Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
SEC employees get notified of companies scheduled for investigation and dump their stocks, generally before the company’s stock sinks on news that it’s under investigation. Why do SEC employees even control their stock holdings? Haven’t they heard of a blind trust?
CIA: We Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee Only Because They Took Classified Documents That Prove We’re Liars
At the time I did not think John Brennan was a good pick for director of the CIA. His predecessor, Leon Panetta, is well respected and was not involved in the CIA during its program of torture. Panetta did allow evidence to be destroyed (92 videotapes of torture sessions) with no punishment for the CIA officer who obstructed justice—or would have obstructed justice had Obama shown one-tenth the prosecutorial zeal he’s shown in the case of Edward Snowden, who unfortunately for him does not have the wealth and connections that protect those who instituted and ran the US torture program. (For those, Obama elected to just let it go: “Look forward, not back,” a sentiment he has yet to express regarding Snowden.)
Brennan was highly involved in the torture program and naturally enough wants to avoid accountability, so he is fighting against the release of the report prepared under Panetta, who had no ax to grind. The problem with the Panetta report that the Senate committee now has is that it shows that the report prepared by Brennan is packed with self-serving lies.
Earlier this week, we wrote about the accusations that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee as they were working on a massive $40 million, 6,300-page report condemning the CIA’s torture program. The DOJ is apparently already investigating if the CIA violated computer hacking laws in spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The issue revolved around a draft of an internal review by the CIA, which apparently corroborates many of the Senate report’s findings — but which the CIA did not hand over to the Senate. This internal report not only supports the Senate report’s findings, but also shows that the CIA has been lying in response to questions about the terror program.
In response to all of this, it appears that the CIA is attempting, weakly, to spin this as being the Senate staffers’ fault, arguing that the real breach was the fact that the Senate staffers somehow broke the rules in obtaining that internal review. CIA boss John Brennan’s statement hints at the fact that he thinks the real problem was with the way the staffers acted, suggesting that an investigation would fault “the legislative” branch (the Senate) rather than the executive (the CIA).
In his statement on Wednesday Brennan hit back in unusually strong terms. “I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan said.
“I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch,” Brennan continued, raising a suggestion that the Senate committee itself might have acted improperly.
A further report detailed what he’s talking about. Reporters at McClatchy have revealed that the Senate staffers working on this came across the document, printed it out, and simply walked out of the CIA and over to the Senate with it, and the CIA is furious about that. Then, in a moment of pure stupidity, the CIA appears to have confronted the Senate Intelligence Committee about all of this… directly revealing that they were spying on the Committee staffers.
Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.
They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.
The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.
“All this goes back to what is the technical structure here,” said the U.S. official who confirmed the unauthorized removal. “If I was a Senate staffer and I was given access to documents on the system, I would have a laptop that’s cleared. I would be allowed to look at these documents. But with these sorts of things, there’s generally an agreement that you can’t download or take them.”
The CIA discovered the security breach and brought it to the committee’s attention in January, leading to a determination that the agency recorded the staffers’ use of the computers in the high-security research room, and then confirmed the breach by reviewing the usage data, said the knowledgeable person.
There are many more details in the McClatchy report, which I highly recommend reading. And, yes, perhaps there’s an argument that Senate staffers weren’t supposed to take such documents, but the CIA trying to spin this by saying it was those staffers who were engaged in “wrongdoing” is almost certainly going to fall flat with Congress. After all, the intelligence committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, not the other way around. “You stole the documents we were hiding from you which proved we were lying, so we spied on you to find out how you did that” is not, exactly, the kind of argument that too many people are going to find compelling.
Still, the latest is that the CIA has successfully convinced the DOJ to have the FBI kick off an investigation of the Senate staffers, rather than of the CIA breaking the law and spying on their overseers. . .
I don’t think the US would simply accept it if Allied Afghan troops mistakenly killed 5 US troops—but maybe we would.
Many people seem still to be angry that Edward Snowden revealed to us the surveillance state in which we now live. Most of those people, I suspect, have yet to be questioned about their sex life because of private messages they sent. James Fallows pointed out this article at “Papers, Please.”
At first blush, a lawsuit filed last week by the ACLU on behalf of a sociology professor at Indiana University wrongly detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection seems to be about whether CBP is exceeding the limitations on its police powers, and detaining US citizens for purposes unrelated to customs and borders.
That’s bad, but unsurprising in light of the history of abuse of limited administrative search powers as a pretext for unrelated police purposes by CBP and other DHS components, notably the TSA.
What’s more unusual, however, is the complaint that the DHS is using email messages, presumably obtained from the NSA (unless the DHS has some email interception program of its own) as the basis for detention and interrogation of US citizens who aren’t trying to travel or ship any goods across US borders.
And what was the subject of this warrantless custodial interrogation of a non-traveling US citizen by armed “Customs and Border Protection” officers, based on email intercepts? Her sex life.
No, we’re not making this up.
Professor Christine Von Der Haar of Indiana University tells the story in her complaint, in an interview with the Bloomington Herald-Times in 2012 at the time of the bizarre CBP doings that led to her lawsuit, and in a video interview with the Indianapolis Star last week when the lawsuit was filed.
A few years ago, Dr. Von Der Haar, a US citizen, reconnected online with Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos, a Greek freelance transport and logistics manager and consultant who she had been friends with as a teenager, 40 years earlier, at an international school they both attended in Switzerland. After a year’s exchange of email, some of which Dr. Von Der Haar says was “flirtatious and romantic in nature”, Mr. Papatheodoropoulos arranged for a visit to Dr. Von Der Haar in Bloomington during her summer break from university teaching.
Von Der Haar believes her friend is a victim of a cultural misunderstanding. His emails signed off “I love you. I miss you. I kiss you.” Marriage, though, was beyond the pale for two adults in their mid-50s who hadn’t seen each other for decades, they say.
Sure, his language is flowery, but Von Der Haar laughs about it, slightly embarrassed: “We’re silly. He’s a Greek man. What can I say?.”
Mr. Papatheodoropoulos obtained a 10-year, multiple entry B1/B2 business and tourism visa to the US, allowing him to consult with business associates and negotiate contracts as well as visit friends. Since he works as a freelancer, and wasn’t sure how long he would be staying in the US, he shipped a computer and some other electronic equipment by air freight, but removed the hard drive with his data and carried it with him.
On arrival, Mr. Papatheodoropoulos cleared US customs and immigration and was admitted to the US without incident. But when Dr. Von Der Haar took him back to the Indianapolis airport a few days later to pick up the items he had shipped by air freight, they were referred to the CBP office at the airport.
According to Dr. Von Der Haar’s complaint, armed CBP officers detained both her and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos, took them into separate rooms, and stood blocking the exit door while they interrogated Dr. Von Der Haar about, “the nature of her relationship with Mr. Papatheodoropoulos … the contents of email messages that Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had sent each other … [and] if she and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos were having sexual relations.”
Given that Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had retained his hard drive that contained the emails, the only way that the Customs and Border Protection Agents could have reviewed the emails is for someone to have surreptitiously monitored the communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos and reported those communications to the agents questioning her. Defendant Lieba admitted that employees of the United States had read email communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos.
Dr. Von Der Haar was taken into the back room of the CBP office for questioning twice, for a total of about half an hour, while Mr. Papatheodoropoulos was questioned for “approximately 4 1/2 – 5 hours” before he emerged and was allowed to leave. His Greek passport (property of the Greek government) was confiscated without warrant, leaving him unable to leave the US even had he decided to cut his visit short, and he was “served with notice that a proceeding was initiated against him for removal from the United States” on the basis that:
You obtained your B1/B2 visa by misrepresenting your intentions to come to the United States to wit; It is your intention to immigrate to the United States, you abandoned your foreign residence, you intend to overstay your admission to the United States.
“None of this was true” according to the complaint. Mr. Papatheodoropoulos requested an expedited trial on these allegations, but “the removal action did not proceed. His passport was returned to him and he left the United States at the end of August of 2012 and has not returned.”
What are we to make of this episode?
First, . . .
The US already is on shaky moral ground in its full-throated condemnation of the outrageous crime of invading another country on flimsy pretext—to be clear, the US is talking about Russia sending troops in Crimea (which Russia adjoins) and not about the US invasion of Iraq. And now the US is taking the position that it is free to violate human rights so long as it does that in other countries.
Charlie Savage has the story in the NY Times:
In 1995, Conrad Harper, the Clinton administration’s top State Department lawyer, appeared before a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss American compliance with a global Bill of Rights-style treaty the Senate had recently ratified, and he was asked a pointed question: Did the United States believe it applied outside its borders?
Mr. Harper returned two days later and delivered an answer: American officials, he said, had no obligations under the rights accord when operating abroad. The Bush administration would amplify that claim after the Sept. 11 attacks — and extend it to another United Nations convention that bans the use of torture — to justify its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons operated by the military and the C.I.A.
The United Nations panel in Geneva that monitors compliance with the rights treaty disagrees with the American interpretation, and human rights advocates have urged the United States to reverse its position when it sends a delegation to answer the panel’s questions next week. But the Obama administration is unlikely to do that, according to interviews, rejecting a strong push by two high-ranking State Department officials from President Obama’s first term.
Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, declined to discuss deliberations but defended the existing interpretation of the accord as applying only within American borders. Called the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it bars such things as unfair trials, arbitrary killings and the imprisonment of people without judicial review.
“The legal position held by prior administrations — Republican and Democratic — is a carefully considered position with a strong basis in the text of the treaty, and there is a very high bar for change under those circumstances,” she said.
Still, in a 56-page internal memo, the State Department’s former top lawyer, Harold Koh, concluded in October 2010 that the “best reading” of the accord is that it does “impose certain obligations on a State Party’s extraterritorial conduct.”
And in January 2013 Mr. Koh went further in a 90-page memo on the Convention Against Torture. “In my legal opinion, it is not legally available to policy makers to claim” it has no application abroad, he wrote. Michael Posner, the former assistant secretary for human rights, shared that view. Both stepped down in 2013 and have not been replaced by political appointees.
In Mr. Obama’s first term, when the State Department was preparing to file an earlier report to the United Nations about the accord, both officials pushed to reverse the United States’ position. But military and intelligence lawyers resisted, officials said, and the final report in 2011 said only that the United States was “mindful” that many disagreed with the position it had taken in the past.
The ambiguous comment in the report left the door open to re-examine the question for the coming United Nations presentation. But the administration never fully re-engaged with the issue, officials said. . .
The torture issue has been avoided by President Obama, who abjures us to look forward, not back, though (strangely) he seems very much determined to look back in the case of Edward Snowden. Of course, Snowden revealed how our government is spying on us, whereas those who tortured seemed in general to torture people who were not US citizens. I assume that is Obama’s reasoning.
It’s often been said that Snowden should have go through channels—even Obama has said that. Well, apparently he did try going through channels. Andrea Peterson reports at the Washington Post:
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he repeatedly tried to go through official channels to raise concerns about government snooping programs but that his warnings fell on the deaf ears. In testimony to the European Parliament released Friday morning, Snowden wrote that he reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than 10 officials, but as a contractor he had no legal avenue to pursue further whistleblowing.
Asked specifically if he felt like he had exhausted all other avenues before deciding to leak classified information to the public, Snowden responded:
Yes. I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them. As an employee of a private company rather than a direct employee of the US government, I was not protected by US whistleblower laws, and I would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.
Snowden worked for the CIA before becoming an NSA contractor for various companies. He was working for Booz Allen Hamilton at an NSA facility in Hawaii at the time he leaked information about government programs to the press.
In an August press conference, President Obama said there were “other avenues” available to someone like Snowden “whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.” Obama pointed to Presidential Policy Directive 19 – which set up a system for questioning classified government actions under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. However, as a contractor rather than an government employee or officer, Snowden was outside the protection of this system. “The result,” Snowden said, “was that individuals like me were left with no proper channels.”
Elsewhere in his testimony, Snowden described the reaction he received when relating his concerns to co-workers and superiors. The responses, he said, fell into two camps. “The first were well-meaning but hushed warnings not to ‘rock the boat,’ for fear of the sort of retaliation that befell former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake.” All three of those men, he notes, were subject to intense scrutiny and the threat of criminal prosecution.
“Everyone in the Intelligence Community is aware of what happens to people who report concerns about unlawful but authorized operations,” he said.
The other responses, Snowden said, were similar: suggestions that he “let the issue be someone else’s problem.” Even the highest-ranking officials he told about his concerns could not recall when an official complaint resulted in the shutdown of an unlawful program, he testified, “but there was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form.” . . .
Interesting—a good example of judgment depending on whose ox is gored. Peter Maass reports at The Intercept:
What if the National Security Agency had its own advice columnist? What would the eavesdroppers ask about?
You don’t need to guess. An NSA official, writing under the pen name “Zelda,” has actually served at the agency as a Dear Abby for spies. Her “Ask Zelda!” columns, distributed on the agency’s intranet and accessible only to those with the proper security clearance, are among the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The columns are often amusing – topics include co-workers falling asleep on the job, sodas being stolen from shared fridges, supervisors not responding to emails, and office-mates who smell bad. But one of the most intriguing involves a letter from an NSA staffer who complains that his (or her) boss is spying on employees.
In the letter, which Zelda published in a column on September 9, 2011, the employee calls himself “Silenced in SID” – referring to the Signals Intelligence Directorate, the heart of the NSA’s surveillance operations. Zelda’s column, headlined “Watching Every Word in Snitch City,” offers an ironic insight into a spy agency where the spies apparently resent being spied upon.
“Dear Zelda,” the letter of complaint begins:
Here’s the scenario: when the boss sees co-workers having a quiet conversation, he wants to know what is being said (it’s mostly work related). He has his designated “snitches” and expects them to keep him apprised of all the office gossip – even calling them at home and expecting a run-down! This puts the “designees” in a really awkward position; plus, we’re all afraid any offhand comment or anything said in confidence might be either repeated or misrepresented.
Needless to say, this creates a certain amount of tension between team members who normally would get along well, and adds stress in an already stressful atmosphere. There is also an unspoken belief that he will move people to different desks to break up what he perceives as people becoming too “chummy.” (It’s been done under the guise of “creating teams.”)
Surveillance tends to sow suspicion and unease among the people who are being surveilled. Is anyone listening? Who might be the spy among us? What trouble might I get into with the things I say? These questions can eat away at the core of human relations – trust. And this is true even at the agency that is conducting the surveillance.
The letter continues:
We used to be able to joke around a little or talk about our favorite “Idol” contestant to break the tension, but now we’re getting more and more skittish about even the most mundane general conversations (“Did you have a good weekend?”). This was once a very open, cooperative group who worked well together. Now we’re more suspicious of each other and teamwork is becoming harder. Do you think this was the goal?
Silenced in SID
Zelda is shocked.
Wow, that takes “intelligence collection” in a whole new – and inappropriate – direction. …. We work in an Agency of secrets, but this kind of secrecy begets more secrecy and it becomes a downward spiral that destroys teamwork. What if you put an end to all the secrecy by bringing it out in the open?
Her column reads like an unintended allegory – or a cleverly masked one. The NSA’s own advice columnist explores the ways in which pervasive surveillance can erode freedom of expression and social cohesion by making it difficult for people to have faith in the privacy of their communications.
You and your co-workers could ask [the supervisor] for a team meeting and lay out the issue as you see it: “We feel like you don’t trust us and we aren’t comfortable making small talk anymore for fear of having our desks moved if we’re seen as being too chummy.” (Leave out the part about the snitches.) Tell him how this is hampering collaboration and affecting the work, ask him if he has a problem with the team’s behavior, and see what he says. …. Stick to the facts and how you feel, rather than making it about him (“We’re uncomfortable” vs “You’re spying on us.”).
There is no indication that Zelda is trying to make a larger point, but some of what she goes on to propose would be useful for ordinary citizens outside the agency who worry about government and corporate surveillance.
If you are bothered by snitches in your office, whether of the unwilling or voluntary variety, the best solution is to keep your behavior above reproach. Be a good performer, watch what you say and do, lock your screen when you step away from your workstation, and keep fodder for wagging tongues (your Viagra stash, photos of your wild-and-crazy girls’ weekend in Atlantic City) at home or out of sight. If you are put in the “unwilling snitch” position, I would advise telling your boss that you’re not comfortable with the role and to please not ask that of you.
Who is Zelda? And who is “Silenced in SID”? The document provides no information about the identity of the letter’s author; he or she could be almost anybody at the agency. In a previous column, Zelda explains that Ask Zelda! was initially intended as a forum for supervisors in the Signals Intelligence Directorate, but that non-supervisory workers began submitting questions, too.
A bit more is known about Zelda. Her introductory column, . . .
Continue reading. The column concludes:
Her response to “Silenced in SID” does not acknowledge the irony – or hypocrisy – of an employee at a spy agency complaining about being spied on. But Zelda directly addresses the long-lasting effects of inappropriate surveillance. “Trust is hard to rebuild once it has been broken,” she observes. “Your work center may take time to heal after this deplorable practice is discontinued.”
Interesting column in Salon by Patrick L. Smith:
“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.” Thus spoke Secretary of State John Kerry on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday, just as Russia took control of Crimea in the latest escalation of the Ukraine crisis.
This extraordinary remark appears to have gone briefly viral. And surely I am not alone in requiring time to recover from the sheer ignorance and presumption of it. Ignorant because even by the standards at State, where the past must evaporate on an almost daily basis, it is hypocrisy unlimited on the very face of it. Presumptuous because it implies a degree of stupidity among us that not even P.T. Barnum would dare take for granted.
We have before us a full-dress campaign to persuade the world that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military advances into Ukraine this week come to an unwarranted intrusion into the affairs of a nation struggling to find its way to a remade polity on the model of the liberal Western democracies. This is the explicit part. Implicit are the clean hands of American and European policy cliques and the broad approval enjoyed by the provisional government that appointed itself after President Viktor Yanukovych was hounded across the border with Russia two weeks ago.
This is the Good Housekeeping perspective on Ukraine. Kerry’s silly remark last weekend is one among countless in the service of this wholesale rewrite of events.
The unapproved perspective is far more interesting and should be recognized for what it is. For the second time in less than a year we witness an American intervention that, in the age of social media and all the rest, is transparent such that we can actually study it in real time. This is new. In the old days—when Washington undermined Mossadegh in Iran, say, orArbenz in Guatemala, or even Allende much later in Chile—we had to wait years before the truth was unearthed beneath the macadam road of propaganda and lies laid quickly atop it at the time of events.
I should clarify. The first such occasion was last July, when the New York Times, in what was apparently deemed a one-off slip, provided a record of the telephone call Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, made to Cairo advising that the generals could go forward with the plan to depose President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi toppled within hours of the exchange.
And to clarify further, a third such occasion may shortly be upon us. This one, if it comes, will be in Venezuela, now ablaze with violent protests. Watch this space and know what you are watching: If the Maduro government in Caracas falls, it will mark the culmination of yet another American intervention.
This makes two, and maybe three, “19th century things” Americans insist upon doing in the 21st century. Not counting Iraq, Afghanistan, and threats of violence elsewhere, of course. Please speak into the microphone, Mr. Secretary.
Here is the strange part—or one of many oddities, I ought to say. In all three cases we are offered what evidence of the truth cannot be avoided, and then it is quickly dispatched to oblivion by those laying down the macadam.
In the Egypt case, the Times recounted the Rice telephone call and seemingly never again mentioned it. All it has since written amounts to a game of pretend.
In the Venezuela case, William Neuman, the Times’ man in Caracas (and an intellectually dishonest ideologue) recounted the press conference when the Venezuelan foreign minister read aloud the e-mail traffic revealing the covert American campaign to recruit students to the anti–Maduro cause. And then: Never again did he note it in his accounts of a supposedly spontaneous movement for the neoliberal democracy desired by everyone in the world, Ukrainians, too.
In Ukraine, we have the Victoria Nuland, “F the E.U.” tape, of course. This is the strangest of all. Amid all the tumult of the past couple of weeks, as the very people Nuland and her ambassador in Kiev were cultivating rose to the top, not a single mention of the tape and the red-handed evidence of American malfeasance. The coverage is all about the unjust intimidations of the Russian Bear, the silent, beady-eyed Putin being the perfect personification of the beast.
The media performance gives so astonishing an appearance of conspiracy at this point that you start to wonder if these people, correspondents and editors alike, are somehow getting dressed in the same locker room every morning. Please use the comment box if you can otherwise explain why not one correspondent finds it useful to cite prima facie evidence of American provocation on Putin’s doorstep.
(It is possible some are filing well from Ukraine and getting politically motivated edits in the newsroom. I know it happens because it happened to me, more than once, when I filed for the International Herald Tribune, a Times property.) . . .
Juan Cole has a couple of good (albeit depressing) posts on the stance of the current Israeli government toward the peace process and the Palestinians.
That post is by Sarah Lazare and begins:
Israeli forces are killing Palestinian civilians in the West Bank — including children — with “callous disregard for human life,” enjoying near impunity for likely war crimes, and should be immediately cut off from arms shipments by the international community, declares a damning reportreleased by Amnesty International on Thursday.
“This is a hugely significant development,” says Mike Coogan of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation in an interview with Common Dreams. “This report is unequivocal. It clearly points to the perpetrator of crimes — the Israeli military.”
Entitled Trigger-Happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank, the 87-page report documents mounting violence and human rights violations due to Israeli use of “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force,” as summarized in an Amnesty statement. The study traces the chilling trail of death and injury this leaves behind.
In the past three years, at least 261 Palestinians in the West Bank — 67 of them children — have been seriously injured by live gunshots fired by Israeli forces. In this same time frame, over 8,000 Palestinians in the West Bank — 1,500 of them children — have been wounded by other weapons wielded by Israeli forces in the West Bank, including rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas, with some dying from their wounds.
The report highlights the murder of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, four of whom were children, and 14 of whom were killed at protests. In some of these cases, Amnesty found evidence of “willful killings, which would amount to war crimes,” according to the summary.
Sixteen-year-old school boy Samir Awad, from Bodrus, . . .
A post by Juan Cole that begins:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, D.C., this week was even more of a disaster for him than might have been expected.
It did not help that the Crimea crisis had broken out, which rather cast a bad light on one country militarily occupying parts of another. Most observers in Europe and even some in the US could see the hypocrisy of the US denouncing Russian troops in Crimea but supporting Israeli troops in Hebron.
Netanyahu’s government has doubled housing starts for Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank in the past year, while pretending to negotiate peace with the Palestine Liberation Organization (there is no such process with the Hamas government in Gaza).
He came to Washington to blame the Palestinians for his bad faith, and to demand that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state (which is sort of like Obama demanding that Israel recognize the US as a White Christian state). Netanyahu said that this demand (the Jewishness of Israel) is similar to the Palestinian quest for a Palestinian state. But a Palestinian state is envisaged as being pluralistic– it would not be Islamic but for Muslims, Christians, Druze and (in the view of Saeb Erekat) even possibly any Jews willing to take Palestinian citizenship. The category “Palestinian” is not analogous to what Netanyahu means by “Jewish”– it is far less narrow, less religiously and racially exclusive.
This demand is just smokescreen for Netanyahu’s obstruction of the peace process. He is demanding that Palestinians recognize the official marginalization of the growing Palestinian-Israeli population of Israel (now 20% of the population and heading toward 30% over the next 15 years) (if Israel is a “Jewish” state, then Palestinian-Israelis are what, chopped liver? Will it be all right for Avigdor Lieberman to ethnically cleanse them then?)
Obama, who has been ambushed repeatedly by Netanyahu during their joint press conferences, this time ambushed Netanyahu instead, with an interview with the fanatically pro-Israel former Israeli prison guard at a notorious prison camp for Palestinians, Jeffrey Goldberg. Obama said, . . .
And, finally, a look at how the US condemns other nations for doing what the US does:
Ted Scheinman writes at Pacific Standard:
Fifteen years ago, the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan published what was, at the time, the most lucid and urgent account of American government and its culture of confidentiality. A slim, accessible volume, Secrecy uses a social lexicon derived largely from Émile Durkheim, the French pioneer of the formal study now known as sociology; the book’s chief aim is to interrogate how entrenched systems of secrecy had allowed the Cold War to proceed far too long, benching domestic concerns while digging the U.S. into deep peacetime debt.
An expansion of a bipartisan report from the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy (the commission was spearheaded by Moynihan), Secrecy is a thorough and vividly scary portrait of a government’s failure to communicate with itself. The results of this failure included willful misinterpretation of Cold War market trends (the CIA’s claim in 1986 that per capita production in East Germany was higher than in the West, say) alongside prejudicially selective choices, on the part of U.S. intelligence chamberlains, of what Truman or Reagan needed to know. Remember the Venona Decrypts? Truman didn’t.
An ambient sense of the covert foments notions of conspiracy on each wing of American politics, driving left and right farther apart and making possible odious phenomena from HUAC to the Patriot Act.
Unlike the demagogues whom secrecy had empowered, Moynihan is precise about his terms:
Secrecy is a form of regulation. There are many such forms, but a general division can be made between those dealing with domestic affairs and those dealing with foreign affairs. In the first category, it is generally the case that government prescribes what the citizen may do. In the second category, it is generally the case that government prescribes what the citizen may know.
To these we must now add a 21st-century category: What the government may know about a citizen.
If Secrecy is concerned in part with tracing the origins and noxious consequences of generational paranoia, revelations about government surveillance in the past year have stoked a new if woefully inadequate debate over the balance between freedom and security. We now know that Big Brother is indeed “watching,” to what extent He is doing so, and at what cost to the taxpayer—in liberty, and in lucre.
The Big Brother thing, quite naturally, dominated last week’s annual RSA security conference in San Francisco—a sticky affair, as a company trafficking in aggressive encryption software for civilian privacy sought to explain its decade-long contract with the NSA. If nothing else, the Edward Snowden leaks gave people something to freak out about. How many tech and security conferences are mere swag and boilerplate? As the Times reports:
In hotel lobbies, conference rooms, panels and coffee shops, American executives and government officials were seen and heard having tortured conversations with their international counterparts as executives tried to convince their clients that their technologies did not contain legal or virtual back doors for the National Security Agency.
That’s some hot stuff, especially with Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) wooing back his Silicon pals and Richard Clarke dropping f-bombs at the Cloud Security Alliance panel: “The U.S. … has to get out of the business of fucking with encryption standards.” . . .
Peter Van Buren has a post at Informed Comment:
The Obama administration has just opened a new front in its ongoing war on whistleblowers. It’s taking its case against one man, former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Robert MacLean, all the way to the Supreme Court. So hold on, because we’re going back down the rabbit hole with the Most Transparent Administration ever.
Despite all the talk by Washington insiders about how whistleblowers like Edward Snowden should work through the system rather than bring their concerns directly into the public sphere, MacLean is living proof of the hell of trying to do so. Through the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to use MacLean’s case to further limit what kinds of information can qualify for statutory whistleblowing protections. If the DOJ gets its way, only information that the government thinks is appropriate — a contradiction in terms when it comes to whistleblowing — could be revealed. Such a restriction would gut the legal protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act and have a chilling effect on future acts of conscience.
Having lost its case against MacLean in the lower courts, the DOJ is seeking to win in front of the Supreme Court. If heard by the Supremes — and there’s no guarantee of that — this would represent that body’s first federal whistleblower case of the post-9/11 era. And if it were to rule for the government, even more information about an out-of-control executive branch will disappear under the dark umbrella of “national security.”
On the other hand, should the court rule against the government, or simply turn down the case, whistleblowers like MacLean will secure a little more protection than they’ve had so far in the Obama years. Either way, an important message will be sent at a moment when revelations of government wrongdoing have moved from the status of obscure issue to front-page news.
The issues in the MacLean case — who is entitled to whistleblower protection, what use can be made of retroactive classification to hide previously unclassified information, how many informal classification categories the government can create bureaucratically, and what role the Constitution and the Supreme Court have in all this — are arcane and complex. But stay with me. Understanding the depths to which the government is willing to sink to punish one man who blew the whistle tells us the world about Washington these days and, as they say, the devil is in the details.
Robert MacLean, Whistleblower
MacLean’s case is simple — and complicated.
Here’s the simple part: MacLean was an air marshal, flying armed aboard American aircraft as the last defense against a terror attack. In July 2003, all air marshals received a briefing about a possible hijacking plot. Soon after, the TSA, which oversees the marshals, sent an unencrypted, open-air text message to their cell phones cancelling several months of missions for cost-cutting reasons. Fearing that such cancellations in the midst of a hijacking alert might create a dangerous situation for the flying public, MacLean worked his way through the system. He first brought his concerns to his supervisor and then to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. Each responded that nothing could be done.
After hitting a dead end, and hoping that public pressure might force the TSA to change its policy, MacLean talked anonymously to a reporter who broadcast a critical story. After 11 members of Congress pitched in, the TSA reversed itself. A year later, MacLean appeared on TV in disguise to criticize agency dress and boarding policies that he felt made it easier for passengers to recognize marshals who work undercover. (On your next flight keep an eye out for the young man in khakis with a fanny pack and a large watch, often wearing a baseball cap and eyeing boarders from a first class seat.) This time the TSA recognized MacLean’s voice and discovered that he had also released the unclassified 2003 text message. He was fired in April 2006.
When MacLean contested his dismissal through internal government channels, he discovered that, months after firing him, the TSA had retroactively classified the text message he had leaked. Leaking classified documents is more than cause enough to fire a federal worker, and that might have been the end of it. MacLean, however, was no typical cubicle-dwelling federal employee. An Air Force veteran, he asserted his status as a protected whistleblower and has spent the last seven years marching through the system trying to get his job back.
How Everything in Government Became Classified
The text message MacLean leaked was retroactively classified as “security sensitive information” (SSI), a designation that had been around for years but whose usage the TSA only codified via memo in November 2003. When it comes to made-up classifications, that agency’s set of them proved to be only one of 28 known versions that now exist within the government bureaucracy. In truth, no one is sure how many varieties of pseudo-classifications even exist under those multiple policies, or how many documents they cover as there are no established reporting requirements.
By law there are officially only three levels of governmental classification: confidential, secret, and top secret. Other indicators, such as NOFORN and ORCON, seen for instance on some of the NSA documents Edward Snowden released, are called “handling instructions,” although they, too, function as unofficial categories of classification. Each of the three levels of official classification has its own formal definition and criteria for use. It is theoretically possible to question the level of classification of a document. However much they may be ignored, there are standards for their declassification and various supervisors can also shift levels of classification as a final report, memo, or briefing takes shape. The system is designed, at least in theory and occasionally in practice, to have some modicum of accountability and reviewability.
The government’s post-9/11 desire to classify more and more information ran head on into the limits of classification as enacted by Congress. The response by various agencies was to invent a proliferation of designations like SSI that would sweep unclassified information under the umbrella of classification and confer on ever more unclassified information a (sort of) classified status. In the case of the TSA, the agency even admits on its own website that a document with an SSI stamp is unclassified, but prohibits its disclosure anyway.
Imagine the equivalent at home: you arbitrarily establish a classification called Spouse Sensitive Information that prohibits your partner from seeing the family bank statements. And if all this is starting to make no sense, then you can better understand the topsy-turvy world Robert MacLean found himself in.
MacLean Wins a Battle in Court
In 2013, after a long series of civil service and legal wrangles, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handed down a decision confirming the government’s right to retroactively classify information. This may make some sense — if you squint hard enough from a Washington perspective. Imagine a piece of innocuous information already released that later takes on national security significance. A retroactive classification can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube, but bureaucratically speaking it would at least prevent more toothpaste from being squeezed out. The same ruling, of course, could also be misused to ensnare someone like MacLean who shared unclassified information.
The court also decided that, retrospective classification or not, MacLean was indeed entitled to protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. That act generally limits its protections to “disclosures not specifically prohibited by law,” typically held to mean unclassified material. This, the court insisted, was the category MacLean fit into and so could not be fired. The court avoided the question of whether or not someone could be fired for disclosing retroactively classified information and focused on whether a made-up category like SSI was “classified” at all.
The court affirmed that laws passed by Congress creating formal classifications like “top secret” trump regulations made up by executive branch bureaucrats.
In other words, as the Constitution intended, the legislative branch makes the laws and serves as a check and balance on the executive branch. Congress says what is classified and that say-so cannot be modified via an executive branch memo. One of MacLean’s lawyers hailed the court’s decision as restoring “enforceability for the Whistleblower Protection Act’s public free speech rights. It ruled that only Congress has the authority to remove whistleblower rights. Agency-imposed restraints are not relevant for whistleblower protection rights.”
The ruling made it clear that the TSA had fired MacLean in retaliation for a legally protected act of whistleblowing. He should have been offered his job back the next day.
Not a Happy Ending But a Sad New Beginning
No such luck. Instead, . . .
The Obama Administration has worked hard to close our open government. Note that MacLean followed the course that Obama has said that Edward Snowden should have followed: working within the system, following defined procedure. It doesn’t work, something that I doubt Obama will ever admit.
Read the entire story: the Obama Administration is showing its hand, and their direction is antithetical to American values and American democracy.
Quite apart from anything else, the CIA can legally exercise its power outside the US. The CIA cannot legally undertake domestic operations. Juan Cole has a post via RawStory:
A dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Intelligence Committee may have spilled into dangerous territory, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Wednesday, following a New York Times report that agency operatives gained access to the computers being used by lawmakers to investigate the agency.
“This is kind of death of the Republic kind of stuff,” Maddow said. “The whole separation of powers thing almost pales in comparison to the seriousness of the allegation that a nation’s own spy services have been turned against its’ own government. Particularly, where that government is supposed to be overseeing the spy services.”
The Times reported that the allegations exacerbated an ongoing rift between the agency and the committee over the CIA’s now-defunct interrogation program, which included waterboarding and other techniques in secret prisons located outside the U.S. Agency officials reportedly grew concerned that committee members had gained unauthorized access to CIA documents in the course of compiling the report, which is reportedly more than 6,000 pages long and highly critical of the agency. The program was shut down by President Barack Obama not long after he took office.
McClatchy Newspapers also reported that the agency’s inspector general has asked the Justice Department to open its own criminal investigation into the matter.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-UT) hinted at the allegation in a letter to President Barack Obama, Maddow said, alluding to “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the committee.
“I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote.
CIA Director John Brennan issued a statement ripping “spurious allegations” against the agency, without mentioning Udall by name, and saying he would “encourage others to refrain from outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers.”
Times reporter Mark Mazetti told Maddow that intelligence officials are calling the rift unprecedented.
“What you had for years was a dispute between the CIA and the Intelligence Committee over, basically, the history,” he said. “Who writes the history of this extraordinarily controversial program that took place during the [George W.] Bush administration. But what we’ve seen is, it’s really escalated from there, and it’s gone to this issue of separation of powers, congressional oversight, how independent is Congress in overseeing intelligence agencies.”
Watch Maddow’s report and interview with Mazetti, as aired on MSNBC on Wednesday, below. . .
Continue reading. Video at the link.
UPDATE: Also see Dan Froomkin’s report in The Intercept.
Jonathan Landay, Ali Watkins, and Marisa Taylor write in McClatchy:
The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.
The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.
The development marks an unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers amid an extraordinary closed-door battle over the 6,300-page report on the agency’s use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons. The report is said to be a searing indictment of the program. The CIA has disputed some of the reports findings.
White House officials have closely tracked the bitter struggle, a McClatchy investigation has found. But they haven’t directly intervened, perhaps because they are embroiled in their own feud with the committee, resisting surrendering top-secret documents that the CIA asserted were covered by executive privilege and sent to the White House.
McClatchy’s findings are based on information found in official documents and provided by people with knowledge of the dispute being fought in the seventh-floor executive offices of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va., and the committee’s high-security work spaces on Capitol Hill.
The people who spoke to McClatchy asked not to be identified because the feud involves highly classified matters and carries enormous consequences for congressional oversight over the executive branch.
The CIA and the committee declined to comment. . .
Very interesting article—and I would rate the comments interesting as well. Mark Mazzetti reports in the NY Times:
The Central Intelligence Agency’s attempt to keep secret the details of a defunct detention and interrogation program has escalated a battle between the agency and members of Congress and led to an investigation by the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog into the conduct of agency employees.
The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation.
The committee has spent several years working on a voluminous report about the detention and interrogation program, and according to one official interviewed in recent days, C.I.A. officers went as far as gaining access to computer networks used by the committee to carry out its investigation.
The events have elevated the protracted battle — which began as a fight over who writes the history of the program, perhaps the most controversial aspect of the American government’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks — into a bitter standoff that in essence is a dispute over the separation of powers and congressional oversight of spy agencies.
The specifics of the inspector general’s investigation are unclear. But several officials interviewed in recent days — all of whom insisted on anonymity, citing a continuing inquiry — said it began after the C.I.A. took what Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, on Tuesday called an “unprecedented action” against the committee.
The action, which Mr. Udall did not describe, took place after C.I.A. officials came to suspect that congressional staff members had gained unauthorized access to agency documents during the course of the Intelligence Committee’s years-long investigation into the detention and interrogation program.
It is not known what the agency’s inspector general, David B. Buckley, has found in the investigation or whether Mr. Buckley has referred any cases to the Justice Department for further investigation. Spokesmen for the agency and the Justice Department declined to comment.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, gave few details about the dispute on Tuesday as she left a closed committee hearing on the crisis in Ukraine, but she did confirm that the C.I.A. had begun an internal review.
“There is an I.G. investigation,” she said.
Asked about the tension between the committee and the spy agency it oversees, Ms. Feinstein said, “Our oversight role will prevail.”
The episode is a rare moment of public rancor between the intelligence agencies and Ms. Feinstein’s committee, which has been criticized in some quarters for its muscular defense of many controversial intelligence programs — from the surveillance operations exposed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden to the Obama administration’s targeted killing program using armed drones.
The origins of the current dispute date back more than a year, when the committee completed its work on a 6,000-page report about the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program. People who have read the study said it is a withering indictment of the program and details many instances when C.I.A. officials misled Congress, the White House and the public about the value of the agency’s brutal interrogation methods, including waterboarding.
The report has yet to be declassified, but last June, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, responded to the Senate report with a 122-page rebuttal challenging specific facts in the report as well as the investigation’s overarching conclusion — that the agency’s interrogation methods yielded little valuable intelligence.
Then, in December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”
It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases. . .
Continue reading. And check out those comments. E.g.,
Loved twitter response from Greenwald:
Ironic: Senate Intel Comm – which endorses vast NSA spying on ordinary citizens – gets angry when they’re spied on.
Nicole Flatow writes in ThinkProgress:
When Robert Duncan was laid off from his job in the television industry, he got a call from some family friends offering him a job. He was hesitant of their offer: they were starting a medical marijuana dispensary. He consulted a lawyer at a fee of $800 to advise him on whether to even accept the job. At the time, the wisdom was that prosecutors would not target state-compliant dispensaries, and that they certainly wouldn’t target employees.
So he moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area and started working an estimated 80 hours a week in what he called a challenging and rewarding job managing grow houses.
“I honestly had some stereotypes of what I expected to see when I got into the business — people who probably really didn’t need marijuana for medicinal purposes,” he said in a Huffington Post synposis of his story. “But I was actually quite surprised to see people who were battling cancer, in wheelchairs, suffering from chronic pain from car accidents. It was quite justified. We had thousands and thousands of members of our cooperatives.”
He said he was particularly gratified that some of the strains he grew were able to help his own family members suffering from cancer. By all accounts, the business was operating in compliance with state law. The dispensary had interacted with state police when reporting robberies to the facility without consequence. Owner Matthew Daviesshowed a New York Times reporter a “sheaf” of legal documents demonstrating he had complied with California law.
But in October 2011, the grow house where Duncan worked in Stockton, Calif., was raided by the federal government while Duncan was working at the facility. For reasons that have not been disclosed to Duncan, federal prosecutors ultimately indicted Davies, his co-owner, and Duncan — an hourly employee. There were an estimated 50 employees.
Duncan was lobbed with marijuana manufacture charges that carried up to ten years in jail. He will serve two, plus several more on probation. On Monday, HuffPost Live will broadcastDuncan’s entry to prison. Davies and co-owner Lynn Smith will also begin their five-year sentences Monday.
The raid of the Stockton grow house and the subsequent arrests came during a period when the federal government had rolled back its pot prosecution policy, and then ramped it up again again. When he joined the dispensary as an employee, the Justice Department had advised prosecutors in what is known as the “Ogden Memo” not to target dispensaries complying with state law. Less than two years later, the feds backtracked in a second 2011 “Cole memo” that instead advised prosecutors not to target “users” complying with state law, and left growers and sellers more susceptible.
“None of us would have taken this risk if we thought we were at any serious legal risk,” Duncan said Monday, hours before he was scheduled to report to prison. “Basically we just wanted to be compliant and kinda set an example of kind of a model business in this line of work and obviously it didn’t pan out that way.”
The Stockton grow house is one of several businesses that aimed to become models for state compliance, and in doing so, became federal targets. A raid of a Montana marijuana dispensary run by a state lobbyist who helped design the laws also saw several prosecutions, and one defendant died in jail.
The start of these prison sentences comes in the months after Attorney General Eric Holderonce again directed prosecutors to roll back crackdowns on state-compliant pot businesses. This time, he has issued several subsequent memos as part of a “Smart on Crime” initiative that aims to focus resources on serious, violent offenders. He added another piece of guidance that could have helped the Stockton grow house: the mere size or commercial nature of a business is not sufficient grounds for prosecution.
Duncan called it “frustrating” to watch President Obama dismiss marijuana as nothing more than a “vice” and less dangerous than alcohol, as his Justice Department is sending him to jail for helping sick patients. “You don’t really know what to believe,” he said.
This is in part because U.S. attorneys retain their prosecutorial discretion, and nothing short of a change in the law can fully insulate anyone from a legal action. In fact, even after Holder’s directive, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, in the Northern District of California, hasmade good on her pledge to continue her targeting of large medical marijuana dispensaries.
Watch Duncan’s entry to federal prison here.
This almost amounts to entrapment: the President and the Attorney General of the United States pledge not to pursue or prosecute medical marijuana suppliers and patients when state laws are obeyed, and then they send people to prison who believed their pledge. This is infuriating and makes it seem as though the President and the Attorney General were lying to the public.
Since the Federal government has already decided that marijuana has no medical benefit (and is highly addictive to boot), the FDA is unwilling to allow studies that might contradict the Federal position. (Marijuana is a Schedule I drug: those are drugs that have no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse.) April Short describes a 14-year effort to get approval for a study of marijuana’s effects on PTSD:
As a psychiatrist and physician focused on internal medicine, Sue Sisley of Arizona treats first responders and military veterans on a regular basis. Many of them suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After years observing and speaking with patients she learned that many were using an alternative medicine—cannabis—to successfully manage their symptoms.
“We ran these patients through the gauntlet of every FDA-approved medicine, and either nothing worked or it had really onerous side effects,” said Sisley. “So all these patients were gradually, on their own, starting to use cannabis as an alternative way to treat their symptoms, and talking to me about it.”
While Sisley describes herself as a lifelong Republican who has never tried an illicit drug and doesn’t drink, she became curious to know why and how cannabis was helping so many of her patients.
“This is a dire need, understanding PTSD, not just for combat vets but for all our citizens who are plagued by this,” she said, noting that 22 veterans kill themselves per day in the U.S. according to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Any physician who’s also a human being can’t rest when we know that there’s something out there, in this case a plant, that has the potential to reduce human suffering.”
She began to look into studying the plant, but came up against the same wall that has blockaded any attempts at clinical research on cannabis outside of limited research by the U.S. government for the last 40 years. Due to the demonization of cannabis by drug war propaganda, the plant falls under Schedule I classification. This is the most restrictive possible scheduling, and means that officially, pot is considered dangerous and devoid of any potential medical use.
“I started asking more and more questions about why we couldn’t research this drug properly and why these studies were being suppressed,” she said. “[Cannabis] has proven itself over and over again in literally thousands, millions of patients across the country, and when you know that, you can’t rest and just allow this plant to be forced out. I think we have a duty as physicians to demand that this plant be rigorously studied.”
Her curiosity and determination led her to meet Rick Doblin, the executive director of MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). The California-based nonprofit organization has been trying for 14 years to complete federally sanctioned clinical research studies on cannabis. So far, however, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—which has a DEA-protected monopoly on the only legal supply of cannabis for use in FDA-regulated research—has refused to sell them cannabis.
Doblin and Sisley worked to develop protocols for a study that would look at cannabis’ effects on treatment-resistant combat veterans with PTSD, with Sisley as principal investigator. After years of back and forth, the study’s protocols were approved by the Food and Drug Administration three years ago. They were also approved by the University of Arizona Institutional Review Board (IRB), and the University of Arizona has agreed to play host.
There’s just one problem: they still need NIDA approval in order to purchase federally sanctioned weed, and NIDA won’t sell until a third review process is completed by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), as required by a 1999 guideline.
This additional review is not required for research on any other Schedule I drug, but was tacked onto the regular approval requirements and is governed by the U.S. Health and Human services department, under NIDA.
After the original study protocol was rejected by PHS in September 2011, MAPS resubmitted a revised protocol on Oct. 24, 2013. Ever since, the line has gone dead. Unlike FDA protocols which require a response within 30 days, there is no timeline requiring PHS to respond. The PHS guidance has effectively blockaded the study of cannabis by failing to respond.
Sisley called the PHS review process redundant, and said the only real reason for it to exist is to keep the war on drugs alive.
“If their motive is to suppress any research that might prove the benefits of marijuana, then it’s understandable they don’t want that data out there because that conflicts with their mission,” she said.
Brad Burge, communications director for MAPS, points out that President Obama has the authority to terminate the extra requirement at any time. The Secretary of Health and Human Services could also legally revoke the guidance as it was issued within HHS.
“We’re hoping with this pressure, with enough public attention, HHS will make a statement or Obama—especially given his recent statements on medical marijuana—will decide to eliminate the hold, and to eliminate the process,” he said.
Thousands of veterans nationwide swear by marijuana’s effectiveness in reducing their PTSD symptoms and advocate for better access to cannabis as an alternative to the pharmaceuticals they’re regularly prescribed. Perry Parks, a Vietnam combat veteran and decorated retired military officer called the limits on access to medical marijuana a “healthcare tragedy few people recognize.” Oaksterdam University has a new scholarship program to help train more veterans to grow their own plants and work in the cannabis industry.
Despite the vocal and increasingly recognized call for veterans’ access to cannabis, the study in question would be the world’s first-ever controlled clinical study on using the herb to treat PTSD in human patients. Burge notes that prior animal studies, among them a study using lab rats published in the scientific journal Nature, have shown that cannabis helps calm an overactive fear system. . .
A bit hollow, given the US sending troops into Iraq. And, speaking of international law, there’s an international law against torturing and murdering prisoners, but that doesn’t seem to concern Obama—and it certainly didn’t concern George W. Bush.
Something about a mote in one’s neighbor’s eye, compared with a beam in one’s own.
Some good insights into what is going on in the Ukraine—insights you won’t see in the mainstream press and certainly not on television/cable.
Take a look at Patrick L. Smith’s article in Salon, “Thomas Friedman, supreme toady: Also, shameless!“
Also read Robert Parry’s analysis at ConsortiumNews.com: “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine“