Tag: State Department

Nov 13

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?

If there ever was doubt that the Trump administration is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s play toy, this has to be it. From the International Business Times: Putin’s Former KGB Boss Heads Security For US Embassies In Russia A company headed by the former chief of KGB counterintelligence will provide security for U.S. embassies in Russia. …

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Jan 06

CIA Secrecy and Drone Strikes Affect on US Foreigh Policy

From torture and black sites to continued drone strikes on sovereign countries, the CIA has been secretly undermining US foreign policy around the world but mostly in the Middle East and Near Asia.

MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow discusses how the CIA making deals for black site torture facilities undercut the State Department calling for open disclosure about the prisoners that were being held in those countries.

She is joined by Philip Zelikow, counselor to the State Department from 2005 to 2007, to discuss the conflict between the CIA and State Department.

It isn’t just the secret dealing to cover up the crime of torture that is damaging foreign policy, drone strikes that allegedly target Al Qaeda and ISIS leaders have angered the governments of the countries that have been attacked. The effectiveness of these strikes are dubious since there is no evidence of their effectiveness. What is certain is that the strikes have killed more civilians than terrorists and made Americans less safe.

Scott Horton, human rights attorney and contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine, joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman to the US secret foreign policy of drone sites and torture black sites.

At least nine Pakistanis were killed Sunday in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan, the first reported drone strike of 2015. News accounts of the strike are based on unnamed Pakistani government and security officials. The Obama administration has said nothing so far. For years, the United States did not even publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone strikes. The drone program is just one example of the national security state’s reliance on secret operations. The recent Senate Intelligence Committee report revealed another example: the shadowy network of overseas CIA black sites where the United States held and tortured prisoners. The report also noted the CIA shrouded itself in a cloak of secrecy keeping policymakers largely in the dark about the brutality of its detainee interrogations. The agency reportedly deceived the White House, the National Security Council, the Justice Department and Congress about the efficacy of its controversial interrogation techniques



Full transcript can be read here

Feb 01

KeystoneXL on Fast Track for Approval

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Stop Keystone XL photo pipelinedump_zpsbf093d9e.jpg

The Koch brothers must be thrilled. Late this afternoon, the US State Department released its environmental impact study on the Keystone XL pipeline that, if approved, will carry the dirtiest oil in the world from Canada, across the US heartland to the Gulf Coast where it will be sent to China and other foreign markets.

In the final review, the study concludes that the pipeline would have little environmental impact, and would likely have no significant effect on carbon emissions. This fits the criteria that President Barack Obama has said that he would need to approve the construction.

The State Department, in Friday’s report, essentially concluded that Keystone would have little material effect on greenhouse gas emissions and that Canada would continue to develop and ship tar sands crude with or without the pipeline. [..]

The review included models suggesting that transporting oil by rail would generate even more greenhouse gas emissions than a pipeline, and also discussed measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline. [..]

The campaign against Keystone XL has become a national movement over the last three years, with environmental activists, Nebraska landowners and hedge fund managers all coming out against the project. In 2012, Obama, under pressure from landowners concerned about underground water sources and sensitive prairie, rejected the first proposed route for the pipeline across Nebraska. [..]

The State Department had conducted two earlier environmental reviews of the project. Last March, it found that if Obama rejected the pipeline Alberta crude would go to market by rail or other pipelines. But it revisited the issue under criticism from the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the early reviews had not been broad enough.

There is one more report to be released on an investigation by the State Department Inspector General of allegations that that a contractor’s review was biased because of connections to TransCanada and the oil industry.

The accusations stem from the release of unredacted documents submitted to the State Department by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the consultant hired to perform the environmental review. Those documents, released by Mother Jones in May, show that analysts who worked on the Keystone report had previously worked for TransCanada and “other energy companies poised to benefit from Keystone’s construction.” [..]

In July, Friends of the Earth and the Checks and Balances Project, another advocacy group, said they uncovered publicly available documents online that show TransCanada, ERM, and an ERM subsidiary have worked together at least since 2011 on a separate pipeline project in Alaska. Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek posted a 2010 document in which ERM lists TransCanada as a client.

If true, the department would have to conduct another study.

The battle to keep the grease in the ground is not over.

Sign the petition and tell President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to Protect the Earth’s Future and Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Aug 09

Tit For Tat Diplomacy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This week after much hinting, President Barack Obama cancelled his private meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin that was to take place before the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg in early September. The primary reason for the snub (yes, despite what you are hearing in the American msm, in the international community this is a snub) is Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In a statement, the White House said that it had concluded there was “not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda” to hold a US-Russia summit. It cited a lack of progress on arms control, trade, missile defence and human rights, and added: “Russia’s disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship. Our co-operation on these issues remains a priority for the United States.” [..]

The decision to cancel the meeting was greeted with little surprise in Moscow, where analysts and lawmakers have been predicting such a step. Presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said the Kremlin was disappointed that Obama cancelled the meeting with Putin, state news agency RIA-Novosti reported. “It’s obvious that this decision is connected to the situation with the American intelligence services employee Snowden, which was not created by us,” he said.

Nonetheless, the invitation to Obama to visit Moscow remains open, and Russia is prepared to co-operate with the United States on pressing issues, Ushakov said.

Nationalist Duma deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky, perhaps the most rabid of the many critics of the United States in parliament, said the decision shows “disrespect” towards Russia.

“If you postpone or completely cancel meetings between heads of state under the pretext of the refusal to hand over one person, then relations between countries will quickly reach zero,” Zhirinovsky said.

Pres. Obama has no room to criticize Russia for giving Snowden asylum considering the fact that the US has given shelter to internationally wanted criminals and refused to investigate or prosecute Americans accused of war crimes

In his opinion article, Glenn Greenwald high lighted the most glaring cases:

New York Times, February 28, 2007:

U.S. to refuse Italian request for extradition of CIA agents

BRUSSELS – A senior U.S. official said Wednesday that the United States would refuse any Italian extradition request for CIA agents indicted in the alleged abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, a case investigated by the European Parliament.

“We’ve not got an extradition request from Italy,” John Bellinger, a legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told reporters after meeting in Brussels with legal advisers to EU governments.

“If we got an extradition request from Italy, we would not extradite U.S. officials to Italy.”

Washington Post, July 19, 2013:

Panama releases former CIA operative wanted by Italy

A former CIA operative detained in Panama this week at the request of Italian authorities over his conviction in the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan was released Friday and had boarded a flight to the United States, U.S. officials said.

Robert Seldon Lady’s release from Panama appeared to avert the possibility that he would be extradited to Italy, where he faces a sentence of up to nine years in prison for his role in the CIA capture of a terrorism suspect who was secretly snatched off a street in Milan and transported to Egypt.

Lady, who left Panama on Friday morning, was “either en route or back in the United States,” Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokeswoman, told reporters at a midday briefing.

It was not immediately clear what steps the United States had taken to secure Lady’s release.

The Guardian, September 9, 2012:

America’s refusal to extradite Bolivia’s ex-president to face genocide charges

Obama justice officials have all but granted asylum to Sánchez de Lozada – a puppet who payrolled key Democratic advisers

[US refuses Bolivia’s request to extradite its former CIA-supported president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, to stand trial on charges of genocide and other war crimes after de Lozada hires Democratic lobbyists to represent him]

El Paso Times, December 30, 2010:

Luis Posada Carriles won’t be extradited to Venezuela

The US constantly refuses requests to extradite – even where (unlike Russia) they have an extradition treaty with the requesting country and even where (unlike Snowden) the request involves actual, serious crimes, such as genocide, kidnapping, and terrorism. Maybe those facts should be part of whatever media commentary there is on Putin’s refusal to extradite Snowden and Obama’s rather extreme reaction to it. [..]

At his blog Informed Consent, Juan Cole notes that Russia has denied visas to US officials who have been accused of war crimes:

A less remarked-on round in this game of tit for tat (which so far doesn’t rise to the level of being very serious) is the government’s decision last April to deny visas to American officials and former officials who had something to do with torture at Guantanamo, where Russian citizens have been held.

The Moscow Times reports

   “The list of banned officials released by the Foreign Ministry in April included former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington, former U.S. Justice Department adviser John Yoo and various other Justice Department officials alleged to have violated Russian citizens’ human rights. United States Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson, the former head of the Guantanamo prison, was denied a Russian visa in January, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.”

Professor of international law at Princeton University, Richard Falk explained in an article in Al Jazeera, that the granting of asylum to Snowden wasn’t just within Russia’s rights, but was legally compelled.

The most influential media in the United States has lived up to its pro-government bias in the Snowden Affair in three major ways: firstly, by consistently referring to Snowden by the demeaning designation of ‘leaker’ rather than as ‘whistleblower’ or ‘surveillance dissident,’ both more respectful and accurate.

Secondly, they are completely ignoring the degree to which Russia’s grant of temporary refugee status to Snowden for one year was in full accord with the normal level of protection to be given to anyone accused of nonviolent political crimes in a foreign country, and pursued diplomatically and legally by the government that is seeking to indict and prosecute. In effect, for Russia to have turned Snowden over to the United States under these conditions would have been morally and politically scandalous considering the nature of his alleged crimes.

Thirdly, the media’s refusal to point out that espionage, the main accusation against Snowden, is the quintessential ‘political offense’ in international law, and as such is routinely excluded from any list of extraditable offenses. That is, even if there had been an extradition treaty between the United States and Russia, it should have been made clear that there was no legal duty on Russia’s part to turn Snowden over to American authorities for criminal prosecution, and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.

And as Mark Weisbot noted

Meanwhile, Snowden and Glenn Greenwald and Wikileaks are winning. At the outset Snowden said his biggest fear was that people would see “the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society and that ‘nothing will change'”. But his disclosures have already created a new debate, and political change will follow. [..]

The spectacle of US attorney general Eric Holder trying to offer Russia assurances that his government would not torture or execute Snowden speaks volumes about how far the US government’s reputation on human rights – even within the United States – has plummeted over the past decade.

Legally, morally and ethically, Pres. Obama has no room to criticize Russia on it human rights violations.  

Aug 08

John & Lindsey’s Not So Excellent Adventure

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

What was Barack Obama thinking when he gave his blessing to a these two clods to represent the US in Egypt, for any reason. Apparently, Republican Senators John McCain (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) not only managed to fail at whatever it was they were sent to accomplish but managed to insult everyone in the military led interim government.

First, didn’t anyone in the State Department brief McCain to put a sock in it and not use the word “coup”?

McCain (R-Ariz.) and Graham (R-S.C.) had used the word “coup” at an afternoon press conference to describe the manner in which Egypt’s military had seized power from the Muslim Brotherhood’s elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in early July. [..]

In a statement later on Tuesday, distributed by Egypt’s Middle East News Agency and reported by Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, a top media advisor to Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, offered a stronger rebuke. The statement accused McCain of twisting facts, and dismissed his remarks as “clumsy,” or “irresponsible,” depending on the translation. (On Twitter, bilingual Arabic speakers debated the best translation for the word, “kharqa,” which also could be interpreted as “moronic” or “irrational.”)

Pres. Mansour went to call McCain’s comments “an unacceptable interference in internal policies”. When later asked by journalists whether the pair really meant that the military-backed overthrow was a coup, a term the US State Department has avoided using, McCain’s response was,  “I’m not here to go through the dictionary. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

These two dolts went on to lecture the Egyptian leadership on ways to reach an accord with the Muslim Brotherhood, urging General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in a Tuesday meeting to release all political prisoners as a starting point for holding free elections. In a press conference after the meeting, Graham further stepped in the diplomatic mire the two had created

“In democracy, you sit down and talk to each other. It is impossible to talk to somebody who is in jail.” [..]

“The people who are in charge were not elected. The people who were elected are in jail. The status quo is not acceptable.”

Really? Could Pres. Obamba sent two worse representatives into such a volitile situation? Maybe he could have sent Bill and Ted, from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Middle East expert and historian Juan Cole weighed in on why McCain and Graham the lack of credibility to talk to the Egyptians:

1. McCain and Graham are urging the interim Egyptian government to engage in dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. But in winter of 2011 just after the fall of Mubarak, this is what McCain said:

   ” SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?

   McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic – at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government. “

The phrase “they have been involved with other terrorist organizations” suggests that McCain considered the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, just as Gen. Sisi does. One of the pretexts on which Sisi has jailed several Muslim Brotherhood leaders is their ties to Hamas and “terrorism.” So how would McCain argue him out of that stance.  [..]

2. McCain insisted that there was in fact a military coup in Egypt on July 3, and called for political prisoners (the former Muslim Brotherhood elected government) to be released. But McCain supported the military coup of 1999 by Gen. Pervez Musharraf against the elected government of Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif.

3. Graham doesn’t like people to win elections if he doesn’t like them. When the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, won the Palestine Authority elections in early 2006, Graham rejected their legitimacy [..]

If this mission was meant to help resolve the crisis the crisis in a country that is instrumental in Washington’s Middle East policy, it was a miserable failure that may have actually harmed the US relationship with Egypt.

Jul 19

Pravda on the Potomac

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

One of the many provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 that was signed by Pres. Barack Obama late in the night of December 30, 2012, was the repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. The original act outlined the State Department’s dissemination of information outside the boarders of the United States:

authorizes the U.S. State Department to communicate to audiences outside of the borders of the United States through broadcasting, face-to-face contacts, exchanges (including educational, cultural, and technical), online activities, the publishing of books, magazines, and other media of communication and engagement.

The legislation included three key provision the first, and most important was a prohibition on domestic dissemination of materials intended for foreign audiences by the State Department.

Section 501(a) of the Act (care of the Voice of America website) provides that

   “information produced by VOA for audiences outside the United States shall not be disseminated within the United States … but, on request, shall be available in the English language at VOA, at all reasonable times following its release as information abroad, for examination only by representatives of United States press associations, newspapers, magazines, radio systems, and stations, and by research students and scholars, and, on request, shall be made available for examination only to Members of Congress.”

“This means that VOA is forbidden to broadcast within the United States.” In reality, of course, any American with a shortwave receiver or an Internet connection can listen to VOA. That’s incidental, however. VOA cannot direct or intend its programs to be “for” Americans. This distinction is often lost on experts who see the letter of the law but with no real understanding of the media. George W. Bush-era State Department official James K. Glassman has called for directing VOA at American audiences.

The 2013 NDAA ended that restriction on July 2:

(T)he Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) was given permission to let US households tune-in to hear the type of programming that has previously only been allowed in outside nations.

The BBG is the independent government agency that broadcasts Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other networks created “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” – and a new law now allows the agency to provide members of the American public with program materials originally meant to be disseminated abroad.

Back in 1972, Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright equated those government stories with propaganda when he said they “should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics.” A couple of current lawmakers were singing a different tune when they proposed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 last year, though, which became official just two weeks ago.

Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA), who introduced the changes to the Smith Mundt last year argued

“Effective strategic communication and public diplomacy should be front-and-center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected opulations,” [..]

An essential part of our efforts must be a coordinated, comprehensive, adequately resourced plan to counter their radical messages and undermine their recruitment abilities. To do this, Smith-Mundt must be updated to bolster our strategic communications and public diplomacy capacity on all fronts and mediums – especially online.

According to Tim Cushing at Techdirt, there is the good news and bad news of the government’s ability to aim its pre-approved news at US citizens. The “good new”:

BBG spokesperson Lynne Weil says these efforts aren’t simply pro-government hype machines.  [..]

As Weil points out, this will bring a new level of transparency to the BBG as communicating to Americans is no longer prohibited. If nothing else, transcripts of BBG programming will be easier for Americans to get ahold of. A court ruled in 1998 that the limitations of the Smith-Mundt Act exempted the Voice of America from releasing transcripts in response to FOIA requests.

Another possible plus is the fact that the BBG will provide a free, “local” news source for immigrant populations. [..]

However, there is the “bad news”:

(T)he thought of a state-run news agency being allowed to direct its efforts at Americans is still uncomfortable. Despite claims of independence, it’s hard to believe the source is 100% trustworthy when its stated purpose is to run flack for the State Department in foreign nations. (Of course, the mainstream media outlets haven’t shown much reluctance to regurgitate talking points, which almost makes the BBG’s efforts seem redundant.)

While the BBG may provide a less-biased source of news for many foreigners (or at least provide a different bias), the purpose of its broadcasts to its new American audience is less clear. The fact that the State Department is behind the effort doesn’t do much to allay fears that the BBG will become a tool of domestic propaganda. The State Department’s reaction to the leak of diplomatic correspondence by Wikileaks was to block its employees’ access to the site (or any site containing the word “Wikileaks”) and demand the digital documents be “returned.” How will a state-run press react to developments like these? Will it be forced to play by the department’s rules, no matter how illogical, or will it be able to deal with them in a more forthright manner?

In a time where the administration seems to be forced to play defense with increasing frequency, it’s hard to believe it won’t be willing to exploit this addition to its PR arsenal.

In a May 18, 2012 BuzzFeded article, the late Michael Hastings warned that this revision would open the door to Pentagon propaganda:

The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.

In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment “to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will,” he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general.

Not only is the government creating an state approved press, it will now have its own news agencies within the US to disseminate its own sanctioned news stories, a true Pravda on the Potomac.

May 18

The Mountain That Was Benghazi

Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Republicans have been screaming cover-up for months over the attack on the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in Libya on September 11, 2012 that took the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. One of the accusations surrounded e-mails between the White House, the State Department and the CIA was that there was an intentional downplay of the motive for the September 11 attack.

Based on e-mails that were leaked, the Republicans claimed that the White House had changed the talking points to edit out “terrorism” in an effort to down play the attack just before the election. In an attempt to quell the GOP’s uproar, the White House released a 100 pages of e-mails to the public to disprove the cover-up allegations. Guess what, like true to from politicians trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, they fabricated the so-called quotes to create a scandal. The quotes that were cited by Republicans as accurate are far different than which is in the actual emails.

CBSNews‘ Major Garrett broke the story on its Evening News:

On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from (deputy national security adviser Ben) Rhodes: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”

But it turns out that in the actual email, Rhodes did not mention the State Department.

It read: “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”

Republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an email written by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland.

The Republican version quotes Nuland discussing, “The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”

The actual email from Nuland says: “The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

There is no indications that the White House “fixed” the talking  points. This is a purely manufactured conspiracy by the Republicans to discredit, not just the White House, but the State Department and Hillary Rodham Clinton for political advantage.

This isn’t Watergate this is Whitewater. There nothing there, never was but that won’t stop the right wing lying smear machine from wasting millions of tax payer dollars digging more holes:

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican House speaker John Boehner, made it clear that it will not be giving up the fight. “This release is long overdue and there are relevant documents the administration has still refused to produce. We hope, however, that this limited release of documents is a sign of more co-operation to come,” Buck said.

Never mind that they lied. Keep digging your own grave, guys.

h/t John Aravosis at Americablog

Apr 06

Another Bush Era Torture Memo Released

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

” Others who say torture is a big deal but we have to move on are complicit not just in these crimes but also the ones that will inevitably occur in the future because nothing was done about these.” ~ Meteor Blades

In 2009, former counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow revealed that he had written a memo in 2006, carefully arguing that the Geneva conventions applied to Al Qaeda. It was written to rebut a memo written by Stephen Bradbury (pdf) for the Department of Justice that argued the CIA’s “advanced interrogation techniques” were in compliance with the Convention against Torture. At that time, it was believed that all the copies had been destroyed by the State Department, until now. A copy had been preserved (pdf) by The National Security Archive and it has been released through  Freedom of Information Act request  by the National Security Archive, a group dedicated to real government transparency.

In the 5 page memo. Zelikow argued that techniques such as waterboarding, cramped confinement, stressed positions, slamming the prisoner’s head against a wall, and dousing with ice water were degrading and in violation of Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.

According to Kevin Kosztola at FDL, ZElikow was prompted to write the memo after the McCain Amendment was passed that sought to prohibit the inhumane treatment of prisoners in US custody:

In the memo, he begins by noting the State Department agreed with the Justice Department in May 2005 that Article 16 of the CAT (“to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture”) “did not apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries.” But, the McCain Amendment had “extended the application of Article 16 of the CAT to conduct by US officials anywhere in the world.”

   “The prohibitions of Article 16 of the CAT now do apply to the enhanced interrogation techniques authorized for employment by CIA. In this case, given the relationship of domestic law to the question of treaty interpretation, the responsibility of advising on interpretation is shared by both the Department of State and the Department of Justice.

Zelikow’s State Department memo would not have been binding on the CIA, but he felt because of his history as a constitutional lawyer he had to put forward an argument that challenged the idea that these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were legal.

He told the Associated Press on April 3, “I believe that the Department of Justice’s opinion was an extreme reading of the law and because the Justice Department opinion was secret, the only way the president could hear an alternative interpretation was for someone like me to offer it.”

At least there were some people in the Bush government who had some common legal sense and humanity. So where does that leave us now? The Obama administration has conveniently hidden evidence against the guilty behind the cloak of state secrecy and refused to investigate many of the higher ups who were most agreeable to torture and actually authorized it. As Spencer Ackerman at the Danger Room points out:

Zelikow’s warnings about the legal dangers of torture went unheeded – not just by the Bush administration, which ignored them, but, ironically, by the Obama administration, which effectively refuted them. In June, the Justice Department concluded an extensive inquiry into CIA torture by dropping potential charges against agency interrogators in 99 out of 101 cases of detainee abuse. That inquiry did not examine criminal complicity for senior Bush administration officials who designed the torture regimen and ordered agency interrogators to implement it.

“I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,” Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. “I’m not impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never published any details about either the factual analysis or legal analysis that led to those conclusions.”

Also beyond the scope of Durham’s inquiry: The international damage to the U.S. reputation caused by the post-9/11 embrace of “cruel, inhuman and degrading” interrogation methods; and the damage done to international protocols against torture.

According to the Geneva Convention the covering up of torture and war crimes is a violation of the Principles.

Marcy Wheeler, aka emptywheel, has an in depth discussion here. The memo can also be read in Ackerman’s memo.

Feb 07

On Getting A Warning, Or, For Just One Day, I’ll Be The CIA

We are in day whatever it is of the Crisis In Egypt, and we have now reached the part where, in the USA, we begin pointing fingers and ducking and dodging as we begin to address the question of why no one saw this coming.

Now, as Thomas Barnett would say, the race will be on inside the Pentagon and around the intelligence community to have the best explanation-and to turn that explanation into the greatest PowerPoint slide the world has ever seen.

And we all know it’s going to be the same old story: “Nobody could have anticipated this event…but if you would just give us a few billion more to develop some program or another, we, along with our contractor partners, will get a handle on this.”

Well I’m here today to break that cycle: with no PowerPoint, no contractor partners…and no fat consulting fee required…I will give the US Government all the forseeing they could ever need; that way, when the next uprising happens, no one can say “we never saw it coming.”

Dec 06

State Dept. Attempts to Censor Students

There goes my opportunity to work for the State Department. Well, I must admit most former Greenpeace employees and Direct Action activists would have a pretty slim chance of working for the State Department in the first place.  Anyway, as a full time student at Ellis University, I pay attention to student news. I’m working on an English degree with a concentration in professional writing. And so, when this week the Office of Career Services warned students at Columbia’s University’s School of International and Public Affairs not to talk about Wikileaks on social media sites like Facebook and Tweeter, I just had to talk about the Wikileaks story on social media sites. Here is the full memo, obtained by the Huffington Post:

Nov 25

Important Things

I often rail against the narcissistic side of our culture. We find it hard in this country to honor and enhance public space. We develop, economically, with little or no regard to our environment and little or no interest in anything resembling aesthetics. At one time, this was charming because Americans were, in much of the twentieth century, admired for pragmatism and simple virtues. In WWII American troops were much admired for the civilized way they acted–from what I heard in personal remembrances of Europeans when I lived there was that Americans were much nicer than, say, the Brits.

My father just died and his generation who fought WWII and then created a Pax Americana meant to create an order where the United States represented rule-of-law and pragmatism in international affairs. And, despite the emergence of a corrupt intel community, for much of the post-WWII period, his generation (he was a Foreign Service Officer) did a decent job at establishing what they set out to do. I’m not discounting the imperialists and martinets that were forcing America to the right and everywhere supported right-wing regimes throughout the world but there were plenty of decent men and women in the State Dept, CIA and the military that truly worked for positive change. The same could be said for Wall Street and other institutions–I have, for example, talked to old retired crusty Wall Street big-wheels who are truly dismayed at what has happened to the Street even by their piratical values this generation is beyond belief. These execs grew up with codes of honor, mind you, these codes did not include egalitarianism at all but there were things that one didn’t do. That’s all over now.

The last conversation with my father (he was involved in all kinds of progressive causes and made his views known more emphatically than I ever have) found him deeply discouraged and wondering what had he worked for all his life to see the United States come to this. And by this I mean this situation. He was always optimistic about this country and loved it passionately–his parents were immigrants and he was given the opportunity to do things they would hardly have imagined when they came to this country. Here we are, he said, and it’s hard to find hope anywhere. I’ve always been far more pessimistic than him and predicted, as he knew, a gradual descent into neo-feudalism which I thought 20 years ago was inevitable given the fact of the seeming death of public virtue and shared values that has occurred, really, since the 70’s.  

Nov 10

McClatchy: Obama Admin Begins Walkback From Afghan 2011, now “2014”

 This just came up on McClatchy.  Because of the outcome of the November 2, 2010 election, with the new Republican House majority,  there is now less pressure on President Obama to stick to his earlier pledge of beginning a troop withdrawal timeline of July 2011 in Afghanistan. This December was supposed to be the month for the big “review” of the ongoing military operations (and the Pentagon budget was supposed to be passed before the pre election campaign break and the lame duck session, and that didn’t happen, either) and now it will be a smaller review – ‘with no major changes in strategy.”  Other than those American troop withdrawals will be delayed at least until 2014.  Remember when a few weeks ago the military said the Afghan transitional stuff was going better than expected?  Wrong narrative when you’re on the international arms sales circuit.

NATO’s spent 19.4 billion on “training” Afghans in the past 7 years.  What is the current message for the NATO meeting on Nov 18 in Lisbon ?   send more trainers. “No trainers, no transition.”  

The only thing McClatchy didn’t mention was that the Taliban and assorted terrorists and homegrown guerrilla combatants traditionally take the winter off in Afghanistan.

And of course, they’re trying to blame Pakistan.  You could see this coming a mile down the road. Why would Pakistan wish to interrupt the gravy train of having a foreign country “fighting” your pesky terrorists and selling intelligence to it ?  The earlier 2011 date, claims a Pentagon advisor in the story, had Pakistan trying to negotiate a “political settlement instead of military action.”


http://www.mcclatchydc.com/201…

“This administration now understands that it cannot shift Pakistani approaches to safeguarding its interests in Afghanistan with this date being perceived as a walk-away date,” the adviser said.

And of course, everyone was speaking anonymously.  There is now no timeline, nor will Gen. David Petraeus being doing one of his publicity tours, er, testimonies before Congress in December, the way he was all last spring and summer before the latest Afghanistan/Pakistan offensive.

Whoops. Did I say Pakistan.

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