Saturday, June 15, 2013

To know, know, know him is to really not like him












Yesterday, a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee held a hearing on human rights in Russia.  Why?  Because we're all so damn concerned about human rights?  Please.  Russia is blocking the US on the United Nations' Security Council with regards to Syria.  The hearing was little more than mua roi nuoc (a centuries old Vietnamese tradition of water puppetry).  In that hearing, you have everything that is wrong with the United States government.  Resources are wasted not just to allow the government to poke their nose in everything, resources are used to penalize anyone who doesn't fall in line with the US government.  Resources are wasted to defocus and ignore pressing US issues. That hearing was  a Subcommittee hearing and presiding was the always ridiculous Senator Barbara Boxer.

Committee Chair Robert Menedez is also becoming a joke -- not because the US Justice Dept stayed silent, until after the senator's November re-election, on Menedez' employment of a criminal who also happened to be a foreign national and undocumented worker.  Menedez is a joke because he wastes US tax dollars and refuses to do his job.  He only holds hearing on human rights if it's a country that the US is in conflict with.

Syria?  Oh, yeah, Menedez can schedule a hearing on that.  He can waste all of our time on that.  Where's the hearing on Iraq?

The US taxpayer isn't watching millions of US tax dollars be spent in Russia each day.  But, among foreign countries, the biggest budget item for the State Dept, billions each year, is Iraq.  So where's the Iraq hearing.  None so far in June and none on the schedule.  None in May.  None in April. None in March.  None in February.  None in January.

In the [PDF format warning] "Department of State and Other International Programs" Fiscal Year 2014 budget issued by the White House,

* Includes $6.8 billion for the frontline states of Iraq ($2.1 billion), Afghanistan ($3.4 billion), and Pakistan ($1.4 billion), including $3 billion in base funding and $3.8 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding.  The Budget prioritizes core diplomatic and development activities to ensure strong, lasting partnerships with these countries and to promote stability.

* The Budget continues to support U.S. security, diplomatic and development goals in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq while scaling down funding for operations and assistance, consistent with U.S. policy.

Now that's just some of what the State Dept wants for Iraq.  Let's move over to DoD.  DoD's requesting money for Iraq in Fiscal Year 2014.  Just for the Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq?
"Addendum A Overseas Contingency Operations" explains to us the amount is $200,000,000.   Although they make it much smaller by repeatedly referring to it -- not just in tables, which would be understandable, but in text as well -- as ".2" -- because they're doing billions (in tables, there's no excuse for rendering that way in text).  200 million dollars.

What could 200 million dollars do in US cities in the next fiscal year?  It's just part of what the Defense Dept 'needs' in Iraq -- you know, the country the press and White House press secretary keeps insisting the war is over in.   It's noted, "The OSC-I is the critical Defense component of the U.S. Mission Iraq and a foundational element of our long-term strategic partnership with Iraq."   This doesn't cover the Special Ops troops in Iraq or the 'counter-terrorism' efforts in Iraq.

No one will see that money spent in the United States and, apparently, Congress will provide no oversight as it is spent overseas.

That is their job, to provide oversight.  Not only has Menedez  failed to provide oversight on Iraq, he's failed to provide oversight on the State Dept.  This week's scandal about alleged wide-spread use of prostitution by State Dept officials and employees, pedophilia by the same and a drug ring that State supposedly ran in Iraq (runs in Iraq?), have gotten no attention from the Menedez.

As someone who reads the Iraqi press, let me steal Barack's "let me be clear," you get off your damn ass and you clear up the drug thing immediately.  Iraqi media has been covering an alleged huge increase in drugs for several years now.  Smart representatives of the US government would hear rumors of an alleged US State Dept drug ring in Iraq and say, "Damn, we better investigate this real quick before the rumors spread and Iraqis are saying, 'They brought drugs into our country!'  If we don't get to the bottom of this immediately, then -- true or false -- this is going to be another 'CIA brought cocaine in' scandal!"

That's when you provide oversight -- not just because the truth needs to be known but also, in case the rumors are completely unfounded, so that you can kill them quickly before they spread like wildfire.  Now why might there be a scandal on this?

Maybe because there's no Inspector General for the State Dept?

Mendez is aware of it.  With the Committee's Ranking Member Bob Corker, he drafted a letter to the White House on that this week:

We are deeply concerned that the two lead agencies carrying out the international programs and activities of the United States, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have been operating without permanent Inspectors General for a considerable period of time. The Department of State has not had an Inspector General since 2008 and USAID has had a vacancy since 2011. Inspectors General play a crucial role in identifying ineffective programs, process weaknesses, and wasteful spending that undermine public confidence in government.
It is critical that your administration provide this committee with highly qualified nominees who can function independently and objectively in these positions in the near future. In a recent hearing before this committee, Secretary Kerry testified that he would like to see the Department of State’s Inspector General vacancy filled quickly and noted that the White House had recently selected a highly qualified nominee. It has been over a month since that hearing and we await the nomination.
It is vitally important that the Inspectors General are able to function independently and objectively. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has, since 2007, documented the lack of adherence to proper auditing standards and the lack of independence and autonomy within the Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). In particular, GAO has noted that the Office is led by “management and Foreign Service officials [, which] is not consistent with professional standards for independence;” the “use of Foreign Service Officers ... to lead OIG inspections resulted in, at a minimum, the appearance of independence impairment;” and the “OIG relied on inspections rather than audits to provide oversight coverage resulting in gaps to the audit oversight of the department.” It is imperative that the next Inspector General at the Department of State resolves these matters and protects the independence and credibility of the OIG.

When there are no IGs and there is scandal and you're the Committee over the State Dept, you call for hearings.  You put Russia and the other Executive Branch grudge f**ks on hold and you provide the supervision that's lacking.

Protests have been ongoing in Iraq since December 21st.  The protests continued today.  Iraqi Spring MC noted the turnout in Baquba and that the spokesperson for those with special needs stated, "Disability will not keep us from rejecting injustice, tyranny and government repression."  Iraqi Spring MC also notes that the people turned out in Baghdad and in RamadiNational Iraq News Agency reports, "Thousands of citizens flocked since early hours of the day from from different parts and cities of Anbar Province to sit-ins of Falluja and Ramadi, to participate in Friday unified prayer."  NINA also notes police were deployed and set up checkpoints in Falluja and Ramadi, imposing "tight security measures in the sit-ins squares."  Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's forces surrounded the platform at the Baquba sit-in in an attempt to frighten the protesters.  NINA notes that in Samarra, Imam Diab Hamid called on the security forces to stop using security forces against the people and the Imam told the demonstrators that "several weeks ago you voted to replace UN representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler, and now the oppressor has been relieved of his post" (UN Secretary-General announced this week Kobler will be moving onto the Congo).  The Imam congratulated the protesters on their peaceful accomplishments.  In Diyala the call was to preserve the unity and security.   In Balad Ruz, there was the call to continue the peaceful sit-ins.  In addition, Kitabat reports that in Ramadi there is a call for Nouri al-Maliki to come to the sit-in and dialogue with the protesters.

What sparked this wave of protests?  Oh, the Senate Foreign Affairs has never seen fit to explore that or acknowledge what's taking place in Iraq.  That would be oversight and, under Menedez, they don't do oversight.  It's sad that the Committee Vice President Joe Biden once led could, and did, in 2008, explore that the future of Iraq might mean Nouri using weapons on his own people.  That's come to pass, that's no longer a projection or a prediction.  And it's come to pass without any oversight from the Committee that Senator Robert Menedez chairs.

Why the protests?  The failure to implement the power-sharing agreement (the US-brokered Erbil Agreement) that ended the eight-month plus political stalemate of 2010.  The failure to fix public services (while spending billions on weapons).  The issue of the disappeared, Nouri's attacks on his political rivals in Iraqiya, and other longstanding issues.  But the spark that got people into the streets (again)?  Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson:


 Following an outcry against revelations of abuse of women detainees and the arrest of several bodyguards of the popular Sunni finance minister, the government promised in January to reform the judicial system, including reviewing the cases of 6,000 people who have been detained but not tried or even ordered released, in some cases for years, under the country’s antiterrorism law, and initiating an inquiry into widespread allegations of forced confessions and reliance on secret informants.

And in addition to the abuse of females in Iraqi prisons, Nouri's forces have repeatedly attacked the protesters.  Most infamously there was the  Tuesday, April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.  UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.

Neither Menedez nor Boxer felt the need to hold a hearing on that.  There concern for 'human rights' are based not on actual atrocities but on geography -- location, location, location!

Nouri's attacks on the protesters haven't stopped.  From yesterday's snapshot:

 Jason Ditz ( notes:

The Iraqi military’s violent attacks on Sunni Arab protesters weren’t the panacea that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was expecting them to be, but it also cost the army 1,070 troops, according to officials.
The troops, ethnic Kurds, mutinied when they were ordered to attack a Sunni Arab town where protests were taking place, and then refused to attend “disciplinary re-training” meant to ensure that they wouldn’t hesitate to attack Iraqi towns if ordered in the future.

AFP reports that Tuz Khurmatu Mayor Shallal Abdul explains the troops are still in their same positions, they're just now working for and paid by the Peshmerga -- the elite Kurdish fighting force.

 Nouri's attacks on the Iraqi people are so out of control that over a thousand members of the Iraqi military defect to the Peshmerga and that's not cause for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing on Iraq?

Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a call:

 Iraqi authorities should immediately investigate evidence that federal police executed four men and a 15-year-old boy on May 3, 2013, south of Mosul. Witnesses last saw the victims in the custody of the federal police 3rd Division, commanded by Gen. Mehdi Gharawi, who had been removed from his post as a federal police commander following claims he was implicated in torture and other abuses but was later reinstated.  Villagers found the bodies of the five in a field three kilometers from East Mustantiq village on May 11, near where federal police were seen taking them immediately after their arrest. A witness said the bodies had multiple large gunshot wounds, and machine gun shells were found in the vicinity. But photos leaked to the media by a police officer show police officers with the bodies in a less decomposed state than they were when the villagers found them.
"The apparent police role in the machine gun execution of four men and a boy requires an immediate investigation and the prosecution of those responsible," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "That these killings may have been committed by a unit under a commander once implicated in torture shows why abuses can’t be swept under the rug and forgotten."

When exactly is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee going to provide oversight on Iraq?

April set a record for the most violent deaths in Iraq in five years . . . until May came along and set a record for the most violent deaths in Iraq in five years.

 All Iraq News reports 1 Sahwa leader was shot dead outside his Shurqat home today.  NINA notes a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Kirkuk bombing injured one police officer, and Nineveh Province candidate Muhannad Ghazi al-Murad was shot dead today as he left a mosqueAlsumaria notes a bombing targeting an truck load of oil left one civilian dead. Through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 195 violent deaths so far for the month.

And no concern from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?  Just waive the billions on through for next year, provide no oversight at all, right?

As they repeatedly fail to provide oversight, they do get that they look like a joke, right?  They do get that the world sees Iraq falling further apart (as a direct result of the US-led invasion) and sees talk of 'human rights' from the US as laughably hypocritical, right?

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Soledad O'Brien takes her lack of appeal to HBO









 Alex Gibney's We Steal Secrets is the new documentary telling the story about WikiLeaks.  As a result, it's been trashed -- largely by trash.  Loved the comments (that's sarcasm) by the trash that wears a wire to a court-martial -- we all know who I mean, right? -- where no recording devices are allowed.  That is how you end up with audio of Bradly Manning speaking that you release to the world.

WikiLeaks was an organization that pledged to release secrets.  It was a cute stunt and that's what the documentary exposes that probably cuts to the core of too many people who are too invested in Julian Assange and really need to take a step back and get a little perspective.

In its brief history, WikiLeaks accomplished a great deal.  It was to be the people's intelligence agency.  You don't hear that anymore because that motive doesn't come with First Amendment protections in the US, but that's what it was presented as (and the documentary captures that).  It allowed for minor embarrassments in a series of minor -- on the world stage -- exposures.

Then came its biggest leak.   Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh.  None of its subsequent leaks would ever be as massive or impressive.  That's because we are largely a visual people and this one had video.  It had video that the US government had refused to release.  Reuters had pressed forever to know how their two journalists were killed.  They were stonewalled.

The video contained the comments of those doing the killing.  To the shock of many, there was a cold hearted and a they-got-what-they-deserve attitude on the recording.  As though you could do that without hardening and removing yourself from questioning?  I don't know.  A lot of the shock over the video was about drawing lines between yourself and the ones doing the killing and, honestly, there's no great line there.  Anyone could have been the pawn that the killers were.  That is what the training and the socialization is about.

You got drama queens denouncing the killers.  But the killers killed on orders and acted as they were trained to do.  Meaning the problem went above them.  That was too much to explore, that was too much to acknowledge for the simplistic who need everything in black and white -- strangely, this is a group that bashed Bully Boy Bush for his either/or stances.

We didn't glom on the sugaring coating.  Check the archives, we were talking about the larger issues.  Also, you can go into archives before April 5, 2010 and you'll see we supported WikiLeaks.  You can go after, and you'll see the same thing.  When the cables came out, unlike all of the Julian Assange groupies (Greg Mitchell, etc.), we actually covered those in real time.  Democracy Now! couldn't be bothered.  We spent weeks on them here.  And we charted what was happening -- the silence -- at Third.  October 30, 2010, Ava and I wrote "TV: Media of the absurd:"

As two who've experienced not only multiple revivals of Albee's Tiny Alice but the canonization of the Twenty-First Century's two leading dim bulbs Bush and Barack, we thought we had a handle on the theatre of the absurd but, in fact, nothing prepares you.
That point became very clear in last week's coverage of the release of government documents. Friday October 22nd, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to.
How would Panhandle Media handle this? The beggar media, for those who've forgotten, came to new levels of name-recognition (if not fame) and access to the pockets and, more importantly, pocket books of a huge number of Americans as a result of the illegal Iraq War. It was a cash cow, a rainmaker, for Panhandle Media. For the first time in it's 145 year history, The Nation magazine found itself raking in the dough and turning an actual profit, Pacifica Radio found itself flush with so much cash, local stations skimming off the top wasn't really a liability. Those with faces for radio, found a home on TV. It truly was a heady time during which many recast themselves as independent voices of the left when, in fact, they were nothing more than megaphones for the Democratic Party.
Bully Boy Bush's eight-year occupation of the White House was bad for the world but it put a shiny veneer and polish on a number of whores and that was never more clear than last week if you were waiting for WikiLeaks coverage from Panhandle Media.
The Nation magazine offered nothing on WikiLeaks last week. There was a video of Jeremy Schahill appearing on MSNBC talking about WikiLeaks -- that would be MSNBC's content that The Nation magazine reposted. They also reposted Laura Flanders GritTV 'commentary' that managed to buzzword WikiLeak without ever actually discussing it or explaining it. In fact, Laura's 'commentary' was like a trashy website listing porn terms in a desperate attempt to drive up traffic. Which, if you think about it, really does summarize The Nation today.
Yes, the same Laura who once declared it impossible to ignore WikiLeaks (look for her April 2010 column making that claim) ignored it. Despite having a half-hour TV show which airs Monday through Friday. She ignored it over and over. But that's what a whore does and that's all Laura Flanders has become, a cheap, tacky and, yes, ugly media whore.
She's far from alone. In These Times boasts no public access TV 'celebrity' but they couldn't be bothered writing one damn word last week about the documents WikiLeaks released. The Progressive?

Last week, the magazine published 15 online text pieces and not one was about WikiLeaks. That's appalling. In a ridiculous radio commentary last week, Matthew Rothschild opened with, "WikiLeaks has performed a service that our mainstream corporate media has failed to do."
Wow. They've failed! You know, Matt, it's too bad you don't run a magazine. If you did, you could get everyone to cover the WikiLeaks release . . . Oh, wait.
Matthew, you must have forgotten, you are the editor and the CEO of The Progressive magazine. You know what's "really ugly"? Your failure to publish even one article at the website. And you can trash US Senator John Ensign all you want (we have no need to defend Ensign) but if you don't want to look like a hypocrite, you shouldn't attack Ensign for not wanting a hearing on the revelations when you and your magazine can't even write about it. 'Not at all." [For more on Rothschild, refer to Elaine's "The Whoring of America" from last week.]
All last week, Beggar Media had time for every subject except the WikiLeaks release. An actress phoned us Friday to say of KPFK, "It's offered more 'news' of Obama on The Daily Show than on WikiLeaks." No, she wasn't joking. To listen to KPFK programming last week was to have no idea that WikiLeaks released any documents. During the Bush reign, KPFK had a number of hosts insisting no one cared more about the Iraq War than they did. Today? All quiet on the Democratic Party front.

We had no problem supporting WikiLeaks because we had no problem supporting the truth.  But Panhandle Media?  They couldn't take the truth in the releases.  They avoided one of the most serious revelations and you had to look to overseas media to find about that -- start with  Angus Stickler's "Obama administration handed over detainees despite reports of torture" (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism).  The notion that Panhandle Media supported WikiLeaks?  It's a myth, it's a revisionary myth.  They offered generic lip service 'support.' They refused to utilize the cables, to broadcast what was in them, to write about what was in them.  They sure as hell weren't going to go after their hero Barack.  But in their black and white world, they would use them to vilify Bully Boy Bush --  who Barack was never going to prosecute so we should all just take the 'win' and ignore now that he was finally evicted from the White House.

But it was all about yesteryear because focusing on that allowed these children posing as adults to pretend all was well in the world.  That's the lie WikiLeaks was fighting so don't even pretend that a Michael Ratner or an Amy Goodman or The Nation magazine was supporting WikiLeaks at that time.

This is important due to the reaction Alex Gibney's documentary has received from some.  I like the documentary, I applaud it.  But I understand film and I'm also not a cheap whore.  A friend at Universal (which has released the film) asked if I would give it a plug in a snapshot and couldn't understand why the film was so reviled by some.  I explained, "You understand film, you understand a documentary.  But these people don't understand anything but blind faith in their comic book heroes."

As they've demonstrated repeatedly, they're children who will not face truth.  They will lie that all US troops are out of Iraq -- a war they once decried and how they attacked lies about Iraq then -- because their hero is Barack Obama.  They're children who couldn't deal with the information that WikiLeaks released.  You had to be an adult especially to go through those cables because there were a ton of them and lazy children don't do that.  They instead offer generic statements about WikiLeaks and pretend that's covering the release of the cables.  Lazy children have to believe that Julian Assange is god and Superman and Buddah and ET rolled into one.  Because in their simplistic world, in their eternal childhood, that's how they see things.

The documentary's far from perfect.  I don't approve of the term "sex crimes."  Rape is rape but "rape" is only used in the documentary when we see text reports on camera.  The film doesn't pretend to know that Julian Assange raped the two women.  It does allow one woman to tell her side and offers frequent clips of Julian telling his side on that issue -- telling his side means attacking the women -- the thing that did more to destroy the myth of Julian than anything else as his howler monkeys echoed those attacks and the world recoiled.

What Michael Ratner -- who is part of Julian's defense and misuses the public airwaves every week on WBAI to promote his clients or his family (in the case most recently of Lizzy Ratner's appearance) -- wants is a film that says Julian Assange is a victim of others.  What the film argues is Assange is a victim of his own making.  Looking at British newspaper coverage of him, Julian declares, "Wow.  I'm untouchable now in this country."  How quickly that would change. 

Documentaries have a point of view.  Sorry this a surprise to some, sorry that so many never bothered to educate themselves.  If you think I'm a defender of the First Amendment (and I am), I'm an even bigger defender or art and do not suffer fools on that topic.

The documentary also tells Bradley Manning's story and that especially offends the children because Bradley's only of interest to them in terms of Julian Assange.  They've done damn little for Bradley the entire time he's been imprisoned.

Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the Collateral Damage video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.   February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

No surprise, The Nation and so many of the we-love-Bradley! scribes ignored that -- just as they have refused to call out counterinsurgency throughout the last decade.  (And a reminder, the left always called out counter-insurgency in this country.  That's why The Battle of Algiers is such a well known film to this day and not just an obscure classic.)

We Steal Secrets takes you back to when the Collateral Murder video was released by WikiLeaks.

Alex Gibney: The team posted the unedited video on the WikiLeaks website.  They also posted a shorter version, edited for maximum impact.  Julian titled it "Collateral Murder."

TV anchor:  No surprise it's getting reaction in Washington.

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs:  Our military will take every precaution necessary to ensure the safety and security of civilians.

Julian Assange: The behavior of the pilots is like they are playing a computer game.  Their desire was simply to kill.

TV anchor:  The Pentagon says that it sees no reason to investigate this any further.

TV reporter:  It's only inquiry found that the journalists' cameras were mistaken for weapons.

If Howard Zinn had been alive then, would it have gone down the same?  Maybe not.  If Zinn were alive, someone who had dropped bombs and regretted it, he might have been able to steer the spotlight above the ones who did the killing, to those who ordered, to those who created the culture for it.  But maturity was in short supply for the left then.  So, except for some hisses at Hillary Clinton, the administration would be ignored -- even though it was Barack deciding not to open a new investigation, even though it was Robert Gibbs lying to the American people. 

From We Steal Secrets:

Michael Hayden:  Frankly I'm not.  But I can understand someone who is troubled by that and someone who wants the American people to know that because the American people need to know what it is their government is doing for them.  I actually share that view.  When I was Director of the CIA, there was some stuff we were doing I wanted all 300 million of Americans to know.  But I never figured out a way without informing a whole bunch of other people who didn't have a right to that information, who may actually use that image, or that fact, or that data, or that image, or that message to harm my country men.

US Government Classification Czar J. William Leonard:  From a national security point of view, there was absolutely no justification for that videotape. Number one, gunship video is like trading cards among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's freely exchanged back and forth.  What is even more disturbing is it was one in a series of efforts to withhold images of facts that were known.

Alex Gibney: Reuters knew its reporters had been killed.  The news agency requested the video but the Army refused claiming the video was classified.

J. William Leonard:  The fact that innocent people were killed in that helicopter attack, that was a known fact that was not classified.

Alex Gibney: A record of the incident and a word-for-word transcript of the pilot's conversation had had already been published in a book called The Good Soldiers by a writer embedded with the army [David Finkel]. The Army later confirmed that the information was not classified yet the Army would prosecute the man [Bradley Manning] who leaked the video to WikiLeaks.  What kind of games was the Army playing?  Why was a transcript less secret than a moving image?

That could be a defense argument if Bradley had real legal representation.  He clearly doesn't, his attorney is an idiot and so are a few of the 'talkers' pretending to support Brad.  Jodie Evans is guilty of taking her stupidity all over the airwaves.  The elderly woman with the Valley Girl speak who married for money is -- and always was -- a supreme idiot.  As she demonstrated on KPFK's Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett Monday.  Jodie marveled over how the prosecution presented their case (opening arguments) with precision.  She said that they had it all lined up and it left her cold.  Showing the xenophobia that's always been there (I've known Jodie since she was a gofer for Jerry Brown), she went on about how it sounded like a foreign language.  And then Daniel E. Coombs got up (Bradley's civilian attorney) and started talking about it in terms that touched her heart. 

Jodie was praising that.  It's a losing strategy and we explained that in the June 3rd snapshot:

Ian Simpson (Reuters) notes Bradley's civilian attorney David Coombs declared that Bradley was "young, naive, but good intentioned."  Is ignorance of the law going to be Coombs defense?  He is aware that's not an excuse, right?  And if he thinks he's laying the groundwork for ineptitude, he's doing it very poorly.  (Ineptitude is a recognized military defense.  If you were inept -- it has to be specific -- then you can be found not guilty.  Ineptitude is not ignorance.)  Also, it's "well intentioned," not "good intentioned."  What a moron.  Who is the idiot who paired Bradley with this attorney?ITV (link is text and video)  quotes Coombs more fully, "He was 22-years old.  He was young.  A little naive, but good intentioned in that he was selecting information that he thought would make a difference.  He is not the typical soldier.  He was a humanist."
That argument?  It's meaningless.  It became meaningless when the decision was made by the defense not to seek a trial by his peers and instead allow the military official overseeing the court-martial to decide on guilt or innocence.  Denise Lind will be swayed only by the law.  Coombs is such an idiot he's making jury arguments when there's no jury present.  What an idiot.

[. . .]
So while the prosecution is being systematic in their presentation, Coombs is all over the board with idiotic statements which don't even rally public support outside the courtroom.  All weekend long we heard or read or saw one interview after another of Daniel Ellsberg and others maintaining, "I am Bradley Manning."  The point of that p.r. blitz is to normalize Bradley, to make him appear like someone you know, someone you can understand.  But Coombs is presenting Bradley as an "oddball."  While the p.r. campaign is saying we're all like Bradley, Coombs is arguing Bradley is nothing like others.
It's stupid.  It's stupid in that this part of the hearing is open and his statements could be used to rally the public but Coombs is too stupid to grasp that.  It's stupid because he already looks like an idiot before the judge while the prosecution looks methodical and informed.  It really says something when you think about the brain trust that devoted their time and energy to Julian Assange (including but not limited to American attorney Michael Ratner) but there's a brain drought when it comes to Bradley's defense.
What should Coombs be doing?  Having failed to get a plea deal that would allow Bradley to serve less than five years (that was possible), having failed to get a jury trial, having failed to stipulate so that the trial would not last (as many outlets insist it will) 12 weeks, what is Coombs left with?
He's left with the law.  You argue the law.  And it's not hard to argue the law.  The law is in conflict all the time.  You raise those conflicts before the judge, you make the judge explore those conflicts on her own, in her own mind.  You're not going to sway a military judge with kittens and sob stories. 
[. . .]

You make the legal argument.  You engage the judge's critical thinking and you do so grasping that judicial activism -- which happens across the political spectrum -- happens because judges think they know so much and think if writing the law was left up to them all the problems in the world would be solved.  You invite the judge into a legal maze and let the judge sort it out.  The vanity usually works to the defense's interest.

Jodie doesn't have a damn clue and as she marvels over the court-martial with Lila, you're left with the realization that this alleged 'activist,' this alleged 'anti-war' 'activist,' never got her ass into a court-martial before and never followed the coverage of one.  Despite the fact that court-martials have been held against war resisters Camilo Mejia, Robin Long, James Burmeister, Mark Wilkerson, Ehren Watada, Kimberly Rivera . . .   In fact, Kim Rivera's very telling.

Supposedly, Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin created a group for women opposed to the war.  Kim Rivera is a war resister.  She and her family went to Canada because she refused to go back to the Iraq War which she found to be criminal.  In September of 2012, she was informed she would be deported back to the US.  We covered that repeatedly here, check the archives.  CODESTINK?  They had time to issue, among other nonsense, "Two Women Wrongfully Arrested for Standing on Sidewalk Holding Pink Bras in front of Bank of America."  They never issued one damn press release on Kim.  April 29th, Kim faced a court-martial.  They were too busy with the Bush library and with their idiotic hunger strike (are they dead yet?) to cover Kim. 

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ralph Nader is the problem!







Speaking of sour grapes . . .

Senator Dick Durbin:  I was on the intelligence community right at the time of 9-11. I saw what happened immediately afterwards.  There was a dramatic investment in intelligence resources for our nation, to keep us safe, a a dramatic investment in the personnel to execute the plan to keep us safe. I trusted, and I still do, that we were hiring the very best  -- trusting them to not only give us their best in terms of knowledge but also their loyalty to the country.  I'd like to ask you about one of those employees who is now in a Hong Kong hotel and what is as follows: He was a high school drop out, he was a community college drop out, he had a GED degree, he was injured in training for the US Army and had to leave as a result of that and he took a job as a security guard for the NSA in Maryland.  Shortly thereafter, he took a job for the CIA in what is characterized in the Guardian piece that was published.  At age 23, he was stationed in an undercover manner overseas for the CIA and was given clearance and access to a wide varray -- a wide array of classified documents.  At age 25, he went to work for a private contractor and most recently worked for Booz Allen, another private contractor, working for the government.  I'm trying to look at this resume and background.  It says he ended up earning somewhere between $122,000 and $200,00 a year.  [Fun facts: While 29-year-old Ed Snowden may have made $200,000 a year, 68-year-old Dick Durbin makes $174,000 a year as a senator.  Durbin hails from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and received his law degree from Georgetown University Law.] I'm trying to look at the resume background for this individual who had access to the highly classified material at such a young age with a limited educational and work experience, part of it as a security guard and ask if you were troubled that he was given that kind of opportunity to be so close to information that was critical to our security?

Well at least Dickie didn't cry in public, right?  That's a step up.  He was speaking at this afternoon's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing -- and maybe he's angling for a pay raise for senators?    Your pay is based on a skill set.  Director of National Security General Keith B. Alexander made that point. I'm not surprised by that at all.

Alexander, Homeland Security's Rand Beers ("acting deputy"), NIST Director Patrick Gallagher and Richard McFeely (Executive Assistant Director of Criminal, Cyber, Reponse, and Services Branch- FBI) appeared before the full Committee which Senator Barbara Mikulski is Chair of.  Ava will be addressing Mikulski tonight at Trina's site (and may grab Dianne Fienstein as well).  Wally will cover a topic -- possibly Mike Johanns but he and Ava are discussing that right now. Wally will be writing at Rebecca's site tonight.  Kat's going to do an overview which will include Feinstein.   By the way, Ava's going to let it rip including a phrase I don't say in my personal life but I do applaud her for it and agree with her and felt that way last week when we encountered Mikulski as a Chair for the first time last week.  And Wally's saying that he's covering Jeff Merkley instead and will also be noting the Committee Chair.

What we'll note here is Dianne Feinstein isn't the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Commitee but acted as though she were.  There was no reason for her to be at the hearing, she heard from the witness yesterday and will again tomorrow.  It's not as though she added a damn thing of value to the hearing.  She was there to run interference.  She broke into others questioning.  At a certain point, it stops looking DiFi's protecting the law breakers and it becomes more obvious that she's trying to prevent the public from grasping that DiFi is also responsible for the spying. 

In addition to that, we'll note this exchange.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  [. . .]  I've had a lot of concern about section 215 of The PATRIOT Act.  Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance [Act] -- FISA.  We've had a number of common sense proposals in the Judiciary Committee to improve these provisions but the intelligence community has told us that, really, we obviously don't have the ability as simple senators, to know anything as well as you do and so they don't need changes, we're told they're critical to our counterterrorism efforts, Congress shouldn't 'tinker,' we should simply trust you to use in the right way and they should be made permanent.  Now I don't think that's wise.  I think that there should be sunset [automatic expiration] provisions and we should look at them periodically.  We should actually debate them in a free and open society.  Now we have information recently declassified by the Director of National Intelligence -- and I'm not going into questions on whether he contradicted himself on a couple of answers -- but taking what he's recently declassified, it appears that Section 702 said was critical to upsetting the Zazhi case in New York City.  But it's not clear if data collected pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act was similarly critical or crucial.  So, Gen Alexander, let me ask you this, has the intelligence community kept track of how many times phone records obtained through Section 215 of the Patriot Act were critical to the discovery and disruption of terrorist threats?  

Gen Keith Alexander: I don't have those figures today.  I --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Are those -- are those figures available?

Gen Keith Alexander:  We're going to make those figures available.  We promise --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  How soon?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Over the next week, it would be our intent to get those figures out.  I talked to the Intell Committee [Senate Intelligence Committee] on that yesterday.  I think it's important to know --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Wait a minute, wait a minute.  You talked to the Intell Community about this yesterday but you didn't have the figures yesterday?

Gen Keith Alexander:  I gave an approximate number to them --

Senator Patrick Leahy:   Okay, what's the approximate --

Gen Keith Alexander:  It's classified.  But it's dozens of terrorists events that these have helped prevent.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay, so dozens.  Now we collect millions and millions and millions of records to, uh, 215, but dozens have proved crucial -- critical -- is that right?  Dozens?

Gen Keith Alexander:  For both here and abroad.  In disrupting or contributing to the disruption of terrorist attacks.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Of all those millions, dozens have been critical? 

Gen Keith Alexander:  That's correct.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Would you give me the specific -- even if that's classified -- the specific cases we're talking about?

Gen Keith Alexander:  We will.  But we're going through the Intell Committee to do this.  Tomorrow, I'll give as clear as we've vetted precisely what we've done on each of those.  And the reason I want to get this exactly right, Senator, is because I want the American people to know that we're being transparent in here. 

Senator Patrick Leahy:  No, no,  no, you're not giving it to the American people.  You're giving it classified to specific members of Congress.  Is that correct?

Gen Keith Alexander:   Well there's two parts.  We can give the classified.  That's easy.  But I think also for this debate, what you are asking -- and perhaps I misunderstood this -- but I thought you were also asking what we could put out unclassified.  So the intent would be to do both. 

Senator Patrick Leahy:  You can do that in a week?

Gen Keith Alexander:  That is our intent.  I am pushing for that and --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay.

Gen Keith Alexander:  -- perhaps faster. If I don't get any kicks from behind me.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  If you don't get any what?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Kicks from the people behind me who are doing the work because we do want to get this right.  And it has to be vetted across the community so that what we give you, you know is accurate, and we have everybody here, especially between the FBI and the rest of the intell community can say this is exactly correct.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay.  DNI [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper said that Section 702 collection is critical to the discovery and disruption of the plot to bomb the New York City subway system -- the Zazi case -- is that correct?

Gen Keith Alexander:   Uhm, that is correct. In fact, not just critical, it is the one that developed the lead on it so I would say -- I would say it was the one that allowed us to know it was happening.

Senator Patrick Leahy:   But that is different than Section 215.

Gen Keith Alexander:  That is different than Section 215.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  215,  Phone records.  702 --

Gen Keith Alexander:  If I could, I could explain this.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Go ahead.

Gen Keith Alexander:  Uhm, because I do think it's important that we get this right.  And, uh, I want the American people to know that we're trying to be transparent here, protect civil liberties and privacy but also the security of this country.  On the New York City one, the [Najibullah] Zazi case, it started with a 702 set of information based on operatives overseas.  We saw connections to a person in Colorado.  That was passed to the FBI.  The FBI determined who that person was and phone numbers that went to that.  The phone numbers on Zazi were the things that then allowed us to use the business records, uh, FISA, to go and find out connections from Zazi to other players, uh, to other players throughout the community in New York City.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Was 215 critical?

Gen Keith Alexander:   That's how -- I think 215 is corroborating and to helping us understand --

Senator Patrick Leahy:   Was it critical in Zazi?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Not to  Zazi.  Because the first part in Zazi went to the 702.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  And, and [David] Headly, was either 702 or 215 critical?

Gen Keith Alexander:  702 on Headley and some on the business records FISA for corroboarting.  And I think it's important to understand because this is an issue that I think we'll be important to the debate.  And I put on there, Senator, obviously, the Boston.  I think we need to walk through that so that what we have on the business records, FISA, what we have on 702, what you debate, the facts that we can give you, what we do with that, how we take that to the FBI,  if we took that away what we could not do and is that something when we look at this from a security perspective --

Senator Patrick Leahy:    In Boston, you're talking about the marathon.  What the FBI could have done was to pass on the information to the Boston authorities who said they did not.  That might have been helpful too.  But my time is up.  I mention this only because before it's brought up in the Judiciary Committee, we're going to be asking some very, very specific questions.

Gen Keith Alexander:  So if I could, Senator, I'd just want to make sure we're clear on what we're talking about here is that these authorities compliment each other in helping us identify different terrorist actions and help disrupt them.

On the spying scandals, Penny Lee (US News and World Reports) wonders if there are 2016 implications:

Now, recent revelations of National Security Agency surveillance and the PRISM program have renewed outrage within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party over security matters – expressions of contempt for those who voted to authorize these broad uses of power and profound disappointment in the president over his administration's expansion of what he vigorously opposed as a candidate. The liberal base is now demanding a vote in Congress for a full repeal of the Patriot Act. 
In 2016, the Patriot Act could very well be the new "Iraq War Vote" litmus test for the Democratic field as it speaks to a core principal for the left – the need for fierce protection of personal liberties. Two potential candidates, Clinton and Biden, are in the awkward positions of having to both defend their past votes authorizing the original Patriot Act, and their implicit support for the expansion of the program while serving in the Obama Administration.

We'll come back to Congress later in the snapshot.    Spencer Ackerman has a report for the Guardian on the hearing (I haven't read it yet, a friend asked that we link to it). Turning to the topic of Iraq, Good is a US site which insists it's "A community of people who give a damn." Pity it's not a community of people who have a clue.  Adele Peters makes that very clear in her bad post about a library in Iraq.

Did Iraq get a new library?  Not yet.  But being "Good" apparently means applauding lip service.  Now there have been so many promised projects that have never materialized in post-2003 invasion Iraq but knowing that might make "people who give a damn" educated and they'd never hop on their high horses if they were smart enough to realize how harmed they could be in a fall. 

Here's another little clue for Good and Peters, buildings don't make libraries: Information does.  Considering some of the squabbling currently going on about the national museum in Iraq (it's not been made public yet so Good and Peters are forgiven for not knowing about it) and what qualifies as "art" -- a debate built not around artistic merit but on fundamentalist religious grounds -- I'd be really hesitant about applauding any proposed library in Iraq before it opens.  What will be on the shelves?

"People who give a damn" might try to also become "People who are factual."  Peters writes, "The roof is filled with skylights to illuminate the reading rooms, and solar panels to power the building.  It's scheduled to be built later this year." Until it's built, grasp this, there is no roof -- not one filled with skylights or one empty of skylights.

Peters has written an extremely idiotic post that's also highly misleading as it features photos -- of what?  What are these buildings?  Are these projections of what the library will look like?  When you run photos, if these are not photos, you need to say so.  The photo credit takes you to another site.  (At that site, click on "projects" and then select Baghdad library.)  There, via a 'ghosting' of people in one photo (you can see through the people) you realize these are not images that were captured of a building that is built but images that have been manipulated digitally.  You also find out that Good is cheering a project that they know will be open by the end of the year. My calendar says it's 2013.  The project was started in 2011 and is listed as "ongoing" for its current status.  I'm not so sure it's going to be finished this year -- especially with a pesky fact like the increased violence in Iraq the last two months.

At that site, you will find the claim, "This will be an accessible library for all ages with access to a collection of over three million books along with rare manuscripts, periodicals."  You'd think that -- and not building plans -- would be the focus of someone excited about a library.

But you'd think someone excited about a library, looking at these digital images would be concerned with access and quickly note that security's not a concern for the library and then quickly realize that this isn't in Baghdad.  Not Baghdad that Iraqis access.  This is a library that will be in the heavily fortified Green Zone that most Iraqis are prevented from entering.

I have no idea why anyone would go with "Good" as the name of a group or post -- to indicate others are "bad"?  Or why they'd proclaim that they were "a community of people who give a damn."   Are they unaware of Robert Burns' "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough"?  "The best laid schemes of mice and men/ Often go awry."  Or of the saying, thought to have originated with St Bernard of Clairvaux, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  Maybe instead of writing about a library, next time Good might try first visiting one.

While there, Peters can ask a reference librarian about books on attribution.  She's using  a long quote from a de zeen magazine article published yesterday and failed to attribute it to de zeen which, don't mean to upset "the people who give a damn" here, is also known as plagiarism. 

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Couldn't get much worse






Starting with The War on the First Amendment, the ACLU announces they are fighting back against government intrusion:

CONTACT: 212-549-2666,

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.

"This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. "It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy."

The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, which was the recipient of a secret FISA Court order published by The Guardian last week. The order required the company to "turn over on 'an ongoing daily basis' phone call details" such as who calls are placed to and from, and when those calls are made. The lawsuit argues that the government's blanket seizure of and ability to search the ACLU's phone records compromises sensitive information about its work, undermining the organization's ability to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others.

"The crux of the government's justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone's data now and ask questions later," said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU's National Security Project. "The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in the country."

The ACLU's 2008 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, which authorized the so-called "warrantless wiretapping program," was dismissed 5–4 by the Supreme Court in February on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been monitored. ACLU attorneys working on today's complaint said they do not expect the issue of standing to be a problem in this case because of the FISA Court order revealed last week.

Yesterday, the ACLU and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a motion with the FISA Court, requesting that it to publish its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Patriot Act Section 215. The ACLU is also currently litigating a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed in October 2011, demanding that the Justice Department release information about the government's use and interpretation of Section 215.

"There needs to be a bright line on where intelligence gathering stops," said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. "If we don't say this is too far, when is too far?"

Attorneys on the case are Jaffer and Abdo along with Brett Max Kaufman and Patrick Toomey of the ACLU, and Arthur N. Eisenberg and Christopher T. Dunn of the NYCLU.

An interactive graphic examining the secret FISA Court order revealed last week is available here.

Today's complaint is

You can also refer to Brett Max Kaufman's ACLU Blog of Rights' postMartha Neil (American Bar Association Journal) terms the filing "the first step in a process that could eventually lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of a sweeping telephone records review revealed last week by a former National Security Agency contractor, the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday sued the Obama administration over its "dragnet" collection of domestic phone-call information."

Some members of Congress are also objecting to the dragnet.  Jeff Mapes (The Oregonian) reports on Senator Ron Wyden's objections and notes this March 12th Senate Intelligence Committee hearing exchange between Wyden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:

Senator Ron Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

James Clapper:  No, sir.

Senator Ron Wyden: It does not?

James Clapper: Not wittingly.  There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect, but not wittingly."

So he lied to Congress, the people's representatives.  Then, on Sunday, he lied about lying in an interview with Andrea Mitchell for NBC's Today:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Senator Wyden made quite a lot out of your exchange with him last March during the hearings. Can you explain what you meant when you said that there was not data collection on millions of Americans?

JAMES CLAPPER: First-- as I said, I have great respect for Senator Wyden. I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked-- "When are you going to start-- stop beating your wife" kind of question, which is meaning not-- answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no. And again, to go back to my metaphor. What I was thinking of is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers-- of those books in that metaphorical library-- to me, collection of U.S. persons' data would mean taking the book off the shelf and opening it up and reading it.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Taking the contents?

JAMES CLAPPER: Exactly. That's what I meant. Now--

ANDREA MITCHELL: You did not mean archiving the telephone numbers?


ANDREA MITCHELL: Let me ask you about the content--

JAMES CLAPPER: And this has to do with of course somewhat of a semantic, perhaps some would say too-- too cute by half. But it is-- there are honest differences on the semantics of what-- when someone says "collection" to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.

Oh, so the question caught him by surprise and he misunderstood?  Senator Ron Wyden's office issued the following today:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued the following statement regarding statements made by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about collection on Americans. Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“One of the most important responsibilities a Senator has is oversight of the intelligence community.  This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions. When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence.  So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance.  After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer.  Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.”

Clapper knew the question going into hearing, knew it 24 hours before.  After he lied to the Senate Committee, Wyden  and his staff provided Clapper with "a chance to amend his answer."  He did not take them up on that but let his lie stand.  Then he went on Today and lied to the American people about lying.  Lying to Congress is also know as "perjury" and that's true regardless of whether or not you are sworn in before your testimony.  Perjuring yourself before Congress is a crime.  It's hard to understand how someone who commits a crime -- one of the most offensive in a democracy (lying to the people's representatives) -- can remain a government official -- an appointee who has now lost the public's trust.

Fred Kaplan (Slate) offers, "But it's hard to have meaningful oversight when an official in charge of the program lies so blatantly in one of the rare open hearings on the subject.  (Wyden, who had been briefed on the program, knew that Clapper was lying, but he couldn't say so without violating the terms of his security clearance.)  And so, again, if President Obama really welcomes an open debate on this subject, James Clapper has disqualified himself from participation in it.  He has to go."  Andrew Rosenthal (New York Times' Taking Note blog, Rosenthal is the paper's editorial page editor) also calls out the lying and notes that the issue also came up in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing (open hearing) back in 2006 when Alberto Gonzales (then the US Attorney General) was testifying and that Gonzales responded, "The programs and activities you ask about, to the extent that they exist, would be highly classified."  Rosenthal obsevers, "You have to wonder about giving a position of vast responsibility to someone who can beat Mr. Gonzales in dishonesty."

His dishonesty is contagious in the administration.  White House press secretary Jay Carney declared at yesterday's press conference:

It's entirely appropriate for a program to exist to look at foreign data and foreign -- potential foreign terrorist.  But there are procedures in place as the Director made clear, as the president made clear -- both at the congressional, executive and legisl -- and  judicial levels -- that provide oversight of these programs.

Clearly, that is not the case. There is no true Congressional oversight if Congress is being lied to.  And, clearly, Congress was lied to last March.

It's not even just the lying.  It's also the disrespect, the mocking of the American people by Clapper.  He not only lied to Congress, he not only lied to Today, he also lied to National Journal (where he claimed Wyden asked him about e-mails).  But the lies from Clapper -- and more importantly, the disrespect -- just never stops.  Andrea Mitchell explained in their interview that "when Americans woke up and learned because of these leaks that every single telephone call in this United States, as well as elsewhere, but every call made by these telephone companies that they collect is archived, the numbers, just the numbers, and the duration of these calls.  People were astounded by that.  They had no idea.  They felt invaded."  To which James Clapper responded, "I understand that. But first let me say that I and everyone in the intelligence community all -- who are also citizens -- who also care very deeply about our-our privacy and civil liberties -- I certainly do." 

Americans "felt invaded," Andrea explained and he responded he understood and that he cares "deeply" about this issue.  Today Emily Heil (Washington Post) reports:

Addressing the audience at a black-tie banquet on Friday night honoring Michael Hayden, the former CIA and National Security Agency chief, Clapper managed to muster some humor about government snooping, according to Government Executive’s account of the event.
"Some of you expressed surprise that I showed up," he told the crowd, according to GovExec. "So many e-mails to read!"

Americans felt invaded and he's cracking jokes about it.  He's cracking jokes about it in public. Someone that stupid should not be in charge of National Intelligence.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

He used to be so popular








Today on CBS This Morning, Major Garrett reported on US President Barack Obama's latest scandal.

MAJOR GARRETT: The White House knows that this is an intelligence crisis that could become a political crisis. Now, in face of revelations about secret phone snooping and internet data mining, President Obama authorized the declassification of some information about both of the programs and he asked the Director of National Intelligence [James Clapper]  to explain with some detail the underlying legal justification for the surveillance and some of the guidelines built around that. Now many of these explanations have been defensive -- asserting what the snooping and surveillance is not. That's designed to hold the political line in Congress so the White House can assess just  how much of a political firestorm this is going to generate.  But through this all, Charlie and Norah, the White House has had to admit a politically and tactically startling truth: It conducts more surveillance than the Bush White House.

Yesterday,  Amy Davidson (The New Yorker) reviewed the basics:

 So far, the leaks have revealed that the N.S.A. is collecting records from Verizon Business (and, it emerged, from any number of other companies) for every phone call placed in the United States; that, with a program called Prism and some degree of co√∂peration from technology companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Apple, it is looking at the private data of both foreigners it targeted and—“incidentally”—Americans a degree or even two removed from them; that another program, called Boundless Informant, processed billions of pieces of domestic data each month, and many times that from abroad. We also learned that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, flat-out lied to the Senate when he said that the N.S.A. did not “wittingly” collect any sort of data on millions of Americans. And we were reminded of how disappointing President Obama can be. These were all things the public deserved to know.

While some do journalism,  Jon Cohen (Washington Post) regurgitates, "A large majority of Americans say the federal government should focus on investigating possible terrorist threats even if personal privacy is compromised, and most support the blanket tracking of telephone records in an effort to uncover terrorist activity, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll."  Did it say that, Little Jonny?  Did you tucker yourself out typing that? That's not a story, though it has a headline and several paragraphs.  It may be an attempt, like this embarrassing column by the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, to manipulate public opinion.

The gross stupidity of the Amreican press can never be underscored enough.  A friend who was Academy Award nominated for playing an airhead never tires of telling one and all that she based her performance on reporters who had interviewed her.  Amen.  As a group, they think they know everything when they know nothing.  They've taken no polling classes but they just 'know' polling.

Monday, May 13th kicked off a week of  minor press coverage but, as minor as it was, what was also the most critical the press had ever been of US President Barack Obama and his administration.  The press almost had to do their job that week that kicked off with news that the Associated Press' phone records had been secretly seized, which was followed by the news that the IRS had been targeting political groups thought to be critical of Barack and the Benghazi e-mail dump which revealed that Victoria Nuland had argued for deletions and (this part hasn't been picked up on) that Nuland went over the heads of the other people working on the talking points to get the deletions she wanted.  (When you read the e-mails, you note quickly that twice Nuland objects and makes clear that not only is she objecting, but oops, she already objected higher -- like a little tattle tale -- and those communications have not been released.)

In the wake of all of that?  Enter the gas bags.

That week of the press semi doing their job ended on May 17th.  Let's check in with the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) that morning (the 'domestic' 'news' hour).

Diane Rehm:   I wonder how people across the country are seeing this, whether there have been polls taken on this IRS issue and what they look like. 

Susan Page (USA Today):  You know, I saw a poll that Gallup came out with this morning and one that -- a similar one that Pew, I think, came out with yesterday or the day before that showed relatively low public interest in all these scandals. And you know why? It's because people are worried about their jobs and their health care and sending their kids to college.

Diane Rehm: Exactly.

Susan Page:  And that is something to remember as well. And then that is why President Obama, today, is not talking about these scandals. He's going to Baltimore. He's going to an elementary school. He's going to go to a job training program because, of course, that is what Americans are most focused on. 

With one poll, our 'faith healers' and 'tea leaf readers' of the press 'knew' what was what.  They didn't know a damn thing.   For the record, Susan Page is a smart journalist except when she attempts to read tea leaves.  She was far from the only offender.  With that poll and polls taken over the May 18 and 19th weekend, various 'journalists' stepped forward -- and former 'journalists' who seemed to think their work at People magazine qualified as 'news' experience -- to proclaim there was nothing to see her because polling demonstrated low interest in the scandals.  You don't determine news by polling, first of all.  'News' by polling not only would have buried the Watergate story while Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were pursuing it, it would lead to nothing but cat pictures. And isn't ABC World News already close enough to that with their insipid 'found on the web' stories?

 I don't care for Washington Week but let's note host Gwen Ifill properly summarized what was going on May 17th, "Good evening.  This week saw a remarkable collision of outrage and investigation, printing and politics.  And as the week ends, we still haven’t really gotten to the bottom of the unfolding messes at the Justice Department, the State Department, the IRS, and ultimately, the White House."   Even more important, and why I'm noting Washington Week (PBS),  John Dickerson (Slate and CBS News) grasped polls.

JOHN DICKERSON:  There’s a way also in which this IRS scandal in particular bleeds over into other things.  Seventy three percent of the country already doesn’t trust government, so is already a pretty small group of people who still trusted their government.  But the argument from conservatives for ages has been even if there’s no wrongdoing, this is what happens when you have a big government.  So let’s leave aside the question whether these people were politically motivated at the IRS.  Just big government does things to get in the way of –

He's citing a different poll!  Right, he's citing an established poll.  A poll that you can look at and you can look at the ones before it and you can see a trend.  And the poll was taken before the scandals emerged in the press.  Let's stay with Washington Week for a moment because it's so rare I ever praise them but Gwen and company deserve praise on this.  From the May 24th show (two Fridays after the scandals emerged):

MS. IFILL: OK. We’re going to move on to another nagging policy problem, the targeting of the political sort. And that’s at the IRS. The official in charge of the mess took the fifth rather than testify before Congress, then was placed on paid leave. But the uproar continued, and in the end you could be forgiven for not knowing whom to trust. With all the shifting accounts surrounding this, is government losing the credibility wars in this, Dan?

MR. BALZ: Well, I mean, Gwen, there are a lot of angles, you know, from which you can look at this IRS scandal, but that’s clearly one of them. Even before this, we know that the trust in government was at a low ebb. The Pew Research Center did a survey that came out a month ago or so that said the image of the federal government was at the lowest that they had ever found. The trust in government to do the right thing most of the time is at or close to its historic lows. That was all before this.   You know, I had a conversation with President-elect Obama in December of 2008. And one of the things I asked him was, in essence, do you think your election meant that there is greater receptivity to bigger government and more activist government. And he said to me at the time – he said, I don’t think it’s a question of bigger or smaller government. And he said, I think there is skepticism of government that’s kind of been baked into the system since Ronald Reagan or if not a little before. He said, the real question is, can we have smarter government or more effective government?  And I think if you look at where we are today, you have to say he’s failed that test. I mean, you’ve got the IRS problem. You’ve got the – you know, the Defense Department under scrutiny because of sexual assaults that they’ve not been able to bring under control; the State Department because of Benghazi and the lack of security. You’ve got – you know, you’ve got a variety of big, important agencies that have either ethical lapses, legal problems or managerial flaws that the public is seeing. And I don’t think there’s any way that in this environment people are going to say, I have a lot of confidence that government is going to do good things or the right things.

That's Dan Balz of the Washington Post.  He's talking about the same poll that John Dickerson did.
Diane Rehm was completely wrong.  The poll Susan Page cited was meaningless.  We could provide many others who cited many other just completed polls and gas bagged over them wasting time and leaving audiences with the wrong impression.  But what happened on The Diane Rehm Show May 17th was typical.  What happened on Washington Week the same day and the next Friday was not typical for the press.  (Though it does seem to be typical for this year of Washington Week.)

 If you don't get that those citing instant polls were wrong, let's drop back to the June 6, 2013 snapshot:


 On the scandals, a new NBC News - Wall St. Journal poll has been released.  Chuck Todd was on NBC's Today show this morning discussing it with Savannah Guthrie (here for video).  Todd noted "major erosion over independents -- political independents -- over a three month period.  The President's support among independents has gone from 41% to a very paltry 29%.  That is an ominous sign."  Last week, Rebecca noted the erosion of independents and last night she noted Jake Miller (CBS News) reporting on the new Bloomberg News poll which finds 47% of Americans surveyed do not believe Barack is being truthful with the American public.

Chuck Todd:  But then if you look at certain presidential characteristics, you sort of see how this trio of controversies in Washington -- IRS, Benghazi -- have impacted the president.  His ability to handle a crisis -- confidence in this, all down.  Strong leadership qualities -- down.  Being honest and straight forward -- public down.  All of these areas not looking good as far as the public is concerned.  And this is the way you can see the public is just not happy with the way the President is running the country.

Here are the numbers displayed onscreen about the three most prominent scandals:


                                              RAISES DOUBT         NO DOUBT
BENGHAZI                                         58%                     27%
DOJ MEDIA SUBPOENA                 58%                     23%
IRS                                                        55%                     26%

A different set of numbers.  Less than a week after Anita Hill testified before Congress in 1991, a friend who was a senator said to me he was so glad that the storm had been "weathered."  (This was a Democratic senator.)  I told him he was insane.  He pointed to a poll that had just come out.  I spent the rest of that year saying it was not going away and it didn't.  The Gender Quake of the 1992 elections can be traced directly to Hill.

Instant polling is meaningless.  Diane Rehm is supposed to be a journalist but she's saying, to Susan Page above, "Exactly."  But people really aren't focused on health care, sorry Susan.  They had, at that point, bought into the lie of a 'recovering economy,' so the notion that they were obsessed with that is dubious as well.   And a real host would have pointed that out.  Instead, Diane rushed in with, "Exactly!"  Because it made her feel good.  And that's what the instant polling is about.  You're not measuring what people really think because they haven't had time to reflect.

You're measuring what they hope.  I say this over and over, but as someone who took research methodology classes and demographics and statistics, I can't believe how ignorant of polling the media is.  Greeted with bad news, a large segment (and this is true of polling from the beginning of polling) of the population will enter denial unless there is a confession from the authority figure accused.  Even then, you can get up to 30% denial.

In the aftermath of Hill - Thomas (law professor Anita Hill came forward to testify of how her then-boss at the EEOC, Clarence Thomas, had harassed her), the public 'supported' Clarence Thomas.  Thomas was a Supreme Court nominee.  Diane Rehm's "Exactly!" response of dismissing bad news was at play.  People didn't want to believe that a nominee for the Supreme Court -- who got confirmed -- could have done what Clarence Thomas did.

That's the immediate reaction.  But people mull things over, they deliberate in their heads as they would on a jury.  And that's why instant polling on an issue is so stupid because most don't understand how to interpret it.  The only thing to watch for in an instant poll is those with no vested interest.  Is there any movement there?  If there's any movement there to one side by that group, that generally tells you the direction things will trend in.  So, if you're talking politics, in the poll you study independent voters -- who may be 'swing' voters or may be undecideds but are not vested to a partisan game.  They are still vested with the American notion of deference to authority figures.  That's why you're looking for any movement there in an instant poll -- big or small.   Is there any movement there?

Given a few weeks to play out, other segments in the poll will tend to trend in the same direction as those with no vested interest.  That's what's happened and why last week's NBC News - Wall St. Journal poll found what it did.

The most important part of polling, which most journalists never seem to grasp, is what it tells us -- polling as a whole -- about human nature.  Until you can talk about those trends, you really shouldn't speak of poll that's just been released because you honestly lack the skill to speak with any knowledge.

The Washington Post bills Jon Cohen as "Cohen is polling director for Capital Insight, Washington Post Media’s independent polling group. Capital Insight pollsters Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement contributed to this report."  Really?  Because most "polling directors" would immediately know to identify the margin of error in the poll -- not in paragraph ten.  Of course, identify the plus/minus 4.5% margin of error would question all of Cohen's conclusions.  But you don't even need the margin of error to question.  Just look at these two assertions by Jon Cohen:

* Fully 45 percent of all Americans say the government should be able to go further than it is, saying that it should be able to monitor everyone’s online activity if doing so would prevent terrorist attacks. A slender majority, 52 percent, say no such broad-based monitoring should occur. 

*  Overall, 56 percent of Americans consider the NSA accessing telephone call records of millions of Americans through secret court orders “acceptable,” while 41 percent call the practice “unacceptable.”

The two claims are in conflict with one another indicating a polling problem.  What was being measured is not clear to those being surveyed if 52% say (in first claim) "no such broad-based monitoring should occur" and (in the second claim) 56% see it as "acceptable."  Why is that?  Look at the actual questions and you find that it's presented as an abstract and an either or -- either you're 'protected' by the government from 'terrorism' or you have your rights.  These are charged questions and I would argue this is an example of push-pulling.

Even with push-polling, they don't really get the results that they should (indicating the public is and will be rejecting of the 'protection' rationale).  Look at this question (the worst in the survey):

What do you think is more important right now - (for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy); or (for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats)?

Those are false choices and meant to encourage an emotional response.   Democrats went with the first choice (69% -- 28% for the second choice); Republicans went with the first choice (62% -- 37% for the second choice) and Independents went with the first choice (59% -- 38% for the second choice).  Those figures should be much higher due to the falsehood and fear factor built into the question.  That a third of those surveyed rejected it indicates fear is no longer as powerful as a motivator on this issue.

Did you notice the highest figure was independents?  Yes, that is key and it is telling.  Yet
Cohen babbles on at length about the flip for Democrats and Republicans -- more Dems were outraged in 2006 by Bully Boy Bush's spying than are today by Barack's; more Republicans are outraged today than were outraged under Bully Boy Bush -- but he never manages to  look to the one group that could provide a real trend: Independents.

Despite using eleven paragraphs, Cohen never notes independents.  Here's the more specific question.

As you may know, it has been reported that the National Security Agency has been getting secret court orders to track telephone call records of MILLIONS of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism. Would you consider this access to telephone call records an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?

That's a more specific question.  And the results are more specific.

Acceptable: Democrats 64% say the reveled actions are "acceptable,"  52% of Republicans say it's acceptable and 53% of Independents say it's "acceptable."  Unacceptable?  34% of Democrats, 47% of Republicans and 44% of Independents.  And that's where the danger signal is most visible.   The biggest support is from the party that occupies the White House.  The least stated support?  Republicans and Independents are basically in a tie.  The same with regards to those who find it unacceptable.   When the opposition party and independents track, it's never good news for the party in power.

Another revealing question is the one "ASKED JUNE 7-9, 2013 ONLY):

Do you think the U.S. government should be able to monitor everyone’s email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks?

 45% say yes, 52% say no.  Again, fear tactics have lost their appeal.  That breaks down to the largest support from Democrats 53% (43% of Democrats say no).  45% of Republicans say yes and 51% say no.  Independents?  Only 38% say yes (60% say no).  Again, the tell in an instant poll is always the least vested group. 

With these right after the fact polls, you're dealing with more reluctance to call something wrong then you will see a few weeks later, polls where the "exactly!" is exclaimed in relief as people attempt to ignore the facts and see the situation as brightly as possible.

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