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News and Opinion

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Lanny Breuer, Justice Department criminal division chief, is stepping down

As one of the longest-serving heads of the criminal division, Breuer has had a tenure filled with controversy and high-profile prosecutions. He was admonished for his role in the agency’s botched attempt to infiltrate weapons-smuggling rings in the operation dubbed “Fast and Furious.” And he has been accused of being soft on Wall Street for failing to throw senior bank executives behind bars for their role in the financial crisis.

emptywheel was very sad to hear this news.
Day after Frontline Exposure, Lanny Breuer Resignation Reported

Last night, Frontline had a very good show exposing how derelict DOJ has been in not prosecuting any of the banksters who ruined the economy. It could have been far, far worse, as it dealt solely with the securitization crimes that were ignored. Nevertheless, it showed Lanny Breuer to be an arrogant jerk who insisted DOJ couldn’t prosecute, in spite of the abundant evidence of crime presented in the show.


Golly, was it only last week I was calling for Breuer’s firing?

Jeremy Scahill's film, "Dirty Wars", premiered at Sundance to a packed house.  There is almost nobody else out there doing the kind of work that Scahill is doing, taking the kinds of risks that he is taking.  I think he is easily one of the best journalists that we've got and he is in my top... maybe three journalists... hard to choose.  In terms of war reporters, he's the best IMHO.  He tells the stories that nobody else is telling with seemingly few resources. He speaks Arabic and gets out there in the dangerous places in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan.  He also get harrassed by his own government when entering the country and has mentioned that he is surveilled.  When I see the things he is doing I worry that he will get taken out by a drone strike one of these days given that he has been out there where the strikes are happening and for this movie they had to travel with a very low profile.   Anyway, watch for his movie to come out in the theaters.  And when you get a chance, try to watch these videos.  Scahill will help you educate yourself about the hidden wars and what's really going on with our military policy (as President Obama tells the world that our wars are coming to an end, you can see that this is only the case for our overt wars, maybe, but our covert wars show no signs of abating and in fact the opposite seems true.)  

Dirty Wars

* Interview on HuffPostLive, looks like it won't embed properly but the link is there -- well worth watching.

Two-part interview on DemocracyNow!
Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill & Rick Rowley's New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare 1/2

Above I mention that Scahill is harassed by his own government and surveilled.  In case you are interested in hearing about that for yourself, here is the video where he talks about that to We Are Change, two months ago, in NYC.
Jeremy Scahill on Obama's War Machine, American Assassinations & Journalism
It would make it too hard to sabotage themselves and blame everything on the Republicans...  The only question I have is why did Reid bother with this huge bit of theater in the first place?  Might as well just hand the Senate to the minority.  I don't want to hear any more complaints about how they can't get things done.  The Democrats did this to themselves.
Mr. Reid Goes to Washington... Makes Backdoor Deal for Meager Filibuster Reform
"Talking Filibuster" appears too noble an option for current Senate as compromise expected

According to reports on negotiations between Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), advocates of strong filibuster reforms that would bring back the "talking filibuster" in the US Senate—made famous in the film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and which forces Senators to actually speak on the Senate floor to put a hold on legislation they object to—will be disappointed to discover that such a change has been excluded from a deal that could be announced as early as Thursday.

A more "meager" agreement may be reached, but it appears that Reid's threats earlier this week to use the so-called "nuclear option" by setting new rules for the Senate at the outset of the term were more bluster than hard-nosed attempts to get the changes that many say are needed to truly free the Senate from the gridlock of recent years.


Common Cause, a citizens advocacy group in Washington, said if reports of the agreement between Reid and McConnell were true the deal would only continue the Senate’s march toward irrelevance.


"It’s distressing to hear that the so-called reform in the works would preserve the 'silent filibuster,' allowing the minority to kill bills simply by sending an email or making a phone call," Edgar added.

Military Contracting: Our New Era of Corporate Mercenaries
A niche business has become a huge industry – but murky as ever: privatising conflict means bypassing democratic oversight

Nearly every tool necessary to wage war can now be purchased: combat support, including the ability to conduct large-scale operations and surgical strikes; operational support, like training and intelligence gathering; and general support, like transportation services and paramedical assistance. The demand for these services, in turn, has ballooned: the gross revenue for the private military contractor industry is now in excess of $100bn a year.

The privatization of conflict is no longer a trend. It's the norm.

The United States relied so heavily on contractors during the recent Iraq war that no one knows with certainty how many were on the ground. In late 2010, the United Arab Emirates, fearful that the Arab uprisings might spread to the Gulf, paid Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, $529m to create an elite force to safeguard the emirate. And today, Russia is openly considering forming a cadre of private military contractors to further its interests abroad.

Yet, the laws that govern this industry tell a different story. Instead of a transnational system with meaningful collaboration, we have a patchwork of state laws that allow companies to forum-shop and circumvent regulations. Contractors can likewise relocate, as they typically rent the equipment necessary to complete their contracts; their primary source of capital is human, not physical.

In addition to closing loopholes, states must monitor contractors, and prosecute them when they commit crimes. To this day, not a single contractor has been successfully prosecuted for its role in the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities or the Nisour Square massacre, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.


In its final report to the US Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting found that the US government lost more than $30bn to contractor waste and fraud in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, corporations can rename and rebrand, thereby mitigating reputational harm. Consider Blackwater USA, which changed its name to Xe Services LLC, and then to Academi – all in the last four years.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues

Justice Dept. Criminal Division Chief Lanny Breuer Resigns After PBS' Frontline Appearance (Updated)

FAIL! There Will Be Austerity Kabuki Every 3 Months

Sadie's Dream for the World

Eco-advocates plan opposition to Nebraska Gov. Heineman's okay of new Keystone XL pipeline route

Torture and the Dark Side of ZERO DARK THIRTY

The Four Tops - It´s the same old song

It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

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