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Monster Mash

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Washington’s Intelligence Community Comes Out For a Gala “Spy” Prom (Photos)
The annual OSS Society Donovan Award dinner honored Adm. William H. McRaven.

McRaven was the last act after at least nine toasts, as many speeches, and several videos (including one of soldiers singing a spoof of At The Hop), a jazz performance, and repeated standing ovations. It probably helped that waiting for each guest at his or her place, was a gin martini with onions, to be raised in a toast to Ernest Hemingway, who famously liberated the Paris Ritz at the same time as the allies liberated Paris. It’s a ritual of the dinner.

McRaven did not equivocate. “I often hear disillusioned officers and noncommissioned officers ask, ‘Why aren’t we more like the OSS?’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am here tonight to tell you that the OSS is back,” he said, emphatically. “Not since World War II has there been such a lethal combination of intelligence officers and special operations warriors. Not since the fight against Hitler have we had such a talented group of government civilians, intellectuals, businessmen, writers, philosophers, engineers, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, and spies.” He took a pause before declaring, “but, still, there will be some who doubt this resurgence. So let me put those doubts to rest.”

McRaven noted that over the past dozen years he has worked side by side “with my intelligence counterparts” all over the world, “in every war zone, declared and undeclared.” He described the modern Navy SEAL arsenal, a kind of fantasy list for spy geeks. That includes craft that move “on the water and under the water. We have big planes and little planes and littler planes. We have submarines and mini-subs. We have scuba rigs and jet boots that propel us under water. We have jet skis and kayaks, we have motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. We have high-definition sensors that look like rocks. We Tweet and Google and Bing. We are building an Ironman suit that will test the limits of technology and entrepreneurship.”
His stemwinder built to a rousing finish. “Today we are fighting extremism of another type, a medieval mindset that doesn’t recognize any civility, and it is international and it is a threat to our global humanity.” He said the intelligence and defense communities “stand as vanguards of our security, fighting this barbarism as far away from our shores as we can engage them.” He closed with a presidential, “God bless you and God bless America.” He received the longest and loudest standing ovation of the night.

What should you do if you have a problem with abusive medical personnel in your prisons?
Short Cuts

In an attempt to avoid being held liable for any mistreatment of detainees the Guantánamo Bay medical staff have adopted Shakespearean names. Until recently, some of the doctors there used their real names, which made it easy to report them for misconduct. Now the military wants the medical staff to ignore the Tokyo Declaration of 1975, which forbids the force-feeding of mentally competent hunger strikers, and refuse to inform prisoners of the results of their own medical tests.

It’s hard to tell why Shakespeare was chosen as a source of pseudonyms. If it’s from a conviction that his characters are exemplars of civility and good behaviour, that shows little understanding of his work. Perhaps it reflects a dim hope that some of his reputation might rub off. But Shakespeare’s plays provide no whitewash for political calumny; one of their main subjects is man’s inhumanity to man.

Here is the Guantánamo medical team’s dramatis personae:

Senior Medical Officer … . . Leonato (Much Ado about Nothing)
Force-Feeding Doctor … . . Varro (Julius Caesar)
Behavioural Health Doctor … . . Cordelia (King Lear)
Behavioural Health Doctor … . . Cressida (Troilus and Cressida)
Psychiatrist … . . Helena (All’s Well That Ends Well / A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Medical Corpsman … . . Silius (Antony and Cleopatra)
Nurse … . . Valeria (Coriolanus)
Nurse … . . Lucentio (The Taming of the Shrew)
Nurse … . . Lucio (Measure for Measure)

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters . From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information among the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.

NSA statement on Washington Post report on infiltration of Google, Yahoo data center links

“NSA has multiple authorities that it uses to accomplish its mission, which is centered on defending the nation. The Washington Post’s assertion that we use Executive Order 12333 collection to get around the limitations imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and FAA 702 is not true. The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true. NSA applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons - minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination. NSA is a foreign intelligence agency. And we’re focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”

Google statement on NSA infiltration of links between data centers

“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide. We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform.”

Google and Yahoo furious over NSA intercept report
Files obtained from Edward Snowden suggest NSA can collect information sent by fibre optic cable between Google and Yahoo data hubs 'at will'

Yahoo said: "We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency."

According to a top-secret document cited by the Post dated 9 January 2013, millions of records a day are sent from Yahoo and Google internal networks to NSA data warehouses at the agency's headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. The types of information sent ranged from "metadata", indicating who sent or received emails, the subject line and where and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

The Post's documents state that in the preceding 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent on 181,280,466 new records.

Syria's chemical weapons production facilities destroyed, says watchdog
International chemical weapons watchdog OPCW says it's team has inspected 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites in Syria

Syria has destroyed all of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities, meeting a key deadline in an ambitious disarmament programme, the international chemical weapons watchdog said in a document seen by Reuters.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its teams had inspected 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites across the country. The other two were too dangerous to inspect but the chemical equipment had already been moved to other sites which experts had visited, it said.

"The OPCW is satisfied it has verified, and seen destroyed, all declared critical production/mixing/filling equipment from all 23 sites," the document said.

Contractor failed to review security background checks, Justice claims

The Obama administration on Wednesday accused the largest private firm that conducts security-clearance background checks for the federal government of failing to perform quality-control reviews in its investigations of potential government workers.

The Justice Department has intervened in a civil lawsuit against Falls Church-based USIS, the company that conducted background checks of both former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and government contractor Aaron Alexis, who shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
The lawsuit alleges that USIS engaged in a practice known as “dumping.” Using its own software program, USIS released to the Office of Personnel Management background investigations that had not gone through the full review process , the lawsuit alleges.

USIS concealed its dumping practice and maximized its profits by improperly billing the government for investigations the firm knew were incomplete, according to the lawsuit. USIS, formerly known as United States Investigations Services, has been paid $334 million for its investigations this year.

On Trees Falling Silently in Oversight Forests: Three Reflections on Yesterday’s HPSCI Hearing

Although it’s been overtaken by subsequent events, I thought I’d post some reflections on yesterday’s rare open hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), at which I was one of the witnesses [see here for archived video]. The title of the hearing was “Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” But for most of the three-and-a-half-hour session, you would have been hard-pressed to guess that changing FISA was the actual thrust of the discussion. Instead, as I explain in the post that follows, the hearing featured a mix of distractions, softballs, and, most significantly, sustained disengagement from the central questions facing Congress: Whether FISA should be fixed, and, if so, how?
Finally, because the first panel went on for as long as it did, there wasn’t a lot of time left for the second panel, featuring former NSA General Counsel and DHS Assistant Secretary Stewart Baker, former OLC head Steve Bradbury, and me. But I thought one of the remarkable moments during that panel came toward the end–in an exchange between me and Chairman Rogers. The exchange has already garnered at least some attention elsewhere; the short version is that, in response to the suggestion that everything must be working the way it’s supposed to because “no one has complained” that their privacy has been violated, I asked Chairman Rogers who, exactly, is in a position to complain. Chairman Rogers’ response: “Somebody whose privacy was violated. You can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated, right?”

Jeremy Scahill published an epilogue to "Dirty Wars".
Perpetual War
How Does the Global War on Terror Ever End?

On January 21, 2013, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. Just as he had promised when he began his first campaign for president six years earlier, he pledged again to turn the page on history and take U.S. foreign policy in a different direction. “A decade of war is now ending,” Obama declared. “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

Much of the media focus that day was on the new hairstyle of First Lady Michelle Obama, who appeared on the dais sporting freshly trimmed bangs, and on the celebrities in attendance, including hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and his wife, Beyoncé, who performed the national anthem. But the day Obama was sworn in, a U.S. drone strike hit Yemen. It was the third such attack in that country in as many days. Despite the rhetoric from the president on the Capitol steps, there was abundant evidence that he would continue to preside over a country that is in a state of perpetual war.

In the year leading up to the inauguration, more people had been killed in U.S. drone strikes across the globe than were imprisoned at Guantánamo. As Obama was sworn in for his second term, his counterterrorism team was finishing up the task of systematizing the kill list, including developing rules for when U.S. citizens could be targeted. Admiral William McRaven had been promoted to the commander of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and his Special Ops forces were operating in more than 100 countries across the globe.


Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

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