Saturday, June 15, 2013

About Glenn Greenwald (C.I.)

C.I. filling in for Elaine.  She was kind enough to let me.  I could've posted at my site but I like to leave the snapshot up and since I've already posted repeatedly today, if someone wants a night off, my posting at their site means that they can grab it.

Tonight, I'm writing about Glenn Greenwald.  He's an attorney, used to write for Salon, now writes for the Guardian newspapers.

He's the one who delivered the scoop on Barack's spying on Americans and, it turns out, spying on the world.  This morning, I wrote:

An e-mail to the public account asks why I haven't defended Glenn Greenwald? The e-mailer argues it's because I don't like Glenn so I won't give him his due.
I don't like Glenn.  But go read the post I did filling in for Ann last week, I did give him his due.  If he is being attacked -- by anyone other than 'wacky' Peter King -- please advise me on that and we will defend him.
I don't care for Glenn.  That doesn't mean I wouldn't defend him on this.

I think that's pretty clear.  If he's being attacked, you let me know.

I'm sorry I don't read everything in the world nor am I parked in front of the TV watching every program.

I read several newspapers that are US newspapers.  I read England's The Financial Times.  I read a ton of Iraq newspapers.

I don't read the Guardian.  I have three good friends who are still with the newspaper.  If anything comes up that they want noted, they'll e-mail it to the public account or, if it's just gone up or about to go up online, they'll call me.  No offense to the Guardian, I don't read it on my own.  I hear about it.  At The Common Ills, we have it listed on the permalinks but it's one of millions of papers that I'm not flipping through.

So in the snapshot today, I didn't mention Glenn Greenwald.  The same whiner is back with an attack.  You know what else I didn't mention?  Feminist Wire Daily, Peter Hart's FAIR article, The Drone War and about 50 other things I wanted to work in.

But I was not aware that there was a piece at the Guardian about attacks on Glenn.

He wrote about the attacks today at length.

I think point four is the strongest:

(4) As we were about to begin publishing these NSA stories, a veteran journalist friend warned me that the tactic used by Democratic partisans would be to cling to and then endlessly harp on any alleged inaccuracy in any one of the stories we publish as a means of distracting attention away from the revelations and discrediting the entire project. That proved quite prescient, as that is exactly what they are attempting to do.
Thus far we have revealed four independent programs: the bulk collection of telephone records, the PRISM program, Obama's implementation of an aggressive foreign and domestic cyber-operations policy, and false claims by NSA officials to Congress. Every one of those articles was vetted by multiple Guardian editors and journalists - not just me. Democratic partisans have raised questions about only one of the stories - the only one that happened to be also published by the Washington Post (and presumably vetted by multiple Post editors and journalists) - in order to claim that an alleged inaccuracy in it means our journalism in general is discredited.
They are wrong. Our story was not inaccurate. The Washington Post revised parts of its article, but its reporter, Bart Gellman, stands by its core claims ("From their workstations anywhere in the world, government employees cleared for PRISM access may 'task' the system and receive results from an Internet company without further interaction with the company's staff").
The Guardian has not revised any of our articles and, to my knowledge, has no intention to do so. That's because we did not claim that the NSA document alleging direct collection from the servers was true; we reported - accurately - that the NSA document claims that the program allows direct collection from the companies' servers. Before publishing, we went to the internet companies named in the documents and asked about these claims. When they denied it, we purposely presented the story as one of a major discrepancy between what the NSA document claims and what the internet companies claim, as the headline itself makes indisputably clear:

That's what happened, you may remember, with Jonathan Karl of ABC recently.  He did a report on GMA on a Friday morning about how Victoria Nuland demanded the Benghazi talking points be changed.

There was an online version with text. Paragraph 15 of the online version misquoted Ben Rhodes, the howler monkeys tried for weeks to discredit Karl with that.

That wasn't in Karl's report on TV.  That doesn't change what Karl reported, Nuland asked for changes both so Congress wouldn't know and so the press wouldn't ask her questions when she was at the podium (at the daily State Dept press briefings).

Are they picking at Greenwald now?

Apparently so.  Picking at his reporting, trying to find one detail that the can scream "false" and have it semi-stick so that they can then say, "See, it's all wrong!"

Glenn Greenwald's NSA reporting stands up.

The Nation runs a hit piece (they've actually run a second one -- when I saw the e-mail from the same guy and read Glenn's piece an hour or so ago, I got on the phone with a Nation friend to ask what was the deal -- I was told that the guy smearing Greenwald has now done a second piece attacking him).

Let's talk reality about The Nation magazine.  First, Justin Raimondo notes PM magazine in his column about the left.  PM basically was The Nation.  There was a loose 'shield' around it but that's the reality.  (And I know that because I buy journals and personal papers and have many of both from PM staff.  We've often used those when writing about PM at Third Estate Sunday Review over the years.) PM and The Nation both ran propaganda and did so knowingly.  No one wants to mention the name "Otto Katz" today.  Too bad, he's part of the history.  (See Third's "Remember Otto? The Nation appears to forget" from May 2008, for one example.  In 2010, a book about him by Jonathan Miles was published.)

A magazine that knowingly runs propaganda isn't much of a news source.  Nor is one that has a story on Dianne Feinstein abusing her position to get contracts for her husband's business but, instead of running the story, chooses to kill it.
As for Rick Perlstein?

The human veal liberal of Chicago's Hyde Park?

Let's all hope the day has not yet come where we have to take Perlstein seriously.

He's a pompous windbag wrongly applauded for writing books that meet expectations.  Not exceed.

His most recent book told you Nixon was bad.

Uh, yeah, that's sort of established fact.  Didn't need a new book on that one.

Dan Nosowitz has an article today for Popular Mechanics which notes, "Tech types are outraged by the media's misinterpretation of some of the aspects of the (very technical) PRISM story -- but the mistakes, if they are even mistakes, don't detract from the seriousnees of the scandal."

Searching, I see that Adam Levik attacks him at PJ Media. Levik doesn't know what he's writing about.  I could do a takedown on Glenn and I could do it accurately.  Levik's just tossing charges out there as facts and most don't even apply to Glenn.

I don't see any serious attack on Glenn.  I see a spoiled and pampered hanging-onto-Hyde-Park-by-his-fingernails Rick Perlstein whining.  I see Adam Levik completely misrepresenting who Glenn is and what he stands for.

I'm actually probably Glenn's biggest foe online from the left.  I'm not joking.  And if I'm not picking apart the piece, that says it's a strong piece.

Last week, when it was first published, I said Glenn should be proud of himself.  I stand by that.  He did a strong initial piece of reporting and has only consolidated that in the week that followed.  He should be damn proud of himself.

He wrote an article about an issue that matters.

That's more than any of his detractors can claim.

And now that article (and ones that have followed) have caused a national debate.

Again, that's more than any of his detractors can claim.

It's not easy to be criticized, I understand that.  I really do. It's why I never read reviews of my work.  (Much easier to do in the pre-online days.)  But I did my work and the critics did their work. By the same token, Glenn did his work and the critics are doing their work.  Sometimes that's nothing but jealousy.  Sometimes it's quite a bit more.  But unless you're going to get caught up in the "I will respond to everything!" trap, you have to learn to let it go.

I have a body of work (in the entertainment world, not press) that I'm very proud of.  Glenn would do himself a huge favor by learning to blow off some of the criticism, to even ignore it.  A career is peaks and valleys.  If you can't enjoy the peaks, how are you going to feel at the low points?  Just have fun with it.

And Glenn's latest piece on whistle-blower Ed Snowden is right here.

This is today's "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, June 14, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the US government continues to send billions to Iraq and without any oversight, Barbara Boxer has no concern for the Iraqi people but it 'fretting' alleged human rights abuses in Russia, US President Ben Rhodes declares that the US will back the so-called 'rebels' in Syria, Datagate continues and exposes just how ugly and self-righteous so many members of the US Congress are, the IRS lie to Congress that it was 'rogue' employees in Cleveland who were behind the targeting of political groups falls apart, and more.

Yesterday, a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee held a hearing on human rights in Russia.  Why?  Because we're all so damn concerned about human rights?  Please.  Russia is blocking the US on the United Nations' Security Council with regards to Syria.  The hearing was little more than mua roi nuoc (a centuries old Vietnamese tradition of water puppetry).  In that hearing, you have everything that is wrong with the United States government.  Resources are wasted not just to allow the government to poke their nose in everything, resources are used to penalize anyone who doesn't fall in line with the US government.  Resources are wasted to defocus and ignore pressing US issues. That hearing was  a Subcommittee hearing and presiding was the always ridiculous Senator Barbara Boxer.

Committee Chair Robert Menedez is also becoming a joke -- not because the US Justice Dept stayed silent, until after the senator's November re-election, on Menedez' employment of a criminal who also happened to be a foreign national and undocumented worker.  Menedez is a joke because he wastes US tax dollars and refuses to do his job.  He only holds hearing on human rights if it's a country that the US is in conflict with.

Syria?  Oh, yeah, Menedez can schedule a hearing on that.  He can waste all of our time on that.  Where's the hearing on Iraq?

The US taxpayer isn't watching millions of US tax dollars be spent in Russia each day.  But, among foreign countries, the biggest budget item for the State Dept, billions each year, is Iraq.  So where's the Iraq hearing.  None so far in June and none on the schedule.  None in May.  None in April. None in March.  None in February.  None in January.

In the [PDF format warning] "Department of State and Other International Programs" Fiscal Year 2014 budget issued by the White House,

* Includes $6.8 billion for the frontline states of Iraq ($2.1 billion), Afghanistan ($3.4 billion), and Pakistan ($1.4 billion), including $3 billion in base funding and $3.8 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding.  The Budget prioritizes core diplomatic and development activities to ensure strong, lasting partnerships with these countries and to promote stability.

* The Budget continues to support U.S. security, diplomatic and development goals in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq while scaling down funding for operations and assistance, consistent with U.S. policy.

Now that's just some of what the State Dept wants for Iraq.  Let's move over to DoD.  DoD's requesting money for Iraq in Fiscal Year 2014.  Just for the Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq?
"Addendum A Overseas Contingency Operations" explains to us the amount is $200,000,000.   Although they make it much smaller by repeatedly referring to it -- not just in tables, which would be understandable, but in text as well -- as ".2" -- because they're doing billions (in tables, there's no excuse for rendering that way in text).  200 million dollars.

What could 200 million dollars do in US cities in the next fiscal year?  It's just part of what the Defense Dept 'needs' in Iraq -- you know, the country the press and White House press secretary keeps insisting the war is over in.   It's noted, "The OSC-I is the critical Defense component of the U.S. Mission Iraq and a foundational element of our long-term strategic partnership with Iraq."   This doesn't cover the Special Ops troops in Iraq or the 'counter-terrorism' efforts in Iraq.

No one will see that money spent in the United States and, apparently, Congress will provide no oversight as it is spent overseas.

That is their job, to provide oversight.  Not only has Menedez  failed to provide oversight on Iraq, he's failed to provide oversight on the State Dept.  This week's scandal about alleged wide-spread use of prostitution by State Dept officials and employees, pedophilia by the same and a drug ring that State supposedly ran in Iraq (runs in Iraq?), have gotten no attention from the Menedez.

As someone who reads the Iraqi press, let me steal Barack's "let me be clear," you get off your damn ass and you clear up the drug thing immediately.  Iraqi media has been covering an alleged huge increase in drugs for several years now.  Smart representatives of the US government would hear rumors of an alleged US State Dept drug ring in Iraq and say, "Damn, we better investigate this real quick before the rumors spread and Iraqis are saying, 'They brought drugs into our country!'  If we don't get to the bottom of this immediately, then -- true or false -- this is going to be another 'CIA brought cocaine in' scandal!"

That's when you provide oversight -- not just because the truth needs to be known but also, in case the rumors are completely unfounded, so that you can kill them quickly before they spread like wildfire.  Now why might there be a scandal on this?

Maybe because there's no Inspector General for the State Dept?

Mendez is aware of it.  With the Committee's Ranking Member Bob Corker, he drafted a letter to the White House on that this week:

We are deeply concerned that the two lead agencies carrying out the international programs and activities of the United States, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have been operating without permanent Inspectors General for a considerable period of time. The Department of State has not had an Inspector General since 2008 and USAID has had a vacancy since 2011. Inspectors General play a crucial role in identifying ineffective programs, process weaknesses, and wasteful spending that undermine public confidence in government.
It is critical that your administration provide this committee with highly qualified nominees who can function independently and objectively in these positions in the near future. In a recent hearing before this committee, Secretary Kerry testified that he would like to see the Department of State’s Inspector General vacancy filled quickly and noted that the White House had recently selected a highly qualified nominee. It has been over a month since that hearing and we await the nomination.
It is vitally important that the Inspectors General are able to function independently and objectively. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has, since 2007, documented the lack of adherence to proper auditing standards and the lack of independence and autonomy within the Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). In particular, GAO has noted that the Office is led by “management and Foreign Service officials [, which] is not consistent with professional standards for independence;” the “use of Foreign Service Officers ... to lead OIG inspections resulted in, at a minimum, the appearance of independence impairment;” and the “OIG relied on inspections rather than audits to provide oversight coverage resulting in gaps to the audit oversight of the department.” It is imperative that the next Inspector General at the Department of State resolves these matters and protects the independence and credibility of the OIG.

When there are no IGs and there is scandal and you're the Committee over the State Dept, you call for hearings.  You put Russia and the other Executive Branch grudge f**ks on hold and you provide the supervision that's lacking.

Protests have been ongoing in Iraq since December 21st.  The protests continued today.  Iraqi Spring MC noted the turnout in Baquba and that the spokesperson for those with special needs stated, "Disability will not keep us from rejecting injustice, tyranny and government repression."  Iraqi Spring MC also notes that the people turned out in Baghdad and in RamadiNational Iraq News Agency reports, "Thousands of citizens flocked since early hours of the day from from different parts and cities of Anbar Province to sit-ins of Falluja and Ramadi, to participate in Friday unified prayer."  NINA also notes police were deployed and set up checkpoints in Falluja and Ramadi, imposing "tight security measures in the sit-ins squares."  Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's forces surrounded the platform at the Baquba sit-in in an attempt to frighten the protesters.  NINA notes that in Samarra, Imam Diab Hamid called on the security forces to stop using security forces against the people and the Imam told the demonstrators that "several weeks ago you voted to replace UN representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler, and now the oppressor has been relieved of his post" (UN Secretary-General announced this week Kobler will be moving onto the Congo).  The Imam congratulated the protesters on their peaceful accomplishments.  In Diyala the call was to preserve the unity and security.   In Balad Ruz, there was the call to continue the peaceful sit-ins.  In addition, Kitabat reports that in Ramadi there is a call for Nouri al-Maliki to come to the sit-in and dialogue with the protesters.

What sparked this wave of protests?  Oh, the Senate Foreign Affairs has never seen fit to explore that or acknowledge what's taking place in Iraq.  That would be oversight and, under Menedez, they don't do oversight.  It's sad that the Committee Vice President Joe Biden once led could, and did, in 2008, explore that the future of Iraq might mean Nouri using weapons on his own people.  That's come to pass, that's no longer a projection or a prediction.  And it's come to pass without any oversight from the Committee that Senator Robert Menedez chairs.

Why the protests?  The failure to implement the power-sharing agreement (the US-brokered Erbil Agreement) that ended the eight-month plus political stalemate of 2010.  The failure to fix public services (while spending billions on weapons).  The issue of the disappeared, Nouri's attacks on his political rivals in Iraqiya, and other longstanding issues.  But the spark that got people into the streets (again)?  Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson:


 Following an outcry against revelations of abuse of women detainees and the arrest of several bodyguards of the popular Sunni finance minister, the government promised in January to reform the judicial system, including reviewing the cases of 6,000 people who have been detained but not tried or even ordered released, in some cases for years, under the country’s antiterrorism law, and initiating an inquiry into widespread allegations of forced confessions and reliance on secret informants.

And in addition to the abuse of females in Iraqi prisons, Nouri's forces have repeatedly attacked the protesters.  Most infamously there was the  Tuesday, April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.  UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.

Neither Menedez nor Boxer felt the need to hold a hearing on that.  There concern for 'human rights' are based not on actual atrocities but on geography -- location, location, location!

Nouri's attacks on the protesters haven't stopped.  From yesterday's snapshot:

 Jason Ditz ( notes:

The Iraqi military’s violent attacks on Sunni Arab protesters weren’t the panacea that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was expecting them to be, but it also cost the army 1,070 troops, according to officials.
The troops, ethnic Kurds, mutinied when they were ordered to attack a Sunni Arab town where protests were taking place, and then refused to attend “disciplinary re-training” meant to ensure that they wouldn’t hesitate to attack Iraqi towns if ordered in the future.

AFP reports that Tuz Khurmatu Mayor Shallal Abdul explains the troops are still in their same positions, they're just now working for and paid by the Peshmerga -- the elite Kurdish fighting force.

 Nouri's attacks on the Iraqi people are so out of control that over a thousand members of the Iraqi military defect to the Peshmerga and that's not cause for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing on Iraq?

Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a call:

 Iraqi authorities should immediately investigate evidence that federal police executed four men and a 15-year-old boy on May 3, 2013, south of Mosul. Witnesses last saw the victims in the custody of the federal police 3rd Division, commanded by Gen. Mehdi Gharawi, who had been removed from his post as a federal police commander following claims he was implicated in torture and other abuses but was later reinstated.  Villagers found the bodies of the five in a field three kilometers from East Mustantiq village on May 11, near where federal police were seen taking them immediately after their arrest. A witness said the bodies had multiple large gunshot wounds, and machine gun shells were found in the vicinity. But photos leaked to the media by a police officer show police officers with the bodies in a less decomposed state than they were when the villagers found them.
"The apparent police role in the machine gun execution of four men and a boy requires an immediate investigation and the prosecution of those responsible," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "That these killings may have been committed by a unit under a commander once implicated in torture shows why abuses can’t be swept under the rug and forgotten."

When exactly is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee going to provide oversight on Iraq?

April set a record for the most violent deaths in Iraq in five years . . . until May came along and set a record for the most violent deaths in Iraq in five years.

 All Iraq News reports 1 Sahwa leader was shot dead outside his Shurqat home today.  NINA notes a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Kirkuk bombing injured one police officer, and Nineveh Province candidate Muhannad Ghazi al-Murad was shot dead today as he left a mosqueAlsumaria notes a bombing targeting an truck load of oil left one civilian dead. Through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 195 violent deaths so far for the month.

And no concern from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?  Just waive the billions on through for next year, provide no oversight at all, right?

As they repeatedly fail to provide oversight, they do get that they look like a joke, right?  They do get that the world sees Iraq falling further apart (as a direct result of the US-led invasion) and sees talk of 'human rights' from the US as laughably hypocritical, right?

Here's a safe bet, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will ignore Iraq until well after the rumor takes hold -- true or false -- that the US State Dept was running drugs in Iraq and that's why Iraq has what the Iraqi press and people see as a drug crisis currently.

AFP reports, "Russia said on Friday that US data on the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons was 'unconvincing' and warned Washington against repeating the mistake it made when invading Iraq after falsely accusing Saddam Hussein of stocking weapons of mass destruction."  What are they talking about?

Thursday evening, US President Benjamin Rhodes announced that the US government would be spending US tax dollars to back the 'rebel's in Syria.  What's that?  Ben's not President of the United States?  That's right.  So why didn't Barack make the damn announcement.

Saad Abedine and Laura Smith-Spark (CNN) report:

The administration plans to share its findings with Congress and its allies, and it will make a decision about how to proceed "on our own timeline," Rhodes said.

The US is supposedly in the midst of a financial crisis -- food stamps are getting cut among other necessities -- and yet Beloved Barack feels free to commit more US tax dollars overseas without even checking with Congress which is supposed to control the purse.

 A line has been crossed, proxy President Ben Rhodes explained, Barack had decided.  Chemical weapons had been used!   You mean in March when the 'rebels' used them on the village of Khan al-Assad?

No, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used them!

It must be true because delightful "Deb" Amos told us so on Morning Edition (NPR) today: in a coffee clatch with Linda Wertheimer.  Excerpt.

WERTHEIMER: Deb, for the first time, the Obama administration appears to conclude that the Assad government has used nerve gas against rebels and against civilians. Administration officials say this is a clear crossing of the red line. What does that mean?

AMOS: Well, what we are seeing now for the first time, that the administration is in line with assessments in London and in Paris. The French have been far ahead of the administration on this issue. There were two French reporters who were on the ground who said that they saw chemical weapons being used. They brought out samples. In fact, there's been a rift with the French over this issue.  Now the Obama administration has been more forward in their assessments. They had been cautious. Government sources have been saying for some time that they did have this conclusive proof. Now that evidence has been made public, it's been shared with the Russians.

Poor ridiculous Linda, she tired herself out in the cooking segment (that's not a joke, the 'news' has fallen so on this crap awful NPR program that they now do cooking segments -- and not even good ones that educate, the whole point of the feature is to be ridiculous and provide laughter -- the dumbing down of America will be led by NPR). So, Deb explains, it's true, it's real and she knows it because "two French reporters" (and of course Barack -- by proxy) say so.  What a sad moment for the increasingly useless and unethical (see Ava and my feature Sunday at Third on how NPR's Morning Edition has yet again broken NPR guidelines) National 'Public' Radio.

You know, one-time New York Times reporter Judith Miller saw herself as something of a 'chemical weapons' expert as well.  Maybe she'll save a seat for Deb Amos on the Fox News panel?  Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

"It's not unlike Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark," said Jean Pascal Zanders, a leading expert on chemical weapons who until recently was a senior research fellow at the European Union's Institute for Security Studies. "It's not just that we can’t prove a sarin attack, it's that we're not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack."
Foremost among those missing items, Zanders said, are cellphone photos and videos of the attacks or the immediate aftermath.
"In a world where even the secret execution of Saddam Hussein was taped by someone, it doesn't make sense that we don't see videos, that we don't see photos, showing bodies of the dead, and the reddened faces and the bluish extremities of the affected," he said.

Read more here:

What a vast improvement over the stenography Lesley Clark offered this morning.  And before you think Matt's piece is an indication that McClatchy's trying to reclaim Knight Ridder's glory, read this nonsense by Hannah Allam that never questions the administration's claim.  Hannah makes herself a joke (although at least her peers aren't making fun of her online photo the way they're making fun of Nancy A. Youssef's Twitter photo which a New York Times reporter has gotten a ton of laughs for -- in a heavily circulated e-mail -- by comparing it to "an 80s Olan Mills glamour shot").  The job Hannah Allam can't do, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) does:

After saying in April that the evidence that Syria’s military used chemical weapons was inconclusive, the administration says now it’s clear, and the CIA estimates that between 100 to 150 Syrians were killed by sarin gas.
Who knows?
The CIA has lied to us all before, and the previous Administration went to enormous lengths to lie us into a war in Iraq.

So why this now?

One of the few sites that gathered the needed pre-war reporting on Iraq in real time was Information Clearing House.  It's also one of the few of that few that remains standing today.  A lot of people want to claim today that they did what ICH did but the reality is the others tended to run cover-your-ass pieces just in case it blew up.  ICH offered original analysis and rounded up some of the best available elsewhere online and provided a real public service.  So when the war drums start pounding, one of the first places you should go to find out what's really happening is Information Clearing House.   Shamus Cooke (ICC) explained yesterday:

The long awaited Syrian peace talks — instigated by power brokers Russia and the United States — had already passed their initial due date, and are now officially stillborn.
The peace talks are dead because the U.S.-backed rebels are boycotting the negotiations, ruining any hope for peace, while threatening to turn an already-tragic disaster into a Yugoslavia-style catastrophe...or worse.
The U.S. backed rebels are not participating in the talks because they have nothing to gain from them, and everything to lose.
In war, the purpose of peace negotiations is to copy the situation on the battlefield and paste it to a treaty: the army winning the war enters negotiations from a dominant position, since its position is enforceable on the ground.
The U.S.-backed rebels would be entering peace talks broken and beaten, having been debilitated on the battlefield. The Syrian army has had a string of victories, pushing the rebels back to the border areas where they are protected by U.S. allies Turkey, Jordan, and northern Lebanon. Peace talks would merely expose this reality and end the war on terms dictated by the Syrian government. 

No, this isn't about peace.  It's about so-called 'rebels' losing.  Because they don't have popular support.  Two days ago, Finian Cunningham (Press TV via ICH) reported:

 Western-backed insurgents are being destroyed or routed from villages and towns across Syria as the Syrian army moves swiftly on to its next objective of freeing the country’s second major city, Aleppo, in the north. That clash may prove a more bloody and protracted fight than the three-week campaign to retake Qusayr. But, given their withering loss of fighters and the severance from key supply routes through Qusayr, the eventual defeat of insurgents in Aleppo looks all but assured.
The recapture of Aleppo, and shutting off the NATO weapons supply line from Turkey in the north, would then prove to be the last stand for the foreign-backed mercenaries. These mercenaries have been terrorizing Syria since March 2011 at the behest of NATO powers and their regional allies, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Western agenda of regime change to oust President Bashar al-Assad is therefore, in a word, a dead letter.

For the US backing to come, the 'rebels' had to pretend to split with al Qadea in Iraq, which they made a pretense of doing earlier this week.  From Tuesday's snapshot, "The 'damage' has been that Jabhat al-Nusra has had 'funding' issues.  Governments wanting to support them -- the UK, the US -- are faced with questions by their citizens of why is the government supporting people who tried to kill US and UK service members in Iraq? [. . .] So if outrage wasn't alive over the assassination of a child and if funds weren't at risk, the Islamic State of Iraq would be as welcome in the 'rebel' camp as it was last week and the week before and the week before that and . . . "

BBC gathers a number of foreign policy types to explain what's at risk.  People like Joshua Landis who feels Barack "owes both the American and Syrian people a clear statement about what he sees as Syria's future borders, what kind of government he hopes to see in the future and how he will carry it out."  A clear statement?  He's failed to deliver any statement in the last 24 hours over the new 'policy.'  David Rieff's observations include:

What is clear is that, having insisted for more than two years that it was inevitable that Assad would fall, the Obama administration now realises its adolescent progress narrative about Syria as one of the last dominoes of the Arab Spring is so much liberal internationalist, human-rights-ist wishful thinking, and that outside military help for the Syrian rebellion is necessary not to ensure its victory but rather to stave off its defeat.
Why both liberal interventionists and neo-conservatives are so persuaded that overthrowing Assad and inflicting a defeat on Hezbollah is both a moral and a geo-strategic imperative, even if the effect is, as in Iraq, to evict Christianity from one of its homelands and make Syria safer for al-Qaeda, is a mystery to me.
But this, it seems, is what the consensus has become.

And CBS News reports (link is text and video):

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, who has reported extensively from inside Syria and has spoken with her contacts there following the Obama administration's decision, said it is "pretty much guaranteed" that some of the U.S.-supplied weapons will go astray, despite whatever safeguards the U.S. put in place.
"All sorts of methods have been discussed to keep track of [the weapons], right down to numbering the shells and distributing them to specific groups. But these groups fight with one another. [And] There's a thriving black market in arms. So it's going to be very hard - no, impossible - to keep track of them," Palmer said.

Changing gears, a number of e-mails to the public e-mail account ask about hearings this week when only one was reported on here.  As community members know, at least one hearing gets covered (by me) in the community newsletter.  But that's not really what's going on here.

In some cases, I'm just not in the mood.  Kat and I both went to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing this week.  Committee Chair Bernie Sanders is still finding his 'chair' 'legs.'  And to report on that would be offering a host of examples that I'm just not in the mood for.  Here's one, I'm assuming he's setting the stage for two years from now if the VA has not gone paperless.  But I mean, using hearing time to kindly (and he was very kind about it) explain to the VA that you want regular updates on the progress on the move to paperless records?  I'm just not in the mood.  I've been too many VA hearings for this nonsense of let's be kind to the VA.  They've got a scandal with regards to text books (meeting the GI Bill students needs), they've got a huge scandal brewing in Atlanta and it was play footsie with the VA yet again?  I'm not in the mood.  And I'll give Sanders the benefit of the doubt because he is new to his position.  But I'm not in the mood to write about those hearings or about how another male senator needs to educate himself on MST (including learning the term) before he next speaks about it without grasping that that's what he's talking about.

There's the nonsense like Dianne Feinstein.   Fienstein's so busy trying to protect her own ass (she knew everything about the spying) that she can't do her damn job.  She didn't take an oath to the NSA.  She took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution."  Her failure to take her oath seriously is disgusting.  Don't get me started on that with regards to the Barbie Babbles Mikulski.  The apologists for the spying scandal are appalling.

Kirsten Powers (Daily Beast) has a strong column on this today -- on how Congress and others are embarrassing themselves and the country by attacking the whistle-blower Ed Snowden:

[. . .]  Snowden has been called a "traitor" by House Majority Leader John Boehner. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the leaks "an act of treason." The fury among the protectors of the status quo is so great that you have longtime Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen smearing Snowden as a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.” The New York Times’s David Brooks lamented that Snowden, who put himself in peril for the greater good, was too “individualistic.” It seems that he wasn’t sufficiently indoctrinated to blindly worship the establishment institutions that have routinely failed us. Brooks argued that “for society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures.” 
This is backward. It’s the institutions that need to demonstrate respect for the public they allegedly serve. If Snowden or any other American is skeptical of institutional power, it is not due to any personal failing on their part. The lack of respect is a direct outgrowth of the bad behavior of the nation’s institutions, behavior that has undermined Americans’ trust in them. According to Gallup’s “confidence in institutions” poll, trust is at an historic low, with Congress clocking in at a 13 percent approval rating in 2012. Yes, this is the same Congress that has “oversight” of the government spying programs. 

Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) was addressing it Wednesday:

Edward Snowden has been called a traitor, a narcissist, a loser and a danger to national security. Reporters have questioned whether he was friendly enough to his neighbors or why he made a good salary despite having just a GED. He has even been criticized for leaving the military after he broke his legs. His whereabouts are unknown because the federal government is preparing to file charges against him.
Such extravagant and bizarre levels of vitriol can mean only one thing. When politicians and rich pundits all join together to deliver a very public beat down, the victim of the beating is probably someone who did the people a great service.
Snowden revealed the extent of the government’s levels of surveillance conducted in America and around the world. Millions of phone and email records are turned over to the National Security Agency (NSA) in something ominously called operation Boundless Informant. Yes, that is the real name of a program which gives information about millions of human beings from Verizon, ATT, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft to the United States government. We are all under government surveillance and weasel words like “metadata” should not make anyone feel better. Big brother is watching all of us.
Worse than the government’s disregard for our constitutional rights has been the acquiescence of Congress and the courts. The Obama administration and the Bushites before them all made sure that their lawlessness first passed muster with Congress. President Obama’s first line of defense after the story broke was to announce that congress knew and approved of all his plans.

 And the disgust with Congress is palatable.  You couldn't leave Wednesday's embarrassing hearing without hearing citizens talking about their level of disgust with Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Babsie Babbles, Susan Collins and others.  As one man said, "What the hell is wrong with being a security guard?  That woman [Collins] and Durbin acted like it was the same as being a child molester!"  Exactly.  The spoiled and entitled let their true nature show.  They did it last week too.  And I pointed that out here.  Their concern was not about the citizens being spied upon.

Dropping back to the June 6th "Iraq snapshot,"

At today's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Senator Mark Kirk estimated that this spying would have involved as many as 120 million phone calls.  (A key point Bamford made to Marco Werman was that raw data can be overwhelming and counter-productive to spying efforts.)  Kirk had one issue -- which was were members of Congress spied on.

Senator Mark Kirk:  I want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phones inside the Capitol were monitored -- of members of Congress.  That would give a future executive branch, if they started pulling this stuff, kind of a -- would give them unique leverage over the legislature?

Attorney General Eric Holder:   Uh, with all due respect, Senator, I don't think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss, uhm,  that issue.  I'd be more than glad to come back in a -- in a appropriate setting to discuss, uh, the issues that you have raised but I -- in this open forum, I don't -- I do not

Senator Mark Kirk:  I would interrupt you and say that the correct answer would be:  "No, we stayed within our lane and I am assuring you that we did not spy on members of Congress."

Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski:  You know I'd like to suggest something here.  When I read the New York Times this morning, it was like, "Oh God, not one more thing."  And not one more thing where we're trying to protect America and it looks like we're spying on America.  I think the full Senate needs to get a briefing on this.

Kirk, Mikulski and Senator Richard Shelby all agreed it was an important question.  And it's important because it's them.  It's too bad that they don't feel it's important for non-members of Congress.  It's too bad that Mikulski's 'answer' is to call for a closed hearing.  It's too damn bad that she doesn't think the American people are owed answers.  Remember, in American now, 'democracy' translates as something that belongs only to elected members of Congress."

They're only concerned about themselves.  That's all they give a damn about, the people mentioned above.  It's wrong -- if they're spied on.  After they can get promises that they weren't spied on, it's a-okay.  And a security guard?  Oh, that is just so beneath them they can't relate.  What is it the idiot Dick Durbin said?  Dropping back to the June 12th snapshot for that from that day's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing:

Senator Dick Durbin:  I was on the intelligence community right at the time of 9-11. I saw what happened immediately afterwards.  There was a dramatic investment in intelligence resources for our nation, to keep us safe, a a dramatic investment in the personnel to execute the plan to keep us safe. I trusted, and I still do, that we were hiring the very best  -- trusting them to not only give us their best in terms of knowledge but also their loyalty to the country.  I'd like to ask you about one of those employees who is now in a Hong Kong hotel and what is as follows: He was a high school drop out, he was a community college drop out, he had a GED degree, he was injured in training for the US Army and had to leave as a result of that and he took a job as a security guard for the NSA in Maryland.  Shortly thereafter, he took a job for the CIA in what is characterized in the Guardian piece that was published.  At age 23, he was stationed in an undercover manner overseas for the CIA and was given clearance and access to a wide varray -- a wide array of classified documents.  At age 25, he went to work for a private contractor and most recently worked for Booz Allen, another private contractor, working for the government.  I'm trying to look at this resume and background.  It says he ended up earning somewhere between $122,000 and $200,00 a year.  [Fun facts: While 29-year-old Ed Snowden may have made $200,000 a year, 68-year-old Dick Durbin makes $174,000 a year as a senator.  Durbin hails from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and received his law degree from Georgetown University Law.] I'm trying to look at the resume background for this individual who had access to the highly classified material at such a young age with a limited educational and work experience, part of it as a security guard and ask if you were troubled that he was given that kind of opportunity to be so close to information that was critical to our security?

What is up with Dickless Durbin and his sneering at security guards?  What a world class piece of s**t Durbin has become.  And that's why I'm so disgusted.  The people's representatives aren't even pretending to relate the people anymore.  Cry baby Durbin, who cries in public, thinks he can look down on someone doing an honest job's work?  Who the hell does he think he is?  And Susan Collins was just as bad but with that voice that makes it sound like a goat's entered the Senate chamber.

 And, as Norman Solomon (ZNet) notes, you can't even count on so-called allies:

The potential and the problem are perhaps best symbolized by the Progressive Caucus whip, Barbara Lee of California, arguably the strongest progressive in the House.
Lee provided a good statement to a local newspaper, saying: “The right to privacy in this country is non-negotiable. We have a system of checks and balances in place to protect our most basic civil liberties, and while I believe that national security is paramount, we must move forward in a way that does not sacrifice our American values and freedoms.”
Yet a full week after the NSA surveillance story broke, there wasn’t any news release on the subject to be found on Congresswoman Lee’s official website. She had not issued any other statement on the scandal.
If the most progressive members of Congress aren’t willing to go to the mat against fellow-Democrat Obama over an issue as profound as the Bill of Rights, the result will be a tragic failure of leadership -- as well as an irreparable disaster for the United States of America.
And how about speaking up for Edward Snowden while some in both parties on Capitol Hill are calling him a traitor and pronouncing him guilty of treason? Public mention of the virtues of his courageous whistleblowing seems to be a congressional bridge way too far.

It's just disgusting.   I'm at the hearings, there's just nothing I've seen as worth wasting my time to report on.  Back to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, I don't feel the need to rip apart Sanders while he acclimates to his new position as Chair in part because it's a natural process.  (I've said it before, Senator Patty Murray is the only one I've seen -- House or Senate -- become Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and hit the ground running.  Everyone else has had to feel their way into the position and find their own strengths.) And I also don't feel like ripping him apart because he may be the only one in the Senate besides Senator Rand Paul who's truly outraged about the spying on American citizens.  As Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) explains:

Late on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced legislation to rein in the NSA and the FBI.
His bill is called S. 1168 and it says it is designed “to limit overbroad surveillance requests and expand reporting requirements.”

Justin Raimondo ( has a great column where he both provides the term for this scandal (Datagate) and takes on a number of idiots.  If you're surprised that a number of 'left' voices are praising the spying on Americans, it's only because you weren't paying attention or you watched as people like Amy Goodman fawned over faux lefties.  Maybe next time, Amy Goodman, don't gush over a War Hawk -- and don't forget to tell your audience that 'groovy' Joshy Micah Marshall is a War Hawk who cheered war on Iraq.  Maybe then they'll know right away that sewage like JMM is never to be trusted?  Former CIA officer Michael Scheurer has an Information Clearing House piece outlining all of the current scandals of the White House and notes, "If Americans are surprised by Obama’s deliberate attack on the Constitution, they have only themselves to blame. From his first months in office, Barack Obama has consistently demonstrated his contempt for Americans and their Constitution, as well as an intention to have his administration -- and especially Attorney General Holder’s Justice Department -- treat them in a lying and lawless manner."

As he notes, one of those scandals is the targeting of political groups by the IRS which brings us to another embarrassing NPR moment.  If Tamara Keith and Melissa Block can each take their mouth of one of Barack Obama's balls, can they find time to explain the bulls**t they pulled today on All Things Considered?

The IRS scandal, you may remember, is the work of low level operatives in Cleveland, Ohio.  That's the lie the IRS officials appearing before Congress trot out.  Well, not Lois Lerner.  She appeared before Congress but refused to answer questions.  So the Congress has spoken at length to two employees out of the Cleveland office.  Tamara Keith is apparently the first reporter to be allowed to review all of the transcripts of the interviews.

What does she discover?  It wasn't two rouge employees and they had help from DC.  It goes to "mid-level IRS people in Washington, DC."  But she treats this as non-news and stresses it doesn't lead up to the White House.  I'm sorry, the claim was what?  The IRS officials told Congress it was low level employees -- apparently just two -- in Cleveland.  And it may have just been one because the outgoing acting IRS Commissioner told Congress that the person who got an oral warning might not actually have been involved.

I'm sorry if you've been at the hearings, you know this.  The revelation that the story now goes up to DC is the news.  You can bury it all you want.. You can even mock one of the two Cleveland employees for being "frustrated" (listen to Tamara do the drama on that term) with the Washington people.  But you can't call yourself a reporter while you've got your mouth around one of Barack's balls.

One of the two people she saw transcripts on, Tammy The Former Husky Jeans Child Model explains, is non-political.  That doesn't mean one damn thing.  The IRS is supposed to be non-political.  If the IRS was used inappropriately -- in house or above the IRS -- the issue would not be the workers being political. The issue would be the targeting being political and the targeting went above the workers.  As Mike noted earlier this week -- about the same supposed non-political -- US House Rep Elijah Cummings looked like an idiot by presenting the non-political (actually apolitical) worker (same one that's in Tamara's story) as proof that there was no scandal here.  Repeating, the IRS workers are not supposed to be political, the IRS is not supposed to be political.  The fear with the targeting has always been that it was ordered and that was political.  What we now know is that what was told to the Congress was a lie.  The IRS repeatedly lied to the Congress claiming that it was just those two employees. That didn't go higher.  We now know it went to DC.  That's higher, that's more than two low-level 'rogue' employees.

And I'll go further, J. Russell George needs to be reprimanded.  Officially and in writing.  He's the IG who exposed this.  He refused to question superiors in the chain of command and he questioned the Cleveland workers with their superiors present.  That's not how you conduct an investigation and don't get me started on the months that the report lingered because someone was pursuing college classes.  I'm sorry, IG's not a part-time job.




Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The uni-polar menace

Jia Lynn Yang (Brisbane Times) reports:

HONG KONG: Edward Snowden, the self-confessed leaker of secret surveillance documents, claimed Wednesday that the United States has mounted massive hacking operations against hundreds of Chinese targets since 2009.
The former contractor, whose work at the National Security Agency gave him access to highly classified US intelligence, made the assertions in an interview with the South China Morning Post. The newspaper said he showed it "unverified documents" describing an extensive US campaign to obtain information from computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.
"We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one," he told the newspaper.
According to Mr Snowden, the NSA has engaged in more than 61,000 hacking operations worldwide, including hundreds aimed at Chinese targets. Among the targets were universities, businesses and public officials.

Anyone still believing the destruction of the USSR and the switch from a bi-polar system to a uni-polar system would bring about peace and a better world better think again.

Our government has truly made the United States the biggest threat to the world.  The US does The Drone War, disappears people into Guantanamo and black sites, spies non-stop and sews dissension wherever possible.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 12, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Kuwait and Iraq's prime ministers meet-up, dogs roam Wasit Province, Nouri's big meet-up last Sunday with KRG President Massoud Barzani appears to have accomplished nothing, the new State Dept scandal, Senator Carl Levin blocks important legislation, Senator Dick Durbin appears to believe he's underpaid, Senator Patrick Leahy asks questions about the spying on the American people, and more.

Scandals are running wild and free these days and if you doubt how serious they are, go visit The Daily Howler where Bob Somerby who insisted in the mid '00s that the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame wasn't a scandal and didn't happen. (Somerby's friends with Time's Matthew Cooper who Scooter Libby outed Plame too -- a fact he always 'forgot' to disclose while hectoring the press about ethics. Fortunately, we were here to help Bob Somberby by making the disclosure he failed to -- and he can think his abusive friend for informing us of the relationship.)  Today, Bob's out to prove there are no scandals.  First off, a 'great' reporter has spoken on the spying of Americans.

I like Walter Pincus and I know Walter Pincus.  We're happy to highlight Walter's reporting here.  And we did during the Bully Boy Bush years.  And if Mitt Romney were President, we'd be highlighting Pincus now.  But there's no point in highlighting Walter when a Democrat is president because Walter's in the tank.  And what Bob Somerby's calling "reporting" is actually a column and your first clue there is that it's Walter's opinions.  Walter runs interference for Democrats in the White House.  It's a tradition with him.

Lawrence O'Donnell doesn't live in a political closet.  But that's not why Somerby's hissing at him, Somerby's hissing over a the State Dept scandal and furious with David Corn and Lawrence O'Donnell for a discussion on O'Donnell's show.  Which leads him to make these statements:

The boys don't seem to know who their “whistle-blower” is. If they watched Gregory Hicks testify in the House last month, they should know that the tribal lunacy in which we wallow may have spread inside the State Department by now.
The boys never extended this warning. Instead, they kept calling the complaining party a “whistle-blower,” then found ways to say that his presentation “already has an echo of truth to it.”

There is so much wrong with that but we'll just note two parts.  First, apparently Somerby never saw the All In The Family episode where Gloria tells the 'riddle' about the doctor who can't operate on their own son.  (Archie hems and haws and misses the point because the doctor is . . . - gasp - a woman!)  Doctors can be women.  You know what else, whistle-blowers can be women too.  And in this case, Somerby's "he" is a she.  

Monday, CBS This Morning featured a report by John Wood where he spoke with whistle-blower Aurelia Fedenisn (link is video and text):

According to Fedenisn, when a high-ranking State Department security officials was shown a draft of their findings that investigations were being interfered with by State Department higher-ups, he said, "This is going to kill us." In the final report however, all references to specific cases had been removed.
"I mean my heart really went out to the agents in that office, because they really want to do the right thing, they want to investigate the cases fully, correctly, accurately ... and they can't," Fedenisn said.
Fedenisn, a DSS agent for 26 years, was a part of the team that prepared the draft report and is now a whistleblower who has taken her concerns to Congress.

Aurelia Fedenisn is a she.  And today, June 12th, Bob Somerby is confused by that even though he's writing about it and CBS filed the report Monday,June 10th.  (I didn't see the report until this morning.  The first thing I did before writing about this at length this morning was 'research,' called friends in the press and asked, "What am I missing on this story?  We just touched on it in the snapshot yesterday.")  Bob Somerby apparently has no friends to call on and his long documented sexism surfaces again as he insists that O'Donnell and Corn were discussing a man ("then found ways to say that his presentation 'already has an echo of truth to it'").  Quickly, I also don't know that you hector O'Donnell and Corn about their discussion when you're too lazy to find out who the whistle-blower is when her identity has been out there publicly for two days now.  We'll come back to the second point in just a second.

Acid, booze, and ass
Needles, guns, and grass
Lots of laughs lots of laughs
Everybody's saying that hell's the hippest way to go
Well I don't think so
But I'm gonna take a look around it though
Blue I love you

-- "Blue," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Blue album

A few basics on the State Dept scandal, Ashley Fantz and Jill Dougherty (CNN) explain:

Regarding the latest allegations, CNN was provided the documents by a lawyer for a whistle-blower who is a former senior inspector general investigator.
They include:
• An active U.S. ambassador "routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children," the memo says. The ambassador's protective detail and others "were well aware of the behavior," the memo asserts. When a diplomatic security officer tried to investigate, undersecretary of state for management Patrick Kennedy allegedly ordered the investigator "not to open a formal investigation."
On Tuesday, CNN obtained a statement from the ambassador, who vigorously denied the allegations, calling them "baseless."

BBC notes,  "CNN also reports that the inspector general found an attempt to investigate claims that a drug ring near the US embassy in Baghdad was supplying illegal substances to state department security contractors was stopped."  The scandal may go to the fact that there is no Inspector General.  There is a Deputy IG acting as IG.  Back on  December 7, 2011, at the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee hearing,  US House Rep Jason Cahffetz, Chair of that Subcommittee, was outlining the problems and the failures to nominate heads for the State Dept IG and other positions.

The latest State Dept scandal led to an eruption of questions at today's State Dept press briefing.  Jen Psaki is the State Dept spokesperson in the following:

QUESTION: (Inaudible) really quickly, I just need to clarify something from yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- on the IG and this whole --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- imbroglio. And that is the – specifically these outside law enforcement experts who are working with the IG now, are they investigating the specific incidents that were outlined in the 2012 October memo, or are they just investigating – or are they just looking at the process?

MS. PSAKI: Their focus, as we understand it – and I would point you to the IG’s office, of course, to confirm this, but their focus is on reviewing the process.

QUESTION: The process, okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So it is incorrect to say that the – there is some kind of a new or outside investigation into the actual allegations that are contained in that memo, the October 2012 memo. The investigations into them were done by DS in-house, internally, and are either finished or are in process. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: And the new – anything new – the outside experts – doesn’t have to do with the facts or the non-facts, as the case may be, in those specific incidents?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the way that we understand it – and again, the IG’s office --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: -- I’m just repeating, is independent, so I’d point you to all of them, but is that they are looking into the processes as it relates to these cases. So I’m not sure how they will go about that process. They’re working with outside law enforcement. But the focus, as you mentioned, is on taking a look at some of the issues raised in the February memo.

QUESTION: Well, no, no. I understand, but they are not actually going – all right, say there’s incident X.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay? They’re not re-looking into the facts of incident X; they are looking at how the DS investigators investigated the facts of incident X, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is the focus. But to confirm everything they’re doing, I would point you to them.

QUESTION: Well, then let me put it another way. Once that – once the outside experts are done, there isn’t going to – with their probe – people who were involved and either disciplined or not disciplined whatever for these incidents, their cases haven’t been re-opened, have they?

MS. PSAKI: Well, some cases are ongoing.

QUESTION: But from the point of view of these outside law enforcement experts that you talked about, they’re not re-looking into the actual events or allegations.

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not trying to be tricky here with you at all, I promise. I just don’t want to go too far in speaking on behalf of the IG’s office. So the focus of their review is to look at the process.

QUESTION: And whether or not investigators were improperly – or whether there was – whether or not they are independent or there’s – they have the appearance and --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: But --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: -- I would refer to them for more --

QUESTION: I have a --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- question on this as well.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Could you tell us how the allegations that were in the original internal October 2012 memo came to light? That has not been clear to me. Was it – because it was a routine review by the IG.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So how did --

MS. PSAKI: Well, all of those cases, which were from different time periods, were already under review, so it depended on each case. Each case is different.

QUESTION: So when the IG went in in October 2012, these allegations had already been made within the DS, the DS was already examining them?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And you don’t know under what circumstances these allegations were made? Was it confidential tipoffs? Was it a survey that was given out to workers? How did the allegations come to light?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are different individual cases --


MS. PSAKI: -- which I don’t want to outline from here, of course.


MS. PSAKI: So each case is different.

QUESTION: Okay. So there wasn’t any kind of – they didn’t go in and sit down and say, okay, everybody tell us if you’ve got any concerns, and then they gathered it all up and then from that the October ’12 memo was constructed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the memo was drafted, again, by the IG’s office.


MS. PSAKI: Right. So that was as part of a routine review. In terms of what information they gathered, you’d have to talk to them about it. But again, they didn’t have access to case files and there was a great deal of unsubstantiated information in there. But I would speak to them about how that memo was put together in particular.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, another question on the IG, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We talked – CNN talked with Congressman Royce today, and he said that there – one of the key issues beyond everything is that there’s a lack of a permanent IG, and he said this has been going on for years. Can you – do you agree that that indeed is one of – is a problem, and can you explain why there is no permanent IG at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can tell you first, one, we have received Chairman Royce’s letter and are processing his request for further information. We’re also working to schedule an appropriate briefing as soon as possible. I know that wasn’t your question, but --

QUESTION: A briefing for us?

MS. PSAKI: For the Hill. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Oh, for the Hill. Not for us.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve been briefing you quite extensively here, if I do say so myself.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: But in terms of the IG, absolutely, there is a need to have a permanent IG in place. The Secretary has made a choice on that front. In terms of when that will be fully through the process, I don’t have any update on that, but it is something that is a priority for him and he is focused on.

QUESTION: Well, why isn’t there one, though, for this long a time?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know the history of why someone wasn’t approved here or put through. I know people have been nominated at various times, sometimes there’s a delay for reasons that are hard to explain.

Earlier this year (February 4th), the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel wrote [PDF format warning] a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry which addressed the IG issue:

 As you begin your tenure, we would like to raise an issue essential to the proper functioning of the Department of State.  For more than five years, since January 16, 2008, the Department has lacked a presidentially-nominated, Senate-confirmed Inspector General.  That gap of more than 1,840 days is the longest vacancy of any of the 73 Inspector General positions across the federal government.  While this would be problematic under any circumstances, the repeated criticisms of the independence and effectiveness of that office by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) heighten the need for an appointment.

In addition, April 17th the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing (see  April 17th snapshot,  Wally covered it with  "The buget hearing that avoided the budget,"  Ruth with "Kerry pressed on Benghazi," Kat  with "I'm sick of Democrats in Congress" and Ava's with "Secretary Kerry doesn't really support women's rights").  From that day's snapshot:

US House Rep Ed Royce:  And needless to say, given Washington's chronic budget deficit, wasteful spending is intolerable.  But even good programs must be subject to prioritization.  We can't do everything.  Along those lines, it is inexcusable that the State Department has been operating for four-plus-years without a presidentially-nominated, Senate-confirmed Inspector General.  This Committee is committed to its responsibility for overseeing the spending and other operations of the State Department -- and that is a bipartisan commitment I am pleased to join Mr. Engel in carrying out.

Ed Royce is the Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and he was speaking at this morning's hearing  on the State Department's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014.  Appearing before him was Secretary of State John Kerry.   Engel is US House Rep Eliot Engel who is the Ranking Member.  Other than his remarks beating the drums on Iran -- and praising US President Barack Obama for the same ("Over the past four years, President Obama has unified the international community against this threat and signed into law the strongest-ever sanctions against the regime in Tehran."") -- his opening remarks really don't require noting here nor do even of his remarks during questioning.  If you believe a House members greatest duty is to serve Israel, then I've short changed you.  If you believe a US House member needs to be covering US issues, Eliot Engel has short changed you. 

The issue Royce raised is not a minor one.  We first noted it December 7, 2011 when US House Rep Jason Chaffetz raised it in a hearing.  We've noted this lack of oversight many times since including last month with "Media again misses story (lack of oversight)."  Maybe if the press had covered it, the position wouldn't have remained vacant for this record length.

Chair Ed Royce:  I'd also like to call your attention to the State Department's Inspector General's Office.  This is the key independent office looking at waste and fraud.  Mr. Secretary, as of today, there has been no permanent State Department Inspector General for over five years.  This includes President Obama's entire first term.   The Committee raised this issue in a bi-partisan letter sent to you in February and we would like to see an immediate appointment to this position.

Secretary John Kerry:  On the IG, you're absolutely correct.  We're -- we're trying to fill a number of positions right now, the IG among them.  The greatest difficulty that I'm finding now that I'm on the other side of the fence is frankly the vetting process.  And I've got some folks that I selected way back in February when I first came in and it's now April and I'm still waiting for the vetting to move.  I've talked to the White House.  They're totally on board.  They're trying to get it moved.  So I hope that within a very short span of time, you're going to see these slots filled.  They need to be.  And that's just the bottom line.  It's important and I commit to you, we will.

Chair Ed Royce:  I think this is the longest gap that we've had in the history of this position.  So if you could talk to the President about this in short order, we would very much appreciate it. 

Secretary John Kerry:  I don't need to talk to the President, we're going to get this done.  We know it and we're trying to get the right people.  Matching person to task and also clearing all the other hurdles, as I am finding, is not as easy as one always thinks.  But we'll get it done. 

This issue has been festering forever and the administration -- that would be Barack, he was elected President of the United States (twice) -- and it has been ignored repeatedly.  If the allegations are true, the lack of an IG is how that happened.

Going back to Somerby, but moving beyond his sexism and laziness, Gregory Hicks?  Gregory Hicks was a believable witness.  George Zornick (The Nation) spoke to Jesselyn Radack, the FBI whistle-blower who is now with the Government Accountability Project:

“In terms of whistleblower calculus, he fits—he had a reasonable belief that he could get help there in time to at least minimize the damage.”
Radack has represented numerous federal whistleblowers, including many from the State Department. She said that not only is Hicks unquestionably a whistleblower but that his immediate poor performance review and subsequent inability to get a good assignment easily categorize as improper retaliation.
“Those are two of the most classic, beginning ways to start the retaliation,” she said.
Maybe Hicks is a bad manager, and maybe he isn’t—but Radack strongly cautioned against anonymous sources trashing his character, something she has repeatedly seen in other whistleblower cases. “This is very typical of the kinds of attacks and baseless caricatures that whistleblowers get painted about them as soon as they blow the whistle,” she said. “The kind of smears I’m hearing are pretty much in keeping with the smears I hear of other whistleblowers, including other State Department whistleblowers I have.”
Radack also noted that while it may be State Department policy to have a lawyer present at all staff meetings with Congress, it isn’t a good one. “My organization sees that as really just a whistleblower deterrent, because if you’re going to Congress over something that your agency is doing, then obviously the lawyer is going to stop you. These are impediments that are being put up, in my opinion, that work against whistleblowers,” she said.
“The whistleblower has a First Amendment right to petition Congress for a redress of grievances, and under that prong, I think they should—do not pass go, go directly to Congress,” Radack continued.

Hicks is whistle-blower.  Somerby's problem is he painted himself into a corner on Susan Rice and 'never wrong!' Somerby can't leave that corner now.  So his embarrassing May 13ths posts against Hicks stand -- with all their errors.  How tired has Bob Somerby's act become?  He's back to attacking Maureen Dowd again today.  Because he has no life, because he hates women and most of all because he's got nothing new to say, hasn't for years now.  Substitute "writers" for "artists," and Joni Mitchell was describing Somerby's problems on Q with Jian Ghomeshi (CBC Radio One) yesterday, "You know inspiration doesn't stay with a lot of artists for very long.  It's very brief.  And you're in the game and you've got to keep it sustaining something, right?  You know, you notice like one-trick-wonders, two good albums and then they peter out.  You know to sustain a gift for a long time is very rare."

Barack's spying on Americans?  That's because of the lazy press, Somerby argues today.  While I love the idea of a free press, no one can be harder on than me (and that's especially true offline).  But exactly how was the press supposed to report a program that not even Congress was briefed on?  Somerby is as tired as his folk hero (a male, naturally) and needs to find some new chords to play because we've heard his tired song over and over now and long for something new.

Speaking of sour grapes . . .

Senator Dick Durbin:  I was on the intelligence community right at the time of 9-11. I saw what happened immediately afterwards.  There was a dramatic investment in intelligence resources for our nation, to keep us safe, a a dramatic investment in the personnel to execute the plan to keep us safe. I trusted, and I still do, that we were hiring the very best  -- trusting them to not only give us their best in terms of knowledge but also their loyalty to the country.  I'd like to ask you about one of those employees who is now in a Hong Kong hotel and what is as follows: He was a high school drop out, he was a community college drop out, he had a GED degree, he was injured in training for the US Army and had to leave as a result of that and he took a job as a security guard for the NSA in Maryland.  Shortly thereafter, he took a job for the CIA in what is characterized in the Guardian piece that was published.  At age 23, he was stationed in an undercover manner overseas for the CIA and was given clearance and access to a wide varray -- a wide array of classified documents.  At age 25, he went to work for a private contractor and most recently worked for Booz Allen, another private contractor, working for the government.  I'm trying to look at this resume and background.  It says he ended up earning somewhere between $122,000 and $200,00 a year.  [Fun facts: While 29-year-old Ed Snowden may have made $200,000 a year, 68-year-old Dick Durbin makes $174,000 a year as a senator.  Durbin hails from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and received his law degree from Georgetown University Law.] I'm trying to look at the resume background for this individual who had access to the highly classified material at such a young age with a limited educational and work experience, part of it as a security guard and ask if you were troubled that he was given that kind of opportunity to be so close to information that was critical to our security?

Well at least Dickie didn't cry in public, right?  That's a step up.  He was speaking at this afternoon's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing -- and maybe he's angling for a pay raise for senators?    Your pay is based on a skill set.  Director of National Security General Keith B. Alexander made that point. I'm not surprised by that at all.

Alexander, Homeland Security's Rand Beers ("acting deputy"), NIST Director Patrick Gallagher and Richard McFeely (Executive Assistant Director of Criminal, Cyber, Reponse, and Services Branch- FBI) appeared before the full Committee which Senator Barbara Mikulski is Chair of.  Ava will be addressing Mikulski tonight at Trina's site (and may grab Dianne Fienstein as well).  Wally will cover a topic -- possibly Mike Johanns but he and Ava are discussing that right now. Wally will be writing at Rebecca's site tonight.  Kat's going to do an overview which will include Feinstein.   By the way, Ava's going to let it rip including a phrase I don't say in my personal life but I do applaud her for it and agree with her and felt that way last week when we encountered Mikulski as a Chair for the first time last week.  And Wally's saying that he's covering Jeff Merkley instead and will also be noting the Committee Chair.

What we'll note here is Dianne Feinstein isn't the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Commitee but acted as though she were.  There was no reason for her to be at the hearing, she heard from the witness yesterday and will again tomorrow.  It's not as though she added a damn thing of value to the hearing.  She was there to run interference.  She broke into others questioning.  At a certain point, it stops looking DiFi's protecting the law breakers and it becomes more obvious that she's trying to prevent the public from grasping that DiFi is also responsible for the spying. 

In addition to that, we'll note this exchange.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  [. . .]  I've had a lot of concern about section 215 of The PATRIOT Act.  Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance [Act] -- FISA.  We've had a number of common sense proposals in the Judiciary Committee to improve these provisions but the intelligence community has told us that, really, we obviously don't have the ability as simple senators, to know anything as well as you do and so they don't need changes, we're told they're critical to our counterterrorism efforts, Congress shouldn't 'tinker,' we should simply trust you to use in the right way and they should be made permanent.  Now I don't think that's wise.  I think that there should be sunset [automatic expiration] provisions and we should look at them periodically.  We should actually debate them in a free and open society.  Now we have information recently declassified by the Director of National Intelligence -- and I'm not going into questions on whether he contradicted himself on a couple of answers -- but taking what he's recently declassified, it appears that Section 702 said was critical to upsetting the Zazhi case in New York City.  But it's not clear if data collected pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act was similarly critical or crucial.  So, Gen Alexander, let me ask you this, has the intelligence community kept track of how many times phone records obtained through Section 215 of the Patriot Act were critical to the discovery and disruption of terrorist threats?  

Gen Keith Alexander: I don't have those figures today.  I --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Are those -- are those figures available?

Gen Keith Alexander:  We're going to make those figures available.  We promise --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  How soon?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Over the next week, it would be our intent to get those figures out.  I talked to the Intell Committee [Senate Intelligence Committee] on that yesterday.  I think it's important to know --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Wait a minute, wait a minute.  You talked to the Intell Community about this yesterday but you didn't have the figures yesterday?

Gen Keith Alexander:  I gave an approximate number to them --

Senator Patrick Leahy:   Okay, what's the approximate --

Gen Keith Alexander:  It's classified.  But it's dozens of terrorists events that these have helped prevent.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay, so dozens.  Now we collect millions and millions and millions of records to, uh, 215, but dozens have proved crucial -- critical -- is that right?  Dozens?

Gen Keith Alexander:  For both here and abroad.  In disrupting or contributing to the disruption of terrorist attacks.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Of all those millions, dozens have been critical? 

Gen Keith Alexander:  That's correct.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Would you give me the specific -- even if that's classified -- the specific cases we're talking about?

Gen Keith Alexander:  We will.  But we're going through the Intell Committee to do this.  Tomorrow, I'll give as clear as we've vetted precisely what we've done on each of those.  And the reason I want to get this exactly right, Senator, is because I want the American people to know that we're being transparent in here. 

Senator Patrick Leahy:  No, no,  no, you're not giving it to the American people.  You're giving it classified to specific members of Congress.  Is that correct?

Gen Keith Alexander:   Well there's two parts.  We can give the classified.  That's easy.  But I think also for this debate, what you are asking -- and perhaps I misunderstood this -- but I thought you were also asking what we could put out unclassified.  So the intent would be to do both. 

Senator Patrick Leahy:  You can do that in a week?

Gen Keith Alexander:  That is our intent.  I am pushing for that and --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay.

Gen Keith Alexander:  -- perhaps faster. If I don't get any kicks from behind me.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  If you don't get any what?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Kicks from the people behind me who are doing the work because we do want to get this right.  And it has to be vetted across the community so that what we give you, you know is accurate, and we have everybody here, especially between the FBI and the rest of the intell community can say this is exactly correct.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay.  DNI [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper said that Section 702 collection is critical to the discovery and disruption of the plot to bomb the New York City subway system -- the Zazi case -- is that correct?

Gen Keith Alexander:   Uhm, that is correct. In fact, not just critical, it is the one that developed the lead on it so I would say -- I would say it was the one that allowed us to know it was happening.

Senator Patrick Leahy:   But that is different than Section 215.

Gen Keith Alexander:  That is different than Section 215.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  215,  Phone records.  702 --

Gen Keith Alexander:  If I could, I could explain this.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Go ahead.

Gen Keith Alexander:  Uhm, because I do think it's important that we get this right.  And, uh, I want the American people to know that we're trying to be transparent here, protect civil liberties and privacy but also the security of this country.  On the New York City one, the [Najibullah] Zazi case, it started with a 702 set of information based on operatives overseas.  We saw connections to a person in Colorado.  That was passed to the FBI.  The FBI determined who that person was and phone numbers that went to that.  The phone numbers on Zazi were the things that then allowed us to use the business records, uh, FISA, to go and find out connections from Zazi to other players, uh, to other players throughout the community in New York City.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Was 215 critical?

Gen Keith Alexander:   That's how -- I think 215 is corroborating and to helping us understand --

Senator Patrick Leahy:   Was it critical in Zazi?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Not to  Zazi.  Because the first part in Zazi went to the 702.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  And, and [David] Headly, was either 702 or 215 critical?

Gen Keith Alexander:  702 on Headley and some on the business records FISA for corroboarting.  And I think it's important to understand because this is an issue that I think we'll be important to the debate.  And I put on there, Senator, obviously, the Boston.  I think we need to walk through that so that what we have on the business records, FISA, what we have on 702, what you debate, the facts that we can give you, what we do with that, how we take that to the FBI,  if we took that away what we could not do and is that something when we look at this from a security perspective --

Senator Patrick Leahy:    In Boston, you're talking about the marathon.  What the FBI could have done was to pass on the information to the Boston authorities who said they did not.  That might have been helpful too.  But my time is up.  I mention this only because before it's brought up in the Judiciary Committee, we're going to be asking some very, very specific questions.

Gen Keith Alexander:  So if I could, Senator, I'd just want to make sure we're clear on what we're talking about here is that these authorities compliment each other in helping us identify different terrorist actions and help disrupt them.

On the spying scandals, Penny Lee (US News and World Reports) wonders if there are 2016 implications:

Now, recent revelations of National Security Agency surveillance and the PRISM program have renewed outrage within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party over security matters – expressions of contempt for those who voted to authorize these broad uses of power and profound disappointment in the president over his administration's expansion of what he vigorously opposed as a candidate. The liberal base is now demanding a vote in Congress for a full repeal of the Patriot Act. 
In 2016, the Patriot Act could very well be the new "Iraq War Vote" litmus test for the Democratic field as it speaks to a core principal for the left – the need for fierce protection of personal liberties. Two potential candidates, Clinton and Biden, are in the awkward positions of having to both defend their past votes authorizing the original Patriot Act, and their implicit support for the expansion of the program while serving in the Obama Administration.

We'll come back to Congress later in the snapshot.    Spencer Ackerman has a report for the Guardian on the hearing (I haven't read it yet, a friend asked that we link to it). Turning to the topic of Iraq, Good is a US site which insists it's "A community of people who give a damn." Pity it's not a community of people who have a clue.  Adele Peters makes that very clear in her bad post about a library in Iraq.

Did Iraq get a new library?  Not yet.  But being "Good" apparently means applauding lip service.  Now there have been so many promised projects that have never materialized in post-2003 invasion Iraq but knowing that might make "people who give a damn" educated and they'd never hop on their high horses if they were smart enough to realize how harmed they could be in a fall. 

Here's another little clue for Good and Peters, buildings don't make libraries: Information does.  Considering some of the squabbling currently going on about the national museum in Iraq (it's not been made public yet so Good and Peters are forgiven for not knowing about it) and what qualifies as "art" -- a debate built not around artistic merit but on fundamentalist religious grounds -- I'd be really hesitant about applauding any proposed library in Iraq before it opens.  What will be on the shelves?

"People who give a damn" might try to also become "People who are factual."  Peters writes, "The roof is filled with skylights to illuminate the reading rooms, and solar panels to power the building.  It's scheduled to be built later this year." Until it's built, grasp this, there is no roof -- not one filled with skylights or one empty of skylights.

Peters has written an extremely idiotic post that's also highly misleading as it features photos -- of what?  What are these buildings?  Are these projections of what the library will look like?  When you run photos, if these are not photos, you need to say so.  The photo credit takes you to another site.  (At that site, click on "projects" and then select Baghdad library.)  There, via a 'ghosting' of people in one photo (you can see through the people) you realize these are not images that were captured of a building that is built but images that have been manipulated digitally.  You also find out that Good is cheering a project that they know will be open by the end of the year. My calendar says it's 2013.  The project was started in 2011 and is listed as "ongoing" for its current status.  I'm not so sure it's going to be finished this year -- especially with a pesky fact like the increased violence in Iraq the last two months.

At that site, you will find the claim, "This will be an accessible library for all ages with access to a collection of over three million books along with rare manuscripts, periodicals."  You'd think that -- and not building plans -- would be the focus of someone excited about a library.

But you'd think someone excited about a library, looking at these digital images would be concerned with access and quickly note that security's not a concern for the library and then quickly realize that this isn't in Baghdad.  Not Baghdad that Iraqis access.  This is a library that will be in the heavily fortified Green Zone that most Iraqis are prevented from entering.

I have no idea why anyone would go with "Good" as the name of a group or post -- to indicate others are "bad"?  Or why they'd proclaim that they were "a community of people who give a damn."   Are they unaware of Robert Burns' "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough"?  "The best laid schemes of mice and men/ Often go awry."  Or of the saying, thought to have originated with St Bernard of Clairvaux, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  Maybe instead of writing about a library, next time Good might try first visiting one.

While there, Peters can ask a reference librarian about books on attribution.  She's using  a long quote from a de zeen magazine article published yesterday and failed to attribute it to de zeen which, don't mean to upset "the people who give a damn" here, is also known as plagiarism. 


Violence continues in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Falluja roadside bombing injured two people, Nouri's forces shot dead 3 suspects in Diyala Province,  a Diyala roadside bombing left two police officers injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing has left five college students injuredDawa official Khalil Thiyab Shibab al-Sumayda'e was shot dead in Mosul and his body guard was injured, Louay Abdul Wahid ("Candidate for Khayr and Aataa Slate) was shot dead in Mosul, a Tikrit attack left 2 Sahwa dead and two more injured, a Tikrit bombing left three police officers injured, and early this morning the manager of iron and steel plant was shot dead in Sulaymaniyah Province.   Alsumaria adds that tribal leader Hamoud al-Hasnawi and his son Uday were shot dead while on the highway that connect Dhi Qar Povince with Basra.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 187 violent deaths so far this month.

Alsumaria notes that Iraqis living in Wasit Province also have to deal with an estimated 4,000 dogs running through the province in packs, scaring and intimidating the citizens.  If this seems familiar, yes, this was a problem last year as well.  Wasit Province attempted to kill the stray dogs then.  That effort appears to have made no real impact.  Citizens are attempting to use devices that provide ultrasound noises and run on batteries to keep the dogs away. 

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

Supposedly, there's been spill-over violence in Iraq.  It's strange, though, that you can argue that al Qaeda in Iraq is rushing into Syria and doing battle there and that it's also doing damage in Iraq and responsible for the massive increase of violence in Iraq. It was just like October that Lara Jakes and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reporting that "now, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, the insurgent group has more than doubled in numbers from a year ago -- from about 1,000 to 2,5000 fighters."  But since when have government claims -- US or Iraqi -- ever made sense or been actually factual? They're in Syria, these 2,500 people, but also in Iraq, they're ripping apart Syria but also taking Iraq to the worst violence in five years. 

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that intelligence sources testified to Parliament's Security and Defense Committee that they estimate 2,000 al Qaeda in Iraq fighters are in the country, with many having returned from Syria.  Matthew Hoh reflects on al Qaeda and other things in an interview with Leighton Woodhouse (Huffington Post):

 The second thing is to stop lending credence or validating the propaganda claims of al-Qaeda and other terror groups. In 2005, while on the Iraq Desk at the State Department, I recall reading the summaries of interrogations of non-Iraqi fighters we had captured in Iraq (the actual number of non-Iraqi fighters was quite small, in the few hundreds). The overwhelming reason for their travel to Iraq to fight the Americans were the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the photos from Abu Ghraib and the stories from Guantanamo (the reason for the Iraqi fighters fighting us was quite simple: we were there). Al-Qaeda's message to its recruits is not one of establishing worldwide Muslim rule or of gaining virgins in Paradise, but rather it is a defensive message, an exhortation to defend Muslim lands, culture and people from Western invasion and occupation, and, increasingly, revenge for American attacks. The greatest recruitment event for al-Qaeda was not 9/11, but rather the invasion of Iraq and subsequently, the escalation of the Afghan War and the worldwide, too often indiscriminate, targeted killing campaign (additionally, President Bush calling our actions in the Muslim world a Crusade may be one of the greatest foreign policy mis-pronouncements ever). So we need to stop validating and proving the terror groups' propaganda and recruitment messages.

Matthew Hoh is an Iraq War veteran who deployed there as a Marine.  Later, working for the State Dept, he was part of Embassy teams in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the world press has treated the meet-up between Nouri al-Maliki and KRG President Massoud Barzani at the start of the week as a big deal, in Iraq, the impression has been far less effusive.   Today NINA reports that Kurdistan Alliance MP Sirwan Ahmed Amin is predicting "failure of ongoing dialogues between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government."  Also being a lot more realistic was Hanife Sede Kose (Todays Zaman), "Prospects for reconciliation between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the president of the country's Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, remain bleak after the two leaders met in Arbil on Sunday to resolve long-running problems between them, analysts note." UPI notes:

Sunday's talks in Erbil between Maliki and Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, may have broken the ice, but political sources said little of substance emerged that would indicate some kind of settlement is possible.
Maliki is incensed that the Kurds are now shipping their oil northward to Turkey's export terminal on the Mediterranean, rather than through the Oil Ministry's pipeline network, cutting Baghdad out of the revenue loop.
The Kurdish exports are being trucked across Turkey, but Ankara and Erbil are building a new pipeline from Kurdistan to the Mediterranean that's expected to be completed within the next few months. That would allow the landlocked Kurds to export 250,000 barrels per day by the end of 2013, 1 million bpd by 2015 and 2 million bpd by 2019.

Nouri's State of Law came in second place in the 2010 parliamentary elections to Iraqiya.  Today All Iraq News notes:

The head of the Iraqiya Slate, Ayad Allawi described last visit of the Premier, Nouri al-Maliki, to Kurdistan Region as aiming to calm down the tensions after he failed to run the country. Allawi mentioned in his personal Twitter page "Maliki's visit to KR came to calm down the tensions after he failed to run the state following his domination on the decision-making, thus created many problems." 

 Adam Schreck (AP) reports that Nouri met in BAghdad with Kuwait's Prime Minister Jaber Al Mubuarak Al Sabah.  I don't understand this article.  How do you write about this meeting and not write about Chapter VII.  That's what the meeting was about.  I do not understand why the US press repeatedly fails to address Chapter VII. I've been at the UN watching the Security Council briefings and heard Martin Kobler talk about Chapter VII and seen US reporters leave that out, even when they quote him right before he mentioned Chapter VII and right after.  Why is Chapter VII such a damn secret?

Kuwait is owed, the United Nations determined, reperations by Iraq for Iraq's war on Kuwait.  Until those monies are paid off, Iraq remains in Chapter VII.  This is a huge issue to Iraq.  Every year, Nouri sends a representative to appear before the UN Security Council and make the case that 'enough has been done' and Iraq should be removed from Chapter VII.  How do you _____ miss this over and over except intentionally?  I'm printing this in full because it's in English.  If I translate an Arabic article on this, e-mails will insist that I made it up (because they can't read Arabic and suddenly that's my problem).  Here's Aswat al-Iraq on Monday:

It is expected that the UN Security Council will meet at the end of this month to discuss moving Iraqi-Kuwaiti dossiers from Chapter VII to Chapter VI, following Kuwaiti preliminary acceptance of this move.
Legal advisor of Premier Nouri al-Maliki Fadhil Mohammed Jawad stated that moving these dossiers means that UN mission in Iraq will follow up the questions of Kuwaiti prisoners and properties, not the Security Council.
Iraq pays 5% of its total oil revenues to Kuwait according to the compensations decided by the United Nations for the damages of Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Jawad added that Chapter VII issues abiding resolutions, while Chapter VI submits recommendations.
"By this change, Iraq will be benefited in trade and bank transactions, as well as the dangers in fields of economic exchange and investments.

 In the November 29, 2012 and November 30, 2012 snapshots, we covered Martin Kobler (UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Iraq) testifying before the Security Council on November 29th.

Martin Kobler:  In addition to the hydrocarbons legislation, we are continuing to provide technical advice and assistance on the establishment of the Federation Council, the reform of the judicial system, and the adoption of laws on minority communities and political parties.  At the regional level, Iraq continues its re-emergence onto the international stage.  Earlier this year, Iraq demonstrated renewed commitment to meeting its remaining obligations under Chapter VII of the Charter and to improving its bilateral relations with Kuwait.  Progress will, however, depend upon the restoration of confidence between both sides.  Over the past few months, I stepped up my engagement with Iraq and Kuwait to see how the United Nations could best facilitate the resolution of outstanding issues in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.  And, in this context, I recently held high-level meetings in Iraq and Kuwait in which I was encouraged by the strong commitment that both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Amir of Kuwait expressed by normalizing relations between their two countries.  I very much hope that they will now be able to move quickly.  They can count on the UN in this regard.  I am happy to report to the Council today that I spoke to Foreign Minister [Hoshyard] Zaebari this morning.  He informed me that, first, his government had nominated the names for the technical team of the border maintenance project today and, second,  the government would start immediately to update the list of farmers entitled to compensation.  A meeting with the farmers will take place as soon as possible.  I welcome those steps and call on the Government of Iraq to initiate work on the border maintenance project without further delay.  I also appeal to the government of Iraq to continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq's other outstanding obligations, in particular with regard to missing persons and property.  The commitment of Iraq to fulfil those obligations will be conducive to the normalization of relations between the two countries.  And I equally call on the government of Kuwait to continue to act in a spirit of flexibility and reciprocity, as reflected earlier this year by the important reciprocal visits of the Amir in Baghdad and the Prime Minister in Kuwait.  On a different note, I remain fully committed to continue to work with both governments to resolve bilateral issues, at their request.  I am hopeful that the agreement between Kuwait and Iraq for the cancellation of pending lawsuits against Iraqi Airways and on navigational rights in the Khor Abdullah waterway will facilitate improved relations between the two neighbors. 

We're noting that because some people will use the Adam Schreck link, not know what's going on, but feel the need to e-mail that Schreck wrote about the plane!  Sorry, Tatoo, the plane isn't the issue.  That's not what got them in Chapter VII.  Which is why Kobler says "on a different note" after discussing Chapter VII.

We have written Chapter VII repeatedly and, in the last few years, repeatedly noted it's the only big stick the US has left.  The US is a voting member of the UN Security Council.   Which means they can stop Chapter VII from being removed.  And they should be using that power to demand improvements in human rights in Iraq.

Michael Young (The National) notes how little influence the US has today:

Mr Obama washed his hands of a country that had cost the US thousands of lives and billions of dollars without first attempting to contain Iran's growing influence there. While Mr Bush had facilitated Iran's agenda there by removing the Iraqi regime, Mr Obama seemed unperturbed by the fact that Washington's principal regional rival would benefit from too hasty a US disengagement.
The loss of Iraq was compounded by a far more serious strain on American alliances when the so-called Arab Spring broke out in early 2011. No matter how justified, the Obama administration's decision to persuade the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down had two consequences: it pushed an allied country into a prolonged period of political uncertainty and it alarmed another long-standing ally, Saudi Arabia, which came to question American reliability.

The US continues to arm Nouri and he uses those arms against the Iraqi people -- just as then-Senator Joe Biden predicted in the infamous April 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  Chapter VII is pretty much it now in the US diplomatic tool kit.  You'd think its importance would mean that US reporters would finally begin noting it.

Back to the US which means back to the scandals.  In yesterday's snapshot, we noted James Clapper's many tales to cover up Barack's spying on American citizens.  Jason Ditz ( notes Clapper today:

Since Clapper’s crimes are in many ways the same as Obama’s crimes, it isn’t that surprising that the White House is defending him. Yet as the scandal lingers, Clapper’s lies and the compounding factor that they were made under oath could make him a political liability, one the administration may eventually have to ditch as it struggles to keep its surveillance apparatus intact.

If you flip through that site's pictures, you're taken through what is supposed to be a library to suddenly inside a building that is clearly an athletic stadium.

Last Tuesday, there was a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about rape and assault within the ranks.  We covered it in that Tuesday's "Iraq snapshot," Ava in "Saxby Chambliss' gross stupidity," Wally in "Senator Bill Nelson sets the tone," Kat in "Senator Kirsten Gillibrand didn't come to play," we covered the third panel of that hearing in Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot" and Dona moderated a discussion on it in "Report on Congress."  From Dona's discussion, we're talking about the problems with that hearing and have just finished with the fact that it was nearly 8 hours long.

C.I.: In 2008, for three days, then-General David Petraeus and then-Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testified to Congress.  Over and over.  And we were at those hearings, all four of us, and none of those hearings lasted eight hours.  The biggest problems, the real reason it went over, was because it wasn't a hearing about the issues.  It was largely a hearing about how Senator Kirsten Gillibrand must be wrong.  Carl Levin and many others wasted time on that over and over.  I'm not saying she's wrong, by the way, I agree with her.  But Levin and many others wanted to turn the hearing into that.  And that was on the first panel, the second panel and the third.  Kat?
Kat:  I have never seen that before in any hearing we have attended.  I have strong praise for Gillibrand because she was not just standing up to a number of Republicans on the Committee, she was also having to stand up to the military brass and to members of her own party on the Committee including the Chair.
Dona: What is she proposing?
Kat: "S. 967 the Military Justice Improvement Act, a critical bill that professionalizes the military justice system by ensuring that trained, professional, impartial prosecutors control the keys to the courthouse for felony- level crimes while still allowing commanders to maintain judicial authority over crimes that are unique to the military and requiring more expeditious and localized justice to ensure good order and discipline."  Like C.I., I'm quoting from the Service Women's Action Network summary of the bill.  They are backing that bill.
Dona: So all she's doing is asking that felony crimes be decided by prosecutors and not by military commanders.
Kat: Right, to hear Levin and Senator James Inahofe and so many others, this will destroy the military.  It will end all order.  Do you believe that?  I don't.  I'm like C.I., this really wasn't an issue for the first half of the 20th century and commanders really just crafted this power in the second half -- because rape wasn't a talked about issue in an all male military -- and they're acting like this is a power they were given and have had.  Now the reality is that they've abused this power.  They have used it to protect friends.
Dona: There's the infamous case of the commander who overturned the assault conviction of a friend last February.  And that's just most recently.  Wally, the hostility towards Gillibrand?
Wally: It was there.  And I would argue that's why she was treated rudely by the generals.  I'd argue the women were all treated poorly and I would blame Carl Levin for that.  Maybe he needs to step down?  He created a men versus women split, enforced it, promoted it.  And the rudeness that was directed at the women by the first panel and by the members of the Committee went on until Senator Bill Nelson did his questioning.  He was loud and he spoke slow.  He's not a rapid talker most of the time.  But he was louder than usual and slower than usual.  And a lot of the nonsense stopped immediately.  You could feel a level of recognition register with the panel of the fact that they were before Congress and they immediately got more respectful.
Dona: You pointed out that Senator Kay Hagan went after Nelson and not only were they respectful but Gen Ray Odierno made a point of thanking her for her question.
Wally: Right.  There was so much disrespect on the Committee.  From the top, from Levin.  And, sadly, from Inahofe.  I say "sadly" because the hearing wouldn't have been as out of control at the start if the Republicans didn't have term limits on Committees.  Term limits is why Senator John McCain wasn't Ranking Member.  And McCain's on the Committee still and he was much more respectful than Inhofe or Carl Levin.  If I were a woman on the Senate, I'd be registering a complaint.
Ava: But to who?  There are 100 senators -- counting the one New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just appointed.  Only 20 are women.  That's a fifth.  They are not in leadership and you could argue that Harry Reid being Senate Majority Leader goes a long way towards endorsing disrespect for women.  If I were on the Senate, I'd be very depressed.  And I think Wally is exactly right.  I think Senator Nelson saw just how out of control the hearing was becoming and just how much disrespect was being shown to senators on the panel and I think he used his volume and speaking pace intentionally to snap the panel to attention.
C.I.: In a way, the way the women on the Committee were treated was perfect because it demonstrated the problem that women in the military have.  There are peers they serve with like a Bill Nelson who take the issue seriously but there are others that they serve with who just don't have a clue.

Today, Ponta Abadi (Ms. magazine's blog) reports:

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) announced on Tuesday he is replacing a measure proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would have removed military sexual assault crimes from being handled within the military chain of command. Levin’s replacement measure would keep authority on major military crimes with senior officers.

Gillibrand’s measure, part of a defense spending bill, was an attempt to improve the reporting and prosecution of sexual assault within the military by  giving military prosecutors, instead of the accusers’ commanders, authority to decide which cases to try. Opposition to the measure comes from Levin, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the military. Levin’s Senate measure was approved by the Armed Services Committee by a 17-9 vote.

Gillibrand's bill wasn't controversial. It also was also distorted by opponents.  Most importantly, it works in England.  Katty Kay, filling in for Diane Rehm on The Diane Rehm Show's first hour May 24th, made that point, "And I think Sen. Gillibrand has already -- of New York has already proposed a bill to that effect. And actually, it is what happens in the U.K. We have an independent judiciary process that -- prosecutorial process that deals with sexual assault cases. In the British military, it does seem to work more effectively. "  Gillibrand's bill was important and it was one of seven bills attempting to address the issue of rape and assault in the ranks.  One of the seven has made it into the Defense Bill today,  Senators Patty Murray and Kelly Ayotte joint-bill:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        CONTACT: Murray Press Office (202) 224-2834
Wednesday, June 12, 2013                                                Ayotte Press Office (202) 224-3324
Bipartisan legislation would provide trained military lawyers to victims of sexual assault in all service branches
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced today that key provisions of their bipartisan legislation – the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act – are included in the National Defense Authorization Act being considered this week by the full Senate Armed Services Committee.  The Murray-Ayotte measure would provide victims of sexual assault in all military branches with a Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC), a trained military lawyer to assist the victim throughout the legal process.  The bill also includes provisions authored by Senators Murray and Ayotte that enhance responsibilities for the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and provide Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to members of the National Guard and Reserve.
“Our legislation to provide victims with a dedicated legal counsel absolutely gets to the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic of sexual assault in our military,” said Senator Murray. “As I told Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey this morning, Congress must act on legislation to give victims the protections they deserve to seek justice, while giving the Pentagon the tools to deal with this growing crisis. I am pleased the Senate Armed Services Committee agrees and has included our legislation to help victims every step of the way through what is a deeply personal and painful process. I want to thank Senator Ayotte for being such an outstanding partner and for all she has done to push this bill forward in committee. While I believe the overall legislation is practical and will make a difference, there will always be more work to do and I am committed to continuing this fight on behalf of our nation’s heroes of the past, present and future.”
This is not something that we’re going to pass today and then forget about,” said Senator Ayotte during today’s committee markup of the defense authorization bill.  “Because many of us will continue to serve on this committee and we’ll expect to understand how this system is working, we’ll expect to hear real metrics back as to whether victims can come forward, how many victims are coming forward, and how they are treated within this system.  And this will not be the last time the military hears from Congress on this issue.”
In a statement endorsing the Murray-Ayotte SVC legislation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said, “The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) pilot program, while very new, has shown positive results and provides a robust support program for victims of sexual assault.  Hundreds of victims have availed themselves of SVC services in the Air Force in just the past several months since it was implemented.  Many of those victims who initially filed restricted reports of sexual assault decided to change their report to unrestricted, allowing full investigation of the offenses committed by their assailant.  As the early reports have been so promising, I expressed in my May 20, 2013, letters to Senators Levin and Inhofe that the proposed SVC legislation had merit. I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource.”
The Murray-Ayotte Combating Military Sexual Assault Act (S.871) takes additional steps aimed at reducing sexual assaults within the military and helping the victims of these crimes.  The legislation would address a number of gaps in current law and policy and would build upon the positive steps the Pentagon has taken in recent years to address this problem. The Murray-Ayotte bill currently has 37 bipartisan cosponsors.
·         Provide victims of sexual assault with Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) – a military lawyer who will assist sexual assault victims throughout the process. 
·         Enhance the responsibilities and authority of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office so that it can better oversee efforts to combat MSA across the Armed Forces and regularly track and report on a range of MSA statistics, including assault rate, number of cases brought to trial, and compliance with appropriate laws and regulations within each of the individual services.
·         Refer cases to the general court martial level when sexual assault charges are filed or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.
·         Bar sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent.
·         Ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC) are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times and regardless of whether they are operating under Title 10 or Title 32 authority.
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834


the associated press
jason ditz
ms. magazine