September 12, 2013 archive

Sep 12

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Sep 12

Syria: Assad “Expect Every Action”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In a rare interview, Syria’s President Bashir al-Assad sat down with PBS’ Charlie Rose on Sunday in Damascus, Syria.

In an exclusive interview secured by Charlie Rose of PBS, Assad said: “There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people.” [..]

Rose said Assad “suggested that there would be, among people that are aligned with him, some kind of retaliation if a strike was made”. Assad, however, “would not even talk about the nature of the response”.

Rose said: “He had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts … that the results had not been good.”

The full interview will be aired on PBS at 9 p.m. EDT Monday. Here are some excerpts that were aired on CBS This Morning.

Sep 12

Syria: UN Resolution for Control of Chemical

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

There are at least two resolutions are being presented to the UN Security Council to have an international agency take control of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons and their destruction.

The Russian’s have rejected the US/French resolution and called for the US to drop its threats of military force.

American, British and French diplomats were meeting at the UN in New York on Tuesday night to draw up a resolution that would set deadlines for Bashar al-Assad to give up his chemical weapons backed by the threat of force.

However, a major standoff loomed as Russia made clear it would not abandon its Syrian ally. Instead the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would push for a security council declaration on disarmament, which would have no binding authority and would not allow the use of force against the Assad regime.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, insisted the disarmament process would work “only if the US and those who support it on this issue pledge to renounce the use of force, because it is difficult to make any country – Syria or any other country in the world – unilaterally disarm if there is military action against it under consideration”.

Russia proposes to work with the Assad regime and the UN secretariat to lay out a “workable, precise and concrete” disarmament plan with a timetable but no chapter 7 enforcement mechanism.

Syria has accepted the Russian proposal to place the chemical weapons it possesses under international control.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem earlier announced that Damascus had agreed to the Russian proposal because it would “remove the grounds for American aggression,” according to an Interfax report.

“We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to the Russian initiative,” Walid al-Moualem was quoted as telling the speaker of Russia’s lower house parliament house in Moscow.

It comes as France plans to submit a resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile to be turned over to international control, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday.

Fabius said that the resolution would threaten “extremely serious” consequences if Syria violates conditions on chemical weapons.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet ina closed door session today at 4 PM EDT.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is preparing to speak this evening to press his policy for the use of military force to a very skeptical American public. In the light of the latest developments, the speech is expected to take a different direction. It does appear from statements from the White House press office that military intervention will still be an integral part of his policy towards Syria.

In the Senate, the vote on the resolution that passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week was rescheduled for Wednesday. That vote, as well, may not happen as a group of senators craft a new resolution tailored to the recent Russian proposal.

All of this is unlikely to stop the fighting or even guarantee that chemical weapons won’t be used against the Syrian civilian population since no one knows who is in possession of these weapons. What we do know is that this is a small step to use diplomacy to back away from increased hostilities.  

Sep 12

Cartnoon

Sep 12

The Definition of Blackmail

NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 September 2013 10.40 EDT

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.



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 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.



The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser when such data is found.



Israeli intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person”. The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA’s written permission.



The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.

Secret Deal Between NSA, Israel Likely Involves Sharing of Data from Americans’ Communications

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 11, 2013 12:15 pm

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) or agreement between the NSA and the Israeli-Sigint National Unit (ISNU) “pertaining to the protection of US persons” supposedly was drafted to ensure that the provision of intelligence data, including “raw” intelligence data “not reviewed for foreign intelligence purposes or minimized” was “consistent with the requirements placed upon the NSA by US law and Executive Order to establish safeguards protecting the rights of US persons under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” But, if raw and unreviewed data is being handed over, how could the NSA know whether it is abiding by any requirements?

The agreement indicates that the “NSA has agreements with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom that require it to protect information associated with UK persons, Australian persons, Canadian person and New Zealand persons using procedures and safeguards similar to those applied for US persons.” This suggests the possibility that raw and unreviewed data on the citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom may have wound up in the possession of Israeli intelligence as well.



This is alarming because it appears this makes it possible for Israel to share what a US citizen might be saying about a US government policy or activity or the views of a US official. Such an understanding would clearly enable the targeting of political activists while giving the NSA the cover to claim it did not think it was intercepting such communications because it never reviewed those communications because they were provided to Israel.

The section on US government officials also is alarming. It suggests the NSA intercepts data on US government officials. There is no information on whether the data is collected or stored, but, certainly, if the NSA is establishing parameters of use for such information if found in raw intelligence, that means interception of US government officials’ communication is taking place.

In 2009, it became known that the NSA had obtained FISA court authorization to wiretap Representative Jane Harman. She was caught allegedly exchanging favors with a suspected Israeli agent, but, instead of allowing the FBI to open up an investigation, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the opportunity to maintain Harman’s support for the warrantless wiretapping program.



In some way, shape or form, the information being provided to Israel is probably being abused, as Israel uses the intelligence to twist the arms of US government officials to maintain policies toward Israel and the Middle East that it desires.

American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer reacted, “On what authority is NSA monitoring the phone calls of US judges, legislators?” Also, “On what authority is the NSA sharing Americans’ information with Israel?” And, “Did the [FISA Court] sign off on this, and, if so, where’s that opinion?”

Imagine the Informants You Can Coerce When You Can Spy on Every Single American

By: emptywheel

Wednesday September 11, 2013 9:01 am

Two years ago, I noted a chilling exchange from a 2002 FISA suit argued by Ted Olson. Laurence Silberman was trying to come up with a scenario in which some criminal information might not have any relevance to terrorism. When he suggested rape, Olson suggested we might use evidence of a rape to get someone to inform for us.



In the 7 years since this program (now allegedly scaled back significantly, but still very very broad) has existed, the dragnet has only helped, however indirectly, to capture 12 terrorists in the US (and by terrorist, they also include people sending money to protect their country against US-backed invasion).

Which means the real utility of this program has been about something else.

The ability to track the relationships of every single American. And they were using it to find informants.

Even while the number of terrorists this program discovered has been minimal, the number of FBI informants has ballooned, to 15,000. And those informants are trumping up increasingly ridiculous plots in the name of fighting terrorism.

The ability to track the relationships of every single American (or now, a huge subset of Americans, focusing largely on Muslims and those with international ties). And they were (and presumably still are) using it to find informants.

Update: Note how in Keith Alexander’s description of the alert list, the standard to be on it is “the identifier is likely to produce information of foreign intelligence value” that are “associated with” one of the BR targets (Alexander 33). This is very similar to the language Olson used to justify getting data that didn’t directly relate to terrorism.

We know the NSA has blanket collected every single communication going into and coming out of Washington.  Maybe we also now know the reason Institutional Washington, including both government officials and “journalists”, are so eager for a war the United States people do not want.

Sep 12

On This Day In History September 12

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 12 is the 255th day of the year (256th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 110 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1940, Lascaux cave paintings discovered

Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne d├ępartement. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic  art. These paintings are estimated to be 17,000 years old. They primarily consist of primitive images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In 1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list along with other prehistoric sites in the Vezere valley.

The cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers, Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas, as well as Marcel’s dog, Robot. The cave complex was opened to the public in 1948. By 1955, the carbon dioxide  produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly damaged the paintings. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 in order to preserve the art. After the cave was closed, the paintings were restored to their original state, and were monitored on a daily basis. Rooms in the cave include The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines.

Lascaux II, a replica of two of the cave halls – the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery – was opened in 1983, 200 meters from the original. Reproductions of other Lascaux artwork can be seen at the Centre of Prehistoric Art at Le Thot, France.

Sep 12

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Aperture

Sep 12

Late Night Karaoke

Sep 12

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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