Obama Admin’s Notorious Inclination to Manipulate the Public Exposed Again

As the New York Times reports, a federal appeals panel in Manhattan under Judge Jon O. Newman has yesterday reversed a Federal District Court decision of January 2013, waiving the U.S.  government’s right to keep secret classified portions of a memo which had justified lawfulness of assassination targeted killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone attack in Yemen in 2010.  The lower court had ruled its decision only weeks before D.O.J. officials including Attorney General Eric E. Holder had made public statements on a then leaked, to NBC, White Paper which should justify the killing of al-Awlaki and, apparently incidentally, also American citizen Samir Khan. The NYT writes,

“‘Whatever protection the legal analysis might once have had,’ Judge Jon O. Newman wrote for the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, ‘has been lost by virtue of public statements of public officials at the highest levels and official disclosure of the D.O.J. White Paper.’

“‘Judge Newman wrote that even if the public statements by administration officials, before and after Judge [of the Federal District Court] McMahon’s opinion was issued, were not themselves ‘sufficiently detailed to establish waiver of the secrecy of the legal analysis,’ they established the ‘context in which the most revealing document,’ the so-called white paper, ‘should be evaluated.’”

According to the NYT, Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, added:

“This is a resounding rejection of the government’s effort to use secrecy, and selective disclosure, as a means of manipulating public opinion about the targeted killing program. The government can’t pretend that everything about its targeted killing program is a classified secret while senior officials selectively disclose information meant to paint the program in the most favorable light.”

Given its relentless war on whistle-blowers, the Obama administration’s frequent friendly leaks with only one purpose: to manipulate public opinion, are quite embarrassing. Selective disclosure of classified information will soon backfire as well.

22 April 2014 @ 11:01 am.
Last modified April 22, 2014.
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Dubious Company

MerkelBased on documents which had been leaked by Edward Snowden to reporters of the Guardian and Washington Post in June last year in Hong Kong, Der Spiegel reports today, among other widespread spying activities in Germany, about  a top secret list (apparently produced for the Five Eyes, i.e. USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) which names, in alphabetical order by their first name, altogether 122 targeted country leaders. It mentions, at number 9, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in between former President Amadou Toumadi Toure of Mali  and Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad. The undated list seems to be rather old since former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who had spend the last two and half years in jail from where she was released only a couple of weeks ago during the uproar in Ukraine, is listed last. As Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark got to know,

“The document indicates that Angela Merkel has been placed in the so-called ‘Target Knowledge Database’ (TKB), the central database of individual targets. An internal NSA description states that employees can use it to analyze ‘complete profiles’ of target persons. The responsible NSA unit praises the automated machine-driven administration of collected information about high-value targets.

The searchable sources cited in the document include, among others, the signals intelligence database ‘Marina,’ which contains metadata ingested from sources around the world. The unit also gives special attention to promoting a system for automated name recognition called ‘Nymrod’. The document states that some 300 automatically generated ‘cites,’ or citations, are provided for Angela Merkel alone. The citations in ‘Nymrod’ are derived from intelligence agencies, transcripts of intercepted fax, voice and computer-to-computer communication. According to internal NSA documents, it is used to ‘find information relating to targets that would otherwise be tough to track down.’ Each of the names contained in Nymrod is considered a ‘SIGINT target.’”

It is not clear why not all targeted individuals were published by Der Spiegel. That Angela Merkel, after all America’s strongest ally, is listed by the American intelligence community among dictators is quite unintelligible. In fact, a trained ape, to use a recent comparison by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, would have put her there wasting his time by tapping her text messaging. But Merkel is not really the main problem here. As Der Spiegel argues, the U.S. has apparently access to the communications of all German citizens, “regardless whether those affected are suspected of having committed an offense or not.” Germany as a prime NSA target is in the same league as “China, Mexico, Japan, Venezuela, Yemen, Brazil, Sudan, Guatemala, Bosnia and Russia.”

29 March 2014 @ 4:50 pm.
Last modified March 29, 2014.

 

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Anschluss

Annexation of Crimea by Russia has been compared with that of the West Bank by Israel today. Well, I had in mind the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1990. While the West is still ignoring the decades-long shameless theft of Palestinean land by Israeli settlers, Saddam’s aggression was initially also tolerated by the United States. Then American Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, had talked to Saddam a week before his onslaught and had suggested sort of a “green light” for war with Kuwait, which Saddam has declared the 19th province of Iraq.

“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late ’60s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. […] All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.”

We know about that because of the leaked, by WikiLeaks, diplomatic cables (although they had been declassified already in 1998, see a pdf here; at that time Glaspie’s inexperience was easily overlooked by the public). Saddam’s annexation resulted, after George H. W. Bush had changed his mind about his former ally, in a 24-year long war and civil war which is not over. When considering the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980, the Iraqi people are enduring permanent war now for 34 years.

That is not to be expected in the case of Crimea. After American and European amateurish meddling in the Ukrainian uproar Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had a walk-over. And, as many believe, no other choice. As a matter of fact, Crimea belonged to Russia, not the Ukraine, which got it as a thoughtless gift from Nikita Khrushchev (“unconstitutional”, as Putin declared yesterday) in 1954, just a symbolic guesture marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part ofthe Russian Empire.

And what about President Obama? Putin may be right when he sees him in a very weak position. Another Cold War is looming, something which America has apparently missed for the past 20 years while desperately seeking new adversaries, for instance, al-Qaeda and all kinds of terrorists, the Iranians, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and last but not least, whistle-blowers, journalists and, well, normal citizens.

Certainly, Russia’s annexation is illegal under international law. As Juan Cole writes, “The Crimean assembly that voted to hold a referendum was not representative. The referendum on Sunday was held under conditions of Russian military occupation and cannot be certified as meeting international standards for elections. The statistics put out about turnout and outcome are suspicious. Still, the annexation is ambiguous.” But is it such a big issue? Not really. At least nothing for going to war. Despite condemning  annexation of Crimea, what Putin actually did, namely making sure that the erosion at the Russian borders does not further accelerate due to meddling of the EU and, in particular, NATO, would be out of question for Obama in case of the U.S. interests being affected.

We expect Putin, Obama and the European leaders to normalize as soon as possible diplomatic relationships. Rather talk than sanctions which hardly ever had worked.

19 March 2014 @ 6:36 pm.
Last modified March 19, 2014.
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“Declare that the indiscriminate, bulk collection of private data by governments is a violation of our rights and must end”

Edward Snowden has testified at the EU parliament in writing to written questions. The pdf file can be found here. As expected he referred in some detail only to what has been püublished already by journalists. When having been asked by Greens Group member Jan Philipp Albrecht of Germany, “Could we help you in any way, and do you seek asylum in the EU?,” he responded,

“If you want to help me, help me by helping everyone: declare that the indiscriminate, bulk collection of private data by governments is a violation of our rights and must end. What happens to me as a person is less important than what happens to our common rights.” (Emphasis added.)

It is not about Snowden. Due to his courage we all got a tiny chance to get mass surveillance, a global panopticon, Orwellian persecution of “thoughtcrimes”, once and forever stopped.

As for asylum, Snowden writes,

“[...], I do seek EU asylum, but I have yet to receive a positive response to the requests I sent to various EU member states. Parliamentarians in the national governments have told me that the US, and I quote, ‘will not allow’ EU partners to offer political asylum to me, which is why the previous resolution on asylum ran into such mysterious opposition. I would welcome any offer of safe passage or permanent asylum, but I recognize that would require an act of extraordinary political courage.”

It is not so clear whether the United States “won’t allow EU partners to offer” Snowden asylum or whether certain EU countries (not the UK) have to ponder pro and cons of a transatlantic crisis. But someone has to do it. What kind of sanctions would be imposed if Snowden would get asylum and a new identity in Germany? After Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “handy” and mobile phones of members of her Cabinet were tapped by NSA? After continuing education courses, conducted by NSA’s British counterpart GCHQ, on how to discredit targets by abusing internet tools.

We need to understand that claims that mass surveillance is for safety is nonsense. After all, not a single terrorist attack after 9-11 had been prevented by mass surveillance, as Snowden repeats in his introduction. Quite the opposite.

One rapporteur, apparently from the UK, eventually asked the misleading question, “Do you still plan to release more files, and have you disclosed or been asked to disclose any information regarding the content of these files to Chinese and Russian authorities or any names contained within them?”, still not realizing that Snowden is no longer in the possession of the files.

8 March 2014 @ 6:07 pm.
Last modified March 8, 2014.
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Manufactured Evidence

HostagesThe new book by true investigative journalist Gareth Porter, Manufactured Crisis, summarizes the decade-long deception of the public about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. It is not real news that the United States, Israel and the Iranian terrorist organization Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) had joined in a big conspiracy in the successful attempt to isolate Iran internationally and impose on the Pariah state eventually crippling sanctions. However, since Porter bases much of his narrative on recent interviews with numerous insiders, among them former CIA and IAEA officers, some of whom only testifying after insisting not to be identified, the picture, which may have been blurred when just reading the quarterly reports by IAEA Director General on Iran, or David Albright’s interpretations, becomes clearer. A policy of denial since the mid-1980s, Natanz, George W. Bush putting Iran on an imaginary “axis of evil”, exploiting IAEA’s leverage for foreign policy, Fordow, Parchin, UN sanctions; and more sanctions.

Well, Porter’s “alternative narrative” is biased as well. Painting Israel, the MEK and the U.S. as the sole villains in the play is not enough. Americans have asked, in particular after traumatic 9-11, “Why do they [the Muslims] hate us ['Westerners']?”, a question which can easily be answered by analyzing U.S. American foreign policy after WWII. But why do America and the West hate Iran? The 1979/81 hostage crisis and Jimmy Carter’s  helpless attempt to free the American diplomats in his ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw is not mentioned in Porter’s book. As fact of the matter, America was at war with Iran ever since. The brutal Iraq-Iran war was just a proxy where Saddam’s war crimes had been tolerated if not facilitated by the Americans under President Ronald Reagan. Iranians had to pay the highest price. Of course would they be denied of nuclear technology, and anything else.

But didn’t they deserve? The Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Khomeini, which emerged after the ouster of shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was in fact a rogue regime which undoubtedly helped all kinds of terrorist organizations in the Middle East and conducted terrorist acts itself. It was another cold war, and the U.S. was lacking an arch foe after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Porter doesn’t explain why Iran strived for nuclear technology at all. It is indeed most likely that Iran seeks (and always sought) what is called nuclear latency, the “Japan option” of being in the position to quickly build a nuclear bomb if and only if a decision was made. Self-evidently, the U.S. and other world powers (P5+1) do not want that and cannot publicly discuss that since Iran is a member state of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has therefore the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Since the Iranians eventually helped themself a “crisis” was inevitable.

That any intelligence which would point to Iran’s peaceful nuclear ambitions was frankly ignored is not credible. It is more likely that realpolitik was made by several American administrations regardless of evidence for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. American administrations’ policy is in fact to misinform the public, at least since the Vietnam war. In that regard, Porter’s book comes late.

One may question whether now emerging aggressive and, as claimed, “fearless and adversarial” journalism by Greenwald et al. would have prevented such a decade-long manufactured crisis with its dramatic consequences not only for Iran but the whole region. Well, who knows?

7 March 2014 @ 10:30 am.
Last modified March 7, 2014.
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