The head of the Central Intelligence Agency apologized privately to lawmakers on Tuesday after an internal review revealed that CIA employees had secretly monitored, as alleged, the computer usage of certain Senate staffers.
Director John Brennan’s admission this week that members of his agency “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” among the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee came months after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chairperson of that panel, complained on the floor of Congress that her staff had been subjected to covert monitoring as they worked on an official investigation into the CIA’s now defunct detention and interrogation practices. That report — a 6,300-page review of tactics employed by the CIA considered by some to be forms of torture — has yet to be made public.
Dean Boyd, a spokesperson for the CIA, told journalists at McClatchy that an investigation into Sen. Feinstein’s allegations led the agency to determine that some degree of wrongdoing did occur, and an additional review is now being undertaken to examine what action, if any, the agency will take.
In March, Sen. Feinstein told reporters that the CIA general counsel’s office was conducting a review of how her committee “investigated allegations of CIA abuse in a Bush-era detention and interrogation program,” and that the probe would assess whether her staffers had at any point removed secret documents from a secure facility outside of Washington, DC while working on that report. On her part, Feinstein said those allegations led her to believe the CIA was secretly monitoring her staff while they worked on the torture report, and said she had “grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the US Constitution.”
“I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan, the agency’s director, responded at the time. “I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch.”
Speaking to McClatchy, Boyd said that Brennan on Tuesday briefed Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, on the findings of the internal review.
“The director . . . apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of Inspector General Report),” Boyd said in a statement.
Next, the spokesperson added, the findings will be reviewed by an accountability board chaired by retired Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, which will then “conduct interviews as needed and provide the director with recommendations that, depending on its findings, could include potential disciplinary measures and/or steps to address systemic issues.”
“Recognizing the importance of this matter and the need to resolve it in a way that preserved the crucial equities of both branches, Director Brennan asked the CIA Office of Inspector General to examine the actions of CIA personnel,” Boyd added.
According to McClatchy, though, Feinstein’s staff is still being scrutinized. The Senate Sergeant at Arms office, Jonathan Landay and Ali Watkins reported, is still investigating whether or not the Intelligence Committee staff removed classified documents without authorization.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice confirmed that, after a careful review, it failed to find sufficient evidence to further carry a criminal investigation into either the CIA’s spying or the allegations of document stealing.
A police officer fired for throwing a tear gas grenade into a crowd of Occupy Oakland protesters who were tending to a wounded comrade is getting his job back.
An arbitrator on Wednesday overturned the Police Department’s termination of Officer Robert Roche and ordered him reinstated with back pay.
Roche became the lightning rod over police handling of the 2011 Occupy protests when he was caught on camera tossing the grenade into a crowd of protesters trying to assist Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen.
The grenade incident came less than a minute after a police officer who has never been identified struck Olsen in the head with a lead-filled beanbag, fracturing Olsen’s skull and causing him permanent brain damage. Olsen received a $4.5 million settlement from the city earlier this year.
The incident, which made international headlines, turned many citizens against the Police Department and turned many officers against their commanders, who they felt had left them far too understaffed to deal with a major protest.
“Roche is a phenomenal police officer, and he was scapegoated like all the other officers from the Occupy experience,” said Sgt. Barry Donelan, who heads the police union.
Rachel Lederman, who represented Olsen, said she was stunned by the arbitrator’s ruling.
“It really gives you pause that he would be reinstated when you have such a blatant case of police misconduct that is caught on video and publicized all over the world,” she said. “It points out that there is still an endemic problem in OPD when it comes to trying to impose any kind of discipline even in a case like this where the evidence is so clear.”
I’m a researcher at the Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. We explore new forms of storytelling and image-making that emerging technologies enable. A major goal of our efforts is finding ways to engage people in valuable ideas and information to serve health care, education and other democratic needs.
The open Internet has been a real breakthrough for us. Still, creating information-oriented, pro-social media is always tough because it has to do more than attract and sustain attention. It has to convey knowledge and inform people’s choices. We aren’t the big guys going for mass appeal; we’re the little guys working for social good.
We’re now confronting a challenge that, among other things, could leave us with both hands tied behind our backs. If Internet service providers are allowed to charge steep fees for speedier access, efforts like ours will be competing against the pocketbooks of the big content providers to get our videos to play and our sites to load reasonably. Would you watch the National Geographic Channel if the picture was a lot worse than HBO’s?
At issue is nothing less than everyday people losing economic control of their Internet — seeing it shift from users to ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, and the content providers they make deals with.
The result will ghettoize smaller operations, constrict innovation and entrepreneurship, and sideline social efforts that impact health and education. It will effectively reduce the diversity of voices and efforts we see, hear and interact with. This can’t help but diminish our culture — and our democracy itself. The stakes are very, very high.
At a time in our history when a wealthy few control so much, shifting more power toward those with incentives to manipulate the media landscape to serve their financial interests is absurd. The end game will inevitably be that instead of choosing what you’re interested in, no matter how obscure or marginal, and having that choice honored with the same quality delivery a mainstream choice would get, ISPs will use delivery speeds as a lever to coerce you to favor content from companies willing and able to pay their tolls.
If Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s paid-prioritization plan goes through, the Internet as we know it will no longer exist. ISPs would be allowed to plow under the level playing field that has allowed the Internet to flourish, and ultimately kill it as a social tool of any consequence.
What can you do? The FCC needs to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, and put in place rules that would prevent special interests from privileging the flow of some content over others. This will happen only if Americans continue to overwhelm the FCC with impassioned voices for Net Neutrality:
- Click here to submit a comment. (Though the initial-comment period has closed, the FCC is accepting public comments through Sept. 10.)
- Invite the FCC to hold a public hearing in your community.
- Email or call your representative and senators.
- Tell your friends, family and neighbors to do the same.
Once this public asset is gone, it’s gone for good.
Lee Boot is the associate director of the Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, an associate professor in film and video at UMBC, and an experimental media artist. His video, interactive works and films have appeared in venues around the world. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award from the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.
The White House condemned the deadly shelling by Israel of a U.N.-designated girls’ elementary school in Gaza as the Pentagon confirmed it recently restocked Israel’s ammunition supplies.
The attack killed 16 Palestinians on Wednesday. Some 3,300 civilians had taken shelter at the school after Israel told them to evacuate their homes. After Israel took responsibility for the shelling, President Obama’s press secretary Thursday criticized the attack as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible.” He added: “It is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards they have set themselves.”
The spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council initially had said there were conflicting reports about who was responsible for the attack. She did not specify the nature of the confusion, however. On Thursday The Guardian reported:
US officials had initially declined to apportion blame for the shelling, even though the UN said all of the evidence pointed to Israel. On Thursday, after Israel conceded it was operating in the area and said it was possible that “stray Israeli fire” hit the school and killed 16 Palestinians, the White House shifted its stance.
After HSBC sent letters to three Muslim organizations in the UK notifying them their accounts will be closed, leaders are making claims of Islamaphobia and pro-Israel bias
Muslim community leaders in the UK are calling banking giant HSBC ‘Islamaphobic’ after they received letters telling them that their banking services will be terminated in September.
Three organizations—The Cordoba Foundation, the Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT), and the Finsbury Park Mosque—have all received nearly identical letters (pdf) from the bank, and two of them believe the cause may be their support of Palestine.
The letters said that the groups fall ‘outside’ of the bank’s ‘risk appetite’, but gave no further reason for the termination of service.
“For us it is astonishing – we are a charity operating in the UK, all our operations are here in the UK and we don’t transfer any money out of the UK. All our operations are funded from funds within the UK,” Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, told the BBC.
“There’s absolutely no reason given,” said Khalid Oumar, the mosque’s trustee. “We want to make sure HSBC is absolutely ashamed of what we believe is an Islamophobic campaign against Muslim organizations.”
Until 2005 the mosque was headed by radical cleric Abu Hamza, who was convicted of terrorism-related charges in the U.S. this past May, but in the past ten years has made an intensive effort to improve its public image. The local MP Jeremy Corbyn said on Wednesday that it is a “superb example of a community mosque,” and he is “appalled at the decision.”
Anas Altikriti, chief executive of the Cordoba Foundation, believes the reason for the notice is not just Islamaphobia, but rooted in a direct political agenda.
“When you are left with no explanation, you are left to speculate,” said Altikriti. “I would speculate that it is because of my activism either for Gaza or for the Palestinians. I have also been vocal in my attacks on the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates regarding their stand on the military coup in Egypt.”
Altikriti says he has been met with nothing but a “wall of silence” in response to his requests for more information following the letter. Altikriti was born in Baghdad but moved to Britain as a child, where he says he opened an account as a teenager almost 30 years ago at a bank eventually bought by HSBC. Now he, his wife and their two sons—aged 12 and 16—were also notified that their personal accounts will be canceled, but were not given any reason whatsoever for those closures.
Muhammad Ahmad, trustee of the Ummah Welfare Trust, also believes the charity’s support of Palestine to be the unstated cause of the termination notice. The UWT provides emergency relief such as food and medical supplies to victims in disaster areas, including Syria and Gaza. Ahmad said during Ramadan last week the charity received over £1 million in donations some days. Barclays also shut down the UWT’s accounts during the attack on Gaza in 2008.
For its part, HSBC has said that the notices were “absolutely not based on the race or religion of a customer.” An HSBC spokesman said the bank does not “discuss individual customers, nor do we confirm whether an individual or business is, or has been a customer,” but that “for context” it was important to know that in 2012 the bank had to pay a $1.9 billion fine for facilitating transactions for customers operating money laundering and drug trafficking schemes in the U.S. The spokesman said that “the bank is applying a program of strategic assessments to all of its businesses.”
But Nicholas Wilson, an HSBC whistleblower of alleged fraud, doesn’t buy those claims.
“HSBC has a bank in Tel Aviv and have held a license there since 2001,” he said. “They claim on their website to be the only foreign bank in Israel offering private banking. It could therefore be possible that they consider being seen to bank for pro-Palestinian organizations puts them in conflict with their ambitions in Israel.”
Wilson said it’s “a mixture of political pressure” and a belief on the bank’s part that “assisting pro-Palestinian organizations would damage their reputation.” He also noted that Sir Jonathan Evans, the ex-head of MI5, is now a non-executive director at HSBC.
The organizations are calling for a boycott of HSBC, and urging followers to use other institutions for their banking.
Top US officials are visiting India for talks with the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the aim of strengthening military and economic relations. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived late yesterday to co-chair today’s annual session of the US-India Strategic Dialogue with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrives next week.
The visits—the first by US cabinet-level officials since Modi took office—are part of Washington’s efforts to boost its strategic partnership with India. The Obama administration is seeking to use the change of government following India’s general election in April-May to harness New Delhi completely to its agenda.
Modi, who heads the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), is expected to visit the US in September.
While the previous Congress-led government was committed to a strategic partnership with the US, sections of the ruling elites in New Delhi and Washington were frustrated by its failure to line up completely with the US, and its attempts to maintain India’s “strategic autonomy.”
Speaking on Monday at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, Kerry endorsed Modi’s pro-market economic program. Referring to the prospects for US investors, he said: “If India’s government delivers on its plans to support greater space for private initiative, if it creates greater openness for capital flows, if it limits subsidies that stifle competition, if it provides strong intellectual property rights, believe me, even more American companies will come to India.”
More important for the Obama administration, however, are closer military-strategic ties as part of its “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia aimed at undermining China diplomatically and economically and encircling it militarily. The US has exploited India’s longstanding regional rivalry with China to push for its integration into Washington’s network of alliances and partnerships against Beijing.
Now, with a mounting US confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, the US wants India to line up against Moscow as well.
Testifying before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 24, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal highlighted India’s importance. She hailed Modi’s election as “a historic opportunity for the United States and India to re-energise our relationship” and declared that India had “a vital role” to play in Obama’s rebalance to Asia.
Biswal said India’s “rise as a regional and global power, and its economic and strategic growth, are deeply in the US interest.” Expanding on the broad sweep of the proposed relationship, she noted that “the locus of our convergent strategic interest is across the Asian landscape … We see a partnership with India that spans east, west, north, and south to advance our shared interests across the Indo-Pacific region.”
“Defence cooperation continues to play a vital role in our partnership, which Secretary Hagel’s visit to India in early August will help to underscore,” Biswal added. She welcomed joint naval exercises with Japan and India in the Malabar Straits that began on the same day, as “a great example of our trilateral cooperation and a manifestation of the US-India-Japan trilateral dialogue.”
India has held regular bilateral military exercises with both the US and Japan separately, but has avoided trilateral war games over the past five years so as not to be seen openly lining up against China.
Biswal expressed the hope that the Modi government would succeed in “overcoming bureaucratic hurdles and paving the way to increase defense trade and potential for co-production and co-development.” The US is looking to expand military sales to India, undercutting Russia as New Delhi’s main arms supplier.
In separate testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biswal confirmed that Washington’s promotion of India sought to counter China. “A rising India is in some ways going to be an ameliorating influence on China, in China’s own growth and China’s own behaviour in the region,” she said.
At the same Senate hearing, Amy Searight, the US deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, highlighted India’s “Look East” policy aimed at forging closer economic and military ties with Japan and South East Asian countries, such as Vietnam. “We want to capitalise on that … we want to support that activity,” she said. The US has been actively encouraging Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines to take more aggressive stances in their territorial disputes with China.
Congressman Steve Chabot, who chaired the House Committee hearing, complained: “New Delhi has given Russia’s aggression in Crimea implicit approval and strongly opposed sanctions on Moscow, calling Moscow’s interest in Crimea legitimate.” He asked: “Can the US trust India to be a reliable partner on significant geopolitical challenges if, for example, we can’t get India’s support on this growing crisis?” India’s “attitude on this matter with respect to Russia is very disappointing, to say the least,” he declared.
Biswal responded: “We do make the point to our Indian colleagues, as we do to friends around the world, about our perspective, particularly with respect to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, and the implications that that has.”
Clearly, the Obama administration is pressing for Indian collaboration in Washington’s intrigues and provocations, including against Russia. Through consultation on “these critical issues and challenges,” Biswal declared, “we hope that we can bring closer together our perspectives and align efforts as much as possible.”
Lining up India against Russia will prove more difficult than against China. Throughout much of the Cold War, New Delhi was aligned with the former Soviet Union against China, which has strong ties with India’s chief regional rival, Pakistan. Sections of the Indian establishment still regard Russia as India’s “all-weather friend” and it remains India’s chief defense supplier.
Washington, however, is clearly not satisfied. It is determined to use every opportunity to undermine India’s relations with Russia as part of its overall strategy for US domination throughout the Eurasian landmass.
Thomas Gaist and Jerry White
Last week, the Detroit People’s Water Board (DPWB)—a loose-knit coalition of unions, religious groups, liberal and “left” organizations—organized a protest in front of City Hall. While the nominal purpose of this rally and others held by the organization was to oppose water shutoffs, the basic aim of the DPWB is to channel growing popular outrage over shutoffs back behind the Democratic Party, the main political organization that is responsible for the shutoffs.
The DPWB and its associated organizations are being deliberately cultivated by the corporate elite and political establishment in Detroit as part of an effort to mollify popular outrage over the shutoff of water to tens of thousands of residents unable to pay their bills. The same politicians who sanctioned this inhumane policy are now proclaiming their compassion for the “truly needy” and issuing promises to help low-income residents pay their bills.
These actions—which include Tuesday’s announcement that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is relinquishing control of the water department to Mayor Mike Duggan—followed a warning earlier this month from federal bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes that widespread anger and “bad publicity” over the shutoffs in the national and international media was threatening to derail the restructuring of the city.
Fearing that opposition to the shutoffs could come together with resistance to Orr’s plan to gut city worker pension and health benefits—and privatize the city’s art museum and other public treasures, including the water department itself—city officials implemented a 15-day “pause” on July 21. Rhodes instructed water department officials to work with “grassroots” organizations to enroll low-income households in payment plans to avoid shutoffs.
All of these measures are aimed at giving the city breathing room to prepare for an intensified assault on workers.
Enter the Detroit People’s Water Board (DPWB). The DPWB, which was involved in getting the UN to declare that Detroit’s shutoff policy was a violation of international human rights law, is in essence a faction of the Democratic Party and its servants in the trade union bureaucracy. It includes within it AFSCME Local 207 (led by members of By Any Means Necessary), the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO), the Green Party, MECAWI (associated with the Workers World Party and Moratorium Now!), and a number of other organizations.
Two weeks ago, members of the DPWB joined protesters from the National Nurses United union and others at the Netroots conference—an event organized by a faction of the Democratic Party—to blame Republicans for the water shutoffs in Detroit. The line is that somehow Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, is exclusively responsible for the water shutoffs, even though he is working closely with Democrats in every aspect of the restructuring of Detroit.
The thoroughly establishment perspective advanced by the DPWB was evident in the rally last week, which consisted largely of moral appeals to the powers-that-be to adopt a more humane policy. The slogan of the DPWB that “water is a human right” conforms to the language of the UN and sections of the American political establishment, including US Representative John Conyers and members of the Detroit City Council, with whom they have close relations.
Not a word was mentioned at the rally about the role of the Democratic Party in the assault of the working class in Detroit. No criticism was made of President Barack Obama, who has endorsed the bankruptcy as part of a nationwide attack on public sector workers and for the wholesale privatization of public assets. No mention was made of the fact that Orr is a Democrat who has worked closely with the Obama administration.
DPWB’s rally was accompanied by a petition to City Council President Brenda Jones, which was copied to President Obama, Governor Snyder, Kevyn Orr, Judge Rhodes and Mayor Duggan. In the most craven language the petition declared, “We are writing to urge you, respecting your supervisory or decision-making role as leaders in this matter, to uphold the residents and citizens’ human right to water.”
Among those who spoke at the rally was Mike Mulholland, the acting president of AFSCME Local 207, which includes hundreds of water and sewerage workers. Mulholland played a chief role in the betrayal of the DWSD workers in the 2012 strike. In his remarks, he said nothing about the fact that AFSCME has endorsed Orr’s bankruptcy plan to gut the pensions and health benefits for city workers. Instead, he suggested the destruction of the city was part of a “racist” plan. This is aimed at dividing the working class and concealing the role of the black Democratic Party political and corporate establishment in the city.
The forces behind DPWB may have differences with the way the bankruptcy restructuring of Detroit is being carried out, but this is from the standpoint of the grievances of a section of the upper middle class. Their aim is to extend their political influence within the corporate and political establishment and stake out a portion of the carve-up of Detroit for themselves, in the form of paid positions as consultants and advisors, real estate, seed money for “socially responsible” startups and urban farms.
Maureen Taylor, president of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, personifies the strivings of this social layer. She became a de facto advisor to DTE Energy after a wave of deaths caused by utility shutoffs in 2010, and is now pitching her proposal for low-income payment plans to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
Taylor is also a member of the Board of Trustees of New Detroit, a “racial justice organization” established by Henry Ford and other corporate magnates after the 1967 riots to integrate a layer of blacks into the political and corporate establishment. Taylor sits alongside representatives of the auto companies and the big banks that are looting the city.
As part of the rally, Taylor delivered a “Water Affordability Plan” to the council president. The proposal, drafted in 2005, does not challenge the ability of the water department and the big bondholders that control its multi-billion dollar debt to make a profit. Instead it argues that instituting a rate discount for low-income residents and a specific program of payment plans would be beneficial for the “business needs” of the water department.
The DWSD, the proposal complains, is burdened with high “collection expenses arising from the need to ‘chase’ bill payments; increased working capital expenses associated with higher arrears, and increased bad debt/uncollectable expense associated with long-term nonpayment.”
In her remarks to the rally, Taylor called for “local control” of the water department and criticized plans to privatize the system. In fact, four of the water board commissioners who ordered the rate increases and water shutoffs were drawn from the black political establishment in Detroit, which in the name of “local control,” has long enriched itself at the expense of the working class, both black and white.
The entire political program of the DPWB is based on two basic and interconnected lies: that the Democratic Party is not responsible for the shutoff of water in Detroit, and that shutoffs can be stopped without a political struggle of the working class in opposition to the entire restructuring of Detroit, dictated by the corporate and financial elite.
In fact, the systematic efforts to cut people off from one of the most basic necessities of modern life is an integral part of the transformation of Detroit, backed by both Democrats and Republicans. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is being primed for privatization, part of the wholesale looting of the city and any public assets by the financial vultures of Wall Street. At the same time, the shutoffs are part of a policy to turn off essential services to neighborhoods in the city deemed too poor for investment.
In other words, the shutoff policy flows directly from the interests of the capitalist banks and corporations that dominate American society as whole. It will not be overturned through appeals to the conscience of the political and corporate establishment, which stands to reap enormous gains in wealth in direct proportion to the number of shutoffs being carried out.
In opposition to the pro-Democratic Party policies of the DPWB, the Socialist Equality Party insists that the provision of water and the guarantee of all the basic necessities of modern life—secure jobs, pensions, public education, housing, medical care and culture—are social rights that must be fought for by the working class itself.
The development of a powerful movement of the working class is only possible through a conscious political break from the Democratic Party and the trade unions and pseudo-left forces that tie workers to this capitalist party. Armed with its own political program and fighting to mobilize the overwhelming majority of the population, the working class can break the grip of the financial oligarchy and reorganize economic and social life to meet the social needs of everyone, including the provision of water and other basic essentials free of charge.
Evidence has recently emerged of a widespread practice by prosecutors of reading emails sent by criminal defendants in prison to their attorneys. TheNew York Times published a story July 22 exposing this routine practice by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, noting that the email snooping has taken root in jurisdictions across the country.
The monitoring of inmates’ emails to their attorneys and the use of these emails as incriminating evidence against the inmates represent a fierce attack on the core democratic right to be represented by an attorney. This right is enshrined in the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution, just following the right to a trial by jury, the right to call witnesses at trial and the right to confront one’s accuser.
American legal precedent dictates that the right to have an attorney means more for the criminal defendant than just having someone to stand next to him or her during trial. Rather, the right includes effective assistance of counsel, a major part of which is honest, confidential discussion with the attorney. Without confidentiality, honest attorney-client communication becomes virtually impossible and representation is severely compromised.
The shredding of the right to counsel makes a mockery of due process as a whole. Without the right to counsel, every other democratic right evaporates. How can one expect a fair trial, for example, without the ability to freely communicate with one’s attorney to prepare a defense?
Moreover, it is by and through attorneys that one asserts any democratic right against the encroaching power of the state. Freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, freedom of assembly, the right to privacy against unreasonable searches and seizures of the person or property, the rights against double jeopardy and self-incrimination—the first and immediate legal line of defense for these rights consists of defense attorneys arguing in courts of law.
In the case of alleged mob boss Thomas DiFiore, the ailing defendant sent emails from prison to his lawyers almost every day. Brooklyn prosecutors sought to introduce those same emails as evidence against DiFiore.
Judge Allyne Ross had previously blocked federal agents from reviewing DiFiore’s emails until she could more thoroughly review the legal issues involved. She ultimately ruled that the emails could be admitted into evidence against DiFiore, finding that DiFiore had other adequate means of communicating with his attorney apart from email, and that the prosecutor’s use of the emails as evidence did not “unreasonably interfere” with DiFiore’s right to consult with his attorney.
Judge Ross took as good coin the prosecutors’ claim that it was too expensive and cumbersome for the prison to determine which emails could be looked at by the prosecutors and which ones should be protected.
“Certainly, it would be a welcome development for BOP [Bureau of Prisons] to improve TRULINCS [the federal prison email system] so that attorney-client communications could be easily separated from other emails and subject to protection,” she said.
Other federal judges have had the opposite reaction. In the Medicare fraud case of Dr. Syed Imran Ahmed, Judge Dora L. Irizarry rejected the explanation that prosecutors gave for using emails in the DiFiore case. Judge Irizarry barred prosecutors from “looking at any of the attorney-client emails, period.”
Pointing to the obvious advantage that reading attorney-client emails gave prosecutors, Judge Irizarry scoffed at the claim that it was too expensive or cumbersome to separate emails, saying, “That’s hogwash… You’re going to tell me you don’t want to know what your adversary’s strategy is? What kind of a litigator are you then? Give me a break.”
The defense of incarcerated clients presents numerous logistical problems. Incarcerated clients cannot simply come by the office, for one thing. Nor is it a simple matter to visit them in prison, where a lawyer is subjected to innumerable pressures and time constraints. There are only so many meeting rooms, and guards want to move things along as quickly as they can. Given these conditions, email proves extremely convenient and reliable.
Criminal defendants have the right to private communications with their attorneys, whether by email or other means. The state has no business scouring their emails, least of all those that concern legal representation. That prosecutors systematically read emails between inmates and their attorneys reveals a corroded legal system. It should be noted that spying on attorney-client conferences has been a hallmark of the Guantanamo Bay show trials.
Spying on attorney-client communications comes amidst a general attack on democratic rights, as well as an increasing air of intimidation against those who represent criminal defendants.
The foremost example is civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart, who was convicted on trumped up charges of breaking prison regulations by communicating something a client of hers said to the media. She ultimately served four years in prison before being released due to her suffering from terminal cancer.
At the same time, the NSA’s secret spying and data collection, both on US residents and abroad, has effectively destroyed any right to privacy. The right to free assembly also suffers immensely when the government maps out people’s comings and goings, their friends, their spending habits, travel etc. The executive branch of the US government claims the right (and uses it) to assassinate American citizens without trial, and to detain persons incommunicado without even charging them with a crime.
In light of this, the attack on the right to counsel represents one more brick in the steadily growing structure of a police state.
The murderous violence unleashed against the population of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military has horrified and outraged masses of people across the globe. Numerous filmmakers, actors, artists, doctors and scientists have raised their voices in public to denounce the homicidal attack.
In an open letter published July 28 in Madrid, dozens of Spanish film directors, actors, musicians, writers and others declared their indignation against “the genocide being perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army against the population of the Gaza Strip.” Prominent among the signatories are award-winning actors Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar.
The letter explains: “Gaza is living through horror these days, besieged and attacked by land, sea and air. Palestinians’ homes are being destroyed, they are being denied water, electricity [and] free movement to their hospitals, schools and fields while the international community does nothing.” It charges Israel with disregard for human rights and “state terrorism.”
Bardem has been especially outspoken. In an op-ed piece published in the Spanish newspaper El Diario on July 25, the actor, who won an Academy Award in 2007, noted that in the face of the current horrors, “there is NO place for distance or neutrality. It’s a war of occupation and extermination waged against a people with no means … I can’t understand this barbarism, even more cruel and incomprehensible considering all of the horrible things the Jewish people have gone through in the past. Only geopolitical alliances, that hypocritical mask of business–for example, the sale of weapons–explains the shameful position taken by the US, the EU [European Union] and Spain.”
In his comment, Bardem acknowledged that he would come under attack by the pro-Israeli lobby (which of course he has), and continued, “I have very dear close friends who are Jewish and … being Jewish does not automatically mean you support this massacre, just like being Hebrew does not mean you are a Zionist, just like being Palestinian does not automatically make you a Hamas terrorist. That’s just as absurd as saying that being German makes you a Nazi.”
Putting the lie to the claim that all Israelis are united behind the Netanyahu regime, a group of Israeli filmmakers interrupted the program at the Jerusalem Film Festival on July 14 to call on the Israeli government “to cease fire.” They urged the government “not to send our troops to be killed again, in another pointless, cruel military campaign; we call it to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Palestinian people and its leaders, to achieve a viable peace for both sides.”
Criticizing the Israeli media, which only focused on the suffering of Israeli citizens, the filmmakers’ statement went on, “Today, we want to direct those cameras to the suffering of Gaza residents, men, women and children killed during the last few days. Those filming the suffering of Israelis should be courageous and honest enough to film the killing and destruction in Gaza as well, and tell that story as well.”
Filmmakers Efrat Corem, Shira Geffen, Ronit Elkabetz, Keren Yedaya, Tali Shalom Ezer, Nadav Lapid, Shlomi Elkabetz and Bozi Gete signed the statement, which further pointed out, “Children in Gaza do not enjoy the protection of the Iron Dome systems. They have no residential secured spaces, and no sirens. Children living in Gaza today are our partners in peace tomorrow.”
A number of filmmakers participating in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival solidarized themselves later in the month with the Israeli group. Their statement observed that “in these violent days, it is impossible to talk only about cinema while ignoring the killing and horrifying events” taking place. It went on: “With the invasion of Gaza now underway, this is not a time to … be intimidated into silence by those who fear talking about the roots of this tragedy: Israel’s ongoing occupation, and the growth of extremism and racism inside Israel and in Hamas.”
The statement was signed by nineteen directors, including Academy Award winners Jeffrey Friedman (Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt) and Jeffrey D. Brown (Molly’s Pilgrim), Doug Block (51 Birch Street) and Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow (Thirst).
A group of actors, writers, artists and others has produced a four-minute video, #GazaNames, which consists of various well-known individuals holding signs with the names of Palestinians, young and old, killed by the recent Israeli bombings and shellings.
Playwright and actor Wallace Shawn, who provides a voiceover for the video, explains, “The Israeli leaders seem sincere when they say they believe that their actions are appropriate. Apparently, one of ‘us’ is worth many more of ‘them.’ American leaders know they are lying when they defend the murder of children in their beds. And we, the public, pay for the bombs, pay for the airplanes, and pretend not to notice what’s going on.”
The video, asserts its organizers, “is a first of its kind expression of support for Palestinian freedom, equality and justice.” Among the participants are filmmakers Jonathan Demme, Ken Loach and Mira Nair, writers Tony Kushner, Deborah Eisenberg and Eve Ensler, musicians Roger Waters, Brian Eno and Chuck D, director André Gregory and former professional basketball player Detlef Schrempf.
The Hollywood Reporter commented July 26 that “director Jonathan Demme,Tori Amos, Rob Schneider, Kim Kardashian, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Bourdain,Roger Waters, NBA stars Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, D.L. Hughley, Mia Farrow, Whoopi Goldberg,Stephen Hawking and Annie Lennox are among the other big names who have weighed in with some degree of support for the people of Gaza or outright criticism of the Israeli government.”
When actress and singer Selena Gomez posted an image on Instagram, with the message, “It’s About Humanity: Pray for Gaza,” more than 500,000 fans responded that they “liked” the message. The image also brought down the wrath of Israeli supporters on Gomez.
Two dozen prominent doctors and scientists from the UK and Italy published an open letter denouncing Israeli military aggression in Gaza in a letter to The Lancet, the leading medical journal, published July 22.
The statement reads in part: “We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called ‘defensive aggression’. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.
“We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large-scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children, under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.”
The Lancet open letter continues, “The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. … None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.”
The statement by the doctors and scientists provoked a venomous and well-orchestrated response from pro-Israeli organizations and media. All such critics are inevitably abused as “anti-Semites” or “anti-Jewish,” defenders of “terrorism” or “pro-Hamas.”
A major inquiry conducted by the US Justice Department (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has found hundreds instances in which FBI forensic units charged with gathering data on cases involving violent crimes provided false information. The doctored FBI lab reports led to the imprisonment of thousands of innocent people, some of whom were executed, according to a report Wednesday in the Washington Post.
The newspaper reported, “Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department … has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency…”
The inquiry, which covers cases dating prior to the year 2000, was launched after the Post published an exposé in 2012 about thousands languishing in prison and on death row due to the FBI’s false evidence. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, FBI hair and fiber experts had claimed matches on hair in 2,600 cases that resulted in convictions and 45 where a death sentence was handed down.
Prior to the late 1990s, when modern methods of DNA analysis were introduced, it was routine for courts to accept claims that a defendant’s hair matched those found at a crime scene, based purely on a visual comparison, without any further analysis. These claims were completely bogus, but the FBI laboratory, celebrated by police and the media as the “gold standard” for forensic analysis, promoted this anti-scientific nonsense as correct procedure.
The Post notes that in the coming months the FBI will be notifying defendants in 134 non-capital and two death penalty cases of errors made during their trials. Only 10 percent of the total number of convictions in the period 1985-2000 have been reviewed.
The report states that the flawed methods and testimony of federal officials were systemic, and not the result of individual misconduct, as the entire 10-member team responsible for the majority of the FBI’s forensic work was implicated in the findings. “This issue has been raised with the FBI but not resolved to date,” stated the DOJ’s former director of enforcement Maureen Killion in a 2002 email to then-assistant attorney general Michael Chertoff, among others.
The findings of widespread misconduct by the FBI come amid federal officials’ numerous attempts to stonewall the release of the information. The report notes that FBI officials first ordered a review of prior forensic evidence in 1997, but “inattention and foot-dragging by the Justice Department and the FBI led them to ignore warnings” about incorrect methods which had led to the imprisonment and deaths of untold numbers.
Furthermore, it was reported in 2012 that the Justice Department had long known of the flawed convictions, but had opted not to inform defendants or their lawyers about the suspicions, keeping them unaware they had the grounds for appeal. The inquiry was again held up in August 2013 when initial findings “troubled” officials because essentially every case reviewed showed false testimony, in which forensic analysts were found to have “exceeded the limits of science.”
In regard to the latter instance, James Aren Duckett, an inmate currently on death row for a murder conviction based on hair-related evidence, was denied an appeal by the US Supreme Court in the 11-month period in which the report was delayed, and now faces a limited number of legal options as a result.
“I don’t know whether history is repeating itself, but clearly the [latest] report doesn’t give anyone a sense of confidence that the work of the examiners whose conduct was first publicly questioned in 1997 was reviewed as diligently and promptly as it needed to be,” Michael R. Bromwich, the former inspector general for the DOJ and currently a law partner at Goodwin Procter, said of the findings.
FBI officials said that the 11-month delay had arisen “from a vigorous debate that occurred within the FBI and DOJ about the appropriate scientific standards we should apply when reviewing FBI lab examiner testimony—many years after the fact.” Such an explanation defies logic, however, as even thePost notes that since the 1970s hair association was considered to be an invalid form of identification.
The inquiry into flawed forensic methods is the latest in a number of findings of mass injustice perpetrated by federal authorities. Last year, the New York Times published an account of internal investigations by the FBI between 1993 and 2011, finding that the FBI had declared its officers were justified in every one of more than 150 fatal shootings that occurred during that period.
That report had been prompted by criticism of the FBI’s fatal shooting of Boston Marathon bombing witness Ibragim Todashev in May of 2013, of which the agent involved was also absolved of guilt by federal officials in March of this year.
RINF Alternative News
Another day, another UN school hit by Israeli shelling in Gaza. Israel’s attack this morning killed at least 16 civilians sheltering at the school and wounded dozens. The casualties figures are expected to rise.
Israel and even most of its critics tell us that the civilian casualties are accidental, caused by Israel’s need to wage its war against Hamas in heavily built-up areas of Gaza. Israel is accused of “disproportionality”, or of recklessness, or of inflicting unfortunate collateral damage.
But here’s another possibility: that the people of Gaza, not just Hamas, are the target. That Israel’s generals don’t see much difference between the two.
Israel’s army is “degrading” – or “mowing the lawn”, in even worse military parlance – Gaza’s ability’s to resist. Not Hamas’ abilities, but Gaza’s. Because the problem lies not with Hamas. Hamas is simply a symptom, of the people of Gaza’s determination to liberate themselves from Israel’s siege.
That is why the power plant was destroyed yesterday. That is why Israel has been starving Gaza for years through its siege, limiting the entry of basic foods and counting the minimum calories people need for bare survival - putting them on a diet, as one senior adviser jokingly termed it. That is why Gaza’s infrastructure is being trashed - the notorious Dahiya doctrine, devised by Israeli generals in 2006 as way to force hostile populations back into the Stone Age, keeping them preoccupied with the essentials of life rather than demanding, or fighting, for their rights.
Israel knows it cannot destroy Hamas’ will to resist without destroying Gaza’s will to resist too. And that is what it looks like we are seeing played out here day-in, day-out. Civilians, it seems, must die to teach Gaza a lesson: you will submit.
Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001.
McDonald’s could share responsibility for violations by some of its franchise operators, said the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Labor advocates applaud the ruling, which the fast-food chain vows to contest.
The ruling published Tuesday said the world’s biggest fast-food chain could be determined as a joint employer for workers at some of its franchise restaurants.
The labor regulator’s ruling comes in response to 181 unfair labor practice complaints, filed by McDonald’s workers since November 2012. The employees allege their bosses took punitive measures against them, after they had participated in protests for higher wages and better working conditions.
Forty-three of the cases have so far been found to have merit.
“If the parties cannot reach settlement in these cases, complaints will be issued and McDonald’s, USA, LLC will be named as a joint employer respondent,” says NLRB’s Tuesday ruling.
The statement has been keenly welcomed by labor groups, which have long campaigned for McDonald’s to assume responsibly for its franchise operated restaurants.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on Twitter described the decision as a “huge victory”.
“There’s really no doubt who’s in charge,” said Micah Wissinger, an attorney who brought a case on behalf of McDonald’s workers in New York City.
The business community thinks otherwise. McDonald’s has described the decision as wrong and has promised to fight it.
“McDonald’s also believes that this decision changes the rules for thousands of small businesses, and goes against decades of established law regarding the franchise model in the United States,” senior vice president of human resources for McDonald’s USA, Heather Smedstad, said in a statement.
In the US, 90% of more than 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees. The same is true for many other restaurant chains or retailers which have been infuriated with the NLRB ruling.
The International Franchise Association, which represents franchisees, has opposed the possibility of McDonald’s qualifying as a joint employer.
“If franchisors are joint employers with their franchisees, these thousands of small business owners would lose control of the operations and equity they worked so hard to build,” the Association’s statement reads.
Worker groups argue that McDonald’s has its franchised restaurants under much tougher control than it officially admits.
The US fast food industry has lately witnessed a wave of protests with participants demanding a raise in the minimum wage to $15 per hour and a right to form unions.
McDonald’s and other companies have argued wages and working conditions were set up by their franchisees and thus distanced themselves from the rallies, something they might not be able to do in future, if NLRB’s decision is upheld.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Intelligence on Shoot-Down of Malaysian Plane
U.S.–Russian intensions are building in a precarious way over Ukraine, and we are far from certain that your advisers fully appreciate the danger of escalation. The New York Times and other media outlets are treating sensitive issues in dispute as flat-fact, taking their cue from U.S. government sources.
Twelve days after the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, your administration still has issued no coordinated intelligence assessment summarizing what evidence exists to determine who was responsible – much less to convincingly support repeated claims that the plane was downed by a Russian-supplied missile in the hands of Ukrainian separatists.
Your administration has not provided any satellite imagery showing that the separatists had such weaponry, and there are several other “dogs that have not barked.” Washington’s credibility, and your own, will continue to erode, should you be unwilling – or unable – to present more tangible evidence behind administration claims. In what follows, we put this in the perspective of former intelligence professionals with a cumulative total of 260 years in various parts of U.S. intelligence:
We, the undersigned former intelligence officers want to share with you our concern about the evidence adduced so far to blame Russia for the July 17 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. We are retired from government service and none of us is on the payroll of CNN, Fox News, or any other outlet. We intend this memorandum to provide a fresh, different perspective.
As veteran intelligence analysts accustomed to waiting, except in emergency circumstances, for conclusive information before rushing to judgment, we believe that the charges against Russia should be rooted in solid, far more convincing evidence. And that goes in spades with respect to inflammatory incidents like the shoot-down of an airliner. We are also troubled by the amateurish manner in which fuzzy and flimsy evidence has been served up – some it via “social media.”
As intelligence professionals we are embarrassed by the unprofessional use of partial intelligence information. As Americans, we find ourselves hoping that, if you indeed have more conclusive evidence, you will find a way to make it public without further delay. In charging Russia with being directly or indirectly responsible, Secretary of State John Kerry has been particularly definitive. Not so the evidence. His statements seem premature and bear earmarks of an attempt to “poison the jury pool.”
Painting Russia Black
We see an eerie resemblance to an earlier exercise in U.S. “public diplomacy” from which valuable lessons can be learned by those more interested in the truth than in exploiting tragic incidents for propaganda advantage. We refer to the behavior of the Reagan administration in the immediate aftermath of the shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 over Siberia on August 30, 1983. We sketch out below a short summary of that tragic affair, since we suspect you have not been adequately briefed on it. The parallels will be obvious to you.
An advantage of our long tenure as intelligence officers is that we remember what we have witnessed first hand; seldom do we forget key events in which we played an analyst or other role. To put it another way, most of us “know exactly where we were” when a Soviet fighter aircraft shot down Korean Airlines passenger flight 007 over Siberia on August 30, 1983, over 30 years ago. At the time, we were intelligence officers on “active duty.” You were 21; many of those around you today were still younger.
Thus, it seems possible that you may be learning how the KAL007 affair went down, so to speak, for the first time; that you may now become more aware of the serious implications for U.S.-Russian relations regarding how the downing of Flight 17 goes down; and that you will come to see merit in preventing ties with Moscow from falling into a state of complete disrepair. In our view, the strategic danger here dwarfs all other considerations.
Hours after the tragic shoot-down on Aug. 30, 1983, the Reagan administration used its very accomplished propaganda machine to twist the available intelligence on Soviet culpability for the killing of all 269 people aboard KAL007. The airliner was shot down after it strayed hundreds of miles off course and penetrated Russia’s airspace over sensitive military facilities in Kamchatka and Sakhalin Island. The Soviet pilot tried to signal the plane to land, but the KAL pilots did not respond to the repeated warnings. Amid confusion about the plane’s identity – a U.S. spy plane had been in the vicinity hours earlier – Soviet ground control ordered the pilot to fire.
The Soviets soon realized they had made a horrendous mistake. U.S. intelligence also knew from sensitive intercepts that the tragedy had resulted from a blunder, not from a willful act of murder (much as on July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people, an act which President Ronald Reagan dismissively explained as an “understandable accident”).
To make the very blackest case against Moscow for shooting down the KAL airliner, the Reagan administration suppressed exculpatory evidence from U.S. electronic intercepts. Washington’s mantra became “Moscow’s deliberate downing of a civilian passenger plane.” Newsweek ran a cover emblazoned with the headline “Murder in the Sky.” (Apparently, not much has changed; Time’s cover this week features “Cold War II” and “Putin’s dangerous game.” The cover story by Simon Shuster, “In Russia, Crime Without Punishment,” would merit an A-plus in William Randolph Hearst’s course “Yellow Journalism 101.”)
When KAL007 was shot down, Alvin A. Snyder, director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, was enlisted in a concerted effort to “heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible,” as Snyder writes in his 1995 book, “Warriors of Disinformation.”
He and his colleagues also earned an A-plus for bringing the “mainstream media” along. For example, ABC’s Ted Koppel noted with patriotic pride, “This has been one of those occasions when there is very little difference between what is churned out by the U.S. government propaganda organs and by the commercial broadcasting networks.”
“Fixing” the Intelligence Around the Policy
“The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” wrote Snyder, adding that the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council on September 6, 1983.
Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had hidden — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were false.
The intercepts showed that the Soviet fighter pilot believed he was pursuing a U.S. spy aircraft and that he was having trouble in the dark identifying the plane. Per instructions from ground control, the pilot had circled the KAL airliner and tilted his wings to order the aircraft to land. The pilot said he fired warning shots, as well. This information “was not on the tape we were provided,” Snyder wrote.
It became abundantly clear to Snyder that, in smearing the Soviets, the Reagan administration had presented false accusations to the United Nations, as well as to the people of the United States and the world. In his book, Snyder acknowledged his own role in the deception, but drew a cynical conclusion. He wrote, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.”
The tortured attempts by your administration and stenographers in the media to blame Russia for the downing of Flight 17, together with John Kerry’s unenviable record for credibility, lead us to the reluctant conclusion that the syndrome Snyder describes may also be at work in your own administration; that is, that an ethos of “getting your own lie out first” has replaced “ye shall know the truth.” At a minimum, we believe Secretary Kerry displayed unseemly haste in his determination to be first out of the starting gate.
Both Sides Cannot Be Telling the Truth
We have always taken pride in not shooting from the hip, but rather in doing intelligence analysis that is evidence-based. The evidence released to date does not bear close scrutiny; it does not permit a judgment as to which side is lying about the shoot-down of Flight 17. Our entire professional experience would incline us to suspect the Russians – almost instinctively. Our more recent experience, particularly observing Secretary Kerry injudiciousness in latching onto one spurious report after another as “evidence,” has gone a long way toward balancing our earlier predispositions.
It seems that whenever Kerry does cite supposed “evidence” that can be checked – like the forged anti-Semitic fliers distributed in eastern Ukraine or the photos of alleged Russian special forces soldiers who allegedly slipped into Ukraine – the “proof” goes “poof” as Kerry once said in a different context. Still, these misrepresentations seem small peccadillos compared with bigger whoppers like the claim Kerry made on Aug. 30, 2013, no fewer than 35 times, that “we know” the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical incidents near Damascus nine days before.
On September 3, 2013 – following your decision to call off the attack on Syria in order to await Congressional authorization – Kerry was still pushing for an attack in testimony before a thoroughly sympathetic Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. On the following day Kerry drew highly unusual personal criticism from President Putin, who said: “He is lying, and he knows he is lying. It is sad.”
Equally serious, during the first week of September 2013, as you and President Vladimir Putin were putting the final touches to the deal whereby Syrian chemical weapons would be given up for destruction, John Kerry said something that puzzles us to this day. On September 9, 2013, Kerry was in London, still promoting a U.S. attack on Syria for having crossed the “Red Line” you had set against Syria’s using chemical weapons.
At a formal press conference, Kerry abruptly dismissed the possibility that Bashar al-Assad would ever give up his chemical weapons, saying, “He isn’t about to do that; it can’t be done.” Just a few hours later, the Russians and Syrians announced Syria’s agreement to do precisely what Kerry had ruled out as impossible. You sent him back to Geneva to sign the agreement, and it was formally concluded on September 14.
Regarding the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down of July 17, we believe Kerry has typically rushed to judgment and that his incredible record for credibility poses a huge disadvantage in the diplomatic and propaganda maneuvering vis-a-vis Russia. We suggest you call a halt to this misbegotten “public diplomacy” offensive. If, however, you decide to press on anyway, we suggest you try to find a less tarnished statesman or woman.
A Choice Between Two
If the intelligence on the shoot-down is as weak as it appears judging from the fuzzy scraps that have been released, we strongly suggest you call off the propaganda war and await the findings of those charged with investigating the shoot-down. If, on the other hand, your administration has more concrete, probative intelligence, we strongly suggest that you consider approving it for release, even if there may be some risk of damage to “sources and methods.” Too often this consideration is used to prevent information from entering the public domain where, as in this case, it belongs.
There have been critical junctures in the past in which presidents have recognized the need to waive secrecy in order to show what one might call “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” or even to justify military action.
As senior CIA veteran Milton Bearden has put it, there are occasions when more damage is done to U.S. national security by “protecting” sources and methods than by revealing them. For instance, Bearden noted that Ronald Reagan exposed a sensitive intelligence source in showing a skeptical world the reason for the U.S. attack on Libya in retaliation for the April 5, 1986 bombing at the La Belle Disco in West Berlin. That bombing killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman, and injured over 200 people, including 79 U.S. servicemen.
Intercepted messages between Tripoli and agents in Europe made it clear that Libya was behind the attack. Here’s an excerpt: “At 1:30 in the morning one of the acts was carried out with success, without leaving a trace behind.”
Ten days after the bombing the U.S. retaliated, sending over 60 Air Force fighters to strike the Libyan capital of Tripoli and the city of Benghazi. The operation was widely seen as an attempt to kill Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who survived, but his adopted 15-month-old daughter was killed in the bombing, along with at least 15 other civilians.
Three decades ago, there was more shame attached to the killing of children. As world abhorrence grew after the U.S. bombing strikes, the Reagan administration produced the intercepted, decoded message sent by the Libyan Peoples Bureau in East Berlin acknowledging the “success” of the attack on the disco, and adding the ironically inaccurate boast “without leaving a trace behind.”
The Reagan administration made the decision to give up a highly sensitive intelligence source, its ability to intercept and decipher Libyan communications. But once the rest of the world absorbed this evidence, international grumbling subsided and many considered the retaliation against Tripoli justified.
If You’ve Got the Goods…
If the U.S. has more convincing evidence than what has so far been adduced concerning responsibility for shooting down Flight 17, we believe it would be best to find a way to make that intelligence public – even at the risk of compromising “sources and methods.” Moreover, we suggest you instruct your subordinates not to cheapen U.S. credibility by releasing key information via social media like Twitter and Facebook.
The reputation of the messenger for credibility is also key in this area of “public diplomacy.” As is by now clear to you, in our view Secretary Kerry is more liability than asset in this regard. Similarly, with regard to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, his March 12, 2013 Congressional testimony under oath to what he later admitted were “clearly erroneous” things regarding NSA collection should disqualify him. Clapper should be kept at far remove from the Flight 17 affair.
What is needed, if you’ve got the goods, is an Interagency Intelligence Assessment – the genre used in the past to lay out the intelligence. We are hearing indirectly from some of our former colleagues that what Secretary Kerry is peddling does not square with the real intelligence. Such was the case late last August, when Kerry created a unique vehicle he called a “Government (not Intelligence) Assessment” blaming, with no verifiable evidence, Bashar al-Assad for the chemical attacks near Damascus, as honest intelligence analysts refused to go along and, instead, held their noses.
We believe you need to seek out honest intelligence analysts now and hear them out. Then, you may be persuaded to take steps to curb the risk that relations with Russia might escalate from “Cold War II” into an armed confrontation. In all candor, we see little reason to believe that Secretary Kerry and your other advisers appreciate the enormity of that danger.
In our most recent (May 4) memorandum to you, Mr. President, we cautioned that if the U.S. wished “to stop a bloody civil war between east and west Ukraine and avert Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine, you may be able to do so before the violence hurtles completely out of control.” On July 17, you joined the top leaders of Germany, France, and Russia in calling for a ceasefire. Most informed observers believe you have it in your power to get Ukrainian leaders to agree. The longer Kiev continues its offensive against separatists in eastern Ukraine, the more such U.S. statements appear hypocritical.
We reiterate our recommendations of May 4, that you remove the seeds of this confrontation by publicly disavowing any wish to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and that you make it clear that you are prepared to meet personally with Russian President Putin without delay to discuss ways to defuse the crisis and recognize the legitimate interests of the various parties. The suggestion of an early summit got extraordinary resonance in controlled and independent Russian media. Not so in “mainstream” media in the U.S. Nor did we hear back from you.
The courtesy of a reply is requested.
Prepared by VIPS Steering Group
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret); Foreign Service Officer (ret.)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is a group of current and former officials of the United States Intelligence Community, including some from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. State Department’s Intelligence Bureau (INR), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). It was formed in January 2003 as a “coast-to-coast enterprise” to protest the use of faulty intelligence “upon which the US/UK invasion of Iraq was based.” The group issued a letter before the 2003 invasion of Iraq stating that intelligence analysts were not being listened to by policy makers.
RINF Alternative News
On July 15, the Miami Herald reported that a Navy medical officer recently refused to continue to participate in the force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay prisoners who are on hunger strike. According to Cori Crider of Reprieve, who was informed of the Navy officer’s decision by her client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, “Once [the officer] saw with his own eyes that what he was told was contrary to what was actually taking place here, he decided he could not do it anymore.” Dhiab also told Crider that the officer announced, “I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act.”
In May 2013, Al Jazeera obtained an unredacted copy of a revised set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), issued in March 2013, for dealing with Guantanamo Bay prisoners on hunger strike. Journalist Jason Leopold, who has taken the lead in investigating the abuse of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, reviewed and analyzed the revised SOP. From the document, Leopold details the “brutal and dehumanizing medical procedure that requires them to wear masks over their mouths while they sit shackled in a restraint chair for as long as two hours.” A tube as much as two feet long is “snaked through their nostril until a chest X-ray, or a test dose of water, confirms it has reached their stomach.”
Dhiab, who has been cleared for release since 2009, has been at the center of legal challenges to the practice of force-feeding of hunger strikers. Not having any other option, Dhiab and others went on hunger strike to challenge their continued detention. Yet, Dhiab has expressed his willingness “to be force-fed in a humane manner,” including being“spared the agony of having the feeding tubes inserted and removed for each feeding, and if he could be spared the pain and discomfort of the restraint chair.”
He asks, “Is it necessary for them to torture me? Is it necessary for them to choke me every day with the tube? Is it necessary for them to make my throat so swollen every day? Do I have to suffer every day? Is it necessary for them to put me on the torture chair in order to feed me?”
Dhiab’s legal challenges have been heard by Senior Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In her ruling from May 22, 2014, Judge Kessler wrote, “Mr. Dhiab has indicated his willingness to be enterally fed…if he could be spared the agony of having the feeding tubes inserted and removed for each feeding, and if he could be spared the pain and discomfort of the restraint chair….The Department of Defense refused to make these compromises.”
Despite the Obama administration’s repeated claims that force-feeding is humane and necessary to keep hunger striking prisoners alive, the DoD’s refusal to accept the compromise Dhiab offered demonstrates the real purpose behind the manner in which Guantanamo Bay prisoners are force-fed. The real purposes are to punish them for acting on their human right to protest, to coerce them into ending their protest, and to dissuade other prisoners from joining them. As George Annas, a professor and Chair of the Department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights at Boston University, asked, “Is there a legal justification for force-feeding a prisoner who is willing to be fed voluntarily?”
The answer is unequivocally ‘no’. Article I of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as…punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person,…when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Jon Eisenberg, who also represents Dhiab, believes that while some of the practices associated with the force-feeding of prisoners may not reach the severity necessary for them to constitute torture, others do, and he has “no doubt that cumulatively it all adds up to torture.” The purpose of the torture is punitive, coercive, and is intentionally painful. Further, it is perpetrated with the full knowledge and consent of the Obama administration in clear violation of the United States’ obligations as a party to the Torture Convention.
Everyone from those who administer the force-feeding to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to President Obama share responsibility for the torture and abuse of prisoners on hunger strike. As has been demonstrated by the Navy medical officer, those being asked to torture the prisoners can choose whether to participate. As established during theNuremberg Trials, following orders is not a legitimate defense. Secretary Hagel is responsible for the torture because he is responsible for DoD policies. And President Obama is responsible because, as Commander-in-Chief, he has the ultimate authority to dictate DoD policies. President Obama could have ordered the DoD to accept Dhiab’s compromise, but instead he permits the ongoing torture.
A 13-year veteran St. Louis County, Missouri police officer allegedly beat a man in an “unprovoked show of force” after he asked him for help to find his missing girlfriend. Rather than offer help, Dawon Gore, 44, allegedly told the victim, Pierre Wilson, 24, that he should contact a department closer to his home, an answer which Wilson did not find satisfactory. An argument evidently ensued, after which Gore allegedly charged Wilson and proceeded to beat him with his baton, breaking three of his fingers in the process. Gore then reportedly denied him medical attention for an hour and a half while the victim was “booked.”
Despite this supposed booking, Gore failed to file a police report and failed to notify his supervisor of the incident, choosing instead to drop the victim off at his home. Gore is now facing second-degree assault charges. Video of the beginning of the altercation, but not the beating, exists but is not being released as it’s claimed to be evidence in the case.
Here’s a local video report on the beating from KMOV:
Chris runs the website InformationLiberation.com, you can read more of his articles here. Follow infolib on twitter.
William Binney talks about the growing corruption and power of the NSA and how they abuse their power behind the scenes to pull strings.
Since 2000, almost every big American multinational corporation has created more jobs outside the United States than inside.
He was referring to American corporations now busily acquiring foreign companies in order to become non-American, thereby reducing their U.S. tax bill.
But the president might as well have been talking about all large American multinationals.
In fact, since 2000, almost every big American multinational corporation has created more jobs outside the United States than inside. If you add in their foreign sub-contractors, the foreign total is even higher.
At the same time, though, many foreign-based companies have been creating jobs in the United States. They now employ around 6 million Americans, and account for almost 20 percent of U.S. exports. Even a household brand like Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s best-selling beer maker, employing thousands of Americans, is foreign (part of Belgian-based beer giant InBev).
Meanwhile, foreign investors are buying an increasing number of shares in American corporations, and American investors are buying up foreign stocks.
Who’s us? Who’s them?
The voice of Gaza teen blogger Farah Baker, which went viral over the weekend, has been silenced after Israeli bombing took out Gaza’s only power plant. The 16 year old’s live account of Israeli bombing saw her followers go from 4,000 to over 70,000.
Baker, known as Farah Gazan on Twitter, struck a chord with Twitter users around the world when she live-tweeted her fears and emotions during an Israeli attack.
Baker’s poignant insight into the situation on the ground captivated the internet, attracting the attention of American news channel NBC, who interviewed the Palestinian teenager. She described the night of the bombing as the most terrifying in her life.
However, Baker’s running commentary was cut short Tuesday after the IDF knocked out Gaza’s only power station and electricity in over 20,000 homes.
United Nations Human Rights Chief says that Israel may be Guilty of War Crimes.
Gaza is a prison city surrounded by walls that do not allow its residents to evacuate to safe places.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the purpose of the invasion of Gaza is to destroy the tunnels that connect Gaza with Israel, which he says are used by Hamas terrorists to slip into Israel to launch attacks.
If this were true, one would need ask, why did Israel begin bombing Gaza 10 days before the ground invasion?
Another important question to ask is why did Hamas reject a ceasefire as proposed by Israel and Egypt.
A third question is, who stands to gain or lose from the slaughter of 650 innocent people in Gaza and 30 Israeli soldiers?
We can now say that the biggest loser are the Palestinian people, who have been part of Israel’s orgy of collateral damage. Women and children continue to be counted among the hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and arrests, many homes destroyed, and the total or partial demolition of their already meager public services, are some of the consequences of Israel’s continues attacks in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister knows that in a military campaign such as the one his government is carrying out almost everyone will show support, even if the military operation causes massive loses without truly destroying Hamas. Israel’s military operation will neither end the war nor end Hamas.
TV pundits and analysts could use a reality check.
RINF Alternative News
Here’s a thought: The Iraq War boosters who enthusiastically promoted the idea that a violent invasion would deliver a stable democracy should keep their opinions about the next U.S. war to themselves.
For many pundits and (mostly) Republican politicians, the Obama years have been a time of serious decline of American power in the world. What they mean — and sometimes what they say outright, when they’re being honest — is that they want the United States to be more involved in more wars in foreign countries.
Sure, sometimes they’ll dress it up with rhetoric about American values and influence. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) — still treated as a foreign policy expert by big media — spoke recently about the need to “restore America’s power and prestige.” Fox host Bill O’Reilly declared that Obama “has not acted as a dominant world leader.”
It’s not hard to figure out what these folks really mean. Commenting on the turmoil across the Middle East, TV pundit Cokie Roberts complained that “we just haven’t made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country.”Time magazine explained to readers that Obama “hesitates” instead of using military force, and “trouble follows as a result.”
Stop and think about that one for a second. The United States, of course, invaded Iraq in 2003 and occupied it for the next decade. The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has gone on even longer. The Obama administration, often away from the media spotlight, has waged a drone war in Pakistan and Yemen — killing hundreds of innocent civilians.
We led a military intervention to oust Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, leaving the country a more violent and chaotic place. And if you’re looking at the current crisis in Gaza, don’t forget that the United States has been a stalwart ally of Israel, our country’s top recipient of military aid.
In short — does it sound like the United States is too “hands-off”?
One of the big problems with our armchair foreign policy gurus — besides the fact that so many of them have been so wrong for so long about so many things — is that they try to convince the rest of us that the Obama administration has retreated from using military force. This is obviously false — just consider the drone wars and Libya and the massive escalation of the Afghan War, for starters.
But the problem is bigger than that.
These analysts and TV pundits are, as the old saying goes, so fond of wielding hammers that everything begins to look like a nail. From the comforts of air-conditioned TV studios, all manner of foreign crises would be solved if the White House would just be more willing to bomb, attack and invade.
It doesn’t seem to matter to them where or what the problem might be. From Syria to Iraq to anywhere else, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed by U.S. military assaults. These are the people who look at the horrors in Syria and think the solution is to supply more weapons even if it’s just a recipe for more violence and suffering.
The good news is that it doesn’t seem to be working with the American public.
The New York Times recently noted that while Obama doesn’t get high marks on his foreign policy, “polls find that Americans do not want Mr. Obama to get the country enmeshed more deeply in places like Ukraine and Iraq.”
It all makes me wonder why the media gives so many warmongers a platform. The fact is there are relatively few voices in these media debates calling for peace and diplomacy. Too often, the need to commit to more war isn’t treated as an assertion so much as an assumption.
Peter Hart is the activism director of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. www.fair.org