The American Bear


James Clapper, EU play-acting, and political priorities (2) | Glenn Greenwald

[The] leaders [of various EU states] spent the last week feigning all sorts of righteous indignation over revelations that the NSA was using extreme measures to spy indiscriminately not only on the communications of their citizens en masse but also on their own embassies and consulates - things they learned thanks to Edward Snowden’s self-sacrificing choice to reveal to the world what he discovered inside the NSA.

But on Tuesday night, the governments of three of those countries - France, Spain and Portugal - abruptly withdrew overflight rights for an airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was attempting to fly home from a conference in Russia. That conduct forced a diversion of Morales’ plan to Austria, where he remained for 13 hours before being able to leave this morning.

These EU governments did that because they suspected - falsely, it now seems - that Morales’ plane was also carrying Snowden: the person who enabled them to learn of the NSA spying aimed at their citizens and themselves that they claim to find so infuriating. They wanted to physically prevent Bolivia from considering or granting Snowden’s request for asylum, a centuries-old right in international law. Meanwhile, the German government - which has led the ritualistic condemnations of NSA spying that Snowden exposed - summarily rejected Snowden’s application for asylum almost as soon as it hit their desks.

A 2013 report from Open Society documents that Spain and Portugal were among the nations who participated in various ways in rendition flights - ie kidnapping - by the US. In particular, the report found, “Spain has permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations.” Similarly, “Portugal has permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with CIA extraordinary rendition operations.” The French judiciary previously investigated reports that the French government knowingly allowed the CIA to use its airspace for renditions.

So these EU states are perfectly content to allow a country - when it’s the US - to use their airspace to kidnap people from around the world with no due process. But they will physically stop a plane carrying the president of a sovereign state - when it’s from Latin America - in order to subvert the well-established process for seeking asylum from political persecution (and yes: the US persecutes whistleblowers).

All of this smacks of exactly the kind of rank imperialism and colonialism that infuriates most of Latin America, and further exposes the emptiness of American and western European lectures about the sacred rule of law. This is rogue nation behavior. As human rights law professor Sarah Joseph put it:

Bravo EU states. You allowed rendition flights. But not Bolivian prez due to bogus belief the guy who revealed mass spying on you onboard

— Sarah Joseph (@profsarahj) July 3, 2013

As the Index on Censorship said to EU states this morning: “Members of the EU have a duty to protect freedom of expression and should not interfere in an individual’s attempts to seek asylum. Edward Snowden is a whistleblower whose free speech rights should be protected not criminalised.”

As usual, US officials and their acolytes who invoke “the law” to demand severe punishment for powerless individuals (Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning) instantly exploit the same concept to protect US political officials, their owners and their allies from the worst crimes: torture, warrantless eavesdropping, rendition, systemic financial fraud, deceiving Congress and the US public about their surveillance behavior. If you’re spending your time calling for Ed Snowden’s head but not James Clapper’s, or if you’re obsessed with Snowden’s fabricated personality attributes (narcissist!) but apathetic about rampant, out-of-control NSA surveillance, it’s probably worth spending a few moments thinking about what this priority scheme reveals.

What’s so revealing about the hostile reactions to Snowden’s revelations is the way many people try to articulate a principle to justify their hostility, but then immediately selectively apply it. For example, has even one of the people crying out some version of “Snowden broke the law, he should be punished!” ever made the same argument about Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for lying to Congress? How can people be concerned about the consequences to our safety and freedom of a contractor leaking secrets about a massive domestic spying operation, but sanguine about the head of America’s entire intelligence apparatus perjuring himself in denying such a program exists? Barry Eisler, PRISM Isn’t Just About Terror. It’s About All Things Clandestine

The section on ‘repressive autocracies’ describes, disapprovingly, various repressive surveillance measures: legislation to insert back doors into software to enable spying on citizens, monitoring of social networks and the collection of intelligence on entire populations. All of these are already in widespread use in the United States. In fact, some of those measures — like the push to require every social-network profile to be linked to a real name — were spearheaded by Google itself. The Banality of Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ (via azspot)

(via azspot)

We Are So Disappointed With the Corrupt Afghan Government | A Tiny Revolution

I’m sure it’s tough for many reasons to work for the Sulzbergers and Carlos Slim at the New York Times. But I’d have an especially hard time coming into the office every day and being forced to write paragraphs like this in today’s story about Afghanistan:

American and NATO officials in Kabul…said that [development] aid would continue, although the amounts given were likely to be reduced over time. And the Afghan government would have to live up to its commitments to battle corruption and run a more open government for the aid to keep flowing.

It’s not just that the New York Times itself uncovered the story of the CIA giving the Karzai government millions in bags of cash one week ago. It’s that the bags of cash article was written by the same reporter, Matthew Rosenberg.

Yet here he is today, faithfully passing along the news about how anonymous American officials sincerely want Karzai to be less corrupt. It’s like breaking the Eliot Spitzer prostitution story, and then quoting him a week later explaining how he’s going to continue paying Ashley Dupré as long as she lives up to his longstanding demand that she be less of a prostitute.

(I have much more sympathy for the payee in both situations. In Karzai’s case, he likely remembers that after the Soviets left, their last puppet was castrated, dragged through the streets of Kabul behind a jeep, and then publicly hanged. So you can understand if he wants to keep some cash on hand.) [read]

Syria And Sarin Gas: US Claims Have A Very Familiar Ring | Robert Fisk

Is there any way of escaping the theatre of chemical weapons? First, Israeli “military intelligence” says that Bashar al-Assad’s forces have used/have probably used/might have used/could use chemical weapons. Then Chuck Hagel, the US Defence Secretary, pops up in Israel to promise even more firepower for Israel’s over-armed military – avoiding any mention of Israel’s more than 200 nuclear warheads – and then imbibing all the Israeli “intelligence” on Syria’s use/probable use/possible use of chemical weapons.

Then good ol’ Chuck returns to Washington and tells the world that “this is serious business. We need all the facts.” The White House tells Congress that US intelligence agencies, presumably the same as Israeli intelligence agencies since the two usually waffle in tandem, have “varying degrees of confidence” in the assessment. But Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee – she who managed to defend Israel’s actions in 1996 after it massacred 105 civilians, mostly children, at Qana in Lebanon – announces of Syria that “it is clear that red lines have been crossed and action must be taken to prevent larger-scale use”. And the oldest of current White House clichés – hitherto used exclusively on Iran’s probable/possible development of nuclear weapons – is then deployed: “All options are on the table.”

In any normal society the red lights would now be flashing, especially in the world’s newsrooms. But no. We scribes remind the world that Obama said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “game changer” – at least Americans admit it is a game – and our reports confirm what no one has actually confirmed. Chemical arms used. In two Canadian TV studios, I am approached by producers brandishing the same headline. I tell them that on air I shall trash the “evidence” – and suddenly the story is deleted from both programmes. Not because they don’t want to use it – they will later – but because they don’t want anyone suggesting it might be a load of old cobblers.

CNN has no such inhibitions. Their reporter in Amman is asked what is known about the use of chemical weapons by Syria and replies: “Not as much as the world would want to know … the psyche of the Assad regime ….” But has anyone tried? Or simply asked an obvious question, posed to me by a Syrian intelligence man in Damascus last week: if Syria can cause infinitely worse damage with its MiG bombers (which it does) why would it want to use chemicals? And since both the regime and its enemies have accused each other of using such weapons, why isn’t Chuck as fearful of the rebels as he is of the Assad dictatorship?

It all comes back to that most infantile cliché of all: that the US and Israel fear Assad’s chemical weapons “falling into the wrong hands”. They are frightened, in other words, that these chemicals might end up in the armoury of the very same rebels, especially the Islamists, that Washington, London, Paris, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are supporting. And if these are the “wrong hands”, then presumably the weapons in Assad’s armoury are in the “right hands”. That was the case with Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons – until he used them against the Kurds.

Now we know that there have been three specific incidents in which sarin gas has supposedly been used in Syria: in Aleppo, where both sides accused each other (the hospital videos in fact came from Syrian state TV); in Homs, apparently on a very small scale; and in the outskirts of Damascus. And, although the White House appears to have missed this, three Syrian child refugees were brought to hospital in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli with deep and painful burns on their bodies.

But now for a few problems. Phosphorus shells can inflict deep burns, and perhaps cause birth defects. But the Americans do not suggest that the Syrian military might have used phosphorus (which is indeed a chemical); after all, American troops used the very same weapon in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, where there is indeed now an explosion of birth defects. I suppose our hatred of the Assad regime might better be reflected by horror at reports of the torture by Syrian secret policemen of the regime’s detainees. But there’s a problem here, too: only 10 years ago, the US was “renditioning” innocent men, including a Canadian citizen, to Damascus to be interrogated and tortured by the very same secret policemen. And if we mention Saddam’s chemical weapons, there’s another glitch: because the components of these vile weapons were manufactured by a factory in New Jersey and sent to Baghdad by the US.

That is not the story in our newsrooms, of course. Walk into a TV studio and they’re all reading newspapers. Walk into a newspaper office and they’re all watching television. It’s osmotic. And the headlines are all the same: Syria uses chemical weapons. That’s how the theatre works.

Actually, the question of the Iranian threat is quite interesting. It’s discussed as if that’s the major issue of the current era. And not just in the United States, Britain too. This is ‘the year of Iran,’ Iran is the major threat, the major policy issue. It does raise the question: What’s the Iranian threat? That’s never seriously discussed, but there is an authoritative answer, which isn’t reported. The authoritative answer was given by the Pentagon and intelligence in April 2010; they have an annual submission to Congress on the global security system, and of course discussed Iran. They made it very clear that the threat is not military. They said Iran has very low military spending even by the standards of the region; their strategic doctrine is completely defensive, it’s designed to deter an invasion long enough to allow diplomacy to begin to operate; they have very little capacity to deploy force abroad. They say if Iran were developing nuclear capability, which is not the same as weapons, it would be part of the deterrent strategy,which is what most strategic analysts take for granted, so there’s no military threat. Nevertheless, they say it’s the most significant threat in the world. What is it? Well, that’s interesting. They’re trying to extend their influence in neighboring countries; that’s what’s called destabilizing. So if we invade their neighbors and occupy them, that’s stabilizing. Which is a standard assumption. It basically says, ‘Look, we own the world.’ And if anybody doesn’t follow orders, they’re aggressive.

Noam Chomsky, an excerpt from How Close the World is to a Nuclear War, which will be released 30, April 2013. (via therecipe)

Noam Chomsky says, more or less, what I’ve stretched into an unorganized and sloppy tag in just a few sentences.

(via mohandasgandhi)

(via mohandasgandhi)


The New Inquiry Magazine, Vol. 15, “Weed”
From the Editor’s Note: 
There’s a zero percent chance that America is going to have any chat about weed without some giggles. Laughter isn’t just an effect of the drug; it’s the only rational response to a president who belonged to the smoking club “Choom Gang” and says he truly believes we should still imprison people for getting high. Here in New York, Michael Bloomberg jokes to the cameras about inhaling and enjoying it even as he uses prohibition to justify a street war against the city’s black and brown youth. So long as gay marriage corners the market on liberal self-righteousness, policy makers can still get away with laughing off pot. But if the president was right and weed helps you see through hypocrisy, bullshit, and cheap moralism, America is going to have to be as stoned as hell for this national conversation.
Read more


The New Inquiry Magazine, Vol. 15, “Weed”

From the Editor’s Note: 

There’s a zero percent chance that America is going to have any chat about weed without some giggles. Laughter isn’t just an effect of the drug; it’s the only rational response to a president who belonged to the smoking club “Choom Gang” and says he truly believes we should still imprison people for getting high. Here in New York, Michael Bloomberg jokes to the cameras about inhaling and enjoying it even as he uses prohibition to justify a street war against the city’s black and brown youth. So long as gay marriage corners the market on liberal self-righteousness, policy makers can still get away with laughing off pot. But if the president was right and weed helps you see through hypocrisy, bullshit, and cheap moralism, America is going to have to be as stoned as hell for this national conversation.

Read more


So in a matter of two or three years, about 150,000 people were killed in a war that was being waged primarily by US-backed war criminals. Less than half that many have been killed in the same amount of time in Syria.

Why weren’t war hawks in Washington calling for the US to militarily intervene to unseat the Guatemalan regime in 1983? Better yet, why wasn’t anybody blaming the Reagan administration for paling around with blood-soaked dictators of exactly the type McCain, Boot, and Diehl now accuse Assad of being? Or better still, why isn’t anyone calling for accountability for the still-living Reagan administration policymakers, say Elliot Abrams, who insisted on maintaining US support for people like Rios Montt?

It’s hard to come to any other conclusion: interventionists in Washington who couch their arguments for military action in humanitarian terms are simply not using human suffering and death counts as a criteria for US intervention. Instead, they conveniently exploit instances of conflict and human suffering when it occurs in countries that they’ve long desired to intervene in anyways.

Why the Death Count in Syria Actually Doesn’t ‘Count’


I was listening to the speech of Obama and he said a lot of things that made me upset so I just stood up and shouted. He was talking about democracy and justice and at the same time he said he supports Israel as a Jewish country. So, from my perspective and that of a lot of people, Arab people, Palestinians who were in the building listening to the speech … the Arabs, the minority in Israel are also against a Jewish country because it’s not a democratic country. It’s against us, so how can Mr. Obama be democratic and in the same time support an ethnic country?

So I stood up and I told him, “President Obama, did you come to make peace or to support Israel and the Israeli occupation?” Then I asked him about this thing, “How can you be democratic and support a Jewish country?” And I asked him also, “Who killed Rachel Corrie?” The last question was, “Did you see the apartheid wall when you came from Ramallah?”

And then the security guys came and took me out, the Israeli security guys, and they told me that I’m arrested and they threatened me and they used, at first, a little bit of violence with me. But after that there was a journalist, from Fox News, I think, came out and followed me … She started taking my details and pictures, while I was stopped by the Israeli security guys … One of the security guys, I think the boss of them, told his team, “Deal with him easy. I don’t want to make a big story now. There is media so just let him go.” Then they walked me outside.

I believe if he’s from a real democratic party, he should support a country for all its citizens and end the occupation, not to support a Jewish country and to support the Israeli army. He didn’t talk that much about the settlements. He talked about the violence from settlers but he didn’t say very clearly that something against settlements is that they are built on occupied land. He didn’t talk about the apartheid wall. And many things.

Most of his speech was to me, and to a lot of others, a Zionist speech. He talked about the historical Zionist story about the Jewish people, starting from 2,000 years ago till today and the right of the Jewish people to have their own country, but he didn’t say that there are millions of refugees, Palestinian refugees that were expelled in 1948, just before 65 years ago.

To me, I believe in one state for two people — one democratic state. There could be a special national thing for the Jewish or the Arab people, you know, but it could be one country. We need justice, you know. I actually don’t care what the name of this state is, but what I care is for there to be justice for two peoples in the state and to end this conflict.

Rabbea Eid, student at Haifa University and a member of the Balad Party, interrupts President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem  (via jayaprada)

Let me say that we can confirm what you are seeing in the press, that regime jets and helicopters did fire rockets into northern Lebanon, impacting Wadi al-Khayl, near the border town of Arsal. This constitutes a significant escalation in the violations of Lebanese sovereignty that the Syrian regime has been guilty of. These kinds of violations of sovereignty are absolutely unacceptable.

US State Department Spokesperson, Victoria Nuland

"Unless you’re the United States and we’re talking about Pakistan, or you’re Israel and you want to destroy a Syrian nuclear reactor,” she added, “then it’s fine.”

U.S. Condemns Syrian Firing of Rockets into Lebanon

Iran, according to the National Intelligence Estimate, doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. And Iran is being closely monitored. However, the U.S. still pushes for more, and Iran still faces crushing sanctions and constant threat of war. When the whole world, though, asks Israel to have her nuclear weapons program monitored and to be brought within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the U.S. votes no. For the Iranians, this American U.N. vote must be the most glaring example of hypocrisy of all.

Ted Snider, The New Generation of Hypocrisy on Iran

see also (highly recommended): Seeming Madness: The Suffocating Unreality that Kills

The very interesting question that has arisen as the U.S. has pioneered this technology is: What happens when the Russians, say, send an armed drone into Georgia to the south claiming that there’s a Chechen terrorist that’s hiding in Georgia? And they have no other way to kill him and so they’re going to kill him with a drone missile? It’s going to be a very interesting moment internationally and for the United States, because the Obama administration — if that’s who’s in power — is going to have to say, ‘We accept this because they’re doing exactly what we do,’ or they’ll have to somehow make a distinction between what the Chinese or Russians are doing and what we’ve done in the past. New York Times national security correspondent Scott Shane tells Terry Gross what would it mean if countries not allied with the United States had their own drone programs. (via nprfreshair)

It should be noted that the original disaster relief bill is filled with pork for Republican, not Democratic, districts.


A reporter for Forbes exposes the sheer hypocrisy of Republican double talk when it comes to government spending. On the one hand, Republicans want massive cuts to government spending. On the other, they filled this disaster relief bill with pet projects that have nothing to do with helping Hurricane Sandy victims.

the pork portions of the Senate bill were not earmarked to benefit Democratic members of the upper chamber of Congress. And you may be quite surprised to discover where that money is actually headed once the rich Senate legislation is passed by the House.

A review of the mark-up of the Senate bill reveals that all that extra, non-Sandy related cash is actually set to provide billions for “storm events that occurred in 2012 along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast within the boundaries of the North Atlantic and Mississippi Valley divisions of the Corps that were affected by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac.”

Why, you might ask, would the Senate be packing billions of taxpayer dollars for these areas of the country that are nowhere near the devastation brought about by superstorm Sandy into a bill designed to bring relief to those suffering from the storm that ripped the northeastern part of the nation?

The answer can be found in a quick review of the states that are set to benefit from the Senate’s extra-special benevolence—states including Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.

What, you may ask, do these states far from New York and New Jersey have in common?

Each is not only a red state, but each of these states are represented by two Republican senators—with the exception of Louisiana with its one GOP senator.

And what happens when you buy off seven Republican senators with a package of goodies under the guise of storm relief supposedly meant to benefit two blue states?

You get yourself a filibuster proof piece of legislation.

Great work at Forbes.

Will Michael Vickers Now Be Subjected to Forced Nudity? | Marcy Wheeler

If you’ve been following the Bradley Manning case at all, you know the government treats alleged leakers by inventing reasons to take away their clothes away.

So I wonder whether they’ll now subject Undersecretary of Intelligence Michael Vickers–who, DOD’s Inspector General has determined, provided the identity of a Special Operations planner to the makers of Zero Dark Thirty.

Pentagon investigators concluded that a senior Defense Department official who’s been mentioned as a possible candidate to be the next CIA director leaked restricted information to the makers of an acclaimed film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and referred the case to the Justice Department, according to knowledgeable U.S. officials.


The case involved a determination by investigators of the Pentagon’s inspector general’s office that Vickers provided the makers of the film “Zero Dark Thirty” with the restricted name of a U.S. Special Operations Command officer who helped plan the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, one official said.

Though perhaps the best comparison is not between Vickers and Manning, but between Vickers and Kiriakou. Both, after all, gave the name of someone who might not be all that protected to a third party so they could conduct further investigation. With both, the name did not become public via this leak.

And John Kiriakou’s headed to prison.

There’s little chance Vickers will experience a similar fate as Kiriakou though. As McClatchy notes, the Administration has already declassified a report showing Vickers providing this name. DOJ has been sitting on the referral since September. And McClatchy’s sources are discussing how this will affect Vickers’ chances of becoming CIA Director, not whether anything worse will happen.

Even Peter King, who demanded the investigation in the first place, does not want an indictment, but appears to prefer instead to politicize the fact that he hasn’t been told about Vickers’ role.

King told McClatchy that the delay in notifying him “raises the question” of whether officials were trying to put it off for political reasons, but he wanted to see the full report before drawing any conclusions.

I’m not looking for anyone to be indicted,” he said. “But the IG does not make referrals to the Justice Department as a matter of routine. To me the fact that any information at all would be given to Hollywood producers by this administration is disgraceful.”

“If it’s wrong enough or questionable enough for the IG to refer it to the Justice Department, that means it shouldn’t have been done.” [ew emphasis]

Yes, I imagine Peter King wouldn’t want to encourage top people being indicted for leaking classified information…

Which demonstrates, once again, what our classification system really is. It is not a law, to be applied neutrally to all. On the contrary, it is applied selectively, used primarily as a threat tied to higher wages tied to a clearances, but on occasion, as the premise to punish those who deviate from NatSec orthodoxy.