not weigh any charges that may justify the use of such legislation."

OpEdNews, Ramping Up Intimidation of Journalists: Obama's UK Stasi Poodles Detain Glenn Greenwald's Partner, Steal Digital Gear, Rob Kall, Aug. 18, 2013. Earlier today, Glenn Greenwald's Brazilian partner, David Miranda was held by UK authorities using anti-terrorism laws, for nine hours. The authorities released him without leveling charges, but they took his phone, camera, notebook computer and jump drive. Glenn Greenwald tweeted in response: Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation."

Huffington Post, Michael Grunwald, Time Magazine Reporter, Sends Out Shocking Tweet About Julian Assange, Braden Goyette, Aug. 17, 2013. A Time magazine reporter caused ire on Twitter Saturday night when he said that he "can't wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out" Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Michael Grunwald's tweet, since deleted, was quickly met with outrage and bewilderment. Glenn Greenwald, who recently broke several revelations about NSA surveillance programs based on documents provided to him by leaker Edward Snowden, was particularly vocal in expressing his disgust with Grunwald's statement.

Huffington Post, Journalists Grill White House Over Glenn Greenwald Detention Scandal, Jack Mirkinson, Aug. 19, 2013. The detention of Glenn Greenwald's partner was a big topic at the White House briefing on Monday. Deputy press secretary Josh Earnest made some news when he revealed that the United States had been given a "heads up" by Britain that it was going to detain David Miranda, who was held for nine hours at London's Heathrow airport on Sunday. This got reporters interested. Some of the questions they asked: "Is [David Miranda] on a watchlist?"  "The United States, when given the heads up, just said, OK?"

FireDogLake, Obama Is Just Going to Pretend the NSA Phone Sex Abuses Never Happened, Jon Walker, Aug. 23, 2013. It is bizarre that President Obama and other defenders of the NSA still pretend there have been zero examples of NSA employees abusing their power, even though abuses have already been documented.

Washington Post, The price Gina Gray paid for whistleblowing, Dana Milbank, Aug. 20, 2013. President Obama, in his news conference this month, said that Edward Snowden was wrong to go public with revelations about secret surveillance programs because “there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.” This is a common refrain among administration officials and some lawmakers. But it’s a load of nonsense. Ask Gina Gray. Gray is the Defense Department whistleblower whose case I have been following for five years. She was the Army civilian worker who, before and after her employment, exposed much of the wrongdoing at Arlington National Cemetery — misplaced graves, mishandled remains and financial mismanagement — and she attempted to do it through the proper internal channels.

Syria

Washington Post, Largest Syrian rebel groups reject moderate leadership, Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, Sept. 25, 2013. The new alliance with an al-Qaeda affiliated group complicates U.S. plans to arm moderates.

BBC, US ready to launch Syria strike, says Chuck Hagel, Staff report, Aug. 27, 2013. Video American forces are "ready" to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel told the BBC. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said there is "undeniable" proof that Syria used chemical weapons.

Online Asia Times, Obama set for holy Tomahawk war, Pepe Escobar, Aug. 27, 2013. The ''responsibility to protect'' (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ''responsibility to attack'' (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so. On Sunday, the White House said it had ''very little doubt'' that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ''undeniable'' 0- and accused Assad, left, of ''moral obscenity." So when the US bombed Fallujah with white phosphorus in late 2004 it was just taking the moral high ground. And when the US helped Saddam Hussein to gas Iranians in 1988 it was also taking the moral high ground. The Obama administration has ruled that Assad allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and to celebrate their arrival unleashed a chemical weapons attack mostly against women and children only 15 kilometers away from the inspectors' hotel. If you don't believe it, you subscribe to a conspiracy theory. Evidence? Who cares about evidence? Assad's offer of access for the inspectors came ''too late''. Anyway, the UN team is only mandated to determine whether chemical weapons were deployed -- but not by who, according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's spokesman. As far as the Obama administration and UK Prime Minister David ''of Arabia'' Cameron are concerned -- supported by a barrage of corporate media missiles -- that's irrelevant; Obama's ''red line'' has been crossed by Assad, period. Washington and London are in no-holds-barred mode to dismiss any facts contradicting the decision. Newspeak -- of the R2A kind -- rules. If this all looks like Iraq 2.0 that's because it is. Time to fix the facts around the policy -- all over again. Time for weapons of mass deception -- all over again.

FireDogLake, Kerry Steps up Rhetoric on Syria, Likely Indicating Military Action, Jon Walker, Aug. 26, 2013. The overwhelming impression from Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent speech sounds like we got ourselves another war in the Middle East. Kerry used the most forceful and direct rhetoric to date from the administration, leaving little doubt that military action in Syria will soon be taken. The administration now believes the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, crossing President Obama’s red line. Kerry said multiple sources of information “strongly indicate” that chemical weapons have been used. Kerry, right, also made it clear that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. He claimed that all peoples “must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so it never happens again.” Assad, left, used chemical weapons and the Obama administration believes that people must be held accountable. While Kerry did not explicitly say the United States will take military action, he walked right up to that line leaving that as the only logical conclusion from his statement. It sounds like official reason the United States is about to get involved in a civil war on the other side of the world is to the send the message that killing people with fast moving pieces of metal is acceptable but killing people with chemicals is not.John Kerry

Institute for Political Economy via OpEd News, Syria: Another Western War Crime In The Making, Paul Craig Roberts,  Aug. 26, 2013. Obama drew a red line, saying that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrians was such a great crime that the West would be obliged to attack Syria. Washington's UK puppets, William Hague and Cameron, have just repeated this nonsensical claim. The final step in the frame-up was to orchestrate a chemical incident and blame the Syrian government.

New York Times, A Sharp Shift in Tone on Syria From the White House, Scott Shane and Ben Hubbard, Aug. 25, 2013. Moving a step closer to possible American military action in Syria, a senior Obama administration official said Sunday that there was “very little doubt” that President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces had used chemical weapons against civilians last week and that a Syrian promise to allow United Nations inspectors access to the site was “too late to be credible.” The statement, released Sunday morning on the condition that the official not be named, reflected a tougher tone after President Obama’s meeting at the White House on Saturday with his national security team, during which advisers discussed options for military action. While officials said the United States would still hold consultations at the United Nations, they made it clear that the United Nations was not the only avenue for taking action against Syria. Early on Sunday, the White House said Syrian officials had refused to let the inspectors see the site of the attack. But Syrian television later reported an agreement to allow access beginning on Monday.

InfoWars, Flashback: Hacked Emails Reveal ‘Washington-Approved’ Plan to Stage Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria, Paul Joseph Watson, Aug. 26, 2013 (republished from Jan. 28, 2013). Obama administration complicit in war crime? UPDATE: Britam has admitted that it was hacked but denied that the emails released by the hacker were genuine. Click here for a statement by a Britam spokesman. Alleged hacked emails from defense contractor Britam reveal a plan “approved by Washington” and funded by Qatar to stage a chemical weapons attack in Syria and blame it on the Assad regime, fulfilling  what the Obama administration has made clear is a “red line” that would mandate US military intervention. The leaked emails, obtained by a hacker in Germany, feature an exchange (click here for screenshot) between Britam Defence’s Business Development Director David Goulding and the company’s founder Philip Doughty.

AP via Huffington Post, Doctors Without Borders In Syria Confirm 355 Dead, Thousands Treated For 'Neurotoxic Symptoms' After Suspected Chemical Attack, Bassem Mroue and Albert Aji, Aug. 24, 2013. The Syrian government accused rebels of using chemical weapons Saturday and warned the United States not to launch any military action against Damascus over an alleged chemical attack last week, saying such a move would set the Middle East ablaze.

War Is A Crime, Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying, David Swanson, Aug. 25, 2013. "U.S. prepares for possible retaliatory strike against Syria," announces a Los Angeles Times headline, even though Syria has not attacked the United States or any of its occupied territories or imperial forces and has no intention to do so. Quoth the article: "the president made no decisions, but the high-level talks came as the Pentagon acknowledged it was moving U.S. forces into position in the region." Forgive me, but who the SNAFU made that decision?  Does the commander in chief have any say in this?  Does he get to make speeches explaining how wrong it would be to attack Syria, meet with top military officials who leave the meeting to prepare for attacks on Syria, and go down in history as having been uninvolved in, if not opposed to, his own policies? Threatening to attack Syria, and moving ships into position to do it, are significant, and illegal, and immoral actions. The president can claim not to have decided to push the button, but he can't pretend that all the preparations to do so just happen like the weather.

New York Times, Images of Death in Syria, but No Proof of Chemical Attack, Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad, Aug. 21, 2013. Aftermath of Attack in Syria: Hundreds of Syrians were killed by what rebels call a chemical weapons attack carried out by the government. Scores of men, women and children were killed outside Damascus on Wednesday in an attack marked by the telltale signs of chemical weapons: row after row of corpses without visible injury; hospitals flooded with victims, gasping for breath, trembling and staring ahead languidly; images of a gray cloud bursting over a neighborhood. But even with videos, witness accounts and testimonies by emergency medics, it was impossible to say for certain how many people had been killed and what exactly had killed them. The rebels blamed the government, the government denied involvement and Russia accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate President Bashar al-Assad’s government. See also, Washington Post, Syrian rebels say hundreds dead from chemical attack, Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoung, Aug.  21, 2013. Editor's Note: The New York Times account above is far more neutral in its news reporting than the Post account. The latter heavily emphasizes the claims of the rebel group Post management supports on its editorial page, and downplays assertions by government that the Obama administration and Post seek to overthrow.

Wayne Madsen Report, The U.S.-government neo-con social networking circus, Wayne Madsen, right,  Aug. 12, 2013 (subscription required). Supporters of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs are increasingly taking to social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, to not only push their agendas in defending NSA but also by making vicious personal attacks on NSA and Obama administration critics. NSA director Keith Alexander also wears the hat of commander of the U.S. Cyber Command in Fort Meade, Maryland. Cyber Command is employing thousands of cyber-warfare operators who routinely conduct information warfare activities, including releasing "sock puppet" programs on the Internet, to attack opponents of U.S. government policy. NSA insiders have revealed to WMR that Alexander has authorized information warfare attacks by Cyber Command on notable NSA and Obama critics and that President Obama, who does not take criticism lightly, is appreciative of Cyber Command's efforts on his behalf. Most of the personal attack campaigns emanate from Cyber Command's Network Warfare Wing, which tasks a few hundred out of its 10,000-strong military/civilian/contractor work force, to engage in sock puppet and personal attack operations. Cyber Command uses a combination of computer programs developed by intelligence contractors Palantir, H B Gary Federal, and Booz Allen & Hamilton and NSA, military, and private contracting personnel to wage its campaign of personal attacks and disinformation. Moreover, the U.S. Cyber Command is conducting its personal attack campaigns in coordination with its foreign "Five Eyes" partners and their own cyber-warfare activities, including the Cyber Security Operations Center (CSOC) and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, England.

WMR, Al Jazeera's American debut: Hyping a dubious chem-war attack in Syria, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 23, 2013 (subscription required). Just as Americans were led astray by the cable news media about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction prior to the disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, once again, viewers of cable news channels are being subjected to another information warfare campaign.  The timing of the report of the attack and the video footage coincided with Al Jazeera America's (AJAM) debut on four U.S. cable services -- Verizon Fios, DirectTV, Comcast, and Dish Network -- previously denied to the Qatar-based news network. In fact, AJAM's first news reports for its American audience featured the scenes of dead Syrian civilians, including a number of children, provided, of course, by the very same rebels supported militarily and financially by Qatar's Muslim Brotherhood-supporting government.

War Is A Crime, 10 Problems with the Latest Excuse for War, David Swanson, June 19, 2013. If you own a television or read a newspaper you've probably heard that we need another war because the Syrian government used chemical weapons. If you own a computer and know where to look you've probably heard that there isn't actually any evidence for that claim. Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE. 1. War is not made legal by such an excuse. It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution. It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage.

Social Media

The Stringer, Google and the NSA: Who’s holding the ‘shit-bag’ now? Julian Assange, Aug. 24, 2013. It has been revealed today, thanks to Edward Snowden, that Google and other US tech companies received millions of dollars from the NSA for their compliance with the PRISM mass surveillance system. So just how close is Google to the US securitocracy? Back in 2011 I had a meeting with Eric Schmidt, the then Chairman of Google, who came out to see me with three other people while I was under house arrest. You might suppose that coming to see me was gesture that he and the other big boys at Google were secretly on our side: that they support what we at WikiLeaks are struggling for: justice, government transparency, and privacy for individuals. But that would be a false supposition. Their agenda was much more complex, and as we found out, was inextricable from that of the US State Department. The full transcript of our meeting is available online through the WikiLeaks website.

 

Bradley Manning in uniform

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

FireDogLake, Manning’s Biggest Revelation of All, Nat Parry, Aug. 23, 2013. As much hay as the government has made about the supposed damage done to the United States by Pfc. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s massive leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks three years ago, you might think that those revelations were the biggest breach of U.S. national security in American history. Manning’s sentence of 35 years surpasses by far any punishment that anyone has ever received for similar offenses. By comparison, former Navy intelligence officer Samuel Morrison was sentenced to two years for giving classified satellite photographs to Jane’s Defense Weekly in 1985. Indeed, 35 years is a harsh sentence in the extreme, one that should be reserved only for the most heinous crimes – for example, violence against children, rape, murder and torture.

Washington Post, For Manning, a lengthy prison term, Julie Tate, Aug. 21, 2013. Civil liberties groups condemn his 35-year sentence for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, Julie Tate, Aug. 21, 2013. A military judge on Wednesday morning sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, right, to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Manning, 25, was convicted last month of multiple charges, including violations of the Espionage Act for copying and disseminating the documents while serving as an intelligence analyst at a forward operating base in Iraq. He faced up to 90 years in prison. According to the military, Manning is required to serve one-third of the sentence before he becomes eligible for parole. The government had asked Judge Denise Lind, an Army colonel, to sentence Manning to 60 years.

Washington Post, Bradley Manning comes out as transgender: ‘I am a female,’ Aaron Blake and Julie Tate, Aug. 22, 2013. Bradley Manning, the Army private who was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks, has identified as female since childhood and wants to live life as a woman, according to a statement released by Manning’s lawyer. “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said. “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. But a spokesman at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., site of the military prison where Manning was sent Thursday, said the United States Disciplinary Barracks there “does not offer sex reassignment or hormone therapy for the inmates housed at the facility.”

FireDogLake, Bradley Manning Is Now Chelsea Manning: Writing & Reporting on the Case from This Point Onward, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 22, 2013. A statement by the soldier sentenced to 35 years in prison as Bradley Manning yesterday was released by his defense attorney, David Coombs, indicating that Manning would now like to be Chelsea Manning because he is a female. Manning thanked supporters that had helped keep Manning strong throughout the court martial and then declared: "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back."  [On FireDogLake} Manning will continue to appear as Bradley Manning in all previously published posts...Manning’s name in the legal case, as an appeal moves forward in military courts and as the request for a pardon is considered, will likely continue to be Bradley Manning. There will always be mentions and acknowledgments in posts that Manning is now Chelsea, a woman. Editor's Note: That usage makes sense here also.

Charles KochHuffington Post, Koch Brothers Not Buying Tribune Company, Jack Mirkinson, Aug. 22, 2013. The Koch Brothers won't be buying the Tribune Company after all, the company confirmed on Thursday. The Daily Caller first broke the news that the polarizing billionaire industrialists had decided not to purchase the struggling media giant. The Kochs had been expressing interest in Tribune—which has major newspapers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore and elsewhere—for months. The prospect of their ownership had led to protests from people who were concerned they would use the papers to push their highly controversial political views. Charles G. Koch, with assets measured at $34 billion, is at right.

Huffington Post, John Lewis Speech: 1963 March On Washington Speaker Urges Crowd To Fight For Voting Rights, Luke Johnson, Aug. 24, 2013.  Rp. John Lewis (D-Ga.) urged the crowd at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Saturday to fight for the Voting Rights Act in the wake of a June Supreme Court decision gutting its core provision.  "I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote," he said, referring to Bloody Sunday in 1965 when police beat him and hundreds of other peaceful protesters. "I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us." Lewis continued, "You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You got to stand up. Speak up. Speak out, and get in the way.

 

 

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