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Will US Senate crown Netanyahu emperor?

By Kevin Barrett | Press TV | January 7, 2014

The United States of America is supposed to be a democratic republic. Under its Constitution, the Congress decides whether to go to war, and the President serves as commander-in-chief.

Today, with nearly 1,000 military bases around the world, the USA looks more like an empire than a republic. But who is the emperor? Is the USA ruled by an “imperial presidency”? Or is the real emperor of America enthroned in Tel Aviv?

A bill introduced in the US Senate by Chuck Schumer (D-NY), entitled the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,” formally turns over American war powers to the State of Israel and its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. According to a leading American Iran expert, Columbia University professor Gary Sick, “the bill outsources any decision about resort to military action to the government of Israel, by committing the United States in advance to support any military action by Israel.”

That effectively gives Netanyahu the war powers of both the US Congress and the US president. In effect, it makes Netanyahu emperor of the USA, empowered to lead America into any war he wants at the time and place of his choosing.

Yesterday, in an exclusive interview with Truth Jihad Radio, Gary Sick called for action against Schumer’s bill, “A very convincing case has to be made in Washington, and in the Congress, that this is a very bad idea. … Normally, I’m an analyst. I sit back and I look at issues. In this case, I think it is so important that I have been willing to get out in front and say ‘we need to do something.’”

How could the US Senate seriously be considering a bill that would give Israel the right to take America to war?!

The United States, especially in its higher echelons of power, has been thoroughly penetrated by agents of the state of Israel. In his landmark book October Surprise, Gary Sick (the top Iran expert on the National Security Council under three US presidents) discusses the vast power the Israeli spy service Mossad wields through its use of an army of “sayanim,” Jewish volunteers, throughout the world, “The availability of the sayanim, together with the ultra-professionalism and high motivation of the handful of experienced Mossad agents, meant that the Mossad, with relatively few people and a limited budget, could often match or surpass the performance of intelligence services may times its size. In many cases, money could not buy the kind of operational flexibility and cover that the Mossad enjoyed through the services of its unacknowledged brigades of willing volunteers.” (October Surprise, p. 65).

Is Senator Chuck Schumer, the descendant of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, a sayanim?

That depends how you define “getting paid.”

Sen. Schumer and most of his congressional colleagues take massive Israeli bribes euphemistically described as “campaign contributions.” So they are not really sayanim (unpaid volunteers for Israel). Schumer and most of the US Congress are, in effect, on the Israeli payroll.

Sayanim are people who do it for love. Schumer and the other traitors in Congress are doing it for money.

Schumer and his colleagues take payoffs from the likes of Las Vegas godfather Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Party’s biggest donor and the leading fundraiser for pro-Israel political action committees. Speaking at Yeshiva University in New York a little over two months ago, Adelson said the United States should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran – not to defend American interests, but in service to Israel.

Where does Israel (including its dual citizens, sayanim, and loyalists living abroad) get the money to buy the American political system? Adelson’s billions come from gambling – historically a key segment of organized crime, which has often, at its highest echelons, been dominated by Zionists. As the British newspaper The Guardian has confirmed, “of the seven oligarchs who controlled 50% of Russia’s economy during the 1990s, six were Jewish: Berezovsky, Vladimir Guzinsky, Alexander Smolensky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Friedman and Valery Malkin.” These Russian criminal oligarchs, like so many in other countries, have strong links to Israel, the world’s leader per capita in human trafficking, human organ theft, and other rackets. Global organized crime is one of the key, often-unrecognized sources of Zionist money and power.

An even more important source of Zionist money-power is the international banking system. John Perkins the “economic hit man” has revealed that the biggest international banking organizations, including the World Bank, the IMF, and their constituent banks, run private intelligence services that regularly seize power over entire nations through usury, murder uncooperative heads of state in plane crashes, and strive to create the world’s first-ever truly global empire – which some have called the New World Order.

The key players in the New World Order international banking racket are disproportionately Zionist. This important fact, which nobody is allowed to notice upon pain of being called an anti-Semite, was underlined by Obama’s recent nomination of the rabid Zionist dual citizen Stanley Fischer as Vice-Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

In his article “AIPAC’s Fed Candidate Stanley Fischer on a Warpath against Iran,” Grant Smith writes, “While the doors of federal government have long swung open for Israel-lobby appointees focusing most – if not all – their energies on advancing the interests of a foreign state, any who were actually Israeli dual citizens have traditionally kept that a closely-guarded secret. Fischer’s long-term boosters, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), likely want to accustom Americans to openly dual citizens circulating between top roles in the US and Israeli governments.”

According to the US State Department website, “dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country.” Why do Americans let people with declared loyalty to a foreign country overrun top positions in the US government?

The answer is that the USA today is neither a democratic republic nor a sovereign nation. As John Perkins explains, a new, global empire is arising, built by and for the international plutocrats. And that power structure has increasingly been dominated by hard-line Zionists like Stanley Fischer.

In the wake of 9/11, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon boasted to his cabinet, “We Jews control America!” Sharon, like Netanyahu today, fancied himself a sort of international emperor, and believed that the Israeli lobby completely controlled the USA.

Was Sharon right?

If the US Senate passes Schumer’s “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran” bill, Ariel Sharon should come out of his coma for a few seconds to whisper “I told you so” – and then shuffle off this mortal coil to face judgment for the countless horrors he unleashed on the world.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What will it take for the US to cut military aid to Egypt?

By Dr Sarah Marusek | MEMO | January 6, 2014

Ever since the 3 July military coup that ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected government, the world has stood back to witness the Egyptian authorities’ brazen attempt to cleanse an entire community from Egypt’s population.

As an American citizen I have to ask: how many Egyptians need to be killed, injured, arrested and tortured, and how many families torn apart and destroyed, before the US will take decisive action against Egypt’s post-coup military regime?

And I am not the only American asking this question.

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times newspaper published an editorial under the headline “Stop coddling Egypt’s military”. The editors argue that: “It’s increasingly evident that the military rulers of Egypt are determined to intimidate and silence their political opponents, whether they are members of the Muslim Brotherhood or secular Egyptians who believe the generals are betraying the spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’. Yet the Obama administration continues to entertain the pious hope that Egypt is on the road to an inclusive democracy.”

The editors criticise the US response to the continued crackdown as being “polite to the point of pusillanimity”, and conclude that, “Clearly the current policy of trying not to offend [Egypt’s military] isn’t working.”

One week earlier, the Washington Post newspaper published a similar editorial, in which the editors denounce the Egyptian authorities’ criminalisation of the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement was designated a terrorist organisation on 25 December.

The Post’s editors lament how “Egypt has abandoned the path to democracy,” calling this a “tragedy” and asserting that: “The time has come for stronger US protests and action. To remain timid in the face of repression will invite only more.”

So why is the Obama administration not acting? After all, the US is supposedly a global superpower, and we have spent billions of dollars buying Egypt’s friendship.

Well, if we take a closer look at the two countries relations, we see that Egypt has never really been a client state of the US, and in fact the relationship is quite the reverse.

Military aid and “peace”

In February 2012, when Egypt’s military-led government under SCAF indicted 16 Americans working for non-governmental organisations in Egypt on charges of receiving foreign funds to foment unrest, US officials were quick to decry the move, and threatened a halt to American military aid to Egypt. In fact, 40 senators sent a strongly worded letter of warning directly to the former head of Egypt’s military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee, warned the Egyptian military that, “the days of blank checks are over.”

And yet the following week, the rhetoric coming out of Washington was remarkably softened. According to the Atlantic magazine, officials had initially been so caught up in their outrage over the charges against Americans, including the son of the US Secretary of Transportation, that they did not think about how cutting Egypt’s military aid would have implications for their best friend in the Middle East, Israel.

Egypt is currently the fifth largest recipient of US aid in the world, and cumulatively second only to Israel. Foreign aid to Egypt was negligible until the mid-1970s and only ballooned after Egypt signed the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978. Since the mid-1980s, Egypt has received annually about $1.3 billion in military aid, while Israel received $1.8 billion until the year 2000, after which military aid to Israel fluctuated between $2 to $3.1 billion.

According to the Washington Institute, military aid to Egypt was initially tied to US aid levels to Israel, which is why the figures remained proportional up until 2000, when the launch of the second Palestinian intifada altered the equation. Two other factors also contributed to the shift. The first is that by the turn of the millennium, Egypt was no longer isolated in the region as a result of its neighbourly relations with Israel. The second is that by then, the US had phased out its economic aid to Israel, allocating part of it instead for military use.

Is it aid or blackmail?

Still, continued US aid to Egypt remains an unwritten condition of the Camp David Accords, and since the January 2011 revolution in Egypt, the Israel Lobby has repeatedly voiced its concern that if the aid were to dry up, then the peace treaty would be in jeopardy.

So it is not surprising that despite being subject to the harshly worded threats, Egypt continued to prosecute the American NGO workers, a political slap in Washington’s face, all the while receiving US military aid. All 16 Americans, along with 27 of their Egyptian peers, were eventually convicted and sentenced in absentia in June 2013.

This case is interesting for two reasons. One is that it highlights how US aid to Egypt is meant first and foremost to please and protect Israel. The second is that the Egyptian military regime knows this, and thus acts with impunity. The case against the 16 American NGO workers illustrates that. But so does the history of US economic aid to Egypt.

The US has always employed its foreign aid as a political tool, and its economic assistance is handled by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Both during the Cold War and in the neoliberal era, USAID projects have come with conditions strongly favouring free markets and privatisation. But interestingly, in the case of Egypt, scholar Bessma Momani argues that: “the Egyptian government perceived the aid programme as an entitlement for signing the Camp David Accord, where equality of treatment between Egypt and Israel was supposedly guaranteed. In consequence, USAID found that the aid at its disposal did not give the organisation any real influence to induce Egypt to alter its economic policies.”

Writing in 1997, scholar Duncan Clarke also noted that Egypt views the American funds as its entitlement for making peace with Israel, thus despite the massive amounts of US aid to Egypt, “The remarkable absence of vigorous, reliable Egyptian advocates of the US is particularly striking.” In 1991, the US and its allies even agreed to forgive half the $20.2 billion debt that Egypt owed to them, in thanks for Egypt’s support during the Persian Gulf War. Nevertheless, Momani suggests that during this time, the Egyptian government was still not willing to alter its economic policy enough for Washington’s liking.

Continually frustrated by Egypt’s unwillingness to “reform” its state driven economy, in 1993 the US decided to privatise its economic aid to Egypt. Momani describes how Cairo and Washington set up a “Presidents’ Council” consisting of 15 American and 15 Egyptian corporate representatives to manage private American investment in Egypt as an alternative to official US government aid. Oil executives along with major US multinationals comprised the American team, while companies that had well-established connections with the Egyptian elite and were close to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made up the Egyptian team, which was headed by Mubarak’s son Gamal.

In this way Egypt’s rulers successfully transformed the US’s ideologically driven neoliberal policy into a crony trade relationship that directly profited the Mubarak regime.

How US aid to Egypt works

There are other aspects of the bilateral relationship that also limit Washington’s options.

All US military aid to foreign countries is deposited into an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as part of the Foreign Military Financing programme, which is run by a division of the Pentagon called the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). Nearly all countries have to spend the funds the US allocates each year, but Egypt is allowed to place orders on credit, which means that Egypt usually has a backlog of orders before the annual aid is even dispersed. The only other country granted this privilege is Israel.

The Washington Institute cites estimates that Egypt currently has about “$4 billion in outstanding contractual commitments to be paid by cash-flow financing”. In other words, Egypt has run up a $4 billion debt to satisfy its rapacious appetite for American-made weapons and military equipment, and all at the expense of US taxpayers, whose money is being funnelled into the pockets of American weapons manufacturers.

That’s why throughout the recent crackdown, the contracts never stopped coming in. According to the Politico web site, the day of the coup the US Army asked for information from contractors interested in building and upgrading F-16 bases in Egypt. And less than one week after the Egyptian security forces massacred and wounded thousands of anti-coup protesters in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda Squares, “the US Air Force awarded a contract to General Electric to upgrade the Egyptian air force’s fighter jets. The deal, worth nearly $14 million, is to extend the lives of 18 engines used on F-16s and other fighters.”

The argument goes that cutting military aid to Egypt would mean that US companies would not get paid for the orders they are processing and this would negatively impact the US economy, resulting in job losses. However, maintaining the aid while stopping the delivery of the American-made weapons and military equipment is a possibility.

A report published by Businessweek magazine last August noted that, “Once the work is completed and the contractor is paid, it’s up to the DSCA to deliver the equipment to Egypt.” And according to the report, as of August the agency was not delivering anything.

This included helicopters, fighter aircraft and tank kits.

The magazine pointed out that: “This wouldn’t be the first time the US withheld military equipment it’s sold to a foreign country. In 1972, Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi paid $70 million for eight C-130 Hercules aircraft. After political tensions arose and relations between the US and Libya became strained, Washington simply decided not to deliver the planes. To this day the aircraft are still sitting outside Lockheed’s plant in Marietta, Ga.”

However, according to Al-Jazeera America, after the Obama administration announced in early October that it would suspend some military assistance to Egypt, “nearly 2,000 tons of critical US military equipment continued to flow to Egyptian ports.” Although there was a delay in the shipment of some fighter jets, other equipment, including several kinds of vehicles used for crowd control, missile systems and spare parts for tanks, helicopters and fighter jets, among other items, continued to depart from eastern US ports to Egypt.

And then there is “war on terror”

So if the aid was supposedly halted, what is the catch?

One problem is that the Obama administration has repeatedly vowed to continue its provision of weapons and military equipment to help the Egyptian authorities fight “terrorism” in the Sinai, which shares a border with Israel.

Another is that the shipments mainly contain spare parts. As Al-Jazeera America points out, during the 1980s and 1990s, US military aid “led Egypt to phase out its Soviet-made arsenal, replacing most of its military equipment with higher-end US products.” Since then, Egypt has amassed an arsenal of American-made weapons and equipment, including thousands of tanks and the fourth-largest fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft in the world.

“There’s no conceivable scenario in which they’d need all those tanks short of an alien invasion,” Shana Marshall of the Institute of Middle East Studies at George Washington University joked to American National Public Radio.

So while Egypt is not in need of more weapons, the existing equipment does get worn out and continues to require a constant supply of spare parts, which the US freely provides. And Marshall also told Al-Jazeera America that: “there’s a lot of pressure on Congress [from the defence industry] to maintain those production lines in their own districts.”

This helps to explain why so many members of Congress, including Eliot Engel of New York, the most senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed “concern” when the Obama administration announced that it was withholding selected aid in October.

That said, some members of Congress did actively lobby to end military aid to Egypt while the country was under the leadership of President Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood, after all, always did entertain the possibility of rethinking the Camp David Accords. Of course, these officials failed to realise that during Egypt’s short-lived democracy, US military aid went directly to Egypt’s military, and not to the civilian government.

In any case, there is public support for an aid freeze. A Pew Research survey in August found that “51 per cent of Americans believe the US should cut off military aid to Egypt to pressure the government there to end the violence against anti-government protesters.” And this number would likely be higher if Americans knew that the dispersal of military aid to Egypt could continue while the deliveries of the weapons are halted, weapons which could then even be sold to other parties for a profit, thus ensuring that American jobs are not lost.

So what is the prognosis for US military aid to Egypt? Is it even possible for the US to follow the European Union’s moral lead and suspend the export of all equipment that could be used by the Egyptian military regime in its ongoing campaign of repression?

Although in October President Obama suspended the delivery of some military equipment to Egypt pending the election of a civilian government, Washington still refuses to call the events surrounding 3 July a “coup”, a determination that would automatically halt all US military aid to Egypt in accordance with US law. And significantly, right after President Obama announced the suspension, Egypt hired a new Washington lobby firm.

Thus it should be no surprise to hear that before going on winter recess, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill on 18 December “that would allow the US to resume its full $1.6 billion aid relationship with Egypt by granting President Obama the power to waive [the federal law on the coup restriction] based on national security,” as reported by the Associated Press. Only a few days before the Senate committee passed this bill, three right wing House Republicans travelled to Cairo to visit General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi: Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Considering that for Washington, US national security is mainly defined by two key concerns, Israel and the global war on “terror”, and that the three House Republicans have a particular obsession with the Muslim Brotherhood, it is no wonder that Egypt’s interim authorities subsequently declared the movement a terrorist organisation.

And yet the new US law also aims to ensure that: “Egypt continues to implement the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, is fighting terrorism, is allowing the US Army to transit the territory of Egypt, is supporting a transition to an inclusive civilian government, is respecting and protecting the political and economic freedoms of all Egyptians, is respecting freedom of expression and due process of law, and finally, is abiding by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” according to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly.

While none of these conditions are anything particularly new, Hussein Haridy, a former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister, has declared the bill “a blatant interference in the domestic affairs of Egypt” that must be firmly rejected by the interim authorities.

So despite Egypt’s continued human rights abuses and the calls from the American media for Washington to take action, US military aid to Egypt will probably continue to flow. Indeed, considering that in November Egypt negotiated a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia, financed by the petrol dollars of the monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the historical imbalance of power between the US and Egypt in the latter’s favour, it seems more likely that if the aid were ever to be cancelled, then it would be the Egyptian authorities making that decision, not Washington.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Plans Cosmetic Surveillance Changes After All, Will Set Up Pretend Fight Over NSLs

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | January 6, 2014

Leaks coming out of the Obama administration suggest that the President is preparing mostly cosmetic changes to the intelligence community, following the recommendations from the intelligence task force — which were much stronger than many expected. The reports suggest things like putting a public advocate to represent the public’s views in certain cases before the FISC. This has been talked about for a while, and was the main concession plenty of people had been expecting anyway. That’s hardly anything big.

The article talks about two other potential reforms. The first is shifting the holding of phone call metadata from the NSA to the phone companies, allowing the NSA to still search through it after getting a court order. While this may be a marginal improvement, it still has tremendous problems. It will almost certainly come with some sort of data retention law — something that the feds have wanted for ages, and which civil liberties activists have been fighting against for years. Companies shouldn’t be required to hang on to data they don’t need, especially if getting rid of it can better protect their users’ privacy. Furthermore, while not letting the NSA hang onto the data is a good thing, there is a reasonable concern that if the telcos are hanging onto the data themselves, that they, too, might do bad things with it, with little to no oversight.

However, most of the article from the LA Times focuses on National Security Letter (NSL) reform. We’ve written about those for years. NSLs are the way that the FBI can demand information from companies without any judicial review at all and, even more insane, with a complete gag order that prevents the recipient from telling anyone (including, at times, your lawyer). The FBI has an incredibly long history of “serious misuse” of NSLs, and has shown little to no interest in fixing the process. Nearly a year ago, a court actually ruled them unconstitutional, but there’s an ongoing appeals process that will take quite a bit of time.

However, as the article notes, the DOJ/FBI and other surveillance maximalists are all horrified by the idea that Obama might actually require judicial approval of NSLs, for all but “emergency” situations. What this sounds like is that the President may suggest something along those lines, there will be a well coordinated press attack from surveillance hawks freaking out about the danger this puts us all in… and then he’ll back down on that one point. And we’ll be left with… basically nothing, but the President will go around insisting that he reformed the intelligence community, while everything more or less stays the same.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada’s CSE admits to ‘incidental’ spying

Press TV – January 7, 2014

Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSE) has admitted that it “incidentally” spied on Canadians, making it the first time the agency deviates from its standard statement that it does not “target” the electronic communications of Canadian citizens.

The country’s foreign intelligence agency said in a statement published on its website that “it is possible that we may incidentally intercept Canadian communications or information.”

A spokesman for the agency said the statement was an initial response to the media attention following the disclosures by American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

According to the CSE, additional information about how it operates is to be posted in coming months “to share more information about our organization in as transparent a manner as possible while still respecting our security obligations.”

However, experts say the effort by the CSE is mostly government mantra and it does not address issues raised by Snowden leaks.

Wesley Wark, a security intelligence expert at the University of Ottawa, said the statement does not discuss the disclosures about collections of metadata or about the use of CSE’s foreign intelligence partners, including the United States, for information exchanges about targets, including Canadians of national security concern.

The leaked documents published in recent months have revealed among others that Canada has set up cover spying posts around the world and spied on trading partners at the request of the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Reports published in Canadian media and based on the leaks have shown that Canada allowed the NSA to conduct surveillance operations on its soil during the 2010 summits of G8 and G20.

Other reports have shown that the Canadian intelligence agency spied on communications at Brazil’s Mining and Energy Ministry, as it has mining interests in the South American country.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian activist arrested in night raid in Nablus

International Solidarity Movement | January 7, 2014

sirene-khudairi-300x275Nablus, Occupied Palestine – At 2:30am on Tuesday morning, Israeli soldiers and secret service agents entered a house in the city of Nablus and arrested Sireen Khudairi, a 24-year-old schoolteacher and activist. No arrest warrant was given, although Sireen was threatened with physical violence if she did not accompany the soldiers.

This is the second time in a year that Sireen has been arrested without a warrant. On May 14th 2013 she was arrested and held for two months on the charge of having written a Facebook page that “compromised the security of the state of Israel”. Her detention included 22 days of solitary confinement and no access to a lawyer or her family. She was eventually released from prison but placed under house arrest, having paid bail of NIS 7000 and on the condition that she refrain from using the internet.

On 16th September, the Israeli military court found Sireen not guilty but ordered her to refrain from activism for five years.

Sireen’s family home has been raided various times since then, as it appears that she is wanted to testify against other activists. This is yet another event in the ongoing campaign of intimidation against non-violent Palestinian activists, and the criminalization of protest by the Israeli state.

For more information on Sireen’s case and how to act, please visit:

http://freesireen.wordpress.com/

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinians schools must adopt Israeli narrative of the conflict

MEMO | January 7, 2014

Israel is to tell the Palestinian Authority to change the history syllabus used in its schools as a condition ahead of negotiating final status issues. According to a specialist in Israeli studies, Saleh Al-Na’ami, Israel’s defence minister has said that Palestinian schools must teach the Israeli narrative of events before and since 1948, when what Palestinians call the Nakba (Catastrophe) of the creation of the state of Israel took place.

“They [the PA] need to cancel the Palestinian narrative of the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” Moshe Ya’alon is alleged to have said.

Haaretz reported that the weekly ministerial meeting on Sunday included a discussion about such a change in the Palestinian school syllabus. Ya’alon is also reported to be insisting on an end to Palestinians using speeches in mosques to “incite” the population against the Israeli occupation.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Court Decision Exempts Secret Memo From FOIA, Sets Stage For Future Secret Laws To Go Unchallenged

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | January 6, 2014

The “most transparent administration” received another win for continued secrecy, thanks to an appeals court decision that allowed it to continue to withhold a DOJ memo that created an exploitable loophole in consumer data privacy protections.

The document at issue is a classified memo issued by the Office of Legal Counsel on Jan. 8, 2010. A report later that year by the Justice Department’s inspector general at the time, Glenn A. Fine, disclosed the memo’s existence and its broad conclusion that telephone companies may voluntarily provide records to the government “without legal process or a qualifying emergency,” notwithstanding the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The EFF has been engaged with the government over the release of this document since 2011, when a district court judge ruled the document was exempt from FOIA requests because it was part of executive branch “internal deliberations.” In other words, despite the fact that the OLC memos can be considered legally binding (and exempt those following the memos’ advice or instructions from legal repercussions), the memo is not considered “working law.” The EFF has argued that these memos are not “deliberative,” but are rather secret laws deployed in such a fashion as to avoid being exposed by FOIA requests.

The presiding judge explained his decision with this reasoning.

“Even if the O.L.C. opinion describes the legal parameters of what the F.B.I. is permitted to do, it does not state or determine the F.B.I.’s policy,” Judge Harry T. Edwards wrote in the decision on Friday. “The F.B.I. was free to decline to adopt the investigative tactics deemed legally permissible in the O.L.C. opinion.”

According to the FBI, it did decline to follow the memo’s parameters.

The bureau, which has abandoned exigent letters, said that it did not employ the legal theory outlined in the memo when using the letters, and that it had no plans to use it in the future.

But the DOJ’s arguments for keeping the memo secret calls the FBI’s assertion into question.

During the litigation, the Justice Department also told the court that parts of the memo contained classified information, “highly specific in nature and known to very few individuals,” about a secret intelligence-gathering technique that the F.B.I. is using against “hostile entities.”

Either the FBI is utilizing the memo’s legal theories or the memo covers so much ground that the FBI is using something entirely unrelated, making the first statement truthful as far as it extends to exigent letters only.

Judge Edwards’ rationale gives the government every reason to utilize the Office of Legal Counsel to provide it with the legal justification it needs to deploy questionable tactics and programs. (Previous OLC memos were used to justify warrantless wiretaps and “brutal questioning of detainees.”) The ruling makes it easier for any OLC memo to be exempted from FOIA requests, providing for even more government secrecy.

David Sobel, a lawyer for the EFF, called the ruling “troubling,” describing the office’s memos as a body of “secret law” that the public has a right to know about. He said he hoped the ruling would reinvigorate efforts among some lawmakers to enact a law opening such memos to greater scrutiny outside the executive branch.

“It’s kind of hard to imagine how a different case in the D.C. Circuit is likely to have a different outcome in light of this opinion,” he said.

Because the document remains a secret, its true significance remains a source of speculation. The New York Times says the memo is most likely the legal basis for the CIA’s voluntary agreement with AT&T, which allows the agency to search its massive database of international calls (and tip local numbers to the FBI for further investigation). And it’s not as if this secret memo is the only tool the government has for demanding data. The FBI may have abandoned “exigent letters” but it’s still using National Security Letters to obtain data without a court order. (No mention is made of the FBI’s exigent Post-It notes or over-the-shoulder database searches.)

The DOJ is understandably pleased with this decision as it plays to its obfuscatory tendencies. This is also a dubious win for this administration — and those that follow. Having an in-house agency on tap that can create new laws and interpretations of existing statutes without having to risk having its legally-binding memos scrutinized by the public will be a tool too powerful for many to ignore.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment