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Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.

Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.


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News & Opinion

Pretty big Update:

Justin Amash's NSA Surveillance Amendment Ruled In Order

A little more than a month after secret National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs were leaked to the public, one GOP congressman is making headway with his push to defund those initiatives.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) took to Twitter on Monday, applauding news that his amendment aimed at gutting the programs behind the seizure of millions of Americans' phone records was ruled in order.

After their contentious exchange in the Armed Services committee hearing last week, McCain decided to hold up Gen. Dempsey's reconfirmation as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. McCain claimed that Dempsey would not answer his questions.  I watched a video of the hearing, and that's not the idea that I got about what was sticking in the idiot senator's craw.  To me, it looked like he was pissed off because the general would not advise the president to take us into another war in Syria, and that is what McCain desperately wants.  It was a bizarre exchange, in my opinion, with a senator (from the legislative branch, mind you) trying to force military strategy on a life long career military officer who functions as the highest level officer in the country (well that doesn't count Adm. McRaven who is probably more powerful but his wars are off the record and run out of the White House Security Council).  Anyway, Dempsey provided information to the Senate on Monday, and he says that getting our military into Syria might result, (surprise!) in another quagmire.  We've already got special ops forces over there and CIA has been there for a couple of years, but McCain (and Kerry) want bombs and no-fly zones and full involvement.  

For instance, where do you think these guys are going to end up?

And things are going so well, in general, in Iraq.

Then there is the issue of who is going to run the country after we force Assad out.  Libya turned out so well, you know. The place is a freaking mess.  Syria would probably be even worse. And there's the idea that the so called Free Syrian Army is fiction and is mostly groups of mercenary jihadists hired by Gulf State countries and other countries (like us for instance) fighting a proxy war with Iran.  Iraq is just such a stellar example of what we do to bring freedom to the Middle East and if that wasn't enough, on the very anniversary of the invasion of Iraq we invaded/bombed/whatever it was in Libya and that is a bloody mess too.  But the president said Assad must go, so Assad must go. It's insanity.  Dempsey appears to be holding the line but there are a lot of idiots in Washington trying to force his hand.  Col. Pat Lang hasn't written about this yet but I am anxious to see what he'll say about the dangerous idiot McCain and Kerry.

US military intervention in Syria would create 'unintended consequences'
General Martin Dempsey, top military officer, warns senators that each option under consideration would be costly and uncertain

The top US military officer warned senators on Monday that taking military action to stop the bloodshed in Syria was likely to escalate quickly and result in "unintended consequences", representing the most explicit uniformed opposition to deeper involvement in another war in the Middle East.

Alluding to the costly, bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said that once the US got involved militarily in the Syrian civil war, which the UN estimates to have killed about 93,000 people, "deeper involvement is hard to avoid".

"We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state," Dempsey wrote to senators John McCain and Carl Levin on Monday. "We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action."


ProPublica is doing some special reporting on the NSA Files.

Does the NSA Tap That? What We Still Don’t Know About the Agency’s Internet Surveillance

Is the NSA really sucking up everything?

It’s not clear.

The most detailed, though now dated, information on the topic comes from Mark Klein. He’s the former AT&T technician who went public in 2006 describing the installation in 2002-03 of a secret room in an AT&T building in San Francisco. The equipment, detailed in technical documents, allowed the NSA to conduct what Klein described as “vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data.”

Klein said he was told there was similar equipment installed at AT&T facilities in San Diego, Seattle, and San Jose.

There is also evidence that the vacuuming has continued in some form right up to the present.

A draft NSA inspector’s general report from 2009, recently published by the Washington Post, refers to access via two companies “to large volumes of foreign-to-foreign communications transiting the United States through fiberoptic cables, gateway switches, and data networks.”

Recent stories by the Associated Press and the Washington Post also described the NSA’s cable-tapping, but neither included details on the scope of this surveillance.

Julian Assange is still pretty leery about the movie, "The Fifth Estate".  He says, on Twitter, that the trailer makes it look positive toward Wikileaks but the now available synopsis tells a different story.  
The Fifth Estate (Dreamworks)

Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, THE FIFTH ESTATE reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society—and what are the costs of exposing them?"

Another article on der Spiegel.  Merkel has a big problem.
'Key Partners': Secret Links Between Germany and the NSA

It was a busy two days for the surveillance specialists of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency. At the end of April, a team of 12 senior BND officials flew to the United States, where they visited the heart of the global American surveillance empire: the National Security Agency (NSA). The purpose of their mission can be read in a "top secret" NSA document which SPIEGEL has seen -- one of the trove of files in the possession of whistleblower Edward Snowden.

According to the document, BND President Gerhard Schindler repeatedly expressed an "eagerness" to cooperate more closely with the NSA. The Germans, the document reads, were looking for "guidance and advice."
This is awkward news for Merkel, who is running for re-election as the head of the center-right Christian Democrats. The German campaign had been relatively uneventful until recently, but now a new issue seems to have emerged: the Americans' lust for data. Opposition politicians have intensified their attacks in recent days. First Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic candidate for the Chancellery, accused Merkel of having violated her oath of office for failing to protect the basic rights of Germans. Not long later, SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel referred to Merkel as a "spin doctor who is trying to placate the population." According to Gabriel, it has since been proven that the German government knew about the NSA's activities.

But the attacks from the SPD are not the chancellor's biggest worry; the real threat comes from within. At a very early juncture, Merkel insisted that her government had been completely unaware of the NSA's activities. It is a position she reiterated before starting her summer vacation last Friday.

I haven't looked into this much yet.  The "Occupy Money Cooperative".  It was posted in our Occupy DKos google group.  It looks really interesting.
Introducing: The Occupy Money Cooperative

The Occupy Money Cooperative will put banking back in our hands. It will offer cheap, transparent and high quality financial services to anyone, and anyone who uses those services will become a member of the cooperative, with a voice in how the coop will be run and what services it will offer.

Welcome to the start of the financial services revolution.

Welcome to The Occupy Money Cooperative.  

This is a new venture whose purpose is to offer excellent value, transparent financial services to anyone.  Today, many people are either locked out of the banking system, or end up being charged excessive fees.    

The Occupy Money Cooperative :

Will offer access to low cost, transparent, high quality financial services to everyone.

Will actively and directly encourage the development of innovative financial services that will foster financial inclusion, and lead the field in terms of openness and fairness.

Will lead by example to affect a positive change for our members and stakeholders, and provide an uplifted standard of conduct for the financial community.

Will actively work with business partners and organizations that demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of their communities.

Access to financial services is an important public service.  It should belong to the public.  Your support will help launch the coop and its first product, the Occupy Card.

The Occupy Money Cooperative will be owned and controlled by its members.  Its members will consist of its customers.  If you use its products, you will automatically become a member of the cooperative, with a voice in how the coop will be run, and what services it will develop.

There was a snarky hashtag on Twitter last night, #ObamaCareThemeSong, that was basically eviscerating Obamacare.  I looked through some of them and many were nasty. But others were just kind of scary.  I hope they are able to pull this off in implementing Obamacare.  Otherwise, there is a wall of right-wing opposition and not a lot of full throated support and push back, or not much that I saw in the latest social media exercise to gut it.  In addition to the text, there were a fairly large number of graphics and cartoons.  

From the Guardian, a must watch.

Hina Shamsi on Obama's drone wars: America's targeted killing policy

The director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security project talks about why the Obama administration's drone assassinations are not just illegal in many cases, but are becoming increasingly risky for the US itself

Not a surprise to us, but it's finally getting some  more traction in the media.  When you read about this, do remember John Brennan's confirmation hearing and DiFi talking about the numbers the Senate Intelligence committee (single digits civilians killed) and Brennan's endorsement of that figure.  Also remember that Brennan was running one of the drone programs out of the White House with Adm. McRaven while Petraeus and before that Panetta running theirs out of the CIA. Drones gone wild during the Obama admin.
Leaked Pakistani Document Exposes Civilian, Child Casaulties Of Drone War

London's Bureau of Investigative Journalism released a leaked Pakistani report on Monday that details numerous civilian casualties by drone strikes in the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The document provides crucial new data on civilians casualties of U.S. and NATO strikes in Pakistan.

The 12-page dossier was compiled for the the authorities in the tribal areas, the Bureau notes, and investigates 75 CIA drone strikes and five attacks by NATO in the region conducted between 2006 and 2009. According to the document, 746 people were killed in the strategic attacks. At least 147 of the victims were civilians, and 94 were children.

While a majority of earlier tallies relied on media reports of drone strikes, the FATA list was compiled by government officials who were sent out to investigate damage in the wake of attacks. According to the Bureau, on several occasions officials registered different casualty rates than media outlets reported.

New York Review of Books.
What Future for Israel?

Olmert never provided absolute numbers when describing the amount of territory he proposed to annex. Palestinian negotiators weren’t able to ascertain whether his percentages were of a part of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, or of a much larger territory including Gaza, among other areas.2 On top of this, Palestinian and Israeli calculations of the West Bank’s area differ by several hundred square kilometers. In some Palestinian accounts, Abbas couldn’t be sure whether Olmert’s proposed 6.3 percent to 6.8 percent annexation was not in fact closer to 8.5 percent—i.e., more than four times the 1.9 percent of the West Bank and Gaza that Abbas insisted a swap not exceed.3

Adding to Palestinian doubts was that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had presented her own maps, annexing 8 to 10 percent of the West Bank, yet Abrams notes that “they looked very much the same [as Olmert’s]…. So how could the maps be so similar?” The parties never agreed which settlements would be removed, with Palestinians balking at Olmert’s insistence on retaining Ariel, whose eastern border extends nearly halfway across the West Bank.

Still larger than these territorial discrepancies were ones concerning the division of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and security arrangements. Olmert proposed to allow five thousand refugees to return to Israel over five years and Abbas 150,000 over ten years, with the possibility of renewal. Israel refused to acknowledge responsibility for the refugee problem, as Abbas insisted it do.4 Olmert’s diplomatic adviser told Abrams that Israel demanded its armed forces remain in the future Palestinian state, a condition Palestinians rejected. As the lead Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qurie, told Abrams and other US officials, “Territory is the easiest issue.”
On a recent Friday, Israel’s highest-rated television station, Channel 2, showed a news segment asking if the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not already dead. The answer, as presented in the anchor’s concluding remarks and by most interviewees—left, right, religious, secular—was that two states had become unattainable.

A Better Secret Court

In an ordinary criminal case, the adversarial process assures legal representation of the defendant. Clearly, in top-secret cases involving potential surveillance targets, a lawyer cannot, in the conventional sense, represent the target.

Congress could, however, authorize the FISA judges to appoint, from time to time, independent lawyers with security clearances to serve “pro bono publico” — for the public’s good — to challenge the government when an application for a FISA order raises new legal issues.

During my six years on the court, there were several occasions when I and other judges faced issues none of us had encountered before. A staff of experienced lawyers assists the court, but their help was not always enough given the complexity of the issues.

The low FISA standard of probable cause — not spinelessness or excessive deference to the government — explains why the court has so often granted the Justice Department’s requests. But rapid advances in technology have outpaced the amendments to FISA, even the most recent ones, in 2008.

Perhaps one of the most important interviews I've seen in recent years.
The Liberal Elite has Betrayed the People They Claim to Defend

On Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay, Chris Hedges says The Democratic Party used to watch out for the interests of labor and even for the poor. But that all changed under Bill Clinton. Although Clinton, like Obama, continues to speak in that feel-your-pain language of traditional liberalism, they've completely betrayed the very people that they purport to represent and defend. Pt. 5 of 7

To see all 7 parts of this interview as they are released please go to

The CIA's Imported Torture Operation Haunts Poland
Poland is the only country with an active investigation into US secret jails

Bounded by the Freedom of Information Act, Polish Airspace authorities have revealed that at least 11 CIA aircrafts landed at Szymany, and some of their passengers stayed on in Poland. The European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) was not informed about those flights.

From Szymany the prisoners were driven to a nearby intelligence academy in Stare Kiejkuty, where the CIA had a separated facility. In 2006, a few months after Poland was first identified as having hosted a secret CIA prison, Polish ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski visited the CIA villa – only to see that its chambers have been freshly renovated.

According to a U.S. intelligence source quoted by The New York Times, the prison in Poland was the most important of the CIA’s black sites, where terror suspects were subjected to interrogation techniques that would not be legal in the United States. The source claimed that Poland was picked mostly because “Polish intelligence officials were eager to cooperate.”

Here Come the Drone Wars in America -- The Public vs. Overzealous Police
Using drones for surveillance in the US won't make overzealous police behaviour or lack of accountability disappear.

For the past year, law enforcement agencies have tried with varying success to convince their wary constituents that drones are necessary for such innocuous, even beneficent, endeavors as conducting search and rescue operations, detecting forest fires and tracking down wandering Alzheimer patients.

Senator Dianne Feinstein pressed Mueller on the privacy risks drones pose to US citizens, but the FBI director needed only to reassure her that his agency had used drones in a "narrowly focused" way in order to quell any qualms the California Senator and Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee might have had. Hardly a champion of the public's right to privacy, however, Feinstein distinguishes herself as one of the most vocal opponents of transparency as well as a leader of the government's war on whistleblowers.

However, others are not so easily appeased.



We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.

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