Daily Archive: 09/26/2013

Sep 26 2013

“A Naked Declaration of Imperialism”

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama addressed the world at the 2013 UN General Assembly meeting in New York City. He mostly touted the US policy in the Middle East and the so-called right of the US to interfere with the sovereign nations of the region. Even though the president has directed Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister over Iran’s nuclear program, he again declared that the US can use force to stop what there is no evidence of, an Iranian nuclear weapon. The speech, a neo-con’s dream, was littered with lies, as enumerated by David Swanson.

2. “(P)eople are being lifted out of poverty,” Obama said, crediting actions by himself and others in response to the economic crash of five years ago. But downward global trends in poverty are steady and long pre-date Obama’s entry into politics. And such a trend does not exist in the U.S. [..]

4. “Together, we have also worked to end a decade of war,” Obama said. In reality, Obama pushed Iraq hard to allow that occupation to continue, and was rejected just as Congress rejected his missiles-for-Syria proposal. Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. Obama expanded, after essentially creating, drone wars. Obama has increased global U.S. troop presence, global U.S. weapons sales, and the size of the world’s largest military. He’s put “special” forces into many countries, waged a war on Libya, and pushed for an attack on Syria. How does all of this “end a decade of war”? And how did his predecessor get a decade in office anyway? [..]

6. “We have limited the use of drones.” Bush drone strikes in Pakistan: 51. Obama drone strikes in Pakistan: 323. (That they have admitted to. TMC [..]

8. “… and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.” There are hundreds of confirmed civilian dead from U.S. drones, something the Obama administration seems inclined to keep as quiet as possible. [..]

13. “How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else’s civil war?” That isn’t a complete list of choices, as Obama discovered when Russia called Kerry’s bluff and diplomacy became a choice, just as disarmament and de-escalation and pressure for a ceasefire are choices. Telling Saudi Arabia “Stop arming the war in Syria or no more cluster bombs for you,” is a choice. [..]

14. “What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?” Force doesn’t have a role in civilized conduct, the most basic standard of which is relations without the use of force. [..]

17. “It is an insult to human reason – and to the legitimacy of this institution – to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.” Really? In the absence of evidence, skepticism isn’t reasonable for this Colin-Powelled institution, the same U.N. that was told Libya would be a rescue and watched it become a war aimed at illegally overthrowing a government? Trust us? [..]

There are 45 cringe worthy lies in David’s dissection of the president’s speech.

Author and national security correspondent for The Nation, appearing with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaihk on Democracy Now! called the president’s speech “a really naked declaration of imperialism.



Transcript can be read here

During this section of the speech my jaw sort of hit the floor. He basically came out and said the United States is an imperialist nation and we are going to do whatever we need to conquer areas to take resources from around the world. I mean, it was a really naked sort of declaration of imperialism, and I don’t use that word lightly, but it really is. I mean, he pushed back against the Russians when he came out and said I believe America is an exceptional nation. He then defended the Gulf War and basically said that the motivation behind it was about oil and said we are going to continue to take such actions in pursuit of securing natural resources for ourselves and our allies. I mean, this was a pretty incredible and bold declaration he was making, especially given the way that he has tried to portray himself around the world. On the other hand, you know, remember what happened right before Obama took the stage is that the president of Brazil got up, and she herself is a former political prisoner who was abused and targeted in a different lifetime, and she gets up and just blasts the United States over the NSA spy program around the world.

Obama’s UN Speech: Packaging Neoconservative Values in the Language of Peace & Liberation

by Kevin Gosztola, FDL The Dissenter

The speech President Barack Obama delivered at the United Nations General Assembly was a neoconservative foreign policy speech, the kind of speech one might have heard President George W. Bush deliver in the midst of the Iraq War to defend decisions made by those ruling America.

Both Robert Kagan and William Kristol, leading American neoconservatives, argued in 1996, “Without a broad, sustaining foreign policy vision, the American people will be inclined to withdraw from the world and will lose sight of their abiding interest in vigorous world leadership. Without a sense of mission, they will seek deeper and deeper cuts in the defense and foreign affairs budgets and gradually decimate the tools of US hegemony.”

The hegemon or paramount power that neoconservative policy thinkers like Kagan and Kristol consider America to be passed on an opportunity to show “leadership” by striking Syria. Obama was acutely aware that the United States was not in control of the developing response to the crisis in Syria. His speech was an opportunity to reassert American power, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. [..]

Now, America has drone bases to make war permanent. It has a massive surveillance apparatus that Obama is more than willing to defend and utilize against any country in the world that threatens its power. Though all countries may seek to spy on one another to decide what to do diplomatically, no country can match the technological capabilities of the United States as it bugs and spies on diplomatic missions of countries to remain supreme.

Sep 26 2013

The US Roll in the Nairobi Mall Attack

Three days of mourning were declared in the aftermath of the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that has left at least 72 dead including six soldiers and five of the attackers.

The attack was perpetrated by the militant youth group, al-Shabaab, associated with Islamic extremists in Somalia and is regarde by the US and other nations as a terrorist group. The groups is targeting Kenya for providing troop that supported the Somali Transitional Federal Government.

While al-Shabab has turned into a largely violent organization, for a time it was run as a counter force to criminal gangs operating in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. Al-Shabab was once the military wing of the deposed Islamic Court Union (ICU), which controlled much of central and southern Somalia in late 2006.

But Al-Shabab’s fighters were eventually forced out of Somalia by Ethiopian troops in support of the largely powerless U.N.-backed interim government.

Though the group has carried out attacks in other countries, it has mostly focused on attacks within Somalia, using suicide bombs to kill dozens over the years. Its members have also assassinated international aid workers and others perceived to be friendly to Somalia’s transitional government.

Author and national security correspondent for The Nation, Jeremy Scahill joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Nareem Shaihk to discuss how the US meddling in the region is tied to the “rampage” at the Nairobi mall.



Transcript can be read here

Scahill says the Bush administration’s decision to back Ethiopia’s overthrow of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union in 2006 helped fuel al-Shabab’s growth into the dominant militant group that it is today: “Al-Shabab was largely a non-player in Somalia and al-Qaeda had almost no presence there. The U.S., by backing [Somali] warlords and overthrowing the Islamic Courts Union, made the very force they claimed to be trying to fight.”

Jeremy also appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes further explaining the history of the region and al-Shabaab.

>>> at this hour, kenyan security forces claim to be in control of the west gate premier shopping mall in nairobi, kenya, the site of one of the most horrifying terror attacks in recent memory. kenyan interior ministry saying “our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind. we believe all hostages have been released.” this hour, the kenyan government hasn’t yet made a full accounting. midday saturday, nairobi, kenya, a mall that could easily be mistaken for any major mall in the u.s. or anywhere in the world, fell under attack by 10 to 15 gunmen, reportedly from the islamist al shabaab militia. one eyewitness was an american who had recently moved to nairobi from north carolina.

>> you could hear while we were back there them methodically kind of going from store to store, talking to people, asking questions, shooting, screams, and then it would stop for a while. then they would go to another store.

>> another eyewitness, a software engineer who was in the parking lot with his two daughters said they were throwing grenades like maize to chickens. he and his daughter survived. at last count, at least 62 people have died in the attack, mostly kenyans along with foreigners from britain, france, australia, canada and india. at one point, terrorists started a fire in the mall, which according to security forces, was meant as a diversion. a reported 175 people were wounded in a siege that entered its third day today. at least three assailants have been killed by security forces with at least ten suspects arrested. the attackers also took hostages as the standoff proceeded.

>> we have done search of the building and we can confirm that the hostages, almost all of them have been evacuated.

>> the kenyan foreign minister has since told al jazeera the mall attack was the work of al qaeda, not al shabaab. more on that in a second. president kenyatta said one of his nephews was in the mall and killed in the attack. the chief of the kenyan defense forces said the terrorists are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world. the fbi is looking into reports that americans were among the attackers. “the new york times” photographer tyler hicks happened to be nearby the mall when the siege began. he entered the mall along with police officers and captured these stunning images.

>> once i got inside the mall, i could see how tense everyone was, the army and police, how carefully they were moving. they were dashing across open areas, taking extreme care with their cover. it seemed kind of like anywhere you looked there would be another body. people were still hiding in shops. and as the police and the army were moving through, they would either discover people or they would sense that help had arrived and then they would flood out. so, you get kind of moments of silence and then other moments of big streams of people who they were trying to get out as quickly as possible. it really seemed like everywhere we went, more people came out of the woodwork. at one sense it seemed very abandoned. for example, the music that plays in the shopping mall, the typical kind of music, was still playing on the intercom. so, it was kind of this eerie silence with this music interrupted occasionally by gunfire. terrified people were crying, screaming, just running for their lives, really. i never thought that i would encounter this kind of tragedy in a public place like this, where completely innocent civilians were just gunned down and murdered. it’s not like a conventional war, where you expect combatants to get hurt or expect there to be collateral damage in those kinds of situations. this is just a suicide mission and murder.

>> joining me now is jeremy ask a hill, my colleague at “the nation” magazine, where he’s national security correspondent. he is also author of “dirty wars,” producer and writing of the film by the same name. jerry, you were in somalia. there’s footage of you being on a rooftop with incoming fire from al shabaab fighters, basically. what do you make of the conflicting reports about whether al shabaab or al qaeda did it, and who is al shabaab and how are they different from al qaeda?

>> right, well, first of all, al shabaab was a group of relative nobodies in 2006 during the bush administration. they were a sort of outlier in a group called the islamic courts union, which was largely made up of, almost exclusively made up of somali actors. and these actors meaning players on the scene in somalia. and al shabaab was the sort of group among those that sort of had the most allegiance to al qaeda or affinity for osama bin laden’s message, but they had no political sway whatsoever domestically within somalia. the u.s. partnered with the ethiopian military in 2006- 2007 and staged an invasion of somalia, and they dismantled this government of the islamic courts union, which was the only government that brought stability in somalia since the blackhawk down episode. so, what happened as a result of that is that the shabab became the vanguard of what was viewed as a movement to fight off a crusading force backed by the united states. so, al shabaab started to get street credibility within somalia because they were the only ones fighting. the rest of the networks had been disrupted, co-yopted, killed or imprisoned by the americans or ethiopians. so, what happened at the end of the day is that al qaeda was able to get a foothold in somalia and it had never been able to before. bin laden desperately wanted to get into somalia and somalis rejected him. the u.s. invasion with ethiopia opened the door and al shabaab has gotten more militant as the years have gone on.

>> and they clearly seem to have an agenda if, in fact, this is somali al shabaab fighters behind this. why would they attack a kenyan mall?

>> well, there’s a long history of al qaeda in east africa and eventually al shabaab staging attacks in kenya and elsewhere in africa.

>> of course the embassy bombings.

>> yes, in ’98 in tanzania and kenya, but there was also a 2002 attempt to shoot down israeli aircraft in mombasa. then you had the bombing at the world cup in 2010 in uganda, an american citizen was killed in that as well as a number of ugandans. and i think that, you know, if you look at the past two years, kenya has been deeply involved with somali politics, funding warlords. i traveled with a kenyan-backed warlord who had brand new military equipment given to him in the summer of 2011, and then kenya staged an invasion of parts of southern somalia. and i think al shabaab has seized on this idea that kenya is a puppet or a proxy for the u.s., and that’s really the message that they’ve propagandized.

>> what does it say about the state of al qaeda or global ji jihadis in 2013 that this attack happened, that it’s coming from possibly somalia? it seems to me like it’s the situation which we smash one or disrupt one network and they seem to pop up somewhere else.

>> right. something interesting is that when i was last in somalia in the summer of 2011, the head of al qaeda in east africa was killed in mogadishu, fazul mohammed. and among the documents seized, and i reported on this in my book, were letters from fazul to ayman al zawahiri, number two in al qaeda. and what fazul said is shabaab is making a mistake trying to hold territory in somalia and you need to go back to managing savagery. there is a famous al qaeda paper called “the management of savagery,” and data is make it impossible for anyone else to govern. make people feel fear and that the government cannot protect them.

>> chaos.

>> and i think that’s part of what we’re seeing. but there’s no one al shabaab right now, which is why the kenyans —

>> being splintered, and it’s ann clear who is exactly krogh the organization. journalist jerry scahill,

Sep 26 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

New York Times Editorial Board: Lasting Damage From the Budget Fight

The budget crisis manufactured by Congressional Republicans will never succeed at halting health care reform, but it has already caused long-lasting harm. It will preserve the deeply damaging spending cuts, known as the sequester, that are costing jobs and hurting the lives of millions.

Most of the attention given to the House’s temporary spending resolution has focused on the provision in it to defund President Obama’s health law. The Senate plans to drop that wording, and, if the House doesn’t agree, the government will shut down on Tuesday. But even without the provision, the resolution itself is pernicious because it preserves through mid-December all the blunt and arbitrary sequester cuts that began in March, making it much less likely those cuts will be replaced with more sensible cuts and revenue increases for the rest of the 2014 fiscal year.

Gail Collins: Meet Dilly and Dither

This month, the pope made some sensible remarks about sex, and the president of Iran made some reasonable comments about nuclear weapons. Also, the Russians proved to be extremely helpful during an international crisis. Meanwhile, on the home front, our Congress appears too crazed by internal conflict to keep the lights on. [..]

Big deadline coming! In theory, by Monday, the House and Senate are supposed to have jointly approved 12 bills appropriating money for the various sections of government in 2014. The entire package should be a prudent rethinking of what various agencies really need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

This is probably not going to happen because, as of today, the number of said bills passed by both bodies is zero.

Norman Solomon: Obama’s Justice Department: Trumpeting a New Victory in War on Freedom of the Press

There’s something profoundly despicable about a Justice Department that would brazenly violate the First and Fourth Amendments while spying on journalists, then claim to be reassessing such policies after an avalanche of criticism-and then proceed, as it did this week, to gloat that those policies made possible a long prison sentence for a journalistic source.

Welcome to the Obama Justice Department.

While mouthing platitudes about respecting press freedom, the president has overseen methodical actions to undermine it. We should retire understated phrases like “chilling effect.” With the announcement from Obama’s Justice Department on Monday, the thermometer has dropped below freezing.

Lateefa Simon: When will the US stop building more prisons?

I was once a teen mom with an arrest record and few options. I know from personal experience how a job can change a life

America’s prison crisis isn’t about a lack of space; it’s a systematic lack of opportunity in poor communities. We have failed as a society to understand what it takes for previously incarcerated people to live meaningful, productive lives – and to keep them out of prison in the first place.

It sounds deceptively simple, but my own experience – and a growing body of research – shows that one thing can help keep people from entering prison and prevent those released from going back: jobs. Employment opportunities give people a sense of purpose, help build confidence and foster strong social connections and pay the rent.

William Pfaff: Time for the West to Cease Intervention

We have today entered a new political-or politico-religious-period in which the Muslim peoples of the Middle East are seizing control of their own fortunes, a control lost as a result of the First World War and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, which, with its Arab Caliphate predecessors in Crusader times, traces back to the very origin of Islam in what now is Syria, Iraq and Arabia proper.

Few in the West seem to have grasped the significance of the fact that Muslims themselves have taken over the struggle against Islamic radicalism. The West did not start the war in Syria. Until chemical weapons were used in the war, it has had no direct implication in it, and feeble indirect ones, other than to assist the victims. It is the Syrians’ war, and that of the other Arabs who have chosen to take part.

Robert Sheer: Obama’s Friends in Low Places

That Barack Obama is such a kidder. No matter how awkward the moment, he’s got just the right quip to purchase some wiggle room. Remember when his old Chicago banking buddy Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, first ran into that bit of trouble over his bank’s “London Whale” derivative scam? That scheme has already lost $6 billion with close to $1 billion more piled on by the SEC in fines last week after JPMorgan admitted it broke the law.  [..]

It should be remembered that this same Dimon, who appeared before a Senate committee wearing presidential cufflinks, once worked with Sanford Weill in engineering the reversal of the Glass-Steagall law to make Citigroup, a previously illegal merger of investment and commercial banks, possible. But despite his record as a leader in the radical deregulation of banking that caused all of the trouble, Obama turned to Dimon for direction on fixing the economy.

Sep 26 2013

On This Day In History September 26

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

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

September 26 is the 269th day of the year (270th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 96 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1957, West Side Story premieres on Broadway. East Side Story was the original title of the Shakespeare-inspired musical conceived by choreographer Jerome Robbins, written by playwright Arthur Laurents and scored by composer and lyricist Leonard Bernstein in 1949. A tale of star-crossed lovers-one Jewish, the other Catholic-on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the show in its original form never went into production, and the idea was set aside for the next six years. It was more than just a change of setting, however, that helped the re-titled show get off the ground in the mid-1950s. It was also the addition of a young, relatively unknown lyricist named Stephen Sondheim. The book by Arthur Laurents and the incredible choreography by Jerome Robbins helped make West Side Story a work of lasting genius, but it was the strength of the songs by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein that allowed it to make its Broadway debut on this day in 1957.

There are no videos of the original Broadway production which starred Larry Kert as Tony, Carol Lawrence as Maria, Ken Le Roy as Bernardo and Chita Rivera as Anita (Ms. Rivera reprized her role in the movie), so here is the Prologue from the Academy Award winning movie. The area that the movie was filmed no longer exists. The 17 blocks between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, from West 60th to West 66th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where he filming took place were demolished to build Lincoln Center for the Preforming Arts.

Sep 26 2013

God’s Work, Part Deux

AIG CEO Robert Benmosche Compares Bonus Criticism to Lynch Mobs

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

POSTED: September 24, 3:50 PM ET

(W)hen you’re a white guy who just presided over a year of declining across-the-board sales but got a 24% pay raise anyway, to $13 million a year, largely because your company is invested in a market that’s overheating due to massive Fed intervention, and you’re so grateful for your cosmic good fortune that you immediately go out and publicly nail yourself to the cross of black victimhood – and not while stone drunk and with buddies at a bar, mind you, but sober and sitting in front of a Wall Street Journal reporter – that’s like a whole new category of asshole. Try to compute just exactly how obnoxious that is – you’ll be doing it until the end of time, like someone trying to figure pi.

Benmosche’s nooses-and-pitchforks fantasies have their origins in stories about some AIGFP executives who were made to feel uncomfortable by angry crowds on their way home from work, and one about a teacher somewhere in the Midwest who ridiculed in her third-grade class a child whose father worked at the firm. That last bit of course would be very wrong if it did happen, and it may very well have.

Still, comparing being leered at on a train for continuing to collect a huge undeserved bonus from the taxpayer to being taken from your wife and family and hung from a tree for no reason at all is preposterous on at least a hundred different levels.



Those FP workers would normally have been counting on performance bonuses, but since AIGFP not only didn’t perform that year, but created a historically bottomless suckhole of losses that nearly destroyed the universe, there were, alas, no performance bonuses to be had.

So management cooked up a bunch of “retention bonuses” for many of the unit’s employees. This always seemed like a scam, a way of yanking a little last bit of value out of a company most thought was headed for collapse. Moreover, the notion that anyone (but especially the taxpayer) needed to pay millions in “retention bonuses” to prevent other financial firms from poaching employees of the biggest financial disaster/PR-cancer firm since Enron or Union Carbide – and this at a time when mass layoffs on Wall Street had flooded the labor market with thousands of other highly-qualified financial professionals who would have taken huge pay cuts to fill those slots – was always absurd.



In tossing out this “everyone was a villain” line, the CEO, of course, only mentioned the small subset of ordinary people who were “villains” in those days, the low-level speculators who flipped houses and the homeowners who lied on their mortgage applications.

He conveniently left out the bigger institutional players who birthed this scheme, like the giant investment banks (including for instance Credit Suisse, where he worked) that not only knew that mass fraud was being committed at the mortgage application level but encouraged it, so that they could speed up the process of pooling and securitizing those mortgages and selling them off to unsuspecting third parties. Just to take the one example of his own former bank, investors in the mortgage securities sold by Credit Suisse incurred over $11 billion in losses, according to a complaint filed by New York AG Eric Schneiderman against the firm last year.

Banks knew, lenders knew, ratings agencies knew, and then of course firms like AIG knew that something was deeply wrong with the booming mortgage markets in the years leading up to 2008. The peculiar trade of AIGFP was the obviously crazy practice of selling hundreds of billions of uncollateralized insurance to the Goldmans and Deutsche Banks of the world, who in many cases were using these policies to bet against their own products. The 377-odd employees of that sub-unit of AIG took home over $3.5 billion in compensation for such socially-beneficial service in the seven years before it all went bust. If finance-sector pros in those years had reservations about where all that money came from, most, like Benmosche himself, kept them to themselves.

Stories like this “hangman nooses” thing give some insight into the oft-asked question of how the 2008 crisis could ever have happened, the answer being that the people who run our economy, like Benmosche, are basically idiots. They can read a spreadsheet and get through an investor conference call sounding like they know what they’re talking about, but in real-world terms, your average pimp is usually an Einstein in comparison.

These people are so used to being told by interns and finance reporters and other ballwashers that they’re geniuses that they pretty soon come to believe it, which is how concepts like “We’ll never lose a dollar – it’s all hedged” go unchallenged in rooms full of econ majors who’ve just bet the whole store on the mortgages of underemployed janitors and palm-readers. Somebody, please, tell these guys quick how smart they’re not, or else we’ll be in another crisis before we know it.

Sep 26 2013

The First Thing We Do, Fire All the Liars

In Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” the character Dick the Butcher, a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, uttered the words, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” If taken in the context of the play, the line, intended as a comedic aside, was actually a compliment to those lawyers who upheld the laws and protected society. Those words have taken on different meaning over the years and are now often used in reference to those lawyers who have twisted the laws to protect the corrupt and dishonest and, often as not, defend illegal wars and torture, as well as, circumvent the US Constitution. It has often been rephrased, as the title of this article, to fit a narrative, as in the case of “reforming” the NSA, “the first thing we do, is fire all the liars.

Leading First Amendment lawyer, James Goodale, is the former general council to the New York Times and was the driving force behind the NYT‘s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He was instrumental in the winning strategy that resulted in the 6 – 3 Supreme Court ruling that the US government could not stop the Times from publishing the documents. In his opinion piece at The Guardian on the proposed reforming of the NSA, Prof. Goodale noted that President Barack Obama’s first concern should be to fire all the liars, starting with the Director of National Intelligence, James R Clapper and  General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, among others who have both blatantly lied to Congress.

NSA lawyers lied to secret Fisa court Judges John D Bates and Reggie B Walton. In recently released opinions, Bates said he had been lied to on three separate occasions and Walton said he had been lied to several times also.

But Clapper and Alexander have not been held in contempt of Congress. Nor have the Justice Department attorneys, who lied to Judges Walton and Bates, been disciplined. Part of the answer as to why this is so came out last week.

The Justice Department told USA Today that it had no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to those judges. In the ordinary course, the Justice Department’s office of professional responsibility investigates the behavior of lawyers who have been subject to accusations such as those made by Judges Bates and Walton.

(emphasis mine)

You read that correctly, the Obama DOJ has no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to Judges Bates and Walton

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility routinely probes judges’ allegations that the department’s lawyers may have violated ethics rules that prohibit attorneys from misleading courts. Still, OPR said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by USA TODAY that it had no record of ever having investigated – or even being made aware of – the scathing and, at the time, classified, critiques from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2009 and 2011.

Prof. Goodall also calls Pres. Obama’s statement in his August 9, 2013 address on the NSA that he would appoint experts to examine NSA practices, “reasonable” but points out that it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere:

Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and an attendee, told the Guardian the he “did not hear much discussion” of changes to the bulk surveillance activities.

“My fear is it’s a simulacrum of meaningful reform,” said Sascha Meinrath, a vice president of the New America Foundation, an influential Washington think tank, and the director of the Open Technology Institute, who also attended. “Its function is to bleed off pressure, without getting to the meaningful reform.”

It’s pretty predictable that there will be no meaningful reform coming from a committee comprised of intelligence insiders, former White House officials and Obama advisers.

Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, is a member, as is Richard Clarke, a White House counter-terrorism aide to three presidents. Cass Sunstein, a former White House regulatory staffer who is married to the new US ambassador to the United Nations; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor; and Peter Swire, a Georgia Tech professor and former aide to Obama and Bill Clinton, round out the panel.

Over at emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler pointed out a detail that Prof. Goodale missed:

In just its third open hearing this year, the Senate Intelligence Committee has arranged the following witnesses for tomorrow’s hearing on NSA’s spying.

   Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) today announced the committee will hold an open hearing to consider legislative changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to include the NSA call records program, on Thursday, September 26, at 2 p.m.

   WHAT:  Public hearing on FISA, NSA call records

   WHO:

   Panel I

       Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

       National Security AgencyDirector General Keith Alexander

       Deputy Attorney General James Cole

   Panel II

       Ben Wittes, Brookings Institution

       Tim Edgar, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

So DiFi’s idea of an “open hearing” is to invite two established liars. And for her non-governmental witnesses, one keeps declaring Congress NAKED! in the face of evidence the government lies to them, and the other tells fanciful stories about how much data NSA shares.

It’s like DiFi goes out of her way to find liars and their apologists to testify publicly. [..]

It’s DiFi’s committee. And if she wants every single open hearing to serve as a platform for accomplished liars, I guess that’s her prerogative.

But observers should be clear that’s the purpose of the hearings.

As Prof Goodale concludes, the culture of lying to the public and courts by the US intelligence community is nothing new but it lies with President Obama to force the NSA to change. The best place for that change would be to fire the liars, Clapper and Alexander. So far, it appears the president is not much interested in that solution.