Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
And Thomas Frank thinks that Krugman was unrealistically generous in his assessment. I agree with Frank.
Also, the US embraces cruelty as a way to treat prisoners. It feels to me that the US has lost its way. Charlie Savage writes in the NY Times:
When the Bush administration revealed in 2005 that it was secretly interpreting a treaty ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” as not applying to C.I.A. and military prisons overseas, Barack Obama, then a newly elected Democratic senator from Illinois, joined in a bipartisan protest.
Mr. Obama supported legislation to make it clear that American officials were legally barred from using cruelty anywhere in the world. And in a Senate speech, he said enacting such a statute “acknowledges and confirms existing obligations” under the treaty, the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view. It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.
The administration must decide on its stance on the treaty by next month, when it sends a delegation to Geneva to appear before theCommittee Against Torture, a United Nations panel that monitors compliance with the treaty. That presentation will be the first during Mr. Obama’s presidency. . .
You’ll notice Obama’s pattern: take one position in order achieve his goals, reverse his position once he’s gotten what he wants. For example, Obama’s solemn pledge to vote against telecom immunity from lawsuits regarding their illegal wiretaps stimulated a lot of support for him. Then he did vote in favor of telecom immunity. As the torture posturing shows, Obama cannot be trusted even to follow the law (the Convention Against Torture, which he ignores by not investigating and prosecuting those who authorized and delivered torture to prisoners held by the US).
Obviously, nowadays many believe that the US cannot survive as a free and democratic nation if we do not allow our law enforcement and military officials to torture prisoners and treat the untortured with cruelty. Such people have unreasonable confidence that those tactics will not be used on them.
It’s easy to see why. Read this whole story, and think about iceberg visibility or about pulling just one thread on the coat… for want of a nail. This thing has the potential to uncover quite a bit.
Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler have an excellent article in The Nation, which Margaret Sullivan points out in the column mentioned in my previous post. The article is good enough that I wanted to highlight it. The article begins:
Ever since New York Times reporter James Risen received his first subpoena from the Justice Department more than six years ago, occasional news reports have skimmed the surface of a complex story. The usual gloss depicts a conflict between top officials who want to protect classified information and a journalist who wants to protect confidential sources. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sterling—a former undercover CIA officer now facing charges under the Espionage Act, whom the feds want Risen to identify as his source—is cast as a disgruntled ex-employee in trouble for allegedly spilling the classified beans.
But the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of US foreign policy. The recent announcement of Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general has come after nearly five years of the Obama administration extending and intensifying the use of the Justice Department for retribution against investigative journalism and whistleblowing.
Official enmity toward Risen had simmered for years before the Bush administration sent him a subpoena on January 24, 2008. Shortly before the 2004 presidential election, Risen and his colleague Eric Lichtblau put together breakthrough reporting on a warrantless domestic-wiretap program. As it sometimes does with stories deemed sensitive for national security, the Times notified the government of its intent to publish. But under strong pressure from White House officials—including some later implicated in the legally suspect program—Times editors delayed the story’s publication for over a year, until December 2005. The coverage won Risen and Lichtblau a Pulitzer Prize for “carefully sourced stories on secret domestic eavesdropping that stirred a national debate.” It was the kind of debate that the people running the US surveillance state had been desperate to avoid.
The belated publication of those stories came just before Risen brought out a book that contained reporting on the wiretap program and several other sinister initiatives under categories like “counterterrorism” and “counterproliferation.” On January 13, 2006, the week after Risen’s book State of War reached the stores, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a news conference that an investigation into the Times wiretap stories was under way and that “it’s too early to make decisions regarding whether or not reporters should go to jail.” Though not apparent at the time, facts later emerged to show that Gonzales was implicated in the illegal wiretapping that Risen exposed. (As White House counsel, Gonzales had authorized continued operation of the program after the Justice Department refused to do so.)
It turned out that the Justice Department was not able to prosecute any whistleblower or make legal trouble for any journalist in connection with the wiretap revelations. But as attorney general—an office he assumed in early 2005—Gonzales ran the department as it collected information that would not only jeopardize the confidentiality of Risen’s sources but also impede his ongoing reporting. Risen’s book, a bestseller, included a chapter that became the ostensible reason for the series of subpoenas and legal threats that have been aimed at Risen since George W. Bush began his final year in the Oval Office.
Under Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama’s Justice Department took up where the Bush DOJ left off. Risen received a second subpoena for grand-jury testimony in late April 2010. As he noted in a mid-2011 affidavit, “It was my reporting, both in The New York Times and my book State of War, that revealed that the Bush Administration had, in all likelihood, violated the law and the United States Constitution by secretly conducting warrantless domestic wiretapping on American citizens.” At the White House and the Justice Department, he remained unforgiven.
Anger at Risen also endured at the CIA, where officials have loathed his way of flipping over their rocks. Former head CIA lawyer John Rizzo singles out Risen for condemnation in a memoir this year, writing that inside the agency “he has had a reputation for being irresponsible and sneaky.” State of War, which depicted the agency’s leadership as inept and dangerous, only stoked that antipathy.
Some high-ranking individuals have been mainstays in the continuation of policies that Risen exposed in his book. John Brennan—President Obama’s former counterterrorism czar and now CIA director—has been at notable cross-purposes with both Risen and Sterling for more than a decade. Brennan was a senior CIA official when the agency rolled out its torture program under Bush, which came under intense public scrutiny after the use of waterboarding was revealed in a May 13, 2004, front-page Times story with Risen as the lead reporter. And Brennan played a key role in the illegal wiretap program, overseeing the production of what personnel in the program called the “scary memos” intended to justify the domestic spying exposed by Risen. (Brennan has since admitted that he relied on intelligence from the CIA’s interrogation programs to develop such memos, and his tenure in that role spanned the period when the CIA used its most extreme torture.)
As for Sterling, Brennan played a role in his unhappy departure from the CIA a dozen years ago. In 2000, Sterling filed a discrimination complaint within the agency, asserting that he had been denied certain assignments because of his race. (Sterling was one of the CIA’s few African-American officers.) Brennan, as deputy executive director, was involved in rejecting Sterling’s claim. Sterling responded by suing the CIA; he was fired in 2002. The CIA rebuffed a number of settlement offers and then won dismissal of the entire lawsuit in 2004 after claiming that the litigation would expose state secrets.In early March 2003, Sterling met with two Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to report that Operation Merlin—the CIA’s ill-conceived and bungled effort in 2000 to use a former Russian scientist to pass flawed nuclear-weapons blueprints to Iran—may have helped Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The government concedes that Sterling went through proper channels when he “disclosed classified information” to committee staff. (In court documents, the prosecution has complained that Sterling was unfairly critical of that operation when he spoke to committee staffers.)
The New York Times was even more deferential to government pressure on the Operation Merlin story than it was with its fourteen-month delay of the warrantless wiretap scoop: it never published the Merlin story, which finally reached the public via Risen’s book after remaining bottled up at the paper of record for more than two years. Later, in an affidavit responding to his third subpoena, which was issued on May 23, 2011, Risen said that he included the exposé of Operation Merlin in his book to help prevent another trumped-up war: “I realized that U.S. intelligence on Iran’s supposed weapons of mass destruction was so flawed, and that the information I had was so important, that this was a story that the public had to know about before yet another war was launched.”
Alarm bells had gone off as soon as the National Security Council got a bootlegged copy of State of War before its publication. . .
Continue reading. It has important content.
A good column by the Public Editor of the NY Times, Margaret Sullivan:
Readers of this blog may know that I’m particularly interested in the situation involving James Risen, a Times investigative reporter who is at risk of going to jail to protect a confidential source from his 2006 book, “State of War.”
What’s happened to Mr. Risen is one of the two most telling journalism episodes of the past decade or so, the other being the Edward Snowden leak. They share common themes, of course: the growth of post-9/11 government surveillance in America and the role of the National Security Agency in spying on American citizens, among others. (I interviewed Mr. Risen at his home in suburban Maryland last year about his and fellow Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau’s, extraordinary warrantless-wiretapping story that was delayed for 13 months, finally appearing in 2005; it won a Pulitzer Prize.)
There have been some developments in the Risen story — and some fascinating coverage. I’ll summarize them here and comment only to say that I admire Mr. Risen’s toughness and a great deal of his work.
1. Thomas E. Ricks, in Monday’s Times, gives a generally favorable review to Mr. Risen’s new book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.” . . .
The second resource she mentions is definitely worth a click:
2. CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” ran a comprehensive story on Mr. Risen’s legal situation over the weekend. It included an interview with Michael Hayden, the former N.S.A. director in which he said he thought the government was overdoing its pursuit of Mr. Risen. “Frankly,” he told the interviewer, Lesley Stahl, “I don’t understand the necessity to pursue Jim.” The transcript, which includes comments from former executive editors Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, is worth reading.
UPDATE: See also this Salon interview with James Risen.
If one has procurement authority for an organization, it’s doubtless tempting to form some corporation (or have your spouse do it) and then order equipment and supplies and services from that company—which, indeed, can simply act as a broker, taking a cut and then passing the orders to third parties. For obvious reasons, most companies do not allow that. The NSA, though?
Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:
A new report suggests that a high-ranking NSA official may have a profitable side-gig in the “electronics” business.
Last month a Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston published a story documenting potential self-dealing by the head NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, Teresa O’Shea. O’Shea happens to be married to the Vice President of DRS Signal Solutions – a company which circumstantial evidence suggests was the beneficiary of significant contracting work from the agency.
Now, it looks as though in addition to her work at the NSA, O’Shea might be a successful businessperson in her own right:
“Yet another company, apparently focused on the office and electronics business, is based at the Shea residence on that well-tended lot. This company is called Oplnet LLC.
Teresa Shea, who has been at the NSA since 1984, is the company’s resident agent. The company’s articles of organization….show that the firm was established in 1999 primarily “to buy, sell, rent and lease office and electronic equipment and related goods and services.
Records show Oplnet does own a six-seat airplane, as well a condominium property with an assessed value of $275,000 in the resort town of Hilton Head, South Carolina.”
O’Shea’s company has apparently procured a “1972 Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft” which for some reason has been flying all over the country over the past several years. It’s unclear what these flights have been about, but the destinations include Hilton Head, where the condominium is located and which BuzzFeed conspicuously describes as a “resort town.” As of now there is no evidence that O’Shea’s company has done work for the federal government.
The NSA declined to comment to Buzzfeed about this story. But with the potential suggestion of high-level corruption in the agency, it’s clear that that some answers are going to be needed. After all, if top NSA officials are apparently spending their time running secret side-businesses, it’s going to be difficult for them to focus on their day jobs of spying on American citizens and eroding the country’s civil liberties.
Because they never suffer any real punishment. Alan Pyke writes at ThinkProgress:
A high-speed trading company the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) believes committed fraud will pay $1 million to put the matter to rest — without admitting or denying the charges.
Athena Capital Research created a computer program that abused the way Nasdaq calculates the closing price of stocks and resolves outstanding buy and sell orders on each trading day, according to the SEC, in order to manipulate the market and earn fraudulent profits. Despite holding just $40 million in assets in the fund that was allegedly using the fraudulent market-rigging tactics, Athena “dominated the market in the last few seconds of a trading day” thanks to a program it dubbed “Gravy.”
The settlement documents do not say how much Athena netted from the alleged violations or provide any information about how the parties arrived at the one million dollar figure. The agency declined to comment on the sum, on its policies about settlements in cases like this one, and on the decision to allow Athena to pay without conceding that it had broken the rules or even agreeing that the SEC’s version of events is accurate.
Two of the most senior SEC officials labeled Athena’s conduct “fraud” in the press release announcing the deal. “Traders today can certainly use complex algorithms and take advantage of cutting-edge technology, but what happened here was fraud,” Enforcement Division Director Andrew Ceresney said.
Ceresney’s boss, SEC Chair Mary Jo White, has defended high-frequency trading as a business model against high-profile charges that the practice has produced stock markets that are rigged against the average investor. She also condemned Athena’s conduct on Thursday. “When high-frequency traders cross the line and engage in fraud we will pursue them as we do with anyone who manipulates the markets,” she said. . .