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WillyT

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Britain To Wait On Weapons Report Ahead Of Syria Strikes - NYT

Britain to Wait on Weapons Report Ahead of Syria Strikes
By STEPHEN CASTLE, ALAN COWELL and RICK GLADSTONE - NYT
Published: August 28, 2013

<snip>

LONDON — The prospect of an imminent Western military strike on Syrian government targets appeared to encounter a delay on Wednesday when Britain signaled it would first await the findings of a United Nations inquiry into the suspected use of chemical weapons in a mass killing near Damascus, and would then hold a parliamentary vote, which could be days away.

At the same time the Syrian government, which has denied accusations by a range of Western and Arab countries that it had used the weapons in the Aug. 21 mass killing, moved abruptly to prolong the visit of the United Nations inspectors, announcing it had evidence of three previously unreported chemical weapons assaults that they should investigate.

Taken together, the developments had the effect of slowing, for the moment, the momentum for military action led by the United States and Britain. Both have said the evidence is already persuasive that the government President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used chemical munitions on civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta last week, committing what the Obama administration has called a moral atrocity that cannot go unanswered.

While the United States could still act unilaterally, the Obama administration has actively sought to build a consensus for a military strike, and Britain is the closest American ally.

The British signal that it would not rush to military action came late Wednesday when the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, aware of the sensitivities created by the rush to war in Iraq a decade ago, altered the language of a motion to be voted on by Parliament on Thursday so that a separate vote on military action would be required. That vote may not take place until next week.

The resolution states...

<snip>

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/world/middleeast/syria.html


Edward Snowden: In Defence Of Whistleblowers - GuardianUK

Edward Snowden: in defence of whistleblowers
Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago, was smeared and denounced at the time

Editorial - The Guardian
Tuesday 25 June 2013 16.54 EDT

<snip>

No government or bureaucracy loves a whistleblower. Those who leak official information will often be denounced, prosecuted or smeared. The more serious the leak, the fiercer the pursuit and the greater the punishment. Edward Snowden knew as much before contacting this newspaper to reveal some of the things that troubled him about the work, scope and oversight of the US and British intelligence agencies. He is unlikely to be surprised at the clamour to have him locked up for life, or to have seen himself denounced as a traitor.

It was also quite predictable that Snowden would be charged with criminal offences, even if there is something shocking in the use of the 1917 Espionage Act – a measure intended to prevent anti-war speech in the first world war by treating it as sedition. On the available evidence Snowden's almost certain motive for speaking out was far removed from anything resembling espionage, sedition or anti-Americanism. His attempts to stay beyond the clutches of US law may involve travel to countries with a poor record on freedom of expression. But his choice of refuge does not, of itself, make him a traitor. As Buzzfeed's Ben Smith has written ("You don't have to like Edward Snowden": "Snowden's personal story is interesting only because the new details he revealed are so much more interesting. We know substantially more about domestic surveillance than we did, thanks largely to stories and documents printed by The Guardian. They would have been just as revelatory without Snowden's name on them."

America is blessed with a first amendment, which prevents prior restraint and affords a considerable measure of protection to free speech. But the Obama administration has equally shown a dismaying aggression in not only criminalising leaking and whistleblowing, but also recently placing reporters under surveillance – tracking them and pulling their phone and email logs in order to monitor their sources for stories that were patently of public importance.

There is a link to the material Snowden has leaked, and to his stated motive for doing so. In a world of total monitoring – where intelligence agencies aspire to collect and store every single email, text message and phone call – serious investigative reporting becomes difficult, if not impossible. Normal interchanges between sources and journalists cannot take place in such a world. Officials who were once willing to talk are already chilled. In future they would be silenced. Thanks to Edward Snowden we are beginning to glimpse what another NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake, has described as "a vast, systemic institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan surveillance state that has clearly gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism".

President Obama has welcomed the debate...

<snip>

More: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/25/editorial-edward-snowden-history?CMP=twt_gu&guni=Article:in%20body%20link


Obama Administration Asks Court To Force New York Times Reporter To Reveal Source - GuardinUK/RawSto

Obama administration asks court to force New York Times reporter to reveal source
By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian/RawStory
8/27/13

<snip>

The Obama administration is trying to dissuade federal judges from giving the New York Times reporter James Risen one last chance to avoid having to disclose his source in a criminal trial over the alleged leaking of US state secrets.

The Department of Justice has filed a legal argument with the US appeals court for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, in which it strongly opposes any further consideration of Risen’s petition. Risen’s lawyers have asked the court to convene a full session of the 15-member court to decide whether the journalist should be granted First Amendment protection that would spare him from having to reveal the identity of his source to whom he promised confidentiality.

A three-member panel of the same court last month issued a 2-1 majority ruling in which they found that reporters had no privilege that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in a criminal trial. The judgement leaves Risen, a prominent investigative reporter specialising in national security issues, facing the prospect of having to break his promise to his source or go to jail.

The legal crunch emerged from Risen’s 2006 book, State of War, in which the author reveals details of the CIA’s attempts to foil Iran’s nuclear programme. James Sterling, a former CIA employee, is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for the criminal disclosure of the information – one of seven officials to face the severe charges under the Obama administration including Chelsea Manning who has been sentenced to 35 years in military jail as the WikiLeaks source.

In a 26-page filing, the US prosecutor Neil Macbride and his team argue that Risen has no grounds to be offered a full hearing of the appeals court because there is no such thing as a reporters’ privilege in a criminal trial. They insist that the New York Times journalist was the only eyewitness to the leaking crimes of which Sterling has been charged and under previous case law has no right to claim First Amendment protection.

“Risen’s eyewitness testimony is essential proof of the disputed identity of the perpetrator that cannot be duplicated or replaced by other evidence in the case,” MacBride writes.

The DoJ’s robust attempt to block any further legal discussion about Risen’s plight will add to the impression that the Obama administration is determined to stamp on official leaking regardless of its implications for press freedom...

<snip>

More: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/27/obama-administration-asks-court-to-force-new-york-times-reporter-to-reveal-source/





Are WE Going To Ignore Hans Blix... Again ???

Hans Blix: U.S. has “poor excuse” for Syria incursion now
Seeing echoes of Iraq, weapons inspector says "political dynamics are running ahead of due process"

BY NATASHA LENNARD - Salon
TUESDAY, AUG 27, 2013 07:59 AM PDT

<snip>

Following Secretary of State John Kerry’s Monday announcement that it was “undeniable” that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in a rebel-held suburb, calls among Western leaders for military intervention have reached fever pitch.

Hans Blix, the chief U.N. arms inspector for Iraq from 2000 to 2003, who famously decried the Bush administration’s over-hyping of the threat of WMD in Iraq to justify war, is seeing a similar pattern with regards to Syria and chemical weapons.

Blix told the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/hans-blix-the-united-stat_b_3819367.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

<snip>

Link: http://www.salon.com/2013/08/27/hans_blix_u_s_has_poor_excuse_for_syria_incursion_now/singleton/

\

Overheard At The Tavern Today, Re: Obama... "It's Not So Much The People He Appoints... And It's Not

So Much That He Hears Them Out... I Could Live With That... It's That He Takes, And Acts, On Their Bad Advice."


I Was Vaguely Aware Of Some Of These Details... But Did Not Fully Appreciate Until Now...

Thank (Bradley) Chelsea Manning for helping end the Iraq war
(Bradley) Chelsea Manning exposed the Iraq war's horrors; it's high time we defend and support him.

By Nathan Fuller - (Bradley) Chelsea Manning Support Network
March 25th, 2013 11:30 AM

<snip>

Pundits across the political spectrum are searching for meaning in the tenth anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. The decade-long campaign of bombings and occupation left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and millions wounded, displaced, or scarred. Justified with lies about biological and chemical weapons that never existed, the senseless war cost U.S. tax-payers more than 3 trillion dollars, and far more in blood and shame. Tens of thousands of US soldiers were wounded or killed, and to this day, $490 billion is owed to veterans.

Many credit President Obama with the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, and almost none mention the fact that it was cables provided by Bradley Manning and published by WikiLeaks that made Obama’s attempt to keep troops there past the 2011 deadline impossible. As CNN reported in October of that year,

<Iraq and U.S.> negotiations were strained following WikiLeaks’ release of a diplomatic cable that alleged Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed in a 2006 raid by American troops rather than in an airstrike as the U.S. military initially reported.


Obama had wanted to keep troops beyond President Bush’s 2011 deadline, but required the condition that all U.S. soldiers be guaranteed legal immunity for their actions. Upon reading the WikiLeaks-released cables, the Iraqi government refused.

By revealing the hidden realities of the Iraq War, Pfc. Bradley Manning achieved his noble goal of sparking domestic debate, and he helped begin the end of an aggressive, violent, and counterproductive war.

Here are a few of WikiLeaks’ revelations about the U.S war in Iraq:

<snip>

More: http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/june-1-thank-bradley-manning-for-helping-end-the-iraq-war


America, Syria And Chemical Weapons - TheEconomist (Warning: Disturbing Pic)

America, Syria and chemical weapons
Guttering, choking, drowning

TheEconomist
Aug 27th 2013, 12:25 by M.S



<snip>

AMERICA is going to attack Syria, it seems, and it is going to do it because of gas. As reasons to attack a murderous dictatorship go, punishment for the use of chemical weapons to kill hundreds of civilians isn't a bad one. For anyone inclined to see America as an avenging angel of international justice, however, this fascinating scoop from Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid at Foreign Policy will come as a bit of a downer. It seems the American government was well aware of the chemical-weapons attacks carried out by Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, both against the Iranian army and against his own people, and not only did nothing to stop him, but in fact supplied him with the coordinates of Iranian force concentrations in full knowledge that he would use that information to poison them with nerve and mustard gas.

Foreign Policy Piece: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/25/secret_cia_files_prove_america_helped_saddam_as_he_gassed_iran

Now, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) barring nations from possessing chemical arms didn't come into force until 1997. However, the 1925 Geneva Protocol bars the use of chemical weapons in war. (Incidentally, for those who have heard that Syria isn't a party to the CWC: that's true, but it is a party to the Geneva Protocol.) So America ought to have been, if not bombing Saddam's Iraq for using poison gas, at least condemning it and applying sanctions. Instead, it supplied target data.

Apparently American reactions to violations of the international prohibition on using chemical weapons are not entirely consistent. What accounts for the differences?

The simplest explanation is just that America is willing to overlook or even abet the use of poison gas by its allies or associates, which Iraq was in 1988 when the Reagan administration was trying to contain Iran. When America's enemies use poison gas, on the other hand, it serves as a legitimate excuse to use military force against them, as in Syria today, or indeed in Iraq 15 years after its use of chemical weapons. This, however, is an unsatisfying explanation, because it implies that Barack Obama is looking for an excuse to attack Syria today, when he is plainly not. Mr Obama is visibly being dragged into war on Syria against all his inclinations and his better judgment. And you would think one lesson of 1988 is that if the American government doesn't want to punish a regime for using chemical weapons, it doesn't have to. So what is forcing Barack Obama to bomb Syria now?

One factor, obviously, is the fact that Mr Obama committed himself to treating the use of chemicals weapons as a red line. He did so at a moment when America was more disposed to intercede on behalf of the Syrian rebels (at least rhetorically, as with Hillary Clinton's "Assad must go" proclamation) than it is now; at the time, the chemical-weapons ultimatum might have seemed like a handy line in the sand, rather than the albatross neckwear it has since become. Another factor is the mounting international exasperation and sense of helplessness in the face of the carnage of the Syrian civil war. The fact that America views the Syrian regime and army as strategic enemies, whose patrons are Russia and Iran, rather than quasi-allies is certainly a necessary condition.

But the decisive factor is simply the rapid availability of mesmerisingly horrifying video imagery of the gas victims. In Iraq, video imagery of Saddam's Kurdish gas victims ultimately came out, but it took years; there was no sense of urgency or an ongoing threat. Even so, the imagery of the massacres ultimately seeded a longstanding American sympathy for the Kurdish cause and remained the clearest indictment of Saddam as a mass murderer. The impact of such video images rests partly on the unique horror of poison gas in the Western imagination.

This is not an arbitrary horror...

<snip>

More: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/08/america-syria-and-chemical-weapons

Oh.. This Is Gonna Get Ugly... Abroad, Here At Home, And Here...

The AntiWar Protest Marches Start Once Again: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/08/27/18742178.php

I could not have imagined this back in 2008.


Breaking: Curiouser And Curiouser...

New York Times website taken down, likely by malicious attack
CNBC
Published: Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 | 4:40 PM ET

Link: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100988768


Is The NYPD Worse Than The NSA? - TheAtlantic

Is the NYPD Worse Than the NSA?
New details about innocent Americans targeted for surveillance by undercover officers.

Conor Friedersdorf - TheAtlantic
Aug 26 2013, 8:30 AM ET

<snip>

The surveillance debate triggered by Edward Snowden's leaks frequently features government spokespeople assuring Americans that the authorities aren't targeting us with their spying activities. Implicit is the notion that if Americans were being targeted, that would be an abuse of power.

In New York City, the debate is different, because there's no doubt about the NYPD's surveillance tactics: They're definitely targeting innocent Americans citizens and legal residents. And that's an ongoing abuse of power, even if comparatively fewer people have heard about it.

We've known for some time that innocent Muslim Americans were ethnically profiled by undercover NYPD officers, causing significant, under-acknowledged hardship in affected communities. Earlier this summer, Charlie Savage reported on four CIA officers embedded within the NYPD, despite the strict rules governing the spy agency's behavior within the United States. And today, New York has published "The NYPD Division of UnAmerican Activities," in which Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman unearth even more alarming details about the NYPD Demographics Unit: http://nymag.com/news/features/nypd-demographics-unit-2013-9/#print

•Official secrecy defined the program from the start. "Documents related to this new unit were stamped NYPD SECRET. Even the City Council, Congress, and the White House -- the people paying the bills -- weren't told about it."

•This is straight-up profiling. "They mapped, looking for 28 'ancestries of interest.' Nearly all were Muslim. There were Middle Eastern and South Asian countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Egypt. Former Soviet states like Uzbekistan and Chechnya were included because of their large Muslim populations. The last 'ancestry' on the list was 'American Black Muslim.'"

•Files on New Yorkers were started on the flimsiest of pretexts. "One Muslim man made it into files even though he praised President Bush's State of the Union address and said people who criticized the U.S. government didn't realize how good they had it. Two men of Pakistani ancestry were included for saying the nation's policies had become increasingly anti-Muslim since 9/11. Muslims who criticized the CIA's use of drones to launch missiles in Pakistan were documented."

•Inevitably, spying was used for purposes other than counterterrorism. "Surveillance turned out to be habit-forming .... Undercover officers traveled the country, keeping tabs on liberal protest groups like Time's Up and the Friends of Brad Will. Police infiltrated demonstrations and collected information about antiwar groups and those that marched against police brutality. Detectives monitored activist websites and copied the contents into police files, including one memo in 2008 for Kelly that reported the contents of a website about a group of women organizing a boycott to protest the police shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man killed the morning before his wedding.

The full story contains a lot more objectionable behavior...

<snip>

More: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/08/is-the-nypd-worse-than-the-nsa/279020/



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