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Escalation Expected in Syria Ahead of Geneva II

By Ahmad Hassan | Al-Akhbar | September 18, 2013

With the West’s decision not to intervene militarily in Syria, at least not directly, there is renewed talk of two courses of action dominating events in the country: a strong push for holding the Geneva II conference and an escalation in battles on the ground.

Damascus – After the relative calm that prevailed in Damascus over the past few weeks, with anxious anticipation of a Western strike, clashes in the capital have now resumed in parallel with escalations in the northern and southern Damascus countryside, Qaboun, and the Yarmouk refugee camp. Some believe this escalation could be part of preemptive preparations on the field ahead of the coming major political event in Geneva II.

In this regard, a high-level Syrian official who preferred not to be named told Al-Akhbar, “The road to Geneva is now compulsory for all parties. The conference will most likely be held in October, probably on October 28. We in the Syrian government declared our readiness to participate in the conference without any conditions, so the ball is now in the court of the opposition, which remains unserious about participation.”When Al-Akhbar asked him about the identity of political forces participating in the conference and how they would be represented, he said, “The Syrian government has chosen the names of the officials that make up its delegation. As for the opposition, those present at the table will include the Kurdish forces, the Doha coalition (i.e. the Syrian National Coalition), the Commission (i.e. the National Coordination Commission), and the Coalition of Forces for Peaceful Change.

“Regarding the representation of each political faction, this is not important, because the outcome of Geneva II will not be determined by voting, but by accords that all parties will be committed to implement. But each faction has the right to choose its representatives at the conference.”

He continued, “The main problem that remains is that of military representation. It is not yet known whether a tentative formula has been reached to guarantee the participation of Syrian militants in the conference.”

According to the source, the majority of Syrians believe that reaching an accord with Syrian militants who have legitimate grievances may pave the way for the Syrian army and these militants to join forces against foreign fighters from al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as other radical militant factions.

Securing the Capital Before Geneva II

Throughout the crisis, the armed opposition has consistently sought to disrupt security in the Syrian capital, especially before every international political event. In the balance of gains and losses, the opposition and the countries that support it know well that every gain or setback in the field will impact political negotiations. This has driven the two warring parties to further mobilize with one goal in mind: controlling Damascus.

On the ground, everything indicates that Damascus’ center will remain under the control of the Syrian army, whether before or after the international conference. One thing that could change this is if battles in the countryside tip the balance in favor of the opposition. Yet nothing in the daily battles taking place in the past few days suggests this is happening.

Indeed, the Syrian army continues to advance in the northern Damascus countryside. In Zamalka, near the city of Douma, the army pounded militant strongholds with mortar rounds before directly engaging opposition forces, inflicting heavy losses in their ranks. In Barzeh, the Syrian army is also advancing, following clashes in the vicinity of the Tishreen Military Hospital. Meanwhile, clashes along the Qaboun-Harasta-Irbeen axis are taking the form of “cleansing by fire,” with the Syrian army combing the area in preparation for declaring the northern countryside a region controlled by the Syrian government forces.In the southern countryside, the clashes and skirmishes taking place in Daria are proceeding in a direction that favors the Syrian army, which has now surrounded the city, controlling more than half of it. This progress in the southwest, along the Sehaya-Daria-Jdeidet Artouz axis, is in dire need of an effective advance along the capital’s southeastern front, where the army was recently able to take control of the town of Shebaa after fierce fighting.

The southeast Damascus countryside is significant because it is now almost the only way left for the army to end the stalemate in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the Filastine and Tadamon districts controlled by the armed opposition. But military analysts believe that seizing these areas can no longer be done using traditional tactics (air coverage with ground-based assault), and instead requires shifting the place of attack from the northern entrance of the region to the southern entrance.

This, they say, will be possible after the army regains absolute control over the areas of Sayyida Zeinab, Yalda, and Babila, cutting off the only supply route for the militants holed up in Yarmouk in the process. Today, there are reports indicating that the political and military leadership in Syria are in favor of this scenario, which they want to put into force before heading to Geneva II.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Syria and the ‘devious’ Israeli connection — Dr. Olmert doth protest too much, methinks

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | September 18, 2013

In a September 9 blog for The Huffington Post, Dr. Josef Olmert seizes on Professor Stephen Walt’s open letter to Congressman Joseph Kennnedy, urging him to oppose the use of military force against Syria, as an opportunity to attack Walt and Mearsheimer’s thesis that the influential — not “demonic” as Olmert chooses to misrepresent it — Israel Lobby has managed to skew U.S. foreign policy from its national interest. Writes Olmert:

So, under these circumstances, I eagerly expected to read about the Israeli connection of the Syrian problem, as well as it being behind the President’s decision to attack in Syria. Nothing of the kind in the open letter, and for good reason. The Syrian conflict has nothing to do with Israel. So was the case in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started, so it was in Libya, where the US intervened ” from behind,” so it was in Egypt, where the secular-liberal Tamarud movement agitates against the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty and the deposed Muhammad Morsi related to Jews as descendants of pigs and monkeys.

Well, Israel has not been involved in all these situations, as well as in Yemen, Bahrain etc. because the Arab Spring had nothing to do with the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It has to do with poverty, corruption, authoritarianism and sectarianism — all are huge issues which are concerned with the very fabric of the Arab state system, with basic ills of Arab societies; in sum, with issues that are mostly the makings of the Arabs, ones which ought to be solved by them.

The Arab Spring has been a cataclysmic, formative event, the most important to have happened in the Middle East since the heydays of Nasserism, back in the 1950′s. Such a huge event and no Israel connection, so where is the big thesis of Walt and Mearsheimer? How is it connected to the Middle East circa 2013? Well, it is not.

Dr. Olmert’s denial of an Israeli connection to the so-called “Arab Spring” is undermined, however, by his own biography. Although omitted from his “full bio” page at the HuffPost, the adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina is a contributor to an “online community” known as Fikra Forum, “that aims to generate ideas to support Arab democrats in their struggle with authoritarians and extremists.” Notwithstanding the high-sounding self-description, the pro-democracy “Arab” forum is in fact a creation of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank that was itself created by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful and best known organization in the Israel Lobby.

Among Olmert’s fellow Fikra Forum contributors is Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group that lobbies Washington for military intervention on behalf of the Syrian opposition. As Moustafa’s Israeli Fikra co-contributor no doubt remembers, an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by SETF’s recently resigned political director, “Doctor” Elizabeth O’Bagy, was touted by John McCain and John Kerry during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing to bolster the dubious case for intervention in support of the supposedly “moderate” rebels.

So who does the one-time advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and the brother of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert think he’s fooling when he claims there’s no “ever devious” Israeli connection to the Syrian problem?

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Syria and the ‘devious’ Israeli connection — Dr. Olmert doth protest too much, methinks

The UN did NOT create Israel

By Alison Weir | September 18, 2013

I thought I would clarify the question of whether the UN “created Israel,” since most people – even many of those who are otherwise well-versed on Palestine – are misinformed on this important matter.

The fact is that UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the Partition Plan (read below), was a recommendation that was to go to the Security Council. In the resolution the General Assembly requested that the Security Council take it up. This never happened, and the partition plan has no force of law.

Israeli propagandists, however, perpetrated the myth that the UN created Israel, and this interpretation has then been repeated by numerous others. Please see an excellent article on this, “New States Are Not Created in the UN.” Below is an excerpt:

“…was it true that Israel owed its very existence to the U.N., as it became popularly perceived years later? … This same line of argument was repeated… by an Israeli analyst in the opinion section of the New York Times, who wrote that the vote on Nov. 29 was the “legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel.”

Leading international legal scholars have vociferously rejected this claim. The noted Australian legal scholar Professor Julius Stone wrote in 1980 that Israel “does not derive its legal existence from the Partition Plan.”

Even Cambridge University’s Professor James Crawford… concluded in his monumental book on the creation of states in international law that Israel was not created on the basis of Resolution 181…”

In reality, Israel was created by a war of of conquest and ethnic cleansing, which it calls its “War of Independence.”

I hope people will read my article on this subject: “ The Real Story of How Israel Was Created. Among other things, this piece describes how Zionists bribed and threatened varous UN member nations in order to procure sufficient votes to pass the resolution. (For citations on this see my article on how the US-Israel “special relationship” was created.)

Below is an excerpt from General Assembly Resolution 181, also called The Partition Plan [emphases added]. (Read the full resolution at the link below.)

The General Assembly,

Having met in special session at the request of the mandatory Power to constitute and instruct a special committee to prepare for the consideration of the question of the future government of Palestine at the second regular session;

Having constituted a Special Committee and instructed it to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine, and to prepare proposals for the solution of the problem, and

Having received and examined the report of the Special Committee (document A/364) 1/ including a number of unanimous recommendations and a plan of partition with economic union approved by the majority of the Special Committee,

Considers that the present situation in Palestine is one which is likely to impair the general welfare and friendly relations among nations;

Takes note of the declaration by the mandatory Power that it plans to complete its evacuation of Palestine by 1 August 1948;

Recommends to the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power for Palestine, and to all other Members of the United Nations the adoption and implementation, with regard to the future government of Palestine, of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union set out below;

Requests that

(a) The Security Council take the necessary measures as provided for in the plan for its implementation…

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Surveillance at the United Nations

By Danny O’Brien and Katitza Rodriguez | EFF | September 17, 2013

The surveillance scandal has now reached the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, which opened its 24th session last week to a volley of questions about privacy and spying, many of them targeted at the United States and United Kingdom. (That’s perhaps not surprising, since U.N. representatives were among those listed as being monitored by the NSA and GCHQ).

The opening statement by the eminent South African human rights lawyer Navi Pillay (now the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights) warned of the “broad scope of national security surveillance in countries, including the United States and United Kingdom,” and urged all countries to “ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to prevent security agency overreach and to protect the right to privacy and other human rights.” On September 13, the German Ambassador Schumacher delivered a joint statement on behalf of Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Hungary expressing their concern about the consequences of “surveillance, decryption and mass data collection.”

One part of the potential solution to those concerns will be officially launched this Friday in a Human Rights Council side-meeting on digital privacy hosted by these same concerned countries: the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.

For over a year, EFF has been working with other civil liberties groups to develop these principles that spell out how existing human rights law applies to modern digital surveillance. The 13 Principles — which have been signed by 258 organizations across the world— also provide a benchmark that people around the world can use to evaluate and push for changes in their own surveillance laws. For this 24th session, EFF has joined RSF and APC in a joint written submission to the HRC, advocating for these checks and balances.

The Human Rights Council isn’t the only diplomatic venue at the United Nations where complaints about the United States’ surveillance practices are being heard. The Human Rights Committee is also set to scrutinize the United States on its compliance with Article 17 (right to privacy) of the International Coventant on Civil and Political Rights. The United States’ written response to Human Rights Committee has already laid out its diplomatic response in favor of the Patriot and FISA provisions. It notably dodges the key question that is emerging from other countries regarding these programs: if the U.S. government cannot rein in its domestic surveillance program, riven as it is with constitutional and statutory problems, just how much worse are the controls on the surveillance of non-US persons?

More directly relevant to the diplomatic community is a connected question: how can the United States accuse, with a straight face, other countries of undermining “Internet Freedom” through the use of malware and mass spying, when it seems that there are precious few internal limits to what its own security services are permitted to do in the same arena?

This is not just a matter of the United States’ international reputation. The greatest risk to the Internet in the international arena right now lies in the  formation of an unholy alliance between countries who are already seeking excuses to spy and censor the net and those, like the United States, who have previously argued against such practices, but are now having to defend their own surveillance excesses with similar language.

Without promising substantive reform at home, the U.S. and the U.K. risk alienating their own allies at the United Nations, while granting a carte blanche for other countries to pursue a repressive Internet agenda abroad. The Western countries implicated in the NSA scandal should grab onto the full set of principles as a liferaft: a way that they can show a commitment to transparency and proportionality in a way that obliges other countries to follow the same standards. Otherwise, the U.S. and the U.K. will be seen as having started a race to the bottom of privacy standards: a race too many other countries will be happy to join.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Surveillance at the United Nations

Court Reveals ‘Secret Interpretation’ Of The Patriot Act, Allowing NSA To Collect All Phone Call Data

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | September 17, 2013

The FISA Court (FISC) today released a heavily redacted version of its July ruling approving the renewal of the bulk metadata collection on all phone calls from US phone providers under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. This is part of the “secret interpretation” as to how the FISC interprets the Patriot Act’s “business records” or “tangible things” section to mean that the government can order a telco to turn over pretty much all records — even as the very author of the law says it was written specifically to not allow this interpretation.

Much of the ruling is pretty much what you’d expect, given the way defenders of this program have been insisting that this is all very legal. It argues that Smith v. Maryland show that there are no privacy protections in data given to your telco. It goes on at length defending the third party doctrine, arguing that because some third party holds your data, you have no expectation of privacy. As many have argued, this is a ridiculous and antiquated view of the third party doctrine, not at all consistent with modern technology, but the FISC repeats it without question. While some have pointed out that even if single points of metadata might not be privacy violating, collecting all of them creates a new problem, the court rejects that entirely.

From there, there’s a big discussion of whether or not “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.” This is a big part of where the concern lies. How can the government defend the claim that all records are “relevant to an authorized investigation.” Here, the court compares the order to the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which lets the government get access to records as well. And then the word games begin. Basically, it argues that because one law requires “specific and articulable facts” and that the information must be “material,” while the other (the PATRIOT Act) does not, then the government doesn’t need specific and articulable facts. Rather it just needs “a statement of facts showing there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records are relevant to the investigation.”

For non-content records production requests, such as the type sought here, Section 2703(c) provides a variety of mechanisms, including acquisition through a court order under Section 2703(d). Under this section, which is comparable to Section 215, the government must offer to the court “specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records or other information sought, are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” 2703(d) (emphasis added). Section 215, the comparable provision for foreign intelligence purposes, requires neither “specific and articulable facts” nor does it require that the information be “material.” Rather, it merely requires a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought are relevant to the investigation. 50 U.S.C. That these two provisions apply to the production of the same type of records from the same type of providers is an indication that Congress intended this Court to apply a different, and in specific respects lower, standard to the government’s Application under Section 215 than a court reviewing a request under Section 2703(d). Indeed, the Act version of FISA’s business records provision required “specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that the person to whom the records pertain is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.” 50 U.S.C. §1862(b)(2)(B) as it read on October 25, 2001. In enacting Section 215, Congress removed the requirements for “specific and articulable facts” and that the records pertain to “a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.” Accordingly, now the government need not provide specific and articulable facts, demonstrate any connection to a particular suspect, nor show materiality when requesting business records under Section 215. To find otherwise would be to impose a higher burden — one that Congress knew how to include in Section 215, but chose to dispense with.

Also, it argues that since Section 215 allows recipients of the order to challenge them and no telco ever has that this lends it to believe there are no problems with the law.

Second, Section 2703(d) permits the service provider to file a motion with a court to “quash or modify such order, if the information or records requested are unusually voluminous in nature or compliance with such order otherwise would cause undue burden on such provider.” Congress recognized that, even with the higher statutory standard for a production order under Section 2703(d), some requests authorized by a court would be “voluminous” and provided a means by which the provider could seek relief using a motion. Under Section 215, however, Congress provided a specific and complex statutory scheme for judicial review of an Order from this Court to ensure that providers could challenge both the legality of the required production and the nondisclosure provisions of that Order. 50 U.S.C. §1861(f). This adversarial process includes the selection of a judge from a pool of FISC judges to review the challenge to determine if it is frivolous and to rule on the merits, provides standards that the judge is to apply during such review, and provides for appeal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court. This procedure, as opposed to the motion process available under Section 2703(d) to challenge a production as unduly voluminous or burdensome, contemplates a substantial and engaging adversarial process to test the legality of this Court’ Orders under Section 215. This enhanced process appears designed to ensure that there are additional safeguards in light of the lower threshold that the government is required to meet for production under Section 215 as opposed to Section 2703(d). To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order. Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.

Basically, the court says “why of course there’s an adversarial process” to protect users’ privacy. It just depends on Verizon or AT&T taking up the fight on behalf of their users, and they haven’t done so, so let’s just assume everyone’s okay with this. That’s kind of crazy when you think about it. Admittedly, the public should be up in arms that Verizon and AT&T appear to have no interest in challenging these broad collections of data, but that hardly makes them constitutional.

From there we move onto the interpretation of how this massive data collection could possibly be seen as “relevant.” First, it notes (as mentioned above) that the government doesn’t need to prove that the data is actually relevant. Just that it has reasonable grounds to believe that they are relevant.

As an initial matter and as a point of clarification, the government’s burden under Section 215 is not to prove that the records sought are, in fact, relevant to an authorized investigation. The explicit terms of the statute require “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant.

Then it basically says that because the NSA can sniff out terrorists within a giant database, that makes the entire database relevant. Really.

This Court has previously examined the issue of relevance for bulk collections. See; [REDACTED] While those matters involved different collections from the one at issue here, the relevance standard was similar…. (“[R]elevant to an ongoing investigation to protect against international terrorism….”). In both cases, there were facts demonstrating that information concerning known and unknown affiliates of international terrorist organizations was contained within the non-content metadata the government sought to obtain. As this Court noted in 2010, the “finding of relevance most crucially depended on the conclusion that bulk collection is necessary for NSA to employ tools that are likely to generate useful investigative leads to help identify and track terrorist operatives.” [REDACTED] Indeed, in [REDACTED] this Court noted that bulk collections such as these are “necessary to identify the much smaller number of [international terrorist] communications.’ [REDACTED] As a result, it is this showing of necessity that led the Court to find that “the entire mass of collected metadata is relevant to investigating [international terrorist groups] and affiliated persons.” [REDACTED]

It then applies those previous, redacted-named rulings, to this case, repeating the DOJ’s own filing saying “all of the metadata collected is thus relevant, because the success of this investigative tool depends on bulk collections.”

That’s ridiculous and tautological. You could argue that the “success” of a program designed to stop crimes “depends on” putting cameras inside everyone’s home, but that doesn’t make it any less a violation of privacy. It also hardly makes the collection of all such data “relevant.”

The FISC continues to tap dance on the grave of the 4th Amendment:

The government depends on this bulk collection because if production of the information were to wait until the specific identifier connected to an international terrorist group were determined, most of the historical connections (the entire purpose of this authorization) would be lost. The analysis of past connections is only possible “if the Government has collected and archived a broad set of metadata that contains within it the subset of communications that can later be identified as terrorist-related.” Because the subset of terrorist communications is ultimately contained within the whole of the metadata produced, but can only be found after the production is aggregated and then queried using identifiers determined to be associated with identified international terrorist organizations, the whole production is relevant to the ongoing investigation out of necessity.

Once again, that makes no sense. First off, just because you can put together all this aggregate data and use it to find criminals and terrorists doesn’t automatically make it legal. Once again, I’m sure that having cameras in everyone’s homes would allow similar capturing of illegal behavior. But that doesn’t make it legal. Second, the argument that without this metadata collection the information would be “lost” is clearly untrue. As was just revealed a few weeks ago, AT&T has employees embedded with the DEA who are willing, ready and able to do deep dive searches on decades worth of phone records (even beyond AT&T). The data isn’t lost. They’re available via AT&T employees who are working right alongside government employees.

Incredibly, the FISC then claims that the mere claim that terrorists use the phone system is enough to show that all phone records are relevant.

The government must demonstrate “facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.” The fact that international terrorist operatives are using telephone communications, and that it is necessary to obtain the bulk collection of a telephone company’s metadata to determine those connections between known and unknown international terrorist operatives as part of authorized investigations, is sufficient to meet the low statutory hurdle set out in Section 215 to obtain a production of records.

Except, almost nothing there makes sense. It’s not true that it is necessary to obtain bulk collection of the metadata to find those connections. And just because terrorists live in houses, we don’t say that it’s okay for law enforcement to search every house. Take this same argument and apply it to anything else and the 4th Amendment goes away entirely.

In short, this shows the serious problems with these efforts being non-adversarial. The FISC more or less buys the government’s argument at every single turn, even though there are multiple arguments for why the government’s position is either not true or, at the very least, misleading.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Court Reveals ‘Secret Interpretation’ Of The Patriot Act, Allowing NSA To Collect All Phone Call Data

‘Unleashed and unaccountable’ – ACLU condemns FBI in new report

RT | September 17, 2013

A report published on Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union urges the Obama administration to reform the Federal Bureau of Investigation following years of documented instances in which the FBI has abused its authority.

In thousands of words spanning a 60-plus page report titled Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority, the ACLU this week condemns the agency, particularly in the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The ACLU argues that since the attacks of 9/11, the federal government has time and time again allowed the FBI to broaden its law enforcement powers, often without sufficient oversight. As a result, they write, the FBI has been transformed into “a domestic intelligence and law enforcement agency of unprecedented power and international reach.”

Despite reform enacted in the wake of the infamous years J. Edgar Hoover spent as FBI director, the ACLU says that the agency has “subverted internal and external oversight” in recent time, in turn allowing for gross abuse, often impacting the civil liberties of Americans as a result.

In a plea for change, the ACLU accuses the FBI of “squelching whistleblowers, imposing and enforcing unnecessary secrecy and actively misleading Congress and the American people” since 9/11, and says the agency has “regularly overstepped the law, infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights while overzealously pursuing its domestic security mission.”

Items highlighted by the ACLU in the report include the secretive surveillance powers the agency has inherited through the PATRIOT Act, its power to open investigations of Americans without proof of a crime, racial and religious profiling and the targeting of people exercising their First Amendment-protected rights, such as journalists and political activists.

Published on the anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution, the ACLU urges President Barack Obama and his administration “to conduct a comprehensive examination of the FBI’s policies and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unnecessary, ineffective or misused,” especially before the newly appointed director of the agency, James Comey, can subvert any further the policies enacted by his predecessor, James Mueller, who ran the FBI from before 9/11 up until only this month.

Should the executive and legislative branches not consider reform, the ACLU writes, “FBI officials and certain members of Congress will undoubtedly demand that the new director stay the course, no matter how disastrous it may be for American civil liberties and privacy rights.”

“The list of abuses is long and demonstrates that Congress must do a top-to-bottom review of FBI politics and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unconstitutional or easily misused,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement accompanying the report. “The time for wholesale reform has come.”

One figure cited in the new report portends that the FBI “will soon have the equivalent of 20 pieces of intelligence on every American.”

“An FBI budget request for fiscal year 2008 said the FBI had amassed databases containing 1.5 billion records, and two members of Congress described documents predicting the FBI would have 6 billion records by 2012, which they said would represent “20 separate ‘records’ for each man, woman and child in the United States.”

In turn, the ACLU believes that this huge volume of amassed data can be “shared widely.”

“According to a 2012 Systems of Records Notice covering all FBI data warehouses, the information in these systems can be shared broadly, even with foreign entities and private companies, and for a multitude of law enforcement and non-law enforcement purposes.”

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘Unleashed and unaccountable’ – ACLU condemns FBI in new report

Syria Gives Russia ’New Evidence’ Militants behind Chemical Attack

Al-Manar | September 18, 2013

The Syrian government has handed Russia new materials implicating militants in a chemical attack outside Damascus on August 21, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Wednesday after talks in Damascus.

“The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side. We were told that they were evidence that the militants are implicated in the chemical attack,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem late Tuesday.

He said that Russia would “examine the Syrian materials implicating the militants with the utmost seriousness.”

Russia has repeatedly expressed suspicion that the chemical attack was a “provocation” staged by the militants with the aim of attracting Western military intervention in the conflict.

Ryabkov also said Russia was disappointed with the UN report into the chemical weapons attack published this week, saying it was selective and had ignored other episodes.

“Without a full picture, we cannot describe the character of the conclusions as anything other than politicized, biased and one-sided,” he said.

Ryabkov is on a visit to Damascus to present the Syrian government with the results of the agreement between Moscow and Washington reached in Geneva at the weekend to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

He said he emphasized to Moallem the importance of the Syrian side “strictly and swiftly” handing over details of its chemical weapons arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the first step in the agreement.

The Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Riyad Haddad, told the Interfax news agency that Ryabkov was expected to have a meeting Wednesday with President Bashar al-Assad.

Ryabkov said he assured the Syrian side that there was “no basis” for a UN Security Council resolution on the chemical weapons agreement to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter that allows the use of force and tough sanctions.

He said this could only be considered if the UN Security Council was able to confirm violations of the convention on chemical weapons. “This is a hypothetical situation.”

“It is especially important that some kind of political interests do not again appear, especially in New York (at the UN Security Council),” he added.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , | Comments Off on Syria Gives Russia ’New Evidence’ Militants behind Chemical Attack

Swiss take obligatory army service to referendum

RT | September 18, 2013

On Sunday, the Swiss are voting on a proposal to abolish military conscription in favor of a voluntary army. The country with no clear foes and a long tradition of neutrality could find better ways of spending money than playing at war, proponents say.

Switzerland, once a proud supplier of mercenaries for numerous wars in Europe, has maintained a policy of armed neutrality for the last five centuries. It isn’t a member of any defense pacts and wasn’t even member of the United Nations until 2002. But it has an army of 150,000, the size of Austria’s, Belgium’s, Norway’s, Finland’s and Sweden’s armies combined.

Under Swiss law, all able-bodied males must take part in compulsory military service between the ages of 18 and 34. This comprises 18 to 21 weeks of basic training and further yearly refresher courses lasting 19 days. Senior officers may have to serve up to the age of 50 and spend more than twice as much time on army duty than ordinary recruits.

Boot camp is praised by advocates as a character-building experience, which teaches working in a team under stress and gives a chance to develop leadership skills. It also serves as a kind of glue for Swiss society, with connections made in the service lasting on in civilian life. For a country with four different language groups, it is seen by many Swiss as crucial for national unity.

The military is also the cornerstone of the Swiss militia, which has a role similar to the National Guard in the US. Those in the army help civilian authorities and respond to natural disasters and other major events. Many continue helping society as volunteers after retiring from the service by joining the fire service, participating in local politics. or serving other public duties.

An anachronism that costs too much

However, there are plenty who see military traditions as an expensive anachronism, which is no longer necessary. The pacifist Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) has gathered the 100,000 signatures necessary to put their abolition proposal to a national referendum.

Referenda are essential to Switzerland’s direct form of democracy and are held several times a year at national, regional and local levels. An initiative must win support from a majority of voters and a majority of cantons to be passed and made law.

GSoA, which has been campaigning against obligatory army service since 1982, argues that the country located in the heart of Europe doesn’t need big military firepower to protect itself and that a purely voluntary force would suffice. It criticizes conscription, which excludes Swiss women and disrupts study and work for men, costing an estimated $4.3 billion to the economy annually.

“Not everyone has time to play war,” declares the GSoA campaign poster.

The group has pushed unsuccessfully for several referendums in the past, trying to scrap the military, preventing the procurement of American fighter jets, banning all arms exports from Switzerland, and stopping the Swiss tradition of conscripts keeping their assault rifles at home after initial training.

Sunday’s vote is not expected to go in favor of the GSoA. A survey by Swiss television in August revealed that 40 per cent of respondents would reject the initiative, with another 17 per cent leaning that way. The support for the military is particularly strong in the older generations, with 68 per cent of those over 65 opposing the initiative. Less than a third of Swiss people support the proposal.

“Switzerland needs an army,” says Jakob Büchler of the Christian Democrat Party (CVP), a member of the National Council, which rejected the initiative as cited by The Local. “We are a small country, we are a neutral country, and we are a country that isn’t in any defense alliances. We have to therefore organize our own defense and security ourselves, and that’s why we need an army.”

Opponents of the initiative fear that there won’t be enough volunteers for military service and Switzerland would then have to start a costly change to a professional army.

Globalization advancing

Lately, GSoA reasoning has found support from an increasing number of multinational firms who are not happy to see local staff being sent to boot camps, reports Reuters. The contact-building aspect of the military is diminishing too, with Swiss companies being infiltrated by foreigners – just six of the CEOs at Switzerland’s top 20 companies hold Swiss nationality – and of course females are climbing the corporate ladder, too. Meanwhile young men nowadays have other options such as internships abroad.

While the GSoA proposal is likely to be thrown out, they are still hoping for a strong showing of support for their stance as they continue their fight. “The more ‘yes’ votes we receive, the greater the pressure will be to reform the army,” says Seraina Patzen, a spokeswoman for the group.

The Swiss military are not objecting to undergoing reform. They have already shrunk the number of troops considerably. In the late 1980s Switzerland had 800,000 soldiers and officers, but by 2003 the number had dropped to 350,000. The plan is to reduce the current army of 150,000 to 100,000 in coming years.

Conscription rules were made less strict. Since 1996 conscientious objectors may serve an extended period in the civil service as an alternative to joining the military.

But the Defense Ministry maintains that a conscripted military is necessary for the country. During a recent media tour of barracks, Defense Minister Ueli Maurer said Switzerland may not face an enemy in the field, but may become, for example, a target of a cyber attack disrupting the transport network. In order for the army to respond to national emergencies, it needs to be able to draw on the best IT specialists, engineers and technicians the country has to offer.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Swiss take obligatory army service to referendum