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US Congress’ Demands on New START Treaty ‘Unacceptable’ – Russian Ambassador

Sputnik – 30.11.2018

The demands issued by the US Congress regarding the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia are not acceptable, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov told Sputnik.

US Senator Tom Cotton and Congresswoman Liz Cheney introduced a bill on Wednesday that prevents extending the New START until the US president certifies to Congress that Russia has agreed to verifiably reduce its stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons and include its new weapons systems under the limits of the accord.

“It feels like US lawmakers mix all these issues to make it unacceptable for Russia, so that we reject them at once,” Antonov told Sputnik after the speech. “Additional obstacles and barriers are being created that prevent the extension of the New START. A tactical nuclear weapon has nothing to do with these questions.”

Following the cancellation of the G20 meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Antonov emphasized it is important to have a conversation between the two leaders concerning developments of nuclear arms control and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

“It is high time for President Putin and President Trump to discuss strategic stability and the future of nuclear arms control, primarily the INF Treaty and the New START,” Antonov said.

Russia still stands for continuing consultations with a view to preserve the INF Treaty as one of the cornerstones of international security, he added.

Antonov continued that reestablishing dialogue between the Russian and US defence ministries is also necessary to better bilateral ties and avoid possible conflict in the future.

Additionally, the Russian ambassador touched upon the development of a missile program by the United States and said it would impact the possibility of reaching new deals with Russia.

Antonov, who took his diplomatic post in August 2017, visited Princeton University on Thursday to give a speech as well as answer questions addressing current events on the political arena and US-Russian relations.

The New START Treaty entered into force in 2011 and covers a ten-year period with the possibility of a five-year extension. The treaty limits the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, nuclear-armed bombers and nuclear warheads. The talks on extending the START Treaty have been delayed over mutual concerns about compliance.

The Trump administration has announced plans to withdraw from the INF treaty. The treaty, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987, bans ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 300 miles to 3,400 miles.

November 30, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tech giants struggle to find ‘Russian meddling’ in written answers to US Senate

RT | January 28, 2018

Twitter, Facebook and Google had a hard time providing evidence of “Russian meddling” on social media, transcripts from the US Senate show. However, they did shockingly reveal that RT America had purchased ads aimed at Americans.

On Friday, the US Senate Intelligence Committee released answers provided by Twitter, Facebook and Google in response to questions concerning Russia’s alleged meddlesome use of social media in the devious pursuit of uprooting American democracy.

The Senate’s questions included breathless demands that the tech giants explain why Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are “allowed” to use their services, as well as more mundane requests, such as asking Google if it can confirm crackpot rumors spread by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. However, it turns out the questions were considerably more sensational and accusatory than the tech giants’ responses, which in some cases even raised doubts about the narratives being promoted by the US government and media outlets.

Why does Twitter allow users to expose US crimes? – curious senator

Tom Cotton, the Republican senator from Arkansas, had by far the most colorful questions for the three tech giants. During his thorough interrogation of Twitter, he asked whether company’s terms of service prohibit “collaboration with Russian intelligence services to influence an election.” (Twitter reassured the good senator that exerting “artificial influence on an election [is] likely to violate any number of Twitter’s rules and policies.”)

But Cotton’s best moment came when he demanded “justification for allowing entities and individuals such as WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden to maintain Twitter accounts.”

Twitter very delicately informed Cotton that “we do not bar controversial figures from our platform or prohibit accounts from posting controversial content … So long as those accounts remain in compliance with our policies, we do not take action against their Tweets or suspend them from the platform.” Undeterred, Cotton asked these same questions to Facebook – and received very similar answers.

RT America bought ads that… ‘focused on’ Americans

In one of the more underwhelming revelations disclosed by the tech giants in the newly-released documents, Twitter reported that “of all of RT’s ad campaigns, 11 were targeted exclusively at English-language speakers, and several others—including all of @RT_America’s seven campaigns—used geographic targeting to focus on US users.”

Twitter also revealed that it had identified nine accounts as being “potentially linked to Russia that promoted election-related, English-language content.” Of these nine nefarious accounts “potentially linked” to Russia, “the most significant use of advertising was by @RT_com and @RT_America. Those two accounts collectively ran 44 different ad campaigns, accounting for nearly all of the relevant advertising we reviewed,” according to Twitter. Once again, Twitter forgot to mention that it pitched a proposal for RT to spend huge sums on advertising for the US presidential election – an offer which RT declined.

However, there is little doubt that before RT was banned from buying Twitter ads, RT America “targeted” Americans.

Facebook can’t trace ‘Russian disinformation campaign’

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia asked Facebook if it could confirm that it was “alerted” by Ukrainian activists and politicians about Russian trolls peddling disinformation on its platform. Unfortunately, Facebook’s response rained on Warner’s anti-Russia parade.

The social media giant explained that most of the “disinformation” reported by Ukrainians was nothing more than Russians calling Ukrainians “khokhol” (a common derogatory term). Facebook also said it received reports of Ukrainians calling Russians “moskal” (another mundane ethnic slur). In some cases, the slurs were deemed hate speech and removed, in accordance with the site’s Community Standards. Facebook was apparently unable to recall any other “Russian misinformation” reported by Ukrainian authorities.

Google questions ‘Ukrainian artillery hack’

In one of many Russia-gate Hail Marys lobbed by Tom Cotton, the Intelligence Committee pressed Google to comment on reports that Russia used malware implanted on Android devices to track Ukrainian artillery units, suggesting that “Russia is not only using your platforms to influence elections, but to gain an advantage on the front lines of a battlefield.”

The question backfired spectacularly, with Google responding: “We are aware of this report and we, although [sic] with others in the industry, have questioned its accuracy.”

The company cited, as one example, that the alleged malware at issue was never distributed through Google’s Play Store.

Scroll on, Russia’s not targeting your FB

Senator Kamala Harris was interested to learn about the types of targeting criteria – “such as demographic, behavioral, lookalike, or email matching” – allegedly used by Russia for its “information operations.” Again, Google’s response did not exactly launch a thousand ships.

“$4,700 of ads attributable to suspected state-sponsored Russian actors were not narrowly targeted to specific groups of users: for example, we found no evidence of targeting by geography (e.g. certain states) or by users’ inferred political preferences (e.g. right or left-leaning),” Google responded. The company added that it was “unaware of any inauthentic accounts linked to Russian information operations flagged by our users.”

Read more:

Social media giants crack down on RT under Senate pressure

From ‘secret societies’ to flawed FBI probes, the Russiagate narrative is imploding

January 28, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Bad Moon Rising

A new cabinet will mark neocon ascendancy

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • December 12, 2017

Back during the admittedly brief shock and awe period that immediately followed on the Trump electoral victory, it appeared that there might be an actual realignment of American foreign policy. The neoconservatives virtually unanimously had opposed Donald Trump in the most vile terms, both in the GOP primaries and during the actual electoral campaign, making clear that Hillary was their choice for a future full of unrelenting, ideologically driven warfare to convert the world to democracy. By that metric, one would assume that Trump would prefer to be roasted on a spit rather than have neocons on his national security team, and many in the punditry did agree with that analysis and went on to share that view.

At the time, I agreed, but I did note that the neoconservatives have proven to be remarkable resilient, particularly as many of them have remained true to their Democratic Party values on nearly everything but foreign policy, where they are irredeemable hawks, hostile to Russia and Iran and always reliably in the corner of Israel. In short, many neocons can be unmasked as Hillary Clinton Democrats if one looks at them issue by issue, which certainly helps to explain some subsequent developments.

Some Washington observers who actually care about such things have been writing how there has been a kumbaya process going on between self-described conservative neocons and liberal interventionists. Katrina vanden Heuvel describes the progressive hawks as “the essential-country crowd,” borrowing a phrase from ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

There are inevitably minor disconnects between the two groups based on their motives for aggression – Democrats claim to do it to bring democracy and freedom while Republicans say they do it to enhance national security. Both are lying in any event as it all comes down to great power rivalries, with big powerful nations pushing smaller weaker nations around because they are able to get away with it and feel more comfortable if everyone lines up behind them.

So everyone in Washington and New York’s financial services industry agrees that a more assertive America is a better America even when the reality is that no one winds up with either democracy or security. Which brings us to the latest shuffle in the Donald Trump cabinet and what it is likely to mean down the road. Multiple sources are predicting Tillerson out and Mike Pompeo in at State Department with Pompeo replaced at CIA by Senator Tom Cotton. The White House is denying the story, calling it “fake news,” but it is clear that Trump is uncomfortable with the current arrangement and Tillerson will be gone sooner or later.

Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State replaces a somewhat bumbling businessman adept at dealing in energy futures contracts who has been struggling with reducing State’s enormously bloated payroll. Pompeo, a real hard-nosed political hardliner who tends to see complex issues in fairly simplistic ways, has become a presidential confidant, briefing Trump frequently on the state of the world, most recently pushing for the horrific decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a recent speech , Pompeo criticized the CIA, observing that it had both forgotten how to spy, which is almost certainly true, while adding that it will have to become “more vicious” to accomplish its mission of making the United States “safe.” Pompeo would like to turn the United States into an unleashed wrecking ball directed against the enemies of the American Way and he appears intent on starting that process in the Middle East.

And Pompeo will be replaced as CIA Director by Tom Cotton. The less said about Tom the better, but I will attempt to summarize in 8 words here: Tom is completely owned by the Israel Lobby. In his 2014 election as junior Senator from Arkansas, he received $1 million from the Emergency Committee for Israel headed by Bill Kristol as well as additional assistance from the Republican Jewish Coalition. In March 2015, Tom paid those supporters back when 47 Republican United States Senators signed a letter allegedly written by him that was then sent to the Iranian government directly, warning that any agreement over that country’s nuclear program reached with President Barack Obama would likely be overturned by the Congress. The letter, which undercuts the authority of the American president before an international audience, was signed by the entire Republican Party leadership in the Senate and also included then presidential contenders Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

I do not wish to imply that Cotton and Pompeo are somehow stupid, but they do tend to see the world in a very monochromatic fashion, just like their boss. Pompeo was first in his class at West Point and Cotton graduated from Harvard as an undergrad and also from the Law School. Trump claims to be the smartest person in the room no matter where he is standing. But for all the academic credentials and other posturing, it is hard to imagine how the new choices could possibly be worse from a common-sense perspective unless one includes Nikki Haley, who is, fortunately, otherwise engaged. Haley really is stupid. And ambitious. And is also owned by the Israel Lobby, which appears to be a thread that runs its way through all the Trump foreign policy appointees.

What is wrong about the whole Trump team is that they all seem to believe that you can go around the world kicking the shit out of everyone without there being any consequences. And they all hate Iran for reasons that continue to be obscure but may be connected to their relationships with – you guessed it – the neoconservatives and the Israeli Lobby!

Yes, the neocons are back. I noted back in October that when Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster wanted a friendly place to drop by to give a policy speech that would be warmly received they went to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), whose marketing masthead slogan is “Fighting Terrorism and Promoting Freedom.” FDD is currently neocon central, used like the American Enterprise Institute was when Dick Cheney was Vice President and needed a friendly audience. It is headed by Canadian Mark Dubowitz, whose passion in life is making sure that sanctions on Iran are enforced to the letter. Unfortunately, it is not easy to deport a Canadian.

Neocon watchers will undoubtedly note that big names like Brill Kristol, the Kagans, Michael Chertoff and Max Boot will not be showing up in government. True, but that is because they will instead be working through their foundations, of which FDD is only one. The Alliance for Securing Democracy, which has recently sprung up in lobby-land, markets itself as “bipartisan, and transatlantic…” but it actually is pure neocon. Its goal is to “expose Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States of America and Europe.” It includes the usual neocon names but also has the loyal Democratic opposition, including ex-CIA Acting Director Mike Morell and Jake Sullivan, both of whom were top level advisers to Hillary Clinton.

The replacement of former political appointees in the government has been so slow in Trump’s first year that it has actually benefited the neocons in their recovery. Many survivors of the two previous administrations are still in place, nearly all of whom reflect the hawkishness prevalent during 2001-2016. They will be supplemented by second and third tier neoconservatives, who will fill in the policy gaps, virtually guaranteeing that the neocon crafted foreign policy that has been around for the past sixteen years will be here for some time longer.

What all this means is that, now that the Palestinians have been disposed of and the Israelis rewarded, we can expect armed conflict with Iran within the next year, followed by increased hostility towards Moscow as Russiagate continues to play out. I do not even want to guess at what kind of insanity the gang in the West Wing Situation Room will come up with for dealing with North Korea. The good news is that the builders of home bomb shelters, a booming enterprise when I was growing up back in the 1950s and 1960s now used to cultivate mushrooms, will be back in business.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Neocons Point Housebroken Trump at Iran

Defense Secretary Mattis welcomes Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman to the Pentagon, March 16, 2017. (DoD photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | April 15, 2017

The Trump administration’s growing use of military force in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen has neoconservative hawks rooting for armed confrontation with what they view as the root of all evil in the Middle East: Iran.

Many of these armchair warriors recently cheered President Trump’s decision to take on the Assad regime — and Moscow — by firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missile at a Syrian air base alleged to be the source of a chemical weapons attack. But they urged him to do more.

Weekly Standard editor William Kristol tweeted, “Punishing Assad for use of chemical weapons is good. Regime change in Iran is the prize.”

Kristol co-founded the infamous Project on the New American Century in 1997 to promote American “global hegemony” and “challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values.” It began lobbying for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as early as 1998, but always kept Iran in its sights as well.

With Saddam dead and Syria’s Assad stripped of much of his power, Iran is now at the center of neocon crosshairs. Kristol linked his recent tweet to a Washington Post column by two stalwart advocates of ousting the mullahs in Tehran: Reuel Gerecht and Ray Takeyh.

Titled “How Trump Can Help Cripple the Iranian Regime,” their article called for putting the nuclear arms deal with Iran at risk in order to “stoke the volcano under Tehran and to challenge the regime.” The centerpiece of their bizarre argument was that the Iranian people would gratefully welcome the United States imposing “crippling sanctions” to destroy their economy in the name of “human rights.”

The authors were vague as to the details, but suggested that Iran’s ruling clerics would quickly succumb to a “popular rebellion” by “Iranian dissidents,” particularly if the United States sent “more American troops [to] both Syria and Iraq” to reinforce its message.

Gerecht, a died-in-the-wool neocon, was a former director of the Project for a New American Century’s Middle East Initiative. In 2001, he wrote, “Only a war against Saddam Hussein will decisively restore the awe that protects American interests abroad and citizens at home.”

In 2002, he further touted a U.S. invasion of Iraq as a way to “provoke riots in Iran — simultaneous uprisings in major cities that would simply be beyond the scope of regime-loyal specialized riot-control units.” Instead, the subsequent U.S. invasion backfired by putting a pro-Iran regime into power in Baghdad.

Iran in the Crosshairs

Today Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neocon think tank dedicated to waging war against “militant Islam,” with a focus on Iran. Heavily funded by gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Foundation was originally created to promote the agenda of hardline Israeli hawks.

The Foundation fought bitterly against the Iran nuclear deal, lest it open the door to a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Gerecht in particular demanded that the United States attack Iran rather than pursue diplomacy. “I’ve written about 25,000 words about bombing Iran,” he boasted in 2010. “Even my mom thinks I’ve gone too far.”

Gerecht’s side-kick, Ray Tayekh, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and was (briefly) an Iran adviser to Dennis Ross in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. A fierce critic of the nuclear deal, Tayekh joined the Iran Task Force of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which considers itself “the most influential group on the issue of U.S.-Israel military relations.” Tayekh has advocated covert support to Iranian dissidents, as well as to “Kurdish, Baluch, Arab, and other opposition groups fighting the regime.”

Regime change in Iran is the open goal of Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli rightists. That’s why they consistently rejected findings by Israel’s intelligence community about the benefits to Israel’s security from the nuclear deal with Iran. By stoking opposition to the deal among their supporters in Congress, they aimed to kill any chance of cooperation between the United States and Iran.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said candidly, “the goal of our policy must be clear: regime change in Iran.”

Today the hardline Israeli/neocon agenda is still being pursued by hawks in Congress, who have introduced bills in both houses to ratchet up economic sanctions against Iran and designate a major branch of the country’s armed forces as a terrorist organization. If enacted — against the wishes of other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal — such measures could put the United States and Iran on a war footing.

Trump’s Team of Hawks

President Trump is unlikely to stand in their way. Ignoring the role of major Arab states in supporting such terrorist groups as al-Qaeda and ISIS, Trump named Iran “the number one terrorist state” and warned during his campaign that if Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf continue to “make gestures that our people — that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”

Trump has surrounded himself with anti-Iran hardliners who may be only too eager to give war a chance. His first national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, co-authored a 2016 book with Michael Ledeen, a confidant of Israeli hawks and colleague of Gerecht at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, on “How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.” Iran, of course, was their enemy number one.

Even with Flynn’s ouster, plenty of hawks remain. In recent congressional testimony, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, called Iran “the greatest long-term threat to stability” in the Middle East. He declared, “We need to look at opportunities where we can disrupt [Iran] through military means or other means their activities.”

Defense Secretary General James Mattis told a conference at the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last year, “Iran is not a nation-state; it’s a revolutionary cause devoted to mayhem.” The New York Times reported that Mattis “was so hawkish on Iran as head of United States Central Command from 2010 to 2013 that the Obama administration cut short his tour.”

Mattis reportedly came close to ordering an act of war against Iran in early February — the boarding of an Iranian ship to look for weapons headed for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Such an incident could escalate rapidly out of control if Iran chose to retaliate against U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Alternatives to Conflict

The United States has better policy options than continuing to treat Iran as part of the Axis of Evil. A report issued last fall by the National Iranian American Council recommended that Washington build on the success of the Iran nuclear deal by drawing Iran into regional peace settlements, deescalating our military presence in the Persian Gulf, and encouraging Iran and Saudi Arabia to resolve their differences without superpower intervention.

The report echoed the advice of a prominent neocon heretic, Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to both Afghanistan and Iraq.

“As someone who has negotiated with Iran over the years perhaps more than any other U.S. diplomat,” he observed last year, “I disagree with those who argue that talks with Iran are akin to capitulation. I have seen little evidence that isolation has or will alter Tehran’s behavior in the right direction. Nor do I share the view that it is impossible to negotiate win-win deals with the Iranians.”

Noting Iran’s cooperation with the United States against Al Qaeda after 9/11, and its help brokering political compromises in Afghanistan and Iraq until the Bush administration refused further engagement, Khalilzad wrote, “Under the right conditions, which must include a hard-headed approach and tough actions to check Iran’s ambitions, Washington can benefit from bringing Iran into multilateral forums where the United States and its partners have the opportunity to narrow differences, create rules of the road and solve problems. Moreover, today we have little choice but to engage Iran on these broader issues, because no factor is shaping the order of the Middle East as much as the rivalry between Iran and its Sunni Arab neighbors.”

“If we do not undertake this work,” he warned, “the problems of the region — extremism, terrorism and regional conflict — will continue to bleed over into our part of the world, particularly if the Westphalian state system disintegrates even further into sectarian morass.”

April 15, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US senators introduce bill to tighten sanctions on Iran

Press TV – March 23, 2017

A bipartisan group of US senators in Congress have introduced a bill that would impose tighter sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile tests and other non-nuclear activities.

The bill was introduced on Thursday by 14 Democratic and Republican senators, including senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The legislation would set mandatory sanctions for anyone involved with Iran’s missile program and those who trade with them. It also would apply sanctions to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Lawmakers were expected to roll out the new sanctions ahead of a conference by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is scheduled to start Sunday.

Senators Bob Corker, Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin and Tom Cotton are among the bill’s sponsors.

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, claimed that the new bill had been written not to interfere with the international nuclear accord reached with Tehran.

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — plus Germany started implementing the nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on January 16, 2016.

In February, US President Donald Trump undermined the multilateral deal by introducing a new round of sanctions against Iran following the country’s successful test-launch of a ballistic missile, which Washington said was a breach of the JCPOA.

The US Treasury Department said Washington had imposed sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 entities as part of an effort to ratchet up pressure on Iran over its missile program.

The United States claims that Iran’s recent missile test violated Resolution 2231 that endorsed the Iran nuclear agreement.

Tehran insists its missile tests do not breach any UN resolution because they are solely for defense purposes and not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Senate’s Excuses for Reauthorizing Section 215–and Why They’re Wrong

By Mark Jaycox | EFF | May 19, 2015

Three provisions of the Patriot Act expire on June 1 and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to delay taking action on the issue by calling for a two month or 5-year reauthorization of Section 215—the provision of the Patriot Act the NSA relies on to collect millions of Americans call records.

Before June 1 we expect to see plenty of fear-mongering from intelligence officials and national security hawks. Last year, the Wall Street Journal began the foray with an op-ed by Former NSA Director General Mike Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey—key architects of many of the NSA’s unlawful activities. This time, the mongering started with op-eds by John Yoo, Senator Marco Rubio, and Senator Tom Cotton.

Here are the top excuses officials will use to continue spying on Americans calling records and why they’re wrong:

Congress Needs Time to Debate

“I don’t know how we have the kind of fulsome debate that is going to be required on NSA without passing a temporary extension,” —Sen. John Cornyn

Congress has had two full years to publicly debate the NSA’s use of Section 215. Indeed, the debate has been vigorous and thoughtful. While Congress didn’t create a separate investigative committee, it was still able to hold over a dozen hearings where Section 215 was discussed. The hearings, which called upon officials like the Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the NSA, included hours of testimony on the programs, what they collect, and their effectiveness.

Congress has also debated Section 215 via Senator Patrick Leahy and Jim Sensenbrenner’s reform bill called the USA Freedom Act. Last year, the House passed a gutted bill of the USA Freedom Act, but debated the legislation for days. This year, the House debated a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act and passed it 338 to 88.

The Senate has also debated the legislation. Last year, after two days of debate, the Senate failed to advance a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act by two votes. Congress has had more than enough time to discuss these authorities and must act.

The Section 215 Program is Effective

“This has been a very important part of our effort to defend the homeland since 9/11.” —Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

There’s one problem: there’s no evidence to support that. Two independent commissions concluded the calling records program was not effective and has not been used to stop a terrorist attack. The first, called the President’s Review Group on Signals Intelligence, concluded “Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks.”

Like the President’s Review Group, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board also concluded:

Based on the information provided to the Board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.

The quotes speak for themselves.

Fixing Section 215 Puts the Nation at Risk

“[The USA Freedom Act] would be rolling [the nation] back to exactly where we were pre-9/11. —Sen. Richard Burr

The Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and House Intelligence Chair and Ranking Members do not think reforming the Section 215 program will harm national security. Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote letters (.pdf) to Congress noting that Section 215 reform would preserve both “vital national security authorities” and “essential Intelligence Community capabilities.”

The Program is “Lawful”

“Contrary to irresponsible rumors, the [bulk surveillance] program is lawful, carefully monitored, and protects personal privacy. The program does not conduct mass surveillance of American citizens—or any surveillance at all.” —Sen. Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo

Apparently, one of the “irresponsible rumors” Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo reference is a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. (The circuit courts are the federal courts directly below the Supreme Court). The Second Circuit held that the NSA’s telephone records program went far beyond what Congress authorized when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001. The court rejected the government’s secret reinterpretation of Section 215 that has served as the basis for the telephone records collection program. The Second Circuit’s opinion stands as a clear sign that the courts are ready to step in and rule that mass surveillance is illegal.

In addition, the program is “surveillance.” As we’ve repeatedly said: the collection of metadata matters. It reveals a host of information and context about a person’s habits, traits, and beliefs. The Circuit Court opinion explained that metadata is often a proxy for the content of the communication, and that phone records can “reveal a startling amount of detailed information” about callers. The court also recognized that aggregation of calling records matters because collection of large amounts of metadata plus the application of sophisticated data processing technologies gives the government access to even more revealing portraits of individuals and groups.

Congress Must Say No to a Short-Term Reauthorization

In the next few days, Congress will begin to debate whether or not they should vote for a short-term reauthorization of Section 215. The answer is clearly no. Join us now in telling your lawmaker to vote against any short-term reauthorization.

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Senator Tom Cotton vows to block final Iran agreement

Press TV – April 4, 2015

US Republican Senator Tom Cotton, known for his close links to a neoconservative group, says he will leave no stone unturned in order to sabotage a final nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran.

The P5+1 group – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – reached an outline of a potentially historic agreement with Iran this week over Tehran’s civilian nuclear work that would lift all international sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic in exchange for certain steps Tehran will take with regard to its nuclear program.

“I’m going to do everything I can to stop these terms from becoming a final deal,” Cotton told CNN on Friday, criticizing President Barack Obama for pursuing a diplomatic agreement with Iran.

According to reports, Cotton received one million dollars from the Emergency Committee for Israel, a neoconservative group associated with Israel lobby, just before the last US election. The group was founded in mid-2010 by William [Bill] Kristol, a US neoconservative political analyst.

He said the Republican-dominated Congress could frustrate the Obama administration’s efforts to strike a comprehensive agreement with Iran by June 30 by preventing the removal of Congress-mandated sanctions, imposing new sanctions and pushing for legislation allowing lawmakers to review any nuclear accord reached with the Islamic Republic.

At the end of eight days of intense nuclear negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Thursday, Iran and the P5+1 states issued a joint statement, saying that no Iranian nuclear facility will be shut down and that Iran will continue with its nuclear activities in all its nuclear facilities including Natanz, Fordow, Isfahan and Arak.

“It was not a framework [understanding], it was just a detailed list of American concessions that is going to put Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon, whether they followed the terms… or they violate the terms,” Cotton said.

“Iran may not accept them in the first place because Iran has continued to string along our negotiators,” added the freshman senator from Arkansas.

Cotton suggested that instead of making a deal with Iran, the United States should take military action against the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear activities.

“The alternative to this deal is a better deal with continued pressure through the credible threat of military force and more sanctions, and, if necessary, having to take military action,” he said.

“There are grave reservations about the path the president is taking us down, on both sides of the aisle.”

In a bizarre move last month, a group of 47 Republican senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders, warning that whatever agreement reached with the Obama administration would be a “mere executive agreement” and that Congress could ultimately walk away from any deal with Tehran upon review.

The White House has denounced the GOP letter as an “unprecedented” and “calculated” attempt to interfere with the Iran nuclear talks.

Tom Cotton claimed that he had drafted the letter. However, independent analysts say the letter was actually written by William Kristol, his financier.

April 4, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment