Hong Kong, Snowden Snub U.S. Demand for 'Rule of Law' As U.S. Ramps Up War In Syria

Hong Kong refused June 23 to extradite document leaker and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to face the spy charges that the United States had announced two days previous. Hong Kong permitted Snowden to fly to Russia to find sanctuary in another country, reputedly Ecuador.

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan-rooted Taliban lashed out against the United States on two fronts after Secretary of State John Kerry, right, sought negotiations. Separately, Kerry committed the United States to join 10 other nations in a "Group of 11" to topple Syria's government by escalating Syria's civil war.

This column summarizes the recent global difficulties for the United States on these issues. An appendix below includes commentaries that focus especially on the Snowden case and the efforts by the "Group of 11" to ramp up military efforts.


Separately, a CIA Inspector General's report released this week suggested that the agency was working closely with New York City police in violation of longstanding rules against the CIA participating in domestic investigations. The erosion of traditional restraints against domestic activities by the CIA, now a paramilitary force operating as an army internationally, illustrate a momentous change in domestic policy unknown even during world war and Cold war. Similar changes have occurred also in the military and NSA, which historically refrained from significant public activities targeting domestic populations except in extraordinary situations.

Over the weekend, a White House official requiring anonymity from the media demanded that Hong Kong comply with the "rule of law" by delivering Snowden forthwith to the United States to respond to a three-count criminal complaint June 14, unsealed a week later.

Hong Kong promptly replied with an announcement that the Untied States request failed to comply with Hong Kong's minimum legal requirements intended to protect accused persons from political prosecution. Therefore, Hong Kong stated that Snowden was free to depart. Accompanied by WikiLeaks advisers, Snowden motored to an airport to fly to Moscow. The United States revoked Snowden's passport, but Hong Kong and Russian authorities permitted his travel.

A number of United States officials from both major parties have called Snowden a "traitor," and otherwise expressed their outrage for his claims that the federal government collects and stores virtually all electronic communications from all Americans, and has the ability to retrieve the information if authorities desire to drill down on an investigation of someone.

NBC "Meet the Press" Host David Gregory asked author and journalist Glenn Greenwald June 23 whether authorities should not indict Greenwald for "aiding and abetting" Snowden in breaking the story. Greenwald

in his charactertic blunt manner by suggesting that if Gregory were a real journalist he would want to inform the public by breaking news, not "publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies."

Overall, the events underscore challenges for United States authorities in trying to control world events by rhetoric advocating freedom, peace, transparency, democracy, and civil rights -- while also pursuing a new Mideast war in Syria without widely recognized legal authority and by continuing what is alleged to be widespread domestic suveillance rubber-stamped by a special court system that operates under secret law. Court rules prevent ordinary Americans from accessing the court or any of its rulings, or challenging the legality of any of its decisions. The court is appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican who has created a tribunal with 10 of its 11 judges fellow Republicans.

Most members of Congress defend the system, as do the war and security contractors who operate the guts of the system under recent privatization policies favored by both parties to transfer much of the surveillance to private hands, such as Snowden's employers. Snowden, 30, who lacks both a high school and college degree, said he gave up a high-paying job at Booz Allen Hamilton, owned by the powerful Carlyle Group, because he did not think it appropriate under American traditions that that private communications should be so accessible to someone like him and his employers.

Although Snowden has been widely attacked for his view, he has also been defended by more experienced NSA veterans who say his disclosures are the only route for critics of privacy abuses because anyone who knows anything would get in trouble by complaining.

More than a decade of Mideast wars involving the United States and its allies have coincided with this kind of warrantless surveillance over Americans, United States covert paramilitary actions worldwide, drone attacks on Mideast nations without a declaration of war,and crackdowns on American leakers, reporters, and dissidents.

The trend appears to illustrate a rapid deterioration of constitutional or international law as a commonly accepted neutral body of principles. Hong Kong's rebuke to Kerry and the Obama administration is one of several recent embarrassments for United States officials that are unusual in modern times, if not unprecedented, aside from a journalist's shoe-throwing at President George W. Bush during a December 2008 press conference in Iraq.

Most of the setbacks have arisen because of United States attempts to control events in the Mideast. Another factor is domestic and international concern about the United States global spy network, including widespread secret surveillance of the United States population in ways long regarded as illegal until the advent of secret courts and secret law that rubber-stamp virtually all White House initiatives with no ability for anyone in the public to learn specifics.

All major nations spy on each other and most spy upon their own citizens to varying degrees. But the recent revelations have embarrassed powerful players, thereby attracting unusual attention to surveillance practices long known to experts. Recent disclosures that the Obama administration targeted reporters at the Associated Press and Fox News set the stage for wider news coverage of Snowden than he might have received otherwise.

Regarding war making, the Western powers and Gulf-led alliance have claimed that their increased weapons supplies to rebels will serve humanitarian and democratic goals.

Yet, as the UK-based Reuters described in a recent special report, the rebellion is increasingly led by jihadists, many of them drawn from foreign nations, who want to install a radical Islam government in the mold of the Gulf monarchies that severely limit civil rights, especially of women and foreigners. "The moderates, often underfunded, fragmented and chaotic," Reuters reported in Syria's Islamists seize control as moderates dither, "appear no match for Islamist units, which include fighters from organizations designated 'terrorist' by the United States."

In response, Kerry committed the United States to help allies supply rebels with arms and ammunition in addition to the vast secret help, reputedly well over a billion dollars and fighters from many nations, that they have been providing already.

On related fronts: The Taliban created in the Gulf State of Qatar an office that purports to be a de facto consulate representing the Afghanistan government. The Taliban action infuriated the Karzai government of Afghanistan installed by the United States and allied nations in the long war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda after 9/11.

The United States is pressuring Qatar and the Taliban to lower the profile of the Taliban office to appease Karzai. But Taliban leaders asserted their independence from Western control on the eve of two-way peace negotiations with the United States. In a potentially related development, a Taliban group claimed responsibility for the murder of nine foreign mountain climbers in Pakistan, including an American, in retaliation for a recent U.S. drone attack in Pakistan that killed a Taliban leader.

Additionally, Russia has snubbed Kerry and the United States repeatedly on the issue of joint actions against Syria's government, a longtime ally of Russia. On substance, Russia has promised to fulfill contracts to provide Syria with advanced anti-aircraft guns that would jeopardize even the best aircraft of the United States and Israel in military actions.

Russian officials dissed United States and British leaders at three recent, high-profile meetings. One was the Group of Eight Summit in Ireland this month. Russian President Vladimir Putin told Western leaders they would be sorry for their support of religious fanatics in Syria if the Islam fundamentalists win in Syria, and expand terrorism into Europe. Putin looked bored at best during a news conference with Obama, at right, and sometimes seemed that he was not even pretending to seem friendly with the president when Obama tried to exude charm.

Putin separately told British Prime Minister David Cameron in joint appearance that the British government and its allies support religious fanatics and "cannibals" -- a reference to a widely seen, graphic video of a rebel who ate organs of a slain Syrian on camera to boast of the killing.

Earlier this spring, Putin kept Kerry waiting for three hours to start a scheduled meeting to discuss joint peacekeeping efforts in Syria. Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, then undercut Kerry's positive comments after the meeting by announcing Russia's plan to deliver its most advanced anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian's government under an existing contract. That upstaged Kerry's announcement of agreement for a peace conference for Syria's opposing sides.

The United States and Israel have expressed deep displeasure with Russia's anti-aircraft decision, which could thwart allied or renewed Israeli bombing of targets in Syria, as well as imposition of the "No Fly Zone" Congressional hawks are seeking the American military to impose.

Russia mainstains a Navy base at Tartus on Syria's coast. Russia also has deployed about dozen ships offshore. At least one Israeli official has been quoted anonymously as threatening to bomb the Russian anti-aircraft installations before they occur. Yet Israeli opinion, like that in the United States, is deeply split on whether removal of Assad by all out efforts is worth the risks.

Since 2011 Western leaders have claimed the moral right to decide that Syria's government cannot continue to be led by President Bashar al-Assad, whose late father ruled the country previously as a largely secular (that is non-fundementalist) dictator. Assad, 47, at left, is a medical doctor by training who received post-graduate training in London in his speciality of eye medicine before immersion in Syria's governance. He was elected president in 2000 and 2007, running unopposed.

Western powers, Turkey, Jordan, and such Gulf monarchies as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have failed to secure United Nations or NATO approval for intervention. Post World War II international law forbids, for the most part, wars of aggression against dictators who have not been proven to have attacked other nations.

Therefore, the interventionists have drawn on more novel coalitions and rationales for Assad's overthrow, including his brutal reaction to protests in 2011. In this, Assad is alleged to have violated an evolving theory called "Responsibility to Protect" endorsed by the United Nations in 2005. By its terms, nations may under certain conditions protect against Kosovo-Bosnia and Rwanda-style genocides.

Obama's foreign policy team includes several players closely identified with "Responsibility to Protect" theory, which relies heavily on unilateral judgments by a president's team and various other subjective criteria. Turkey, a leading advocate for the overthrow of Assad, has defended its violent suppression of nationwide protests this month.

In 2002, academic Samantha Power published, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, an influential book advocating such interventions on humanitarian grounds. Obama appointed her to his first-term State Department and White House staffs, and this year nominated her to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

She thus became an important part of a trend by presidents in both parties to name women and minorities to influential positions in the State Department, White House and related agencies whereby they can provide a diverse face to policies usually articulated by white males.

The practice, once almost universally applauded among Beltway thought-leaders as signifying equal opportunity for important government jobs, now deserves more scrutiny. We now know that a public relations campaign funded by Kuwait by the Washington lobbying group Hill and Knowlton concocted out of thin air claims that Saddam Hussein's military murdered babies in incubators in Kuwait. The dramatic, perjured "testimony" before Congress was used to stampede female American voters in particular to support a U.S/Allied invasion of Iraq, according to several authoritative books on the topic cited in my own forthcoming book, Presidential Puppetry.

Critics of the United States military actions against Assad point to assertions by former NATO Commander Wesley Clark that he was astonished to learn promptly after 9/11 that leaders in the Pentagon had targeted Syria for regime change along with Iraq even though neither had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. Clark described in his 2004 memoir his shock at the planned interventions without basis in war reprisal or international law.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, a syndicated news show, interviewed Clark in a March 2007 segment before a live audience, excerpted below and entitled, U.S. Plans to Overthrow Seven Mideast Countries.

Clark holds a unique historical perspective because he commanded allied forces during their 1990s military intervention in the Bosnia-Kosovo region on humanitarian grounds.

With that background, we need to examine carefully the humanitarian arguments for increasing United States support for a new war in the Mideast, especially one based on dubious new claims of WMD by officials so powerful that they receive deferential treatment from a mainstream media.

Mainstream news reporters, who are the only ones permitted to attend briefings and ask questions of course, are highly dependent on remaining in the good graces of officials. The reporters and their news organizations need continued access to briefings and other relationships with officials. Especially important is continued access to authorized leaks by anonymous officials who use the disclosures to shape the nation's news agenda on sensitive matters.

Furthermore, the news organizations are not necessarily in opposition or a critical mode to authorities. Much of the nation's specialized reporting is now by pro-war lobbying groups and quasi-academic advocacy groups in Washington, London, and other thought leadership centers. The war lobby has funded many groups with neutral sounding names that are widely quoted in news accounts, helping shape public opinion.

On the related issue of terrorism, Power's husband, Cass Sunstein, is a major player. He is a Harvard law professor, close Obama friend from their years teaching at the University of Chicago law school faculty, and a former high-ranking White House aide.

Also, Sunstein is notorious in certain reporting and civil liberties circles for co-authored in 2008 an academic paper advocating that the government secretly hire academics and journalists to disparage what Sunstein described as mistaken beliefs by millions of voters that government officials engage in certain "conspiracies." Sunstein had argued in this paper that the best way to thwart Americans fear of secret government is to federally fund secret conspiracies against critics of conspiracies. At the beginning of the Obama presidency, he named Sunstein to become administrator off the White House Offoice of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), in effect the nation's top regulator since all regulation passes through the unit of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Commentator Glenn Greenwald, who this month broke the Snowden revelations about secret NSA spying on all Americans, took a lead in 2010 in decrying Sunstein's suggestion that the government hire secretly funded academics and journalists. Greenward argued that someone of Sunstein's machiavellian instincts should never be named to any federal post, much less and important one. be placed given a major one.

Yet Sunstein, who returned to the Harvard Law School faculty last summer and authored a well-received book, is regarded by the Washington establishment as one of the administration's outstanding liberal intellects.

In these kinds of echo chambers, the mainstream media tends to frame issues primarily in terms of Western arguments. Commentaries avoid disclosure of secrets that might undermine moral authority for further Western intervention in a Syria's civil war claiming at least 93,000 dead and millions of refugees. Many commentaries, for example, cite the total number of dead as if the killing was primarily by Assad's government and of civilians. A more granular interpretation suggests a much more complex story.

Serious questions arise also about the specifics of White House arguments justifying overthrow of the Syrian government.

This month the Obama White House and several NATO allies alleged that Assad's government forces used chemical weapons, thereby justifying Western intervention. Details of the proof have not been made public. Further, the claim has inherent plausibility problems. The claim involves a relatively small number of deaths (100 to 150) for such a massive civil war. Further, the Western governments rarely discuss the strong possibility that any evidence might be a "false flag" concoction by rebels to create a justification for massive Western intervention on the rebel side. Futhermore, the most authoritative report by the United Nations, which has tended to be largely pro-West and anti-Assad in its words so far, is that rebels used chemical weapons.

That's only the beginning of the tough questions that might be asked -- but are rarely posed in public to relevant Western authorities, and even more rarely answered.

Western governments and the captive mainstream media fail to provide balanced reporting on the extent of foreign intervention so far on both sides. American readers continually hear of Iranian and Russian support for Assad, along with the more recent entry of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon on the government's side.

But what of the "rebel" forces in Syria? Scattered reports, largely ignored by the mainstream, claim that "rebels" have been assembled from more than 40 nations, including the United States, many motivated by extreme, radical religious animosities. Is it true that Qatar and Saudi Arabia freed convicted criminals from their prisons and funded them for jihad in Syria? Some reports by mainstream news organizations excerpted below suggest such efforts.

Even more sensitive for American voters, and thus extremely dangerous for reporters to investigate, are persistent reports that the United States has already spent vast amounts of money on arms and foreign fighter recruitment for the rebel cause in Syria. Some claim that United States spending has approached a billion dollars already, with new commitments approaching that at a time of increasing budget cuts on domestic programs in the United States following the sequester.

Even more sensitive for United States audiences are reports of some 4,500 troops massed in Jordan for training exercises and now stationed there for the foreseeable future, as well as scattered reports that CIA paramilitary and Special Forces have been active militarily in Syria while the United States purports to have been uninvolved. Perhaps most explosive of all are reports that the United States was using CIA installations in Benghazi last year as recruitment centers for arms deliveries and perhaps militiamen for battle in Syria. The allegations were so sensitive that even Republican critics of Obama have barely mentioned it them.

Such secrets and controversies cannot be resolved in this space. But they are worth considering among the many developments occurring on the national security front this month.


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Related News Coverage

Snowden Seeks Asylum from United States Spy Charges

Reuters via Huffington Post, EU Confronts Washington Reports Of Spying On Allies, Ben Deighton and Annika Breidthardt, June 30, 2013. The European Union has demanded that the United States explain a report in a German magazine that Washington is spying on the group, using unusually strong language to confront its closest trading partner over its alleged surveillance activities. A spokeswoman for the European Commission said on Sunday the EU contacted U.S. authorities in Washington and Brussels about a report in Der Spiegel magazine that the U.S. secret service had tapped EU offices in Washington and Brussels and at the United Nations. Der Spiegel reported on its website on Saturday that the National Security Agency had bugged EU offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks in the latest revelation of alleged U.S. spying that has prompted outrage from EU politicians. The magazine followed up on Sunday with a report that the U.S. secret service taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month and has classed its biggest European ally as a target similar to China. Revelations about the alleged U.S. spying program, which became public through documents taken by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, right, have raised a furore in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security. The extent to which Washington's EU allies are being monitored has emerged as an issue of particular concern.

Guardian, New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies; Exclusive: Edward Snowden papers reveal 38 targets including EU, France and Italy, Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger, June 30, 2013. Berlin accuses Washington of cold war tactics. US intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret US National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as "targets". It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae. Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. The list in the September 2010 document does not mention the UK, Germany or other western European states. One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is "implanted on the Cryptofax at the EU embassy, DC" – an apparent reference to a bug placed in a commercially available encrypted fax machine used at the mission. The NSA documents note the machine is used to send cables back to foreign affairs ministries in European capitals. The documents suggest the aim of the bugging exercise against the EU embassy in central Washington is to gather inside knowledge of policy disagreements on global issues and other rifts between member states.

Washington Post, Plugging the leaks in the Edward Snowden case; Prosecuting Edward Snowden is less important than keeping him from revealing more secrets, Editorial Board, July 1, 2013. The costs of the Edward Snowden affair continue to mount for the Obama administration — though so far the visible damage is primarily political, rather than national security-related. The first U.S. priority should be to prevent Mr. Snowden from leaking information that harms efforts to fight terrorism and conduct legitimate intelligence operations. Documents published so far by news organizations have shed useful light on some NSA programs and raised questions that deserve debate, such as whether a government agency should build a database of Americans’ phone records. But Mr. Snowden is reported to have stolen many more documents, encrypted copies of which may have been given to allies such as the WikiLeaks organization.

OpEdNews, Has Washington's Arrogance Undone Its Empire? Paul Craig Roberts, July 2, 2013. The German, French, and EU governments are upset to find out that their extreme subservience to Washington has not protected them and their citizens from being spied upon. Here they are, fighting Washington's wars in far distant Afghanistan, the fate of which is completely unrelated to their own, and what does Washington do but embarrass them by spying on the personal lives of their citizens. Who does the Merkel government represent, Germans are asking, Germans or the NSA? Why does the Merkel government kowtow to Washington? The next question will be: "what do Washington's spies have on Merkel?" With the German government put on the spot by Washington's betrayal, news headlines are: "Germany Ready to Charge UK and US Intelligence Over Bugging Operations." Little wonder Washington and its media whores hate Edward Snowden. "A spokesman for the [German] Federal Prosecutor said the office was preparing to bring charges against" the UK and US intelligence services. In light of the Snowden affair, it will be wonderful if Germany issues arrest warrants and Washington and London refuse to extradite its NSA and UK spy operatives who have violated every law and every trust. The German Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenburger, demanded an "immediate explanation" why Washington was applying to Germany policies "reminiscent of the actions against enemies during the Cold War."

Washington Post, Snowden, in new statement, accuses Obama of using ‘old, bad tools of political aggression,’ Max Fisher, July 1, 2013. Edward Snowden, in his first public message since arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport eight days ago, has issued a statement accusing President Obama of deploying “the old, bad tools of political aggression” and “using citizenship as a weapon” in order to silence him. It describes the Obama administration as “afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.” The message also accuses Vice President  Biden of pressuring foreign leaders to deny his extradition requests.
Washington Post, Inner workings of a top-secret spy program, Barton Gellman and Todd Lindeman, June 29, 2013. The National Security Agency’s PRISM progam, which collects intelligence from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple and other tech giants, is “targeted” at foreigners. But it also collects the e-mail, voice, text and video chats of an unknown number of Americans — “inadvertently,” “incidentally” or deliberately if an American is conversing with a foreign target overseas. Here are new details on how the program works, from top-secret documents and interviews.

Washington Post, Inaccuracies about NSA efforts abound, Greg Miller, June 30, 2013. A remark by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., has perhaps drawn the most attention. Some senior U.S. officials have parsed, hedged and misstated facts about the classified programs. that have emerged from the exposure of hundreds of pages of previously classified NSA documents indicate that public assertions about these programs by senior U.S. officials have also often been misleading, erroneous or simply false.

FireDogLake, Retired General Cartwright as Alleged Stuxnet Leaker & Why Media Expressed Disbelief, Kevin Gosztola, June 30, 2013. Retired General James “Hoss” Cartwright had been described as “Obama’s favorite general.” He was a four-star Marine Corps general who served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He had apparently “impressed the White House with his intellect and expertise on the modern technology of national security, including on nuclear weapons, missile defense and cyberwarfare,” according to The New York Times. “Legal sources” leaked to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff details indicating that Cartwright was suspected of being involved in the leak of information on the Stuxnet worm to Times reporter David Sanger. After that news broke Thursday evening, there was disbelief that he would be the kind of person who would leak classified information that might damage national security. [Note: Stuxnet was the virus used by the US to attack an Iranian nuclear facility.] His lawyer, former White House counsel Gregory B. Craig, declaring, “General Cartwright is an American hero who served his country with distinction for four decades. Any suggestion that he could have betrayed the country he loves is preposterous.” This update prompted Burnett to declare, “This is just an incredible story when you think about it. The president going after so many for leaking and this time somebody who was so close to him. If this person did leak what he’s accused of leaking reportedly was actually something that helped the president.” It was almost as if Burnett was saying that leaks are okay if they help the president.

Der Spiegel, Attacks from America: NSA Spied on European Union Offices, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Fidelius Schmid and Holger Stark, June 29, 2013.America's NSA intelligence service allegedly targeted the European Union with its spying activities. According to Spiegel information, the US placed bugs in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated its computer network. Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington. New York Times, Taking Outsize Role in Syria, Qatar Funnels Arms to Rebels, Mark Mazzetti, C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, June 29, 2013. As an intermittent supply of arms to the Syrian opposition gathered momentum last year, the Obama administration repeatedly implored its Arab allies to keep one type of powerful weapon out of the rebels’ hands: heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles. The missiles, American officials warned, could one day be used by terrorist groups, some of them affiliated with Al Qaeda, to shoot down civilian aircraft.

Observer, Revealed: secret European deals to hand over private data to America, Jamie Dowden, June 29, 2013. Germany 'among countries offering intelligence' according to new claims by former US defense analyst. At least six European Union countries in addition to Britain have been colluding with the US over the mass harvesting of personal communications data, according to a former contractor to America's National Security Agency, who said the public should not be "kept in the dark." Wayne Madsen, a former US navy lieutenant who first worked for the NSA in 1985, names Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain and Italy as having secret deals with the US. Madsen, at left, said the countries had "formal second and third party status" under signal intelligence (sigint) agreements that compels them to hand over data, including mobile phone and internet information to the NSA if requested. Under international intelligence agreements, confirmed by declassified documents, nations are categorised by the US according to their trust level. The US is first party while the UK, Canada, Australia and  New Zealand enjoy second party relationships. Germany and France have third party relationships. In an interview published last night on the PrivacySurgeon.org blog, Madsen, who has been attacked for holding controversial views on espionage issues, said he had decided to speak out after becoming concerned about the "half story" told by EU politicians regarding the extent of the NSA's activities in Europe. He said that under the agreements, which were drawn up after the second world war, the "NSA gets the lion's share" of the sigint "take." In return, the third parties to the NSA agreements received "highly sanitised intelligence."

Editor's Note: The Observer pulled this front page story from its website June 30 pending what it's brief notice called further investigation. Sources indicated that the concern was that Madsen had reported on other controversial topics. The topics included alleged sex scandals by prominent political leaders in both parties in the United States and alleged foreign intelligence operations in the United States involving allies. Before becoming a reporter and blogger, Madsen as a Navy investigator probed, among other matters, both sexual scandal and, separatly, the Jonathan Pollard spy case and the impact of Pollard's disclosures on U.S. security.

WMR, Firing back, Wayne Madsen, July 1, 2013, First, after a very stormy weekend, this should be perfectly clear to those who would practice amateur psychiatry while, at the same time, purporting to be "journalists." I do not suffer fools easily. I'll start with the events that led up to The Observer of Britain and its sister paper The Guardian dropping the story on my not-so-new revelations concerning the National Security Agency's use of "Third Parties" like Germany and France, now up in arms about NSA-British GCHQ spying on their citizens, to conduct mass eavesdropping on satellite and undersea cable communications. The Observer, which ran a front page story in its Sunday June 30 edition featuring yours truly's picture on the front page, was responding to my interview with Simon Davies, the former director general of Privacy International and now the editor of The Privacy Surgeon.

OpEdNews, Greenwald: Every Phone Call is Recorded and Stored-- A Globalized System Designed to Destroy Privacy, includes video, Rob Kall, June 29, 2013. Glenn Greenwald, in a skyped in talk to the Socialism 2013 Conference, told the audience, for the first time, according to him, about his experience going through the process of encountering, interacting with Ed Snowden, at first anonymously, then seeing his first evidence that Snowden was the real deal. "It made me dizzy," he described. Greenwald, who has been a regular at the conference for several years, told the audience that a bombshell he would soon be releasing was that "NSA can redirect to its storage one billion cell phone calls every thing day. They are storing every call and have the capability to listen to them... It is a globalized system designed to destroy all privacy--- with no accountabliity and no safeguards." He described the debate about his journalism is " being led by TV actors who play the role of journalists on TV. " Glenn discussed how the US military's banning of access to the Guardian, the paper he publishes with, at all military bases, was better than receiving a Pulitzer or any other journalism award. He cited David Halberstam, saying, "David Halberstam viewed the measure of good journalism by how much you anger the people in power."   

Business Insider, The Original NSA Whistleblower Says The Government Is Lying About Not Collecting Your Data, Paul Szoldra, June 10, 2013. It's hard to fathom many of the shocking claims from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden of vast government surveillance — such as the notion that the agency constantly intercepts millions of phone calls and emails with the help of telecommunication companies. But when put into a broader context, with the inclusion of testimony from other leakers from the NSA, however, those claims sound much more believable. William Binney, a 32-year NSA veteran,  detailed a top-secret surveillance program called "Stellar Wind" in an Aug. 2012 video shot by Laura Poitras for The New York Times. "I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time," Binney said in the interview. In a new interview with Binney on Jun. 7, the former codebreaker —  one of the best in NSA history — directly disputes Intelligence chief James Clapper, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee the NSA does not collect any type of data on millions of Americans.  From Libertas Institute: "WB: They’re eating crow right now. Those are lies. Those are just outright lies. Obviously they are, with that court order. They’re scooping up the metadata of everything, and the PRISM program is a scoop up of actual content. Emails, video, photographs, all of that—that’s content. So they’re collecting all of it, and it’s a big vacuum. So you know, those are just outright lies."

Huffington Post, Glenn Greenwald: NSA Can Store A Billion Cell Phone Calls Every Day, Braden Goyette, June 29, 2013. Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald says he has another big scoop about the National Security Agency's surveillance practices up his sleeve. Speaking over Skype to the Socialism Conference in Chicago, Greenwald claimed that the NSA has the ability to store one billion phone calls each day. Greenwald's reporting earlier this month sparked the scandal over NSA surveillance practices that is currently plaguing the Obama administration. The stories were based on classified documents leaked to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and Greenwald indicated Friday night that he's sitting on several more -- one of which he decided to talk about even though his story on it hasn't been published yet.

Washington Post, Judges in secret court upset with their portrayal, Carol D. Leonnig, Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman, June 29, 2013. Members chafe at the suggestion they were collaborating with the executive branch in enabling surveillance. Editor's Note: The secret court's chief judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, right, is reported to be especially upset with news accounts portraying her and the rest of the court as being a rubber-stamp process that collaborates in secret with authorities to ensure that nearly every request for surveillance is granted without an adversial hearing or public decisions. She is a federal district judge based in Washington, DC appointed in 1997 by the Clinton administration.

Der Spiegel via Reuters and Huffington Post, NSA Bugged European Union Offices, Computer Networks: Report, Annika Breidthardt, June 29, 2013. The United States bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine on Saturday, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged U.S. spy programmes. Der Spiegel cited from a September 2010 "top secret" document of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) which it said fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had taken with him and which the weekly's journalists had seen in part. The document outlines how the NSA bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the United Nations, not only listening to conversations and phone calls but also gaining access to documents and emails. The document explicitly called the EU a "target."

FireDogLake, Retired General Cartwright as Alleged Stuxnet Leaker & Why Media Expressed Disbelief, Kevin Gosztola, June 30, 2013. Retired General James “Hoss” Cartwright had been described as “Obama’s favorite general.” He was a four-star Marine Corps general who served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He had apparently “impressed the White House with his intellect and expertise on the modern technology of national security, including on nuclear weapons, missile defense and cyberwarfare,” according to The New York Times. “Legal sources” leaked to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff details indicating that Cartwright was suspected of being involved in the leak of information on the Stuxnet worm to Times reporter David Sanger.

Strategic Culture Foundation, NSA is All about Preserving the Power of the Aristocracy in a Dystopian World, Wayne Madsen, June 28, 2013. The National Security Agency (NSA) has launched yet another high-powered charm offensive. The world’s largest communications and cyber-warfare intelligence agency insists that it unprecedented surveillance infrastructure exists merely to protect U.S. national security from terrorists and foreign intelligence agents. In fact, the NSA conducts massive political and economic intelligence gathering in order to preserve the vested interests of America’s aristocracy.

Lawfare, Senators’ Letter to DNI Clapper on NSA Surveillance, Wells Bennett, June 28, 2013. A group of twenty-six senators yesterday wrote to DNI James Clapper, and inquired about the executive branch’s application of the USA PATRIOT ACT—chiefly, it seems, the “business records” provision set forth in Section 215 of the statute. The missive concludes with a volley of questions.

Los Angeles Times, Ecuador quits U.S. trade deal to avoid 'blackmail' over Snowden, Chris Kraul and Pablo Jaramillo Viteri, June 27, 2013. Ecuador announced it was withdrawing from a 2-decade-old trade pact with the United States, saying the agreement left the South American nation vulnerable to “blackmail” as U.S. officials seek the return of fugitive Edward Snowden. The trade agreement was already at risk of not being renewed by the U.S. Congress before Ecuador began weighing whether to grant asylum to Snowden, the former contract worker for the National Security Agency who recently revealed extensive U.S. tracking of telephone communications and then fled from Hawaii to Hong Kong. Snowden, 30, is now believed to be holed up at the transit section of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport while seeking a route to Ecuador or somewhere else that might grant him shelter.  Ecuadorean Communications Secretary Fernando Alvarado said the decision to forgo the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act agreement was “irreversible” and was made to avoid Ecuador being vulnerable to pressure from the U.S. over Snowden. “Ecuador renounces in a unilateral and irrevocable way these trade preferences,” Alvarado said, adding that in turn it was offering the U.S. a subsidy of $23 million -- the amount he said Ecuadorean traders benefited from the deal -- in human rights training.

CNN, Report expresses concerns over CIA, NYPD ties, Ed Payne, CNN, June 27, 2013. New York's Police Department (NYPD) worked with CIA officers in the decade after the September 11, 2001, attacks. In the decade following the September 11, 2001, attacks, four CIA officers directly collaborated with the New York Police Department to expand NYPD's counterterrorism capabilities, according to a newly disclosed report. The CIA inspector general's report -- completed in late 2011, but just declassified in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times -- raises concerns about the relationship between the organizations. CIA agents are prohibited from taking part in domestic spying and the report's release comes in the immediate aftermath of leaks by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. 

Associated Press via Huffington Post, Edward Snowden Asylum Decision Could Take Months: Ecuador, June 26, 2013. Ecuador's foreign minister said Wednesday his government could take months to decide whether to grant asylum to fugitive U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino compared Snowden's case to that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been given asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. "It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time," Patino told a news conference during a visit to Malaysia's main city, Kuala Lumpur. Asked if Ecuador would provide protection to Snowden while considering his request for asylum, Patino said through a translator that if Snowden "goes to the embassy, then we will make a decision." Patino refused to say what criteria Ecuador would use to decide, but added that his government would "consider all these risks," including concerns that it would hurt trade with the U.S. and his country's economy.

FireDogLake, Propaganda & Yellow Journalism Undermines Snowden’s Whistleblowing, Kevin Gosztola, June 27, 2013. When National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden provided his first set of documents to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald a note accompanied the set and read, “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions.” United States government officials and those in the US media—in some instances in harmony with one another—have done exactly what Snowden predicted. They have engaged in a process of caricaturization and delegitimization that all whistleblowers experience.

FireDogLake, Snowden’s Asylum Request: ‘Unlikely I Would Receive Fair Trial or Proper Treatment Prior to Trial,’ Kevin Gosztola, June 24, 2013. The foreign minister of Ecuador, Ricardo Patino, held a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he made some remarks about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s request for asylum and read an excerpt from the application.

Washington Post, Snowden voiced contempt for leakers in newly disclosed chat logs from 2009, Peter Finn and Julie Tate, June 26, 2013. Those who reveal such information “should be shot,” he said, according to newly disclosed chat logs.

Associated Press, Russia rejects US demand for Snowden's extradition, Vladdimir Isachenkov, June 25, 2013. Russia's foreign minister bluntly rejected U.S. demands to extradite National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, saying Tuesday that Snowden hasn't crossed the Russian border. Sergey Lavrov insisted that Russia has nothing to do with Snowden or his travel plans. Lavrov wouldn't say where Snowden is, but he lashed out angrily at Washington for demanding his extradition and warning of negative consequences if Moscow fails to comply. The defiant tone underlined the Kremlin's readiness to challenge Washington at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are strained over Syria and a Russian ban on adoptions by Americans.

Washington Post, After Snowden leak, critics of U.S. spy a chance to return rhetorical fire, Colum Lynch, June 25, 2013. As Edward Snowden continues his extraordinary flight from U.S. authorities, hopscotching the globe with the acquiescence of other governments, Washington’s critics have savored the irony of the world’s human rights champion being tripped up by revelations about its monitoring of phone and Internet communications.

OpEdNews, A New Beginning Without Washington's Sanctimonious Mask, Paul Craig Roberts, left, June 25, 2013.Let's quit calling the NSA the National Security Agency. You can take for granted that every media prostitute, every government prostitute, every ignorant flag-waver who declares Edward Snowden to be a traitor is either brainwashed or blackmailed. They are the protectors of NSA tyranny. They are our enemies. Following Snowden's revelations, Germany's most important magazine, Der Spiegal, had the headline: "Obama's Soft Totalitarianism: Europe Must Protect Itself From America." The first sentence of the article asks: "Is Barack Obama a friend? Revelations about his government's vast spying program call that into doubt. The European Union must protect the Continent from America's reach for omnipotence." Der Spiegal continues: "We are being watched. All the time and everywhere. And it is the Americans who are doing the watching." It is extraordinary that the most important publication in Germany has acknowledged that the German government is Washington's puppet state. For those moronic amerikans who say, "I'm not doing anything wrong, I don't care if they spy," Der Spiegel writes that a "monitored human being is not a free one." We have reached the point where we "free americans" have to learn from our German puppets that we are not free.

FireDogLake, China and Russia Basically Tell Obama to Screw Off, Jon Walker, June 25, 2013. The Obama administration really wants to catch Edward Snowden but the two countries that could make that happen, Russia and China, have zero desire to help. Jay Carney not only called the Chinese government liars at yesterday’s press briefing but said this would hurt future relations. Not only are we spending tens of billions of dollars on NSA programs that are supposedly helping to chase only a handful of possible domestic terrorists, but the existence of these programs can cause serious damage to our international standing and economy.

Salon, 10 Questions for NBC Host Who Shamelessly Suggested Greenwald Be Arrested for NSA Leaks, David Sirota, June 24, 2013. NSA leaks did not just reveal government spying, but also the mainstream media's refusal to question or challenge authority. Two weeks into the hullaballoo surrounding whistleblower Edward Snowden and Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, one thing is clear: they did not just reveal potentially serious crimes perpetrated by the government — including possible perjury,unlawful spying and unconstitutional surveillance. They also laid bare in historic fashion the powerful double standards that now define most U.S. media coverage of the American government — the kind that portray those who challenge power as criminals, and those who worship it as heroes deserving legal immunity. Indeed, after “Meet the Press” host David Gregory’s instantly notorious performance yesterday, it is clear Snowden’s revelations so brazenly exposed these double standards that it will be difficult for the Washington press corps to ever successfully hide them again.
The best way to see these double standards is to ponder 10 simple questions.

Washington Post, Snowden flees Hong Kong for Moscow, Kathy Lally, Jia Lynn Yang and Anthony Faiola, June 23, 2013.   Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs, fled Hong Kong for Moscow on Sunday with the assistance of the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, landing at Sheremetyevo International Airport aboard an Aeroflot flight, according to Russian media reports and a WikiLeaks spokesman.

Guardian, The NSA's metastasised intelligence-industrial complex is ripe for abuse, Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson (at right on the cover of his 2005 memoir), June 23, 2013. Where oversight and accountability have failed, Snowden's leaks have opened up a vital public debate on our rights and privacy. Let's be absolutely clear about the news that the NSA collects massive amounts of information on US citizens – from emails, to telephone calls, to videos, under the Prism program and other Fisa court orders: this story has nothing to do with Edward Snowden. As interesting as his flight to Hong Kong might be, the pole-dancing girlfriend, and interviews from undisclosed locations, his fate is just a sideshow to the essential issues of national security versus constitutional guarantees of privacy, which his disclosures have surfac


,' June 23, 2013. Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald took Meet The Press host David Gregory head on in an interview Sunday morning after Gregory asked if Greenwald would be criminally culpable for "aiding and abetting" NSA leaker Edward Snowden. "I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies," Greenwald said. "The assumptions in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea I've aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the e-mails and records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory you just embraced, being co-conspirator in felonies for working with sources." "If you want to embrace that theory," Greenwald continued, "it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information, is a criminal. It's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why the New Yorker's Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a standstill, as a result of the questions you just mentioned." Gregory was very unhappy at being personally implicated in Greenwald's answer. "The question of who's a journalist may be up for debate, in regards to what you're doing" Gregory said. "Anybody who's watching this understands that I was asking a question. That question has been raised by lawmakers, as well. I'm not embracing anything. But obviously I take your point."

FireDogLake, WikiLeaks Helps Snowden Leave Hong Kong, Kevin Gosztola, June 23, 2013. The whistleblower who revealed details on NSA surveillance and hacking, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, left Hong Kong with the help of WikiLeaks. A statement put out indicates he “left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.” It also shows that Snowden “requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed.” Snowden was able to leave Hong Kong because, according to a press release by the Hong Kong government, “The documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.” The Hong Kong government requested the US government “provide additional information” so Hong Kong’s Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request” could “meet the relevant legal conditions,” but they were not confident that they had been given “sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant” to arrest him. It is believed that Snowden, who has been charged by the US Justice Department with two violations of the Espionage Act and one count of theft of government property, will be going onward to Havana, Cuba, and then to Caracas, Venezuela. Additionally, Sarah Harrison, a United Kingdom citizen, journalist and legal researcher, who WikiLeaks reports has been working with the WikiLeaks Legal Defense team, helped Snowden depart from Hong Kong. She is “accompanying” Snowden” in his passage to safety.”

FireDogLake, As Edward Snowden Wings to Moscow (and Beyond?) American Hubris, Criminality and Arrogance Are Challenged on Several Fronts, Edward Teller, June 23, 2013. On Saturday, an arrogant White House, perturbed that Hong Kong seemed to be taking its time in responding to an extradition request for Edward Snowden, was quoted by CBS News: "If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law." Before the government of Hong Kong had time to reply in writing to the American extradition request, the statement, believed to have been made by White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, was the butt of several tweets by national security writer and blogger, Marcy Wheeler:

The Administration that won’t prosecute James Clapper for lying to Congress is lecturing Hong Kong about the rule of law....The Admin that has not prosecuted a single major bankster is lecturing Hong Kong about the rule of law....The Admin that didn’t prosecute any torturers is lecturing Hong Kong about rule of law....The Admin that did not prosecute anyone for illegally wiretapping Americans is lecturing Hong Kong about rule of law.

Hong Kong's government (HKSAR)) issued the following statement June 23 on Snowden:

Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel. The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong. The HKSAR Government has already informed the US Government of Mr Snowden’s departure. Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.

FireDogLake, Snowden Becomes Eighth Person to Be Charged with Violating the Espionage Act Under Obama, Kevin Gosztola, June 22, 2013. A criminal complaint indicates former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has been charged with three felonies. Two of the felonies are charges under the Espionage Act. The complaint, filed on June 14, shows he was charged with “unauthorized communication of national defense information”—an Espionage Act violation—and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” a violation of United States Code 798 prohibiting the disclosure of classified information and an offense under the Espionage Act.

Washington Post, Snowden flees Hong Kong for Moscow, Kathy Lally, Jia Lynn Yang and Anthony Faiola, June 23, 2013. Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs, fled Hong Kong for Moscow on Sunday with the assistance of the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, landing at Sheremetyevo International Airport aboard an Aeroflot flight, according to Russian media reports and a WikiLeaks spokesman.

Justice Integrity Project, Hong Kong, Snowden Snub U.S. Demand for 'Rule of Law' As U.S. Ramps Up War In Syria, Andrew Kreig, June 23, 2013. Hong Kong snubbed the United States June 23 by refusing to extradite former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to face the spy charges that had been announced Friday. Hong Kong permitted Snowden to fly to Russia to find sanctuary in another country. It was unconfirmed, but reputed to be Ecuador in Latin America. Meanwhile, the Afghanistan-rooted Taliban lashed out against the United States on two fronts after Secretary of State John Kerry, right, sought negotiations. Separately, Kerry committed the United States to join 10 other nations in a "Group of 11" to topple Syria's government by a major escalation into Syria's civil war by the West and the Gulf monarchies.  United States officials expressed outrage at Snowden and called him a "traitor." The other developments were widely condemned also by American public officials from across the political spectrum. Nonetheless, the events underscore huge challenges for the United States in trying to control world events by rhetoric advocating freedom, peace, transparency, democracy, and civil rights -- while also pursuing war-making unauthorized by international bodies or congressional votes. More than a decade of Mideast wars involving the United States and its allies have coincided with United States covert paramilitary actions worldwide, warrantless surveillance over Americans, and crackdowns on American leakers, reporters, and dissidents.

Zero Hedge, NSA Whistleblower: NSA Illegally Spied On Top Generals, All Supreme Court Justices, White House Spokesman, George Washington (pen name), June 21, 2013. As we reported yesterday, NSA whistleblower Russell Tice – a key source in the 2005 New York Times report that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretapping – told Peter B. Collins on Boiling Frogs Post (the website of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds) that the NSA spied on and targeted for blackmail:

  •    "Members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the – and judicial"    
  •     "One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court"
  •     "Two ... former FISA court judges"
  •     "State Department officials"
  •     "People in the executive service that were part of the White House – their own people"
  •     "Antiwar groups"
  •     "U.S. companies that that do international business"
  •     "U.S. banking firms and financial firms that do international business"
  •     "NGOs that–like the Red Cross, people like that that go overseas and do humanitarian work"
  •     "The president of the United States now [i.e. Barack Obama, when he was running for Senate]"

Washington Post, Five myths about the National Security Agency, James Bamford, June 21, 2013. James Bamford, left, is the author of three books on the NSA, including “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.” When the National Security Agency was created through a top-secret memorandum signed by President Harry Truman in 1952, the agency was so secret that only a few members of Congress knew about it. While the NSA gradually became known over the decades, its inner workings remain extremely hidden, even with the recent leaks about its gathering of Americans’ phone records and tapping into data from the nine largest Internet companies. Let’s pull back the shroud a bit to demystify this agency. 1. The NSA is allowed to spy on everyone, everywhere. After his release of documents to the Guardian and The Washington Post, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said, “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal e-mail.” But Snowden probably couldn’t eavesdrop on just about anyone, including the president, without breaking the law.

Washington Post, U.S. increases pressure on Hong Kong to arrest Snowden, Sari Horwitz and Jia Lynn Yang, June 22, 2013. U.S. officials are also seeking to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on criminal charges in the NSA leak case. Obama administration officials Saturday publicly increased pressure on Hong Kong to move quickly to arrest Edward Snowden, a week after U.S. officials asked its government to detain the admitted leaker of documents about top-secret surveillance programs. White House national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon said U.S. officials “are in conversation” with Hong Kong authorities and have asked the special administrative region of China not only to arrest the former National Security Agency contractor but also to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on criminal charges. “If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law,” said another senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation. The U.S. government, which has made the Snowden case a top priority and has devoted significant resources to prosecuting him, asked Hong Kong on June 14 to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant. That same day, federal prosecutors filed sealed criminal charges against him, including theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.”  The fact that the U.S. government asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden emerged Friday when The Washington Post disclosed the contents of the sealed criminal complaint.

Anti-Empire Report, Edward Snowden, William Blum, June 26, 2013. In the course of his professional life in the world of national security Edward Snowden must have gone through numerous probing interviews, lie detector examinations, and exceedingly detailed background checks, as well as filling out endless forms carefully designed to catch any kind of falsehood or inconsistency. Yes, there was a sign they missed – Edward Snowden had something inside him shaped like a conscience, just waiting for a cause. It was the same with me. I went to work at the State Department, planning to become a Foreign Service Officer, with the best – the most patriotic – of intentions, going to do my best to slay the beast of the International Communist Conspiracy. But then the horror, on a daily basis, of what the United States was doing to the people of Vietnam was brought home to me in every form of media; it was making me sick at heart. So what is a poor National Security State to do? Well, they might consider behaving themselves.

Washington Post, After NSA leaks, secretive court gets rare scrutiny, Peter Wallsten, Carol D. Leonnig and Alice Crites, June 22, 2013. Recently, lawmakers have begun to ask who the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s judges are, why they have almost never declined a surveillance request, and why their work is so secretive. Wedged into a secure, windowless basement room deep below the Capitol Visitors Center, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates appeared before dozens of senators two weeks ago for a highly unusual, top-secret briefing. The lawmakers pressed Bates, according to people familiar with the session, to discuss the inner workings of the United States’ clandestine terrorism surveillance tribunal, which Bates oversaw from 2006 until earlier this year. Bates, shown at right, had rarely spoken of his sensitive work. He reluctantly agreed to appear at the behest of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who arranged the session after new disclosures that the court had granted the government broad access to millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet communications. The public is getting a peek into the little-known workings of a powerful and mostly invisible government entity. And it is seeing a court whose secret rulings have in effect created a body of law separate from the one on the books — one that gives U.S. spy agencies the authority to collect bulk information about Americans’ medical care, firearms purchases, credit card usage and other interactions with business and commerce, according to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Supreme Court Chief John Roberts, left, a Republican named by President George W. Bush, appoints all the judges. Ten of 11 current members are Republicans, as is Bates. Six also are former prosecutors.

Washington Post, U.S. increases pressure on Hong Kong to arrest Snowden, Sari Horwitz and Jia Lynn Yang, June 22, 2013. U.S. officials are also seeking to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on criminal charges in the NSA leak case. Obama administration officials Saturday publicly increased pressure on Hong Kong to move quickly to arrest Edward Snowden, a week after U.S. officials asked its government to detain the admitted leaker of documents about top-secret surveillance programs. White House national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon said U.S. officials “are in conversation” with Hong Kong authorities and have asked the special administrative region of China not only to arrest the former National Security Agency contractor but also to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on criminal charges. “If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law,” said another senior administration official.

Occidental Observer, Israel and the NSA Scandal, Kevin MacDonald, June 22, 2013. It’s always seemed very suspicious that Amdocs, an Israeli firm, was responsible for billing for US phone companies, and that two Israeli firms, Narus and Verint, are involved in wiretapping AT&T and Verizon for the NSA. It’s also not surprising that, as noted by James Bamford in his April 2012 article for Wired, someone with close connections to Israel secretly gave software designed by NSA to Israel. See also, Taki's Magazine, Does Israel Have a Backdoor to US Intelligence? Steve Sailer, June 12, 2013. Informed observers have assumed for most of this century that American telephone metadata may well already be available to a foreign military-intelligence complex via hypothesized “backdoors” coded into complex commercial software. In December 2001, Fox News’ chief political correspondent Carl Cameron delivered a four-part series on Israel’s surveillance of American targets. For unexplained reasons, Fox disappeared Cameron’s series down the memory hole later that month, although copies of the episodes survive on the Internet. “It apparently hasn’t hurt Israel that so many Washington and Wall Street insiders assume that Israel knows their secrets.” Cameron drew attention to Israel’s strategic initiative to dominate communications software.

Los Angeles Times, Snowden an eccentric, but hardly stood out at NSA, Shashank Bengali, June 21, 2013. The ex-contractor who exposed NSA surveillance programs was a self-taught tech whiz who mysteriously ascended to a coveted job with the agency. But his background check found no red flags. The National Security Agency is the size of a small town, with more than 30,000 employees and as much variety. There are blue-haired iconoclasts who work in their socks, buttoned-down military types and pale-faced introverts who avoid eye contact in the hallways. On the surface, at least, Edward Snowden was hardly unusual at America's largest and most powerful intelligence agency. A self-taught computer whiz who wanted to travel the world, Snowden seemed a perfect fit for a secretive organization that spies on communications from foreign terrorism suspects.

Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com, Snowden's secret resolves Catch-22, Editorial board, June 12, 2013. Fans of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 can't help but hear an echo of the novel's plot in the real-life drama playing out over the leak of information about massive U.S. government spying programs. The admitted whistle-blower, former National Security Agency contract worker Edward Snowden, apparently exposed the NSA's telephone and Internet data-gathering in an attempt to trigger a public debate about the extent to which our privacy has been compromised in the name of national security. Before Snowden's revelations, civil libertarians had been turned away because they couldn't prove to the courts' satisfaction that anyone's communications had been targeted illegally. Why? Because the government won't say whose phone or e-mail messages have been tapped. The legal impossibility of a challenge to NSA snooping was a classic "Catch-22," the term Heller coined to describe a problem whose very nature precludes a solution. But with Snowden's disclosures of specific phone carriers who were ensnared in the NSA's net, the American Civil Liberties Union and its allies -- now suing again -- are in a better position to make their case. Back to novel: One of Heller's central characters was Snowden, an airman who was mortally wounded by flak on a bombing run, and who was tended to by the novel's protagonist, Capt. John Yossarian. The encounter radically alters Yossarian's outlook on the war and life. And the parallels with the NSA leaker go beyond the name. Indeed, Edward Snowden's figuratively spilling his guts on domestic spying in the United States could fundamentally alter the wholesale surveillance born of the war on terrorism.

U.S. Expands Role in Syrian Civil War

Update: New York Times, As Foreign Fighters Flood Syria, Fears of a New Extremist Haven, Anne Barnard and Eric Schmitt, Aug. 8, 2013. As foreign fighters pour into Syria at an increasing clip, extremist groups are carving out pockets of territory that are becoming havens for Islamist militants, posing what United States and Western intelligence officials say may be developing into one of the biggest terrorist threats in the world today. Known as fierce fighters willing to employ suicide car bombs, the jihadist groups now include more than 6,000 foreigners, counterterrorism officials say, adding that such fighters are streaming into Syria  greater numbers than went into Iraq at the height of the insurgency there against the American occupation. Many of the militants are part of the Nusra Front, an extremist group whose fighters have gained a reputation over the past several months as some of the most effective in the opposition. 

New York Times, Pentagon Lays Out Options for U.S. Military Effort in Syria, Mark  Landler and Thom Shanker, July 22, 2013. The Pentagon has provided Congress with its first detailed list of military options to stem the bloody civil war in Syria, suggesting that a campaign to tilt the balance from President Bashar al-Assad to the opposition would be a vast undertaking, costing billions of dollars, and could backfire on the United States. The list of options — laid out in a letter from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan — was the first time the military has explicitly described what it sees as the formidable challenge of intervening in the war. It came as the White House, which has limited its military involvement to supplying the rebels with small arms and other weaponry, has begun implicitly acknowledging that Mr. Assad may not be forced out of power anytime soon.

Guardian, Syrian Sunnis fear Assad regime wants to 'ethnically cleanse' Alawite heartland, Martin Chulov and Mona Mahmood, July 22, 2013. Homs land registry fire and handing out of arms to villagers fuel concerns that an Alawite-Shia enclave is being formed in Syria. Sunni residents in the heartland of Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect say they are being repeatedly threatened and forced to flee their homes, amid fears that the likely fall of the nearby city of Homs will lead to widespread sectarian cleansing in parts of Syria. Communities of Sunnis that live in the country's coastal stretch and along the so-called Alawite spine that runs south-east towards Damascus claim evidence has emerged of attempts by the Assad regime to reshape the area's fragile ethnic mix – moves that go far beyond consolidating security in loyalist areas.

Reuters, Syria's Assad may cling on, Britain will not arm rebels: sources, Andrew Osborn, Paul Taylor and Guy Faulconbridge, July 18,  2013. Britain has abandoned plans to arm Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and believes he might survive in office for years, sources familiar with government thinking say. The sources also told Reuters that a peace conference to try to end the conflict - now in its third year - might not happen until next year if at all.  "Britain is clearly not going to arm the rebels in any way, shape or form," said one source, pointing to a parliamentary motion passed last week urging prior consultation of lawmakers. The reasons for the shift were that British public opinion was largely opposed, and there were fears that any weapons Britain supplied could fall into the hands of Islamist militants.

Time, Australians Are Joining Syria’s Rebels in Surprising Numbers, Ian Lloyd Neubauer, July 16, 2013. As many as 6,000 foreign fighters from nearly 50 nations have now joined the brutal 2½-year civil war to unseat President Bashar Assad of Syria. The vast majority are veterans from the the Arab Springs of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Islamist volunteers from Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and a few former Soviet republics bolster their ranks. And then there are the Aussies. Surprising estimates suggest that Australians now make up the largest contingent from any developed nation in the Syrian rebel forces. There are around 120 French fighters in Syria, about 100 Britons and a handful of Americans — but there are at least 200 Australians, according to a public statement made by David Irvine, director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The total may appear small, but it is growing rapidly, having doubled since the end of last year — and when looked at as a proportion of the Muslim population of Australia, the figure is startling. The Australian contingent is drawn from a Muslim population of just 500,000, and is causing concern to a government that fears the homecoming of a battle-hardened group of radicalized Islamists when the conflict ends. Part of the explanation for the Australian presence in Syria, some believe, is sheer opportunism. Nick Kaldas, an Egyptian-born counterterrorism expert who now serves as the NSW deputy police commissioner agrees that there are “people involved in crime who are using the conflict in Syria as an excuse or pretext to carry out more criminal acts.”

New York Times, Israel Airstrike Targeted Advanced Missiles That Russia Sold to Syria, U.S. Says, Michael R. Gordon, July 13, 2013. Israel carried out an air attack in Syria this month that targeted advanced antiship cruise missiles sold to the Syria government by Russia, American officials said Saturday. The officials, who declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports, said the attack occurred July 5 near Latakia, Syria’s principal port city. The target was a type of missile called the Yakhont, they said.

Daily Star (Lebanon), Pakistan Taliban set up camps in Syria, join anti-Assad war, Maria Golovnina, Jibran Ahmad, July 14, 2013. The Pakistani Taliban have set up camps and sent hundreds of men to Syria to fight alongside rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, militants said on Sunday, in a strategy aimed at cementing ties with Al-Qaeda's central leadership. More than two years since the start of the anti-Assad rebellion, Syria has become a magnet for foreign Sunni fighters who have flocked to the Middle Eastern nation to join what they see as a holy war against Shiite oppressors.

The Times of London, Syrian rebels prepare to abandon Homs, Nicholas Blanford, July 12, 2013. The last opposition-held areas of Homs are set to fall within days to the Syrian army after rebel forces decided to “sacrifice” the country’s third-largest city to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and opposition sources. The fall of Homs will represent a strategic and propaganda victory for the Assad regime, strengthening its grip on the route linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.

Reuters, New front opens in Syria as rebels say al Qaeda attack means war, Mariam Karouny and Oliver Holmes, July 12, 2013. Syrian rebels said on Friday the assassination of one of their top commanders by al Qaeda-linked militants was tantamount to a declaration of war, opening a new front for the Western-backed fighters struggling against President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Rivalries have been growing between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamists, whose smaller but more effective forces control most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria more than two years after pro-democracy protests became an uprising. The anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said the FSA and the Islamic State have had violent exchanges in several areas of Syria over the past few weeks, showing growing antagonism between Assad's foes. "Last Friday, the Islamic State killed an FSA rebel in Idlib province and cut his head off. There have been attacks in many provinces," the Observatory's leader Rami Abdelrahman said. Syria's conflict turned violent in the face of a crackdown on protests. Civil war ensued with disparate rebel groups taking up arms and the Observatory says more than 100,000 people have been killed. U.S. congressional committees are holding up plans to arm the rebels because of fears that such deliveries will not be decisive and the arms might end up in the hands of Islamist militants.

Washington Post, U.S. plan to arm Syrian rebels stalls amid congressional disagreements, Karen DeYoung, July 10, 2013. The Obama administration’s month-old plan to arm opposition fighters in Syria has stalled as a result of congressional disagreements over whether and how to aid the rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

New York Times, Morsi’s Fall in Egypt Lauded by Syria’s Assad, Anne Barnard, July 4, 2013. The jubilation among opponents of Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood president in Cairo was matched on Thursday in the halls of power in the Syrian capital, Damascus, where President Bashar al-Assad declared that the Egyptian events signified the fall of “political Islam” and a vindication of his government’s fight against the two-year Syrian uprising. Even as the Egyptian Army was busy rounding up the Brotherhood’s entire leadership, Syrian state media were quick to seize on an inescapable fact: that the most prominent of the leaders brought to power by a series of Arab popular revolts that inspired the Syrian uprising had met an ignominious downfall, yet Mr. Assad, after becoming practiced at wielding uncompromising force against his opponents, was still standing.  Mr. Assad, in an interview with the pro-government Al Thawra newspaper, said the fall of Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, proved that Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood were unfit to rule, and drew pointed comparisons to the movement against him in Syria, in which Islamists play a prominent role. “Whoever brings religion to use for political or factional interests will fall anywhere in the world,” Mr. Assad said, adding that he was confident that nothing short of foreign military intervention would bring him down.

New York Times, Taking Outsize Role in Syria, Qatar Funnels Arms to Rebels, Mark Mazzetti, C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, June 29, 2013. As an intermittent supply of arms to the Syrian opposition gathered momentum last year, the Obama administration repeatedly implored its Arab allies to keep one type of powerful weapon out of the rebels’ hands: heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles. The missiles, American officials warned, could one day be used by terrorist groups, some of them affiliated with Al Qaeda, to shoot down civilian aircraft.

Wall Street Journal, U.S. Begins Shipping Arms for Syrian Rebels, Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Siobhan Gorman, June 27, 2013. CIA Aims to Vet and Train Fighters With New Weapons for Deployment by August; Saudi Antiaircraft Missiles Expected. The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans.

WorldTribune.com, Obama’s risky move in Jordan could open second front in Syrian war, Brian M Downing, June 28, 2013. The Obama administration is reluctantly upping its involvement in the Syrian civil war. Though the White House offers few details, reports indicate that American personnel will arm and train teams of rebel fighters on Jordanian territory, then send them across the border to fight the Assad government.  This is unlikely to bring a rapid turn of events in the war. The Syrian Army is on the move and rebel forces are in disarray. The new U.S. directives will nonetheless present problems for Assad, though they may also pose problems for the U.S. – eminently foreseeable ones.

National Interest, Brzezinski on the Syria Crisis, Zbigniew Brzezinski, June 24, 2013. Editor’s Note: Following is an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, right, former White House national-security adviser under Jimmy Carter and now a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a senior research professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. The interview was by Jacob Heilbrun:

Heilbrun: What happened to President Obama that brought us here?
Brzezinski: There is a mysterious aspect to all of this. Just consider the timing. In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He all of a sudden announces that Assad has to go—without, apparently, any real preparation for making that happen. Then in the spring of 2012, the election year here, the CIA under General Petraeus, according to The New York Times of March 24th of this year, a very revealing article, mounts a large-scale effort to assist the Qataris and the Saudis and link them somehow with the Turks in that effort. Was this a strategic position? Why did we all of a sudden decide that Syria had to be destabilized and its government overthrown? Had it ever been explained to the American people?....I’m afraid that we’re headed toward an ineffective American intervention, which is even worse. There are circumstances in which intervention is not the best but also not the worst of all outcomes. But what you are talking about means increasing our aid to the "least" effective of the forces opposing Assad. So at best, it’s simply damaging to our credibility. At worst, it hastens the victory of groups that are much more hostile to us than Assad ever was. I still do not understand why—and that refers to my first answer—why we concluded somewhere back in 2011 or 2012—an election year, incidentally—that Assad should go.

Reuters via Irish Times, Morsi role at Syria rally seen as tipping point for Egypt army, Staff report, July 2, 2013. Head of state had attended rally with hardline Islamists calling for holy war in war-torn neighbor. Army concern about the way President Mohamed Morsi was governing Egypt reached tipping point when the head of state attended a rally packed with hardline fellow Islamists calling for holy war in Syria, military sources have said. At the June 15 rally, Sunni Muslim clerics used the word “infidels” to denounce both the Shias fighting to protect Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the non-Islamists that oppose Mr Morsi at home. Mr Morsi himself called for foreign intervention in Syria against Mr Assad, leading to a veiled rebuke from the army. “The armed forces were very alarmed by the Syrian conference at a time the state was going through a major political crisis,” said one officer, whose comments reflected remarks made privately by other army staff. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk to the media. The army’s dramatic ultimatum demanding Mr Morsi and other politicians settle their differences by tomorrow afternoon caught the presidency completely off guard. Triggered by mass protests against Mr Morsi’s rule, it amounted to a soft coup by a military that has been a major recipient of US aid since the 1970s.

Washington Post, Syrian rebels say they need U.S. weapons now, Taylor Luck and William Booth, June 26, 2013. Syrian rebels say they fear that weapons pledged recently by the United States and other international backers will not come in time for them to make gains against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Commanders of rebel units operating in southern Syria said that if the promised arms do not begin flowing in the next few weeks, their fighters are in danger of being routed by forces loyal to Assad, who are being assisted by the Shiite Lebanese militia Hezbollah and an unknown number of Iranian fighters.

Washington Post, Russia reports pullout from small base in Syria, Will Englund, June 26, 2013. Russia has evacuated all military personnel from its small naval base in Syria, Russian news organizations reported Wednesday.
The base, at Tartus on the Mediterranean, has been Russia’s only foothold in the Middle East. Although it is a minor facility, its importance has grown as Russia continues to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in its war against rebel forces.

Washington Post, Syrian rebels’ backers, meeting in Qatar, agree to send weapons, Karen J. DeYoung, June 22, 2013. The Syrian opposition’s major international backers agreed here Saturday to provide “urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment” to rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The agreement did not specify what kind of weapons would be sent or which supporters would provide what. But officials attending the Doha conference said that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are prepared to quickly supply shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles and armor-piercing shells to be used against Assad’s air force and tanks.

Washington Spectator, Obama's Old-Fashioned Imperialism, M.J. Rosenberg, June 19, 2013. President Barack Obama’s decision to provide military aid to the Syrian opposition is incredible. The U.S. is barely out of Iraq. It’s still bogged down in Afghanistan. Obama insists on keeping the Iran war option “on the table.” Yet suddenly we are taking sides in a civil war in Syria. The most amazing thing is that the president has the audacity to even propose involvement in Syria to the American people. (Not that he is asking, just telling. If he asked, he’d know that 70 percent of Americans oppose aiding the rebels). Since 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson came up with a phony pretext to gain passage of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing the Vietnam war, it has been one presidentially-initiated intervention after another: Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. This list does not even include the delivery of arms to the mujahideen in Afghanistan which brought us the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, 9/11 and the endless War on Terror. President Obama is shown at right in a White House photo by Peter Souza talking to Israel's prime minister in January.

Sky News, Syria: Rebel Leader Warns Of Weapons Delays, Sam Kiley, June 24, 2013.The chairman of the Supreme Military Council says the failure of countries to deliver promised arms is undermining their cause. The leader of Syria's biggest rebel alliance has told Sky News that delays in promised weapons deliveries from abroad is causing dissent and resentment in his ranks that will drive fighters into the ranks of al Qaeda. General Salim Idris, the chairman of the Supreme Military Council, said that reports that he had received lethal aid from the US but was not delivering it to the front line were "very difficult for me." He is the channel through whom all lethal aid from the US is supposed to be delivered to the rebels following Washington's decision to send weapons to support the rebellion against Syrian president Bashar al Assad. "I have not received a single thing." The rebel chief who was visibly angered by a meeting with top commanders from across Syria. They had converged on his headquarters in the border town of Baba al Hawa, which nestles relatively safely under the anti-aircraft umbrella of neighbouring Turkey.

Washington Post, In Qatar, U.S.-Taliban talks remain on the line, Karen J. DeYoung, June 22, 2013. U.S.-Taliban peace talks could start in this Persian Gulf city as early as Sunday. Or the political office that the Taliban opened here last week for that purpose, more than a year and a half after it was first proposed, could be shuttered before negotiations even begin. “We need to see if we can get back on track,” visiting Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Saturday. “I don’t know if that’s possible or not. If there is not a decision to move forward by the Taliban in short order, then we may have to consider whether or not the office has to be closed.”

Reuters, Western, Arab states to step up Syrian rebel support, Yara Bayoumy and Amena Bakr, June 22, 2013. International opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed on Saturday to give urgent military support to Western-backed rebels, aiming to stem a counter-offensive by Assad's forces and offset the growing power of jihadist fighters.

Los Angeles Times, U.S. has secretly provided weapons training to Syria rebels, David S. Cloud and Raja Abdulrahim, June 21, 2013. CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders. The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey, along with Obama's decision this month to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels, has raised hope among the beleaguered Syrian opposition that Washington ultimately will provide heavier weapons as well. So far, the rebels say they lack the weapons they need to regain the offensive in the country's bitter civil war.

Washington Post, New wave of foreigners in Syrian fight, Griff Witte, June 21, 2013. Bilal Farag chose a path, friends say, that led him to die on a distant Syrian battlefield while fighting Shiite Muslims he regarded as infidels. Waves of Egyptians are now preparing to follow, fired by the virulently sectarian rhetoric of Sunni preachers and encouraged by the newly permissive policies of Egypt’s Islamist government. In recent days, this city’s ancient mosques have crackled with calls for jihad, as hard-line Sunni Muslim leaders command the faithful to respond to recent escalations in Syria by the Shiite forces of Iran and Hezbollah. The Sunni backlash has echoed far beyond Egypt, penetrating every corner of the region, where divisions between the rival Muslim sects are hardening fast.

Washington Post, Syrian rebels report new shipments of heavy arms, credit U.S. influence, Loveday Morris, June 21, 2013. Syrian rebels said Friday that newly arrived shipments of heavy weaponry could swing the momentum on the battlefield in their favor, after a shift in U.S. policy opened the door for others to send them arms. Weapons from the United States have not materialized since the White House announced last week that it had authorized direct military support for the opposition, but the U.S. decision appears to have prompted other nations to increase their assistance, with new deliveries including highly prized antitank and antiaircraft weaponry, according to Khalid Saleh, a spokesman for the main Syrian Opposition Coalition.

Washington Post, Syrian chemical arms claims said to be unverifiable, Colum Lynch and Joby Warrick, June 20, 2013. Despite months of testing and scrutiny by top U.S. scientists, the administration’s case for arming Syria’s rebels rests on unverifiable claims that Syria used the nerve agent sarin, experts say,

Agence France Presse via Arab News, Syria rebels say now have ‘game-changing’ weapons June 21, 2013. Syrian rebels have recently received new weapons that could “change the course of the battle” against the Syrian regime, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army told AFP on Friday. tghe “Friends of Syria” group of countries that support the rebels is expected to announce in Doha on Saturday that it will arm the opposition, FSA media and political coordinator spokesman Louay Muqdad said.  “We’ve received quantities of new types of weapons, including some that we asked for and that we believe will change the course of the battle on the ground. “We have begun distributing them on the front lines, they will be in the hands of professional officers and FSA fighters,” he said. He did not specify what weapons had been received or when they had arrived, but added that a new shipment was expected in the coming days and recalled that the rebels had asked for “deterrent weapons.”

AP via Yahoo News! Rivalries pose problem in arming Syrian rebels, Bradley Klapper, June 21, 2013. The Syrian opposition's record so far in handling tens of millions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian and other nonlethal assistance paints a bewildering picture of logistical challenges ahead of any delivery of American weapons and ammunition. No aid shipments appear to be heading to terrorists or corrupt hoarders, according to U.S. officials, but packages of food, medicine and other lifesaving supplies regularly face long delays because of political rivalries among various rebel factions.

OpEdNews, Stasi In The White House, Paul Craig Roberts, June 21, 2013. On June 19, 2013, US President Obama, hoping to raise himself above the developing National Security Agency (NSA) spy scandals, sought to associate himself with two iconic speeches made at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy pledged: "Ich bin ein Berliner." In 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."  Obama's speech will go down in history as the most hypocritical of all time. Little wonder that the audience was there by invitation only. A real audience would have hooted Obama out of Berlin. Here was Obama, who consistently lies, speaking of "eternal truth." Here was Obama, who enabled Wall Street to rob the American and European peoples and who destroyed Americans' civil liberties and the lives of vast numbers of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Syrians, and others, speaking of "the yearnings of justice." Obama equates demands for justice with "terrorism." Here was Obama, who has constructed an international spy network and a domestic police state, speaking of "the yearnings for freedom."  Here was Obama, president of a country that has initiated wars or military action against six countries since 2001 and has three more Muslim countries -- Syria, Lebanon, and Iran -- in its crosshairs and perhaps several more in Africa, speaking of "the yearnings of peace that burns in the human heart," but clearly not in Obama's heart. Obama has taken hypocrisy to new heights. He has destroyed US civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. In place of a government accountable to law, he has turned law into a weapon in the hands of the government. He has intimidated a free press and prosecutes whistleblowers who reveal his government's crimes. He makes no objection when American police brutalize peacefully protesting citizens. His government intercepts and stores in National Security Agency computers every communication of every American and also the private communications of Europeans and Canadians, including the communications of the members of the governments, the better to blackmail those with secrets.

Reuters, Special Report: Syria's Islamists seize control as moderates dither, Oliver Holmes and Alexander Dziadosz, June 19, 2013. During a 10-day journey through rebel-held territory in Syria, Reuters journalists found that radical Islamist units are sidelining more moderate groups that do not share the Islamists' goal of establishing a supreme religious leadership in the country. The moderates, often underfunded, fragmented and chaotic, appear no match for Islamist units, which include fighters from organizations designated "terrorist" by the United States. The Islamist ascendancy has amplified the sectarian nature of the war between Sunni Muslim rebels and the Shi'ite supporters of Assad. It also presents a barrier to the original democratic aims of the revolt and calls into question whether the United States, which announced practical support for the rebels last week, can ensure supplies of weapons go only to groups friendly to the West.

FireDoglake, Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Getting Involved in Syria, Jon Walker, June 17, 2013. President Obama’s decision to step up military aid to the rebels in Syria is in dramatic opposition to the will of the electorate. According to Pew Research poll, regular Americans overwhelmingly don’t want the United States to arm the rebels. Only 20 percent support this action, while 70 percent oppose it. Opposing to arming the rebel is strong across party lines.

Reuters, Four U.S. senators seek to bar military aid to Syrian rebels, Patricia Zengerle, June 21, 2013. Four senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would bar President Barack Obama from providing military aid to Syria's rebels, saying the administration has provided too little information about what they see as a risky intervention. The bill would prevent the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies from using any funds to support military, paramilitary or covert operations in Syria, directly or indirectly. The bill's sponsors -- Democrats Tom Udall of New Mexico and Chris Murphy, left, of Connecticut and Republicans Mike Lee of Utah, right, and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- expressed doubts about Washington's ability to ensure weapons will not fall into the wrong hands, and called for debate in Congress before the United States becomes more involved in Syria's civil war. "The president's unilateral decision to arm Syrian rebels is incredibly disturbing, considering what little we know about whom we are arming," Paul said in a statement. Other lawmakers argued it was in the U.S. national security interest to get more involved in Syria. "This is about looking at the possibility of a failed state in which terrorist actors already present within Syria in this fight can launch attacks against our allies, and potentially against the United States," Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.

Agence France Presse via Arab News, Syria rebels say now have ‘game-changing’ weapons June 21, 2013. Syrian rebels have recently received new weapons that could “change the course of the battle” against the Syrian regime, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army told AFP on Friday. tghe “Friends of Syria” group of countries that support the rebels is expected to announce in Doha on Saturday that it will arm the opposition, FSA media and political coordinator spokesman Louay Muqdad said.  “We’ve received quantities of new types of weapons, including some that we asked for and that we believe will change the course of the battle on the ground. “We have begun distributing them on the front lines, they will be in the hands of professional officers and FSA fighters,” he said. He did not specify what weapons had been received or when they had arrived, but added that a new shipment was expected in the coming days and recalled that the rebels had asked for “deterrent weapons.”

BBC, Syrian angst over foreign rebel fighters, Lyse Doucet, June 17, 2013. About 20 Tunisian parents travelled to Damascus on a trip initiated by Tunisian civil society activists and taken up by Syrians who see an opportunity to try to get a growing number of foreign jihadists off the battlefield. "More than 42 countries are now sending fighters to cause bloodshed in Syria," declared Syrian-American industrialist Khaled Mahjoub, who is on a mission to take on Islamists he calls "Salafi Wahabis powered by petrodollars." Mothers Syrian mothers show the pictures of their sons lost in the war As G8 leaders meet in Northern Ireland, a Syrian with close ties to President Assad's family wants to capitalise on growing anxiety in Europe over what are believed to be hundreds of European jihadists now fighting in Syria.

Independent, Iran to send 4,000 troops to aid President Assad forces in Syria, Robert Fisk, June 16, 2013. World Exclusive: US urges UK and France to join in supplying arms to Syrian rebels as MPs fear that UK will be drawn into growing conflict. Washington’s decision to arm Syria’s Sunni Muslim rebels has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East, entering a struggle that now dwarfs the Arab revolutions which overthrew dictatorships across the region. For the first time, all of America’s ‘friends’ in the region are Sunni Muslims and all of its enemies are Shiites. Breaking all President Barack Obama’s rules of disengagement, the US is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East. The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran – even before last week’s presidential election – to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years.  Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.

In years to come, historians will ask how America – after its defeat in Iraq and its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled for  2014 – could have so blithely aligned itself with one side in a titanic Islamic struggle stretching back to the seventh century death of the Prophet Mohamed. The profound effects of this great schism continue across the region to this day.

Atlantic, How Obama Now 'Owns Syria'; The far-ranging implications of the president's decision to provide arms to anti-Assad rebels, Michael Hirsch, June 14, 2014. As he has done all along, Barack Obama is edging his way up to the precipice in Syria, and even now the president very much does not want to jump in--not into America's third major war in the past decade. Even while announcing what was billed as a major shift of policy Thursday, Obama signaled that he is unwilling to put American boots on the ground or even to be seen as taking the lead in the conflict in Syria. Judging from the latest signals from the White House, Obama wants the newly announced U.S. military aid to the Syrian rebels to be kept to a stringent minimum, and he wants it to be seen as part of a broader Western aid effort. The issue now is whether the president is deluding himself that he can limit involvement that way. "In a sense, Obama owns Syria now," says Joshua Landis, a highly regarded Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. "I presume he'll try to go in toe by toe.... But he has to decide what his objectives are, which he hasn't. Does he want to provide just enough arms to keep the status quo and divide Syria in two? Does he want to give them enough to take Damascus and drive the Alawites [President Bashar al-Assad's ruling sect] into the mountains? Does he want he want to see them take over the entire country?" 

Veterans Today, Washington is Insane, Paul Craig Roberts, June 18, 2013. Polls demonstrate that 65% of the US population opposes US intervention in Syria. Despite this clear indication of the people’s will, the Obama regime is ramping up a propaganda case for more arming of Washington’s mercenaries sent to overthrow the secular Syrian government and for a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which, if Libya is the example, means US or NATO aircraft attacking the Syrian army on the ground, thus serving as the air force of Washington’s imported mercenaries, euphemistically called “the Syrian rebels.” Washington declared some time ago that the “red line” that would bring Syria under Washington’s military attack was the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction against Washington’s mercenaries. Once this announcement was made, everyone with a brain immediately knew that Washington would fabricate false intelligence that Assad had used chemical weapons, just as Washington presented to the United Nations the intentional lie via Secretary of State Colin Powell that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had dangerous weapons of mass destruction. Now Washington has fabricated the false intelligence, and President Obama has announced it with a straight face, that Syria’s Assad has used sarin gas on several occasions and that between 100 and 150 “of his own people,” a euphemism for the US-supplied foreign mercenaries, have been killed by the weapon of mass destruction. Think about that for a minute.

Washington Post, Private money pours into Syrian conflict as rich donors pick sides, Joby Warrick, June 15, 2013. U.S. and Middle Eastern officials describe a vast pool of private wealth being funneled to Syria’s warring factions, mostly without strings or oversight and outside the control of governments.

Foreign Policy, After weeks of fighting, Syrian forces overtake the strategic town of Qusayr, Mary Casey and Jennifer Parker, June 5, 2013. The Syrian army, along with pro-government Hezbollah forces, overtook the strategic town of Qusayr on Wednesday after over two weeks of fighting. Syrian state news agency SANA reported the "heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town." The regime and allied forces reportedly overtook the town after an overnight offensive. According to one Hezbollah fighter, "We did a sudden surprise attack in the early hours and entered the town. They escaped." Opposition forces said they had pulled out of Qusayr. The loss of the town, which is located about six miles from the border with Lebanon, will be a significant blow to the opposition as it lies on an important supply route.

Democracy Now! via YouTube, U.S. Plans to Overthrow Seven Mideast Countries, Amy Goodman interview of former four-star General Wesley Clark, March 2, 2004. 07 (video). General Clark: About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and W. Secretary (Paul D.) Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the Generals called me in.

He said, Sir, you gotta come in and talk to me a second. I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision. We're going to war with Iraq."

This was on or about the 20th of September.

I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do."

So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to Al Qaida?"

He said, "No, no, there's nothing new that way; they just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like, We don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments. And he said, I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."

So I came back to see him a few weeks later and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?"

He said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He said -- he reached over on his desk, he picked up a piece of paper. He said, "I just got this down from upstairs (meaning the Secretary of Defense's office) today and this is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven (7) countries in five (5) years starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and finishing off Iran."


Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Washington Post, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev indicted on 30 counts, Peter Finn, June 27, 2013. A federal grand jury Thursday returned a 30-count indictment against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, left, the suspect in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings. The indictment detailed the 19-year-old’s interest in radical Islamist literature before the fatal explosions, as well as his attempts to justify the attacks in a series of messages he scrawled inside a dry-docked boat just before his capture. Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen from Russia and a naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged with the use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death; the bombing a public place that resulted in death; and the murder of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, among other charges. Seventeen of the charges carry the death penalty or life in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston said.

FireDogLake, Activists the US Military Targeted & Spied Upon Were Designated ‘Domestic Terrorists,’ Kevin Gosztola, June 25, 2013. Activists who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild have learned that they were listed in a national domestic terrorist database after being targeted and spied upon by the United States Army and Coast Guard, a Washington Fusion Center and police departments in the state of Washington. Brendan Dunn and Jeffery Berryhill, who both helped organize actions, including nonviolent civil disobedience, as part of Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) from 2006 to 2009 in Olympia and Tacoma, Washington, were listed in the domestic terrorist database.

New York Times, Tribune Falls Afoul of Its Own Tax Strategy, Floyd Norris, June 20, 2013. It was perhaps the cleverest corporate tax strategy ever devised: no matter how much money the company made, neither it nor its shareholders would ever owe a penny in federal income taxes. Instead, the strategy has now backfired on the Tribune Company, the publisher of The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. The company seems likely to have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes that it would never have owed had it not tried to be so clever.  In a way, this latest disaster is an indictment of a corporate tax law that allows companies — even encourages them — to play games to minimize their tax bills. Without the expected tax savings, the numbers probably would not have worked when Samuel Zell, the real estate billionaire, was putting together his 2007 takeover of Tribune. Perhaps he would have dropped the deal, or perhaps he would have been unable to finance it. In either case, everyone involved would have been better off. Workers gave up contributions to their retirement plans in return for the ESOP. To try to make the highly leveraged structure work, Mr. Zell laid off some of them. Others lost their jobs as the company’s losses mounted. Perhaps more will do so now as Tribune tries to find the cash to pay its tax bill. The ESOP is worthless.

Washington Post, Former federal official sentenced to probation with a day in jail, Ann E. Marimow, June 24, 2013.  The former head of the federal agency that protects government whistleblowers was sentenced Monday to two years of probation, including one day in jail, for having files erased from government computers. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins reprimanded Scott J. Bloch, the Bush-era head of the Office of Special Counsel, for failing to “completely come clean” about why he had hired private technicians to scrub office computers and for misleading Congress when asked about his conduct. Bloch’s attorney, William M. Sullivan Jr., had requested a one-year period of probation, and federal prosecutors did not object. Bloch admitted in 2010 that he had not given congressional investigators complete information about the incident in which he hired a company called Geeks on Call to remove information from computers at the Office of Special Counsel. He was initially sentenced to 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor contempt of Congress charge. But a federal judge allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because neither side in the case had been aware that the offense required a sentence of jail time. Prosecutors then filed a new misdemeanor charge, and Bloch pleaded guilty in February to destroying government property. In May, Wilkins delayed sentencing because he said attorneys on both sides had not given him sufficient information about Bloch’s conduct. Editor's Note: Illustrating unequal justice, federal prosecutors and judges relentlessly pursued a Connecticut attorney, Charles Spadoni, who deleted information from his computer in 1999. After many years of litigation, much of it successful, Spadoni was imprisoned last year for a sentence of a year. Spadoni's litigation revealed that two federal prosecutors appointed to investigate major scandals in the justice department had each been chastized by a federal appeals court for misconcuct themselves.

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