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Photos by: joanneleon. August 15, 2013.


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News & Opinion

Welcome to yet another war?  This one has been described as having the potential to start WWIII.  Where is the hard evidence of who actually did the chemical weapon attack?   What we did in Libya hatched a bloody disaster in numerous ways and in a whole region and it continues.  I can hardly speak.

Air War in Kosovo Seen as Precedent in Possible Response to Syria Chemical Attack

With Russia still likely to veto any military action in the Security Council, the president appears to be wrestling with whether to bypass the United Nations, although he warned that doing so would require a robust international coalition and legal justification.

“If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work?” Mr. Obama said on Friday to CNN, in his first public comments after the deadly attack on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama described the attack as “clearly a big event of grave concern” and acknowledged that the United States had limited time to respond. But he said United Nations investigators needed to determine whether chemical weapons had been used.

U.S. preps for possible cruise missile attack on Syrian gov't forces

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - CBS News has learned that the Pentagon is making the initial preparations for a cruise missile attack on Syrian government forces. We say "initial preparations" because such an attack won't happen until the president gives the green light. And it was clear during an interview on CNN Friday that he is not there yet.

"If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country, without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented," the president told CNN, "then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it -- 'do we have the coalition to make it work?' Those are considerations that we have to take into account."

US readies possible missile strike against Syria - report

Meanwhile, a defense official, cited by Reuters, said on Friday the US Navy was expanding its Mediterranean presence with a fourth cruise-missile ship, the USS Mahan. Though the source stressed to Reuters the Navy did not have orders to prepare for military operations against Syria.

The ship was due to head back to the United States, but the commander of the US Sixth Fleet decided to maintain the ship in the region.

All four ships are capable of launching long-range, subsonic cruise missiles to reach land targets.

Col. Pat Lang, former military intelligence official on the ground in the Middle East who, along with other retired intelligence professionals, spoke out against the cooked up war in Iraq, before it happened, is not buying it.  But the reports are from Russia and they are teh ebil again in the new Cold War so we shouldn't ever listen to anything they say because Putin and Pravda and Progaganda and our government never engages in cooking up excuses for illegal wars of aggression and never does propaganda and is the shining beacon on the hill who only reluctantly does "interventions" to help civilians and help them overthrow evil dictators and let them get democracy. And because the paid jihadists proxy warriors who aren't even Syrians fighting to overthrow the evil dictator, who used chemical weapons before and blamed it on the evil dictator, who kill Syrian civilians, and the exiles, transitional government in waiting who can't agree on a damned thing, will provide such a better life for them.   And then there are these weird peculiarities again about the whole thing, like alleged reporting on the event before it happened. The commentary by Col. Lang's is marked by his "pl" signature. The rest is an excerpt from RT.
Russia says that Syrian "attack" reports preceded the event
“We’re getting more new evidence that this criminal act was of a provocative nature,” he stressed. “In particular, there are reports circulating on the Internet, in particular that the materials of the incident and accusations against government troops had been posted for several hours before the so-called attack. Thus, it was a pre-planned action.” "
Well, well ...  Tell me how this is different from the machinations of the Bush "Iraq Group?"  Tell me.  Tell me why the government stooges who claim to be journalists confidently assert that "we all know" that the Syrian government did this.  Tell me.  pl  
Colbert I. King.
In 1963 and today, a quest for freedom

Saturday there will be commemorations of the event that shook the nation’s conscience 50 years ago — the massive gathering, the soul-stirring speech — a mighty punctuation mark to show this country where it really stood in the fulfillment of the American creed.
On Aug. 28, 1963, “I Have a Dream” touched the nation, but not everywhere.

On Sept. 15, 18 days after the March on Washington, a box of dynamite planted under the steps of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church by four Ku Klux Klan members exploded, killing four African American girls and injuring 22 others.

Yes, celebrate this week.

But for some of us, the quiet truth is that the interrelated conditions surrounding the histories of Dunbar and the Great March are searing experiences that, drawing upon the court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, affect our “hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”

Charles Blow.
50 Years Later

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I have a gnawing in my gut, an uneasy sense of society and its racial reality.
I’m absolutely convinced that enormous steps have been made in race relations. That’s not debatable. Most laws that explicitly codified discrimination have been stricken from the books. Overt, articulated racial animus has become more socially unacceptable. And diversity has become a cause to be championed in many quarters, even if efforts to achieve it have taken some hits of late.

But my worry is that we have hit a ceiling of sorts. As we get closer to a society where explicit bias is virtually eradicated, we no longer have the stomach to deal with the more sinister issues of implicit biases and of structural and systematic racial inequality.

This Inspector General report has apparently, not been released yet.  emptywheel calls it an "official leak" and says that it looks like the IG has somehow disappeared 299 deliberate violations per year. If it's an official leak, then the White House or the NSA has chosen to give top secret information to some reporters, something they prosecute others for under the Espionage Act.
Lawmakers Probe Willful Abuses of Power by NSA Analysts

“I am reviewing each of these incidents in detail,” Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, said in a statement, after the NSA confirmed to Bloomberg News yesterday that some analysts deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans.

“Any case of noncompliance is unacceptable, but these small numbers of cases do not change my view that NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” Feinstein said.

The incidents, chronicled by the NSA’s inspector general, provide additional evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies sometimes have violated the legal and administrative restrictions on domestic spying, and may add to the pressure to bolster laws that govern intelligence activities.

More related to the official leak. And the bit about how someone was disciplined for using the surveillance tools for tracking his or her ex.  But only one instance!  Yeah, right.  They don't mention the ABC story a few years ago in which NSA folks spilled the beans about how they pass around audio clips of military brass and soldiers "pillow talk".
NSA admits rare willful surveillance violations

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency said Friday that some of its analysts knowingly and deliberately exceeded its surveillance authority on occasion over the past decade and that those involved were disciplined.

"Very rare instances of willful violations of NSA's authorities have been found," the agency said in a statement. It said none of the abuses involved violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the USA Patriot Act. NSA violations of both laws have been highlighted in the leaks of classified information by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

Two U.S. officials said one analyst was disciplined in years past for using NSA resources to track a former spouse. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

[Emphasis added]

If people have been caught using the surveillance state for "love interests", what's the chance that it hasn't been used for money interests? Celebrity interests? You've got this giant data base with everybody's communications in it. Everybody's.  That includes celebrities, Wall Street traders and brokers, CEOs, billionaires, politicians, call girls and madames, bookies, mobsters, drug dealers, judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, generals and admirals. You name it.  But nobody, or hardly anyone hardly ever gets tempted and does anything with that, except for someone who spied on their ex spouse one time.  It doesn't happen a lot.  Yeah, right.  NSA's compliance officer (who recently said there were none of these kinds of violations) now says there are a few and they were self-reported.  If there is such a good auditing system, why did they have to be self-reported? What about others who did similar things and did not self-report?  This has become a clown show by the NSA and Dianne Feinstein, the great overseer, about these violations.  They make claims.  Something gets reported that shows they were lying.  They make new claims and excuses.  We really need a good infographics and mash up videos illustrating how this went down with the various players, including the president.  There's a lot of focus on Clapper but the same thing has happened with Alexander, other NSA officials, Feinstein and Obama.  

We already have a news report about the voyeurs and the military pillow talk audio.  But interestingly, nobody says a word about the possibility that anyone would abuse these tools for financial gain.  

NSA Officers Sometimes Spy on Love Interests

The practice isn’t frequent — one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade — but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT.
In the wake of revelations last week that NSA had violated privacy rules on nearly 3,000 occasions in a one-year period, NSA Chief Compliance Officer John DeLong emphasized in a conference call with reporters last week that those errors were unintentional. He did say that there have been “a couple” of willful violations in the past decade. He said he didn’t have the exact figures at the moment.
The LOVEINT violations involved overseas communications, officials said, such as spying on a partner or spouse. In each instance, the employee was punished either with an administrative action or termination.

Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.

It just so happens that the writer of this Op-ed just brought up official leaks (rampant in the Obama administration).  See the #4 below.
Chelsea Manning was no criminal

3. The government should have to demonstrate that the leaked information had been properly withheld form the public. Rampant overclassification of information about critically important government activities is a chronic and widely recognized problem. Against that backdrop, criminal liability for leakers can’t rest exclusively on a classification decision made by an intelligence community bureaucrat; a judge and jury must be able to consider whether the information had been withheld from the public for legitimate security reasons.

4. The government should be consistent in its enforcement of criminal laws against leaking. The current prosecutions of leaks to the press must be considered against the backdrop of ubiquitous leaking. As the CIA’s general counsel told Congress in 1979, if leaking national security information without subversive intent is a crime, “we have had in this country for the last 60 years an absolutely unprecedented crime wave.” Since then, the pace of government leaking hasn’t slowed; leaks — both tacitly authorized and otherwise — remain an integral part of the media’s daily reporting in an age of government secrecy. Even while the Obama administration has brought an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions, it has simultaneously provided favored reporters with vast amounts of classified information for the production of news reports and books that further its preferred narrative. When the government chooses to prosecute only disfavored leaks, while systematically failing to pursue many hundreds of leaks that advance its interests, it loses even more legitimacy.

[Emphasis added]

And yet the president is still denying that willful violations happen.
NSA inspector general admits to ‘willful violations’ of agency’s authority
Inspector general’s admission undermines fresh insistences from president that breaches of privacy rules were inadvertent

US intelligence analysts have deliberately broken rules designed to prevent them from spying on Americans, according to an admission by the National Security Agency that undermines fresh insistences from Barack Obama on Friday that all breaches were inadvertent.
Though likely to be a small subset of the thousands of supposedly accidental rule breaches recently revealed by the Washington Post, these cases flatly contradict assurances given by President Obama that the NSA was only ever acting in good faith.

Asked by CNN interviewer Chris Cuomo on Thursday whether he was “confident that you know everything that’s going on within that agency and that you can say to the American people, ‘It’s all done the right way’?”, Obama insisted he was.

The story is that the Guardian gave the GCHQ documents to the NY Times because of pressure from the UK government and I think they are suggesting that they would not have been able to report on them otherwise.  This seems to make sense, but it contradicts what Rusbridger had said earlier about how they would just publish them via their own Guardian branch in New York.  Maybe some new legal considerations were raised about that.  Putting the GCHQ documents "beyond government reach" seems an odd way to put it, given that Rusbridger said he destroyed their entire copy of the Snowden documents.  

The Independent article said that "The Independent understands that The Guardian agreed to the Government’s request not to publish any material contained in the Snowden documents that could damage national security."  Not that I put much stock in that article, but perhaps that part of it was true, and that's why their New York branch is not publishing the GCHQ documents. But perhaps they didn't mention that they'd give the documents to another paper instead.  

I've seen many tweets about how the British press has been largely silent on the Snowden affair.  Maybe keeping it out of the British press is good enough for Cameron and the UK government.  Was the Independent article a shot across the bow, showing the Guardian how they could get something published and pretend it came from Snowden, letting their imaginations decide how damaging future ones could be?

Now as for the NYT and their choice of who to assign it to, that's another story. See emptywheel's post below for more on that.

All speculation on my part.

Guardian partners with New York Times over Snowden GCHQ files
Some of Edward Snowden cache shared with US paper after 'climate of intense pressure' from UK government

"In a climate of intense pressure from the UK government, the Guardian decided to bring in a US partner to work on the GCHQ documents provided by Edward Snowden. We are working in partnership with the NYT and others to continue reporting these stories," the Guardian said in a statement.

Journalists in America are protected by the first amendment which guarantees free speech and in practice prevents the state seeking pre-publication injunctions or "prior restraint".

It is intended that the collaboration with the New York Times will allow the Guardian to continue exposing mass surveillance by putting the Snowden documents on GCHQ beyond government reach. Snowden is aware of the arrangement.

Scam Scan Spreads: UK operates secret Mideast digi-spy base

The UK's reportedly been operating a secret data gathering base in the Middle East - part of a one and a half billion dollar investment in global surveillance. Britain's Independent newspaper claims it obtained this information from Edward Snowden's leaks. But the NSA whistleblower himself says he has not released any information linked to these allegations.

RT report on the subject.

This does seem pretty bizarre.  When I think of Snowden stories, I think of Charlie Savage who has been the NYT point man on this, as far as I can tell.  Scott Shane is the guy who is known to be very friendly with the intel community, or the "IC" (or as emptywheel et al now refers to them the "I Con" due to the name of their new website, which is supposed to mean "IC on the record" but intrepid progessive bloggers read it as "I Con the Record").  So Shane is known for having sources in the IC and being friendly to them and friendly to the US govt. I think we can assume that the Obama admin will not be caught off guard by any of his articles and that they will be given lead time, a chance to read the articles and maybe have input, and their response quotes might be included.  I personally think it will go even further than that.  In a discussion in the comments of this emptywheel post, she has an exchange with another commenter which I've blockquoted after the excerpt from the post.
How to Get the Government to Ease Up: Involve Scott Shane

This is fairly extraordinary. BuzzFeed reports that in an effort to alleviate some of the pressure from the UK it is bringing in the NYT — but just one reporter from the NYT — to report on the Snowden stories. [...] That reporter is not James Risen — who of course broke the original NSA story with Eric Lichtblau. It is not Charlie Savage — who had an important story based on the Snowden leaks already.

It is Scott Shane.

[From the comments]

[earlofhuntington:] Given how USG-friendly the Times is, and how insistently the US collects downstream data, I don’t see this move significantly protects the trove of data the Guardian has obtained from its sources. While perhaps protecting some of the data from legal and illegal demands by the UKG, it makes it more vulnerable to similar demands from the USG.

Moreover, it’s like playing poker with your cards face-up on the table: the Times, and the UK and US governments, will be more able to spin any revelation concurrent with its publication by a more critical news source.

[emptywheel:] @earlofhuntingdon: Right. That’s what I read it as too. 1) A journo who will be a two-way channel to USG and 2) a journo who will let the I Cons spin what he writes, and whose articles will be A1, drowning out what Guardian does.

I don't agree that this brings Egypt back to where it started and "rubbishes" two years of revolution, but this is a good report, nonetheless.
Egypt Full Circle: Mubarak release rubbishes 2 yrs of revolution

Bruce Schneier (on Thursday) says Miranda did not have the encryption keys.  I know that Greenwald said that the files were encrypted but did he specifically say that Miranda did not have the keys?  Why were the British police saying they were partway through reviewing the documents? Why did the Guardian so forcefully argue for the govt. to return the possessions, including the files, and not disclose them to anyone else?  Then, that last paragraph that I excerpted, Schneier suggests that this was an attempt to intimidate the Guardian, and it's advertisers.  The Guardian's finances are not as secure as they once were. Of course they'd try to attack their source of funding.  No doubt somebody has been working on this for some time now.  And now, in hindsight, it looks like the attempt to intimidate the Guardian execs was successful.  The Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, "The group is wholly owned by Scott Trust Limited" who supposedly do not interfere in the decisions of the Guardian unless there are extreme circumstances or disputes "between the editorial and managerial sides of the operation".
The Real, Terrifying Reason Why British Authorities Detained David Miranda
The scariest explanation of all? That the NSA and GCHQ are just showing they don't want to be messed with.

The memory sticks were encrypted, of course, and Miranda did not know the key. This didn't stop the British authorities from repeatedly asking for the key, and from confiscating the memory sticks along with his other electronics.
I have to admit this story has me puzzled. Why would the British do something like this? What did they hope to gain, and why did they think it worth the cost? And -- of course -- were the British acting on their own under the Official Secrets Act, or were they acting on behalf of the United States? (My initial assumption was that they were acting on behalf of the U.S., but after the bizarre story of the British GCHQ demanding the destruction of Guardian computers last month, I'm not sure anymore.)'

[...] These documents could be source documents provided by Snowden, new documents that the two were working on either separately or together, or both. That being said, it's inconceivable that the memory sticks would contain the only copies of these documents. Poitras retained copies of everything she gave Miranda. So the British authorities couldn't possibly destroy the documents; the best they could hope for is that they would be able to read them.
Another possibility is that this was just intimidation. If so, it's misguided. Anyone who regularly reads Greenwald could have told them that he would not have been intimidated [...] It could possibly have been intended to intimidate others who are helping Greenwald and Poitras, or the Guardian and its advertisers.

[Emphasis added]

This Salon article is a pretty good summary of what has happened over the years at Fukushima, and what's going on now.  When you look at this, and know that wind, solar and tidal energy could provide more than what the world needs, it becomes clear that it's insane to invest more billions in more nuke plants.
How everything went so wrong at Fukushima
The makings of a two-and-a-half-year nuclear disaster

Since then, a new, acute disaster has complicated the situation further. Earlier this week, a new leak erupted from one of the plant’s storage tanks, releasing 300 tons of contaminated water into the soil and potentially, through storm drains, into the Pacific. For the first time since 2011, Fukushima again scored on the INES scale, although this time it was only Level 1, an anomaly. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is considering an upgrade to Level 3, a serious incident. (Seven is the highest score possible.) As an advisory panel revealed yesterday, Tepco was warned this was coming back in June.

The underground reservoir has been climbing above barriers set to contain it, and experts now fear that it’s about to reach the Pacific Ocean. Amid frustration that Tepco could have done more to prevent this from happening are fears that it’s unprepared to handle the coming fallout.

The company has created chemical blockades and has finally begun construction on an offshore steel wall to contain the water. Its more ambitious plans include surrounding the plant with a mile-long, 90-foot deep wall of ice. Even if that last option works, it won’t be ready until 2015. There’s also a chance that other steel tanks  – built in a rush and containing nearly 300,000 tons of partially treated contaminated water — could also spring leaks. Tepco says it plans to build newer ones with tighter seals. In the meantime, they may be running out of space for the estimated 400 tons of water pumped daily, and contaminated groundwater seeps toward the sea at a rate of 4 meters per month; the plant is only 150 meters from the ocean.

We don’t really know if the contaminated water has reached the ocean yet, or what the health and environmental implications might be once it does. And the water issue aside, the plant still needs to be decommissioned. The next step, the removal of 400 tons of spent fuel by hand from a damaged reactor building, provides a fresh opportunity for things to go wrong. In the worst case scenario, the accidental release of radioactive material would mean a bigger crisis than in 2011. The entire decommissioning process is anticipated to take 40 more years — and from the way it’s been handled so far, the world may be holding its breath for the duration.

"Empowering, So Brave": Trans Activists Praise Chelsea Manning, Raise Fears over Prison Conditions

One day after a military judged handed down a 35-year sentence for leaking classified U.S. files to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning announced a gender transition to female under the name Chelsea Manning. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning said. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition." The announcement has raised many issues about how Manning will be treated in military prison, whether she will have access to hormone therapy and broader issues about transgender rights. We're joined by two guests: Lauren McNamara, a transgender activist in Florida who became an online confidant of Manning in 2009 and later testified at the military trial; and by Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.

Robert Fisk, in Egypt.
'People think they made a big mistake, electing Morsi...they hate the Brotherhood'
Anwar Sadat, nephew of the assassinated president, talks to Robert Fisk about a ‘savage’ Egypt – and why it needs help

But, Anwar Sadat says, Morsi had to go. Had he remained in power for another year, “we would have had another hundred years of the Brotherhood in power”. Yet the problem now, he says, is that Egypt needs a political solution. “The security solution is only something temporary. The people are just saying ‘these are terrorists’ about the Brotherhood and are putting pressure on the government. The media are all in one direction and this does not help. This makes life difficult for people who want to come up with compromise and flexibility. In Egypt, we have to learn to live together. People are going crazy about these people in the Brotherhood….”

And then Anwar Sadat, the president of the tiny Reform and Development Party – right-of-centre, if you can use that expression in Egyptian politics – says something very unexpected. “Real democracy in this part of the world doesn’t really fit. We need awareness, education, to make people understand all our values. We Egyptians talk of all this civilisation we have had for 7,000 years. But we have buried all that our fathers did. We cannot even come to an understanding of what we really want.”
“Sisi was willing to go on if the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies would show compromise. You know, he was under severe public pressure. Sisi was never close to the Brotherhood but he is conservative, like most officers. They pray. This is the moderate Islam that we all follow. But we have to accept that these people [the Brotherhood] are a big segment of society. This is a reality. We must show compromise. But we were all lucky that the army managed to isolate Suez and Sinai – otherwise all those terrorists there would have come to Cairo and there would have been much more blood.”

This is a good piece by Moon of Alabama.  If you watch the White House pressers, you'll find that the journalists ask the press secretary, over and over, about the U.S. aid to Egypt.  It's not a very large a sum in comparison with what they get from Gulf States.  It ends up going back into the pockets of our military-industrial complex.  That's why the administration talks in circles about it.  Moon of Alabama also addresses some of the conspiracy theories going around about why the Egyptian military did this coup and uses Occam's hatchet, explaining that Morsi "showed lenience" with the takfiri jihadists in Sinai -- presumably the same terrorists that Sadat is talking about in the Fisk interview above. Israel recently did their first lethal drone strike in the Sinai on these same jihadists, in cooperation with the Egyptian military, which was a huge deal, though it didn't create a big splash here.
Where Egypt Might Go

While an op-ed piece on another page more realistically claimed that America Has No Leverage in Egypt.
The second piece is correct. The $1.3 billion military aid to Egypt goes into the pockets of U.S. arm manufacturers. It will therefore be difficult to kill. But should it be killed the Russians will immediately stand by to sell their weapons. How would the U.S., and its sidekick Israel, like some brand new Russian build and Saudi financed Mig-35's in the Egyptian air-force?

The U.S. has no leverage in Egypt and can do little but stand by and watch how the Egyptian military sorts out the mess and imposes a system it can live with. It will likely not be the "democratic", "liberal" and "secular" system that liberal interventionist and neocons say they prefer. It will be some muddle through,  somewhat democratic system under strict military oversight that can at least partially satisfy most Egyptians. One hopes that it will be a bit more energetic and agile than the ossified Mubarak regime.

I'm thinking about where all this venture capital money is coming from.
The Pentagon as Silicon Valley’s Incubator

In the last year, former Department of Defense and intelligence agency operatives have headed to Silicon Valley to create technology start-ups specializing in tools aimed at thwarting online threats. Frequent reports of cyberattacks have expanded the demand for security tools, in both the public and private sectors, and venture capital money has followed. In 2012, more than $1 billion in venture financing poured into security start-ups, more than double the amount in 2010, according to the National Venture Capital Association.


From the Imgur Public Gallery

"Brits are asleep, post sexy pictures of the founding fathers."

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues


More Tunes

Where To Now St. Peter? - Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection)

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