A report by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) marks a significant escalation in the constitutional crisis over the systematic cover-up of the CIA’s widespread torture programs.
According to the Inspector General David Buckley, five CIA officials surreptitiously gained access to the computers used by Senate staff investigators while compiling a still-classified 6,300-page report on CIA torture. Two CIA attorneys and three CIA information technology employees created fake accounts in order to follow the movements of Senate staff as they worked.
The OIG weakly asserts that the employees were “acting in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” brokered between the CIA and the Senate.
What is involved is not a breach of a “common understanding,” but a breach of laws and the Constitution. Not only did the spying violate the Fourth Amendment’s proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures and laws that prohibit domestic spying by the CIA, it also violated the basic constitutional principle of separation of powers—in this case, a clear intrusion by the executive branch on the investigatory powers of the legislature.
The gravity of the CIA’s actions is amplified by the fact that the Senate was investigating actions of the executive branch that already violated the Eighth Amendment’s proscription on cruel and unusual punishment. …
… For me the most telling image of the current Gaza massacre is not one of death and destruction, of carnage, and torn limbs, and mutilated bodies of children. It is one of the regular [outcomes of] Israeli onslaughts in last few years, and we have become numbed to these sights and they are telling us the same tragic story with only faces changed. For me the most telling image is a peaceful, quiet image, almost serene, but containing within it the bottomless depths of the “heart of darkness”. It is an image of Israelis, men, children and even toddlers, in an almost picnic like atmosphere with drinks and barbecue watching the carnage unfolding before their eyes from the safety of their perch on the mountaintop. One Israeli critic of Zionism in a remarkable address called the last invasion of Gaza by Israel at the peak time of children’s getting out of their schools in the streets as the darkest day in the history of Judaism. No sir, I respectfully disagree. The darkest day in the history of Judaism was the day when a few people, no matter the numbers, flaunted their inhumanity in broad daylight, and were accepted by the majority either tacitly by staying quiet about it, or [condoning it outright]. This is the dangerous moral collapse which HA was alluding to, which Nazism, because of its creed of racism and naked power, brought about in the “respectable European society”. And God knows what monstrosities it led to. In HA’s incisive analysis, Eichmann was not a monster, neither was he legally insane, nor he was oblivious of the consequences of his actions. He was quite ordinary and commonplace, and hence the banality of it all. But he was caught in an ideology and the system that made him accept and commit those unspeakable horrors with relative equanimity. The respectable opinion, according to his testimony, never questioned or challenged his conscience. It was normally human to be inhuman in that atmosphere. He was embedded in a system which made such humanity [seem] normal; in fact, elevated it to the level of duty. That is what HA meant by the moral collapse of the “respectable western society”. It is a version of this moral collapse that was on display on that mountain top the other day: the moral collapse of “respectable Israeli society.”
“It is the psychological and logical compulsion of a society based on notions of racial exclusivity and superiority to regard the other, especially if the others are the inhabitants of the land they want to grab, as untermensch, as lesser humans.”—
"The net effect of this language system was not to keep these people ignorant of what they were doing, but to prevent them from equating it with their old, normal knowledge of murder and lies" - Hannah Arendt
“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”—Blacklisted: The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist
“Those who say the United States is adrift or has no coherent foreign policy are colossally wrong. Washington’s policy is the constant fomenting of war for the subjugation of the planet – or the world’s destruction, if the U.S. cannot remain Number One.”—Glen Ford, Obama’s Hot War
… When the Soviet Union fell, there was an opening — a genuine opening — to make a better world. But America’s bipartisan elites refused to take that path. Instead they chose a threatening military expansion, after promising not to do it. They chose the “Shock Doctrine” tactics of hyper-capitalism, driving millions of people into desperate ruin and early deaths, while empowering gangsters and crooks whose predatory instincts fit well with the new system. At every turn, they chose policies and supported corrupt leaders and a corrupt system that led people to see “democracy” as a dirty word, a hypocritical mask for robbery and repression. They chose to keep Russia down, keep it cowed and contained; they chose … to re-divide the world, seeing the Soviet collapse not as an opportunity to make a safer, more secure and prosperous future for their own people — but as a chance to push their sick agenda of domination, greed and elite rule.
And now these same fools, and their equally foolish successors, are astonished that Russia has not become a safe and peaceful liberal democracy but has instead turned to authoritarianism — as happens to many societies in chaos, grasping at any straw that seems to promise (however falsely) some way out of the abyss. They are astonished that the Russian regime mirrors the meddling, arms peddling and power-gaming that they have practiced ruthlessly for generations – just as they express astonishment and outrage that a people who have been violently repressed and confined for decades would dare to strike back at a regime that has killed multitudes of their children and literally sealed them up behind a concrete wall, as in Gaza.
So with the horrors raging in Ukraine and Gaza (and Iraq and Syria), we have now arrived at another turning point – yet another further turning away from sanity and humanity, toward more war, more hatred, more enmity, more grasping, more greed, and more – many, many more – needless deaths.
… With history being but mere ‘opinion’ in U.S. political debate the aggressively misleading ‘division’ over whether it was the war on Iraq (2003) or the forced withdrawal of U.S. troops (2011) that is responsible for Iraq’s recent dissolution is so much chatter coming from a group that should rightly be in prison or already hung for their war crimes. Following from the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) penned by Mr. Bush that committed the U.S. to quit Iraq by 2011, and against his campaign promise to end the war there, Mr. Obama did everything in his power to persuade the Iraqi government to allow a large U.S. troop presence to remain after the date for withdrawal had passed. The central sticking point was the refusal of the Iraqi government to give blanket immunity to U.S. troops for crimes committed against the people of Iraq. In other words, Mr. Obama could have continued the U.S. war if he had been willing to let the Iraqis prosecute criminal acts committed by Americans in Iraq. Apparently unwilling to risk murder, rape and torture prosecutions against U.S. troops, Mr. Obama reluctantly settled for withdrawal of all but the tens of thousands of troops now ‘guarding’ the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Democrat partisans could rightly point to the rank hypocrisy of the central architects of the Iraq war blaming Mr. Obama’s reluctant withdrawal for current circumstance if there hadn’t existed a bi-partisan front in favor of war against Iraq for most of the last quarter-century.
The question of how a relatively small group of cloistered gangsters can so consistently destroy everything they touch (except the bank accounts of their benefactors) and still remain in power gets to the heart of the American conundrum. As with oil company profits, international finance and ‘outsourced’ environmental devastation, perpetual chaos and destruction is the American business model. Iraq was destroyed so that U.S. munitions manufacturers could sell their wares, so that U.S. infrastructure builders could ‘reconstruct’ the country, so that multi-national oil companies could profit from rising oil prices and so that the U.S. polity could be distracted from careful examination of who ‘their’ government actually works for. Lest this seem unduly conspiratorial, what precisely was the reason the U.S. attacked and occupied Iraq in the 2000s? Iraq had no relationship with Al-Qaeda prior to 2003, WMDs supplied by the U.S. had already been removed long before the start of the war, the idea of ‘democratization’ at the point of a gun is a non sequitur and elimination of the ‘madman’ Saddam Hussein requires overlooking the relationship senior U.S. leadership had with him from the early 1960s through prosecution of the war in the mid-2000s. As there were no ‘good’ reasons for war on Iraq perhaps it is time to look at the bad reasons for it. […]
“The American sectarian approach has created the civil war [in Iraq]. We saw Iraqis as Sunnis, Shias, Kurds. We designed a governing council based on a sectarian quota system and ignored Iraqis (not exiled politicians but real Iraqis) who warned us against it. We decided that the Sunnis were the bad guys and the Shias were the good guys. These problems were not timeless. In many ways they are new, and we are responsible for them.”—
-Reporter Nir Rosen, 2006
Startlingly accurate predictions about U.S. involvement in Iraq here.
“State and local law enforcement agencies are relying on a wide range of databases of facial imagery, including driver’s licenses and Facebook, to identify suspects. The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its “next generation identification” project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data. … The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing hundreds of millions of photographs of American passport holders and foreign visa applicants. And the Department of Homeland Security is funding pilot projects at police departments around the country to match suspects against faces in a crowd. … The N.S.A., though, is unique in its ability to match images with huge troves of private communications.”—N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images | NYTimes.com
Everything one needs to know about mediocre political elites allegedly representing the “values” of Western civilization has been laid bare by their reaction to the referendums in Donetsk and Lugansk.
The referendums may have been a last-minute affair; organized in a rush; in the middle of a de facto civil war; and on top of it at gunpoint – supplied by the Kiev NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta, which even managed to kill some voters in Mariupol. An imperfect process? Yes. But absolutely perfect in terms of graphically depicting a mass movement in favor of self-rule and political independence from Kiev.
This was direct democracy in action; no wonder the US State Department hated it with a vengeance.
Turnout was huge. The landslide victory for independence was out of the question. Same for transparency; a public vote, in glass ballot boxes, with monitoring provided by Western journalists – mostly from major German media but also from the Kyodo News Agency or the Washington Post.
What should come after the Donetsk People’s Republic proclaimed itself a sovereign state, and asked Moscow to consider its accession into Russia, is not secession, nor outright civil war, but a negotiation.
That’s clear by the Kremlin’s measured official reaction: “Moscow respects the will of the people in Donetsk and Lugansk and hopes that the practical realization of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner.”
The cautious tone is also reflected by the Kremlin urging the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to help broker the negotiation.
Yet once again, there’s concrete proof that the NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta does not want to negotiate anything. Farcical “acting” President Oleksandr Turchynov labeled the exercise in direct democracy a “farce, which terrorists call the referendum”; and Washington and Brussels branded it “illegal”.
And all this after the Odessa massacre; after the deployment of neo-nazi paramilitaries disguised as a “National Guard” (the goons US corporate media calls “Ukrainian nationalists”); dozens of CIA and FBI agents on the ground; plus 300 of the inevitable Academi – former Blackwater – mercenaries. What else to expect when the current Ukrainian Secretary for National Security is neo-nazi Andriy Parubiy, the previous commander of the Maidan’s “self-defense forces” and a cheerleader of World War II nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.
Banderastan – with its remix of 1980s Central American-style death squads – doesn’t do referendums; they’d rather burn to death ethnic Russian civilian “insects” who dare to occupy buildings.
So this is the key message of the referendums. We reject the Kiev NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta. It’s an illegal “government” of putschists. We are not “pro-Russian” separatists. We don’t want to secede. What we want is a unified, federal and civilized Ukraine, with strong autonomous provinces.
… The Empire of Chaos wants – what else – chaos. Crucially, the Empire of Chaos now blatantly supports the deployment of an “army against their own population”; this was strictly verboten – punishable by NATO bombs or NATO-enabled jihad – in Libya and Syria, but now is just the new normal in Ukraine. [continue]
A federal judge late Friday ordered the Obama administration to halt the force-feeding of a Guantanamo prisoner and to preserve more than 100 videos that show the captive being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler’s unprecedented ruling also temporarily barred military officials at the detention facility from subjecting the prisoner, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, to so-called forced cell extractions “for the purposes of” tube-feedings until May 21, the date of the next hearing in the case.
Dhiab has been cleared for release or transfer out of Guantanamo since 2009. His attorneys have been waging a lengthy legal battle to permanently end his force-feeding.
'This is a major crack in Guantanamo’s years-long effort to oppress prisoners and to exercise total control over information about the prison,' said Cori Crider, one of Dhiab’s attorneys who works for UK-based charity Reprieve.
'Dhiab is cleared for release and should have been returned to his family years ago,' Crider added. 'He is on hunger strike because he feels he has no other option left. I am glad Judge Kessler has taken this seriously, and we look forward to our full day in court to expose the appalling way Dhiab and others have been treated.'
“This current epic of finance capitalism will either be resolved in disorderly or catastrophic fashion but it will come to an end. By design it is too deeply embedded in broad political economy for orderly resolution to be a high probability. The economic mainstream that wants to stay relevant should ‘fess up to its role in current circumstance and admit that it knows little to nothing of what to do about it. What is wholly evident in retrospect is that the powers that be took what it wanted from the liberal economic mainstream with no intention of assuaging the economic dislocations that antique-revival trade policies were sure to produce. Nonsense about the problem being a failure to predict the financial crisis of 2008 requires dissociating it from those of the early 1990s and early 2000s and the associated economic dislocations broadly considered. The common link is finance. At this point in history empty blather about income ‘inequality’ that fails to address the role of finance looks a lot like determined misdirection.”—Economics, Finance and Crisis
… The behavior exhibited by Western leaders, especially since the launching of the Terror War — and especially in the Anglo-American alliance — would be regarded as criminally insane by any dispassionate diagnosis. This is seen in large matters — such as the hundreds of thousands of innocent people slaughtered in their criminal aggression in Iraq — and in small matters. For example, a story in the Guardian this week related how the courageous statesfolk in the U.S. Senate once again kowtowed to their masters in the National Security apparat, and removed a very mild requirement that the United States government issue an annual report telling us how many civilians it killed with its drone-assassination programs the previous year. No dice, said the security archons — and the Senate said, OK, boss!
But in the course of the story, the Guardian recalled how top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been a staunch supporter of the remote-control assassination program, noting that “during a February 2013 confirmation hearing for CIA Director John Brennan, Feinstein stated that the CIA’s targeting procedures kills only “single digits” of civilians annually. Try to imagine an ordinary human being standing up in court to defend a serial killer by saying that he only kills single digits of people annually. Is that so wrong? Or hell, imagine your co-worker turning to you in the office and saying, “I ain’t such a bad person, you know; I probably don’t kill more than six or seven innocent people a year.” Try to imagine what kind of mindset believes that as long you hold your murder rate of innocent people to “single digits,” then that’s OK. What would you say if someone talked to you in that way? You would say, quite rightly, that they were insane. Criminally insane, and very dangerous.
Yet this is precisely the kind of madness that our leaders, across the political spectrum, exhibit day in, day out, year after year. …
It has become trendy among the Western left to meet with the right over Syria. There is actually no debate on Syria in Western countries. In fact, debate is highly discouraged. Debate is seen as a political sin. Only one point of view is permitted on Syria; you may search American newspapers over a three-year period to find no trace whatsoever of any critique of the Syrian “revolution”.
Not only are those who support the Syrian regime forbidden from speaking (and supporters of the Syrian regime do exist despite the protests of Western correspondents in Beirut who rely on Free Syrian Army media—and Saudi and Qatari media—for their clues and information on the Syrian conflict), but those who are critical of both sides of the conflict are not allowed to speak either. Haytham Al-Manna` for example was not allowed to speak on Syria in Western media and his participation in Geneva was not permitted by Saudi Arabia and the US governments.
How do Western leftists justify their support for the Syrian rebels? By simple tricks:
1) To invoke anecdotes: “I met a Syrian leftist woman who so impressed me and she is really famous in the revolution” 2) By calling the armed groups “revolutionaries” and by conflating their action with the civil movement that started back in 2011 and largely died down from a combination of repression and Saudi/Qatari/Turkish/Syrian rebel hijacking 3) By citing the authority of the US government and Western governments to legitimize the stance of the left 4) By invoking the authority of Western human rights organizations who rarely deviate from the policies and wars of the US empire 5) By reminding the audience that Iran and Russia are not leftist (and the US is?)
As a contribution to the debate on this subject, I wish to offer a few guidelines on the subject, taking into consideration that in reality there are no leftists who support Bashar Al-Assad, unless you count individual leftists in Lebanon as evidence:
1) There is not a single leftist Syrian rebel group. Not one. 2) There is not a single leftist demand or request or slogan by either the Syrian armed groups or by the Syrian exile opposition. 3) There are no Syrian leftist intellectuals in the “revolution”: those who are identified as “leftists” in the Syrian “revolution” are in fact former leftists. And remember that some of the most vocal right-wingers in the Lebanese March 14 movement are themselves former leftists-turned sectarian right-wingers. 4) The sponsors of the Syrian rebels and of the Syrian exile opposition are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the US. Those can’t count as leftist regimes. 5) The Syrian regime is not a leftist regime; Hafidh Al-Assad coup in 1970 was launched against the leftist leadership of Salah Jadid. 6) Bashar Al-Assad did not lead Syria in a leftist direction: in fact, he took the country further to the right, especially in economic policy. 7) Ahmad Al-Jarba was selected by Saudi regime and the US to lead the Syrian National Coalition for his tribal and polygamous credentials and not for any leftist credentials. 8) There is no Syrian “revolution”: there is no serious academic or other justification for the invocation of the word “revolution”. The word is bandied about very much in the Ba`thist tradition as a mere word used to rationalize and legitimize political activities that don’t belong to revolutionary activity. 9) Having the support of Western leftists does not make an event or a movement in a developing country leftist. 10) There isn’t a single leftist current in Islamist and Jihadi groups and movements. 11) Neither the Russian camp nor the American camp is leftist, but you can always bet that the US leads a more rightist and reactionary camp than any other country in the world. 12) March 14 is a reactionary movement in Lebanon and its rhetoric and sponsors are the same as those of the March 14 of Syria (i.e. Syrian rebels and the Syrian exile opposition). 13) Arab leftists (throughout the Arab world) are far more opposed to the Syrian rebels than to the other side (with the exception of Trotskyists). 14) Hizbullah is not a leftist political party. It never was a leftist political party and never will be given its ideology and rhetoric, although it sometimes borrows from the political rhetoric of Third World leftism. 15) The support that Bashar Al-Assad receives from some leftist regimes (like in Venezuela) does not make him a leftist.
Lastly, one last question: is Prince Bandar considered a leftist? Or is he a neo-leftist?
… Meanwhile, the beat goes on. On Monday, the Peace Prize Laureate launched his third drone strike in Yemen in as many days. (It is of course superfluous to point out that the United States is not at war with Yemen.) The latest strike followed one on Easter Sunday, when Barack Obama celebrated the Resurrection of his Lord and Saviour by killing 30 people in Yemen, by the usual courageous method of having an underling in a padded chair somewhere thousands of miles away courageously push a button while courageously viewing a video screen.
This heroic action was preceded by a strike on Saturday, in which 13 people were killed, including at least three civilians. This was purportedly a “signature strike,” a common practice in which the courageous Americans actually have no earthly idea who they are courageously killing from thousands of mile away — they just push the button because a bunch of people they are tracking seem to be “acting like” terrorists in some way or another. For all we know, all 13 people killed that day were civilians, like the 15 people on their way to a wedding whom the Peace Laurate killed last December.
In fact, we have no way of knowing if any of the dozens of people killed by the Peace Laureate during his busy Easter holiday were civilians or militants. Or what “civilian” and “militant” even mean in the context of the Peace Laureate’s never-ending violation of other nation’s sovereignty to kill people, many if not most of whom are completely unknown to him and his assassins.
We are simply told that all the shredded corpses are “al Qaeda militants.” Which of course leads to the question: Are these the same “al Qaeda militants” whom the United States is supporting in Syria, or the “al Qaeda militants” it supported in Libya, or are they some other kind of “al Qaeda” militants? If the “al Qaeda militants” in Yemen suddenly decided to aim their attacks on, say, Iran, would they suddenly become “good” or “moderate” al Qaeda militants, like we have in Syria? And are these Yemeni “al Qaeda militants” of a different stripe from the “al Qaeda militants” the West supported in, say, Bosnia, or Afghanistan?
Anyway, who cares? The point is that Obama’s peaceful, progressive expansion of the drone bombing and death squads initiated by George Bush is obviously quelling the spread of violent extremism. Whereas “al Qaeda” was once a handful of militants concentrated largely in one corner of Afghanistan, it is now a large, loose, proliferating confederation of violent extremists operating over vast swaths of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and other countries. As both an ideological brand and physical force, “al Qaeda” is more powerful today than ever before — after 13 years of unrelenting “war on terror.” Every drone strike — and the deep, horrific, constant dread and fear instilled in the multitudes of innocent people who live under the dead eye of American drones, never knowing when and where the bolt may fall — are all incomparable recruiting tools for “al Qaeda militiants” around the world.
Every step taken in the blind, brutal “war on terror” has been counterproductive. Every step has increased terrorism, exacerbated hatred for America and the West, destabilized vast regions of the earth, destroyed all vestiges of constitutional government in the United States, militarized and corrupted Western democracies and visited unspeakable horror and suffering on millions of innocent people.
Yet it never stops. It just goes on and on, plunging the world deeper into darkness day by day, year by year. It’s done by icky conservatives like George Bush and Margaret Thatcher; it’s done by cool progressives like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. No one, none of our leaders and would-be leaders, will call it off. They don’t know how. And they don’t want to. So they will go on bombing and killing — thus making even more “militants” to bomb and kill. They will pursue this literally insane course while the world burns up around them and their own nations fall to pieces.
“For over a decade, Americans have been told that terrorism poses a threat that cannot be addressed by the existing legal system; that a new domain of law must be constructed to handle this new threat. What has actually been created is a new domain of pseudo-law where the roles of law making, law enforcement, and judiciary, are rolled into a single political authority. Even if there has been no coup d’etat, nor extended imposition of martial law, this is nonetheless the dawning of an insidious and piecemeal form of fascism. It does not impose itself with an iron fist but grows upon us slowly, so that painlessly freedom can be lost as it is gradually forgotten.”—America’s willingness to be terrified by terrorism (via theamericanbear)
“Everyone seems to forget that the FBI is the NSA’s primary partner in the latter’s domestic spying operations and that, in fact, the NSA’s job would be impossible without them. Whenever you see a company deny giving any data to the NSA remember: It’s because it’s not the NSA asking (or demanding) the information of them, it’s the FBI. They use the same Patriot Act authorities that the NSA does, and yet we have almost no idea what they do with it.”—The mentality of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI undergirds today’s surveillance state
“Secular stagnation theory needn’t be ‘true’ to suggest a host of related results. The initial implementation of the New Deal was a political decision made to moderate capitalism to prevent its wholesale overthrow. Much is made today of the relative cooperation the New Deal received from the reigning plutocracy of the 1930s. But the level of dispossession of the Great Depression suggested a real threat of political-economic rupture and the replacement of ‘free-market’ capitalism with state socialism. The popular distinction being made these days between capitalism and neo-liberalism is academic— neo-liberalism is capitalism and New Deal capitalism is technocratic ‘management’ of capitalism in the service of residual plutocracy. The New Deal ended approximately when the threat of political overthrow did in the mid-1970s. The practical background of current economic malaise is that the existing plutocracy of bankers, CEOs and inherited wealth was fully restored from recent catastrophe through means and methods that were ‘political,’ through restoration of economic resources along the lines of division of economic power, and Western economists busied themselves explaining why doing so was necessary. When it came to the other 99.7% of the equation conclusions were quickly drawn that either (a) nothing needs to be done or (b) using duct tape and chicken wire to ‘repair’ the existing order was the best course of action. The ‘infrastructuralists’ are the duct tape and chicken wire crowd who haven’t yet resolved that current circumstance is the result of the existing order, not some accident of nature from outside of it.”—Economic Stagnation and the Stagnation of Economics
… Please keep in mind that we are dealing with a state that believes it has the arbitrary, unchallengeable right to kill any of its citizens, at any time, without any judicial process whatsoever, simply at the whim of the president — or any of the innumerable agents he empowers to kill on his behalf as they see fit. This is the reality we live under — a reality reconfirmed just this week by a federal judge, who ruled that the families of American citizens murdered by their own government have no standing to challenge this action in a court of law. And of course, this system extends its arbitrary license to kill to every human being on earth. It claims the right to kill anyone, anywhere, at the order of the president — who meets every week with his advisers to pore over hit lists, just as Stalin did with the Politburo, and decide which of the targets will live and which shall die.
Now, you may be happy with such a system policing itself with a few “reforms” which are devised and supervised by the system itself. A system which remains, at every point, completely hidden to the public that pays for it, and which at every turn, day after day, year after year, exacerbates the very extremism, violence, instability and chaos it purports to combat. (When it doesn’t just fund it and arm it outright, as it is is doing in its backing of violent, head-chopping, heart-eating extremists in Syria, for example.) You may be comforted by the thought that a small number of legislators whose careers are funded by this system — and very often directly by war profiteers and “security” profiteers — will be “overseeing” whatever “reforms” of the system eventually become law (assuming that any of them actually do).
But some people aren’t comforted by this. Some people continue to believe — or hope against hope — that we can do better than this. If such people see promising openings — like the exposure of NSA documents — falling short of the effect they could have, if they see these opportunities slowly being swallowed up in toothless “reforms” and “debates” by the very system they hope to break down and do away with, can they not question, criticize, even rail against this state of affairs, without being accused of envy, personal pique or irresponsibility? Why can’t they, like Robert Kennedy, “dream of things that never were, and ask, why not?”
“'The persons holding the jobs of the named defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,' Judge Collyer wrote. 'They cannot be held personally responsible … for conducting war.' … If it stands, the ruling suggests that courts have no role to play, before or after, in reviewing the legality of government decisions to kill citizens whom officials deem [in secret] to be terrorists …”—Judge Dismisses Suit Against Administration Officials Over Drone Strikes
The Obama administration released an official statement Thursday on its proposals to modify the US National Security Agency’s telephone-based surveillance and data collection efforts.
The “Fact Sheet” document, titled “The Administration’s Proposal for Ending the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program,” details proposed changes to the bulk phone record surveillance, and is intended as a framework for new legislation to legitimize and further institutionalize the mass spying program.
Under the Obama proposal, the NSA would no longer engage in direct collection of telephone metadata. The government would instead submit requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Once authorized, the surveillance agencies would be allowed to gather telephone data from telecommunications on targets and anyone within “two hops” (or degrees of separation) from a target.
The document specifies that authorization from the FISC would not be required in “an emergency situation.” In other words, when the state deems it necessary, it will override even the cosmetic protections laid out in the proposed legislation. In non-emergency situations, surveillance would be based on the FISC’s determination that the numbers relate to “national security concerns.”
Once FISC approval is granted, records would have to be provided by telecommunications companies on an “ongoing and prospective” basis. Moreover, “the companies would be compelled by court order to provide technical assistance to ensure that the records can be queried and that results are transmitted to the government in a usable format and in a timely manner.”
While it does not say so explicitly, this stipulation is at least in part aimed at ensuring that telecommunications companies turn over cell phone records, which is presently not the case. It is estimated that the NSA has access to only 30 percent of all phone call records because it has not had access to cell phone records. That is, the Obama administration is seeking to cement a legislative framework which effectively extends the surveillance powers granted by the Patriot Act, under the guise of “reform.”
The reform proposals come as existing authorization of the program is set to expire. The administration has pledged to seek from the FISC a 90-day extension of the program as it presently exists, along with further extensions until some legislation has passed.
US Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger have advanced their own variant of the administration’s proposal, which would not even require the government to pass its data requests through the FISC. Instead, the court would only have authority to “expunge” data if it is determined, after the fact, to be irrelevant to any discernible “suspicious activity.”
The Rogers/Ruppersberger legislation will likely form the basis for any final bill. On Thursday, a senior administration officials said that the White House was “very pleased” with the proposals put forward by the House Intelligence Committee.
The legislation is set to be processed by the House Intelligence Committee, rather than the Judiciary Committee, to give Rogers and Ruppersberger—both with close ties to the NSA—greater control of the process. If anything is passed by Congress, it will be thoroughly vetted and pre-approved by the intelligence agencies.
The surveillance “reforms” relate to only one small patch of the sprawling complex of surveillance activities being carried out by US intelligence agencies. Currently active surveillance programs analyze reams of data from virtually every source imaginable, gathered through indiscriminate dragnet methods including tapping directly into the trans-oceanic fiber-optic cables. In effect, the entire Internet is being recorded in real time and stored for analysis and use by the repressive agencies of the state.
… Camus’ essay [“Reflections on the Guillotine”] on the barbarity of the death penalty was written in 1956, against the backdrop of the executions of hundreds of dissidents during the Soviet crackdown in Hungary, as well as the execution of Algerian revolutionaries condemned to death by French tribunals. He notes that by 1940 all executions in France and England were shielded from the public. If capital punishment was meant to deter crime, why hold the killings in secret? Why not make them a public spectacle?
Because, Camus argues, deterrence isn’t the purpose of state murder. The real objective is vengeance through the exercise of extreme state power. “Let us recognize it for what it is essentially: a revenge. A punishment that penalizes without forestalling is indeed called revenge. It is a quasi-arithmetical replay made by society to whoever breaks its primordial law.”
Public executions became a threat to the state, because the dreadful act tends to provoke revulsion in ordinary citizens, like Camus’ father, who see it clearly for what it is: a new form of murder “no less repulsive than the crime.” A form of murder that is performed, in theory, in the name of the citizens and for which they are complicit.
This kind of state-sanctioned killing, Camus reasoned, leads only to more murder, a vast panorama of murder. “Without the death penalty,” Camus writes, “Europe would not be infected by the corpses accumulated for the last twenty years on its soil.”
So what would Albert Camus, the great moralist of the 20th century, think about the latest innovation in administrative murder, Obama’s drone program, a kind of remote-control gallows, where the killers never see their victims, never hear their screams, smell their burning bodies, touch their mutilated flesh?
The conscience of the killer has been sterilized, the drone operator, fully alienated from the act he is committing, can walk out the door after his shift is over and calmly order an IPA at the local microbrew or play a round of golf under the desert sky. He is left with no blood on his hands, no savagery weighing on his conscience, no degrading images to stalk his dreams.
Drone strikes, Camus would argue, are not just meant to kill. They are programmed to terrorize. In this regard, whether the missile strikes its intended target or incinerates a goat-herder and his flock is incidental. In fact, the occasional killing of civilians may well be a desired outcome since collateral deaths intensify the fear. This is punishment by example, not for any particular crime or impending threat, but merely because of who you are, where you live, what you might believe. These new circuitries of death are meant to humiliate, subdue and dehumanize.
As more and more evidence of Obama’s secret killing operations in Pakistan and Yemen began to leak out, public squeamishness over the deaths, especially of civilians and targeted American citizens, began to mount. Uncomfortable questions were raised, even on the political right. To salvage his program, Obama announced that new guidelines would soon be imposed on his high-tech assassinations.
But Camus would be the first to warn us that such regulations should be viewed with grave suspicion, since they will likely only serve to legitimize and normalize state murder, by making lawless killing legal. …
“New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is ‘the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.’ The administration wants to ‘narrow the field of national security reporting,’ Risen said, to ‘create a path for accepted reporting.’ Any one journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, ‘will be punished.’ … The administration’s aggressive prosecutions have created ‘a de facto Official Secrets Act,’ Risen said …”—Risen: Obama administration is this generation’s ‘greatest enemy of press freedom’ | Poynter.
… The circumstance in the U.S. is of a political class that has aligned itself with every capitalist scam, con and predation yet imagined— home foreclosures against millions of citizens to protect banks and bankers from the predatory loans they made; wholesale, unconditional bailouts of the predatory, dysfunctional banker class at public expense; sequential programs posed as in the public interest that are corporate scams in fact— the ACA (Affordable Care Act), the JOBS Act, mortgage ‘relief’ programs, ‘fracking’ and the looting of public resources under the con of ‘privatization,’ that pose it clearly against the public interest. The ‘pox on all houses’ sentiment about to be realized in the mid-term elections will likely bring a Republican sweep and with it more straightforward— less cluttered, implementation of the catastrophe-generating class’s agenda. In Philadelphia, USA, a place dear to my heart, fully one-third of the city’s population lives on food stamps. Recent cuts to food stamps—SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Plan), have so decimated the ‘engine of economic growth,’ small businesses, that the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania is seeking to restore food stamp payments. The privatization of Philadelphia’s schools is such an obvious scam that a graft system to induce local ‘leaders’ to continue to support it now constitutes a substantial proportion of the system’s expenses. Suburban parents now a decade or more into their own economic diminishment have seen their children take tens of millions of dollars in onerous student loans to pay for college educations when half of college graduates work in low-paid, dead-end jobs to repay crushing debt that cannot be discharged. The political class in the U.S. most certainly wants to change the subject.
The war on and occupation of Iraq may have been the ‘purest’ demonstration in recent history of dim hubris in the service of unqualified catastrophe generation— over a million Iraqis killed, tens of thousand of Western troops killed or substantially destroyed and an entire modern nation-state left in chaos and ruins. The imperial ‘spoils’ system implemented when the adventure was still considered ‘successful’ shines light on the imperial mechanics that funnel resources and stolen booty to their rightful ‘homes’ in Georgetown, Manhattan and London— multi-national oil companies, ‘security’ and other military companies, ‘reconstruction’ contractors and various and sundry bogus financiers and opportunists are the new frontline of imperial extraction. In their ‘purity’ Western imperial predations in Iraq find general relation to half a century or more of cynical capitalists hiding behind ideological difference to sell naked imperial looting to always-gullible publics under the guise of responding to external threats. In Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Vietnam, Iraq, and Iran and on and on ad infinitum Cold War demagogues cobbled the residual of imperial history onto wholly contrived ‘threats’ to secure land, resources, compliant workforces and ‘partners’ in imperial expropriation to feed the engines of capitalist wealth ‘production.’ The technical ‘problem’ for the West now is that restoring geo-political credibility outside of rapidly diminishing television audiences will require that more enthusiastic modes of coercion be used.
Western imperial wealth, the greatest in world history, serves as advertising slogan for capitalist democracy. If you can ignore your lying eyes and three hundred years of imperial history then you too can live like us. Left out of this ‘us’ is opportunistic circumscription— the overwhelming preponderance of U.S. history is genocide against indigenous populations, slavery, wars of imperial conquest and internal and external social repression. This may by degree be true of other empires, but that is the point. Before tossing their lot with the West the good citizens of Ukraine may wish to spend time with the economic theory of ‘internal devaluation’ so recently applied by the EU (European Union) to the European periphery in the service of Western bankers. Internal devaluation was also the ‘gift’ from the IMF and assorted and sundry Western economists to Russia in the late 1990s, the product of the accumulated ‘wisdom’ of the Harvard, Princeton and University of Chicago economics departments distilled and applied to such economically catastrophic effect. Either known or not by capitalist demagogues in the U.S., internal devaluation is the implied goal of Western public policy for the last three or so decades. When engineered by Western bankers and the IMF it doesn’t matter how onerous, or by whom, external debt was accumulated. Western bankers sitting in modern office towers wearing three thousand dollar suits will be repaid from your labor and your wealth. The storyline in the West has it that the Russian ‘system’ runs on ‘graft.’ Left out is that the West has simply legalized graft to avoid unpleasant associations— see ‘campaign contributions’ and ‘Citizen’s United’ for details.
The Western ruling classes have had their way with geo-politics through the neo-cons and with political economy through the capitalist neo-liberals. In recent decades both saw spectacular and wholly temporary ‘successes’ before it became apparent to all but the most committed ideologues that imperial hubris in the service of self-serving demagogues benefits neither those who fell in line behind them nor their victims. It is however the ‘business’ of the West, it’s how ‘we’ pay our bills. On the surface it would seem that not even Americans are so deluded as to continue to raise the stakes over a manufactured crisis (Crimea) with three centuries of history behind it. The problem is that this is all that the ‘leadership’ in the West has. The duct tape and chicken wire used to patch up ‘the economy’ has repaired the exact and precise catastrophe-generating system of predatory finance that has given ‘us’ three decades of regularly recurring economic calamities of increasing breath and scope. And instead of repudiating the (baby) Bush ‘doctrine’ of pre-emptive self-defense the Obama administration has automated it through the global distribution of drone warfare. Whereas the CIA once-upon-a-time had to train its proxy armies to slice villages full of innocents from loin to throat (see Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras), the task of automated slaughter can today be carried out with the press of a button by marginally literate soldiers sitting in air conditioned trailers in Nevada, USA. Selling the illusion that this leadership is on ‘our’ side in the realms of the political or the economic becomes exponentially more difficult by the day. All that it has left to sell is the illusion that it is defending us from contrived threat.
“It is impossible for most Americans to think that their country and their government are not beloved around the world. That attitude is due to the relentless propaganda we are subject to our entire lives. We are told our nation is the best, richest, most just, and most deserving. After years of brain washing we are subject to a cynical collaboration between politicians and big business, the same big businesses who run our media outlets and determine what we’ll see and what we should think about what they choose to reveal. … This perversity has many negative consequences. Among them is the public acceptance and approval of nearly every crime committed by our government.”—Margaret Kimberly, Propaganda
"Whatever dangers much wider, and much more rapid, disclosure might have carried have been entirely obliterated. What remains constitutes no threat of any remotely serious kind to the States implicated. Yes, there will be hearings, some ‘reforms,’ and life for the States will go almost exactly as before. Your life, on the other hand … well, who gives a damn about your life.” — Chris Floyd
Has it only been 10 months since Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations changed the world? Can you even remember what the world was like, before he gave 50,000 — no, 200,000 — no, wait, 2 million— secret documents to Glenn Greenwald: smoking guns that exposed Washington’s global surveillance state, which far outstripped the wildest, wettest dreams of the Stasi, of Stalin, yea of Orwell himself?
Try to recall those dark days — now long since banished, thank God! — when the American imperium thrust its grubby hands and greedy eyes into every single digital pie available, scarfing up emails, URLs, locations, even webcam shots, of anybody and everybody, then storing them all in gargantuan data silos, to sift through and fondle for years on end. Remember that? Remember how this surveillance state, this über-Stasi, was put to the service of a regime that was actually going all over the world and murdering people — without charges, without due process, without defense, without warning. Just circling the world, blowing up a wedding party here, a couple of teenagers there, a village, a funeral, a farm, an apartment block, day after day, week after week, year after year? Innocent people, “guilty” people; guilty of something or other, that is — maybe just behaving in a “suspicious manner” in the eyes of unaccountable officials acting arbitrarily in secret, on the basis of screenshots sent by back by robots, and rumors and vendettas gathered, for pay, by secret agents.
Do you remember how this brutal, barbaric, ugly, inhuman regime would then go around the world condemning other nations for not being moral, holy, freedom-loving and strictly adherent to international law? Do you remember the base, sickening hypocrisy of it all? State murderers — proud state murderers, murderers who would go before legislators and under oath to God Almighty swear how proud they were to be murdering people — telling other nations how to order their affairs according to the principles of law and justice and human rights?
Isn’t it wonderful how much has changed since those days, when we discovered the spine and musculature of the surveillance regime that undergirded this ghastly system of murder and corruption and domination?