Archive for January 2014
Putin for Palestinian state, dumps US and Israel as peace partnersDEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 24, 2014, 11:07 AM (IST)Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) launched his “diplomatic intifada” against Israel and exit from the Kerry peace initiative Thursday, Jan. 23, from Moscow. His meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev marked his breakaway from the US-led peace process with Israel, four months before it was due to expire, and signaled his bid for Russian backing for a Palestinian state…..folks, we are about to see the chess game known as The Great Tribulation get a huge b-12 shot in the arm..Jesus is coming back much sooner than you believe…The Palestinian leader’s defection caught both Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin unprepared – and surprised their intelligence agencies. Putin and Abbas almost certainly planned in advance to drop their bombshell on the day both Kerry and Netanyahu were otherwise engaged at two international events in Switzerland, Geneva 2 on Syria and the World Economic Forum. For the Russian leader it was a chance to show the international community and the Obama administration that he was several steps ahead of the game on the three hottest Middle East issues – Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian civil conflict and the Palestinian bid for statehood.The first intimation that something big was up came from an ITAR-TASS agency report Thursday that Abbas and Medvedev were due to sign an intergovernmental agreement for a $1 billion natural gas project in the Gaza section of the Mediterranean Sea. Russia’s natural gas giant Gazprom hoped to produce 30 billion cubic metres of natural gas at the site.
The report added that Russia’s Technopromexport engineering firm was also considering a small oil development project near the West Bank city of Ramallah, hub of the Palestinian Authority government headed by Abbas.
The Palestinian leader began his conversation with Putin by calling Russia a “great power” that deserved to play a more prominent role in the volatile Middle East region.
Clearly taken aback by the news coming in fast from Moscow, Israeli official sources said Thursday night they could not understand how the Russians and Palestinians came to an agreement on Mediterranean waters off the shores of Gaza, when the rights were already owned by British Gas.
Deception on Capitol Hill
Published: January 15, 1992
It’s plainly wrong for a member of Congress to collaborate with a public relations firm to produce knowingly deceptive testimony on an important issue. Yet Representative Tom Lantos of California has been caught doing exactly that. His behavior warrants a searching inquiry by the House Ethics Committee.
Mr. Lantos is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. An article last week on The Times’s Op-Ed page by John MacArthur, the publisher of Harper’s magazine, revealed the identity of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl who told the caucus that Iraqi soldiers had removed scores of babies from incubators and left them to die.
The girl, whose testimony helped build support for the Persian Gulf war, was identified only as “Nayirah,” supposedly to protect family members still in Kuwait. Another piece of information was also withheld: that she is not just some Kuwaiti but the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S.
Saddam Hussein committed plenty of atrocities, but not, apparently, this one. The teen-ager’s accusation, at first verified by Amnesty International, was later refuted by that group as well as by other independent human rights monitors. But the issue is not so much the accuracy of the testimony as the identity and undisclosed bias of the witness.
How did the girl’s testimony come about? It was arranged by the big public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton on behalf of a client, the Kuwaiti-sponsored Citizens for a Free Kuwait, which was then pressing Congress for military intervention. Mr. Lantos knew the girl’s identity but concealed it from the public and from the other caucus co-chairman, Representative John E. Porter of Illinois.
Mr. Lantos says that the fact that Nayirah is the Ambassador’s daughter did not alter her credibility. That doesn’t wash. Had her identity been known, her accusations surely would have faced greater skepticism and been questioned more closely. Mr. Porter isn’t angered that he was misled. But his complacency is far less troubling than Mr. Lantos’s lack of candor and lapse of judgment.
Until recently, for example, Mr. Lantos and Mr. Porter headed the Congressional Human Rights Foundation. It rents space in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington headquarters at a reduced rate. The same Citizens for a Free Kuwait that produced the mysterious Nayirah also gave $50,000 to the foundation sometime after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The foundation has financed caucus travel, including trips by Mr. Lantos and his wife.
How the War Party Sold the 1991 Bombing of Iraq to US
by Mitchel Cohen
December 30, 2002
“The U.S. has a new credibility. What we say goes.”
– President George Bush, NBC Nightly News, Feb. 2, 1991
In October, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, identified only as Nayirah, appeared in Washington before the House of Representatives’ Human Rights Caucus. She testified that Iraqi soldiers who had invaded Kuwait on August 2nd tore hundreds of babies from hospital incubators and killed them.
Television flashed her testimony around the world. It electrified opposition to Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, who was now portrayed by U.S. president George Bush not only as “the Butcher of Baghdad” but – so much for old friends – “a tyrant worse than Hitler.”
Bush quoted Nayirah at every opportunity. Six times in one month he referred to “312 premature babies at Kuwait City’s maternity hospital who died after Iraqi soldiers stole their incubators and left the infants on the floor,”(1) and of “babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor.” Bush used Nayirah’s testimony to lambaste Senate Democrats still supporting “only” sanctions against Iraq – the blockade of trade which alone would cause hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to die of hunger and disease – but who waffled on endorsing the policy Bush wanted to implement: outright bombardment. Republicans and pro-war Democrats used Nayirah’s tale to hammer their fellow politicians into line behind Bush’s war in the Persian Gulf.(2)
Nayirah, though, was no impartial eyewitness, a fact carefully concealed by her handlers. She was the daughter of one Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States. A few key Congressional leaders and reporters knew who Nayirah was, but none of them thought of sharing that minor detail with Congress, let alone the American people.
Everything Nayirah said, as it turned out, was a lie. There were, in actuality, only a handful of incubators in all of Kuwait, certainly not the “hundreds” she claimed. According to Dr. Mohammed Matar, director of Kuwait’s primary care system, and his wife, Dr. Fayeza Youssef, who ran the obstetrics unit at the maternity hospital, there were few if any babies in the incubators at the time of the Iraqi invasion. Nayirah’s charges, they said, were totally false. “I think it was just something for propaganda,” Dr. Matar said. In an ABC-TV News account after the war, John Martin reported that although “patients, including premature babies, did die,” this occurred “when many of Kuwait’s nurses and doctors stopped working or fled the country” – a far cry from Bush’s original assertion that hundreds of babies were murdered by Iraqi troops.(3) Subsequent investigations, including one by Amnesty International, found no evidence for the incubator claims.
Israeli media are reporting (Hebrew and now in English) an attack on Syria’s missile infrastructure in the port city of Latakia. It is Syria’s main port where it receives all weapons that arrive by sea. Russia, one of Bashar al-Assad’s main military patrons sends much of his missile systems via Latakia, which explains why this is at least Israel’s third attack. The first attack, first reported here last July as Israeli in origin, was supposed to have wiped out the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile system. However, Israel had coordinated the attack with the FSA, and an informer planted by the regime warned Assad of the it. Most of the weapons components were removed before the Israeli air force attacked. Thus, an Israeli triumph turned to ashes.
We still do not know what Israel’s target was. My Israeli source will only confirm reports attributed to the rebels that Israel was responsible for the attack.
Given that Assad has made progress on the battlefield and the resistance has become bogged down in internecine strife between Al Qaeda affiliated forces and less radical Islamists, it’s curious Israel would inject itself into the mix. Unless of course it was saying it didn’t give a crap about international talks and wanted to settle matters its own way on its own terms and in its own time. That would be characteristic of Israel. Not to mention that Israel’s leadership is royally pissed at the Obama administration for putting them in thumbscrews over Israel-Palestine negotiations. So poking John Kerry in the eye in the midst of the Geneva talks would be something that would delight Bibi Netanyahu.
Independent Panel Recommended by 9/11 Commission Blasts NSA Surveillance Strategy as ‘Chilling’ and ‘Illegal’!
A government watchdog said Thursday that the National Security Agency’s mass collection of phone records is illegal and should be shut down.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board set up by Congress in 2007 says in its report that the program exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has “minimal” benefits for national security. The panel claims there’s no legal basis for the bulk collection of telephone records, concluding “we believe the program must be ended.”
“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the board says in the 238-page report.
The report goes a step farther than last month’s report from a panel appointed by President Barack Obama in rejecting the option to move bulk data out of the hands of the government and requiring communication providers or a third party to hold the data.
An independent review board has labeled NSA hoarding of phone data ‘illegal’, adding that while it poses a serious threat to civil liberties, it was unable to find a “single instance” of a threat to the US where the program made any difference.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) released an acerbic report stating that the statute upon which the NSA program was based – Section 215 of the Patriot Act – does not “provide an adequate basis to support this program.” A pre-release was seen by both the New York Times and Washington Post.
PCLOB is an independent agency which was established by Congress in 2004, having been a recommendation by the 9/11 commission. It is intended to advise the executive branch of government on matters of privacy and civil liberties, related to terrorism, and ensure that Americans’ rights are not infringed upon in the establishment of more stringent anti-terrorism measures.
The program has a “chilling effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights,” on account of the revelations of relations and connections between individuals and groups, the report further stated. US citizens have constitutional rights to free speech, association and privacy.
While US President Barack Obama gave a speech on Friday saying that he thought the NSA database should be taken out of the hands of the government, he did not call for a stop to the program. However, the PCLOB opposed any legal mandate on the companies to retain any data for longer than they currently do.
Direct from the independent panel’s report:
I. Telephone Calling Records
When a person completes a telephone call, telephone company equipment generates a record of certain details about that call. These “call detail records” typically include much of the information that appears on a customer’s telephone bill: the date and time of a call, its duration, and the participating telephone numbers. Such records also can include a range of technical information about how the call was routed from one participant to the other through the infrastructure of the telephone companies’ networks. Telephone companies create these records in order to bill customers for their calls, detect fraud, and for other business purposes.
While calling records provide information about particular telephone calls, they do not include the contents of any telephone conversations. Because these records provide information about a communication but not the communication itself, they often are referred to as a form of “metadata,” a word sometimes defined as “data about data.” Call detail records often are called “telephony metadata.”
After generating calling records in the normal course of business, telephone companies keep them on file for varying periods of time. Federal regulations presently require the companies to retain toll billing records for a minimum of eighteen months.25
II. What the NSA Collects under Section 215 of the Patriot Act
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) includes a “business records” provision that allows the FBI to obtain books, records, papers, documents, and other items that may be relevant to a counterterrorism investigation. To obtain such records under this provision, the FBI must file an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC” or “FISA court”) requesting that the court issue an order directing a person or entity to turn over the items sought.
26 The business records provision of FISA was significantly expanded by Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001, and as a result it frequently is referred to as Section 215.27 Under a program authorized by the FISA court pursuant to Section 215, the NSA is permitted to obtain all call detail records generated by certain telephone companies in the United States. The FISA court has determined that Section 215 provides a legal basis to order the telephone companies to facilitate this program by supplying the NSA with their calling records.28
Under the FISA court’s orders, certain telephone companies must provide the NSA with “all call detail records” generated by those companies.29 Because the companies are directed to supply virtually all of their calling records to the NSA, the FISA court’s orders result in the production of call detail records for a large volume of telephone communications; the NSA has described its program as enabling “comprehensive” analysis of telephone communications “that cross different providers and telecommunications networks.”30 The vast majority of the records obtained are for purely domestic calls, meaning those calls in which both participants are located within the United States, including local calls.
The calling records provided to the NSA do not identify which individual is associated with any particular telephone number: they do not include the name, address, or financial information of any telephone subscriber or customer. (Such information can be obtained by the government through other means, however, including reverse telephone directories and subpoenas issued to the telephone companies.) Nor do the records, as noted, include the spoken contents of any telephone conversation.
31 In other words, the NSA is not able to listen to any telephone calls under the authority provided by these orders.
In addition, the calling records that the NSA collects under its Section 215 program do not currently include “cell site location information.” That information, unique to mobile phones, is a component of a call detail record that shows which cell phone tower a mobile phone is connecting with. Thus it can be used to track the geographic location of a mobile phone user at that time the user places or receives a call. At the NSA’s request, telephone companies remove that information from their calling records before transmitting the
ecords to the NSA.
32 In the past, the NSA has collected a limited amount of cell site location information to test the feasibility of incorporating such information into its Section 215 program, but that information has not been used for intelligence analysis, and the government has stated that the agency does not now collect it under this program.
Some information obtained by the NSA under Section 215 could nevertheless provide a general indication of a caller’s geographic location. For instance, the area code and prefix of a landline telephone number can indicate the general area from which a call is sent. The same may be true of the “trunk identifier” associated with a telephone call, which pinpoints a segment of the communication line that connects two telephones during a conversation.33
Our analysis suggests that where the telephone records collected by the NSA under its Section 215 program have provided value, they have done so primarily in two ways. The first is by offering additional leads regarding the contacts of terrorism suspects already known to investigators, which can help investigators confirm suspicions about the target of an inquiry or about persons in contact with that target. But our review suggests that the Section 215 program offers little unique value here, instead largely duplicating the FBI’s own information-gathering efforts. The second is by demonstrating that known foreign terrorism suspects do
not have U.S. contacts or that known terrorist plots do not have a U.S. nexus. This can help the intelligence community focus its limited investigatory resources by avoiding false leads and channeling efforts where they are needed most. But the value of this benefit must be kept in perspective, as discussed below.
Based on the information provided to the Board, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack. And we believe that in only one instance over the past seven years has the program arguably contributed to the identification of an unknown terrorism suspect. In that case, moreover, the suspect was not involved in planning a terrorist attack and there is reason to believe that the FBI may have discovered him without the contribution of the NSA’s program.
Even in those instances where telephone records collected under Section 215 offered additional information about the contacts of a known terrorism suspect, in nearly all cases the benefits provided have been minimal — generally limited to corroborating information that was obtained independently by the FBI. And in those few cases where some information not already known to the government was generated through the use of Section 215 records, we have seen little indication that the same result could not have been obtained through traditional, targeted collection of telephone records. The classified briefings and materials the Board has received have not demonstrated that the increased speed, breadth, and historical depth of the Section 215 program have produced any concrete results that were otherwise unattainable. In other words, we see little evidence that the unique capabilities provided by the NSA’s
bulk collection of telephone records actually have yielded material counterterrorism results that could not have been achieved without the NSA’s Section 215 program.
As noted, the Board has examined closely the twelve cases compiled by the intelligence community in which telephone records collected under Section 215 “contributed to a success story” in a counterterrorism investigation. We have assigned each of these cases to one or more of seven “categories of success” that we have devised to illustrate the different forms of value that a counterterrorism program like this one could
provide. We do not ascribe any talismanic significance or scientific precision to these broad, non–mutually exclusive categories. But we believe they help illustrate what the Section 215 program has and has not accomplished to date.
These seven categories, and our analysis of how the government’s twelve examples fit within them, are as follows:
1. Enabling “Negative Reporting.”
Analysis of telephone calling records can establish that a known terrorism suspect overseas has not been in telephone contact with anyone in the United States, suggesting that a known terrorist or terrorist plot in a foreign country does not have a U.S. nexus. Such information can help the government focus its limited investigative resources where they are needed most. We found five instances in which Section 215 records were used in this way.
2. Adding or Confirming Details.
Analysis of telephone calling records can also help focus investigative efforts by providing additional information about terrorism suspects or plots already known to the government. The information obtained might confirm suspicions about a suspect, enable greater understanding about that suspect’s connections, or establish links between known suspects. We found seven instances in which Section 215 telephone records served this function. The value provided by the records, however, was limited. In nearly every case, the information supplied by the NSA through Section 215 offered no unique value, but simply mirrored or corroborated information that the FBI obtained independently using other means. And in none of these cases did the rapid speed with which Section 215 records can be analyzed lead to any tangible benefits. In sum, we believe that the limited value provided by the Section 215 program in these cases could have been achieved without the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone records.
In time-sensitive scenarios, where investigators have reason to believe that a terrorist attack may be imminent, or where they are otherwise conducting a fast-breaking investigation, prompt analysis of a suspect’s telephone records may help the government prioritize leads based on their urgency. While this category is not fundamentally different from the previous one, as it also involves adding more information about plots or suspects already known to the government, its special value may lie in the potentially critical production of swift results. We identified four instances in which telephone numbers derived from the Section 215 program were disseminated quickly to the FBI in this type of scenario. In none of these cases, however, did the information contribute to the disruption of a terrorist attack.
4. Identifying Terrorism Suspects.
Analysis of telephone records can contribute to the discovery of terrorism suspects previously unknown to the government. We found only one instance in which Section 215 telephone records arguably served this purpose and helped to identify a previously unknown suspect. In that case, however, the suspect was not involved in planning a terrorist attack — rather, he had sent money to support a foreign terrorist organization — and there is reason to believe that the FBI may have discovered him without the information it received from the NSA.
5. Discovering U.S. Presence of Known Terrorism Suspects.
The use of Section 215 records theoretically could help alert the government that a known terrorism suspect has entered the United States from abroad. We are not aware of any instances in which this has occurred.
6. Identifying Terrorist Plots.
The Board is not aware of any instances in which the use of Section 215 telephone records directly contributed to the discovery of a terrorist plot.
7. Disrupting Terrorist Plots.
The Board is not aware of any instances in which the use of Section 215 telephone records directly contributed to the disruption of a terrorist plot.
To help illustrate the concrete benefits provided by the NSA’s Section 215 program, we elaborate below on four counterterrorism investigations that members of the intelligence community have cited as demonstrating successful use of the program. These cases, which are among the twelve “success stories” referenced above, have been discussed by government officials in public statements, legal filings, and congressional testimony.549 We believe that scrutiny of these examples demonstrates the limited value provided by the NSA’s Section 215 program.
If Benghazi, IRS Vendettas, NSA Leaks, Bridge-gate, and the Sandy Funds Scandal Don’t Make You Question Both Parties…
The past 12 months have been filled with the most blatant violations of the public trust by both major political parties in many years. The Democrats gave us scandals involving the Benghazi attacks, the IRS and newspaper vendettas, the horrendous constitutional violations of the NSA (which the Republicans also share in under Bush). The Republicans gave us the outrageous extortion schemes involving blocking most lanes of a popular NJ bridge, as well as incredible corruption involving the release of federally-provided Superstorm Sandy funds for victims of the storm. If these very obvious and in-your-face political corruption controversy don’t stir Americans to stop voting for the major parties anymore, then we are truly doomed to a bleak, police-state future…
Washington (CNN) — Two senior state officials in New Jersey are vehemently denouncing allegations of political strong-arming in the governor’s name, the latest in a series of controversies lashing the Christie administration.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno publicly denied an assertion by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that she conditioned Superstorm Sandy recovery money last year on Zimmer’s support for a redevelopment project backed by Christie.
Zimmer said the ultimatum came down in a parking lot and involved a project proposed by a real estate developer, the Rockefeller Group, with ties to Christie.
She said Guadagno invoked Christie’s name in laying out the condition for storm relief and has relayed her story to federal prosecutors.
“Mayor Zimmer’s version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined,” Guadagno said at a Martin Luther King Jr. event in Union Beach.
Zimmer, a Democrat, also said Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable made a similar demand regarding storm aid and the real estate plan.
He called the allegations “patently false and absurd on their face.” Constable added that he welcomes a “full and thorough law enforcement review of her libelous claims.”
Zimmer said she stands by her account, remains “willing to testify under oath,” and will answer any questions from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“The bottom line is, Anderson, I mean, she came and she said this to me, you know, and I stand by my word,” Zimmer told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Monday night, referring to her conversation with the lieutenant governor.
“She said she would deny it and she’s denying it,” the mayor said.
So is this the change Obama promised when he took over office? This is utterly outrageous. There’s no way on earth that because of the pursuit of one lone cave-dweller, 300 million Americans have to be forced to submit to a continuous, regular raping of our privacy? That’s a constitutional outrage. I’m somewhat surprised Rand Paul would say anything positive about this outrage. Julian Assange had the best quote. Nazi Peter King from New York, who along with Gestapo Queen Dianne Feinstein of California, both are the biggest schemers behind the NSA’s Stasi tactics, need to be run out of government immediately. Citizens of New York and Cali, who are supposed to be progressive, should be outraged and should vote these characters out of office! And no more pro-NSA politicians. From now on, let’s make sure to use at least half our brains when we vote. We don’t have to fear opposing both major parties as it is very clear they both talk like they hate each other, but they are in bed the next minute with the doors closed like prostitutes and johns.
Washington (CNN) — After the firestorm over Edward Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. surveillance programs, the most contentious aspect revealed by last year’s classified leaks will continue under reforms announced Friday by President Barack Obama.
Someone will still collect records of the numbers and times of phone calls by every American.
While access to the those records will be tightened and they may be shifted from the National Security Agency to elsewhere, the storage of the phone metadata goes on.
For that reason, civil libertarians, members of Congress and others complained that Obama failed to go far enough in what his administration labeled as the most comprehensive intelligence-gathering reforms since he took office in 2009.
In his 45-minute speech at the Justice Department, Obama unveiled new guidance for intelligence-gathering as well as reforms intended to balance what he called the nation’s vital security needs with concerns over privacy and civil liberties.
By making the changes after a review he ordered following the Snowden disclosures, Obama put his signature on the U.S. intelligence operation and helped define his legacy as a chief executive who had promised a more open and transparent government when he entered the White House in 2009.
He outlined a series of steps — some immediate and some requiring time to work out, possibly with Congress — that would change some aspects of the NSA collection of phone records and other information but generally leave intact the core and function of existing programs.
Obama also addressed concerns abroad that the United States spies on ordinary people as well as allied leaders. Snowden’s disclosures showed U.S. surveillance of personal communications of leaders in Germany, Brazil and other allies.
“The United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security” Obama said, adding that “unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.”
Before Obama spoke, a senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of not being identified said the President’s assurances of no further spying on foreign leaders extended only to “dozens” of heads of state and government of U.S. friends and allies.
The US National Security Agency sidestepped the issue when a Senator penned a letter to the agency asking if it has conducted surveillance on members of Congress and other American lawmakers, saying only that legislators are just like everyone else.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent who represents Vermont, sent a letter Friday asking officials if the NSA currently is “spying” or ever has on elected legislators. He defined spying as “gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business.”
The agency replied the next day with a response containing only a pledge that officials would work with Congress to resolve any concerns, yet neglected to clearly answer Sanders’ question.
“NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protection are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons,” replied the letter, as obtained by CNN.