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Government Fights to Keep Court Opinions on NSA Spying Hidden From Public

By Alex Abdo | ACLU | July 16, 2013

Last month, we asked the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—known as the FISC—to publish its legal opinions allowing the government to track the phone calls of essentially all Americans. Those secret opinions are critical to the ongoing debate about the NSA’s surveillance powers, but, perhaps even more importantly, they are the authoritative legal interpretations of a public law. Like the law itself, those opinions should be public. Given that fact, we were disappointed when, on July 5, the government opposed our request, arguing that the public is not entitled to read the FISC’s opinions.

Think about that for a minute. Our government believes that opinions of a federal court deciding what a controversial federal law actually means and whether sweeping surveillance conducted under that law is constitutional should be secret. And we’re not just talking about keeping secret the names of the government’s surveillance targets. The government’s filing was clear: The public doesn’t have the right to read even the FISC’s legal analysis.

Here is how we countered the government’s argument in the reply brief we filed late on Friday:

The First Amendment guarantees the public a qualified right of access to those opinions, because judicial opinions interpreting constitutional and statutory limits on governmental authorities— including those relevant to foreign-intelligence surveillance—have always been available for inspection by the public and because their release is so manifestly fundamental in a democracy committed to the rule of law.

The government’s contrary view—that legal opinions of an Article III court controlling the constitutional rights of millions of Americans may forever be denied to the public, even if any legitimate interest in secrecy has expired or can be accommodated—is wrong. Indeed, if the government succeeds in depriving the public of the tools necessary to understand the laws passed by its elected officials, it will have eroded the foundations of our democracy. The government’s theory affects more than the public’s right to this Court’s opinions; its reasoning would likewise deny the public a right of access to the opinions of courts sitting in review of those opinions, whether issued by the Court of Review or even the Supreme Court of the United States. That result would defeat democratic oversight and undermine public confidence in our legal institutions.

Our motion is now fully briefed and ready for the FISC to decide. Stay tuned.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama administration drowning in lawsuits filed over NSA surveillance

RT | July 16, 2013

Attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation have sued the Obama administration and are demanding the White House stop the dragnet surveillance programs operated by the National Security Agency.

Both the White House and Congress have weighed in on the case of Edward Snowden and the revelations he’s made by leaking National Security Agency documents. Now the courts are having their turn to opine, and with opportunities aplenty.

Day by day, new lawsuits waged against the United States government are being filed in federal court, and with the same regularity President Barack Obama and the preceding administration are being charged with vast constitutional violations alleged to have occurred through the NSA spy programs exposed by Mr. Snowden.

The recent disclosures made by Snowden have generated commotion in Congress and the White House alike. The Department of Justice has asked for the 30-year-old former Booz Allen Hamilton worker to be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage, and members of both the House and Senate have already held their share of emergency hearings in the wake of Snowden’s series of disclosures detailing the vast surveillance programs waged by the US in utmost secrecy. But with the executive and legislative branches left worrying about how to handle the source of the leaks — and if the policies publicized should have existed in the first place — the courts could soon settle some disputes that stand to shape the way the US conducts surveillance of its own citizens.

Both longstanding arguments and just-filed claims have garnered the attention of the judicial branch in the weeks since the Guardian newspaper first began publishing leaked NSA documents attributed to Snowden on June 6. But while the courts have relied previously on stalling or stifling cases that challenge Uncle Sam’s spy efforts, civil liberties experts say the time may be near for some highly anticipated arguments to finally be heard. Now on the heels of lawsuits filed by the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, groups are coming out of the woodwork to wage a legal battle against the White House.

The most recent example came this week when a coalition of various organizations filed suit together against the Obama administration by challenging “an illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance, specifically the bulk acquisition, collection, storage, retention and searching of telephone communications information.” Represented by attorneys from the EFF and others, the plaintiffs in the latest case filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court include an array of groups, such as: First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles; Bill of Rights Defense Committee; Calguns Foundation; California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees; Council on Islamic Relations; Franklin Armory; Free Press; Free Software Foundation; Greenpeace; Human Rights Watch; Media Alliance; National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws; Open Technology Institute; People for the American Way, Public Knowledge; Students for Sensible Drug Policy; TechFreedom; and Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the EFF, told the Washington Post that the NSA leaks credited to Snowden have been a “tremendous boon” to the plaintiffs in recently filed court cases challenging the surveillance state. The courts are currently pondering at least five important cases, Cohn told the Post, which could, once and for all, bring some other issues up for discussion.

Since June 6, the American Civil Liberties Union, a Verizon Wireless customer and the founder of conservative group Judicial Watch have all filed federal lawsuits against the government’s collection of telephony metadata, a practice that puts basic call records into the government’s hands without a specific warrant ever required and reported to the media by Mr. Snowden. Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch has also sued over another revelation made by Snowden — the PRISM Internet eavesdropping program — and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, has asked the Supreme Court to vacate the order compelling Verizon Business Network Services to send metadata to the feds.

Perhaps most important, however, is a California federal court’s recent decision to shut down the government’s request to stop the case of Jewel vs. NSA from proceeding. That debate first began in 2008 when Jewel, a former AT&T customer, challenged the government’s “illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet communications surveillance” as exposed by a whistleblower at the telecom company. That case has seen roadblock after roadblock during the last five years, but all that changed earlier this month.  The government long argued that Jewel v. NSA can’t go up for discussion because the issues at hand are privileged as ‘state secrets’ and can’t be brought into the public realm.

“[T]he disclosure of sensitive intelligence sources and methods . . . reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” the government wrote in one earlier filing. “The very purpose of these cases is to put at issue whether the NSA undertook certain alleged activities under presidential authorization after 9/11, and whether those activities continue today. At every stage, from standing to the merits, highly classified and properly privileged intelligence sources and methods are at risk of disclosure. The law is clear, however, that where litigation risks or requires the disclosure of information that reasonably could be expected to harm national security, dismissal is required.”

Following Snowden’s recent disclosures, though, Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California ruled on July 8 that there’s a way for those cases to still be heard.

“The court rightly found that the traditional legal system can determine the legality of the mass, dragnet surveillance of innocent Americans and rejected the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege to have the case dismissed,” the EFF’s Cohn, who is working on the case, said in a statement issued at the time of the ruling. “Over the last month, we came face-to-face with new details of mass, untargeted collection of phone and Internet records, substantially confirmed by the Director of National Intelligence. Today’s decision sets the stage for finally getting a ruling that can stop the dragnet surveillance and restore Americans’ constitutional rights.”

Weighing in weeks later to the Post, Cohn said that outcome could have more of an impact than many might imagine. “It’s tremendous, because anything that allows these cases to proceed is important,” she said.

Speaking to the New York Times this week, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jameel Jaffer said that until now the government has operated a “shell game” to shield it’s surveillance programs from litigation. “[T]he statute has been shielded from judicial review, and controversial and far-reaching surveillance authorities have been placed beyond the reach of the Constitution,” he said.

Should Cohn’s prediction come true, though, the courts could decide to weigh in and reshape the way the government currently conducts surveillance.

According to University of Pittsburgh law professor Jules Lobel, a victory there could come in more than one way. “There is a broader function to these lawsuits than simply winning in court,” he told the Post. “The government has to respond, and forcing them to go before a court might make them want to change aspects of the programs.”

“The government does things to avoid embarrassment,’’ he added, “and lawsuits are a key pressure point.’’

Interviews to the Post and the Times come just days after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a long-time member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he thought the revelations made by Snowden may influence the White House to reconsider their surveillance practices before the courts can even have their chance.

“I have a feeling that the administration is getting concerned about the bulk phone records collection, and that they are thinking about whether to move administratively to stop it,” Sen. Wyden told the Times.

“I think we are making a comeback,” he said.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Coming Plantations

By Mubbashir Rizvi | Zamana

Recent reports about the Pakistan government’s plan to allot thousands of acres of land to foreign countries and private corporations are alarming to say the least. The proponents of the plan argue that this agricultural outsourcing will attract foreign investment, helping the country to reduce its debts while generating greater productivity and rural employment. However, there is little evidence that this plan will offer any major advantages to the rural poor. Far from benefiting the poor, in fact, one is concerned that peasants may be displaced from their lands to ensure access to foreigners. Moreover, if the land that will be given away is indeed lying “idle” as some reports have claimed, why not distribute it amongst landless farmers to ensure their food security instead of privileging the needs of foreign countries? Giving large chunks of land to other states that want to secure food availability for their population goes against the very logic of sustainable local and national development, especially in times of severe food crises that Pakistan is currently facing.

Given the history of exploitative work conditions in Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, it is very likely that the new corporate farms will function like colonial plantations. According to wikipedia, “a plantation is a large farm or estate, usually in a tropical or subtropical country, where crops are grown for sale in distant markets, rather than for local consumption.” Colonial planters, like today’s advocates for corporate farming, saw themselves as investors and innovators of commercial agriculture. The history of plantations in South America, Asia and the Caribbean tells us that far from eradicating poverty, this kind of intensive transnational agriculture accelerates dependency while weakening food sovereignty among the poorer nations.

In Pakistan, there has already been a radical neglect of important livelihood issues as the country has increasingly became embroiled in a series of security crises. A lot more ink has been spilled on explaining the proliferation of religious and sectarian violence, than on the effects of economic factors in feeding these movements. Missing in these analyses is a discussion of enduring forms of structural violence that lie in extreme disparities of wealth, diminishing protections for vulnerable populations like peasant farmers, the mass movement of rural workers to urban slums, and the increasingly precarious access to food. Far from serving the poor, the state has often resorted to a militarized response in order to suppress poor peoples’ struggles for land and sustenance. This is all the more reason for us to suspect the government’s claims of “rural investment” as a justification for its proposal to lease land to foreign investors.

At the military farms in Okara, for example, tenant farmers have been struggling to retain access to the land that they have been tilling for almost a century. Since 2000, the farmers have been defying the military’s edict to impose a new tenancy system of contract farming. They have refused to sign onto a cash tenancy system because it does not guarantee secure, long-term access to the land. In fact, the contract system will make them more vulnerable to evictions. During the course of their struggle, the mazarin (landless peasants) have discovered that the military farmlands are actually owned by the Punjab Government, as the military’s official lease expired long before the creation of Pakistan.

The tenant farmers see the new contract system as a threat to their subsistence and food security. I recall talking to Nazeer Bola, a tenant farmer, about what gave the tenant farmers the will to defy the military in 2003. He simply answered, “We knew that as soon as we accept this contract system, we will be thrown out of these lands. We can accept death but we don’t accept this contract system.” Nazeer gave the example of the slum-dwellers of Karachi to illustrate what life would be like for the mazareen if they lost their rights over their lands. He argued that in contrast with the extreme poverty in the cities, even the poorest group in the village (like the lower caste kammis) had a marla (a small plot) where they could grow enough food to survive, whereas being destitute in the city meant having no place to sleep and no land to grow one’s food.

Instead of giving away land to serve other people’s food needs, the government needs to provide greater support for farmers like Nazeer Bola by ensuring their access to land, as well as by facilitating policies such as farmer cooperatives that can hold distributors accountable and collectively promote the interests of rural families.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Egypt Destroys Eight Border Tunnels

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | July 16, 2013

The Egyptian Army announced in managed to locate and destroy eight siege-busting tunnels across the border with the Gaza Strip over the last 48 hours, and that it located 23 containers holding a million liters of fuel.

The army said that the Egyptian Border Guards located the containers that were ready to be smuggled to the coastal region, and also located the eight tunnels that have already been operational.

Egyptian security sources said that the army used bulldozers to remove fuel pumps, and that the campaign is ongoing to locate and destroy all tunnels across the border with Gaza.

The sources said that Egypt’s Army Chief, Colonel Abdul-Fattah El-Sissi, gave direct orders to the army to destroy all border tunnels by using explosives, heavy equipment and even by flooding them.

El-Sissi said that the army would not allow any party to “jeopardize Egypt’s national security, its economy, and national resources.”

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 3 Comments

Dozens injured in Jerusalem protest against the Prawer plan

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | July 16, 2013

Palestinian medical sources have reported Monday that dozens of Palestinians have been injured after being violently attacked by Israeli soldiers and police officers, during a protest against the Prawer plan that would forcibly displace between 30,000-70,000 Negev Bedouins.

The protest started at the Bab Al-‘Amoud area, in occupied East Jerusalem, and the protesters were attacked as they marched towards Sultan Suleiman Str., clashes also extended to various areas in Jerusalem.

Bassem Zeidan, of the Palestinian Medical Relief, stated that twelve Palestinians suffered fractures and bruises after being attacked by the army and the police, while a medic identified as Osama Mkheimar, suffered fractures in his foot, a cameraman identified as Amin Siyam suffered various bruises, a pregnant woman suffered a dislocated shoulder, and at least fifty more Palestinians were treated by field medics.

The Begin-Prawer Bill passed its first reading in the Israeli Knesset on June 24 2013. Adalah – The legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – previously reported the bill involves the dismantlement of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev, and the forced displacement and relocation of the inhabitants – numbering in the tens of thousands – to settlements that will be “recognized” by Israel.

Critics of the bill claim that the Bedouin have not been consulted, and that it violates their rights to property and ignores their legitimate claims to ancestral lands.

Adalah reports that the Begin-Prawer Bill is designed to make it very difficult for the Bedouin to receive compensation following their forcible displacement, and that state development projects that privilege Jewish Israelis will be built in place of the destroyed Bedouin villages.

The United Nations said that Israel must respect the land claims of the Bedouin, who are internationally recognized as indigenous peoples of the land.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s Nuke Arsenal Off-Limits

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | July 15, 2013

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, host Bob Schieffer devoted more than six minutes of a ten-minute interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the topic of Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon, with Netanyahu explicitly threatening to attack Iran if it crossed his personally drawn “red line” on the level of permitted refinement of nuclear fuel.

Nowhere during that interview – or in the major news articles that I read about it – was there any reference to Israel’s own rogue nuclear arsenal or how destabilizing it is for one religious state possessing nukes to threaten to attack another religious state lacking a single nuke. The imbalance in this nuclear equation is so breathtaking that you might have thought it would be at the center of a testy Q-and-A. Instead it was nowhere.

Netanyahu also was allowed to denounce Iran as “apocalyptic” without any question about Netanyahu’s own frequent references to Israel facing “existential” threats. Indeed, Israel’s attitude toward using nuclear weapons is sometimes called the “Samson Option,” recalling the Biblical hero who destroyed himself along with his enemies. So, again, you might have thought Schieffer would pounce on Netanyahu’s self-serving remark. But, nah!

In other words, it was a typical day in the life of mainstream U.S. journalism, a profession which purports to be “objective” – meaning it should treat all parties to a dispute equally – but, of course, isn’t.

An “objective” interview or article would have included at least some reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and the question of whether Israel has the unilateral right to wage war (or even threaten war) against another country, with the particular irony that Israel is accusing Iran of pursuing a course that Israel has already taken.

But it is expected now that “objective” U.S. journalists will avert their eyes from a reality that Israel would prefer not to mention. In the real world of U.S. journalism, “objectivity” means following the bias of the powers-that-be and framing issues within the conventional wisdom.

In the CBS interview, Netanyahu also was allowed to take a free shot at Iran and its president-elect, Hassan Rowhani, who was disparaged by Netanyahu as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” whose strategy is to “smile and build a bomb.”

Netanyahu was given free rein, too, to demand that President Barack Obama demonstrate “by action” that he stands with Israel in its military threat against Iran. Those demands “should be backed up with ratcheted sanctions,” Netanyahu said. “They have to know you’ll be prepared to take military action; that’s the only thing that will get their attention.”

(It might be noted here that the United States has lots and lots of nuclear weapons and indeed is the only nation to have actually used them in warfare against other human beings. Meanwhile, Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.)

Netanyahu seemed perturbed that the Obama administration is hoping to reach an accommodation with President-elect Rowhani that would involve Iran accepting new safeguards on its nuclear program in exchange for relaxed economic sanctions.

The New York Times reported that “a senior [Obama] administration official” told reporters on Friday that Rowhani’s more moderate tone suggested he was “going in a different direction” from his predecessors and might be interested in reaching a broad settlement with the West.

In the CBS interview, Netanyahu was signaling that any accommodation with Iran – beyond one that would demand Iran’s total capitulation on its right to process uranium at all – is unacceptable to him. The U.S. press corps then repeated Netanyahu’s hard-line remarks without any of that troublesome context regarding Israel’s possession of an undeclared nuclear arsenal, considered one of the world’s most sophisticated.

That the U.S. press corps routinely fails to provide that sort of context is clear evidence that the principle of “objectivity” is one that is selectively applied, which would seem to negate the very notion of “objectivity.”

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Detention of Evo Morales: A Defining Moment For Latin America?

By Emily Achtenberg | Rebel Currents | July 12, 2013

As the international uproar continues over last week’s grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane in Europe, after U.S. officials apparently suspected whistle-blower Edward Snowden of being on board, many questions remain unanswered about the United States’ role and motives.

But one thing is certain: if the U.S. government was seeking to intimidate Morales and other Latin American leaders who might consider harboring Snowden, its strategy has completely backfired. Instead, the incident has bolstered Morales’s domestic and international standing, consolidated regional unity, and emboldened the bloc of leftist governments that seeks to counter U.S. dominance in the region. It has also dealt a damaging, and potentially fatal, blow to the future of U.S.–Latin American relations under the Obama administration.

The crisis was set off by Morales’s statement on July 2 in Russia, where he was attending an energy conference, that he would be willing to consider a petition by Snowden for asylum. Later that evening, on his return flight to Bolivia, Morales’s plane was denied entry into the airspace of France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, forcing it to make an unscheduled landing in Vienna where it was diverted for 13 hours before receiving clearance to proceed.

In response to Bolivia’s persistent questioning, the four European countries have offered equivocal and somewhat contradictory—if not preposterous—explanations for their actions. France, which has apologized to Morales, says it didn’t realize that the Bolivian president was on the presidential jet. Portugal, originally scheduled as a refueling stop, says its airport wasn’t capable of servicing the plane. Italy now completely denies having closed its airspace.

Spain, after initially attributing the problem to the expiration of its flyover permit during Morales’s unexpected layover in Austria, later admitted that the United States had asked it to block the flight (although the United States has not acknowledged any role in the incident). At first, Spanish officials also claimed that the plane was searched for Snowden in Vienna at the behest of the United States—an action which, if taken without Bolivia’s permission, would constitute a violation of international law even more egregious than the denial of airspace to the presidential jet.

More recently, Spain has insisted (and Bolivia concurs) that it ultimately granted airspace permission upon Bolivia’s written assurance that Snowden was not on board the plane. Spain, which has sought to improve economic relations with Bolivia after being hit hard by Morales’s nationalization of its airport management and electric companies, has also offered to apologize.

The apparent willingness of four European governments to put U.S. interests ahead of international law and Bolivia’s rights as a sovereign nation—despite themselves being victimized by illegal U.S. spying activities—stands in sharp contrast to Latin America, where the detention of an indigenous president is seen as the latest grievance in a long history of colonial and imperial transgressions. Bolivian Vice President Alvaro García Linera has denounced the incident as an imperial “kidnapping.”

For many Bolivians, the episode is viewed as a deliberate effort by the U.S. government to punish Morales for his persistent anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions, including the expulsion of the U.S. Ambassador and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2008, and, most recently, USAID. It also strikes a special nerve since the United States hosts, and has refused to extradite, some of Bolivia’s most wanted criminals, including neoliberal ex-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (Goni), facing charges of genocide in connection with the killing of 67 indigenous protesters during the 2003 “Gas Wars.”

Within hours of Morales’s detention, other leftist Latin American governments rallied in outraged solidarity with Bolivia. Argentine President Cristina Fernández labeled the incident “a remnant of the colonialism we thought had been overcome.” Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa tweeted, “We are all Bolivia!”

Along with expressions of support from ALBA, CELAC, Mercosur, and other regional blocs, UNASUR issued a statement condemning the action on July 4, signed by six heads of state (Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Suriname) who attended an emergency meeting. Governments from across the region’s political spectrum (including Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile) closed ranks behind Morales.

On July 9, the OAS issued a consensus resolution expressing solidarity with Morales and demanding apologies and explanations from the four European nations (but not the United States.) Internationally, more than 100 UN member nations have collectively denounced the incident, bolstering Bolivia’s complaint before the UN High Commission on Human Rights.

The provocative detention of Morales undoubtedly precipitated the decision of three leftist Latin American governments—Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua (conditionally)—to offer asylum to Snowden, in open defiance of the United States. As journalist Stephen Kinzer has noted, with the U.S./ European rogue actions converting Snowden into a Latin American hero, the offer of asylum is politically popular in the region. This sentiment also stems from the regional legacy of dictatorship and political persecution, including the personal experiences of many leftist leaders. As Uruguayan President José Mujica (a former Tupamaro guerrilla) declared, “To all of us who have been persecuted, the right to asylum is sacred and must be defended.”

Broad regional support also makes it easier for any country offering shelter to Snowden to resist U.S. demands for extradition. As well, the mounting evidence of U.S. pressure on European and Latin American countries to deny sanctuary or transit assistance to Snowden, interfering with their sovereign decision-making processes, strengthens the case for asylum, legally and politically. U.S. officials have made it clear that any country aiding Snowden will be made to suffer, putting relations with the United States “in a very bad place for a long time to come.”

Still, in a region that remains heavily dependent on U.S. trade, the threat of U.S. retaliation through economic sanctions will be a major factor in the asylum calculus for any government, as illustrated by the recent case of Ecuador. After initially championing Snowden’s cause and apparently aiding his transit from Hong Kong to Moscow, Correa suddenly backed off after a phone call from Joe Biden, saying that Biden’s concerns were “worth considering.” While Correa has defiantly renounced Ecuador’s long-standing U.S. trade preferences as an instrument of “political blackmail,” he apparently hopes to replace them with an alternative set of duty-free waivers under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, an option that could be jeopardized by an asylum offer.

Similar considerations will no doubt be of concern to Venezuela and Bolivia, should either of their asylum offers materialize into reality (a complex proposition, given the many obstacles to achieving Snowden’s safe transit). While political relations between these countries and the United States have been polarized for some time—with the U.S. government still failing to recognize Nicolás Maduro’s April election—Venezuela still exports 40% of its oil to U.S. markets, and the United States remains as Bolivia’s third largest trading partner (after Brazil and Argentina). Bolivia also enjoys some of the same GSP trade preferences that Ecuador is seeking, which cover around 50% of its U.S. exports.

Still, the incident has greatly strengthened both Morales and Maduro domestically and internationally, corroborating their anti-imperialist worldviews. For Morales—newly characterized by García Linera as the “leader of the anti-imperialist presidents and peoples of the world”—the wave of solidarity responding to his personal victimization has consolidated his political popularity in a pre-election year. Recalling the 2002 presidential election when the U.S. Ambassador’s negative comments about candidate Morales catapulted him unexpectedly into second place, García Linera jokes that Obama has become Morales’s new campaign manager.

For Maduro, whose asylum offer is being promoted by Russia, the opportunity to champion Snowden’s cause and challenge the United States on a world stage, with substantial regional support, has allowed him to genuinely reclaim Hugo Chávez’s anti-imperialist mantle. “It provides the perfect opportunity for Maduro…to figure internationally, to show that he is a player among the big powers…and that he’s capable of challenging the United States,” says political analyst Eduardo Semetei.

In terms of overall U.S.-Latin American relations, the episode could be a defining moment for the Obama administration. As Kinzer notes, the downing of Morales’s jet may have reflected a genuine U.S. effort to capture Snowden—as opposed to a shot across the bow to intimidate Snowden’s potential supporters—but even so, the depth of misunderstanding as to how the incident would resonate in Latin America is telling. New daily revelations from Snowden’s data trove about massive U.S. spying programs in the region are adding fuel to the fire, further strengthening the leftist popular bloc—and confirming Glenn Greenwald’s assessment that the U.S. government has been its own worst enemy throughout this entire episode. It is difficult to imagine how the Obama administration can recover the region’s trust any time soon.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazil: US spying response insufficient

Press TV – July 16, 2013

Brazil says Washington has insufficiently responded to Brasilia’s request for an explanation over US spying programs, recently revealed by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said Monday that some clarifications have been made however Brazilia views them as insufficient.

Patriota also reported that there had basically been nothing new since he appeared before Congress last week, saying he was awaiting a formal response from Washington.

Since the disclosure, the Brazilian government has set up a technical group, including representatives of the ministries of justice, defense, foreign affairs, science and technology as well as security experts, to investigate into the spying revelations.

On July 7, Brazilian newspaper O Globo published a report based on documents leaked by Snowden, showing the US National Security Agency has targeted most Latin American countries in their spying programs.

According to the report, Brazil along with Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico were among those of highest priority for the U.S. intelligence agency in Latin America.

In addition, the newspaper revealed that Washington also kept a base in Brasilia to intercept foreign satellite communications.

President Dilma Rousseff responded to the revelations that if the reports prove true, they would constitute a “violation of sovereignty and human rights.”

On July 12 during a summit, Presidents of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela together condemned the US for spying in the region.

Meanwhile, Latin American nations, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have all offered asylum to Snowden, who is holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, when he landed in Russia from Hong Kong.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Spain apologizes for role in Morales jet ban

Press TV – July 16, 2013

Spain has apologized to Bolivia for its parts in the recent incident, in which Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was forbidden to fly over some European countries on the rumors that US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden was onboard.

Ambassador Angel Vazquez delivered on Monday the official apology to the Bolivian Foreign Ministry in La Paz.

Varquez gave a statement acknowledging an “apology for the obstacle and the hardships caused to the president.”

France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all refused to allow Morales’ plane, which was flying home on July 2 from Moscow, to cross their airspace.

The presidential plane was forced to land in Vienna, Austria where it was searched by authorities on false rumors that US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was on board.

The Bolivian Foreign Ministry accused the Europeans of bowing to US pressure when it banned Morales’ plane.

After the incident, Morales revealed that Spain’s ambassador to Austria had tried to conduct a search of the aircraft.

“We recognize publicly that perhaps the procedures used in the Vienna airport by our representative were not the most effective,” said Vaszquez.

“We regret this fact … the procedure was not appropriate and bothered the president (Morales), putting him in a difficult situation.”

The incident also caused strong condemnation from several countries in Latin American, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who called it a “provocation” that concerned” all of Latin America.”

Meanwhile, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have all offered asylum to Snowden, who is holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, when he landed in Russia from Hong Kong.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment