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US public radio journalist fired after calling Israeli occupation ‘brutal’

Al Akhbar | March 22, 2012

A veteran American journalist has been fired after referring to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land as “brutal.”

Sunni Khalid, managing news editor at WYPR-FM in Baltimore, was dropped by the public radio station on Thursday after more than nine years on the job.

He had been on probation following criticism of comments he made on Facebook about Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine.

“I, for one, have had enough of this pandering before the Israeli regime,” he wrote.

“The war-mongering toward Iran has, once again, distracted the world from Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.”

Khalid, who previously worked for National Public Radio, has also written for Time Magazine, The Washington Times, and USA Today.

Israel maintains economic control over Gaza and the West Bank, with devastating consequences for the Palestinian civilian population.

Rights groups including Amnesty International have repeatedly condemned rights abuses against Palestinians.

March 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 10 Comments

NSA Chief Appears to Deny Ability to Warrantlessly Wiretap Despite Evidence

By Trevor Timm | EFF | March 21, 2012

The former NSA official held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says. — Wired Magazine, April 2012

Last week, in Wired Magazine, noted author James Bamford reported on an expansive $2 billion “data center” being built by the NSA in Utah that will house an almost unimaginable amount of data on its servers, along with the world’s fastest supercomputers. Part of the purpose of this new center, according to Bamford, is to store “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’”

In the Wired article, Bamford interviewed former NSA official William Binney, a “crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network.” Binney further shed light on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, first exposed by the New York Times in 2005 and the subject of EFF’s long running suit Jewel v. NSA, which challenges the constitutionality of the NSA’s program.

The NSA claims it only has access to emails and phone calls of non-U.S. citizens overseas, but Binney provides more detail to the many previous reports by the New York Times, USA Today, New Yorker, and many more that the program indeed targets US based email records. In the 11 years since 9/11, Binney estimates 15 to 20 trillion “transactions” have been collected and stored by the NSA. From the Wired article:

He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Binney says. “That’s not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.”

The Director of NSA, General Keith Alexander, testified at a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) grilled him on the details of the Wired story. He appeared to deny the main points of the article, including that the NSA was intercepting emails, phone calls, Google searches, and phone records of individuals in the United States—as well as the technical capabilities of the program’s software described by Binney. But perhaps more strangely, Alexander also seemed to claim the NSA did not have the technical ability to collect Americans’ emails and Internet traffic even if it weren’t required to get a warrant:

Gen. Alexander: In the United States we’d have to go through the FBI process, a warrant to get that and serve it to somebody to actually get it.

Rep. Johnson: But you do have the capability of doing it?

Gen. Alexander: Not in the United States.

Rep. Johnson: Not without a warrant?

Gen. Alexander: We don’t have the technical insights in the United States, in other words, you have to have something to intercept or some way of doing that. Either by going to a service provider with a warrant, or you have to be collecting in that area. We’re not authorized to collect, nor do we have the equipment in the United States to actually collect that kind of information. (emphasis ours)

In our lawsuits, EFF has provided evidence that the NSA operated a monitoring center out of AT&T’s switching facility in San Francisco that has the ability to do exactly what Gen. Alexander says the NSA can’t.  In light of all the evidence, it is hard to take comfort from Gen. Alexander’s apparent denial.  In previous discussions of the warrantless wiretapping program, the government has used crabbed and unusual definitions of words to make misleading statements that also seem like denials but turn out to be largely word games.

In one prominent example, then Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden said in a 2006 statement: “Let me talk for a few minutes also about what this program is not. It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations…”  Later, when confronted with evidence of a wider drift net program during his confirmation hearing, he explained “I pointedly and consciously downshifted the language I was using. When I was talking about a drift net over Lackawanna or Freemont or other cities, I switched from the word ‘communications’ to the much more specific and unarguably accurate ‘conversation.’”

Notably, the NSA’s interpretation of what it means to “collect” communications seems to be quite limited.  Under Department of Defense regulations, information is considered to be “collected” only after it has been “received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component,” and “[d]ata acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form[,]”  So, under this definition, if the communications of millions of ordinary Americans were gathered and stored indefinitely in Utah, it would not be “collected” until the NSA “officially accepts, in some manner, such information for use within that component.”

The illegality of warrantless wiretapping, however, does not depend on when the NSA officially accepts the information or processes it into intelligible form (whatever that means).  Americans’ privacy and constitutional protections do and should not hinge on word games.  We are looking forward to establishing, in the Jewel v. NSA case, a simpler proposition: that the government can’t spy on anyone, much less everyone, without a warrant.

~

on March 23, 2012

Recently a report by Wired magazine revealed the details of a spy center in Bluffdale, Utah. It says that the National Security Agency has turned its surveilance apparatus on the US and its citizens, including phone calls and emails. This week the NSA chief testified to Congress and took questions about his agency’s ability – both legally and physically – to spy on US citizens and denied that this is happening. Trevor Timm, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes otherwise – he brings his take on the issue.

March 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Rafiq Hariri Center for the Middle East’ took part in AIPAC meeting

Al-Manar | March 22, 2012

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily published a report Thursday in which it revealed that the “Rafiq Hariri Center for the Middle East”, which was funded and established by the late Lebanese prime minister’s son, Bahaa, took part in an AIPAC meeting on the fifth of March.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, holds yearly one of the most significant conferences in the United States in support of Israel, its policies, and its politicians; and “Rafiq Hariri Center for the Middle East” took part in this conference along with Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Perez.

The center’s director Michele Dunne, who attended as a representative to the center, chose to share her dialogue session with Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog, and discussed with him the Egyptian situation and the future of the region.

The paper clarified that the “Rafiq Hariri Center for the Middle East is part of the ten programs that go under the Atlantic Council, which on its part, is a 50-year-old council that aims at promoting Atlantic cooperation with international security.”

The council is the “representative of the Middle East” and its interests lay in “the future of the NATO, financial stability, energy security, and fighting extremism and violence.”

“While “the Atlantic Council” holds conferences on US diplomacy in Iran, global defense strategies, the new challenges for NATO, in addition to energy and global financial markets problems, the “Rafiq Hariri Center for the Middle East” specializes in Arab countries’ issues, especially at these transitional phases, like Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia,” the paper explained.

It added: “After examining the content of those sessions, it turns out that what unites them is achieving the US as well as the NATO’s financial, security, and political benefits in those countries.”

Al-Akhbar daily said that Michele Dunne worked in the US Foreign Ministry’s Intelligence and Research Bureau, and was a specialist in Middle East affairs in the White House.

In addition, “she took part in “special missions” for the National Security council, and worked in the US embassy in Cairo and in the Consulate General in occupied Al-Quds.”

March 22, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amnesty International, George Clooney and the Bidding of Empire

By JOHN VINCENT | CounterPunch | March 21, 2012

In March this year Frank S. Jannuzi was named Washington DC office head at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). Frank, a former staffer with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is Hitachi International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the most powerful foreign policy pressure group in the world. Over the years, CFR’s membership has included 22 US secretaries of state.

Those on CFR’s Board of Directors today include Robert E. Rubin, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton and special advisor to the Obama Administration; Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State who when on 60 Minutes was asked by Lesley Stahl on the effects of U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Secretary of State Madeleine Albright replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it”; Peter G. Peterson, of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, who has been pushing for the destruction of Social Security for over ten years; and Penny Pritzker, Chairman and CEO of PSP Capital, who besides being one of Chicago’s wealthiest women is also on the Chicago School Board closing public schools in the poorest parts of the city.

These are names not typically associated with humanitarian causes.

In taking his new position Jannuzi is quoted on AIUSA’s website as saying: “I am thrilled to be joining Amnesty International and look forward to connecting the passion and expertise of AIUSA with the policy-making community in Washington that I know well.”

And how might that work?

In a CFR moderated discussion George Clooney discussed the plight of the Sudanese in the Nuba Mountains who are caught up in the country’s civil war. Not surprising the area includes a proposed pipeline route that will carry oil to a seaport in the north.

So George gets arrested on Friday March 16th, and on Monday the 19th AIUSA begins an email campaign calling for Sudanese President al-Bashir to be brought to justice with the banner: What was actor George Clooney doing in jail, while Sudan’s president and indicted war crimes suspect Omar al-Bashir runs free?

Interestingly, March 16th was the day AIUSA announced Jannuzi’s new position with the organization.

So is AIUSA, along with George Clooney and Hollywood in general, supporting the CFR in their effort to manage the American peoples’ perceptions of Africa for the purpose of furthering their government’s foreign policy objectives in the region?

Why does AIUSA mount campaigns focused on Africa – Kony 2012, Sudan’s al-Bashir, and the investigation of civilian deaths in Libya – but not promote similar campaigns within the borders of the US calling for the arrest of its known war criminals?

And why doesn’t AIUSA mount campaigns to stop US humanitarian crimes before they occur? The Iran war is the next human rights catastrophe that will be unleashed on the world, but AIUSA isn’t trying to stop it. Why not?

Are AIUSA’s commendable humanitarian efforts being used as a screen for the organization’s work in the service of the American empire?

March 22, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Amnesty International, George Clooney and the Bidding of Empire

Mali renegade soldiers claim control of government

Press TV – March 22, 2012

Renegade Malian soldiers say they have toppled the government of President Amadou Toumani Toure and seized power in the West African state.

“We are in control of the presidential palace,” AFP quoted one of the rebels as saying on Thursday.

The rebellion ignited Wednesday afternoon over criticism against the government’s handling of a Tuareg insurrection in the north and turned into an apparent coup.

Following an armed conflict, the rebels seized the presidential palace and arrested several ministers, including Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and Interior Minister Kafouhouna Kone, the report said.

Toure, however, has managed to escape from the premises, an independent source said.

Lieutenant Amadou Konare, the spokesman of the soldiers, calling themselves National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy, appeared on television and announced the dissolution of state institutions and suspension of the constitution.

Konare also said a curfew will be in place from midnight to six a.m. local time.

He added that upon consultations with all the Malian political factions, a national unity cabinet will be formed in the coming days and the transitional government will run the country until power is ceded to a civilian government after “free and transparent” elections in near future.

The spokesman cited the former government’s security failures in northern Mali and its “inability” to fight terrorism as well as threats to national unity, and the uncertainty shadowing general elections in 2012 as some of the major reasons behind the mutiny.

March 22, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Human Rights Groups Call on B’Tselem to Withdraw from Conference Featuring Olmert

PCHR Gaza | March 21, 2012

As organizations dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights—including those acting as legal representatives for war crimes victims— we are disappointed by B’Tselem’s active participation in an upcoming event at which former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be featured as a keynote speaker.

Olmert has been implicated in the commission of war crimes and other serious violations of international law for his role in Operation ‘Cast Lead’, Israel’s winter 2008-2009 onslaught on the Gaza Strip. A court in the U.K. has already issued an arrest warrant for one of Olmert’s alleged co-conspirators in these acts, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

Olmert will speak at a gala dinner on Monday hosted by J Street, a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group in Washington, DC. Olmert’s speech will be the keynote for J Street’s annual conference. Last week, B’Tselem sent an email to its supporters announcing that it was “proud” of its role in the conference, explicitly mentioning Olmert as a featured speaker.

B’Tselem’s active participation in this event sends a dangerous message. It undermines the fundamental importance of accountability for international crimes, disregards victims’ right to dignity and justice, and implies that political processes may override human rights standards. B’Tselem should be protesting, not celebrating, an event welcoming Olmert.

The decision to release this statement was not taken lightly. We highly value the relationship between Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations, and can look back on many years of successful professional cooperation.

For some Palestinian organizations – particularly those from the Gaza Strip – the relationship with Israeli counterparts is often the last remaining link with Israeli society. This is a link which we all wish to see strengthened and developed.

However, as human rights defenders, we are united by our standards: by our belief in the universality of human rights and the rule of international law. Our legitimacy derives from our unwavering commitment to these principles, and our obligations to act in the best interests of the victims we represent.

We call upon B’Tselem to withdraw from this event, and to use this opportunity to highlight the need for accountability, justice, and the enforcement of the rule of law.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Al Dameer Association for Human Rights

The Palestinian NGO Network (representative of 132 Palestinian ngo’s)

March 22, 2012 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment