In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the American people, through their elected representatives in Washington, chose to exchange a significant amount of freedom for safety.
But until a lone information-technology contractor named Edward Snowden leaked a trove of National Security Agency documents to the media this summer, we didn't know just how much we'd surrendered.
Now that we do, our nation can have a healthy debate out in the open, as a democracy should debate about how good a bargain we got in that exchange.
For facilitating that debate, at great risk to his own personal liberty, Snowden is this column's technology person of the year for 2013.
While a long line of so-called leaders of the tech industry were repeating the smug mantra that "there is no privacy" all while secretly cooperating with the NSA's surveillance program Snowden risked prosecution and jail to give Americans the chance to choose for themselves whether it still matters in the digital age.
Secrecy has long been a favorite tool of totalitarian regimes that want to stifle internal political debate. Secret courts were a staple of Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, used to exile dissidents to Siberian gulags. They are still used today by China's communist government to silence its critics.
Sunday, 29 December 2013 12:21
By Robert Parry, Consortium News | News Analysis
It has become conventional wisdom to say that President Barack Obama has suffered through a terrible year in 2013 and if his slumping poll numbers are the only gauge, then these pundits may have a point. But much of this analysis simply marches in lockstep with the neocon view of Obamas supposed foreign policy failures, which may not be failures at all.
Indeed, theres a strong argument to be made that Obamas fifth year in office will be viewed as a historic turning point in U.S. relations with the Middle East, albeit one the neocons and much of Official Washington detest, thus explaining the hostility in their year-end critiques.
The U.S. assault also would likely have destroyed hopes of a nuclear agreement with Iran, thus raising the likelihood that Obama would have been goaded into a military attack on Irans nuclear facilities. At each step of these escalations, the neocons would be egging Obama on, calling him weak and indecisive if he failed to ratchet up the pressure and violence.For instance, if the neocons and the many tough guys/gals inside the Beltway had their way in 2013, the U.S. military would have pummeled Syria in retaliation for its alleged (though still unproven) role in the Aug. 21 Sarin gas incident outside Damascus.
We now know that the neocons desired bombing campaign would have been coordinated with a ground offensive by the Saudi-Israeli-favored, Sunni-dominated jihadist rebels, possibly leading to regime change in Syria.
Amid this mounting chaos, the neocons would have demonstrated that even when they are not sitting in the Oval Office, they could still direct U.S. foreign policy through their continued dominance of the op-ed pages of major newspapers, like the Washington Post, and via their strategic positioning at leading Washington think tanks.
Across Official Washington, there was a palpable sense of disappointment and even anger last summer when Obama abruptly halted the rush toward war with Syria, first seeking congressional support for a military strike and then accepting the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin in negotiating a graceful exit from the crisis by getting the Syrian government to surrender all its chemical weapons (though still denying a role in the Aug. 21 attack).
NEW YORK // Barack Obama set out to fundamentally change Americas role in the Middle East in 2013.
He opted to pursue diplomacy and negotiated solutions to the intractable conflicts that have kept the United States as the regional keystone as a provider of security and counterweight to Iran.
Traditional allies were often infuriated as Mr Obama charted a new course with what they saw as muddled decisions and confusing zigs and zags in US policy. Gone were the easily comprehensible days of the Cold War or Americas unchallenged dominance that followed, when it tried to spread its values and democracy through foreign policy.
After 12 years of draining wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and little public appetite for overseas engagements in the face of festering economic woes and deep budget cuts, not to mention greater energy independence, in 2013 Mr Obama sought to narrow the US role abroad and push adversaries and allies to find common interests, if not reconciliation.
Mr Obama bet that by trying to contain the war in Syria, renewing a push for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and, first and foremost, negotiating an accord with Iran over its nuclear programme, the US could ask its allies to shoulder an increasing share of the burden in the Middle East, freeing it to pursue its own interests in rising Asia.
Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/world/americas/2013-in-review-obamas-new-course-on-us-policy-infuriates-some-allies#ixzz2ouAC5jm5
By Larry Derfner |Published December 27, 2013
As of Friday at noon, a Google search of human rights sanctions turns up over 40 million results. There are human rights sanctions and other punishments against China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Yemen, Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and lots of other countries. And these sanctions werent put in place by some minor academic group like the American Studies Association, but by the United States of America, the European Union and/or the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, these sanctions hurt those countries quite a bit more than the ASAs boycott of Israeli colleges is likely to hurt Israel.
Yet you would think from the reaction to the recent ASA boycott that no other country in the world is being punished for its human rights violations. Everybodys jumping on ASA president Curtis Marezs quote on why the organization was going after Israel instead of other, far worse malefactors: One has to start somewhere, he told The New York Times. But while the ASA may be starting with Israel, the powers-that-be in the world have gone after any number of human-rights violating countries yet still havent gotten to Israel and its 46-year military dictatorship over the Palestinians.
If you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, its being let off the hook.
Would Israels defenders like to see the world treat this country like it treats Iran by bringing it to its knees with crippling sanctions, not to mention the clamor from some quarters to bomb its nuclear facilities?
Or would they like Israel to be treated like Syria by freezing its foreign assets and denying entry to any Israeli involved in the occupation? Would they want the U.S. to arm some of the groups fighting Israel? Would they have preferred Israel being one step away from getting bombed by the U.S.? Would they rather that the world powers destroy Israels chemical weapons or would they choose the ASA boycott?
Or if not like Syria, would Israels advocates like this country to be treated like China with the U.S. vetoing its international loan applications and the U.S. and EU imposing an arms embargo on it? By the way, lots of countries are faced with arms embargoes by the U.S., EU and/or the UN, including Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Israel, by contrast, gets $3 billion worth of arms from America every year.
By Sheldon Richman
Future of Freedom Foundation
The American people should know that pending right now in Congress is a bipartisan bill that would virtually commit the United States to go to war against Iran if Israel attacks the Islamic Republic. The bill outsources any decision about resort to military action to the government of Israel, Columbia University Iran expert Gary Sick wrote to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in protest, one of the bills principal sponsors.
The mind boggles at the thought that Congress would let a foreign government decide when America goes to war, so here is the language (PDF):
If the government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Irans nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people and existence.
This section is legally nonbinding, but given the clout of the bills chief supporter outside of Congress the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC [PDF]), leader of the pro-Israel lobby that is a mere formality.
Since AIPAC wants this bill passed, it follows that so does the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes American negotiations with Iran and has repeatedly threatened to attack the Islamic Republic. Against all evidence, Netanyahu insists the purpose of Irans nuclear program is to build a weapon with which to attack Israel. Iran says its facilities, which are routinely inspected, are for peaceful civilian purposes: the generation of electricity and the production of medical isotopes.
A Muslim cleric who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania and has been linked to a network of more than 135 public charter schools in the United States is believed to be deeply involved in the political drama that is unfolding in his home country of Turkey.
The reclusive cleric is Fethullah Gulen, who has been linked to charter schools in some 25 states and to other schools in dozens of countries around the world. Gulen, who has denounced terrorism and is said to believe in a moderate form of Islam, has lived in Pennsylvania for years. Gulen was until recently a close ally of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has been deeply shaken by a corruption investigation. The prime minister just replaced three of his key ministers after they were forced to resign in the scandal.
According to the Associated Press:
The corruption probe is one of the biggest political challenges Erdogan has faced since his Islamic-based party narrowly escaped being disbanded in 2008 for allegedly undermining Turkeys secular Constitution . Erdogan has denounced the investigation as a plot by foreign and domestic forces to thwart his countrys prosperity and discredit his government ahead of local elections in March. His government has won three elections since 2002 on the strength of the economy and a promise to fight corruption.
Turkish commentators believe the probe is fallout from an increasingly public feud and power struggle between Erdogans government and an influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are believed to have a strong foothold within Turkeys police and judiciary. The two men, without naming each other, have been engaged in a war of words since the corruption probe was launched on Dec. 17.
The New York Times reported in this story that the corruption and bribery probe is widely believed to be under the control of Gulen followers, and it described the powerful Muslim preacher as being in command of a network of businessmen, media outlets and schools as well as officials within Turkeys police and judiciary. Gulen has denied involvement in the probe in Turkey, in which 24 have been formally charged, including the sons of two ministers in Erdogans government as well as the manager of the state-owned Halkbank.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) Turkey's embattled prime minister on Saturday ratcheted up the rhetoric against a U.S.-based Muslim cleric seen as a threat to his government, for the first time directly suggesting followers have infiltrated the police and judiciary and are pushing a corruption probe against his allies.
Analysts meanwhile pointed to growing evidence of an uneasy alliance between Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islam-based government and the secular military, which for years regarded him with suspicion.
The scandal is revealing the deep cracks among Turkey's elite, spilling out into the public the power struggles that have until now mostly remained hidden. Turks are watching with disbelief as two major Islamic groups go after each other so transparently.
Erdogan has frequently pointed to outside forces as trying to destabilize the country most recently during massive summer anti-government protests but he has broadened his claims in the latest crisis to include domestic foes working as "pawns."
Many believe the probe was orchestrated by followers of Pennsylvania-based spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen, a moderate preacher whose network of Muslim believers command a global empire of business, media and education interests.
A controversy is brewing over a request to remake Barbie in way contrary to the iconic image so many girls knew growing up.
Plus-Size-Modeling.com is suggesting Mattel create a plus-size Barbie. While some say more realistic curves would be a better role model for girls, others say an overly large Barbie would be an unhealthy example.
Plus Size Modeling conducted a poll on its Facebook page on Dec. 18 asking, Should toy companies start making Plus Sized Barbie dolls? In just under two weeks, a picture of the poll has received over 40,000 likes, 5,000 comments and 2,700 shares.
Sure, but Barbie doesnt need a double chin, one comment said. You can be plus size w/o the double chin. They could make a thick Barbie.
Portraying Barbie as a realistic woman with real curves is a very good idea and would send the right message to young girls about self-esteem, another comment said. Making a morbidly obese Barbie is BAD!!
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas)
ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project Director Ben Wizner, legal adviser to NSA leaker Edward Snowden
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R)
Face the Nation on CBS
Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA director
Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department ethics adviser and FBI whistleblower
Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive and NSA whistleblower
This Week on ABC
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Fox News Sunday on Fox
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman, House Intelligence Committee
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D)
Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)
State of the Union on CNN
Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden
December 28, 2013
Exclusive: Ex-NSA chief Michael Hayden, who once declared that probable cause is not part of the Fourth Amendment, is sure to hurl more stones at NSA leaker Edward Snowden, especially after a New York judge endorsed the NSAs metadata as legal, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern
Barring a last-minute frantic call from the White House, CBSs Face the Nation will interview whistleblowers Thomas Drake (ex-senior executive at the National Security Agency) and Jesselyn Radack (ex-ethics adviser at the Justice Department). Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA and CIA and now is a chief NSA defender on CNN and Fox News, will also be interviewed this Sunday.
It was a high privilege for me to join Drake, Radack and FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley on a visit to Edward Snowden in Russia on Oct. 9. Never have I been in the company of persons who are such incorruptible straight-arrow patriots. Not so, sadly, Michael Hayden.
Given how these network interviews go, however, Hayden will probably be introduced as the patriot he isnt. Here is a more fact-based introduction that I would urge the moderator, CBSs Major Garrett, to use:
Let me also welcome former Gen. Michael Hayden. Gen. Hayden was the first director of NSA to violate his oath to the U.S. Constitution by acquiescing in the Bush administrations order to violate the Fourth Amendment, which, until then, had served as the First Commandment at NSA.
On May 8, 2006, former NSA Director Adm. Bobby Ray Inman stated publicly that what Hayden did was in clear violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Another former NSA director, Army Gen. William Odom, told an interviewer on Jan. 4, 2006, that Hayden should have been court-martialed.
Profile InformationMember since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 29,876
- 2016 (109)
- 2015 (2)
- 2014 (421)
- 2013 (3810)
- 2012 (1329)
- 2011 (64)
- December (64)