February 2014 News Reports
First Look Intercept
By Glenn Greenwald, Feb. 24, 2014
Featured photo: A page from a GCHQ top secret document prepared by its secretive JTRIG unit
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents. Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance.
Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.” By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses.
Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.
To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today.
Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly roundup of February 2014 news
President Barack Obama discusses Ukraine during a meeting with members of his National Security Staff in the Oval Office, Feb. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
ABC News, Ukraine Tells United Nations of Russian Incursion, Peter James Spielmann, Feb. 28, 2014. Ukraine's U.N. ambassador says he has told the U.N. Security Council that Russian military helicopters and transport planes are entering his country and Russian armed forces seized Crimea's main airport. Ukraine's Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev told reporters Friday outside the council that neither major airport in Crimea is under national control and that the main airport was "captured by Russian armed forces." He said 11 Russian attack helicopters had been brought in along with Mi-24 military transport planes. Sergeyev said Russian "groupies" in Crimea are challenging Ukraine's national authority. He said a Russian naval captain had been maneuvering his ship under command of Russian nationals in Crimea. The Russian maneuvers involved forces at the Russian naval bases in Crimea, and the inflights by attack helicopters and Russian transport planes.
Wall Street Journal, In Crimea, a Long History of Russian Power Struggles, Stephen Fidler, Feb. 28, 2014. Growing Separatist Tensions in Ukrainian Region Mark Latest in Centuries of Conflicts. Even in a world of nuclear weapons, naval power is critical to projecting a country's power beyond its borders. So in Russian history, the Crimean peninsula and its port of Sevastopol have been a potent symbol of Moscow's ability to extend its influence via the Black Sea into the Mediterranean and beyond.
Telegraph (United Kingdom), US President Barack Obama "deeply concerned" about reports of Russian military activity in Ukraine and warned of "costs" to any infringement of its sovereignty. Arron Merat, Feb. 28, 2014 (live feeds). Presidential Quote: "The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine/ We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine." Obama recognized that Russia had interests and cultural and economic ties with Ukraine, following the ouster of the pro-Moscow government in Kiev, and also had a military facility in Crimea. The president did not say whether the United States had intelligence as to whether reports quoting a Ukrainian official that 2,000 Russian troops had landed in the Crimea were correct. But he warned a Russian military intervention in the post-Soviet state would "represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukranian people.
Washington Post, Pro-Russia separatists flex muscles in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, William Booth, Feb. 28, 2014. Several hundred armed men in green camouflage, without insignia and carrying military-style automatic rifles, entered and secured areas of the civilian airport in Crimea’s regional capital of Simferopol early Friday. In Kiev, Ukraine’s new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said the armed men were Russian troops. “What is happening can be called an armed invasion and occupation. In violation of all international treaties and norms. This is a direct provocation for armed bloodshed in the territory of a sovereign state,” Avakov said. Avakov said troops from the Russian navy’s Black Sea Fleet, berthed principally at the Crimean port of Sevastopol, had also secured entrances to the Belbek military airport near the city. “There is still no direct armed conflict. Diplomats should speak,” Avakov said. A spokesman for the Black Sea Fleet denied the reports that its troops are involved in blocking the Belbek airfield, according to the Interfax news agency. “No subdivision of the Black Sea Fleet has been advanced into the Belbek area, let alone involved in blocking it,” the spokesman said. “Given the unstable situation around the Black Sea Fleet bases in the Crimea, and the places where our service members live with their families, security has been stepped by the Black Sea Fleet’s anti-terror units.”
Al Jazeera America, Fault Lines: Deadly Force: Arming America's Police, Staff report, Feb. 28, 2014. Fault Lines investigates how the flow of federal dollars and combat equipment is transforming US police departments into military-like forces. US police forces are increasingly using military-style tactics to carry out even the most routine daily operations. The number of SWAT teams and SWAT-style raids across the county has skyrocketed in the last few decades. SWAT raids occur at an estimated 50,000 raids per year and the majority that take place involve low-level crimes. It is a trend that is being propped up by billions of federal dollars in Homeland Security grants and access to free military equipment through the Department of Defense for civilian law enforcement agencies. Fault Lines travels to California and Tennessee to look at the effects of the increasing militarization of local law enforcement.
Washington Post, These are the GOP candidates who might benefit from Romney’s donors, Wesley Lowery, Feb. 28, 2013. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie and Rand Paul have the most buzz for 2016
Every single Romney donor we spoke with this week listed the former Florida governor as their top choice. Mitt Romney knows how to raise money. He collected more than $1.1 billion in the 2012 campaign, relying on contacts he built during his time as Massachusetts governor, head of the Salt Lake City Olympics, years working in private equity, and as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And now, with Romney insisting that he will not run again in 2016, literally hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Republican money is up for grabs -- and donors say that they are already being courted by several potential presidential candidates. The donors said that -- like Romney -- Bush's time as governor proved he can be an effective leader and manager. His willingness to tackle (or attempt to, at least) tough policy initiatives such as education and criminal justice reform remind them of Romney's work on health care at the state level.Also, with solid name recognition and the Bush political machine behind him, Romney donors believe Jeb is the most electable of the potential Republican candidates. For Romney donors, electability is the single most important trait.
OpEdNews, Ukrainian Neo-Nazis Declare that Power Comes Out of the Barrels of their Guns, Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 27, 2014. Violence in Kiev last week reached civil war-like levels. To the extent that government exists in post-coup Ukraine, it is laws dictated by gun and threat wielding thugs of the neo-Nazi, Russophobic, ultra-nationalist, right-wing parties. Watch the video of the armed thug, Aleksandr Muzychko, who boosts of killing Russian soldiers in Chechnya, dictating to the Rovno regional parliament a grant of apartments to families of protesters. Members of President Yanukovich's ruling party, the Party of Regions, have been shot, had arrest warrants issued for them, have experienced home invasions and physical threats, and are resigning in droves in hopes of saving the lives of themselves and their families. The prosecutor's office in the Volyn region (western Ukraine) has been ordered by ultra-nationalists to resign en masse. Jewish synagogs and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches are being attacked. If a democratically elected president and ruling party are so easily driven from power by armed neo-nazis, what chance do Washington's paid stooges among the so-called "moderates" have of forming a government? These are the corrupt people who wanted President Yanukovich out of office so that they could take the money instead. The corruption charge against Yanukovich was cover for the disloyal, undemocratic "moderate" schemers to seize power and be paid millions of dollars by Washington for taking Ukraine into the EU and NATO. Photo of Kiev violence by Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons.
Wayne Madsen Report, The collaborative and correct biography that Wikipedia refuses to publish, Feb. 27, 2014. A collaborative effort by WMR members:Below is the true, accurate and verifiable biography of Wayne Madsen. It has been submitted and rejected by Wikipedia in favor of a false biography (everything including Wayne’s date of birth is wrong).
Wayne Madsen Report, Add Wikipedia to NSA's cyber-warfare weapons inventory, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 27, 2014. Wikipedia lauds itself in its own entry in the on-line encyclopedia as a "collaboratively edited, multilingual, free Internet encyclopedia that is supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Volunteers worldwide collaboratively write Wikipedia's 30 million articles in 287 languages, including over 4.4 million in the English Wikipedia. Anyone who can access the site can edit almost any of its articles, which on the Internet comprise the largest and most popular general reference work." However, Wikipedia is also a stated weapons platform for National Security Agency's and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) offensive information warfare operations that target individuals and groups in cyber disinformation campaigns. This strategy is part of a program known as Computer Network Information Operations (CNIO). Wikipedia is jammed full of erroneous information, intelligence agency-generated and otherwise, which has burned more than one person who dared use it as a primary source. That includes journalists, including this one who regretfully relied on a Wikipedia entry on the late banker Edmond Safra. Also burned by Wikipedia were NBC's Brian Williams and the managing editors of the Arizona Republic, Flint Journal, and Las Vegas Review-Journal. The latest Wikipedia outrage is a personal one. After a painstaking re-edit of the Wikipedia entry on Wayne Madsen, an effort that involved myself and three other people working for several hours on multiple days, two registered "anonymous" editors with the handles "Capitalismojo" and "W L Ross" restored the erroneous, libelous, and incorrect entry hours after changes were made to the first paragraph of the entry. Since the libelous attacks on this editor last July by the Daily Beast, CNN, the Poynter Institute, Business Insider.com, and The Daily Telegraph, "Capitalismojo" and "W L Ross" have made hundreds of erroneous and libelous alterations to this editor's Wikipedia entry, even the date of birth. Although the editor was born on April 28, 1954, "Capitalismojo" and "W L Ross" changed it back to the erroneous date of April 25, 1954.
CNN, Sen. McCain: Ukraine needs our help now, Jake Tapper, Feb. 27, 2014. There is currently a Russian warship docked about 200 miles from Miami, Florida, at a port in Havana, in communist Cuba. It is loaded with giant military guns and anti-aircraft missiles. There has been no official explanation for what the Russian ship is doing there. Meanwhile, across the world in southern Ukraine, dozens of armed men stormed regional government buildings, including the parliament, and raised Russian flags. The interim government is clashing with the Ukrainians in the streets there. What is Russian President Vladimir Putin up to? Sen. John McCain said the warship in Havana is "just a little bit of saber rattling." What's more concerning is Putin's actions in Ukraine. "He's up to trying to preserve his absolute commitment and ambition of maintaining Ukraine as the part of the Russian empire," said McCain. "Putin is a KGB colonel apparatchik who believes in the Russian empire. That's why he invaded Georgia, that's why he put pressures on Moldova, the Baltic countries. And the crown jewel of that is the Ukraine," said McCain.
Reuters, Google ordered to remove anti-Islamic film from YouTube, Jonathan Stempel and Dan Levine, Feb. 26, 2014. A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday ordered Google Inc to remove from its YouTube video-sharing website an anti-Islamic film that had sparked protests across the Muslim world. By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected Google's assertion that the removal of the film "Innocence of Muslims," amounted to a prior restraint of speech that violated the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiff, Cindy Lee Garcia, had objected to the film after learning that it incorporated a clip she had made for a different movie, which had been partially dubbed and in which she appeared to be asking: "Is your Mohammed a child molester?" Representatives for Google could not immediately be reached for comment. Cris Armenta, a lawyer for Garcia, said she is delighted with the decision. "Ordering YouTube and Google to take down the film was the right thing to do," Armenta said in an email. "The propaganda film differs so radically from anything that Ms. Garcia could have imagined when the director told her that she was being cast in the innocent adventure film."
Center for Public Integrity, ICIJ denounces brutal attack on Ming Pao editor, Gerard Ryle, Feb. 26, 2014. On Wednesday Kevin Lau, the former chief editor of the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, was stabbed three times by an unknown assailant. Lau is reportedly in critical condition. Ming Pao was one of ICIJ’s partners in the Offshore Leaks investigation, and ICIJ director Gerard Ryle made the following statement today in response to the attack. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is horrified to learn of the brutal knife attack on Kevin Lau, the former Chief Editor of our Hong Kong media partner, the Ming Pao newspaper. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin and his family, and we remain hopeful that local police will apprehend the perpetrators as soon as possible.
New York Daily News, Swedish Leader Murder Takes Stieg Larsson Turn, Deborah Hastings, Feb. 25, 2014. Swedish author Stieg Larsson, shown in a portrait, sent droves of documents to Swedish authorities linking the 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Plame to South African security forces, a newspaper reported Tuesday. The unsolved 1986 murder of Swedish leader Olof Palme took a strange turn Tuesday worthy of the country's blockbuster mystery novelist Stieg Larsson. In fact, according to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, it's all about Larsson, the mega-selling author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He dropped dead from a heart attack at age 50 in 2004. Larsson also was an investigative journalist who tackled highly sensitive issues, including racism in Sweden. He reportedly sent more than a dozen boxes of paperwork connecting Palme's assassination to South African security forces. The Swedish leader was a vociferous opponent of apartheid in South Africa when he was shot to death in Stockholm after going to the movies with his wife. Like myriad speculation surrounding the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, his murder has sparked many conspiracy theories.
Zero Hedge, The Conspiracy Theory Is True: Agents Infiltrate Websites Intending To "Manipulate, Deceive, And Destroy Reputations," Tyler Durden, Feb. 24, 2014. In the annals of internet conspiracy theories, none is more pervasive than the one speculating paid government plants infiltrate websites, social network sites, and comment sections with an intent to sow discord, troll, and generally manipulate, deceive and destroy reputations. Guess what: it was all true. And this time we have a pretty slideshow of formerly confidential data prepared by the UK NSA equivalent, the GCHQ, to confirm it, and Edward Snowden to thank for disclosing it. The messenger in this case is Glenn Greenwald, who has released the data in an article in his new website, firstlook.org, which he summarizes as follows: "by publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself."
Ilene Proctor, Questions of Prosecutorial Misconduct Raised in Case Against Imprisoned A-List Film Director John McTiernan, Feb. 24, 2014. As John McTiernan's year long sentence in federal prison nears an end, a complaint is being filed with the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility. McTiernan is the iconic director of Hollywood blockbusters Die Hard, Predator, The Hunt for Red October, The Thomas Crown Affair, etc. In a recent petition for an en banc hearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, McTiernan's attorney, Hank
Hockeimer of Ballard Spahr stated that McTiernan is in prison “not only for a crime he did not commit, but for conduct that simply is not a crime,” and that “Prosecutorial contortions and judicially-created procedural walls have been employed and erected throughout these proceedings to block out a simple fact: an innocent man sits in federal prison.” In the family photo, McTiernan says goodbye in 2013 to his two children before entering prison in Yankton, SD. He was released Feb. 24.
Of Two Minds, Ukraine: A Deep State Analysis, Charles Hugh Smith, Feb. 27, 2014. It doesn't take any special insight into the situation in Ukraine to conclude that no one narrative illuminates all the dynamics. Various contesting Grand Narratives have emerged in the media--neofascist coup, rampant corruption, east versus west, to name a few. But these only describe a few of the regional fault lines and complexities. At my request, correspondent A.C. offered a preliminary Deep State analysis of the situation. A.C.'s perspective is informed by decades of experience in Eastern Europe, Russia and the Baltic region. I recently discussed the Deep State in The Dollar and the Deep State, and offered this definition by Mike Lofgren [a former high-level GOP congressional aide with 28 years experience on military and budget issues]: The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime. Let's start with the obvious Deep State agenda in Ukraine: energy. Nations with a strategic "vital interest" in the region's energy mix include Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Germany (and the rest of the European Union, which currently depends on natural gas piped through Ukraine from Russia), Romania and (of course) the United States, which maintains a strategic interest in every square meter of the planet (including the seas and ice caps). It's not much of a stretch to say that Russia's fiscal health and geopolitical influence are based on hydrocarbons--specifically gas and oil delivered to other nations for cash and/or political favors.
Washington Post, Comcast’s deal with Netflix makes network neutrality obsolete, Timothy B. Lee, Feb. 23, 2014.For the past two decades, the Internet has operated as an unregulated, competitive free market. Given the tendency of networked industries to lapse into monopoly—think of AT&T's 70-year hold over telephone service, for example—that's a minor miracle. But recent developments are putting the Internet's decentralized architecture in danger. In recent months, the nation's largest residential Internet service providers have been demanding payment to deliver Netflix traffic to their own customers. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix has agreed to the demands of the nation's largest broadband provider, Comcast. The change represents a fundamental shift in power in the Internet economy that threatens to undermine the competitive market structure that have served Internet users so well for the past two decades. The deal will also transform the debate over network neutrality regulation. Network neutrality advocates are going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Washington Post, U.S. weighs leaving behind 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, Karen DeYoung, Feb. 23, 2014. The option, one of four examined, would mean a far more reduced presence than commanders urge. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, shown in an official photo, plans to brief his NATO counterparts in Brussels this week on the status of U.S. decision making. The 3,000 troops under Option 3 would be restricted to Kabul and Bagram, according to officials. In a Congress-commissioned study released Thursday, the Center for Naval Analyses advocates keeping the size of Afghan forces at a level only slightly less than their current 382,000, rather than the 228,500 proposed by NATO. The larger force, the study said, would cost up to $6 billion a year at least through 2018, far more than the $4.1 billion that NATO has agreed to finance, assuming the security agreement is signed.
Sydney Morning Herald, Writer dishes dirt on 'sexist' Assange, Feb. 23, 2014. The man who tried to co-write Julian Assange's autobiography says the Australian can be sexist and anti-semitic as well as a courageous purser [sic] of the truth -- so long as it doesn't relate to himself. Scottish writer Andrew O'Hagan has penned a lengthy essay about his three-year relationship with Assange, which started when he was asked to ghostwrite the WikiLeaks founder's autobiography. Some might accuse O'Hagan of pop psychology. But no one will deny his London Review of Books article is a riveting read.
Washington Post, Comcast’s deal with Netflix makes network neutrality obsolete, Timothy B. Lee, Feb. 23, 2014. For the past two decades, the Internet has operated as an unregulated, competitive free market. Given the tendency of networked industries to lapse into monopoly—think of AT&T's 70-year hold over telephone service, for example—that's a minor miracle. But recent developments are putting the Internet's decentralized architecture in danger. In recent months, the nation's largest residential Internet service providers have been demanding payment to deliver Netflix traffic to their own customers. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix has agreed to the demands of the nation's largest broadband provider, Comcast. The change represents a fundamental shift in power in the Internet economy that threatens to undermine the competitive market structure that have served Internet users so well for the past two decades. The deal will also transform the debate over network neutrality regulation. Officially, Comcast's deal with Netflix is about interconnection, not traffic discrimination. But it's hard to see a practical difference between this deal and the kind of tiered access that network neutrality advocates have long feared. Network neutrality advocates are going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Washington Post, Political order overturned in Ukraine; President Yanukovych leaves Kiev, denies he has resigned, archrival is freed, William Booth and Will Englund, Feb. 22, 2013. In a day of fast-moving events that changed the political landscape of Ukraine and brought joy to protesters who had defied the government, the Ukrainian parliament voted Saturday evening to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych from office, saying he was guilty of gross human rights violations and dereliction of duty.
Just a few hours after parliament voted to oust the president, his arch political enemy, Yulia Tymoshenko, shown in a 2008 photo and a key figure in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, was freed from prison. Tymoshenko, a former two-term prime minister, was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted in 2011 of abuse of power and embezzlement over her role in a deal to purchase natural gas from Russia. Her supporters and many Western countries said her trial and conviction were politically motivated. The president is shown in a formal portrait via Creative Commons.
Washington Post, Romney to fundraise with Christie for GOP governors, Robert Costa, Feb. 22, 2014. Joint appearance in Boston is signal to GOP establishment of continued support for embattled N.J. governor. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will fundraise alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday in Boston. The joint appearance is a signal by Romney to the Republican establishment that he remains an ally of the embattled Garden State governor, whose administration has become engulfed by a bridge-closing scandal.Feb. 21
Bill Moyers and Company, The Deep State That Governs America: Mike Lofgren, Bill Moyers, Feb. 21, 2014. Producer: Gina Kim. Segment Producer: Lena Shemel. Editor: Rob Kuhns. Intro Editor: Sikay Tang. Mike Lofgren, a Congressional staffer for 28 years, explains to Bill Moyers that neither Congress, the President, nor the American people govern the United States. Everyone knows about the military-industrial complex, which, in his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned had the potential to “endanger our liberties or democratic process” but have you heard of the “Deep State?” Mike Lofgren, a former GOP congressional staff member with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees, joins Bill to talk about what he calls the Deep State, a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state, which is “out of control” and “unconstrained.” In it, Lofgren says, elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is … the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Bill. Lofgren says the Deep State’s heart lies in Washington, DC, but its tentacles reach out to Wall Street, which Lofgren describes as “the ultimate backstop to the whole operation,” Silicon Valley and over 400,000 contractors, private citizens who have top-secret security clearances. Like any other bureaucracy, it’s groupthink that drives the Deep State.
Bill Moyers and Company, Anatomy of the Deep State, Mike Lofgren, Feb. 21, 2014. There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power. During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War. Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country. As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.
Newsweek, Break-in Reported at Project on Government Oversight, Jeff Stein, Feb. 21, 2014. The office of a major Washington, DC national security whistleblowers organization was broken into last week. The intruder or intruders left dozens of computers and other valuable office equipment untouched but jimmied open a file cabinet at the Project on Government Oversight, a private organization that has conducted several sensitive investigations in recent months, including a critical report on a controversial Pentagon leak investigation. POGO publishes a vast, searchable database on the "revolving door" of executives between Wall Street and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is responsible for policing big financial institutions. POGO is the second national security whistleblowers group to encounter suspicious activity. Three years ago, in another heretofore unreported incident, burglars broke into the Washington offices of the Government Accountability Project, which offers legal support to whistleblowers -- including, since last summer, NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Raw Story, Austin police drag jogger to car screaming after jaywalking without ID, John Byrne, Feb. 21, 2014. A Texas woman was dragged screaming to a police car in Austin, Texas after being arrested for failing to provide ID while jaywalking. The woman, pulled to a police car in gym clothes, was captured on video shouting, "I didn't do anything wrong." A University of Texas student filmed the police capturing the jogger and placing her in an officer's car. Police told the woman to provide identification, Chris Quintero remarked to the student newspaper. When she wouldn't, the officer grabbed her arm and placed her in handcuffs. "She repeatedly pleaded with them, saying that she was just exercising and to let her go," Quintero said. Quintero is heard in the video saying, "I saw you," after the woman calls across the street, saying, "I was doing nothing wrong. I was crossing the street."
Washington Post, Negotiators reach deal to end Ukraine crisis, Will Englund, Feb. 21, 2014. The proposed deal envisions the formation of a coalition government within 10 days and new elections in December, officials say.
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in the Oval Office, Feb. 20, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)
Washington Post, Ukraine’s parliament just threw President Yanukovych under the bus. That’s great news, Max Fisher, Feb. 20, 2014. What makes this a really big deal is that the parliament is actually as well as symbolically undermining President Viktor Yanukovych – challenging both his handling of the protests as well as the president himself. It's a very significantly symbolic blow to Yanukovych's legitimacy
OpEdNews, Is Ukraine Drifting Toward Civil War And Great Power Confrontation? Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 20, 2014. We are witnessing this today in western Ukraine where a mixture of witless university students, pawns in Washington's drive for world hegemony, together with paid protesters and fascistic elements among ultra-nationalists are bringing great troubles upon Ukraine and perhaps a deadly war upon the world. Many of the protesters are just the unemployed collecting easy money. It is the witless idealistic types that are destroying the independence of their country. Victoria Nuland, the American neoconservative Assistant Secretary of State, whose agenda is US world hegemony, told the Ukrainians what was in store for them last December 13, but the protesters were too delusional to hear. In an eight-minute, 46-second speech at the National Press Club sponsored by the US-Ukraine Foundation, Chevron, and Ukraine-in-Washington Lobby Group, Nuland boasted that Washington has spent $5 billion to foment agitation to bring Ukraine into the EU.
Atlantic, Is It Time for Ukraine to Split Up? Brian Whitmore, Feb. 20 2014. One expert thinks the country would be better off if it were partitioned. See map, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. As the crisis in Ukraine escalates and becomes increasingly violent, the possibility that the country could break up is again coming to the fore. In a recent article, Alexander Motyl, a professor at Rutgers University and an expert on Ukrainian affairs, makes the provocative argument that this might just be the best thing that could happen. I recently spoke to Motyl. Below are excerpts from the interview. In your recent commentary piece "Should There Be One Ukraine?" you made a rather provocative argument that it might be time for the country to split up. Could you elaborate on that argument?
FireDogLake, Obama’s Budget Drops Big Social Security Cut, Jon Walker, Feb. 20, 2014. The White House has dropped the controversial chained-CPI from the new proposed budget. Last year in a desperate final attempt to spur a grand bargain Obama put forward a “compromise” budget which included entitlement cuts like chained-CPI. Despite upsetting many Democrats, the effort failed to garner any Republican support. This is a big victory for the defenders of Social Security who have for years been fighting a very well-financed coalition of so called “deficit” groups focused on undermining the retirement security for millions of Americans. This is also another sign that Obama has finally accepted that Republicans will not help him accomplish anything. Since the moment Obama took office he has been trying to get Republicans to back a giant deficit package which cut benefits and raised taxes. Now after five years of failed attempts which have indirectly created numerous problems, the President seems to have accepted that his goal is not going to be achieved even if the offer is still technically on the table.
Washington Post, USPS putting itself at risk in real estate deals, IG says, Lisa Rein, Feb. 20, 2014. The USPS is putting itself at financial risk in real estate deals, watchdog says; agency needs “arm’s length” policy. The U.S. Postal Service is putting itself at financial risk by allowing an outside real estate firm to negotiate sales and leases of postal property on behalf of the mail agency and prospective buyers and renters at the same time, a watchdog warned this week. The practice, called “dual agency representation,” has the potential to create conflicts of interest for CBRE, with the result that the real estate company might not maximize revenue for the financially ailing Postal Service. The chairman of CBRE’s board of directors is Richard C. Blum, who is married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a fact that has heightened scrutiny of the relationship between the Postal Service and the real estate firm. Wednesday’s report did not address the historic buildings or Blum.
Washington Post, U.S., allies agree on aid for Syrian rebels, Karen DeYoung, Feb. 20, 2014. Countries agree on classifications for which opposition groups will receive supplies, assistance in civil war.
Washington Post, With ’15 budget, Obama will call for end to era of austerity, Zachary A. Goldfarb, Feb. 20, 2014. The president will focus on pumping cash into job training and other programs to bolster the middle class.
Global Research,The Pussy Riot Con Game, Timothy Alexander Guzman, Feb. 20, 2014. (Initially published by GR in December 2012). The controversy behind the Punk Rock group Pussy Riot and the issue of freedom of expression in Russia raised concern for activists and celebrities across the world. The court sentenced each member to two years in prison with the charge of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for the “Punk Prayer” protest at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow back in February of 2012. It was a protest song against the re-election of Vladimir Putin. Let’s look at some facts about Pussy Riot and their history of artistic expression. The actions committed by the former group Voina and now Pussy Riot would have been arrested and jailed in most countries throughout the world. However, Pussy Riot should not be imprisoned. At most they should be fined and released every time they are arrested for their public performances.
FireDogLake, David Miranda Case: British High Court Accepts Investigative Journalism Can Be Like Terrorism, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 19, 2014. A British high court has decided that the detention of David Miranda, partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, under a provision of the United Kingdom’s terrorism law was “lawful.” The objective of his detention was “not only legitimate but very pressing.” He had in his possession material that was “stolen” from the National Security Agency by whistleblower Edward Snowden which if made public would have posed a risk to life. Miranda is appealing this ruling and reacted, to the decision, “I’m of course not happy that a court has formally said that I was a legitimate terrorism suspect, but the days of the British Empire are long over, and this ruling will have no effect outside of the borders of this country.” Miranda also said, "I’m convinced they’ve hurt their own country far more than me with this ruling, as it emphasizes what the world already knows: the UK has contempt for basic press freedoms.” Miranda is shown under Creative Commons-licensed Photo by Agência Senado.
Washington Post, KBR accused of using secrecy statements to rein in whistleblowers, Scott Higham, Feb. 19, 2014. At one of the nation’s biggest defense contractors, speaking publicly about fraud without authorization from company lawyers is grounds for dismissal.
Philly.com, Suit accuses Harrah's Atlantic City Resort and Casino alleged assault on a family, Sam Wood, Feb. 19, 2014. The casino rewards program John Binns registered for came with the promise of “unique and memorable” experiences. But the South Florida resident wasn’t counting on those experiences to include being roughed-up at the hands of casino security guards while on vacation in Atlantic City. Nor did he anticipate having his wife and daughter wrestled to the ground so forcefully that the daughter suffered a broken nose -- all in front of a crowd of casino patrons.
Baton Rouge Advocate, Judge orders newspaper to turn over info on two online commenters, Gordon Russell, Feb. 17, 2014. Subpoena seeks info about anonymous Web comments. A federal magistrate judge has ordered the Times-Picayune to turn over information about two pseudonymous commenters who posted disparaging remarks about a federal target on the newspaper’s website and who, the judge believes, may be federal prosecutors or law enforcement officers. U.S. Magistrate Joseph Wilkinson told the newspaper — which sought to quash a subpoena for the data — to produce the information by Wednesday. On Feb. 18, WWL AM/FM morning show personality Tommy Tucker invited JIP Director Andrew Kreig to return to the New Orleans-based CBS affiliate to identify the main public interest in the dispute.
Slate, Science Confirms: Internet Trolls Really Are Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Sadistic, Chris Mooney, Feb. 14, 2014. The Internet is sadists' playground. A new psychology paper focuses on the personalities of trolls. The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.
OpEdNews, Honoring the "Accomplices" to Truth Who Caught Clapper in a Lie, Robert Scheer, Feb. 18, 2014. The tide is turning. Yesterday's traitor is today's hero, and the brave journalists who helped Edward Snowden get the word out are at last being honored for their public service. Or so one hopes. On Sunday it was announced that the prestigious George Polk Award for National Security Reporting would be given to the four journalists -- Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman -- most active in reporting about the content of the NSA documents leaked by Snowden. The award, named after a CBS News correspondent killed in 1948 while covering the civil war in Greece, is intended to honor journalists who "heightened public awareness with perceptive detection and dogged pursuit of stories that otherwise would not have seen the light of day."
Washington Post, Federal Eye: Homeland Security cancels plans for license-tracking system, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Hicks, Feb. 19, 2014. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday canceled a plan by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to seek a national license plate tracking system. The cancellation came in the wake of a story by The Washington Post Wednesday that reported on an ICE solicitation for a company to compile a database of license plate information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers. “The solicitation, which was posted without the awareness of ICE leadership, has been cancelled,” ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement. “While we continue to support a range of technologies to help meet our law enforcement mission, this solicitation will be reviewed to ensure the path forward appropriately meets our operational needs.”
Washington Post, U.S. seeks system to track vehicles’ license plates, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Hicks, Feb. 18, 2014. The database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and may be shared with agencies. The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place. The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.
Republic Report, Obama Admin’s TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks, Lee Fang, Feb. 18, 2014. Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show. Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year. Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration.
Paul Craig Roberts.org, Amerikan Stasi Police State Staring Us In The Face, Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 18, 2014. American taxpayers have built an entire city in Virginia so that the Pentagon, can practice occupying American cities and putting down protests by US citizens. This fake city is the training ground for the doctrine outlined in a leaked US Army document that describes how soldiers are to be trained to put down domestic disturbances and process prisoners through detainment camps where prisoners will be re-educated to appreciate US policies. In situations of “extreme necessity” the training embraces deadly force: “Warning shot will not be fired. When a firearm is discharged it will be fired with the intent of rendering the person(s) at whom it is discharged incapable of continuing that activity or course of behavior.” Lecturers in the training courses describe constitutionalists as “domestic extremists.” The Army is being trained for domestic police duties that are in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act that prevents the use of the military for domestic law enforcement, another indication that Washington has no respect for the country’s laws and that Obama and his “Justice” Department have no intention of enforcing the laws of the land or abiding by the Constitution.//>
Washington Post, At least 25 killed as Ukraine protests explode into chaos, Will Englund, Feb. 18, 2014. The European Union calls for an emergency session after the crisis in Kiev takes a violent turn, injuring more than 240 people. Deadly clashes between protesters and police in Kiev on Tuesday led to a fire-lit nighttime assault by Interior Ministry troops on the main protest encampment at Independence Square, in what may be a dramatic and irreversible turn in Ukraine’s months-long political crisis. The 28-nation European Union on Wednesday called a meeting of foreign ministers to decide on its response, including possible sanctions, the Associated Press reported. Sanctions could include travel bans targeting the Ukrainian leadership and asset freezes. After weeks of relative calm, trucks and tents burned, molotov cocktails smashed against police shields and banners illuminated by the flames whipped in the strong breeze. At least 25 people were reported killed and 240 injured in the latest flare-up of protests that began last fall after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with Europe and turned to Russia for financial help. For background, see speech by Victoria Nuland at the US-Ukraine Foundation on Dec. 13, 2013 where she describes how the United States has spent $5 billion on the Ukraine in recent years to help it achieve "its European aspirations.">
Al.com, Don Siegelman was a great leader, Letter to the editor by James D. Cargill, Feb. 18, 2014. What happened to Don Siegelman should never have happened, according to over 100 attorney general's opinions, yet politics trumps all in a kangaroo court. My experience with Don was while he was state of Alabama attorney general. I retired in 1980 from the USAF and immediately was hired to teach at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) in the business school, teaching management, marketing, economics and finance courses. In 1987, Don Siegelman – not long after his wife had been hit by a drunk driver – decided to do something about it. He decided the best way to educate the people of Alabama about the problem was to educate the 8,000 clergy in Alabama. So if your parent, spouse, child or grandchild is a recovering person today, you may want to thank Don Siegelman.
FireDogLake, NSA Collection of Citizens’ Phone Records Shouldn’t Have Been Secret, Spy Chief Admits, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 17, 2014. In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted that basic details on the existence of the program should not have been kept secret. It is another argument for why Edward Snowden is a whistleblower. There’s more to write about this interview Clapper gave to Lake (a journalist who is notorious for printing what unnamed/named government officials say to him without couching their quotes in any skepticism). Photo by Medill DC, used under Creative Commons license.
AP via Washington Post, Syrian opposition appoints new military chief, AP staff report, Feb. 15, 2014. The coalition of Syrian opposition groups in exile announced they appointed a new army chief on Monday, following a year of seeing their influence fade in Syria. The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition said was appointing Brigadier Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir to head the Free Syrian Army. It cited specifically an embarrassing raid on their weapons warehouse by rival rebels last year as a reason for the change. Al-Bashir replaces Gen. Salim Idris, seen as a secular-leaning moderate. The spokesman said other council members were outraged when Idris did not publicly blame the rival rebels for the theft. “(The rebels) did not return a single weapon, and he (Idris) did not do a thing. All the officers went to their tents and the warehouses were empty, and nothing remained of the FSA,” he said.