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Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.

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Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.



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I went looking for the Wyden talk referred to in the tweet above and I think this is it. It's a really big deal if they are collecting geolocation data in bulk.  Obviously it allows the government to track the movement of its citizens, continuously, via the meta data.  Telecoms provide that data on a daily basis.  Geolocation is, I believe, part of the meta data. The govt. claims that they don't collect that, but do they mean under a specific program or do they mean they don't collect it at all.  Most of us believe they do.  Does Wyden know that they do?

If We Don't Seize This Moment to Reform Our Surveillance Laws/Practices,We'll All Live to Regret It

First Leaked Pakistani Report on U.S. Drone War Undermines Claims of Low Civilian Toll

A leaked Pakistani government report has bolstered claims that civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes are far higher than the Obama administration has been willing to admit. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has released figures from the Pakistani government’s own research into casualties from drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Pakistani report investigates 75 CIA drone strikes and five operations by NATO between 2006 and 2009. It finds that the attacks left at least 746 people dead, including at least 147 civilians, 94 of them children — a conservative count given the omission of key data. The high number of civilian casualties directly contradicts statements made by senior Obama administration officials and top lawmakers. We go London to speak with Chris Woods, a reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s drones investigation team, which won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism last month.


A big prison break like this happened before in Iraq (maybe a year ago?), and the jihadists went to Syria to fight in the war there.
Iraq: 500 Prisoners Escape from Abu Ghraib

In Iraq, more than 500 prisoners have escaped from Abu Ghraib, the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad made famous by photographs revealing the torture of prisoners by U.S. soldiers. The prison break began Sunday night when suicide bombers and gunmen launched an assault that lasted into the morning. At least 10 police and four militants died. An official told Reuters most of the escaped prisoners were convicted senior members of al-Qaeda. Another prison north of Baghdad came under simultaneous attack with a number of soldiers and militants killed but no reported prisoner escapes. Abu Ghraib prison became synonymous with U.S. abuses in Iraq after graphic images emerged nearly a decade ago showing Iraqi prisoners being sexually abused and tortured by U.S. solders. Meanwhile in the northern city of Mosul on Monday, a suicide bomber targeting an Iraqi military convoy killed at least 22 soldiers and three other people who happened to be passing by.

Jim White at emptywheel.  In some ways this story is not surprising.  Things are really, really a mess in Afghanistan.  Jim feels strongly that without an immunity agreement for our troops, we won't stay, just as in Iraq.  I think that's true too, obviously, but there are a lot of reasons why NATO won't leave Afghanistan too, so I'm cautious about any predictions that we will pull out without the SOFA that we want.  I just don't know what they are going to do.  But here is the thing about this post that absolutely floored me.  In a four month period, "2748 Afghan policemen have died". WTF??!!  I knew that it was really rough for the Afghan police and military, but that's about 23 per day getting killed!  And that doesn't count the number of Afghan military, nor presumably the ALP commandos.  That's horrific and not sustainable.  Their parliament is voting to remove the Afghan Interior Minister, but that alone can't fix a problem so enormous.

The training program for their military and police is key to NATO getting out of there.  If they are losing people as fast as we can train them, well it's clear what the situation is there.  

Dempsey Photo-Op With Karzai Illustrates Futility of SOFA Negotiations - See more at: http://www.emptywheel.net/#sthash.J6pZ0vOu.dpuf

As the Afghanistan disaster careens closer to the late 2014 end of the NATO mission, the US continues to embarrass itself while it perpetuates the charade of trying to negotiate terms for US forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. On Monday, the US flew Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey to Kabul where he had a photo opportunity with Hamid Karzai. Even while the “meetings” were taking place, unfolding events in Afghanistan demonstrate that US plans to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan under an agreement that has not yet been negotiated show the same lack of situational awareness that has characterized the entire failed military effort there.

As I have been harping for months, a single issue controls the entire concept of whether the US will have troops in Afghanistan after 2014. Just as we saw in Iraq, the US simply will not leave troops in the country if there is no agreement granting criminal immunity to the troops. However, the articles in today’s New York Times and Washington Post on Dempsey’s visit make no reference to the role that immunity will play in whether an agreement is signed. It appears that one has to be retired from the Obama administration to be able to confirm the importance (and unlikelihood of its being granted) of the immunity issue. After blathering that he was making no plans under the zero option (of no US troops in Afghanistan post-2014), Dempsey said that he wants to know where things stand by October of this year and even allowed that there could be a “zero outcome”. That suggests to me that the military at least realizes the very late arrival at a zero outcome in Iraq was so disastrous that a year’s preparation for it will somehow make things better this time.

After a bit of a vacation while her mom was in town, emptywheel is back in the saddle, publishing on her site and on Twitter like wildfire.  She's expert on the surveillance topic, having pored through documents for nearly a decade now, trying to find pieces of information and connecting dots.  The fact that the White House opposes the Amash amendment is not a surprise, but the response from the White House is nothing short of bizarre.  I am really wondering about the state of mind of the people in charge and whoever wrote this statement.  Also, Keith Alexander held two top secret meetings with members of Congress yesterday.  Separate meetings for Republicans and Democrats. Why is that?  I've seen a number of comments about that, noting that the same kinds of split meetings were held with Congress about the torture program.

The Liars Are “Very Concerned” Program They Lied About Will Be Defunded

Buried at the bottom of a broader story on opposition to the Amash-Conyers amendment, CNN offers a very solicitous account of the White House statement opposing it, making no note of how absurd the entire premise is.

The White House issued a statement Tuesday evening, saying that it opposes the amendment and urges the House to reject it. “In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the president has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens,” the statement said. “However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.”
[...]

But if their mission was really to “provide information” and “get the facts on the table,” then what have all the unclassified briefings been about? Is this claim they were only now “providing information” yet another indication that they were, perhaps, misinforming before? Again?

That, to me, is a big part of this story: that two men who have lied repeatedly about these programs felt the need to conduct Top Secret briefings to provide information that hadn’t been provided in the past.

In case you missed this tidbit from Emperor Alexander.
General Alexander: NSA leaks causing sources to dry up

Alexander said the telephone and internet surveillance programs revealed in Snowden's leaks were court-approved but kept secret for a valid reason.
"The purpose of these programs, and the reason we use secrecy, is not to hide from the American people, not to hide it from you, but to hide it from those who walk among you who are trying to kill you."

Detroit and Goldman Sachs: Makers and Takers

By now everyone has heard about Detroit's bankruptcy. One of the big bills in the city's payable box is the $3.5 billion in unfunded pension obligations. The story in many people's minds is that overly generous public sector wage and benefit packages pushed the city over the brink.

It's worth looking at this one a bit more closely. According to the city, the average retiree gets a pension of $18,275. That's better than many workers, but $1,500 a month in pension benefits will not put anyone on the Riviera. That's coupled with pay that averages less than $42,000 for active city workers. (They accepted a 10 percent pay cut last year.)
[...]
This sets up an interesting comparison, the subsidized pay of top executives at Goldman Sachs with the pensions of Detroit public employees. The graph shows the hourly wage of Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, based on his reported 2012 compensation of $13.3 million. (It was $16.2 million in 2011.) Assuming a 40 hour workweek (I know that Mr. Blankfein must work more than this), his compensation comes to $6,650 an hour. This means that in three hours he will earn more than a typical Detroit retiree gets in a year.

Russian state news agency says US leaker Edward Snowden has documents to enter Russia

MOSCOW — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been given a document that allows him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport and enter Russia, Russia’s state news agency said Wednesday.
[...]
RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed security official on Wednesday as saying that Snowden has been issued documents, allowing him to formally enter Russia.

Anna Zakharenkova, a spokeswoman for the airport, told The Associated Press that Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer advising Snowden, would meet with the NSA leaker later on Wednesday.



Action



Urgent: Action needed today

Defund the NSA - ACTION (Now!)

PETITION WRITTEN BY DANIEL ELLSBERG, THE WHISTLEBLOWER BEHIND THE PENTAGON PAPERS

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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