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Washington Post Prints Iraq Lies, 2013 Edition

By Peter Hart | FAIR | March 22, 2013

How long can media keep printing lies about the Iraq War? Today’s Washington Post (3/22/13) provides one answer, since they printed an 0p-ed by former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley where he argued this:

After Hussein was deposed, we did not find the stockpiles of WMDs that all the world’s major intelligence services, the Clinton and Bush administrations and most members of Congress thought that he had. It was less an intelligence failure than a failure of imagination. Before the war, no one conceived what seems to have been the case: that Hussein had destroyed his WMD stocks but wanted to hide this from his enemy Iran. The U.S. team charged with searching for WMDs concluded that Hussein had the intention and the means to return to WMD production had he not been brought down. (With Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, it is a good bet that he would have.)

This is complete, utter nonsense; a serious newspaper would be ashamed to print it.

Long before the war, the government had intelligence from the most famous defector from Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law Hussein Kamel. The government publicly claimed that what Kamel told them confirmed their threats about Iraq’s WMDs.

In fact, what Kamel actually told IAEA inspectors in 1995 was that the weapons stockpiles had been destroyed. This was reported right before the invasion by Newsweek magazine.

So it is 100 percent false to talk about “a failure of imagination.”

It is also false to talk about how “all the world’s major intelligence services” were in agreement on Iraq intelligence. Some remained quite skeptical about the analysis being promoted by the Bush administration. As a matter of fact, the Washington Post (3/18/03) printed an article to the effect right before the before the war started:

 As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week, it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged—and in some cases disproved–by the United Nations, European governments and even U.S. intelligence reports.

So the Post is publishing something that flies in the face of what its own reporters documented at the time.

What about the idea that Iraq was hiding its absence of WMDs from Iran? If they were, they weren’t do a very good job of it. Before the war, Saddam Hussein went on CBS with Dan Rather (60 Minutes II, 2/26/03) and stated quite clearly that he had no such weapons: “I think America and the world also knows that Iraq no longer has the weapons,” he told Rather. You can watch the video here.

To top it all the off, the parenthetical at the end–which stands as a final justification for the war–is completely unsupported; there is no evidence to suggest that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Does the Post factcheck op-eds? By the looks of it, they do not. But something tells me that if you submitted a column that made completely factual observations about Iraq–saying, for example, that there was clear evidence before the war that Iraq had destroyed its WMDs, and that Iraq had done its best to make clear that it didn’t possess any–you would have little chance of getting it published. And if, by some miracle, it did make through the early editing process, someone would demand that you substantiate these accurate claims.

No such burden would appear to have been placed on Stephen Hadley, who was part of the team that told the lies that took the country into war. Thanks to the Washington Post, he is still doing so.

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sins of Omission

By Jason Hirthler | NYTimes eXaminer | March 21, 2013

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The New York Times coverage of Hugo Chavez’ death was a bunker buster of misinformation.

The socialist left was plunged into a state of crisis last week when its leading advocate was felled by cancer. The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dealt a potentially crippling blow to the Bolivarian revolution’s hold on the Venezuelan nation. With their leader gone, Chavistas are scrambling to align their ranks behind Nicolas Maduro, an unimposing background figure in the Chavez narrative. And despite the stunning successes of the Chavez government—from a vertiginous drop in poverty to an equally dramatic rise in literacy, the establishment of a legislative apparatus designed to benefit the nation’s majority, and the nationalization of Venezuelan oil—the opposition is poised to renew its attack on the socialist experiment of the last decade and a half. Furious over repeated humiliations at the ballot box, the Venezuelan right, led by Henrique Capriles, is anxious to steer the country back to failed prescriptions of neoliberal economics, hoping to seize on an unexpected election to reclaim the presidency.

Naturally, few if any of the Bolivarian triumphs were mentioned in The New York Times ungenerous lead on the demise of the Venezuelan leader. Already, our leading propaganda daily has begun its historical revision of Chavez’ legacy. Its prejudiced coverage of the El Commandante’s death was remarkable only it what it elided from view—namely any of the progressive transformations the Bolivarian socialist engendered. Regarding the state of the nation, only a few conditions were noted. While vague mention was made that Chavez had “empowered and energized” millions of poor people, the print edition headline said Venezuela was a nation in “deep turmoil.” The digital edition brusquely mentioned, “high inflation and soaring crime,” as well as, “soaring prices and escalating shortages of basic goods.” While there is some truth to these claims—particularly in relation to crime—none of Chavez’ achievements were noted, an astonishing array of programmatic successes that have dwarfed the failures of his tenure.

But before adding anything else, let’s briefly look at the indictments delivered by the Times:

  • After devaluing its currency in 2010, pundits predicted massive inflation. Instead, inflation declined for two years, while economic growth topped four percent both years. This is ignored. Nor does the article note Venezuela’s spiraling rate of inflation before Chavez took office—or that he has actually significantly reduced it. While prices rise with inflation, the government offers subsidized goods through weekly Mercal and also regularly adjusts minimum wage to match or exceed inflation, which increases consumer purchasing power, which itself has increased 18 percent in Chavez’ first decade in office.
  • In stark contrast to improving economic numbers, Venezuela’s murder rate increased threefold during Chavez’ three terms in office, now third highest in the Americas, calling into question the effectiveness of police training. A new training program was launched in 2009, but has yet to produce results. The Bolivarian National Police, also launched in 2009, has lowered rates where it is active, but chronic problems continue to plague the country, particularly Caracas, including police corruption, biased judiciaries, the likelihood of not being prosecuted, the presence of millions of weapons, and the fact that Venezuela is a main thoroughfare for illegal drugs on their way to the United States.
  • Food shortages are also present, another surprising condition in a country of declining poverty. Western critics naturally point to price controls as the cause, providing a typically ideological explanation for a problem that appears to have a more nuanced answer. Food consumption in Venezuela has exploded since Chavez took office in 1999. The population consumed 26 million tons of food in 2012, double the 13 million tons they consumed in 1999. The government suggests the shortages are a consequence of rapidly increasing consumption. Food production is up 71 percent since Chavez took office, but consumption is up 94 percent.

Claims without Context

A day later, the Times decided that its stinting initial coverage was too generous: it had merely listed the flaws in Venezuelan society. What it had failed to do was pepper the pot with a heavy dose of falsification. It then released a factless catalogue of misinformation that, when it wasn’t quoting louche academics, was irrigating the column with toxic dogma. It began, in its home page tout, with a headline about “Debating Chavez’s Legacy,” by author William Neuman. The sub-line anxiously opened the festivities with an elephantine distortion: “Venezuela had one of the lowest rates of economic growth in the region during the 14 years that Hugo Chavez was president.”

Well, after that opener, why bother writing a column? The case has already been made. Best to have the tout lead to a broken link, or redirect to Thomas Friedman hyperventilating about the glories of globalization on display in Indonesian sweatshops. But no, the Times were out for blood. This was no ordinary socialist. Chavez deserved a double-barreled dose of disinformation.

Regarding its initial claim that Venezuela had one of the “lowest rates of economic growth in the region during the 14 years that Hugo Chavez was president.” This statistic is taken from the World Bank. It is true. What it fails to mention is the nosedive the Venezuelan economy fell into when U.S.-backed, right-wing elites overthrew the democratically-elected Chavez in 2002. The economy fell at nine percent into 2003. Then there were devastating oil production shutdowns engineered by the same cadre of oppositionists when Chavez moved to nationalize the oil industry.

Despite this and other opposition attempts to sabotage the economy through food hoarding, price speculation, and other noble measures, the Times neither bothers to contextualize their claim nor balance it against the significant achievements of the Bolivarian government. If elements of socialism actually work, don’t the Times readers deserve to know about them? Evidently not, according to the editors, who see it as their duty to shelter their gullible readership from the facts. But consider these facts about Venezuela’s socialist experiment:

  • Per capita GDP in Venezuela is up 50 percent since the coup.
  • The Venezuelan economy was among the fastest growing Latin nations in 2012.
  • Its economy has grown steadily for nine consecutive quarters.
  • Inflation has been cut nearly in half since Chavez took office, when it was spiraling out of control thanks to the ever-efficient neoliberal private sector leadership.

A Legacy Belittled

The article then claims that Chavez’ massively attended funeral was “a tribute to the drawing power of the charismatic leftist leader, although perhaps not to the lasting influence of his socialist-inspired policies.” This line nicely inverts the obvious truth—the masses turned out precisely because of Chavez’ socialist-inspired policies. The policies the paper had given an unfair drubbing in the opening tout have driven consistent growth in society’s most impoverished sectors. Poverty has been reduced by 70 percent since Chavez won the presidency. Nutritional measures among the poor are up across the board, while strengthened pension programs, freely available healthcare, and an inflation-linked minimum wage are helping produce a viable workforce with growing purchasing power—a prerequisite of demand and economic expansion.

The paper then says Chavez’ revolution “remains more limited than he would have liked,” a spurious attempt to cast the Bolivarian revolution as a failure, when in fact, against most significant social and economic metrics, the socialist experiment exceeded itself. To reinforce this portrait of another foreclosed attempt to establish a socialist state, the Times trots out Alejandro Toledo, a former president of Peru. Toledo replaced the Peruvian strongman Alberto Fujimori, and was so unpopular—even though he succeeded one of the continent’s most vile authoritarians—that his approval rating dropped to six percent in 2004, when street rioting briefly paused to permit the survey. Here is Toledo:

“The important thing is that Mexico has not followed his example, Chile has not followed his example, Peru has not followed his example, Colombia has not followed his example, Brazil has not followed his example. I’m talking about big countries with large, sustained economic growth.”

Toledo, like the paper, obviates Chavez’ stunning impact on continental politics, an influence that has encouraged similar leftist triumphs in Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and others. Chavez convinced many of his regional colleagues of the dangers of forging discrete trade agreements with the United States—with NAFTA as the ne plus ultra in the category—and then promoted regional agreements among his Latin counterparts. Chavez worked to expand Mercosur into a continental trade platform, not simply that of South America’s southern cone. Then he established such inter-continental co-operatives as Telesur, PetroCaribe, and Petrosur, as well as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

Sidelining Socialism

With little left to criticize, and plenty of column width to fill, the author resorts to repetition and veiled attacks on socialism. The claim about Venezuela’s low rates of growth is repeated. Then the social flaws from the previous day’s coverage are hurried back into commission: high inflation, shortages of basic goods. High crime, bitter political divisions.

Then, in a turn both sour and childish, the Times concedes that “poverty went down significantly,” but quickly adds that, “other countries…made progress in reducing poverty while following paths very different from that of Mr. Chavez.”

A Brazilian academic then claims that governments in countries like Brazil have “a more balanced position” and that unnamed left-leaning governments are looking to its model and not Venezuela’s for guidance.

No evidence is offered for this claim. Nor does the Carioca academic mention what precisely is “balanced” about a Brazilian society in which the household income of the top one percent is equal to that of the bottom 50 percent of society.

After a short series of additional points—including the passing notation that masses of citizens marched for hours alongside Chavez’ casket—much is made of Chavez’ use of oil resources to build relations with other South American governments. The unstated claim: that Chavez bought his friends. An “energy fellow” at the Council on Foreign Relations, notes rather peevishly that “Venezuela’s influence in Latin America was built on the back of oil exports,” as if it is somehow bad form to play one’s cards in international affairs. And as if the United States hadn’t been bribing its way across the Middle East for the last decade.

Disarming Protest

There you have it: the disingenuous reality of The New York Times, a paper that disguises its bias behind a thin veneer of cool detachment and a studied use of non-inflammatory language, much like the paper’s bedmate in neoliberal apologetics, The Economist. The lengths to which the paper will go to discredit the creditable would be laughable if the paper weren’t so popular among self-proclaimed progressives. It is a powerful tool by which corporate power softens the blunt edges of austerity and disarms mainstream liberals with soothing messaging about good intentions and “balanced” approaches to economic development.

By rehearsing the standard refrains of American exceptionalism—a love of democracy, an abiding concern for the voiceless inhabitants of the developing world and the scourge of tyrants that seem forever to afflict them, and a noble need to extend our love of freedom to points south as well as the backward caliphates of the East—the Times tranquilizes would-be progressive protestors with the gentle rationalizations of corporate life—the ultimate virtue of which is the appearance of even-handedness. The kind of professorial restraint best represented by Obama, a façade the opposite of which—the dangerous passions of the oppressed—is frowned upon as “counterproductive” and known to be the bane of respectable men. And by respectable one may read fatally compromised.

Jason Hirthler is a writer, strategist, and 18-year veteran of the communications industry. He lives and works in New York City. He can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Comments Off on Sins of Omission

Obama won’t decide on Iran’s nuclear program

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | March 22, 2013

The Leveretts have an article at HuffPo entitled “Obama’s Choice: Real Diplomacy With Iran — or War” wherein they say,

Tehran’s conditions for a long-term deal remain fundamentally what they have been for years — above all, U.S. acceptance of Iran’s revolution and its independence, including its right to enrich under international safeguards. Just as importantly, the Obama administration is no more prepared than prior administrations to accept the Islamic Republic and put forward a proposal that might actually interest Tehran. And Obama’s ability to modify sanctions in the course of negotiations — or lift them as part of a deal — is tightly circumscribed by laws that he himself signed, belying the argument that sanctions are somehow a constructive diplomatic tool.

Frankly, I don’t see the point. By now it is obvious that Obama does not have the balls to take on AIPAC, and yet the US is in no position to start another war either … So Obama will most likely make all the right noises to keep the Israelis satisfied and yet will kick the ball down the road.

Like I keep saying, if you’re expecting these talks to ever pan out, you’re betting on the wrong horse. The Israeli influence over US foreign policy has not disappeared by magic — it is still there, and any US-Iran rapprochement is anathema for them. With Syria wobbling, the US and Israel are not interested in making any deals because their hand could be stronger later if Assad falls. But this assumes that the US is actually interested in making a deal in the first place, rather than dragging out this standoff until there is an opportunity  to impose regime-change in Iran (which is and will always be the “best scenario” goal of the US and Israel.) The history of this standoff has shown that’s the case: the US has repeatedly batted away opportunities to resolve this standoff peacefully whilst also addressing any actual proliferation threats, and instead has repeatedly deliberately imposed conditions on the talks that were intended to kill any chance for compromise. And in addition, we all know that Obama is simply not capable of making any sort of deal with Iran even if he wanted to anyway, since the removal of sanctions would be the minimum quid-pro-quo demand by Iran, and US sanctions are mostly imposed by the pro-Israeli Congress not the US President. (That fact could not have been made more apparent than by the treatment meted out to Hagel during his disgusting nomination process as Obama’s Sec of Def.)

In any case I was reminded of an Dec 2006 interview with Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif published in the National Interest Online site, when he predicted that the sanctions won’t have any effect except to act as an obstacle to reaching one of the many compromise solutions offered by Iran and others which would have addressed any real weapons proliferation threats, but certainly they won’t prevent Iran from continuing her perfectly legal nuclear program. Amb Zarif pointed out even back then that in fact the sanctions policy seems more intended to prevent any sort of resolution rather than solving the standoff:

The Security Council sanctions will not be able to stop the Iranian program [and] the sanctions that are requested will not satisfy proliferation concerns. Proliferation concerns—if there are any real, sincere proliferation concerns—can be addressed through mechanisms that would bring about transparency, international monitoring and other possibilities that would provide the assurance that Iran’s program will always remain peaceful. The Security Council can impose sanctions but that does not provide that assurance.

Because Iran has been denied technology over the last 27 years and this resolution only officiates what has been the policy and practice, Iran has had to be discrete in its acquisitions of peaceful nuclear technology to the point that today Iran’s nuclear program has been localized. Every element of that program is produced locally and our own scientists have developed the scientific know-how in order to be able to sustain the program without any external support.

That was not always the case. Our desire was to have international cooperation in order to have access to technology. But the option that was provided to Iran throughout the past 27 years—and now more officially in this resolution—is to either accept being deprived of this technology—which is assuming greater and greater significance—or to try to develop it based on our own. Between these two options, we certainly choose the latter.

If the option were to be provided to Iran to develop this technology through cooperation, that is what we have suggested: an international consortium. Other countries, including Western countries, could own jointly with Iran the facilities, and also jointly operate them. That would give the greatest assurance that these programs are not diverted into any illicit activities.

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Road to Bethlehem: Obama’s Commute and the Palestinians’

By Fadi Abu Saada | Al Akhbar | March 22, 2013

Bethlehem – On Thursday, 21 March 2013, US President Barack Obama traveled from Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem. He entered the city through its northern entrance along the road Israelis call Route 300.

After all checkpoints had been opened and the roads were cleared of people, Obama’s trip took only a few minutes. However, the Palestinians do not enjoy such luxuries; this route is off-limits and access would necessitate a special permit from the occupation authorities.

If Obama wanted to arrive in Bethlehem via Ramallah, then his journey would not have taken him longer than 25 minutes, if not less. But what do Palestinians’ trips to Bethlehem from Ramallah look like?

Atef Louwais works in Ramallah and lives in Bethlehem. He told Al-Akhbar that he leaves his home every day at 6:30 am to catch a taxi to Ramallah, in the hope that he can get to work by 8 am.

After getting a taxi downtown, he makes his first mandatory stop at the Israeli “Container” military checkpoint at the southeastern entrance to the city.

If Israeli soldiers are in a good mood, they do not hold Louwais for very long, and let him continue his journey through the dangerous road known as Wadi al-Nar, which means valley of fire in Arabic. From there, he arrives at the town of Azarieh (Bethany) on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem.

This takes him close to the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, where Israeli border police vehicles often patrol the adjoining area. Louwais said that these patrols, which the Palestinians call “flying checkpoints,” are the real nightmare for commuters. The occupation soldiers habitually detain passengers, sometimes under the pretext of an ID or car registration check.

Next, according to Saed Abdallah, Atef’s commuting companion, “We head along the route known as the quarry road until we reach the Palestinian village of Hazma. We then take a bypass road around occupied Jerusalem. During that leg of the trip, we get to see the progression of the settlements devouring the lands in and around Jerusalem.”

“If we manage to cross the Jabba checkpoint, we walk a few minutes before reaching the Qalandiya crossing. But there, we will meet with another disaster: the massive traffic jam that comes with the arrival of thousands of commuters every morning and evening, all under the eyes of the occupation soldiers who enjoy torturing and humiliating the Palestinians.”

This is the arduous journey that Palestinian commuters must make every day. The return trip is even more difficult, and might take up to two hours, if not more. Perhaps Obama, who was met with red carpets and empty roads on his arrival, does not know these details. But even if he did, would he care?

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

The Ugly Truth Behind Obama’s Cyber-War

By ALFREDO LOPEZ | CounterPunch | March 22, 2013

Last week, a top U.S. government intelligence official named James Clapper warned Congress that the threat of somebody using the Internet to attack the United States is “even more pressing than an attack by global terrorist networks”. At about the same time, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, announced that the government is forming 13 teams to conduct an international “cyber offensive” to pre-empt or answer “Internet attacks” on this country.

This, as they say, means war.

Clapper issued his melodramatic assessment during an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. As Director of National Intelligence, he testified jointly with the heads of the CIA and FBI as part of their annual “Threat To the Nation” assessment report.

While undoubtedly important, these “threat assessment” appearances are usually a substitute for sleeping pills. The panel of Intelligence honchos parades out a list of “threats” ranked by a combination of potential harm and probability of attack. Since they began giving this report (shortly after 9/11), “Islamic fundamentalist terrorist networks” have consistently ranked number one. Hence the sleep-provoking predictability of it all.

But Clapper’s ranking of “cyber terrorism” as the number one threat would wake up Rip Van Winkle.

“Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable,” he intoned. “Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive.” After probably provoking a skipped heartbeat in a Senator or two, he added that he didn’t think any major attack of this type was imminent or even feasible at this point.

So why use such “end of the world” rhetoric to make an unfeasible threat number one?

The answer perhaps was to be found in the House of Representatives where, on that same day, Gen. Alexander was testifying before the Armed Services Committee about, you got it, “cyber-war”.

Besides being head of the NSA, Alexander directs the United States Cyber Command. I’m not joking. Since 2010, the United States military has had a “Cyber Command”, comprised of a large network of “teams” some of whose purpose is to plan and implement what he called “an offensive strategy”.

Up to now, the Obama Administration’s stated policy has been to prioritize protection and defense of its own Internet and data systems and, unsurprisingly, those of U.S. corporations. Now we realize that the President has been cooking another dish on the back burner. When these military leaders talk about “offensive strategy”, they mean war and in warfare, the rules change and warriors see democracy as a stumbling block at least and a potential threat at worst.

Is there a “cyber threat”? Sure, just like there’s a “personal security threat” at your front door. You live among other humans and a few of them sometimes rob people. The Internet is a neighborhood of two billion people in constant communication. To do what it was developed to do, it has to be an open, world-wide communications system and people can exploit that by harming your website or stealing your data if you don’t protect these things adequately. Developing protections is part of what technologists in every setting, including government services, do every day and they do it well, minimizing the incidence of an on-line hack.

That’s contemporary society. You lock the door to your house, turn on your car alarm on and protect your computer’s data. Most of the time it’s unnecessary but you do it for those rare occasions that it might be called for.

You do not, however, break into a thief’s home, kill him or her and wipe out everyone in the house. That’s what President Obama is proposing. No longer is this Administration interested in just “protection of data”; it now plans to pre-emptively attack data operations and Internet systems in other countries. The non-euphemistic term for this kind of “offensive strategy” is hacking and hacking takes two forms: data theft and disruption of service. In other words, the government plans to do what it throws people in jail for doing.

Clearly, this isn’t only about data theft or service disruption. It’s entwined with the political conflicts Washington has with other countries like China and Iran. The Internet is now another battlefield and this offensive strategy gives our government another weapon in its ceaseless war on the world.

While this weapon might sound benign, almost game-like, compared to other military adventures, it is actually a vicious and punishing strategy promising a festival of unavoidable collateral damage.

A “cyber offensive” can target just about anything in a country (like the computers running an Iranian power plant) and, depending on how the Internet systems are inter-connected, almost automatically cut service to people, schools, hospitals, security services and governments themselves. This is the digital version of nuclear warfare, horrific for its impact and its fundamental immorality.

When the announcements were made, the mainstream media flew into a frenzy of evaluation and analysis. Is this cyber threat real, commentators asked? Most of them found that, at this point, it isn’t. But that’s not the point and it isn’t the real threat.

The carefully planned and coordinated Clapper/Alexander testimony provides a pretext for the array of repressive Internet-governing laws, strategies and programs the Administration already has in place. Their purpose is a ratcheting control of the Internet by the government, a redefinition of our constitutional rights and the eviscerating of our, and the world’s, freedoms. Now, with this “cyber war” scenario, these measures can be more easily defended and made permanent.

We can group those laws and programs into three categories.

 ”Extreme Data Collection”

The Obama Administration is building a huge data center in Bluffdale, Utah whose role is to capture and store all data everyone in this country (and most of the world) transmits. You read that right.

“Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication,” wrote James Bamford in Wired Magazine, “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.’”

While having your entire on-line life tracked and stored in Utah is pretty creepy, the more pressing issue is how government officials plan to use this data and how they are collecting it. To mine its value, they need to order it to make searches, filtering and lists possible. You need a strategy and while Obama officials have been pretty open about what they’re building, they are closed-mouth about what they intend to do with it.

We know they are working hard on developing code-breaking technology which would allow them to read data which is super-encrypted, the last wall of privacy and protection we have. We also know that, to get this data, they have a remarkable system of surveillance that includes direct capture (capturing data from your on-line sessions), satellite surveillance and the tapping (through easily available data captures) of major information gatherers like Google and Yahoo. The fact that they plan to open this center in September, 2013 means that the intense surveillance and data gathering is in place. You are now never alone.

This is the kind of information on “the enemy” they need in a cyber-war but this information is about us and so the question pertains: who is the enemy here?

“Internet Usage Restriction”

If you’re conducting a war, you can’t have people running around the battlefield trading information and distributing it because, after all, you need secrecy. But collecting and distributing information is entirely what the Internet is about.

No reasonable person expects the entire shut-down of the Internet but the curtailment of on-line expression is now happening and getting worse, re-defining the meaning of free speech and making it an embattled concept.

Under the law, for instance, any corporation or individual can claim you are violating their copyright and demand you remove offending material from a website. You can challenge and litigate that but it doesn’t really matter because, under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act your web hosting service faces huge penalties if they keep the site on-line and the copyright violation is proven. So, to avoid the legal fees and the risk, they’ll just wipe your website. This happens all the time.

If the hosting service stands strong — as some progressive providers do — the people claiming the violation will just go “upstream” to the company that provides your web hosting service’s connection to the Internet and, to avoid legal problems, that “upstream provider” will just unplug the server. Servers host many websites, sometimes in the hundreds, and other services and so not only do you lose your site but everyone else on the server has theirs taken off-line. And this happens without even going in front of a judge.

Sure, there is still robustly exercised “freedom of speech” on the Internet. But the laws are in place to curtail it and, if the government wants, it can (and will) curtail. It’s a modern-day version of benevolent dictatorship which can, as history demonstrates, become pretty darn malevolent pretty fast.

“Selective Repression”

There are hundreds of criminal cases against Internet activists world-wide right now and scores in the United States. The ones most of us are most familiar with, those involving Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning, are only the tip of the frightening iceberg.

A day after the testimony before Congress, for example, federal authorities announced the case of a techie named Matthew Keys . Keys, who worked for a TV station in Los Angeles owned by the Tribune Company, is accused of leaking a username and password to an activist from the well-known hacker organization Anonymous. Authorities say the Anonymous activist used that user/password combo to satirically alter a headline on the website of the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times.

Keys is now charged with conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer; transmitting information to damage a protected computer and attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer. Each count carries a 10 year jail sentence, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. For giving someone who changed a headline a username and password!

Last year, we at May First/People Link were raided by the FBI which literally stole a server from one of our server installations in New York City. They were investigating terroristic emails from some lunatic to people at the University of Pittsburgh and the dozens of servers this bozo used included one of ours. We have some anonymous servers which means there are no records of who used them, no traces… no information about the person sending the email; it’s to protect whistle-blowers and others needing total anonymity.

The FBI knew this but they stole the server anyway and then, about a week later, put it back. They never informed us of any of this. We found out because one of our techies went into the server installation and found one of the servers gone and installed a hidden camera which caught the agents when they returned the machine.

If all these developments seem disturbing to you, that’s justified. These repressive and intrusive measures target the very essence and purpose of the Internet. Created as a way for people to communicate with each other world-wide, this marvel of human interaction is now being turned into a field across which countries shoot programming bombs at each other while repressing and even punishing ordinary people’s communication: dividing us, perpetuating the feeling of loneliness that’s a constant in today’s societies and crippling the struggles for change that combat the division and loneliness and depend on the Internet to do it.

The Internet’s true purpose is to bring the world’s people closer to each other. The Obama Administration is doing just the opposite. It would advisable for those of us who have consistently opposed and fought against wars of all kinds to view this “cyber war” as an equally dangerous and destructive threat.

ALFREDO LOPEZ is the newest member of the TCBH! collective. A long-time political activist and radical journalist, and founding member of the progressive web-hosting media service MayFirst/PeopleLink, he lives in Brooklyn, NY

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Monitor more of the Internet

RT | March 21, 2013

President Barack Obama’s plan to protect the United States’ critical infrastructure against cyberattacks is accelerating quickly as more private sector businesses are signing on to share information with the federal government.

When Pres. Obama rolled out his ‘Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity’ executive order last month, he asked that classified cyber threat and technical information collected by the government be given to eligible commercial service providers that offer security services to businesses linked to the country’s critical infrastructure.

But in the few short weeks since the order was announced during the president’s annual State of the Union address, warnings of an imminent attack have only increased. CIA Director John Brennan told a panel last week that “the seriousness and the diversity of the threats that this country faces in the cyber domain are increasing on a daily basis,” and US national intelligence chief James Clapper claims there is “a remote chance of a major cyberattack against US critical infrastructure systems during the next two years that would result in long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage.”

Upon announcement of the executive order, a handful of defense contractors and telecom companies — namely Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, AT&T and CenturyLink — confirmed that they’d be voluntarily sharing information back and forth with the country’s top intelligence agencies in order to closely monitor any threats that could collapse the country’s critical infrastructure, a vaguely defined category assumed to include the nation’s power systems, telecommunication wires and other major utilities.

“The demand is there. I think the priority is there, and the threat is serious,” Steve Hawkins, vice president of information and security solutions for Raytheon, told Bloomberg earlier in the month.

As warnings of a cyberattack increase, however, the latest news out of Washington is that even more private sector companies with ties to critical infrastructure will be participating in the program. In a report published on Thursday by Reuters, the newswire notes that the framework first outlined during last month’s executive order is already quickly shaping up, with tasks being delegated throughout the US so that threat information can be adequately passed to applicable persons.

According to Reuters’ latest write-up, the executive order will require the National Security Agency to collect classified intelligence on serious hacking attempts aimed at American businesses, which will then be handed over to the Department of Homeland Security to pass on to the telecom and cybersecurity providers — Raytheon, AT&T and others — where employees holding security clearances will scan incoming emails and routine Web traffic for threats to the infrastructure.

But while the government has long asked the entities to open up lines of communication with the NSA and other offices, smaller private-sector businesses could soon be signing on. According to Joseph Menn and Deborah Charles of Reuters, the government is already expanding their cybersecurity program so that even more Web traffic heading into and out of defense contractors will be scanned to include far more of the country’s private, civilian-run infrastructure.

“As a result, more private sector employees than ever before, including those at big banks, utilities and key transportation companies, will have their emails and Web surfing scanned as a precaution against cyberattacks,” they write.

Once those participating companies sign on to get data from Homeland Security, the DHS will send them computer threat “signatures” obtained by the NSA that will offer a list of red flags to be watching out for as huge amounts of Web data is scanned second-by-second and bit-by-bit.

“The companies can use this intelligence to strengthen cybersecurity services they sell to businesses that maintain critical infrastructure,” Bloomberg News reports.

That intelligence, including but not limited to cyber timestamps, indicators and the critical sector potentially, can then be monitored to search for malicious code and viruses sent through America’s Internet with the intent of causing harm. In exchange, the critical infrastructure companies that could be targeted by cyberterrorists will pay the contractors and telecoms for their help.

The threat of a cyberwar crippling America’s power grid and communication systems has been ramped-up in recent weeks, particularly in light of a highly-touted report that linked Chinese state actors with repeated attempts to sabotage US businesses and conduct espionage to steal secrets.

“Increasingly, US businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon told the Asia Society in New York last week. “The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country.”

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Comments Off on Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Monitor more of the Internet

Top pro-Assad Sunni cleric killed as attack on Damascus mosque kills 42

RT | March 21, 2013

A blast ripped through a mosque in the Syrian capital, killing a prominent pro-government Sunni cleric Sheikh Mohammed Said Ramadan al-Bouti. At least 42 people have died and 84 more were wounded in the attack.

“Senior cleric Dr Mohammed Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti was martyred in a terrorist suicide attack at the Iman Mosque in Mazraa in Damascus,” Syrian State TV said.

Syria’s SANA news agency reports that the scholar’s grandson was also killed in the bombing.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has condemned the attack and vowed to “cleanse” Syria of extremism.

“I present my condolences to the Syrian people for the martyrdom of Sheikh Mohamed Saeed al-Bouti, a great figure in Syria and the Islamic world,” he said in a statement on Thursday night.

Sirens could be heard echoing through the capital as the scene of the blast was cordoned off by the military. TV footage revealed a chaotic scene of eviscerated bodies with severed limbs strewn across the blood-stained floor of the mosque.

RT Arabic’s correspondent Kamel Saqv, who is in Damascus, said that elementary courses on Islam were being conducted at the time of the attack. Many of the dead are believed to be students, he said.

An official source told Syrian State TV that the assailant intended to blow himself up while the students were listening to prayer.

Local residents contacted by Reuters said they initially believed the explosion was caused when a mortar shell hit a nearby political office.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebel fighters were battling with government forces in the area and that mortars had been fired.

Bouti, 83, was President of the Association of Islamic Scholars of Syria and a staunch supporter of President Bashar Assad. Bouti had once characterized the Syrian opposition as ‘scum’, and had also called on Syrians to join the military and help the government defeat the rebel fighters in the two-year-long conflict.

Syrian TV had broadcast his sermons live every week from mosques around Damascus and he also hosted his own religious TV program. His death has been viewed as a serious blow to the government, which is fighting a primarily Sunni-led insurgency.

“The mainstream media will have difficulty” in reporting about this attack, because this was a pro-Assad Sunni cleric, believes, RT Contributor Afshin Rattansi.

“How is it that the Anglo-French-backed, or what should we call them, rebels – insurgents or are they terrorists – are going around killing Sunni clerics in a mosque in Damascus. Perhaps, the [mainstream media] will not be reporting about it at all because it’s so against their idea of sectarianizing Syria between Shia’s and Sunnis,” he observed.

Rattansi also expressed hope that in the context of today’s bombing, “the whole idea of a NATO-backed instability creation in Syria, and three million displaced people in Syria, people within the State Department in Washington will realize that funding must stop for these insurgent groups.”

March 22, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

A Zionist Friendly, Right-wing Texan Islamist to Lead Syria?

By Franklin Lamb | Al-Manar | March 22, 2013

A draft-dodging, Zionist friendly, right-wing Texan Islamist to lead Syria? Could the White House have dreamt for more?

Damascus – For the past year, a plan C or D, depending on how one numbers the failed “sure-fire” US-Israel projects in Syria was badly needed. And this week, according to Congressional staffers, both Tel Aviv and the White House are pinching themselves in disbelief over their good luck with installing republican leaning conservative Dixie businessman, the congenial, Ghassan Hitto, as Syria’s new interim Prime Minister.

Ghassan HittoSecuring the key position for Mr. Hitto, a decision made last year, was not easy and had to be approached gingerly. But finally, after weeks of sometimes intense debate within Syrian opposition circles, Washington, Ankara, Doha and Tel Aviv among others managed to appoint their preferred guy. “Hitto was the best of a bad lot”, one Congressional committee source, whose work load includes Syria, explained. “Bottom line, he’s an American, nearly thirty years here makes Ghassan one of us. And who cares if he came here as a teenage to dodge military service in Syria. We can count of him!”

And just as some Americans were beginning to believe that our government may be afflicted with a congenital incapacity to learn from our past mistakes, installing Hitto, “should keep hope alive and we should not give up”, according to our Ambassador in Beirut, Maury Connelly. “Look what we achieved in Libya” she lectured a visiting delegation recently. After the meeting, one participant deadpanned, “Good lord! If that woman had not been Jeff Feltman’s office favorite for whatever reason, she might still be serving coffee to State Department visitors at 2201 C St NW, Washington, DC!” Having quoted that snide comment, Maury is reputed to be a lovely lady. Just ask her frequent visitor, Samir Geagea of the Lebanese Forces, who is reputed to be her special confidant these days.

One recalls how Washington installed nearly one dozen Libyan ex-pats during the uprising just as the NATO no-fly zone was being launched. Most of them knew foreign countries better than their birth country and some needed to get their hands on a US supplied “non-lethal weapon” i.e. a GPS and a National Geographic map to find the places in west Libya which they were meant to govern.

Mr. Hitto solves a few immediate Syria problems for the White House. Or so they are hoping.

At minimum Hitto will be an American ‘potted plant’ who can be recognized and around whom NATO can corral and implant some of the desperate factions. He appears willing to take orders and is now involved in a crash-course to learn what he needs to know about Syria and the unfolding game plan. One congressional aide who helped vet Mr. Hitto claims he has “spunk and can be tough. And we think he will play ball.”

One proposal that Hitto has reportedly agreed to is the Dennis Ross/AIPAC proposal for a “political isolation law.” If adopted by the Hitto provisional government, this decree would ban nearly the whole ruling class in Syria from having any role in government. Its intention is to eliminate anyone who worked with either the Hafez or Bashar Assad regime from 1970 until today. “We need a clean break in Syria”, Ross reportedly told fellow conferees at the recent AIPAC convention.

Washington also encouraged Hitto to reject dialogue with the Government of Syria because neocons in Congress are insisting that “negotiations” with the Assad government will drag on interminably and allow the current regime to eradicate pockets of resistance and bring in more help from Russia and Iran.” Citing negotiations with Iran, Arizona Senator John McCain recently told Fox News that “if you try to negotiate with these people (Iran’s government) you will lose. And we did. We need action!” Some in Congress are telling the White House that the same is true with the Syrian government and it appears Mr. Hitto agrees.

The staffer also pointed out that “there has been a misreading of John Kerry’s recent position and that it does not reflect a notable change in the American position nor does it represent a step back from the statements that Barack Obama had made concerning the need for Al-Assad to step down. Obama and Hitto are on the same page.”

No sooner than Grassan Hitto was delegated than two insatiable US Senate war-mongers, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) used the occasion of conflicting and unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria by increasing pressure on President Barack Obama to approve U.S. military involvement in Syria.

“That should include the provision of arms to vetted Syrian opposition groups, targeted strikes against Assad’s aircraft and Scud missile batteries on the ground, and the establishment of safe zones inside Syria to protect civilians and opposition groups,” the senators continued in their statement. “If today’s reports are substantiated, the tragic irony will be that these are the exact same actions that could have prevented the use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria.” Graham went even further and seemed to endorse a plan to put the label “U.S.” on the group in Syria during an interview recently with Foreign Policy. Graham said “We need a real partner in Syria.” In Ghassan Hitto, he and John McClain just may have one.

Washington and Tel Aviv see in their choice of Mr. Hitto, as a likely solution to numerous barriers to their goals in Syria for the following reasons.

They believe that Mr. Hitto can help end the infighting among the opposition to the current regime that has caused a stalemate. While Hitto is no Mohammad Morsi he does lean toward the Muslim Brotherhood and they supported him while knowing he was Washington’s choice. Hitto, some in Washington believe, can help neutralize them. The White House has reportedly told the EU that “the CIA recommended Hitto in order to preempt the crazies in this circus and Hitto can, as much as other prospects help with the formation of a US backed international bloc to get rid of Salafist groups in Syria.”

The in-depth US training of Ghassan has begun. An ‘advisory team’ is already appointed to indoctrinate him with the ‘message’ and he is being given an intensive cram course of what to do and what pitfalls to avoid. He will be expected to learn from missteps in Libya, Egypt and Iraq.

Ghassan has already been clued that if he wants to achieve more than to be Syria’s First “Interim” Prime Minister he will need to be a quick learner, able to adapt fast to the “manual”, mindful student, and above all, a team player. “We aren’t looking for another Hugo Chavez around here”, Ghassan was told recently in Istanbul, shortly before announcing his candidacy.

Hitto’s CIA handlers gave him the script and he read it well. In his first public address he deadpanned that he recognized the very difficult task that lies ahead for his administration. He has pledged to provide the services that many Syrians are lacking. He has also promised free and fair elections in a post-Assad regime Syria.

John Kerry says he is ready to work with Hitto. Kerry told members of Congress two years ago that he connected with and respects Bahar al-Assad and that “we can deal with him like we deal with the Canadians” he once told ultra Zionist Congressman Barney Frank. In private Kerry told staff members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “I like this guy Bashar and we can trust him much more than the Israelis. He’s good.” Having changed his tune, some are wondering how firm his support is for Mr. Hitto.

And he is reportedly eager for both and ready to get started. Earlier this week while giving a speech in Istanbul, he insisted that his priority was to utilize “all conceivable means” to topple President Bashar al-Assad and provide desperately-needed aid to the beleaguered people of Syria.” Washington understands that providing “desperately-needed aid” will soon include weapons.

Still, the White House and Tel Aviv know that it will be a daunting task building legitimacy for Hitto’s fledgling administration, because he is lacking the support of many high-profile members of his own coalition. He was voted in by 35 of the 49 coalition members who cast ballots, but another 15 members were not present, some bought off with cash and with several walking out in protest at Mr Hitto’s perceived links to the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers in Qatar.

“I have backed the idea of an alternative government for a long time,” said veteran opposition figure Haitham al-Maleh. “But I put my ballot in without a name because there were no candidates from inside Syria. I want a prime minister from inside Syria.” “The proposed government is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qatar government,” one coalition member, Mr al-Labwani said. “We will be against this government and will not give it legality. Democracy is from the land and from the people not from a council that is composed by the governments of America and Qatar.”

According to a staffer in Kerry’s former Senate Foreign Relations Committee “Many Syrians, regard our appointment of Hitto with suspicion. Since the announcement, I have heard both Syrian nationalist figures and those from some minority communities criticize our move.”

It appears Washington, Doha and Tel Aviv have got their man in place.

What the Syrian people will think of their selection will likely be known soon.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment