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EU’s response to NSA? Drones, spy satellites could fly over Europe

RT | July 27, 2013

The European Union is pondering an EU Commission proposal to acquire a fleet of surveillance drones, satellites, and planes as part of an “ambitious action” to boost the European defense industry. It follows revelations of the NSA’s spying programs.

The European Commission has issued a 17-page report, proposing some concrete steps that would encourage pan-European defense cooperation.

“Maintaining and developing defense capabilities to meet current and future challenges in spite of severe budget constraints will only be possible if far-reaching political and structural reforms are made. The time has come to take ambitious action,”
the Commission’s report said.

One of the actions suggested in the report is funding a pre-commercial procurement scheme to acquire prototypes of some technologies – including drones.

The full list of technology candidates includes equipment to detect chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives threats (CBRNE), “communication equipment based on software defined radio technology,” and remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), otherwise known as drones.

According to Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the report, the European Commission has for long been eyeing the possibility of using drones over Europe.

“The European Commission has long identified the potential of this emerging technology and supported the market by investing in research and innovation relevant for RPAS through the Framework Programme for Research. A broad stakeholders’ consultation has demonstrated the necessity for action at EU level, setting as priorities the further development of RPAS civil applications and the integration of the systems into the European air space as soon as possible,” the document said.

It also claimed it would “take into account the data protection and privacy concerns associated with the civil use of RPAS.”

The drones are also proposed to be used in conjunction with other surveillance technologies, including aircraft and satellites.

Lamenting the absence of a structural link between civil and military space activities in the EU and saying that Europe “can no longer afford” the economic and political cost of such a divide, the Commission focused on several technologies that are said to be able to serve both civilian and defense objectives.

These include space surveillance and tracking (SST), which are said to be aimed at protecting satellites from space debris, boosting satellite communications (SATCOM), and building a pan-EU cutting-edge satellite surveillance capability.

The report said it is “crucial” for a number of technologies to be explored and developed in the EU, including “hyper-spectral, high resolution satellites in geostationary orbit or advanced ultra-high resolution satellites in combination with new sensor platforms such as RPAS.”

The Commission has yet to estimate to what extent the proposed moves are useful for EU security. Based on the assessment, it will “come up with a proposal for which capability needs, if any, could best be fulfilled by assets directly purchased, owned and operated by the [European] Union.”

A response to Snowden’s NSA leaks?

The Commission’s report is part of the ongoing debate on the common EU defense policy which is set to culminate in a summit of European leaders in December.

Media reports have said that the European Commission and Lady Ashton’s European External Action Service actually want to create military commands and communications systems to be used by the EU for internal security and defense purposes.

The UK, which stoutly opposes such motion, is said to be leading an intense behind-the-scenes battle against establishing an EU military operations headquarters in Brussels.

Curiously, senior European officials regard the plan as an urgent response to the recent scandal over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations on American and British communications surveillance.

“The Edward Snowden scandal shows us that Europe needs its own autonomous security capabilities, this proposal is one step further towards European defense integration,” a senior EU official said, as quoted by the Daily Telegraph.

However, plans to create the EU’s own security and spying agency and employ spy drones and satellites for “internal and external security policies” – which would reportedly include police intelligence, internet surveillance, protection of external borders, and maritime overwatch – will likely raise concerns that the EU is creating its own version of the NSA.

The Open Europe think tank has already warned that the EU “has absolutely no democratic mandate for actively controlling and operating military and security capabilities.”

“The fact is, European countries have different views on defense and this is best served by intergovernmental cooperation, not by European Commission attempts at nation-building,” Open Europe research analyst Pawel Swidlicki said.

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Shameful Day to Be a US Citizen

AG Holder promises Russia not to torture Snowden

By Dave Lindorff | This Can’t Be Happening | July 27th, 2013

I have been deeply ashamed of my country a number of times. The Nixon Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong was one such time, when hospitals, schools and dikes were targeted. The invasion of Iraq was another. Washington’s silence over the fatal Israeli Commando raid on the Gaza Peace Flotilla–in which a 19-year-old unarmed American boy was murdered–was a third. But I think I have never been as ashamed and disgusted as I was today reading that US Attorney General Eric Holder had sent a letter to the Russian minister of justice saying that the US would “not seek the death penalty” in its espionage case against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, promising that even if the US later brought added charges against Snowden after obtaining him, they would not include any death penalty, and vowing that if Snowden were handed over by Russia to the US, he would “not be tortured.”

So it has come to this: That the United States has to promise (to Russia!) that it will not torture a prisoner in its control — a US citizen at that — and so therefore that person, Edward Snowden, has no basis for claiming that he should be “treated as a refugee or granted asylum.”

Why does Holder have to make these pathetic representations to his counterpart in Russia?

Because Snowden has applied for asylum saying that he is at risk of torture or execution if returned to the US to face charges for leaking documents showing that the US government is massively violating the civil liberties and privacy of every American by monitoring every American’s electronic communications.

Snowden has made that claim in seeking asylum because he knows that another whistleblower, Pvt. Bradley Manning, was in fact tortured by the US for months, and held without trial in solitary confinement for over a year before being finally put on trial in a kangaroo court, where the judge is as much prosecutor as jurist, and where his guilt was declared in advance by the President of the United States — the same president who has also already publicly declared Snowden guilty too.

It is incredibly shameful that we US citizens have to admit that we live in a country that tortures its prisoners, that casually executes people who are mentally retarded, who are innocent, who had defense attorneys who slept through their clients’ trials, whose prosecutors slept with the judge, who were denied access to DNA evidence that could have proven their innocence, or who were convicted based upon the lies of prosecutors and prosecution witnesses.

This country’s “justice” system has become so perverted and politically tainted that the rest of the world, including Russia, knows that Snowden is telling the truth when he says he cannot hope to receive a fair trial here. Indeed, Congress has passed laws, and the President has signed laws, giving this government the power to lock someone like Snowden up indefinitely without trial, to torture him, and even to kill him, not through a jury decision on capital punishment, but simply on the basis of a secret “finding” by the President that he has aided or abetted terrorism.

No wonder Russia and several other countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, have offered or are considering offering Snowden asylum.

And no wonder that, in its obsession with getting its tyrannical hands on him, this government is willing to promise (for what a promise from the US government is worth) not to kill him or torture him.

Shame and anger are the only appropriate responses to that letter from Holder.

If this were a country that honored the rule of law, Attorney General Holder would not need to promise not to torture. He would need only to point to the US Constitution, with its ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” He would not need to promise a fair trial to Snowden, with no capital punishment on any charges. He could point instead to the Constitution’s promise of a presumption of innocence and of a public trial by a jury of the accused’s peers, to make the case against the granting of asylum.

In such a country, someone like Snowden, with the help of a crack legal team, would have a fair shot at proving to a jury his innocence of the government’s frivolous espionage charges. He’d have a fair chance of convincing at least one juror of his absolute innocence of any crime, making his conviction impossible.

But that is not what this country is, especially today.

In today’s US courts, we know the “Justice” Department would seek to bar testimony about Snowden’s motives in leaking the documents he downloaded from the NSA’s computers. They would ask the judge to limit defense arguments and testimony in the case to the narrow issue of whether or not he downloaded and leaked files, not to whether those files exposed Constitutional violations and needed to be brought to the public’s attention. Our judges, nominated by presidents and confirmed by senators, Democrat and Republican, who want jurists who favor government secrecy and who generally side with the government against the people, can be counted on to grant the government’s motions.

In such circumstances, a defendant like Snowden, facing charges of espionage or theft of government secrets, has no ability to defend himself. The trial would be like in a Lewis Carroll event: “Verdict first, trial later!”

Hopefully President Vladimir Putin will not be pressured by the US into pretending that Snowden has nothing to fear in going back to face “justice” in the US.

It is bad enough that we Americans have to hang our heads in shame as our Attorney General pretends, against all evidence to the contrary, that there is still a fair legal system operating in the US, and that the US respects human rights and the rule of law.

We should not have to also endure yet another kangaroo court trial, this time of Edward Snowden.

Snowden should be granted asylum in Russia, or should be allowed to travel to one of the other countries of his choice that have had the courage to offer him asylum.

If we’re going to have trials on the issue of spying in the US, let them be of Holder himself, and of President Obama.

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Call for action: Stop Prawer Plan!

27th July 2013 | Stop Prawer Plan | Palestine

We call on international solidarity activists to organize demonstrations on 1 August in their own cities, and to spread awareness of the biggest impending ethnic cleansing campaign against Palestinians by Israel since 1948 through writing petitions, sharing information on the Naqab and Prawer Plan, or by any other show of activism.

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On Monday, July 15, thousands of Palestinians protested in their cities, towns and at busy street junctions against the Prawer Plan, in a day that was designated as the national day of rage, or Anger Strike.

From Bir Sabe to Jerusalem, West Bank to the Galilee, Haifa to Gaza, Palestinians demonstrated against the Prawer Plan which passed its first reading in the Knesset last month. The Plan aims to

* confiscate 800,000 dunums of land in the Naqab desert

* expel over 50,000 Palestinian Bedouins

* demolish 35 unrecognized villages

* confine 30% of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab to 1% of the land

Dozens of Palestinians were either injured or arrested since July 15 by the Israeli occupation forces, yet the Anger Strike is far from over. Throughout the past week protests have been constant within Palestine, with Beirut in Lebanon and Cairo in Egypt also joining in.

We are determined to continue protesting daily and to raise international awareness for the plight of our Palestinian Bedouin brothers and sisters, and the next day of rage will be on Thursday, August 1.

We call on international solidarity activists to organize demonstrations on the same day in their own cities, and to spread awareness of the biggest impending ethnic cleansing campaign against Palestinians by Israel since 1948 through writing petitions, sharing information on the Naqab and Prawer Plan, or by any other show of activism.

 Stay updated on Twitter and Facebook through the hashtags #StopPrawerPlan

Contact us: www.facebook.com/StopPrawerPlan

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt’s military junta playing with fire

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | Jul 26, 2013

Egypt’s military strongman General Al Sisi is playing with fire that may engulf the North African country with even more internecine bloodshed. This week on state TV, Al Sisi called for massive street protests to face down “terrorists” who, he said, were destabilizing Egypt’s national security.

He also claimed that such popular show of strength would give the Egyptian army “a mandate” to use violence to restore order.

Such inflammatory talk by the supposed head of national security is tantamount to pushing Egypt – the Arab region’s most populous country – into a civil war.

The reprehensible thing about this is that General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi is indulging in reckless demagoguery to incite violence in order to cover up the fact that it is he who violated the law and constitution of his country.

As head of the Egyptian military, Al Sisi is supposed to be duty-bound to protect the nation from harm. But what he appears to be doing is plunging the nation into chaos and conflict by way of concealing his own selfish ambitions.

On 3 July, it was Defense Minister Al Sisi who dismissed then President Mohamed Morsi. Nearly three weeks on, no one has seen or heard from the deposed Muslim Brotherhood president. Even his family is still unaware of Morsi’s whereabouts and has accused the military of “kidnap”.

Meanwhile, Al Sisi, who also heads the Supreme Council of Military Forces (SCAF), appointed a senior judge as the interim-president, and oversaw the formation of an unelected government. This civilian administration is only a front for Egypt’s military deep state, which stems from the US-backed Hosni Mubarak dictatorship (1981-2011).

The 35-member interim government is packed with holdovers from the Mubarak era. Many of them are closely associated with the Egyptian military and police. The central figure in the so-called civilian administration is General Al Sisi, who also appointed himself as deputy prime minister – in addition to his portfolio of defense minister and head of the SCAF.

Fawning visits to Cairo last week by US senior diplomat William Burns and the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, demonstrate that Washington and its Western allies are endorsing the military coup against Egypt’s nascent democracy.

Burns said somewhat cryptically that this was “a second chance” for Egyptians. One wonders if what he really meant was a second chance for Egyptians to conform to the US-backed military deep state that Washington has bankrolled with $1.5 billion every year for the past three decades.

In recent days, the US has said that it is delaying the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. This was prompted by the incendiary call for street protests by General Al Sisi. But Washington is only reacting for public relations purposes to fend off criticism that it is pandering to the military junta.

Notably, an unnamed senior Pentagon official told the Washington Post: “This is not a way of punishing them (Egypt’s military). It gives us more time to consult with Congress, walk them through our strategy and explain our views to them.” Besides, too, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reportedly consulted with Al Sisi hours before the announcement that the F-16s would be delayed.

Understandably, millions of Egyptians who voted for Morsi’s presidential bid in June 2012 feel that their long-fought-for democratic rights have been trampled on by the same military machine that they rose up against in January 2011 as part of the Arab Spring.

The ouster of Mubarak on 11 February 2011 was supposed to herald a new democratic beginning for Egypt. But evidently, the Mubarak-era military deep state is back in the driving seat – albeit with the trappings of a civilian administration.

When Al Sisi and his other US-trained Egyptian Generals deposed Morsi, they did so under the cynical guise of “obeying the popular will” and “saving the nation” from possible violence between anti and pro-Morsi crowds. There is evidence that Mubarak-era businessmen and media magnates gave the anti-Morsi demonstrations lionized coverage, thereby amplifying an atmosphere of national tensions and insecurity.

While Morsi certainly alienated wide sections of the population during his one-year presidency, it is nevertheless legally questionable that he should have been dismissed from office, put under secret arrest without charge, and that the constitution should be suspended and the Parliament dissolved. If that sounds like a military coup that’s because it is, even though Western politicians and media have banished the word from public discourse.

The way to make that unlawful intervention appear legitimate was to claim the mantle of acting on behalf of the people to maintain national security. However, what has transpired is that the Egyptian military and remnants from the Mubarak-era judiciary have taken the reins of political power out of the hands of the electorate. The formation of the interim government without any popular mandate earlier this month makes that clear.

The targeting of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members and other Morsi supporters with arrest, detention and prosecution for alleged Mubarak-era crimes also makes it apparent that the military-led Egyptian deep state is running a vendetta to wipe out political opponents, not acting as a caretaker for a transition to civilian politics.

Repression has also involved lethal violence by the state forces and apparently civilian-clothed agents. Since Morsi’s overthrow, as many as 200 people have been killed in street clashes and thousands more injured. Most of the victims have been Morsi supporters, with the military responsible for most of the bloodshed. The single-biggest deadly incident was on 8 July when the military opened fire on Muslim Brotherhood protesters outside the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, killing as many as 80 and wounding over 400.

Last week on national state TV, the interim President Adli Mansour used provocative language when he said: “We will fight the battle for security until the end.” He also warned darkly against those who “hide behind false slogans and who are driving the country to the abyss”.

What “false slogans” might the military-appointed interim president be referring to? Perhaps they include “We don’t support military coup” or “Reinstate Morsi”.

This sinister formula of polarizing society and demonizing political opponents was taken to new heights this week. Again, speaking on national state TV and wearing sunglasses, General Al Sisi said: “Egyptians must take to the streets on Friday to give me the mandate to face down violence and terrorism… Friday is the day we, the army, the people and the police, will unite.”

Asking people for a mandate to face down violence and terrorism sounds like preparing a green light for even more massacres committed by the Egyptian army. And then, in the aftermath of bloodshed, the military strongman will be able to claim that he was only acting “on behalf of the people” to “defend the nation”.

This is the politics of fascism, conducted with the imprimatur of Western so-called democratic governments.

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazilians protest costly visit by Pope

Press TV – July 27, 2013

Brazilians have taken to the streets of the two megacities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to protest the costly week-long visit of Pope Francis to the country.

On Friday, hundreds of demonstrators faced off with 1.5 million Catholic pilgrims in Rio’s Copacabana beach, where visiting Pope was wrapping up a massive ceremony marking World Youth Day.

Protestors were closely monitored by security personnel in scores of vehicles, including an armored vehicle equipped with a water cannon.

Meanwhile, in Sao Paolo, over 300 protesters ransacked five banks and set fire to garbage bins and blocked traffic late on Friday as a show of solidarity with demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro.

On Monday, a similar demonstration was held near the Rio state governor’s palace following a meeting there between the Pope and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.

The demonstrations come just weeks after the country experienced a series of massive protests against government corruption, lagging public services, and the cost of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

The protesters argued that the government should spend public funds on health, education, and other public services rather than on costly international events.

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 1 Comment