Daily Archive: 08/06/2013

Aug 06 2013

Fukushima Update

RIP

Fukushima boss hailed as hero dies

Justin McCurry, The Guardian

Wednesday 10 July 2013 00.47 EDT

Masao Yoshida – whose actions as manager of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant during its triple meltdown averted an even greater disaster – has died.

Yoshida, 58, took early retirement from the plant’s operator, Tepco, in late 2011 after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. He died in a Tokyo hospital on Tuesday, reports said.

Tepco and Yoshida, a heavy smoker, said the cancer was not related to the nuclear accident caused by the March 2011 tsunami that hit Japan.



Yoshida, who had been manager of the plant for just nine months when the tsunami knocked out its regular and emergency power supplies, was reprimanded but later hailed as a hero as it became clear that his actions had saved the plant from a nuclear fission chain reaction – a potentially far more devastating scenario than a fuel meltdown.



Despite his largely calm demeanour at the time, Yoshida would later admit that he feared he and his colleagues would perish inside the plant. “During the first week of the accident I thought several times that we were all going to die,” he told journalists shortly before he retired.



The company’s president, Naomi Hirose, paid tribute to Yoshida’s contribution and his ability to encourage the other engineers and emergency workers – nicknamed the Fukushima 50 – who braved high levels of radiation in the early days of the crisis.

Masao Yoshida, Nuclear Engineer and Chief at Fukushima Plant, Dies at 58

By HIROKO TABUCHI, The New York Times

Published: July 9, 2013

Mr. Yoshida had been chief manager at Fukushima Daiichi for just nine months when a 42-foot tsunami inundated the site on March 11, 2011, knocking out vital cooling systems to the plant’s six reactors. Eventually hydrogen explosions and fuel meltdowns occurred at three reactors, releasing vast amounts of radioactive matter into the environment.



When the tsunami hit, Mr. Yoshida took command from inside a fortified bunker at the plant. In video footage of the command room released by Tokyo Electric last year, Mr. Yoshida can be seen at times pushing his workers to hook up water hoses or procure fuel, at times tearfully apologizing to teams he sent out to check on the stricken reactors.



He later offers to lead a “suicide mission” with other older officials to try pumping water into another reactor, but is dissuaded. And as officials warn that core meltdowns have most likely started, he directs men to leave the reactors but stays put in the bunker. Mr. Yoshida later said that the thought of abandoning the plant never occurred to him.

Restarting Reactors

Japan: Radioactive water likely leaking to Pacific

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

July 10, 2013

Japan’s nuclear regulator says radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima power plant is probably leaking into the Pacific Ocean, a problem long suspected by experts but denied by the plant’s operator.



The watchdog’s findings underscore TEPCO’s delayed response in dealing with a problem that experts have long said existed. On Wednesday, the company continued to raise doubts about whether a leak exists.

TEPCO spokesman Noriyuki Imaizumi said the increase in cesium levels in monitoring well water samples does not necessarily mean contaminated water from the plant is leaking to the ocean. TEPCO was running another test on water samples and suspects earlier spikes might have been caused by cesium-laced dust slipping into the samples, he said. But he said TEPCO is open to the watchdog’s suggestions to take safety steps.

Japanese Nuclear Plant May Have Been Leaking for Two Years

By HIROKO TABUCHI, The New York Times

Published: July 10, 2013

The stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima has probably been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for two years, ever since an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged the plant, Japan’s chief nuclear regulator said on Wednesday.



Mr. Tanaka said that the evidence was overwhelming.

“We’ve seen for a fact that levels of radioactivity in the seawater remain high, and contamination continues – I don’t think anyone can deny that,” he said Wednesday at a briefing after a meeting of the authority’s top regulators. “We must take action as soon as possible.



The struggle to seal the plant has raised questions about the government’s push to restart Japan’s other nuclear power stations, which were shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Some critics have said that the work of certifying and reopening other plants will distract from the cleanup at Fukushima. To allay public fears, the government has promised that restarts will be authorized only for reactors that pass rigid new standards that took effect this month.

Four utilities across Japan have applied to restart a total of 10 reactors, applications that must now be assessed by the nuclear regulator with a staff of just 80 people. Tokyo Electric has said that it intends to apply to restart two of the seven reactors at a power plant on the coast of the Sea of Japan. That workload may leave the agency with few resources to devote to monitoring the messy cleanup at Fukushima.

Fukushima Plant Operator Intends to Restart Reactors Elsewhere

By HIROKO TABUCHI, The New York Times

Published: July 2, 2013

The operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Tuesday that it would ask regulators to allow it to restart two reactors at a separate site in eastern Japan, even as problems with the company’s cleanup in Fukushima continue to multiply.



The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, said it would soon apply to restart two of the seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear power station by capacity. That plant, about 140 miles northeast of Tokyo, was not affected by the earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc at Fukushima Daiichi, but Kashiwazaki-Kariwa does sit atop fault lines and was damaged in a 2007 quake caused by another fault.



The company says it needs to get the reactors back online to stem the losses it has suffered since the reactor meltdowns at Fukushima.

It is unclear if Tepco will face more scrutiny than other utilities; some experts have warned that Tepco is overwhelmed by the difficult cleanup at Fukushima. Recent leaks of contaminated water revealed major flaws in the company’s storage of the tons of radioactive water that is generated daily as groundwater flows into damaged reactor buildings, adding to a string of mishaps.

Fresh trouble on Tuesday underscored the precarious cleanup efforts. A small fire broke out in a waste pile near plant incinerators, the company said. Firefighters extinguished the flames an hour later, and Tepco said there were no injuries and no increase in radiation levels, but the cause of the fire, which damaged an area of about 45 square feet, was under investigation.



The seismic faults running underneath the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site could be a hurdle in winning local approval. Tepco has not said when it might apply to restart the plant’s other five reactors.Tepco says the faults have not been active for at least 120,000 years, and that it has made the necessary fortifications at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to withstand quakes.

Tepco also says its finances have been crippled by the compensation it is paying to the victims of the Fukushima disaster, which at one point had displaced more than 100,000 people. The power company was effectively nationalized last year to help pay for the mounting claims.

Tepco’s bottom line has also been damaged by the costs of the cleanup, as well as by expensive imports of fuel for the conventional power stations that now provide most of the power to the Tokyo region.

Steam Leak

Steam Detected at Damaged Fukushima Reactor

By HIROKO TABUCHI, The New York Times

Published: July 18, 2013

A damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suddenly began releasing steam again, but the operator of the plant said Thursday it did not appear to be a result of renewed nuclear reactions – a worst-case situation that could lead to a large new release of radioactive materials.



Tepco said it based its conclusion that there was no new chain reaction at Reactor No. 3 on its failure to find xenon, a byproduct of fission that lingers for only a few hours and would be an indication of new nuclear activity. Tepco also said the temperature remained stable.



Video images seemed to show less steam on Thursday evening, but after sundown it became too dark to accurately check for any vapor, Masayuki Ono, acting general manager of Tepco’s nuclear power and plant siting division, said at a news conference.



The No. 3 reactor’s damaged core, like the cores of two other crippled reactors at the site, is being cooled by water that is pumped into the reactor, filtered and recycled. Among the recent mishaps at the site, the cooling system for the reactor shut down for hours in April. Tepco later said a rat had somehow short-circuited a vital switchboard, possibly by gnawing on cables.

(h/t Susie Madrak @ Crooks & Liars)

Admissions

Fukushima Plant Admits Radioactive Water Leaked To Sea

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associate Press

07/22/13 12:29 PM ET EDT

Company spokesman Masayuki Ono told a regular news conference that plant officials have come to believe that radioactive water that leaked from the wrecked reactors is likely to have seeped into the underground water system and escaped into sea.



TEPCO had persistently denied contaminated water reached the sea, despite spikes in radiation levels in underground and sea water samples taken at the plant. The utility first acknowledged an abnormal increase in radioactive cesium levels in an observation well near the coast in May and has since monitored water samples.



Ono said that an estimated 1,972 plant workers, or 10 percent of those checked, had thyroid exposure doses exceeding 100 millisieverts – a threshold for increased risk of developing cancer – instead of the 178 based on checks of 522 workers reported to the World Health Organization last year.

Fukushima Problems Escalating, Radioactive Water Going into Pacific

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Monday, July 29, 2013

I find several things to be troubling. First is that the radioactivity is apparently getting into the ocean via groundwater. Have there been any reports on the extent of the groundwater contamination? Even if Tepco could wave a magic wand and stop the leaking now, you’d still have continuing effects from the contaminated groundwater then contaminating the ocean (yes the main effects will be local, such as on local fish, but still…).

Second is that the concentration of radioactivity in the trench water has not fallen much in two years despite the leakage. Shouldn’t the impact of the leak be to reduce the level of radioactivity in the trench water? If this was an osmotic type-process, you’d expect to see the radioactivity of water in the trench fall as the radioactivity of the water on the other side rose. And if this is a straight leak (radioactive water goes into clean water, no flowback), wouldn’t you see pressure and/or water levels in the trench falling (as in why would it take these guys so long to figure this out?)

Third is that Tepco “hopes” to fix the problem by (per the Japan Times) by “building a wall out of liquid glass between the reactors and the sea” to isolate the radioactive water and then removing it. “Hopes” is one of those formulations in Japanese that often refers to aspirations rather than plans. Does anyone know if a process like this has ever been implemented successfully?

The second problem came to light last week, but appears to have gone largely unnoticed in the West. Tepco has been using water to cool the No. 1 reactor. It’s running out of storage space for the contaminated water. It promises to clean it up some before discharging it into the ocean.

Fukushima clean-up turns toxic for Japan’s Tepco

By Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito, Reuters

Tue Jul 30, 2013 5:12pm EDT

The inability of the utility, known as Tepco, to get to grips with the situation raises questions over whether it can successfully decommission the Fukushima Daiichi plant, say industry experts and analysts.

“They let people know about the good things and hide the bad things. This culture of cover up hasn’t changed since the disaster,” said Atsushi Kasai, a former researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute.



“They had said it wouldn’t reach the ocean, that they didn’t have the data to show that it was going into the ocean,” said Masashi Goto, a former nuclear engineer for Toshiba Corp who has worked at plants run by Tepco and other utilities.



A worker on the site spotted steam rising from the No. 3 reactor building, but Tepco has only been able to speculate on its cause. In March, a rat shorted a temporary switchboard and cut power for 29 hours that was used to cool spent uranium fuel rods in pools.



Workers have built more than 1,000 tanks to store the mixed water, which accumulates at the rate of an Olympic swimming pool each week.

With more than 85 percent of the 380,000 metric tons of storage capacity filled, Tepco has said it could run out of space.

The tanks are built from parts of disassembled old containers brought from defunct factories and put together with new parts, workers from the plant told Reuters. They say steel bolts in the tanks will corrode in a few years.

Tepco says it does not know how long the tanks will hold. It reckons it would need to more than double the current capacity over the next three years to contain all the water. It has no plan for after that.

(h/t Susie Madrak @ Crooks & Liars)

Japan Admits Radioactive Water At Fukushima Plant Is An ‘Emergency’

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Monday August 5, 2013 9:28 am

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has admitted, despite earlier obfuscations, that it can no longer contain radioactive waste from the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Radioactive water is seeping into the ocean and providers and regulators can only come up with temporary solutions to the contamination problem.



This is yet another mark against Tepco’s and the Japanese government’s secretive practices. The Japanese government’s and Tepco’s refusal to brief their partners, notably the United States, during the Fukushima nuclear crisis contributed to the failure of the plant, and since then the government has played misdirection games with journalists and concerned citizens seeking more information.



So now that the contaminated water has breached the barrier will Tepco finally come clean on the situation in Fukushima? Or should the world go back to taking Tepco’s word that everything is being handled without incident? What could possibly go wrong?

Exclusive: Japan nuclear body says radioactive water at Fukushima an ’emergency’

By Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito, Reuters

Mon Aug 5, 2013 1:38pm EDT

This contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier, is rising toward the surface and is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, told Reuters.



“If you build a wall, of course the water is going to accumulate there. And there is no other way for the water to go but up or sideways and eventually lead to the ocean,” said Masashi Goto, a retired Toshiba Corp nuclear engineer who worked on several Tepco plants. “So now, the question is how long do we have?”



The admission on the long-term tritium leaks, as well as renewed criticism from the regulator, show the precarious state of the $11 billion cleanup and Tepco’s challenge to fix a fundamental problem: How to prevent water, tainted with radioactive elements like cesium, from flowing into the ocean.

Aug 06 2013

Are the Embassy Threats Exagerated? Or Manufactured?

Strange, the US intelligence agencies didn’t intercept any communications warning of the prison breaks but have info on alleged “imminent attacks.”

Yemen on ‘high alert’ over warning of imminent al-Qaida attack

by Ian Black, The Guardian

US personnel flown out of country as reports claim ‘extraordinary and unprecedented’ security measures in force in capital Sana’a

Yemeni security forces have been put on high alert amid warnings of an imminent attack by al-Qaida in Sana’a, as the US and Britain withdrew embassy staff and urged their citizens to leave the country.

BBC Arabic quoted a Yemeni security source as saying that “extraordinary and unprecedented” security measures had been put in place, with armoured vehicles deployed at the presidential palace and other sensitive government and foreign installations in Yemen’s capital.

Dozens of al-Qaida operatives were said to have streamed into Sana’a in the last few days, apparently to take part in a terrorist attack, the BBC said. The Yemeni claim could not be independently confirmed.

US embassy closures used to bolster case for NSA surveillance programs

by Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Congress told that NSA monitoring led to interception of al-Qaida threats but privacy campaigners fear ulterior political motives

US embassies in the Middle East are to remain closed for the rest of the week as supporters of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance powers used the unspecified terror alert to bolster the case against reining in the controversial measures.

The closures follow the alleged interception of al-Qaida communications in Yemen, which intelligence committee members in Congress have been told were collected overseas using powers granted to the NSA under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – not the bulk surveillance programs disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden.

A privacy group questioned the publicity given to the latest alert after the State Department announced on Sunday evening that the number of embassies and consulates closed “out of an abundance of caution”

would be increased, with some remaining shut for up to a week.

Rebublican senator Saxby Chambliss said the NSA had identified threats that were the most serious for years and akin to levels of “terrorist chatter” picked up before 9/11.

On Democracy Now!, journalist for The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald discusses the latest terrorist treats and the closings ogf US embassies int the the region.



Transcript can be read here

The Obama administration has announced it will keep 19 diplomatic posts in North Africa and the Middle East closed for up to a week, due to fears of a possible militant threat. On Sunday, Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close the embassies was based on information collected by the National Security Agency. “If we did not have these programs, we simply would not be able to listen in on the bad guys,” Chambliss said, in a direct reference to increasing debate over widespread spying of all Americans revealed by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. “Nobody has ever questioned or disputed that the U.S. government, like all governments around the world, ought to be eavesdropping and monitoring the conversations of people who pose an actual threat to the United States in terms of plotting terrorist attacks,” Greenwald says.

Aug 06 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Peter Van Buren: Welcome to Post-Constitution America

What If Your Country Begins to Change and No One Notices?

On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress created the first whistleblower protection law, stating “that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds, or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states.”

Two hundred thirty-five years later, on July 30, 2013, Bradley Manning was found guilty on 20 of the 22 charges for which he was prosecuted, specifically for “espionage” and for videos of war atrocities he released, but not for “aiding the enemy.”

Days after the verdict, with sentencing hearings in which Manning could receive 136 years of prison time ongoing, the pundits have had their say. The problem is that they missed the most chilling aspect of the Manning case: the way it ushered us, almost unnoticed, into post-Constitutional America.

Lance deHaven-Smith: As an American, I question the US travel alerts and embassy closures

We’ve seen this before where US presidents cite terrorism concerns in an effort to win back public opinion

It is unfortunate, but true that Americans cannot trust the statements of their leaders about threats to national security. Ironically, this is especially so when questions are being raised about the competence of the government or the legitimacy of its policies. The United States government has a long history of deflecting criticism by crying wolf, especially the terrorism kind of wolf. [..]

There are several reasons to wonder if this threat is being concocted – or at least exaggerated – for political purposes. One reason, of course, is the timing of the alert. Allegedly based on electronic eavesdropping, the alert comes in the midst of a national and international political firestorm over the continuing revelations of Edward Snowden about the electronic surveillance programs of the National Security Agency. Opposition to the NSA dragnet that is sweeping up data on millions of Americans’ emails, phone calls, and internet activities is snowballing in US public opinion and in Congress. The NSA programs have also become a major issue in the domestic politics of America’s allies.

Michael Boyle: President Obama’s disastrous counterterrorism legacy

A president who came into office pledging to take the ‘war on terror’ out of the shadows plunged it deeper into those shadows

When future historians look back on the presidency of Barack Obama, they will conclude that counterterrorism was the policy area with the biggest gap between the hopes of his supporters and reality of his actions in office. [..]

While Obama has had some important accomplishments, he has failed to deliver on a comprehensive counterterrorism policy that does not undermine American ideals. Although he ended the use of torture by US personnel, his administration has refused to seek accountability for those in the Bush administration that instituted this practice. Rendition of terrorist suspects to foreign countries has continued, with the US now only receiving unverifiable “assurances” that torture will not be used. Guantánamo Bay will remain a national disgrace for the foreseeable future. In the last few months, the US has even resorted to the grotesque spectacle of force-feeding its detainees to keep them alive during Ramadan.

John Nichols: Big Media Story Isn’t Bezos and the Post, It’s the RNC Threatening CNN, NBCn

So if the sale of the Post is not as dramatic a development as might initially seem to be the case, what is?

The big deal in media this week has to do with the relationship of broadcast and cable news networks to the two major political parties. And it matters-more-because it gets to question that is at the heart of all of our discussions about the future of print, broadcast and digital media: Will we have a sufficient journalism, and a sufficiently independent journalism, to sustain democracy?

Ever since the Democratic and Republican parties took over the nation’s presidential debates in 1987, with the creation of a corporate-funded “Commission on Presidential Debates” run by the former chairs of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, the dialogue in presidential election years has been the ultimate insiders’ game.

Dean Baker: The Economy Is Awful and Larry Summers Should Not Be Fed Chair

In his recent defense of Larry Summers, President Obama appeared to be badly confused about the state of the economy. This apparently leads him to believe that the country should be grateful to Larry Summers for his successes, as opposed to furious at him for his failures.

Obama’s story is that the economy was in a free fall when he took office and the program that was in large part designed by Summers helped turn it around. While it is true that the economy was in free fall, there was no reason to expect that to continue regardless of what policies were pursued. Note that in every single wealthy country the sharp drop in output at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was stopped and reversed by the end of the year. Other countries were not able to rely on the genius of Larry Summers in setting their policies.

Robert Reich: The Three Biggest Lies About Why Corporate Taxes Should Be Lowered

nstead of spending August on the beach, corporate lobbyists are readying arguments for when Congress returns in September about why corporate taxes should be lowered.

But they’re lies. You need to know why so you can spread the truth. [..]

Corporations want corporate tax reduction to be the centerpiece of “tax reform” come the fall. The president has already signaled a willingness to sign on in return for more infrastructure investment. But the arguments for corporate tax reduction are specious.

Aug 06 2013

On This Day In History August 6

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.

Click on images to enlarge

August 6 is the 218th day of the year (219th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 147 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day there have been many significant events. Certainly, one of the most memorable is that this is the anniversary of dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. It is also the anniversary of President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act.

Recent significant history that has been over looked by my usual sources is this: The August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing better known as the August 6th PDB. It was handed to President George W. Bush, who was on one of his many vacations to his home in Crawford, TX, by Harriet Miers, who was the President’s WH Council, and promptly ignored. Whether Bush ignored the warning that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack the US because he was told to let it happen or, the darker theory, that the government made it happen will never be known, at least not in the lifetime of those reading this. Whatever Bush’s motive was, it set off a series of events in this country that has affected us all and divided us like no other incident since the Civil War. The US has now been in Afghanistan for almost 9 years 10 years 12 years and Iraq for over seven eight , the last U.S. combat troops withdrawing from Iraq on 18 December, 2011. Despite campaign promises to restore the rule of law and the Constitution, the Obama administration has continued the most heinous of the Bush policies that are violations of not just US law but International Law, ratified treaties and agreements. A sad anniversary, indeed.

I wrote this three years ago, although Pres. Obama has withdrawn combats troops from Iraq, “support” troops still remain. The US is in the process drawing down military presence in Afghanistan. That may sound encouraging but the President has since increased drones attacks in Pakistan and targeted American citizens for assassination and, now, is turning the US into a police surveillance state, shredding the Constitutional rights of its citizens. So much for ending the “war on terror” and restoring the rule of  law.

Aug 06 2013

NSA Handing Information to DEA and DOJ

The National Security Agency isn’t just looking to “keep us safe” from terrorists by collecting metadata, the NSA is sharing its information with the secretive Special Operations Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which is then passing that information to local authorities, covering up the NSA source.

U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

by John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Reuters

A secretive US Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

It isn’t just the DEA that is doing this, the Justice Department is also receiving information about non-terrorist related criminal activity.

NSA handing over non-terror intelligence

by Stewart M. Powell, SFGate

The National Security Agency is handing the Justice Department information, derived from its secret electronic eavesdropping programs, about suspected criminal activity unrelated to terrorism.

This little-known byproduct of counterterrorism surveillance continues amid controversy over the NSA’s wide-ranging collection of domestic communications intelligence, including Americans’ telephone calling records and Internet use.

It is unclear whether the referrals have been built upon the content of telephone calls and emails. Administration officials have previously assured Congress that NSA surveillance focuses on so-called metadata and in the main does not delve into the content of individual calls or email messages.

Also, some in the legal community question the constitutionality of criminal prosecutions stemming from intelligence-agency eavesdropping.

Other Agencies Clamor for Data N.S.A. Compiles

by Eric Lichtblau and Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times

The National Security Agency’s dominant role as the nation’s spy warehouse has spurred frequent tensions and turf fights with other federal intelligence agencies that want to use its surveillance tools for their own investigations, officials say.

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the security agency’s vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say.

Intelligence officials say they have been careful to limit the use of the security agency’s troves of data and eavesdropping spyware for fear they could be misused in ways that violate Americans’ privacy rights.

The recent disclosures of agency activities by its former contractor Edward J. Snowden have led to widespread criticism that its surveillance operations go too far and have prompted lawmakers in Washington to talk of reining them in. But out of public view, the intelligence community has been agitated in recent years for the opposite reason: frustrated officials outside the security agency say the spy tools are not used widely enough.

At emptywheel, bmaz points out this is nothing in the Reuter’s article on the SOD wasn’t already known, just no one has been paying attention:

First, the headline is misleading. The caption is:

   Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

Well, not really (and, in fairness, the actual body of the article is about a practice that is a result of the SOD). DEA’s Special Ops Division is neither new nor secret in the least, and there is no way to “cover it up”. Google it; I got “About 289,000 results (0.29 seconds)” as a return. You will get something similar. The revelation that SOD was used in the Viktor Bout case is also not new, here is a Time story detailing it from 2011.

In fact, any criminal defense attorney who did cocaine hub conspiracy cases in the 90′s could have told you most of the Reuter’s article in their sleep. That was exactly the scene that DEA-SOD was born from. As the war on drugs went nuclear, the DEA devised what they termed the “Kingpin Strategy” (pdf):

   In 1992, the DEA instituted the Kingpin Strategy that focused investigative and enforcement efforts on specific drug trafficking organizations. The DEA planned to dis- able major organizations by attacking their most vulnerable areas-the chemicals needed to process the drugs, their finances, communications, transportation, and leadership structure.

   The Kingpin Strategy held that the greatest impact on the drug trade took place when major drug organizations were dis- rupted, weakened, and destroyed. This strategy focused enforcement efforts and resources against the highest-level traffickers and their organizations, and provided a systematic way of attacking the various vulnerabilities of the organiza- tions. By systematically attacking each of these vulnerabilities, the strategy aimed to destroy the entire organization, and with it, the organization’s capacity to finance, produce, and distrib- ute massive amounts of illegal drugs. Each blow weakened the organization and improved the prospects for arresting and prosecuting the leaders and managers of the organizations.

   The Kingpin Strategy evolved from the DEA’s domestic and overseas intelligence gathering and investigations.

And from Kingpin sprung the Special Operations Division:

   Under the original Kingpin Strategy, DEA headquarters often dictated the selection of Kingpin targets. In response to the SACs’ concerns, Administrator Constantine agreed to allow them more latitude in target selection. In conjuction with this decision, he established the Special Operations Division at Newington, Virginia, in 1994 to coordinate multi-jurisdictional investigations against major drug trafficking organizations responsible for the flow of drugs into the United States.

On this morning’s Democracy Now!, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald responded to a report by Reuters.



Transcript can be read here.

“It’s a full-frontal assault on the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments and on the integrity of the judicial process, because they’re deceiving everyone involved in criminal prosecutions about how this information has been obtained,” Greenwald says.