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US cuts plans for Guantanamo prosecutions

RT |June 11, 2013

The US is scaling back its Guantanamo prosecutions from 36 to 20 or less, admitting that it lacks the evidence to convict many of the detainees of international war crimes.

Of the 166 detainees held at the prison camps, few have viable charges to face war crimes tribunal. Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals, told Reuters that the 36 detainees the US initially sought to prosecute was an “ambitious” number.

The Guantanamo Review Task Force completed a review in 2010 that made this determination, but Martins said no more than 20 detainees have viable charges that prosecutors could realistically pursue. Seven of these have already undergone their trials, and six are facing pretrial hearings this week and next.

The drastic reduction of prosecutions comes in light of the dismissal of Salim Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden whose conviction was overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit last October. Hamdan had been convicted by a US military commission of providing material support to al-Qaeda terrorists, but the appeals court decided that this was not a crime under international rule of law at the time that Hamdan worked for bin Laden.

The US Congress in 2006 passed the Military Commissions Act, which defines an “unlawful enemy combatant” as someone “who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant”. The appeals court concluded that this law could not be applied retroactively, and Hamdan’s charges were dismissed.

Hamdan had already finished his sentence and returned to Yemen when his charges were thrown out, but the court ruling caused Guantanamo prosecutors to give up on many of the other cases they initially sought to pursue, Martins told Reuters.

Although some of the detainees facing war crimes tribunal are already known, Martins did not identify them all by name.

On Monday, US military prosecutors filed charges against Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi for a war crime coined “perfidy”, claiming that he coordinated a series of suicide attacks on US and allied troops and civilians in Afghanistan. Army Lt. Col. Chris Callen, a lawyer appointed to defend al-Hadi, told AP that he would go over the charges with the detainee on Tuesday.

Pretrial hearings will also begin next week for five prisoners accused of being involved in the planning of the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Pretrial hearings are currently underway for Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian man accused of directing a number of suicide attacks, including the bombing of the USS Cole, which resulted in the deaths of 17 American sailors.

Both Nashiri and Mohammed are facing the death penalty, but of the 166 detainees still held at Guantanamo, only 20 may ever be prosecuted.

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Washington Fears Iran

By Sharmine Narwani  | Al-Akhbar | 2013-06-12

“Tehran has developed technical expertise in a number of areas – including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles – from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons,” reads Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper’s April 2013 report to the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

Then comes the statement usually ignored by mass media: “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

The fact that Iran is not producing a nuclear bomb – nay, hasn’t even decided if it wants to – has not deterred the US government from slapping the Islamic Republic with the most punishing unilateral sanctions in history.

While the Iranian economy struggles to adjust to periodic US sanctions “upgrades,” a significantly devalued currency and restrictions in global financial transactions have suddenly challenged even Iran’s famed adaptability to these kinds of externally-imposed pressures.

But something is awry. There is no implosion in Iran. How is that possible with off-the-chart hikes in the price of basic goods, unaffordable housing in congested urban areas, increased youth unemployment? Instead, Iranians who love nothing better than to complain about government and economy, have grumpily rallied against these foreign efforts to pit population against state.

According to results of a Gallup poll in February, 85 percent of Iranians claim sanctions have hurt their livelihood either “a great deal” or “somewhat.” But 70 percent of those polled blame external parties (the US, western European countries, Israel, and the UN) for this suffering; remarkably, only 10 percent blame their government and their leaders. Instead of sanctions forcing a change in Iran’s calculation about pursuing nuclear enrichment – which is a stated US goal – 65 percent of Iranians favor a continuation of the country’s nuclear power capabilities.

As former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El Baradei astutely observed before leaving his 11-year post: “The line was, ‘Iran will buckle under pressure.’ But this issue has become so ingrained in the Iranian soul as a matter of national pride. They talk about their nuclear program as if they had gone to the moon.”

Instead of changing tack and identifying novel ways to gain favor with Iran’s population while pressuring their leaders, the US administration went off the rails last week and upped the sanctions ante – targeting for the first time Iran’s rial currency and its auto industry, a large source of domestic jobs.

No – there can no longer be any mistake about what that means. Washington isn’t trying to change Iran’s “calculations” about “its nuclear program.” It is trying to break Iran’s back.

“Let Them Try”

“US power and reach is in decline,” says Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads the Majlis’ (parliament) foreign affairs and national security committees, and cheerily expects to out-maneuver, out-last, and out-smart the Americans.

As with all decision makers in Iran, any discussion of US sanctions gets you a slow smile and a political lesson.

“The new realities in Iran don’t seem to be apparent to the US after 33 years. They’re still focused on regime change, sanctions, cyber war, military operations. The result of this strategy has been to the US detriment (financially draining) and to our advantage,” explains Boroujerdi.

In this period, “Iran gained incredible technology. The US didn’t want us to have nuclear capability – and we have done so from the basics to where we are now in a peaceful nuclear program. They tried to restrict our knowledge and our development. In these three decades we obtained advanced technologies ourselves – building and launching satellites, developing nanotechnology from scratch, developing a domestic arsenal of weapons,” he continued.

“We used Iranian brainpower, our youth; we have attained the unattainable – we changed the process. How many other countries could have done this?”

That’s the crux of it. David vs Goliath. The nimble, determined developing nation upstart facing down the global bully and a crumbling Empire. That image can inspire passion here in Iran – which may explain some of those earlier Gallup numbers and the upward tick in polling data for presidential candidates who talk tough on negotiations with the US.

In short, many Iranians feel the US and other Western nations want to stunt their independence, development, and scientific progress – keeping the country “backward and needy;” a dumping ground for stale Western products and services in exchange for the petrodollars of a one-commodity economy.

“Nuclear” Saves Lives in Iran

I visit a University of Tehran campus that houses the first nuclear medicine center in the country. This is the teaching nexus from which most of the nation’s nuclear medicine specialists graduate. It is a relatively new specialty – a few decades old – but already there are 130 nuclear medicine centers around Iran and an equal number of specialized doctors.

“Nuclear medicine is a real peaceful use of nuclear energy,” explains Dr. Mohsen Saghari who heads the center and is also the president of the Iranian Society of Nuclear Medicine. “We basically use radioactive materials for diagnostics and therapeutic purposes – we do all the treatments and scans (bone, heart, liver, spleen, renal, breast, thyroid, lungs) at this facility.”

As I quickly learned, nuclear medicine is several things: For the purpose of diagnostics, when administered into the body these radiopharmaceuticals can “image” disease at the cellular level, thereby detecting illness earlier than via x-ray, CT-Scans or MRIs, for instance, which rely on the visible manifestation of disease for detection to be possible.

It is like radiology from the inside – instead of the external radiation passing through your body to capture an image from an x-ray, in nuclear medicine, external cameras capture images from the radiation emitted by a radiopharmaceutical administered into a patient.

Nuclear medicine is also used for the purpose of therapeutic treatment. These are specialized drugs that emit short distances of radiation thereby reducing undesirable side effects.

At the center that day, I saw maybe 20 patients and family members in a seating area awaiting a scan or outpatient treatment, mostly for thyroid cancers and hyperthyroidism, according to the medical professional who took me on a tour.

“Most of the procedures we do here are complementary, but in a few cases, they are the only procedures and nothing else can substitute them,” says Saghari. “But because of sanctions we have problems. If we want radioactive materials or equipment, they won’t sell them to us.”

So Iran decided to make its own.

Most of his center’s radioactive materials are produced by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which fuels up those nuclear reactors that make people in Washington and Tel Aviv all wobbly-kneed and shrill.

Saghari showed me a sealed vial – or “cold kit” – that contained a few pinches of a powdered substance. Iran makes that part of the drug too because the newer US (unilateral) sanctions have made it hard for Iranians to trade in Western currencies and transact through most banks. The vial remains sealed until radioactive material is injected into it – which then makes it an active radiopharmaceutical used in diagnostics and treatment.

As my notes recall, 90 percent of these diagnostic procedures require a synthetically-produced chemical element called Technetium, which is produced at Iran’s nuclear plants via a process using 20 percent enriched uranium and then extracted from the nuclear rod fuels to create the necessary medical isotopes.

Says Saghari, “Even in the black market, the importation of chemotherapies and high-tech medications have largely stopped with the latest rounds of sanctions.”

So Iran relies on its own nuclear power plants to fill in – and eventually altogether replace – imports. “Sometimes we get shortages, at the present time they can produce.”

Not a lot of countries produce radiopharmeceuticals. Saghari named just Canada, the US, England, France, Russia and China. Like others leading the charge toward self-sufficiency in Iran, he anticipates that one day Iran will be producing competitive, lower-cost radiopharmeceuticals for export.

“Each week we see 20 to 24 new thyroid cancer patients – last month I had 94 inpatients, 876 diagnostic scans performed and 700 outpatients for thyroid illnesses,” he says, flicking through some administrative papers to try to give me an accurate count. “Every year in Iran about one million people get referred for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.”

“So of course we are going to make it ourselves,” insists Saghari.

Baa, Baa, Cloned Sheep

A 2010 Canadian report on the “geo-political shift in knowledge creation” claims scientific output has grown 11 times faster in Iran than the global average – faster than in any other country in the world. I recall reading this tidbit three years ago and wondering how that could be right. In previous trips to Iran, I couldn’t say that I ever noted visible signs of ‘unusual progress.’

I don’t think most Iranians think much about this either. Discussing my interviews with friends and acquaintances during my visit, most seemed surprised, even shocked that this much development was going on under their noses. The Iranian government, good or bad, suffers acutely from an inability to communicate its value propositions to the wider population. Which really, quite frankly, cripples it when faced with the well-oiled spin-machines of hostile Western and Arab states seeking to vilify the Islamic Republic.

Every Iranian has an opinion on the country’s nuclear energy program for the simple reason that this is the one ‘development project’ they all know about…so rarely is it out of the international headlines.

This kind of hyper-scientific growth is essential, says Dr. Hamid Gourabi, president of the Royan Institute, a leader in stem cell and reproductive biomedicine in Iran: “Scientific progress can make countries independent – and apply pressure on others.”

If you think his message has political undertones, you are right. It is something I hear in all my meetings. “After the revolution, we decided instead of being dependent on oil, we should diversify into sciences and other areas.”

Royan, a quasi-governmental institute, was established to solve a basic problem: young Iranian couples with fertility problems were having to travel outside the country and spend large sums of money to conceive. The organization started with very basic fertility treatments in 1991 and two years later the first in vitro fertilization (IVF) child was born in Tehran. With a 40 percent success rate, the institute now does more than 4,000 cycles every year – in Europe there are less than ten clinics that perform more than 1,000.

Royan was playing catch-up with some of its early endeavors. In 2006 it cloned its first sheep, followed by two transgenic kid goats called Shangool and Mangool (named after popular children’s characters in Iran), and then by calves – each using slightly different biotechnologies.

Gourabi’s institute is not ultimately interested in replicating other’s successes though – it wants to forge its own way. He tells me about some important thinking that went on in Iran during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997-2005: “We wanted to expand in sciences, technologies – Khatami didn’t think Iran could advance ‘car-making’ for example – we wanted to go into areas where Iran can bring leadership.” But, he says, ultimately, “the scientific community is the main impetus behind this – they push the government.” Then he adds with a twinkle that Iran’s Supreme Leader “Khamenei has a huge interest in science.”

Since then Royan has branched out in all sorts of directions. Stem cell research is today the most advanced part of what the group does, and Iran, according to Gourabi, is now only the 8th nation in the world to produce scientific output on stem cells.

He also confirms that “sanctions have been a key motivator” for the rush to development. “One of the products we need cost us a million dollars to import. Now we produce it ourselves, it costs us very little. Iran sells biotech to other countries – we offer a lower cost than most companies.”

Gourabi, whose institute has been denied laser technology-based products by the US’ restrictive sanctions regime, says with some confidence: “We will end up producing these drugs for ourselves, so pirating and patent-busting becomes prolific. And they (the West) lose a good market for their products.”

He’s not worried about isolation either: “Sanctions do affect our work – time is important in science and sanctions cause delays – but we are contributing in a big way to the global scientific community now, and this collaboration helps us.”

Nanotechnology 101

A decade ago, Iranian decision makers and scientists were trying to solve a large problem: “In less than 100 years, we will run out of all these oil resources. How do we have an economy then?”

The prevalent thinking was that Iran needed to develop sectors that would help it create a “knowledge-based economy” where it could establish itself as a global leader. The country had underperformed on IT and biotech, so it took its time in studying the potential of nanotechnology. Three years later it decided to plunge in.

“Our mission was to be among the top 15 countries in the world in all rings of the ‘value chain’ – all the way from developing the human resources to commercialization and wealth creation,” say Dr. Seyed Mehdi Rezayat and Dr. Ali Beitollahi, senior officials at The Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC).

“Today, more than 14,000 are engaged in Iran’s nanotech industry – a decade ago you couldn’t count the number of people on two hands who understood what it meant,” laughs Beitollahi.

The data starts flowing. In the past five years, Iran has registered 95 patents for nanotechnology products and processes. Dozens of Iranian universities have been corralled into creating graduate and doctoral programs in advanced nanotech. Because of sanctions and embargos, Iranians are making sophisticated machinery that they otherwise would have bought. Twenty five Iranian companies have now commercialized nano equipment because nobody would sell it to them.

In a short time, the Islamic Republic has become one of only six nations involved in nanotech standardization – all others are Western countries (US, UK, Canada, Germany) with the exception of Japan.

The applications in nanotech are broad. From eco-efficiencies like coating glass that keeps heat out, to strengthening building materials in earthquake prone areas, to creating cancer drugs to water filtration and desalinization.

“In high-tech you can get much more advanced benefit than from commercial technologies,” says Rezaiat. “Every kilogram of cement is just a few cents. The main cost of things is knowledge and technology, so why should a country like Iran stick to cement?”

“We learned a lot of lessons from our previous lack of achievement,” he reflects, adding, “We used to buy turnkey projects and we didn’t even know what was inside.” Now, says Rezaiat, “Nano has become a model for the country. We started from scratch – we will look, learn about everything.”

Why Washington Fears Iran?

A rigorous report published last week on Iran sanctions by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) says the following:

“There is a growing body of opinion and Iranian assertions that indicates that Iran, through actions of the government and the private sector, is mitigating the economic effect of sanctions. Some argue that Iran might even benefit from sanctions over the long term by being compelled to diversify its economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues. Iran’s 2013-2014 budget relies far less on oil exports than have previous budgets, and its exports of minerals, cement, urea fertilizer, and other agricultural and basic industrial goods are increasing substantially.”

A year ago I wrote an article titled “How Iran Changed the World.” In it I warn that continued economic pressures on Iran will produce the unintended consequence of undermining Western hegemony very decisively.

The US, after all, is aggressively challenging the Islamic Republic at a time when the entire Western financial and economic order is teetering on the brink of collapse, with no apparent safety net in sight.

Iran is an extremely resourceful country of 78 million people, a huge export market for any nation keen to bolster its treasuries, and has major strategically valuable commodities – oil and gas – that people are keen to buy.

The tighter the sanctions, the more likely that Iran and its trading partners will seek innovative ways around them. In effect, by putting the screws on this important country (Iran is today the head of the 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement and increasingly protected by the emerging BRICS economies), the US is encouraging the development of alternative financial and economic practices that will fundamentally undermine – perhaps even destroy – its own global order.

Every global power throughout history has ended its reign at the hands of an adversary, whether on the battlefield or in a grand power play that goes wrong. What Washington rightfully fears is that its three-decade-long tussle with the Islamic Republic is unwinnable – which is nothing short of defeat for the world’s last superpower.

Unable to get off its current trajectory of escalation, the US continues to seek new, illogical, increasingly indefensible ways to squeeze Iran’s population. But the fact is that sanctions simply don’t work: Iran is not going to stop its nuclear enrichment. Iranians aren’t going to eject their government.

This will not end well for the US. Iran…I’m not so worried about.

This is the second in a two-part series on my 2012 research trips to Iran to discover what makes the Islamic Republic so resilient in the face of Western economic and political pressures. You can read Part 1, “Why Arabs Need Iran” here.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Obama Speaks with Forked Tongue on Surveillance

By Sheldon Richman | FFF | June 11, 2013

It’s bad enough the federal government spies on us. Must it insult our intelligence too?

The government’s response to Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency’s secret monitoring of the Internet and collection of our telephone logs is a mass of contradictions. Officials have said the disclosures are (1) old news, (2) grossly inaccurate, and (3) a blow to national security. It’s hard to see how any two of these can be true, much less all three.

Can’t they at least get their story straight? If they can’t do better than that, why should we have confidence in anything else that they do?

Snowden exposed the government’s indiscriminate snooping because, among other things, it violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and he had no other recourse.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Snowden should have used established channels to raise his concerns, but there are no effective channels. Members of the congressional intelligence committees are prohibited from telling the public what they learn from their briefings. Two members of the Senate committee, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, for years have warned — without disclosing secrets — that the Obama administration is interpreting the Patriot Act and related laws far more broadly than was ever intended by those who voted for those pieces of legislation. Their warnings have made no difference.

A court challenge wasn’t open to Snowden either. Glenn Greenwald, who published Snowden’s leaks in the Guardian, notes that for years the ACLU has tried to challenge the surveillance programs in court on Fourth Amendment grounds, but the Obama administration has blocked the effort by arguing that the ACLU has no standing to bring the suit. It’s a classic Catch-22. Since the surveillance is secret, no one can know if he has been spied on. But if no one knows, no one can go into court claiming to be a victim, and the government will argue that therefore the plaintiff has no standing to challenge the surveillance. Well played, Obama administration.

The administration should not be allowed to get away with the specious claim that telling its secrets to a few privileged members of Congress is equivalent to informing the people. It is not. It’s merely one branch of government telling some people in another branch. Calling those politicians “our representatives” is highly misleading. In what sense do they actually represent us?

Equally specious is the assertion that the NSA can’t monitor particular people without court authorization. The secret FISA court is a rubber stamp.

When Obama ran for president in 2008, he said Americans shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and security. Now he says that “one of the things that we’re going to have to discuss and debate is how are we striking this balance between the need to keep the American people safe and our concerns about privacy? Because there are some tradeoffs involved.”

What do you take us for, Mr. President? Do you say whatever serves your momentary interest?

It’s outrageous for Obama to say he welcomes this debate — when his regime is plotting to capture and prosecute the heroic whistleblower who made it possible.

The debate would be bogus anyway. No one has a right to make a security/privacy tradeoff for you. Our rights should not be subject to vote, particularly when a ruling elite ultimately will make the decision — out of public view!

Americans have learned nothing from the last 40 years if they have not learned that the executive branch — regardless of party — will interpret any power as broadly as it wishes. Congressional oversight is worse than useless; it’s a myth, especially when one chamber is controlled by the president’s party and the other chamber’s majority embraces big government as long as it carries a “national security” label.

Obama says, “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”

That’s wrong. If the politicians’ only response to revelations that they’re violating our privacy is to ask for trust, then we already have problems.

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Comments Off on Obama Speaks with Forked Tongue on Surveillance

Should the Director of National Intelligence Be Impeached for Lying to Congress About PRISM?

By Derek Khanna | Politix | June, 2013

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper being grilled by Sen. Ron Wyden

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper being grilled by Sen. Ron Wyden • Screenshot

In March 2013, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) put the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on the spot on NSA’s dragnet style surveillance of American citizens.

Wyden had been briefed (according to his comments here) on the ongoing program that is now known as PRISM. At the hearing on March 12 before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden appeared to be trying to expose this program to Congress and the general public.

The senator was likely taken by surprise when Director Clapper appeared to directly deny the existence of the program Wyden was aware of, which is probably why he asked Clapper to repeat himself. The following is from the hearing:

Wyden: And this is for you, Director Clapper, again on the surveillance front. And I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer because I know Senator Feinstein wants to move on. Last summer the NSA director was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, ‘…the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is completely false.’ The reason I’m asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozen years, I don’t really know what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Clapper: “No, sir.”

Wyden: “It does not.”

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

Wyden: “All right. Thank you. I’ll have additional questions to give you in writing on that point, but I thank you for the answer.”

Wyden is on the Intelligence Committee and knew what he was asking about. He was not phishing with this question; rather, he was specifically asking about what we now know as PRISM and trying to get Clapper to discuss this issue with Congress. And Clapper, who could clearly have said something along the lines of “any program of that nature would be classified…” instead chose to answer the question, which he likely knew was referring to PRISM, in a way that he knew, or should have known, would mislead Congress.

Wyden seems to have done everything he could to shed light on this information for the American people without violating American law. He previously asked the NSA for a “ballpark estimate” on how many Americans are being spied upon under FISA. The NSA responded that they could not answer the question: “Obtaining such an estimate was beyond the capacity of his office…An IG review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.”

Wyden’s question to Clapper was quite explicit: he asked, does the NSA collect “any type of data.” And Clapper said no. If the reports in the Washington Post and elsewhere on PRISM are accurate, then this statement appears to be a lie.

Clapper was asked to clarify his remarks on Thursday and told the National Journal, “What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.”

This is an interesting “update” to his comment and logical damage control. But this is not necessarily clear either. Wittingly means “with full knowledge and deliberation.” The Powerpoint released last week, if facts substantiate what has already been reported, appears to show that in the PRISM program the NSA is wittingly and deliberately collecting information on millions of Americans.

Clapper’s statement appears to be untrue; however, legal experts may be able to parse it in a different way. If it wasn’t a lie it appears to be clearly misleading.

Lying to Congress is an extremely serious offense, although few have been found guilty. Roger Clemens was indicted for lying to Congress (but ultimately found innocent of perjury). Many of the cases of individuals convicted of lying to Congress arose from Watergate, including President Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, and Nixon’s Chief of staff, H.R Haldeman.

Executive officials can be impeached for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” As a non-criminal matter, there are serious grounds to argue that lying to Congress is among the most severe potential “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Lying to a Grand Jury was the grounds for President Clinton’s impeachment; and that was lying to a grand jury, not lying to Congress when Congress is the relevant oversight branch. Furthermore, lying to Congress while Congress is performing oversight impedes a Congressional inquiry and investigation; Clinton’s lying to a Grand Jury did not impede Congressional functioning. This may be a poor example, because many disagreed with Clinton’s impeachment. The point is only that Clapper’s statement rises to or even exceeds previous standards for impeachment. (Impeachment is the House essentially “indicting” an Executive official which would require the Senate to convict for ultimate removal.)

Under the Constitution, Congress has a few major roles: to pass legislation and to oversee the Executive branch. The Intelligence Committee was specifically created to oversee the Intelligence Community in the wake of systemic abuses from the 1960s and 1970s. This oversight of intelligence organizations is critical to protecting average citizens from abuses that were well documented, including the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. But this oversight process can only work if members of the Executive branch are honest with Congress. Members of the Executive branch know this, and these high stakes are precisely why in confrontations between the Executive and the Legislative branch, sometimes Executive branch officials try to refuse to appear before Congress – citing executive privilege.

Clapper’s statement appears to have misled the relevant Congressional Committee, and more importantly, misled Members of Congress who don’t receive the information that the Intelligence Committee receives. Ultimately these statements misled the general public. This obfuscation of the truth inhibited the Intelligence Committee from performing proper oversight, which is the primary role of the Intelligence Committee. There is little point in having an oversight committee for intelligence if members of the intelligence community can simply lie when asked questions before a hearing.

Misspeaking at a hearing may be a mistake. Misspeaking before the Intelligence Committee is an extremely grievous mistake. But even more egregious here is that Clapper had ample time to correct the record and apparently failed to do so. Statements made at hearings are not coffee shop like discussions; rather, they are carefully prepared in advance. If Clapper did not have a prepared answer for this question, it’s extremely likely that the NSA counsel would have reviewed his statement after the hearing – putting him on notice that if his statement was incorrect he had the obligation to correct it. In fact, if the NSA’s counsel knew that Clapper was lying or misspeaking, he may have had a legal obligation to tell Clapper to inform the Committee of his misstatement. And, under a similar procedure for lying at court, if Clapper refused to correct the record then the Counsel may have had an obligation to tell the Committee anyway. This gives some perspective on the legal severity of lying to a congressional committee.

President Obama has claimed that Congress was aware of all ongoing programs of this nature. The Administration can’t have it both ways. It can’t claim that Congress was in the loop and signed off when the Director of National Intelligence appears to have at best misled and at worst lied to the relevant oversight branch.

Our entire national security infrastructure was restructured because of the major scandals in the 1960s and 70s which ultimately culminated in the Church and Pike Committees. The Congressional Intelligence Committees were created to oversee the intelligence community and protect against abuses. The Committees were designed particularly to ensure protection of American citizens’ civil liberties. If the PRISM program represents the most significant and controversial ongoing intelligence operations impacting civil liberties in the past forty years (so we hope), then shouldn’t misleading the relevant committee be treated as among the most serious offenses that an executive official can commit? If not, how can Congress have any ability to oversee intelligence operations at all? If being in charge of the intelligence community, as Clapper is, and misleading the relevant committee overseeing your operations when they are trying to investigate is not a “high crime and misdemeanor,” then what other forms of misbehavior would meet that threshold? What message would it send to other governmental officials when asked to speak to Congress?

Twitter: #ImpeachClapper

Check out my testimony on cell phone unlocking at the House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

Derek Khanna (@DerekKhanna and is the maverick former Republican staffer and civil liberties advocate whose op-eds on cell phone unlocking went viral in January. He is now a Yale Law

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , | 2 Comments

Germany slams US for ‘Stasi methods’ ahead of Obama visit

RT | June 12, 2013

Germans are expressing outrage as details of a US internet spy program – revealed by a former CIA employee-turned-whistleblower – are prompting comparisons with that of former communist East Germany’s Ministry for State Security.

Unfortunately for Obama’s upcoming trip to Berlin, it was revealed that Germany ranks as the most-spied-on EU country by the US, a map of secret surveillance activities by the National Security Agency (NSA) shows.

German ministers are expressing their outrage over America’s sweeping intelligence-gathering leviathan, with one parliamentarian comparing US spying methods to that of the communist East Germany’s much-dreaded Ministry for State Security (Stasi).

Washington is using “American-style Stasi methods,” said Markus Ferber, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian sister party and member of the European Parliament.

“I thought this era had ended when the DDR fell,” he said, using the German acronym for the disposed German Democratic Republic.

Clearly, enthusiasm for the American leader’s upcoming visit will be much more tempered than it was in 2008 when 200,000 people packed around the Victory Column in central Berlin to hear Obama speak of a world that would be dramatically different from that of his hawkish Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

Merkel will question Obama about the NSA program when he visits in Berlin on June 18, government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday. Some political analysts fear the issue will dampen a visit that was intended to commemorate US-German relations on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

Bush excesses, Obama digresses

One year into his second term, Barack Obama seems powerless to roll back the military and security apparatus bolted down by the Bush administration in the ‘War on Terror.’

One consequence of this failure of the Obama administration to reign in Bush-era excesses emerged last week when former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden, 29, blew the whistle on a top-secret intelligence system named Prism, which collects data on individuals directly from the servers of the largest US telecommunications companies.

According to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers, PRISM gave US intelligence agencies access to emails, internet chats and photographs from companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Verizon and Skype.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said leaked reports that US intelligence services are able to track virtually all forms of Internet communication demanded an explanation.

“The more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is,” she wrote in a guest editorial for Spiegel Online on Tuesday. “The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the US administration itself is paramount at this point.”

All of the facts must be put on the table, the minister added.

Obama has defended the intelligence-gathering system as a “modest encroachment” that Americans should be willing to accept on behalf of security.

“You can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society. There are trade-offs involved.”

The United States, however, is not legally restricted from eavesdropping on the communications of foreigners, meaning in theory that Washington could be listening to and collecting the private communications of individuals anywhere in the world.

Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, said the leaked intelligence was grounds for “massive concern” in Europe.

“The problem is that we Europeans are not protected from what appears to be a very comprehensive surveillance program,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper. “Neither European nor German rules apply here, and American laws only protect Americans.”

Meanwhile, German opposition parties hope to gain from the scandal, especially with parliamentary elections approaching in September, and Merkel looking to win a third term.

“This looks to me like it could become one of the biggest data privacy scandals ever,” Greens leader Renate Kuenast told Reuters.

Obama is scheduled to hold talks and a news conference with Merkel on Wednesday followed by a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the 18th triumphal arch that is one of Germany’s most recognizable landmarks.

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Germany slams US for ‘Stasi methods’ ahead of Obama visit

US imposes sanctions on Hezbollah, citing Syria role, Africa influence

Press TV – June 12, 2013

The US has declared “sanctions” on four alleged “ambassadors” of the Lebanese Islamic resistance group Hezbollah, citing the movement’s role in pushing back foreign-backed insurgents in Syria as well as its rising influence in West Africa.

The US Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it was imposing what appear to be vague sanctions against the four Lebanese individuals whom it claims are “fundraising and recruiting for Hezbollah” in efforts to expand its influence in West Africa, as well as South America and Middle East, The Los Angeles Times reports Wednesday.

Citing US officials, the report states the four men were acting as Hezbollah “ambassadors” in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gambia.

The daily further quotes US Treasury officials as underlining “the alarming reach of Hezbollah’s activities,” pointing to the Islamic movement’s “growing military role” in the recent triumph of the Syrian Army over foreign-sponsored militant gangs that have waged a destructive war on the country in largely US-led attempts to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The mostly symbolic sanctions, according to the report, “grew out of an investigation of what Treasury said are Hezbollah’s expanding activities abroad, including in South America, the Middle East and Africa.”

The sanctions would supposedly “freeze any assets” the four men “may have in the United States and sever them from any contact with the US financial system.”

However, it is not even clear if and how much the Lebanese individuals, identified as Ali Ibrahim Watfa, Abbas Loutfe Jawaz, Ali Achmad Chehade and Hicham Nmer Khanafer, have under the control of American financial institutions.

The US government has in the past repeatedly “imposed” meaningless sanctions, in the form of freezing funds, against a number of Iranian individuals and officials that have absolutely no ties or holdings in the US or American financial institutions.

The development comes as the American government and some of its allies, including the Saudi Kingdom, have protested the supportive role of Hezbollah forces behind the Syrian Army to flush out mostly al-Qaeda-linked armed gangs that have terrorized the nation with massive weapons supplied to them through Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon by mostly Persian Gulf Arab kingdoms, with US and European blessings.

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment