Why would the lunatic in the Oval Office order the assassination of one of Iran’s top generals? You have to remember how this narcissistic psychopath thinks; it’s all about him. That brings us to the obvious explanation, he needed a distraction from his pending trial in the Senate which has been headlines for weeks. Two …
Jan 04 2020
Just Another Distraction
May 26 2016
Drones, Corporations and Assassinations
I recently attended a party for investigative journalist and founding editor of The Intercept Jeremy Scahill’s new book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program and party it was. The Intercept staff gave talks interspersed with music and food. Glenn Greenwald, the other founding editor, appeared via live feed from Brazil. In …
Mar 18 2015
America’s Flawed Obsession with Assassination by Drone
Andrew Cockburn, the editor of Harper‘s magazine, sat down with “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart to discuss his new book “Kill Chain: The Rise of High-Tech Assassins,” that exams America’s flawed obsession with high tech ways to assassinate people with drones.
You can read an excerpt from his book at Counterpunch.
Feb 05 2015
And You’re Telling Us This Why?
Leaks of sensitive information by the administration are apparently quite acceptable, even if it might jeopardize other covert operations or lives, just so long as it makes the administration look good in the press.
MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow reviews the details of a CIA-involved assassination from 2008, reported for the first time in The Washington Post over the weekend, and wonders about the reason and timing of such sensitive, secret story being reported in the press.
CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing
By By Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima, January 30, 2015, Washington Post
On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements.
As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, sending a burst of shrapnel across a tight radius. He was killed instantly.
The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.
The United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage. [..]
The United States has never acknowledged participation in the killing of Mughniyah, which Hezbollah blamed on Israel. Until now, there has been little detail about the joint operation by the CIA and Mossad to kill him, how the car bombing was planned or the exact U.S. role. With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the United States in recent years.
U.S. involvement in the killing, which was confirmed by five former U.S. intelligence officials, also pushed American legal boundaries.
Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran
Daid Sanger, June 1, 2012, The New York Times
From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.
Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks – begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games – even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.
John McCain demands leak investigation
By Austin Wright, June 5, 2012, Politico
Arizona Sen. John McCain on Tuesday demanded an investigation into the recent leaks of classified information on U.S. intelligence operations.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama, accused the White House of leaking sensitive details on covert missions to The New York Times in order to “paint a portrait of the president of the United States as a strong leader on national security issues.”
McCain also said the Obama administration might have been responsible for blowing the cover of a Pakistani doctor who helped U.S. commandos locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has been sentenced by a Pakistani court to 33 years in prison.
“This is not a proud day for the United States of America,” McCain said in a fiery speech on the Senate floor. “Our friends are not the only ones who read The New York Times. Our enemies do too.”
McCain said Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had agreed hold hearings on the issue. “Regardless of how politically useful they might have been to the president, they have to stop – the leaks have to stop,” McCain demanded.
The New York Times: These were not leaks
By Dylan Byers, June 7, 2012, Politico
Caught in the crosshairs of a contentious dispute between the White House and Congress, The New York Times is vowing to charge ahead with its coverage of developments in U.S. national security – and denying that the paper is on the receiving end of silver-platter leaks from the Obama administration.
“These are some of the most significant developments in national security in a generation,” Times managing editor Dean Baquet told POLITICO on Thursday, referring to his paper’s recent reports on the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes and cyberattacks. “We’re going to keep doing these stories.”
Following Sen. John McCain’s demand for an independent investigation into White House security leaks, Republicans and Democrats on both the House and Senate intelligence committees issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on the Obama administration “to fully, fairly and impartially investigate” whether or not administration officials were responsible for leaking information that appeared in the recent Times’ articles.
But the fact that the White House has not raised complaints about the Times’ reports further stokes congressional concern that the administration was somehow involved in leaking the stories.
Condoleezza Rice Testifies on Urging The Times to Not Run Article
By Matt Apuzzo, January 15, 2015, New York Times
White House officials favor two primary tactics when they want to kill a news article, Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser, testified Thursday: They can essentially confirm the report by arguing that it is too important to national security to be published, or they can say that the reporter has it wrong.
Sitting across from a reporter and editor from The New York Times in early 2003, Ms. Rice said, she tried both.
Testifying in the leak trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer, Ms. Rice described how the White House successfully persuaded Times editors not to publish an article about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. James Risen, a Times reporter, ultimately revealed the program in his 2006 book, “State of War,” and said that the C.I.A. had botched the operation. Prosecutors used Ms. Rice’s testimony to bolster their case that the leak to Mr. Risen had harmed national security.
“This was very closely held,” Ms. Rice said. “It was one of the most closely held programs in my tenure as national security adviser.”
Ms. Rice’s account also threw a light on how the government pressures journalists to avoid publishing details about United States security affairs. It is a common practice that is seldom discussed.
C.I.A. Officer Is Found Guilty in Leak Tied to Times Reporter
By Matt Apuzzo, January 26, 2015, New York Times
Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.
The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has conducted an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration’s approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.
The case revolved around a C.I.A. operation in which a former Russian scientist provided Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. Mr. Risen revealed the operation in his 2006 book, “State of War,” describing it as a mismanaged, potentially reckless mission that may have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.
One can only surmise the reason for the need to release the Mossad/CIA assassination plot at this time.
Oct 01 2014
Drones: Fear in the Sky
John Oliver’s “This Week Tonight” on HBO is fast becoming the show to watch, especially his longer segments. This past Sunday John explains how drones are making the blue skies terrifying.
“Drone strikes will be as much a characteristic of the Obama presidency as Obamacare or receiving racist email forwards from distant relatives.” [..]
“Drone strikes are one of those things that it’s really convenient not to think about that much,” Oliver lamented. “Like the daily life of a circus elephant or that Beck is a Scientologist.” [..]
“When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.” [..]
“Congratulations everyone. We did it. We managed to make blue skies completely terrifying.”
It’s all in how you define “imminent.”
May 09 2014
Obama Court Nominee OK’d Targeted Assassinations
This week Senator Rand Paul has threatened to filibuster President Barack Obama’s nominee to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The nomination of David Barron, who was a Justice Department lawyer at the start of the administration and is now a Harvard Law School professor was the author of the contentious memo that authorized the assassination of an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki.
(M)embers of both parties say they are disturbed by Mr. Barron’s authorship of legal memos that justified the United States’ killing of an American citizen overseas with a drone.
The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to all 100 senators on Monday urging them to put off a vote on Mr. Barron’s confirmation until the White House allowed them to read all of his writings on the drone program. [..]
The A.C.L.U.’s objections, along with the announcement by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, that he would use his power to slow down the confirmation unless the administration released one of the legal memos written by Mr. Barron, raised fresh questions on Capitol Hill on Monday about whether the nomination would survive. [..]
Two Democrats who are up for re-election in states where Republicans have a political edge – Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana – are said to be unsure if they will vote yes on Mr. Barron.
A court has ordered the administration to release some of Mr. Barron’s legal work as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. But White House lawyers have not done so while they weigh whether to appeal. Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat who is in a tight race, said Monday that he would vote no unless the White House released what the court ordered.
Republicans are not alone in their objections of this nominee. Democrats, who are up for reelection and those who have questioned the administration’s legal right to assassinated American citizens without due process and the drone program, have expressed doubts about voting to confirm Mr. Barron
But with so many Democrats concerned about the administration’s drone policy, sufficient support for Barron is uncertain. Senate leaders have yet to set a vote on his nomination to join the appeals court with jurisdiction over federal cases in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. He faces opposition from a mix of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans concerned with his involvement in establishing the administration’s drone policy.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee and a frequent critic of Obama’s counterterrorism policies, said Thursday that “the public has a right to know” the administration’s justification for drone strikes on American citizens.
“To me, the central question has always been on intelligence matters,” Wyden told reporters. “There is a difference between secret operations. They have to be kept secret, because otherwise Americans can die and be hurt. But the rules and the underlying policies — those ought to be public.”
Other Democrats, including Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Mark Udall (Colo.), have also expressed concern about Barron’s work and this week called for the public release of Barron’s memos.
Marcy Wheeler of emptywheel, writing for The Week, weighs in on why Sen. Paul’s threat of filibuster should be taken seriously
Eleven years ago, the Senate confirmed Jay Bybee to a lifetime appointment on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. At the time, almost no senators knew about – much less had reviewed the contents of – a set of memos authorizing torture that Bybee had signed when he was head of the OLC in 2002. Paul is trying to prevent similarly rewarding Barron before senators can review the legal arguments he made authorizing another troubling executive branch action: killing an American citizen with no due process.
Barron, who is currently a Harvard Law School professor, served as the acting head of the OLC from 2009 until 2010. The office provides legal advice to executive branch agencies that can provide (usually secret) legal sanction for controversial positions.
A July 16, 2010, memo written by Barron authorizing the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the extremist Yemeni-American cleric, is one such opinion. Awlaki died in a CIA drone strike (along with Samir Khan, another American citizen who had become an extremist propagandist) on Sept. 30, 2011. [..]
Eventually, at least 31 members of Congress made at least 23 attempts to obtain the memo permitting the executive branch to kill an American citizen with no due process. Most of Congress still hasn’t seen it. [..]
Paul may have the courts on his side. He invoked an April 21 decision by New York’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that the government must release a redacted version of the memo to the ACLU and two New York Times reporters who had sued in 2011 to enforce a Freedom of Information Act request for the memo. The court order makes it easier to for Paul to call for a public release, rather than just a release to Congress. [..]
Four years ago, David Barron opened a Pandora’s box, giving presidents an inadequately limited authority to kill Americans outside all normal judicial process. As Paul notes in his letter, it would simply be “irresponsible” for the Senate to confirm his nomination without discovering what the memo could reveal about his views on due process, civil liberties, and international law. In a letter to all 100 senators, the ACLU echoed this language, recalling the precedent of Jay Bybee. “No senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge without being able to read Mr. Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.”
The Senate took such an irresponsible step in 2003 with Jay Bybee. It can avoid that mistake here.
Instead of appointing those who justify torture, rendition and assassinations to hight courts, we should be looking into their criminal culpability in the crimes that they are justifying in their legal briefs. Yet those briefs and memos remain classified as our representatives are asked to appoint these people to high positions for life.
Apr 10 2014
This is #NotABugSplat
Click on image to enlarge.
In military slang, Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.
To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.
The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in order to make it a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites.
Pakistan 2004-2014 CIA Drone Strikes
Total strikes: 383
Obama strikes: 332
Total killed: 2,296-3,718
Civilians killed: 416-957
Children killed: 168-202
New bill would force Barack Obama to publish US drone strike casualties
by Jack Serle, Bureau of Investigative Journalism
A bipartisan Bill that would force President Obama to reveal casualties from covert US drone strikes has been put before the US Congress.
If successful, the bill would require the White House to publish an annual report of casualties from covert US drone strikes.
The reports would include the total number of combatants killed or injured, the total number of civilians killed or injured, and the total number of people killed or injured by drones who are not counted as combatants or civilians.
The Bill would also compel the White House to reveal how it defines combatants and civilians in its covert drone war.
Past time to stop this wanton killing. It won’t win the nebulous, never ending “war on terror.”
Aug 20 2013
CIA: True Confessions
The Central Intelligence Agency has decided to “come clean” about what most of already knew. Through a Freedom of Information Act by Foreign Policy, it has been confirmed that the CIA spied on famed activist and linguist Noam Chomsky in the 1970’s.
For years, FOIA requests to the CIA garnered the same denial: “We did not locate any records responsive to your request.” The denials were never entirely credible, given Chomsky’s brazen anti-war activism in the 60s and 70s — and the CIA’s well-documented track record of domestic espionage in the Vietnam era. But the CIA kept denying, and many took the agency at its word.
Now, a public records request by Chomsky biographer Fredric Maxwell reveals a memo between the CIA and the FBI that confirms the existence of a CIA file on Chomsky.
Dated June 8, 1970, the memo discusses Chomsky’s anti-war activities and asks the FBI for more information about an upcoming trip by anti-war activists to North Vietnam. The memo’s author, a CIA official, says the trip has the “ENDORSEMENT OF NOAM CHOMSKY” and requests “ANY INFORMATION” about the people associated with the trip. request by Foreign Policy, the CIA finally admitted spying on famed activist and linguist Noam Chomsky in the 1970’s.
The CIA also admitted that while they had created a file, it had also been tampered with and destroyed at an unknown time. The destruction of the file may be in violation the Federal Records Act of 1950, requiring all federal agencies to obtain advance approval from the National Archives for any proposed record disposition plans. The Archives is tasked with preserving records with “historical value.” Maybe the dog ate the file.
The other not so surprising confession was the agency’s direct involvement, along with the British, in the 1953 Iranina coup that deposed the democratically elected government
Declassified documents describe in detail how US – with British help – engineered coup against Mohammad Mosaddeq
On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.
“The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.
The documents, published on the archive’s website under freedom of information laws, describe in detail how the US – with British help – engineered the coup, codenamed TPAJAX by the CIA and Operation Boot by Britain’s MI6.
Britain, and in particular Sir Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, regarded Mosaddeq as a serious threat to its strategic and economic interests after the Iranian leader nationalised the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, latterly known as BP. But the UK needed US support. The Eisenhower administration in Washington was easily persuaded.
This is one of those “no, duh” moments that we have always known was true and is now confirmed.
Yes, folks, it was and still is all about the oil. Forget the spin about Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program that doesn’t exist or the supposed threat to Israel, it’s all about who controls those oil fields. And the CIA is just another tax funded arm of the corporations that control the rest of the world’s government.
But there are no aliens in Area 51. Yeah, right.
Jul 26 2013
Yemeni Journalist Freed Over Obama’s Objections
by Tom McCarthy, The Guardian
Abdulelah Haider Shaye, imprisoned on charges of being an al-Qaida operative, reportedly had pardon revoked by US request
A Yemeni journalist who was kept in prison for years at the apparent request of the Obama administration has been released in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, according to local reports.
Abdulelah Haider Shaye was imprisoned in 2010, after reporting that an attack on a suspected al-Qaida training camp in southern Yemen for which the Yemeni government claimed responsibility had actually been carried out by the United States. Shaye had visited the site and discovered pieces of cruise missiles and cluster bombs not found in Yemen’s arsenal, according to a Jeremy Scahill dispatch in the Nation. [..]
by Jack Mirkinson, The Huffington Post
Jeremy Scahill blasted the Obama administration on Thursday for its opposition to the release of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye from prison. [..]
Shaye was finally freed on Tuesday; the White House said it was “concerned and disappointed” about the release.
Speaking on “Democracy Now,” Scahill said that Shaye had been imprisoned “because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children, and the United States had tried to cover it up.” He harshly criticized Obama for pressing for his continued imprisonment.
“My question for the White House would be you want to co-sign a dictator’s arrest of a journalist, beating of a journalist, and conviction in a court that every human rights organization in the world has said was a sham court?” he said. “That’s the side that the White House is on right now. Not on the side of press freedom around the world. They’re on the side of locking up journalists who have the audacity to actually be journalists.”
Transcript can be read here
Jun 05 2013
Obama’s War on Journalists Yemeni Style
Since he took office, President Barack Obama has prosecuted six whistleblowers using the Espionage Act of 1917, something no other president has done. In recent months, with total disregard for the First Amendment and freedom of the press, he has now gone after journalists with secret subpoenas and warrants, but this is nothing new. Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim would like you to meet Abdulelah Haider Shaye:
James Rosen got off easy. After searching his email and tracking his whereabouts, the Department of Justice has not jailed or prosecuted the Fox News journalist, which the Obama administration says reflects its deep respect for the role of a free press. On Thursday, a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement that “the Department does not anticipate bringing any additional charges. During the Attorney General’s tenure, no reporter has ever been prosecuted.”
The Obama administration gave no such leniency to Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist who had access to top officials in the militant Islamist group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and reported on evidence that the United States had conducted a missile strike in al Majala for which the Yemeni government had claimed credit.
After Shaye was initially imprisoned for alleged involvement with AQAP in 2010, supporters pressed for his release, and word leaked that the Yemeni president was going to issue a pardon. In early 2011, Obama personally intervened. “President Obama expressed concern over the release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai, who had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP,” reads a summary of the call posted on the White House website.
At his discussion of his new book and documentary, “Dirty Wars,” Jeremy Scahill spoke about about Shaye. In an article for The Nation in March 2012, he wrote about Shaye’s risks to interview Al Qaeda leaders, his interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki and his reporting on the US bombing of al-Majalah, a impoverished Yemeni village killing 46 people mostly women and children.
Unlike most journalists covering Al Qaeda, Shaye risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al Qaeda and to interview its leaders. He also conducted several interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Shaye did the last known interview with Awlaki just before it was revealed that Awlaki, a US citizen, was on a CIA/JSOC hit list. “We were only exposed to Western media and Arab media funded by the West, which depicts only one image of Al Qaeda,” recalls his best friend Kamal Sharaf, a well-known dissident Yemeni political cartoonist. “But Abdulelah brought a different viewpoint.”
Shaye had no reverence for Al Qaeda, but viewed the group as an important story, according to Sharaf. Shaye was able to get access to Al Qaeda figures in part due to his relationship, through marriage, to the radical Islamic cleric Abdul Majid al Zindani, the founder of Iman University and a US Treasury Department-designated terrorist. While Sharaf acknowledged that Shaye used his connections to gain access to Al Qaeda, he adds that Shaye also “boldly” criticized Zindani and his supporters: “He said the truth with no fear.”
While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”
Shortly after that article was published, Scahill and Mohamed Abdel Dayem, coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, appeared in this segment of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, questioning Obama’s motives for keeping Shaye imprisoned.
Grim hopes that with the release of the documentary “Dirty Wars,” the start of PVT Bradley Manning’s trial and the Rosen issue, that Shaye’s case will get some attention.
Shaye’s trial in Yemen was widely considered a farce. Without the Obama administration presenting its own evidence, it’s difficult to know what President Obama meant by Shaye’s “association” with AQAP. Al Mawri said that Yemen’s former president was furious at Shaye for exposing the civilian deaths at al Majala and fed the United States false information to implicate him as a terrorist. Now, Yemen’s current president has reportedly promised to pardon Shaye, but the White House is still relying on what the past president told them. [..]
Shaye is not an obscure journalist. He contributed reporting to The Washington Post and other major media outlets regularly, including with regard to al-Awlaki. He was often critical of al Qaeda, the U.S. government and the Yemeni government.
Despite the reports of a possible pardon, Shaye’s family and supporters remain doubtful.
This is just some of what Wikileaks had exposed about our government and our so-called Democratic president.