Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
Laura Poitras et al. report at The Intercept:
On a December night in 2011, a terrible thing happened on Mount Cudi, near the Turkish-Iraqi border. One side described it as a massacre; the other called it an accident.
Several Turkish F-16 fighter jets bombed a caravan of villagers that night, apparently under the belief that they were guerilla fighters with the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The group was returning from northern Iraq and their mules were loaded down with fuel canisters and other cargo. They turned out to be smugglers, not PKK fighters. Some 34 people died in the attack.
An American Predator drone flying overhead had detected the group, prompting U.S. analysts to alert their Turkish partners.
The reconnaissance flight—which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2012—and its tragic consequences provided an important insight into the very tight working relationship between American and Turkish intelligence services in the fight against Kurdish separatists. Although the PKK is still considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, its image has been improved radically by its recent success in fighting ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria. PKK fighters—backed by U.S. airstrikes—are on the front lines against the jihadist movement there, and some in the West are now advocating arming the group and lifting its terrorist label.
Documents from the archive of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden that Der Spiegel and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The U.S. government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows, and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.
At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, D.C., has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.
Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the future NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s. . .
Not the CIA torture tapes, though: those were carefully destroyed. But these photos.
Read this and think about where it’s going. This is happening now. Russia has officially invaded the Ukraine.
I hope we don’t just blunder into catastrophe à la the Great War.
Joanna Rothkopf reports in Salon:
The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recently concluded its 85th Session during which time it considered seven state reports, including one on the United States.
The report praised many progressive steps the U.S. has taken to ensure equality, including the termination of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, the adoption of the Fair Sentencing Act and the adoption of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
However, the number of issues the report raises is pretty abominable. CERD expressed concern over the following problems:
- Lack of a national human rights institution
- Persistent racial profiling and illegal surveillance
- Prevalence and under-reporting of racist hate speech and hate crimes
- Disparate impact of environmental pollution in low income and minority communities
- Restrictive voter identification laws leading to unequal right to vote
- Criminalization of homelessness when homeless people are disproportionately minorities
- Discrimination and segregation in housing
- De facto racial segregation in education
- Unequal right to health and access to health care
- High number of gun-related deaths and “Stand Your Ground” laws, which disproportionately affect members of racial and ethnic minorities
- Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
- Increasingly militarized approach to immigration law enforcement
- Violence against women occurs disproportionately more frequently for women from racial/ethnic minorities
- Criminal justice system disproportionately arrests, incarcerates and subjects to harsher sentences people from racial/ethnic minorities
- Youth from racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately prosecuted as adults, incarcerated in adult prisons, and sentenced to life without parole
- Non-citizens are arbitrarily detained in Guantanamo Bay without equal access to the criminal justice system, while at risk of being subjected to torture
- Unequal access to legal aid
- Lacking rights of indigenous peoples (the report lists numerous different concerns)
- Absence of a National Action Plan to combat racial discrimination
In a press conference convened Friday, CERD committee vice chairman Noureddine Amir highlighted the death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown: . . .
Obama really seems to endorse torture—not by his words, but by his actions. First, he refused to take ANY steps against those who responsible for ordering and/or implementing a systematic system of torture by the CIA. Then he allowed all the videos of the interrogations during torture to be destroyed. And now he is giving the CIA free rein to redact and revise the Senate report as they see fit.
Obama will be judged harshly by history (as will Congress: it’s not just Obama who is at fault).
Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor report for McClatchy:
The background of a key negotiator in the battle over a Senate report on the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture has sparked concerns about the Obama administration’s objectivity in handling the study’s public release.
Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.
Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.
“It does not cross the very low bar that the profession sets for an impermissible conflict of interest,” said Jack Marshall, the president and founder of ProEthics Ltd., a national ethics consulting and training company that has provided seminars to government lawyers, including those employed by the CIA. “But it is the kind of conflict of interest that should be avoided at all costs. The government has to be held to a higher standard.”
Litt, who’s now 64, was confirmed to his post by the U.S. Senate in 2009, contingent upon his agreement to recuse himself from situations that involved his former clients. He referred to the potential conflict in his responses to the Intelligence panel’s questions for the record, submitted during the course of his confirmation process.
“I represent several present and former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency in matters relating to the detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists,” Litt wrote to the committee in 2009. “By statute, under the rules of ethics and by virtue of my ethics agreement that has been provided to the committee, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving these clients . . . including decisions about similarly situated individuals.”
Despite his 2009 testimony, though, Litt has found himself in the middle of a heated dispute over a program that, according to his testimony, involved several of his former clients.
Litt’s prior representations, however, didn’t seem to bother Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and who approved the arrangement. [This is a very bad sign: Dianne Feinstein is a great protector of the CIA in general and torture in particular. - LG]
“I spoke with Bob Litt about this matter and believe he will be fair, and negotiations thus far have shown that to be the case,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The DNI’s designated ethics official has reviewed the situation and determined there is no conflict that would necessitate a recusal.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed Feinstein’s approval and denied that Litt’s involvement violated his prior testimony. . .
Litt should recuse himself, or (better) be assigned to another department entirely—say, the Civil Aeronautics Board.
The fact that Obama is allowing Litt to serve shows quite clearly that Obama is part of the cover-up effort (as does his refusal to investigate the allegations of torture).
An interesting bit of US surveillance history, from Ars Technica by Cyrus Farivar:
One thing sits at the heart of what many consider a surveillance state within the US today.
The problem does not begin with political systems that discourage transparency or technologies that can intercept everyday communications without notice. Like everything else in Washington, there’s a legal basis for what many believe is extreme government overreach—in this case, it’s Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981.
“12333 is used to target foreigners abroad, and collection happens outside the US,” whistleblower John Tye, a former State Department official, told Ars recently. “My complaint is not that they’re using it to target Americans, my complaint is that the volume of incidental collection on US persons is unconstitutional.”
The document, known in government circles as “twelve triple three,” gives incredible leeway to intelligence agencies sweeping up vast quantities of Americans’ data. That data ranges from e-mail content to Facebook messages, from Skype chats to practically anything that passes over the Internet on an incidental basis. In other words, EO 12333 protects the tangential collection of Americans’ data even when Americans aren’t specifically targeted—otherwise it would be forbidden under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.
In a May 2014 interview with NBC, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said that he specifically asked his colleagues at the NSA whether an executive order could override existing statutes. (They said it could not.) Snowden’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, told Ars that her client was specifically “referring to EO 12333.”
Thirty-year NSA veteran William Binney told Ars that drastic measures such as the NSA’s Fairview program—described by other intelligence whistleblowers as the NSA’s project to “own the Internet”—are also authorized under EO 12333.
“This program was started at least back in 2001 and has expanded to between 80 and 100 tap points on the fiber optic lines in the lower 48 states,” he said by e-mail. “Most of these fiber optic tap points are not on the East or West coast. This means that the primary target of this collection is domestic… Most collection of US domestic communications and data is done under EO 12333, section 2.3 paragraph C in the Upstream program. They claim, near as I can tell, that all domestic collection is incidental. That’s, of course, the vast majority of data.”
Specifically, that subsection allows the intelligence community to “collect, retain, or disseminate information concerning United States persons” if that information is “obtained in the course of a lawful foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, international narcotics or international terrorism investigation.”‘
The path to EO 12333
Executive orders vary widely. One of the most famous executive orders, the Emancipation Proclamation, freed slaves in the United States under President Abraham Lincoln. A more infamous example came under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who issued an executive order to intern Japanese-Americans in prison camps in 1942.
President Ronald Reagan signed EO 12333 within his first year in office, 1981, largely as a response to the perceived weakening of the American intelligence apparatus by his two immediate predecessors, Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Later, EO 12333 was amended three times by President George W. Bush between 2003 and 2008. . .
Continue reading. The article includes this quote from EO 12333:
EO 12333, SECTION 2.3 PARAGRAPH
2.3 Collection of Information. Agencies within the Intelligence Community are authorized to collect, retain, or disseminate information concerning United States persons only in accordance with procedures established by the head of the agency concerned and approved by the Attorney General, consistent with the authorities provided by Part 1 of this Order. Those procedures shall permit collection, retention, and dissemination of the following types of information:(a) Information that is publicly available or collected with the consent of the person concerned;
(b) Information constituting foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, including such information concerning corporations or other commercial organizations. Collection within the United States of foreign intelligence not otherwise obtainable shall be undertaken by the FBI or, when significant foreign intelligence is sought, by other authorized agencies of the Intelligence Community, provided that no foreign intelligence collection by such agencies may be undertaken for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons;
(c) Information obtained in the course of a lawful foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, international narcotics or international terrorism investigation;
Jesse Eisinger writes in ProPublica:
Admitting a problem, as the cliché has it, is the first step to solving it. But with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, admissions of wrongdoing have been the last step. There’s much work to be done to hold giant corporations accountable for their misdeeds.
Over the last few years, the Justice Department and the S.E.C. have been assailed for delivering lashings to corporate malefactors that resemble a fanning with palm fronds. In response, the Justice Department and the S.E.C. would like us to think that they received the message and got tough. This summer, the Justice Department forced Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas to plead guilty to crimes. In some of its recent settlements, the S.E.C. has been requiring individuals and corporations admit that they did something wrong.
Such public statements of contrition have some degree of usefulness. It’s almost ridiculous that we consider it progress by merely forcing bad actors to admit the truth — but it is. For years, the Justice Department relied on deferred or non-prosecution agreements, requiring corporations to write big checks but face little or no other consequences. For years, the S.E.C.’s settlements by default included boilerplate clauses where the accused could pay up without either admitting or denying the charges. (Alas, the progress has been halting and the Doctrine of Immaculate Settlements is alive and well: Just last month, Morgan Stanleysettled with the agency for misleading investors in two residential mortgage-backed securities the firm sold. But, whoops, the agency forgot to get any admission of wrongdoing.)
Compelling an admission is merely the first vertebra of the spine insertion surgery. The problem with the Justice Department’s guilty pleas is that they lead to no further business consequences. And the new S.E.C. admissions policy doesn’t require defendants to cop to anything specific.
The S.E.C.’s action against the hedge fund manager Philip Falcone was the first big public “apology” case. As Jonathan Weil pointed out in a Bloomberg View column at the time, Mr. Falcone “admitted to a long list of facts that certainly look awful,” such as secretly borrowing $133 million from his hedge fund to pay his taxes. But he didn’t admit to breaking any specific laws.
That’s not how things work for criminals. . .