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Good Morning!

Longwood Gardens. May, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon

Longwood Gardens. May, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon

Longwood Gardens. May, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon

Steely Dan - Hey Nineteen

News & Opinion


At around 18:45 UTC the OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection, it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.

The graph below shows DNS traffic from and to Syria. The drop in both inbound and outbound traffic from Syria is clearly visible. The small amount of outbound traffic depicted by the chart indicates our DNS servers trying to reach DNS servers in Syria.
Effectively, the shutdown disconnects Syria from Internet communication with the rest of the world. It’s unclear whether Internet communication within Syria is still available. Although we can’t yet comment on what caused this outage, past incidents were linked to both government-ordered shutdowns and damage to the infrastructure, which included fiber cuts and power outages.

New McClatchy story.

Syrian rebel leader Salim Idriss admits difficulty of unifying fighters

ANTAKYA, Turkey — The defected Syrian general whom the United States has tapped as its conduit for aid to the rebels has acknowledged in an interview with McClatchy that his movement is badly fragmented and lacks the military skill needed to topple the government of President Bashar Assad.
He acknowledged that he has little influence over what the rebels do in Syria and no direct authority over some of the largest factions, including the Farouq Brigade, whose forces control key parts of the countryside from Homs to the Turkish border.
Idriss said his group didn’t work with al Qaida-affiliated rebels who belonged to the Nusra Front. But he said the military councils worked closely with another Islamist rebel faction, Arhar al Sham, that’s known to coordinate its actions with Nusra and shares many of Nusra’s beliefs about how Syria should be governed if Assad is vanquished.

Overall, Idriss’ assessment of the rebel movement suggests that it’s still in its infancy, far from a military force that could topple the government soon. He spoke of a need to combine small units into larger ones, to build a force that can take control of vast cities such as Damascus.

This is a DemocracyNow interview with Robert Fisk, British journalist, Middle East specialist for the UK Independent, who lives in Lebanon and just spent time, with permission of the Syrian government, with the Syrian forces on the front.  He says that the only restriction they put on him is that he could not take pictures of the faces of the soldiers. Otherwise he was not censored at all.  I find Fisk to be a trustworthy source.  I do not find most other sources on the Syria situation to be trustworthy.  The Syrian proxy war is full of propaganda, agendas and deceit, according to people who I tend to trust and who know a lot more about it than I do.  Fisk notes that none of the soldiers were carrying gas masks and when asked about chemical weapons, they said it made no sense for them to use them and denied using them.  He also asserts that there is no evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons and says that even the evidence of rebels using them is not too solid.  To be fair, we should take into consideration that he is cynical about the chemical weapons and WMD thing altogether.  It's well worth listening to his discussion about that, and about some children in hospital in Beirut, and the things that a doctor in Beirut told Fisk.  This is a 21 minute segment and it's well worth listening to.  I'll just stress again that it is hard to find straight up reporting on Syria from a trustworthy source, which is all the more reason to watch the interview (or listen to it while doing something else, which is what I tend to do).
Robert Fisk on Syria's Civil War, Chemical Weapons "Theater" & Obama's Backing of Israeli Strikes

As the United States moves toward increased intervention in Syria, we're joined by Robert Fisk, the longtime Middle East correspondent of the British newspaper The Independent. Just back from two weeks in Syria reporting around the capital Damascus, Fisk discusses what he calls the "theater of chemical weapons," the latest in Syria's civil war — a battle he says the Syrian government is winning — as well as his reaction to what he calls President Obama's "pitiful" backing of the recent Israeli missile strikes. "Don't ask me if they have used chemical weapons," Fisk says. "It's conceivable. There really isn't any proof. What you have got to realize is that this is a propaganda war just as much as it is a savage war, killing many thousands of human beings."

Human Rights Groups to Obama: Don’t Let John Brennan Cover Up the Torture He Condoned

Eight human rights organizations just sent a letter to President Obama urging him to appoint a high level White House official to coordinate the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report out of the White House. Like the letter Mark Udall already sent, this one implies releasing the report is crucial to delivering on Obama’s 2009 promise to end torture.
I’d say all that qualifies Brennan as an “individual who might be implicated in the CIA’s use of torture.” (It should also have disqualified him for the job, but you fight torture with the Senate you have, not the one that might be a functioning oversight body.)

That is, these human rights groups, though far more polite than I am, are basically saying that John Brennan shouldn’t be entrusted with this declassification decision because he’d be covering up his own role in it (he is mentioned, though not badly implicated, in the report).

But that same line is also where the logic of this letter fails. [...]

She was too toxic for this promotion, apparently, though the CIA denies the role in the torture program was the issue.  I think that is obviously a blatant lie, but then again, the CIA specializes in lies.   Note that there is mention of the CIA response to the Senate torture report and how it will be "defiant" and will contain many mentions of the female officer's role.  We still don't know if this woman is "Maya" from Zero Dark Thirty (ZDT), or if, since the producers of ZDT said, the Maya character was a composite, if it was one of the women who were part of that composite.  There is another interesting story about real life "Maya" and how, after a number of people in the CIA were given awards for the bin Laden operation, she hit "reply all" to everyone on the email announcing it, and said that the other recipients of the award did not deserve it, and how she was denied a promotion (pay grade promotion, not position promotion) after that and how it caused a big mess at the Agency.
CIA selects new head of clandestine service, passing over female officer

[...] She had run a secret prison in Thailand where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques. She later helped order the destruction of videotapes of those interrogation sessions.

Instead, Brennan has given the job to a 57-year-old longtime officer who served tours in Pakistan and Africa and was recently in charge of the agency’s Latin America division, according to public records and former officials. He is also undercover, U.S. officials said.

The CIA confirmed the appointment in a statement Tuesday but disputed that the female officer’s ties to the interrogation program were a factor.
The CIA is assembling what former officials have described as a defiant response to a 6,000-page report recently completed by the Senate Intelligence Committee that sharply criticizes the interrogation program as well as the agency’s claims about its results.

The report contains many references to the female officer’s role.

More evidence that Zero Dark Thirty was CIA propaganda.  This information came as a result of an FOIA request, and it's fairly tame.  I wonder what else might be out there that was not coughed up in response to the FOIA.  The FOIA rules were changed early in the Obama admin. with changes that make it easy for govt. agencies to not only refuse to provide information but to refuse to even reveal its existence.  In any case, this is confirmation that Boals accommodated the CIA when they objected to certain parts of the film and made sure they were removed or changed.
Newly Declassified Memo Shows CIA Shaped Zero Dark Thirty's Narrative

Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden revenge-porn flick Zero Dark Thirty was the biggest publicity coup for the CIA this century outside of the actual killing of Osama bin Laden. But the extent to which the CIA shaped the film has remained unclear. Now, a memo obtained by Gawker shows that the CIA actively, and apparently successfully, pressured Mark Boal to remove scenes that made them look bad from the Zero Dark Thirty script.

The CIA's whitewashing effort is revealed in a cache of documents newly released under a Freedom of Information Act request about the CIA's cooperation with Bigelow and Boal. The documents include a 2012 memo—initially classified "SECRET"—summarizing five conference calls between Boal and the CIA's Office of Public Affairs in late 2011. "The purpose for these discussions was for OPA officers to help promote an appropriate portrayal of the Agency and the Bin Ladin operation," according to the memo. (Hundreds of pages of CIA documents about the film were released last year; the memo obtained by Gawker was approved for release late last month.)

During these calls, Boal "verbally shared the screenplay" for Zero Dark Thirty in order to get the CIA's feedback, and the CIA's public affairs department verbally asked Boal to take out parts that they objected to. According to the memo, he did.

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