The American Bear


NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel | Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewan MacAskill

The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.

The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.

But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.

"This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law," the document says.

Israel Downplays Reports of Drone Strike in Sinai, But Does Not Deny It


August 11, 2013

Israel Downplays Sinai Drone Strike Reports

Associated Press

August 11, 2013

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister said that his country won’t let recent “rumors and speculation” harm the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, an apparent attempt to downplay reports that an Israeli drone killed four militants in a cross-border strike into Egypt.

The late Saturday statement by Moshe Yaalon did not explicitly deny that Israel carried out the Friday attack.

The Israeli military said Friday it was looking into the report. On Sunday it said it had no further comment.

Egyptian officials initially said an Israeli drone carried out the attack, but an official quoted by the state media later claimed an Egyptian helicopter was responsible.

Yaalon said that Israel “appreciated” unspecified actions taken by Egypt against militants over the weekend.

"Israel respects the full sovereignty of Egypt," Yaalon said. He said Israel is "aware of the Egyptian military’s increased activity against terror infrastructures in the Sinai Peninsula" and praised the Egyptian military for "fighting first and foremost to protect Egypt’s citizens and sovereignty."

A little known militant group, Ansar Jerusalem, said its men were the target of Friday’s drone strike into Egyptian territory. It said four militants were killed as they were preparing to fire rockets into Israel.

The Israeli praise of Egypt protecting its citizens seemed intended to deflect reports that Israel carried out a rare cross-border attack to protect its own citizens. Egypt is highly sensitive to criticism about letting Israel carry out strikes on its soil.

The attack could indicate increased cooperation between Egypt and Israel against militants in northern Sinai after a coup ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last month. It also is likely to increase tensions in a border region that has seen other rocket attacks in the past.

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.

(Source: matthewaid)

The idea seems to be a meeting for meeting’s sake. We have watched this procedure for many years. Successive American presidents have undertaken to bring the two sides together. It is an American belief, rooted in Anglo-Saxon tradition, that if two reasonable, decent people get together to thrash out their differences, everything will fall into place. It’s almost automatic: meet – talk – agree. … Unfortunately, it does not quite work this way with conflicts between nations, conflicts that may have deep historical roots. In meetings between leaders of such nations, they often just want to hurl old accusations at each other, with the aim of convincing the world that the other side is utterly depraved and despicable. Kerry and Chutzpah

… IN ALL this bickering, one basic fact is ignored.

It’s that elephant again. The elephant in the room, whose existence Netanyahu denies and which Kerry is trying to ignore.

The occupation.

The assumption is generally made that the negotiations are between equals. In cartoons, Netanyahu and Abbas appear to be of equal size. The American picture of two reasonable people talking it out between themselves presupposes two more or less equal partners.

But this whole picture is basically false. The proposed “negotiations” are between an almighty occupying power and an almost totally powerless occupied people. Between the wolf and the lamb.

Israel warns Russia against arming Syrian government |

Russia has said it will supply one of its most advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to the Syrian government hours after the EU ended its arms embargo on the rebels, raising the prospect of a rapidly escalating proxy war in the region if peace talks in Geneva fail next month.

Israel quickly issued a thinly veiled warning that it would bomb the Russian S-300 missiles if they were sent to Syria, as such a move would bring the advanced guided missiles within range of civilian and military planes over Israel. Israel has conducted three sets of air strikes on Syria this year, [purportedly] aimed at preventing missiles being brought close to its border by the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah.

"The shipments haven’t set out yet and I hope they won’t," Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli defence minister, said. "If they do arrive in Syria, God forbid, we’ll know what to do." [++]

Israel considering looser regulations for soldiers in West Bank | Al Akhbar English

Israeli military commanders and parliament members argued Wednesday in favor of changing regulations for soldiers operating in the West Bank in front of a Knesset committee, claiming that the rules governing their actions against Palestinians were too restrictive.

According to the Israeli daily Maariv, three reserve commanders – Amram Mitzna, Danny Yatom and Uzi Dayan – spoke during a Knesset security committee meeting, saying that Israel should address a situation deemed dangerous by Israeli soldiers and field commanders.

Knesset member Moshe Feiglin said Israeli forces felt “impotent” when facing Palestinian demonstrations because of regulations restricting their possible response, Maariv reported.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon spoke of increasing incidents of soldier injuries, adding that the Israeli army needed to do everything it could to reverse the trend.

Nissim Zeev, a Knesset member and member of the ultra-Orthodox political party Shas, said that “there is nowhere else in the world where soldiers in a situation of confronting the enemy are powerless.”

Zeev described the situation in the West Bank as one of “asymmetrical warfare” in which he claimed the well-armed Israeli troops were disadvantaged when faced against Palestinian protesters.

Israeli occupation forces routinely use an arsenal of live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and skunk water against Palestinians, even during peaceful demonstrations. Palestinians protesters typically respond by throwing rocks and occasional molotov cocktails.

Wednesday’s session was attended by the chief of Israeli forces’ central command, along with heads of West Bank Jewish settlement councils and chief security officers.

According to Maariv, the security committee will hold a closed-door meeting to be attended by the Israeli minister of defense, Moshe Yaalon. The participants will address possible means to “restore Israeli forces’ deterrence and dignity in the West Bank” and give Israeli soldiers more leeway in their dealings with Palestinians.

Since January 2009, Israeli forces have killed 59 Palestinians – including 14 youths aged 18 and under – in the occupied West Bank, while Israeli settlers have killed five, according to Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem.

In January, 15-year-old Salih al-Amarin from the Azza refugee camp near Bethlehem, was shot in the head and killed during a protest, and a week earlier, Samir Ahmed Abdul-Rahim,17, was shot four times and killed by Israeli soldiers in Budrus, near Ramallah.

In April, Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji al-Balbisi,19, were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes in Tulkarem.

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot 12-year old Atta Sharadeh in the chest while he was walking with school friends near Ramallah. Sharadeh was in sent to the hospital in critical condition.

And then there are the wild cards. Israel has announced that it intends to carry out further air strikes against Syrian territory. According to the (London) Sunday Times, Assad has given orders that any further attacks will be responded to by missile strikes on Tel Aviv. A second wild card is ‘chemical weapons,’ which was a focus of President Obama in his statements while visiting Turkey. As numerous analysts and Syrian military leaders have commented, it would be senseless for Syria to use chemical weapons while having control of the air and being able to bomb rebel positions. Thus it is clear that the only military purpose of using chemical weapons at this point would be to encourage US intervention. Who would have the motive for such a step? Hardly Syria.

Iran War Weekly | May 20, 2013

(via jayaprada)

(via randomactsofchaos)

The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza | Lisa Hajjar

“The principle of the lesser evil is often presented as a dilemma between two or more bad choices in situations where available options are, or seem to be, limited….Both aspects of the principle are understood as taking place within a closed system in which those posing the dilemma, the options available for choice, the factors to be calculated and the very parameters of calculation are unchallenged. Each calculation is taken anew, as if the previous accumulation of events has not taken place, and the future implications are out of bounds.” - Eyal Weizman

[…] The siege of Gaza was part of a larger transformation of Israeli power and control, from direct physical occupation to “unilateral” withdrawal in 2005 and “humanitarian management” thereafter. In 2007, Israel decreed Gaza a “hostile entity,” and imposed tight restrictions on the inflow of all essential resources. The stated objective was to “put Gaza on a diet” while preventing a “humanitarian crisis,” which was understood as mass starvation. Gaza became a walled-in laboratory within which thresholds of suffering could be tested and pushed. The proportionality algebraists worked to determine the contents of a humanitarian minimum, a concept that does not exist in IHL. To challenge the siege in the HCJ, as Adalah and eleven other human rights organizations did, lawyers had to wrangle with the Israeli military over how little—calories, vitamins, electricity, building materials—was too little to avert crisis. In larger terms, Israel’s obligations as an occupying state were pushed aside by the cult of proportionality.

The growing field of humanitarian forensic architecture and the proportionality assessment of ruins evince a larger transformation by which “the expression of care for victims was replaced by attempts to uncover the mechanisms of violations.” Marc Garlasco has become the preeminent practitioner in this field and the best example of the kinds of collusions between humanitarians and militaries that define the humanitarian present. Garlasco served for seven years as a US military expert in targeting and “battle damage assessment.” He acquired the skills to predict the likely number of civilian casualties in specific bombings, and how to calibrate the amount of force and the directionality of strikes to achieve “pinpoint” effects. In 2003, he joined Human Rights Watch, where his expertise was used to “interrogate” ruins. This information was the substance of assessments and allegations of violations of proportionality. After Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, the United Nations sent an investigating commission headed by Richard Goldstone. Garlasco’s reading of the ruins for Human Rights Watch formed a significant empirical element of the Goldstone Report.

Weizman sums up the trajectory of the humanitarian present that culminates in forensic architecture: Developments in precision bombing ushered in aerial targeted assassinations, along with capacities to predict civilian casualties. Together, these allowed for proportionality analysis prior to bombings and ex post facto assessments by humanitarians who could study and interpret the details of attacks. The result is that “today’s forensic investigators of violence move alongside its perpetrators.”


Stephen Hawking's support for the boycott of Israel is a turning point | Ali Abunimah


A standard objection to the Palestinian campaign for the boycott of Israel is that it would cut off “dialogue” and hurt the chances of peace. We’ve heard this again in the wake of Professor Stephen Hawking’s laudable decision to withdraw from Israel’s Presidential Conference in response to requests from Palestinian academics – but it would be hard to think of a more unconvincing position as far as Palestinians are concerned.

One of the most deceptive aspects of the so-called peace process is the pretence that Palestinians and Israelis are two equal sides, equally at fault, equally responsible – thus erasing from view the brutal reality that Palestinians are an occupied, colonised people, dispossessed at the hands of one of the most powerful militaries on earth.

For more than two decades, under the cover of this fiction, Palestinians have engaged in internationally-sponsored “peace talks” and other forms of dialogue, only to watch as Israel has continued to occupy, steal and settle their land, and to kill and maim thousands of people with impunity.

While there are a handful of courageous dissenting Israeli voices, major Israeli institutions, especially the universities, have been complicit in this oppression by, for example, engaging in research and training partnerships with the Israeli army. Israel’s government has actively engaged academics, artists and other cultural figures in international “Brand Israel” campaigns to prettify the country’s image and distract attention from the oppression of Palestinians.

The vast majority of Palestinians, meanwhile, have been disenfranchised by the official peace process as their fate has been placed in the hands of venal and comprised envoys such as Tony Blair, and US and EU governments that only seem to find the courage to implement international law and protect human rights when it comes to the transgressions of African or Arab states.

When it comes to Israel’s abuses, governments around the world have offered nothing but lip service; while dozens of countries face US, EU or UN sanctions for far lesser transgressions, it has taken years for EU governments to even discuss timid steps such as labelling goods from illegal Israeli settlements, let alone actually banning them. Yet the peace process train trundles on – now with a new conductor in the form of John Kerry, the US secretary of state – but with no greater prospects of ever reaching its destination. So, enough talk already.

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aims to change this dynamic. It puts the initiative back in the hands of Palestinians. The goal is to build pressure on Israel to respect the rights of all Palestinians by ending its occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees who are currently excluded from returning to their homes just because they are not Jews; and abolishing all forms of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

These demands are in line with universal human rights principles and would be unremarkable and uncontroversial in any other context, which is precisely why support for them is growing.

[…] When we look back in a few years, Hawking’s decision to respect BDS may be seen as a turning point – the moment when boycotting Israel as a stance for justice went mainstream.

What is clear today is that his action has forced Israelis – and the rest of the world – to understand that the status quo has a price. Israel cannot continue to pretend that it is a country of culture, technology and enlightenment while millions of Palestinians live invisibly under the brutal rule of bullets, bulldozers and armed settlers.’

And as if it were totally unexpected - Stephen Hawking: Furore deepens over Israel boycott