09/11/2013 archive

Curveball II

Kerry And McCain’s Source For Moderate Syrian Rebel Claim Fired For Fraud

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 11, 2013 10:39 am

The parallels to the run up to the Iraq War just keep coming. A key source for both Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain on the “moderate” rebels in Syria, Elizabeth O’Bagy, has been fired for fraud. Somewhere Curveball is smiling.

But not just lying on her resume about her qualifications but also about her connections to said “moderate” rebels. Her WSJ piece failed to make the disclosure that she worked and was essentially lobbying for the Syrian rebels.

If you needed yet another reason to back off this aggressive war here it is – the opposition is heavily influenced by Al Qaeda and those telling you different have been caught lying. Although it could be reasonably argued the lack of a coherent justification for American military involvement should also be considered.

The more we learn about the claims being made to justify this war the more unconvincing it is.

WSJ op-ed writer Elizabeth O’Bagy fired for resume lie


9/11/13 12:49 PM EDT

The Syria researcher whose Wall Street Journal op-ed piece was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain during congressional hearings about the use of force has been fired from the Institute for the Study of War for lying about having a Ph.D., the group announced on Wednesday.

“The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University,” the institute said in a statement. “ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”

O’Bagy’s op-ed piece for the Journal, “On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War,” was cited by both Kerry and McCain last week. McCain read from the piece last Tuesday to Kerry, calling it “an important op-ed by Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy.” The next day, Kerry also brought up the piece before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and described it as a “very interesting article” and recommended that members read it.

But the piece had also come under fire for misrepresenting her affiliations. Originally the op-ed only listed O’Bagy, 26, as only “a senior analyst” at the ISW, later adding a clarification that disclosed her connection to a Syrian rebel advocacy group.

“In addition to her role at the Institute for the Study of War, Ms. O’Bagy is affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating as a 501(c)(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition,” the WSJ added in its clarification.

O’Bagy, who has traveled widely with rebel forces in Syria, had been a senior research analyst with ISW. Her biography on the site before she was fired, according to a Google cache from Sept. 4, stated that “Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy is a Senior Research Analyst and the Syria Team Lead at the Institute for the Study of War, where she focuses on Syrian politics and security. Her major reports on the Syrian opposition include: The Free Syrian Army, Jihad in Syria, and Syria’s Political Opposition.” Her online bio was also updated last Friday in response to the online furor – spurred in part by a report in The Daily Caller about her affiliation with the SETF – over the WSJ piece to read: “I work with the Syrian Emergency Task Force in an advisory capacity on a number of humanitarian aid and governance building contracts.”

On Monday, O’Bagy responded to critics of her work on Syria.

“I’m not a war monger,” she told POLITICO. “I’m not advocating the United Staets start a war or get in the middle of one. At heart, I’m just a researcher. I love being in the field. I love doing the interviews and collecting the data.”

The Definition of Blackmail

NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 September 2013 10.40 EDT

The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet.

The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

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

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

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

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

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 11, 2013 12:15 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: emptywheel

Wednesday September 11, 2013 9:01 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Heidi Moore: Syria: the great distraction

Obama is focused on a conflict abroad, but the fight he should be gearing up for is with Congress on America’s economic security

The president is scheduled to speak six times this week, mostly about Syria. That includes evening news interviews, an address to the nation, and numerous other speeches. Behind the scenes, he is calling members of Congress to get them to fall into line. Secretary of State John Kerry is omnipresent, so ubiquitous on TV that it may be easier just to get him his own talk show called Syria Today.

It would be a treat to see White House aides lobbying as aggressively – and on as many talk shows – for a better food stamp bill, an end to the debt-ceiling drama, or a solution to the senseless sequestration cuts, as it is on what is clearly a useless boondoggle in Syria.

Helena Cobban: The Russia-Syria Deal: What It Means and What Now?

Watching Syrian FM Walid Muallem on the TV news announcing his country’s acceptance of Russia’s plan to consign all Syria’s CW stockpile to international control and then destruction was an amazingly powerful sight. With this one stroke, all the air went out of the campaign Pres. Obama has been ramping up, to win public and Congressional support for a U.S. “punitive” military attack against Syria. (Shortly after Mouallem’s announcement, the Democratic leader of the senate, Harry Reid, withdrew the war resolution from consideration there…) [..]

The Moscow-Syria deal gives Syria’s people the best chance they’ve had for 28 months to find a negotiated resolution to their  differences. Finding that resolution won’t be easy- though there is a good chance that a high degree of war weariness has already set in. Those of us who are outside Syria who detest war and foreign domination should be cheering Syria’s people on in their effort to negotiate with each other, and giving them all the humanitarian help their tattered country needs. The very last things they need now is more war. Big thanks to everyone who has helped the world step back from that terrible brink.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: From ‘Inequality for All,’ a challenge for America

“Inequality for All,” directed by Jacob Kornbluth and set to be released nationwide on Sept. 27, comes at a critical moment for America. Sept. 15 marks the five-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers – fueled by a toxic combination of deregulation, subprime lending and credit-default swaps – that precipitated the 2008 global economic crisis and laid bare the rot at the heart of our economic system. It was largely this orgy of greed that led the first Occupy Wall Street protesters to Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, two years ago next week.

In the half-decade since Wall Street’s self-induced crash, the country has hovered between outrage (that the perpetrators walked off scot-free and bonus-laden) and apathy (that anything will ever break the iron bond between Congress and the financial industry). [..]

Democracy is not a spectator sport, this film reminds us. And in this case, neither is movie-going.

Allison Kilkenny: The Hidden Rot: We Don’t Fully Understand the Consequences of Budget Cuts

Back in June, when the effects of the sequestration were first starting to settle in, certain media outlets like The Washington Post printed that the Obama administration had exaggerated their budget cut predictions.

“[Sequestration] has not produced what the Obama administration predicted: widespread breakdowns in crucial government services,” David Fahrenthold and Lisa Rein wrote in The Washington Post.

The general consensus appeared to be that since planes were still taking off from the major airports and poor people weren’t starving to death in the streets, the budgets cuts simply weren’t that bad.

But as the months continue to roll by, we’re now beginning to see that the consequences of austerity are very real, and only getting worse.

Nationwide, states are making severe cuts to their social safety net programs.

Frances Beinecke: New NOAA Report Confirms Climate Change Is Intensifying Extreme Heat and Storms

When an extreme heat wave blasted the country last summer, I grew concerned about my father’s health.  Medical experts say hot weather takes the heaviest toll on senior citizens, and I knew my father would have a hard time managing the spike in temperature. He wasn’t alone. Young children and people with heart and lung illnesses are also vulnerable during heat waves. Diabetics, the obese, and people using common medications also face a greater risk when the heat rises. In other words, tens of millions of Americans are vulnerable to extreme heat.

That’s troubling news in the age of climate change.

According to a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, extreme heat waves like we saw in 2012 now happen four times as often because of global warming pollution.

Wenonah Hauter: For the USDA, Chicken is Just Politics

When you purchase chicken at the grocery store, you might have the perfectly reasonable expectation that the poultry you are buying was raised on an American farm, and that it was inspected by a government official. Well, lower your expectations: if the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gets its way, poultry inspections will be left to the very same people that process the poultry-corporations-in a privatized poultry inspection scheme that is bad for workers and food safety. Furthermore, the agency appears to be paving the way for processed poultry imports from none other than China, the birthplace of several egregious food safety scandals. [..]

It has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. (which has been closed since 2003 due to the diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.) Once again, trade trumps food safety.

But some things are more important that profits. The safety of the food we feed our families is one of them. These two actions by the USDA serve industry interests-not the public interest. President Obama should assure that the USDA reverses course and serves consumers, not corporations. Take action today to send this message to the President and the USDA, and ask them not to privatize chicken inspections.

On This Day In History September 11

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 11 is the 254th day of the year (255th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 111 days remaining until the end of the year. It is usually the first day of the Coptic calendar and Ethiopian calendar (in the period AD 1900 to AD 2099).

On this day in 1941, ground is broken for the construction of The Pentagon.

The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, “the Pentagon” is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.

Designed by the American architect George Bergstrom (1876-1955), and built by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, general contractor John McShain, the building was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction on September 11, 1941. General Brehon Somervell provided the major motive power behind the project; Colonel Leslie Groves was responsible for overseeing the project for the Army.

The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building by floor area, with about 6,500,000 sq ft (604,000 m2), of which 3,700,000 sq ft (344,000 m2) are used as offices. Approximately 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 mi (28.2 km) of corridors. The Pentagon includes a five-acre (20,000 m2) central plaza, which is shaped like a pentagon and informally known as “ground zero”, a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location in the outbreak of a nuclear war.

On September 11, 2001, exactly 60 years after the building’s groundbreaking, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the western side of the Pentagon, killing 189 people, including five hijackers, 59 others aboard the plane, and 125 working in the building.

The Other 9/11: Chilean Coup 40 Years Later

Forty years ago on September 11, a US backed coup d’état took place in Chile, led by the Chilean Army Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet overthrew the elected socialist President Salvador Allende, ending civilian rule a week before its 48th anniversary. The coup established a military dictatorship with support from the CIA and DIA, that ruled Chile until 1990 that was marked by numerous human rights violations. According to various reports and investigations 1,200-3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his government including women and children.

Pinochet’s rule ended in 1990 after a 1988 plebiscite led to democratic elections for the Presidency and Congress. Pinochet stepped down from the presidency continuing to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army until 10 March 1998. On 10 October 1998, Pinochet was arrested in London in connection with numerous human rights allegations, but following a legal battle was released and returned to Chile in March 2000. In 2004, Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia ruled that Pinochet was medically fit to stand trial and placed him under house arrest. By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement during his 17-year rule and afterwards.

Pinochet’s arrest in London came as a result of the life long efforts of Spanish attorney Juan Garcés, who was an personal adviser to Allende and was with him on the day of the coup. Garcés left the presidential palace before it was bombed, charged by Allende to tell the world what he had witnessed.

Juan Garcés joined Democracy Now!‘s hosts Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté to discuss his efforts to bring Pinochet to justice.

Transcript can be read here

In Part 2, Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, joins the conversation to discuss how US politicians, banks and corporation aided the coup.

Trascript can be read here

In the last segment, the discussion turns to the U.S. role under President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.

Peter Kornbluh, who spearheaded the effort to declassify more than 20,000 secret documents that revealed the role of the CIA and the White House in the Chilean coup, discusses how Nixon and Kissinger backed the Chilean military’s ouster of Allende and then offered critical support as it committed atrocities to cement its newfound rule. [..]

In 1970, the CIA’s deputy director of plans wrote in a secret memo: “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. … It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [the U.S. government] and American hand be well hidden.” That same year President Nixon ordered the CIA to “make the economy scream” in Chile to “prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him.”

Transcript can be read [here

It appears that the US is still at it.

New York City Election Thread

According to The New York Times exit polling de Blasio not only has a comfortable lead in the Democratic Mayoral Primary, but looks to have enough of a margin to avoid a run-off.

Unfortunately (or not, liberal identifying voters give him a strong margin) according to the same exit polling Scott Stringer seems poised to defeat Eliot Spitzer in the Comptroller race.

The victory for de Blasio is good news because it represents a strong rebuke to City Council Chair Christine Quinn who has nothing but identity politics and tribalism to distinguish herself from Bloomberg whom she has enabled for years.