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Pentagon considers cancelling F-35 program, leaked documents suggest

RT | August 2, 2013

Leaked documents from a Pentagon budget review suggest that the agency is tired of its costly F-35 fighter jets, and has thoughts about cancelling the $391.2 billion program that has already expanded into 10 foreign countries.

Pentagon officials held a briefing on Wednesday in which they mapped out ways to manage the $500 billion in automated budget cuts required over the next decade. A slideshow laid out a number of suggestions and exposed the Pentagon’s frustration with its F-35 jets, which are designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. based out of Bethesda, Md.  The agency also suggested scrapping plans for a new stealthy, long-range bomber, attendees of the briefing told Reuters.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to reporters on Wednesday and indicated that the Pentagon might have to decide between a “much smaller force” and a decade-long “holiday” from modernizing weapons systems and technology.

Pentagon briefing slides indicated that a decision to maintain a larger military “could result in the cancellation of the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 program and a new stealthy, long-range bomber,” Reuters reports.

When officials familiar with the budget review leaked the news about the F-35s, the agency tried to downplay its alleged intentions.

The F-35 program is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system. A fleet of 2,443 aircraft has an estimated price tag of $391.2 billion, which is up 68 percent from the projected costs measured in 2001. Earlier this year, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program manager, condemned the manufacturer for “trying to squeeze every nickel” out of the Department of Defense.

Although the warplane is the most expensive combat aircraft in history, its quality is lacking. In February, the US military grounded an entire fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters because of a crack found on a turbine blade on one of the jets, marking the fourth time that a fleet was grounded because of manufacturing problems. In April, Bogdan told a Senate committee that he doubted the planes could withstand a sophisticated cyberattack.

But before the sequestration took effect this year, the Pentagon secured several contracts with Lockheed Martin to ensure the continued production and maintenance of the costly F-35s. This week, the Defense Department struck another deal with the company to produce 71 more jet fighters, claiming the costs per aircraft have been reduced by about 4 percent – an insignificant reduction when compared to the 68 percent price increase that has occurred since 2001.

After news broke of the Pentagon’s prospect to cancel the program, officials tried to control the damage of such an alarming statement that runs counter to the claims they publicly make.

“We have gone to great lengths to stress that this review identified, through a rigorous process of strategic modeling, possible decisions we might face, under scenarios we may or may not face in the future,” Pentagon Spokesman George Little told Reuters in an email when asked about the slides. “Any suggestion that we’re now moving away from key modernization programs as a result of yesterday’s discussion of the outcomes of the review would be incorrect.”

An unnamed defense official familiar with the briefing told Reuters that the leaked budget document indicated possibilities for a worst-case scenario. He admitted that the Pentagon considered scrapping the program, but said it was unlikely, since “cancelling the program would be detrimental to our national defense.”

Regardless of the Pentagon’s intent, Congress is responsible for authorizing Department of Defense spending, and has often forced the agency to make costly and unnecessary weapons purchases.

Last year, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that the US has no need for new tanks. But even though senior Army officials have repeatedly stated that there is no need to spend half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds on new 70-ton Abrams tanks, lawmakers from both parties have pushed the Pentagon to accept the useless purchases.

Earlier this year, an investigation revealed that lobbying efforts by Northrop Grumman have kept a costly Global Hawk drone flying, despite the Pentagon’s attempt to end the project. A defense authorization bill passed by Congress requires the Air Force to keep flying its Block 30 Global Hawks through at least 2014, which costs taxpayers $260 million per year.

The US spends more money on defense than any other nation, but lawmakers from both parties often insist that the agency continue to buy tanks and keep ships and planes it no longer needs. Although the Pentagon has expressed its frustration with the costly F-35 fighter jets, there is little the agency can do without congressional support.

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Obama Regime Closes Inquiry Into Afghan Massacre – and Will Release No Details

By Cora Currier | ProPublica | July 31, 2013

Soon after taking office, President Obama pledged to open a new inquiry into the deaths of perhaps thousands of Taliban prisoners of war at the hands of U.S.-allied Afghan fighters in late 2001.

Last month, the White House told ProPublica it was still “looking into” the apparent massacre.

Now it says it has concluded its investigation – but won’t make it public.

The investigation found that no U.S. personnel were involved, said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. Other than that, she said, there is “no plan to release anything.”

The silence leaves many unanswered questions about what may have been one of the worst war crimes since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, including why previous American investigations were shut down, and how evidence was destroyed in the case.

“This is not a sufficient answer given the magnitude of what happened here,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy for Physicians for Human Rights, the organization that originally uncovered mass graves where the prisoners were buried.

The long saga began in November 2001, when Taliban prisoners who had surrendered to Northern Alliance commander Abdul Rashid Dostum were transported in shipping containers without food or water. According to eyewitness accounts and forensic work by human rights investigators, hundreds of men died of suffocation while others were shot, and their bodies buried at the desert site of Dasht-i-Leili.

Dostum was working closely with U.S. troops at the time. Surviving prisoners alleged that Americans were present at the loading of the containers – but the Pentagon has said repeatedly that it had no evidence that U.S. forces participated or were even aware of the deaths. (Dostum has denied any personal involvement, and claims that roughly 200 men died in transit, from battlefield wounds.)

In the fall of 2002, the U.S., U.N., and even Dostum himself expressed support for an investigation. But none got underway. In the summer of 2009, prompted by a New York Times report that Bush administration officials had actively discouraged U.S. investigations, President Obama ordered a new review of the case.

Hayden, the White House spokeswoman, said the new investigation “was led by the intelligence community,” and found that no Americans – including CIA officers, who were also in the region – were involved.

She declined to answer the following lingering questions:

  • What was the scope of the investigation? Former Bush administration officials who had been involved in the initial U.S. response to Dasht-i-Leili told ProPublica that they had not been contacted for a new inquiry. Physicians for Human Rights said it received only tepid responses to its queries from the administration over the past several years.
  • Did the investigation cover the allegations, reported in the New York Times, that Bush administration officials had discouraged inquiries by the FBI and State Department?
  • Did the U.S. help with related inquires by the U.N. or the Afghan government? Even absent direct involvement of U.S. personnel, government documents make clear that the U.S. knew about the allegations early on. The U.S. was in an alliance with Dostum, and was the de facto power in the country after the invasion. An Afghan human rights official told ProPublica last month, “I haven’t seen any political or even rhetorical support of investigations into Dasht-i-Leili or any other investigation into past atrocities, from either Bush or Obama.”
  • Did the new investigation cover revelations that graves were disturbed and evidence removed as late as 2008? What, if anything, did the U.S. do to help protect the site over the years?

A parallel investigation began by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2010 also never made headway. The committee staffer leading that investigation was former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is currently serving time in federal prison for revealing the name of an undercover officer to a reporter.

In letters from prison to ProPublica and an interview published recently in Salon, Kiriakou said that Secretary of State John Kerry, who was then chairman of the committee, personally called off the investigation. The State Department declined to comment, but a former Senate aide to Kerry called Kiriakou’s account “completely fabricated.”

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Oakland’s Creepy New Surveillance Program Just Got Approved

By Linda Lye | EFF | August 1, 2013

Earlier this week, the Oakland City Council voted to approve the second phase of a $10.9 million surveillance center that would enable the City to engage in widespread warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever. This is a terrible blow to privacy.

The so-called Domain Awareness Center (DAC) would consolidate a vast network of surveillance data. The project was initially supposed to be about port security. But in a classic illustration of mission creep, the project as proposed would have pulled in over 1,000 cameras and sensors pointed at Oakland residents, including 700 cameras in Oakland schools. While surveilling schoolchildren is not going to secure the Port of Oakland, it would allow for the comprehensive tracking of innocent Oakland residents. The DAC would enable the city to track individuals when they visit the abortion clinic, the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or the union hall, or engage in other private activities. Although proponents of the project claimed that it did nothing more than consolidate existing surveillance systems, the mere combination of surveillance data is extremely intrusive. A mosaic depicts far more information than any individual tile.

Shockingly, the City Council was poised to approve the project even though there was no privacy framework in place whatsoever. Although the City’s proposed contract with a vendor to build the DAC took pains to prescribe in minute detail the precise manner in which, for example, metal framing systems are to be installed (studs are to be placed not more than 2 inches from abutting walls), there were no privacy provisions addressing key issues such as data retention and dissemination.

Disappointingly, and in the face of enormous opposition, the City Council voted on Tuesday to approve the DAC. The resolution it ultimately adopted requires the City Council to approve privacy policies and specifies which surveillance systems can be included in the DAC (the cameras in Oakland schools are no longer included). While the resolution contains a few nods to privacy, the City Council still put the cart before the horse. The City Council would never have approved a construction project, only to say that they’d review financial costs after the project is built. But it did just that with privacy costs.

You can follow Linda Lye on Twitter at @linda_lye.

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Google yet to explain YouTube block: Press TV

Press TV – July 30, 2013

Almost a week after Google disabled Press TV’s YouTube account, the internet giant has yet to explain why it blocked the alternative TV channel’s access to the video sharing site.

“We have contacted Google several times since last Thursday, when Google prevented us from uploading new videos, but (we) have not received any concrete response as to why they did it,” said Hamid Reza Emadi, Press TV’s newsroom director.

Emadi said Press TV’s YouTube page is “up and running as we speak, but we do not have admin access to the page and cannot add or remove any material.”

He said many Press TV viewers and subscribers email the channel, asking for an explanation.

“We are telling them that we will be able to come up with an explanation once Google tells us what has happened,” he added.

 

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , | Leave a comment

CIA targeted rescuers of drone victims in Pakistan: Report

Press TV – August 1, 2013

The CIA unmanned aircraft deliberately targeted rescuers attempting to help victims of previous drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

A field investigation by the Bureau focuses on drone strikes in a single village in North Waziristan last year when the CIA was after Yahya al-Libi, an alleged senior al-Qeada member who was finally killed in one of the aerial attacks on June 4, 2012.

The CIA had at the time shown a video to Congressional aides in which only Libi is killed in a drone strike.

It was first in February 2012 that an investigation by the Bureau found that the CIA had conducted 11 drone attacks on rescuers of previous strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas between 2009 and 2011.

The tactic, called “double-tap” strikes, apparently stopped in July 2011 but new reports show that the CIA had resumed the strikes a year later.

Five double-tap strikes took place in mid-2012, killing 53 people and injuring 57 others. One of the attacks targeted a mosque, a report by Pakistani journalist Mushtaq Yusufzai, commissioned by the Bureau, found.

The US has always escaped from admitting that civilians have been killed in drone strikes. However, in investigation by legal charity Reprieve indicated that eight civilians died in a double-tap strike on July 6 2012 with the possibility of further civilian deaths in a July 23 attack.

“On both occasions [in July] our independent investigation showed a high number of civilians who were rescuers were killed in the strikes,” Shahzad Akbar, Islamabad-based lawyer, says, confirming the findings of Reprieve’s investigation.

UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Christof Heyns noted in June 2012 that double-tap strikes can be labeled as war crimes.

“If civilian ‘rescuers’ are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime,” he said.

Another UN official, Ben Emmerson QC, UN special rapporteur on torture, also agreed with his colleague. “Christof Heyns… has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.”

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I will keep trying to see my daughter until the day I die”


Fatma’s wrinkled face reveals the sorrow of a mother who has not seen her daughter for eleven years. Fatma Khalil Mubarak (78) lives in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Her daughter, Lamees Ahmad Mubarak (44), has been living in Hebron in the West Bank since she got married in 1988. The last time Fatma saw her daughter was in 2002. Since then, Lamees has been trying to visit her family in Gaza, but she has been denied access every time she applied for a visitor permit to travel via Beit Hanoun (“Erez”) crossing. Beit Hanoun crossing is the only access point for people from Gaza to travel to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and/or Israel.

Fatma explains: “My daughter Lamees went to Hebron with her husband when she got married in the ‘80s. She used to visit me frequently, and I used to visit her as my health condition was much better and crossing to the West Bank was much easier. However, since the Second Intifada, we haven’t seen much of her. The last time she came was in 2002, but she has never been able to come back again since.”

Several attempts have been made by both Lamees and her family to reunite since 2002; however, Lamees’ applications for a visitor permit to the Gaza Strip have always been met with refusal. “This year, we have applied twice so far, but in vain. The permit was refused again. We have not given up yet. I will keep applying for a permit to see my daughter until the day I die.”

Fatma’s urge to see her daughter gets stronger every day, especially due to her deteriorating medical condition as she suffers from heart disease and hepatitis. “I do not know why I’m deprived of seeing my daughter,” she adds. “She is my daughter and she only wants to come and visit me as I am very ill. Why is she always refused entry? She is not a threat to their security. She only wants to come so I can see her.”

“We have tried everything. The last time we applied, we attached a copy of my medical report certified by the doctors to attest to how poor my condition is, but even that did not work. The Israeli authorities refused to give her a permit again. We all thought that it would work and that she would finally manage to come.”

“The last time I went to visit Lamees in Hebron was seventeen years ago. Since I became very ill, it is hard for me to travel on my own. I do not even leave this house. I know that I might get a permit if I applied for one, due to my age and my medical condition, but what would I do with a permit when I cannot move and cannot go anywhere alone? My health condition does not allow me to. What if I died on the way? The Israeli authorities won’t allow my children to accompany me to the West Bank.”

Israel imposes a policy of territorial fragmentation on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The separation of the territories has had grave consequences on the fabric of society. It has influenced every aspect of the social life of Palestinian people. Fatma explains how the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip has further prevented her and her family from fulfilling her role as a mother and a grandmother. “Lamees got very sick recently. I could not go to visit her or look after her. None of her family could either. She is there on her own. Her father became very ill before he died in 2008. He wanted to see her, so we applied for a visitor permit, but the permit was refused. He died without seeing her, and she could not attend his funeral. Now, I have seven grandchildren whom I do not know. Two of my granddaughters got married, and I could not attend either of their weddings.”

The separation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has made the simplest family occasions very difficult. According to Fatma, Lamees was hoping to attend the wedding of her nephew in Gaza, which was planned for after Ramadan, in order to celebrate the happy occasion with her family. “We were getting ready to receive her at the wedding and we were expecting her. We were disappointed to hear that her permit had been refused again. No matter how many times she is denied permission to come, I am always hopeful that she will get the permit the next time and that I will see my daughter again. I cannot get used to the refusals. I will keep asking for permits again and again.”

Fatma recalls the days when Israeli restrictions on the movement of individual civilians via Beit Hanoun crossing were less strict: “In the past, when I applied for a permit, I would get it the next day. I would take a taxi from Gaza City to Hebron. We used to leave for Hebron in the morning and arrive before noon. It was only about an hour’s drive. Nowadays, it’s easier for me to see my daughter who lives in Norway than see my daughter who lives an hour away.”

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip remain denied of their right to freedom of movement, and suffer greatly due to the restraints imposed upon travel via Beit Hanoun crossing. The restrictions were first imposed in 1994 and have become increasingly strict since the al-Aqsa Intifada. Eventually, the crossing was completely closed on 16 February 2006. Since then, Palestinians have been prevented from travelling via the crossing unless they fall under certain specific categories.

As a result, civilians in the Gaza Strip have been denied access to holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem to perform religious rituals. Students have been prevented from travelling to attend universities in the West Bank. Families are prevented from visiting their relatives in the West Bank and vice versa. Since the Hamas takeover in June 2007, the Israeli authorities have only permitted limited categories of individuals to travel via the crossing: patients in a critical state; international journalists; employees of international organisations;. These groups are allowed to travel via the crossing under limited circumstances, via complicated procedures, and are often subjected to degrading treatment.

The closure of the Gaza Strip, which Israel has imposed for six consecutive years, constitutes a form of collective punishment, in violation of international humanitarian law. As a consequence of the continued closure, travelling between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has been rendered virtually impossible for Palestinians, and entire families are now separated. The forced separation of families is in violation, inter alia, of Article 16 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 23 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which obliges States to protect the right to marry and found a family.

Public Document
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PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail: pchr@pchrgaza.org, Webpagehttp://www.pchrgaza.org

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment