Saturday, July 20, 2013

Isaiah's comic and more

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Lemon On The Lot"  went up yesterday morning.

the lemon on the lot

I do love the comic.  ObamaCare is a lemon.

I should also note that the Wednesday House Judiciary Committee hearing was covered in C.I.'s Thursday "Iraq snapshot,"  C.I.'s Wednesday "Iraq snapshot," Kat covered it in "FISA rulings," Wally covered it in "Proof that we should be thanking Ed Snowden (Wally)" and Ava covered it in "House Judiciary Committee hearing."  That was an important hearing so be sure you have read the community coverage.

Reuters reports Suleiman Abu Ghaith, son-in-law of Osama bin Laden is asserting in US federal court filings that he was tortured by the US and is asking that terrorism charges be dropped.  AP notes the torture would have occurred "earlier this year."  Reuters notes: "When he came to office in 2009, Obama renounced so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which human rights advocates and some U.S. politicians have described as torture. But his administration said it would not completely ban the use of rendition."

Did the US government torture him?  Maybe not.  I assume they did but maybe they didn't.  But here's the thing, with the reputation the US government has, no one in the rest of the world is going to believe denials.

That's what happens when you lie and cheat and refuse to follow the rule of law.

It shouldn't be surprising.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 19, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a mosque is bombed in Iraq, both the State Dept and the US Embassy in Baghdad issue statements, the mosque is in Diyala Province -- remember Wednesday's warnings on the violence in Diyala,the Iraq refugee crisis has not ended,  Jimmy Carter's statements on Ed Snowden make news, Bradley Manning's judge refuses to dismiss some charges, reporter James Risen remains caught up in Barack's war on whistle-blowers, and much more.

Good for US State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf who did something unheard of today.

Happy Friday.  Welcome to the daily briefing.  I have something to read at the top, and then happy to open it up to your questions.  The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist bombing inside a mosque today in Diyala province in Iraq.  Attacks against innocent people are reprehensible.  That this attack occurred in a place of worship and during the Holy Month of Ramadan is especially despicable and cowardly and exposes the nature of those perpetrating these attacks.  Our condolences go out to the victims of these attacks and their families.

That is how she opened today's press briefing.  This was not in response to a question, that is how she opened.  Good for Harf, good for the US State Dept.  The Congress is giving them billions for Iraq, they need to be noting the country in some manner regularly. 

While the State Dept was front and center on the bombing, Nouri's forces were otherwise occupied. 
Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's SWAT forces spent the morning forcing Baquba stores to close. Maybe if they had been focused on doing actual work and not terrorizing shop owners,  Iraqi Spring MC wouldn't have been reporting the Abu Bakr Mosque in Diyala's Wajihiya district was bombed?  This morning,  Reuters counted 20 dead and NINA counted at least 60 injured.  It's not as though Nouri's SWAT forces contributed nothing however, Iraqi Spring MC notes that they are preventing concerned Iraqis from making blood donations to help the victims of the bombing.

Yang Lina (Xinhua) reports, "The attack occurred around midday when dozens of worshippers were observing the Friday weekly Muslim prayer at the mosque of Abu Bakr al-Sideeq, in the town of Wajihiyah, northeast of the provincial capital city of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.Steve Nolan (Daily Mail) adds, "The blast went off on the left side of the mosque, which was filled with men and children, as worshippers were kneeling during prayers, said 30-year-old Mohammed Faleh, who was praying inside."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes, "The bomb had been hidden under a podium from which an imam was speaking in the mosque, located in al-Wajihiya in the largely Sunni province of Diyala, said police officials in the nearby provincial capital of Baquba."  KUNA reports there were two bombings -- the one Tawfeeq has noted and a suicide bomber who detonated outside as people were rushing out.  BBC News notes a suicide bomber as well as does All Iraq News.  So does  Mustafa al-Tuwaijri (AFP) who quotes Omar Mundhir (whose leg was injured in the attack) stating, "I was sitting near the main entrance of the mosque when a huge explosion happened. I was sitting near the imam and the mosque was full of dozens of people when a big explosion happened, and the place went completely dark."

Prensa Latina observes, "The explosion took place in Wajihiya city, Diyala province, with a population of Sunni majority, and came after a series of attacks which have taken the lives of 460 people so far this month, according to official figures."  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) adds, "AP television footage of the aftermath showed the interior of the mosque near the bomb site charred black and shrapnel damage peppering the walls."  AP counts 27 dead.  EFE notes that, among the many wounded, "27 are in grave condition." 

If only someone had seen Diyala as a hotbed, maybe Nouri's forces could have done an actual job.  But alas, no one saw a problem in Diyala . . . Oh, wait.  From Wednesday's snapshot:


NINA reports, "Speaker Osama Najafi called for holding a public hearing on Thursday in parliament in order to deter violators and terrorists in Diyala province and easing tensions to overcome the crisis and stop the forced displacement of citizens in a number of areas of the province."  Alsumaria adds that the Free Patriotic Movement is joining the call as explained by their leader Massoud Zangana who states that the citizens of Diyala are in need of help.

The hearing was held.  At the Parliament's website, they note 236 MPs attended, a number of issues were addressed and, with regards to Diyala Province, they commissioned a group to work on the issue with Nouri's office overseeing the security forces in Diyala Province.  That didn't work out well for anyone today.

The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following:

The United States Condemns Diyala Mosque Bombing

July 19, 2013
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist bombing inside a mosque today in Diyala province. Attacks against innocent people are reprehensible. That this attack occurred in a place of worship and during the holy month of Ramadan is especially despicable and cowardly and exposes the nature of those perpetrating these attacks. Our condolences go out to the victims of these attacks and their families.

The mosque bombing wasn't Iraq's only violence today.  NINA reports a Tikrit bombing left 2 soldiers dead and another injured, a western Baghdad bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Falluja home invasion left a woman and her two daughters injured, a Falluja motorcycle drive-by left one police officer and one Iraqi citizen injured, a suicide bomber to the south of Mosul blew himself up and left one police officer injured, and a Hilla suicide bomber claimed the life of 1 police officer and left five worshipers en route to the Al Mustafa shrine injuredAlsumaria adds 1 corpse was discovered in Ramadi (gunshot wounds to head and chest).  All Iraq News notes that a Mosul suicide bomber left Colonel Ahmed Abbas injured.

Neither the violence nor the holy month has prevented the ongoing protests.  Iraqi Spring Media notes protests took place in Baghdad and in Falluja, in Maysan Province, Mosul and in Jalawla.  These protests have been ongoing since December 21st.

The never ending violence also means that the refugee crisis continues.   Thursday on WAMU's The Kojo Nnamdii Show, his guests were Rajiv Chandrasekaran ("senior correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post"), Omar Fekeiki ("former Washington Post correspondent. He's currently an assignment editor at Radio Sawa"), Naseer Nouri ("a former Washington Post correspondent. He is also the co-founder of Refugee Roadmap, which is a program of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project."),  Jonathan Katz ("a journalist and author of the book "The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster." He worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press in Haiti from 2007 to 2011").

Kojo Nnamdi:  The other men joining us today were intimately involved in that work. Starting with you, Rajiv, how did you come to meet Omar and Naseer, and what kind of work did they do for you in The Washington Post in Iraq?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:   You know, in places like Baghdad, in the earliest days of the U.S. occupation, it's not so easy to go and find capable, talented fixers and interpreters. You know, there are no newspapers you can post want ads in. There's no, you know, online career boards. So it was pure luck and good fortune that led me to both of them. Omar was walking next to the Palestine Hotel when he spotted a Western woman struggling to converse with a group of Iraqis.  Turns out that that woman was a Washington Post correspondent, a colleague of mine. He stepped up to help her. She was so impressed. She brought him to me and said, you should meet this young man, and I hired him. Naseer was a friend of another individual who was working for us. Naseer spent many years as an engineering director at Iraqi Airways. I mean, this is a guy who fixes planes, but Iraqi Airways wasn't flying in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion.  He needed a job. He spoke English. And even though he didn't have a journalism background, nor did Omar, they possessed the necessary curiosity, the English skills and the resourcefulness to be my essential, you know, partners in this. You know, put simply, Kojo, I couldn't have written the stories that I wrote from Baghdad for The Washington Post if not for gentlemen like Omar and Naseer.  They were our essential partners in this endeavor. It wasn't just interpreting conversations. It was helping us to find stories. It was talking our way through checkpoints. It was getting access to government officials. It was opening our eyes to the world, and it was, on multiple occasions -- and I'm sure we'll get a chance to talk about this -- saving our lives, keeping us out of danger.

Kojo Nnamdi:  Omar, you -- your father was a journalist in Iraq, and you have been an English major. So you spoke English. You've never actually spoken with an American before you met Rajiv's colleague, Mary Beth Sheridan, but that's how you started that conversation. But you and Naseer both end up working with Rajiv for The Washington Post almost by accident.

Omar Fekeiki:  Not almost. Entirely by accident. It was -- in my -- I've never thought in my life I'll be a journalist, although I come from a family of writers, journalists...

Kojo Nnamdi:  Your father was a journalist.

Omar Fekeiki:  My father was -- headed the foreign desk at the Iraqi News Agency until the late '70s. But just in my head, what I have learned under Saddam, journalists were not free to write about real stories. They were mouthpieces for the government, or I -- to be fair, I have to say, for the most part, I wasn't interested in being a mouthpiece for anyone. But when I got the chance to translate for The Washington Post reporters, I just realized I was fascinated by the fact that whatever I translated the day before appeared exactly the same on -- in the newspaper the day after. It was my fascination with conveying the true story, of voicing out people's problems to the outside world, then to the readers everywhere, that really got me interested in journalism, and I've never worked in any field since then.

Kojo Nnamdii:  Naseer, in your case, you apparently thought the best thing that you could do with a newspaper was clean windows. Nevertheless, you had gone to school in Tulsa, Okla., and were working in Iraq, but still had yourself a great deal of contempt for newspapers. What drew you in?

Naseer Nouri:  All my life was aviation, even my hobby. I'm a member of the national aerobatic team of flying. All my life was on the air, never on the ground. And journalism -- and I never wrote. I never read newspaper before. I hate reading the newspaper. But the minute that I met Rajiv in his office in Baghdad when he was establishing his office and recruiting the people to work there, I saw in his eyes what he want to do here. I thought this guy, he is here to write the history of my country, and I wanted to be there to share this guy writing the history of my country. First, it's an honor to do that. Second, I wanted to be sure that this history will be written the right way. So I wanted to be there to be sure to give him the right stories, and this is how I started.

 There would have been little western Iraq reporting without the Iraqis who helped western journalists.  In the July 8th snapshot, we noted the New American Foundation's June panel on Iraq featuring Chandrasekaran, Iraqi journalist Ahmed Fadaam, NYT's Michael Kamble and McClatchy's Hannah Allam.

Hannah Allam:  A pet issue of mine is the special immigrant visa, the SIV.   Uhm, you know, Congress has approved since 2008, 25,000 special immigrant visas for Iraqis for Iraqi translators who worked with media, who worked with military.  These were our eyes and ears on the ground.   How many have they issued to date?  Like 4600.  And the program expires in September unless Congress extends it.  So that is something forward looking to take from this because, you know, you still have people -- We were just talking about a mutual friend of ours in Baghdad who sat out that first round because he believed that things would improve and he could stay and he could work as a journalist and 'I'm Shia, this is my government, I voted for these guys, this is my community, I'm fairly safe.  Uhm, my sect is in power, what's there to fear?'  And, here we go again, I just got the news that he too has applied for this -- for this resettlement option.  And to me, that's the greatest tragedy personally of this.  We thought, 'Okay, one day our bureaus will shutter and we'll all go home and the American public's attention will shift elsewhere -- as it has -- but at least we'll leave this legacy of a, you know, of a d -- of a free press, a probing press, an independent press and all but one, two, maybe three?, of our original eight team person staff -- the ones that are still alive, uhm, have -- have, uh, fled.  And they're in Sweden, they're in Ukraine, they're in Atlanta and Massachusettes, DC.  So that's  -- You know, we haven't left that legacy even. And we were a bureau that really took pains to -- You know we would -- in between on slow days -- we would talk about journalism and they would, you know, they had their own blog, Inside Iraq, uhm, they would report, shoot, do all of their own stories and, you know, we really promoted that.  And to what end?  None of it exists  anymore.

As we noted July 8th, Hannah Allam's concern hasn't translated into coverage on her part of even a Tweet.  She's yet to Tweet Kojo's Thursday broadcast (we're covering it tonight because I wanted to give her 24 hours in case she was a slow Tweeter) or Rajiv's article we'll be noting in a moment.  Back to Kojo's show:

Kojo Nnamdi:  Rajiv, interesting is in the fact that after, oh, about a decade or so, what made you feel that it was important to capture the stories of the people who worked with you in the Baghdad bureau of The Washington Post?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Well, a couple of months ago, I was asked to write a 10-year anniversary piece of the invasion of Iraq, and I didn't want to do the predictable thing, going to Iraq and doing sort of a (word?) the government and the legacy of all the billions upon billions of dollars we wasted there and the cost in lives.  I had this amazing relationship and a relationship that I should note I allowed, in some cases, to become detached. Naseer and Omar lived in the D.C. area. I stayed in touch with them, but many others who worked in the bureau have resettled in other parts of America -- Portland, Oregon, San Diego, Phoenix, Toledo, Ohio. And I really...

Kojo Nnamdi:   You guys had 75 people at the first party you have that...

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:  Yeah. That was family members...

Kojo Nnamdi:  I know.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:   ...but we had a lot of people. In fact, one of the editors, senior editors of The Post -- I had a big poster that's blown up in my office -- admonished me, when I came back from Baghdad, not to show it to our publisher because, you know, I was employing...

Kojo Nnamdi:  Is this how you're spending our money?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:   ...I was employing more people, he was joking, than we did in one of our printing plants. But as I turn my attention to the Afghan War, Kojo, focus on other issues, I didn't stay in touch with a lot of my former Iraqi colleagues, who worked -- who'd come to this country. And I wanted to know how they were doing. Were they thriving? Were they flailing? What was their experience like? And so I set out a couple months ago to track most of them down. And I spent a lot of time with them.  And the result is the 9,000-word piece that will take up the entire Sunday Outlook section on Sunday. And it really is an effort to trace their lives from Iraq to this country and to understand how these individuals who had such great hopes in 2003 at this party that we talked about in November '03. They're all smiling in this great group photo because they thought Americans were going to deliver them a brighter future in Iraq. They were going to rebuild their country, their lives after years of economic sanctions and strife in their country, and dictatorship would somehow, you know, magically improve. And what they have discovered is they faced those years of threats for working for us, they served bravely. But that they're hopes of rebuilding really are now taking place in America. It's not America rebuilding Iraq, it's Iraqis rebuilding their lives in America.

The article Rajiv and Kojo were discussing is "At great risk, they helped The Post cover Iraq. Now, they're remaking their lives in America."  The article is probably the best thing you're going to read in an American newspaper this month.  Here's an excerpt.

Naseer started in the bureau as an interpreter. He tagged along with Post correspondents, facilitating conversations with anyone who couldn’t speak English. After a few months, he became a fixer: He came to us with ideas for stories and set up interviews with Iraq’s new political and religious leaders. By the spring of 2004, we had made him a special correspondent. He would go out on his own to report stories, which we edited and published under his byline.

In April 2006, militants abducted Naseer’s 14-year-old nephew, Noor. When the kidnappers called, Noor’s father offered to pay whatever they wanted. “Use the money for his funeral,” he was told. “We’re going to kill him so his uncle learns to stop working for the Americans.”

The next morning, Noor asked his captors to use the toilet. From the bathroom, he spotted a back door and dashed to it. As he scaled the compound wall, he saw a pickup truck in the rear courtyard filled with bodies, partially covered with a plastic sheet. Once he returned home, his father kept him inside the family house for 18 months.

Naseer, who didn’t want to lock up his three teenage daughters, beseeched my successor, Ellen Knickmeyer, for assistance. She agreed to help relocate his family to Jordan, where Naseer’s son, Saif, who had worked as a driver for the bureau, was training to become a pilot. But the family could not readily obtain Jordanian residency permits. A year later, a U.N. agency referred them for resettlement in the United States.

Naseer, his wife and their four children arrived at Reagan National Airport in May 2008. As they embraced a small welcoming committee of Post staffers — one of them, former Baghdad correspondent Jon Finer, wore an Iraqi national soccer team jersey — Naseer walked up to me and proclaimed, “It’s great to be back in America.”

The illegal war created the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948.  Even Syria's problems have not created the 4.6 million that had accumulated by 2008.  And the refugee crisis has continued to grow.  Largely ignored by the world's media, the flow of Iraqis out of Iraq has continued.  Dropping back to the June 5th snapshot:

"The world has forgotten us.  The west has forgotten us.  Even the UNHCR, they have forgotten us," an Iraqi refugee tells the BBC.  The violence is having many effects including restarting the flow of external refugees.  Matthew Woodcraft (BBC World Service -- link is audio) reports on this development and I've deleted the names of two Iraqi males.  Excerpt.

Matthew Woodcraft: ____ explained how he was new to Amman having decided to make the move from his home city of Baghdad to seek refuge in Jordan just a few weeks ago. "Iraq, she is beautiful," ____ said before exhaling a plume of smoke as he rolled the dice across the board.  "Well, she was," he added, "but we cannot be there anymore.  The religions, it's dangerous. More men arrived sounding lively, with shouts of "Salam alaikum, habibi" -- "hello, my good man" -- and handshakes all around.  Amman is witnessing a new wave of Iraqi refugees as the almost daily bombings across Iraq become ever more bloody.  As the click-clack of dice on wood continued, I spoke with **** one of the organizers of the backgammon evening, in a room away from the other men.  I asked him about the new influx of Iraqis.  This initially jocular man grew serious as he explained, "There are many who are still coming and they cannot work.  They live hand to mouth," he said. going on to tell me how the new arrivals are fleeing with little and in desperate need of help.

In Jordan, Iraqi refugees cannot legally work.  I'm not comfortable identifying by name refugees when it could prevent employment.  Were this a brief story, it would be one thing.  But the Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan during the ethnic cleansing that began in 2006 have largely not returned.  That's also true in Syria where you're far more likely to find Iraqi Kurds returning than Iraqi Sunni or Shia.

Deutsche Welle notes Iraqi refguees that just arrived in Hanover, Germany this week:

They fled violence in their home country and are now hopeful of finding a better future in Germany. Some 100 Iraqi refugees have arrived in Hannover as part of a plan to house 900 Iraqi refugees in the country.
Maria tightly clutches her teddy bear. The little girl bravely smiles at the cameras and new faces before her. For her new life in Germany, she wants only one thing. Time to play.
"It's about the security and future for my children," says Maria's father when asked by journalists about his hopes for his family in Germany. In Iraq, the Al-Samari family didn't see any future anymore.
"It's because we are Christians and are persecuted," he explains. So he, his wife and two children fled. First to Turkey, then to Germany.
The situation is similar for many of the other refugees who on Tuesday (16.07.2013) arrived at the Hannover airport. Ninety-percent of them are Christians. And almost half of them, children.

Lucy Nalpathanchil (Your Public Media -- link is text and audio) reports:

Some veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are closely watching the immigration reform bill as it moves to the U.S Senate for a vote.  As WNPR’s Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the bill calls on extending a visa program for the people servicemembers often relied upon while in combat.
Timothy Coon is a full-time instructor at the State Police Academy. He also splits his time serving in the U.S Army Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. In 2006, he was deployed to Baquba Iraq and was away from his family for a full year.
 "I literally had a phone call from my daughter's fifth grade science teacher concerning the science project while there was machine gunfire going off over our heads. The Sunnis and Shias from either side of the village were shooting at each other and we were in the middle."
Coon was assigned to a Military Transition Team whose mission was to train an Iraqi Army Unit. He had help from Iraqis like Falah Abdullatif. Abdullatif had been a Colonel in the Iraqi Air Force but after the war started, he had few options to support his family so he became a translator for the U.S Army. Coon and Abdullatif quickly became friends because they had a lot in common. They were the same age, both had lengthy careers in the military and their kids were often on their minds.
Coon: “From then on out, spent a lot of evenings sitting with him in his room talking about the day and everything in it." Lucy:  So he quickly became a battle buddy? Coon:"Sure did he became a battle buddy to everybody on the team.”

For the record, Hannah Allam has not reported on this topic and has not Tweeted on it.  She claims it's very important to her.  But not important enough for her to write about or even compose a simple Tweet on.

Back to today's US State Dept press briefing conducted by spokesperson Marie Harf:

QUESTION:  Okay.  And also, the Latin American media is reporting out about a call that Secretary Kerry had with the Foreign Minister in Venezuela.

MS. HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  And they are saying that he was sort of – I think they were using the word "threatened," threatened him with – okay, if they don’t give up Snowden, well, we’ll do this.  So what’s your reaction to that?

MS. HARF:  Well, while we don’t normally comment on private diplomatic communications, in this case, this characterization of their conversation is completely false.  The Secretary made no reference in his conversation with the Foreign Minister as to what our response would be if Venezuela were to assist Mr. Snowden or receive him.  Instead, Secretary Kerry conveyed to the Foreign Minister that Mr. Snowden is accused of serious criminal offenses and should be returned to the United States to face those charges if he were to come into Venezuelan jurisdiction.  Should Venezuela assist Mr. Snowden or receive him, we will consider what the appropriate response should be at that time.

QUESTION:  The media reports were pretty detailed, though.  I mean, it – maybe it wasn’t characterized as a threat, so to speak, but I mean, they were saying things like, well, maybe we can curtail some sales of gasoline to Venezuela or maybe we can expand the list of narco traffickers from the Treasury Department, or --

MS. HARF:  Again --

QUESTION:  -- I mean, it’s pretty specific.

MS. HARF:  -- I’ve seen those reports.  Again, the Secretary made no reference in his conversation as to what our response would be if Venezuela were to assist Mr. Snowden, I’m categorical in saying.


MS. HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Can you clarify, the Kremlin today said it’s unaware of any plans for Snowden to seek Russian citizenship.  Have you got – and then the Interfax agency actually said that Snowden’s request for Russian citizen will be processed, from a Kremlin spokesman.  Do we know what the status is?  Has the U.S. followed up?  Has the Ambassador spoken to them?

MS. HARF:  I don’t have any update for you on Mr. Snowden’s status on those reports other than to say that we continue to have diplomatic conversations about our position on Mr. Snowden.  That hasn’t changed.  But I don’t have any update on those reports for you.

If, like many, you're confused what the difference isbetween NPR and the US State Dept is, the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show didn't help you.  Her panelists were David Ignatius (Washington Post), Indira Lakshmanan (Bloomberg News) and Bruce Auster (NPR).   Excerpt.

Diane Rhem:  Indira, let's start with Russia, where Edward Snowden has asked for temporary asylum this week. What's the latest? 

Indira Laskhmanan:  Well, the latest is that Vladimir Putin has been put in the embarrassing situation, one I guess he's been in before but of having to make two contradictory statements to the press. On the one hand saying we are not going to allow the Snowden affair to interfere with U.S. - Russian relations and bilateral relations are far more important than any case of the spy agencies. And at the same time saying, we're not going to be pushed around by the United States. And we're not going to bow to the U.S. because we have our sovereignty. It's an obvious reference to how the U.S. forced and pressured other countries to force down, Evo Morales, the Bolivian president's plane when he was flying across Europe to search it in case Edward Snowden was on board since Bolivia's offered Snowden asylum.  So I think where we are right now the White House is trying to send out a signal that it is ready and very prepared to cancel the Obama Summit with Vladimir Putin planned for next month or planned for September if this situation is not resolved before then. 

Diane Rehm:  And, David, what has President Putin said about Mr. Snowden? 

David Ignatius:   Well, he made a fascinating set of comments. At one point he said, "We're prepared to let Mr. Snowden stay here so long as he doesn't harm the interests of the United States." And then said, "That sounds funny coming from me," Putin being an ex-KGB officer himself. You have the feeling, at least I have the feeling that now that Snowden is in Moscow the Russians almost certainly have found a way to get access to the very secret material that he has. I mean, surely Mr. Snowden's had to go to the bathroom for the last two weeks.  That they've got the stuff and they'll make whatever use they want to and I suppose in their interests it's probably better to keep it less decimated now rather than more. 

Diane Rehm:  Bruce? 

Bruce Auster: Yes, that's a really interesting point. Earlier in the week Glen Greenwald who's the journalist who's reported a number of these stories and has been in contact with Edward Snowden, said that Snowden has thousands of documents, not just the ones that we've all seen publically that have been released.  But that he has thousands of others that are essentially the architecture of how the NSA programs work. So the question then becomes, does Snowden have control over the documents in his possessions? The Russians could conceivably just coerce him into handing them over. But there have been reports that there are four laptops that he has in his possession. So over three weeks in this airport it's entirely plausible that A, the Russians get physical access to that computer which would then get them say, his hard drive. Then what they have to do is break the encryption and cyber experts, people who understand computers will argue that it is entirely possible even if the encryption is very good, that those documents could be read.  And so from the perspective of U.S. intelligence services you have to assume that those thousands of documents are in the possession of the Russian security services. 

Diane Rehm: How big a threat are those documents to not only the National Security of the United States but our relations with every other country in the world? 

Bruce Auster:  Yes, there's two issues there. One is we don't know what they are but to the extent the description of them is providing the blueprints for how the NSA actually goes about implementing these programs. That would be, you can imagine, enormously valuable to another security service.  The other question is the sort of geo-political impact of all of these revelations. Putting aside whether the Russians get what's left on his laptop, Even the revelations that we've seen so far have so complicated relationships. There were leaks about cyber attacks against China that were leaked on the eve of a president's summit with the Chinese president.  We see the European nations basically discovering they've been spied upon. So geo-politically there are enormous impacts or at least complications from these revelations. 

Diane Rehm:  David?

David Ignatius:  Well, in this NSA bag of tricks that Snowden brought with him are secrets that are among the most precious the United States has. The question always is when the magician been revealed and how he does his tricks can he still do them and do you want him to do them?  And we are now in a debate in this country over the surveillance and civil liberties. There's no question to me as somebody looking at intelligence that the ability to listen all over the world often in cooperation most security services but not always, is an immensely valuable foreign policy tool for the United States. Much more important than anything the CIA does. 

Diane Rehm:   So the question becomes, has not only Russia but indeed perhaps even China already stolen Snowden's files, Indira? 

No, what the question becomes is how do stupid people get on the air?

What world are these idiots living in?  Yes, it's been White House and State Dept spin as the week wound down that 'Dear Heavens the foreigners could learn all of our secrets!!!!!"  (Despite the fact that foreign governments generally already know the secrets.)  And if Diane can't advance administration spin, she apparently has no reason to go on air these days.

But the reality is that Ed Snowden is tech savy -- and not a pundit on The Diane Rehm Show.

On his hard drive?

I'm surprised Diane didn't ponder the safety of the 'floppy discs.'  It would have made as much sense.  Any information Ed has is either on a hidden flash drive or, more likely, has been uploaded to a secure cloud (and I can guess which cloud immediately).

The segment goes on and on and we could quote it but I'm getting sick of the pompous voices.  So I'll instead just note that at no point are the revelations addressed and at no point is anyone voicing  concern for Ed.  NPR remains the previously unknown north wing of the White House.  What a sad day for journalism.

Hours before the program aired live, Alfred James (Guardian Express) reported that NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden's actions were on the radar of a former US president:

“America no longer has a functioning democracy,” said former President Jimmy Carter. The former President was criticizing the NSA program exposed by Edward Snowden. He made his remarks discussing the intelligence service, and condemning its actions. 
Edward Snowden’s revelations are proving useful, said Carter, because “they inform the public.” 
Mr. Carter’s remarks were made in Atlanta, while speaking before the ‘Atlantic Bridge,’ a non-profit organization to enhance relations between the United States and Germany.
Were you doing a public affairs program on Friday and feeling the need to note Ed Snowden, surely part of the story would be that a former US president was noting that Ed's revelations were informing the public.  Der Spiegel first reported on the remarks:

Der ehemalige US-Präsident Jimmy Carter hat im Nachgang des NSA-Spähskandals das amerikanische politische System heftig kritisiert. "Amerika hat derzeit keine funktionierende Demokratie", sagte Carter am Dienstag bei einer Veranstaltung der "Atlantik-Brücke" in Atlanta.

Narayn Lakshman (The Hindu) sounds a cautionary note, reminding that Der Spiegel is the source everyone is working from at this point and no other outlet has offered reporting from Atlanta on the remarks.  Also offering support to Ed?  The head of the ACLU.    Chad Abraham (Aspen Daily News) reports the ACLU's Anthony Romero remarked on Snowden at the Aspen Security Forum:

“I’ve been watching this whole debate about Edward Snowden,” Romero said. “I think he did this country a service ... by [jump-starting] a debate that was anemic, that was left to government officials where people did not understand fully what was happening.”

There is now a vigorous public debate, six lawsuits about the NSA program have been filed, and Congress is holding hearings about the issue, he said.

Diane and her panel were interested in that either.  How very telling. Who would have thought, prior to Barack becoming president, that Dianne, of all people, would turn her back on whistle-blowing?  Decisions like that do have consequences and maybe we're seeing them right now?

Congressional Quarterly's John M. Donnelly Tweeted the latest on New York Times' reporter James Risen:

  1. Dissenting judge in Risen case: "Common sense tells us the value of the reporter's privilege to journalism is one of the highest order."
  2. NYT reporter James Risen will address threats to whistleblowers in brief remarks at annual awards dinner Aug 6 in DC.
  1. Court says NYT reporter James Risen has no reporters privilege to protect confidential source. The ruling:

What's going on?  James Risen has been ordered by the government (which now includes the Fourth US Circuit of Appeals) to answer as to whether or not the CIA's Jeffrey Sterling was his source for reports Risen filed?  Jeffrey Sterling is among the many whistle-blowers Barack Obama has attempted to destroy and imprison.   Sterling was charged in 2010 by Barack and cronies with violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

It's amazing how paranoid Barack Obama is -- is there any reason for these crackdowns other than paranoia.   That's what's led to Bradley Manning's three year imprisonment although he still has never been found guilty of anything.

Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

Had the US government shown the same concern, Bradley wouldn't have had to step up.  Instead, they gladly supported Nouri al-Maliki in torture and that's what Brad's exposures really prove.  This took place under Barack Obama's administration.  When the dots are connected, it's obvious what the White House has so feared for so long.  Brad's in the midst of his court-martial.

Dorian Merina (Free Speech Radio News) reported yesterday,  "Today the military judge in the court martial of Army Private Bradley Manning denied a request from his defense to dismiss some of the most serious charges, including the “aiding the enemy” charge that could carry a sentence of life in prison. Manning faces 22 charges in connection with leaking military documents to the anti-secrecy group, Wikileaks. Manning has said that he leaked the documents in order to 'spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.' The severity of the charge of aiding the enemy could have implications for future government whistleblowers or those seeking to bring information to the public."  Thomas L. Knapp (CounterPunch) weighs in today:

I’m shocked — shocked! — that Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge who ruled in February that Bradley Manning could be tried on  various charges even after being held prior to arraignment for more than five times the absolute longest time specified in the US Armed Forces’ “speedy trial” rules, has now also ruled that Manning can be convicted of aiding an enemy that does not exist.
Yes, you read that right: There’s only an “enemy” to aid, in any legal sense, if the United States is at war, a state created by a congressional declaration. There’s been no such declaration since World War II.
Lind had only one legal duty as judge in this case: To dismiss all charges due to the government’s failure to meet the “speedy trial” deadline. If the United States was, as John Adams put it, “a government of laws, not of men,” that’s exactly what she would have done.

Turning to England where there's news of an inquiry into Iraq.  Wednesday, the UK's Iraq Inquiry posted the following:

The Inquiry has today published an update on its progress that Sir John Chilcot sent to the Prime Minister on Monday 15 July.
As the letter explains, the Inquiry has made significant progress with writing its report.  It has begun a dialogue with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, about material the Inquiry wishes to include in its report covering discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees, Mr Blair's notes to President Bush, and records of discussions between Mr Blair and Mr Brown and Presidents Bush and Obama.
The Inquiry has concluded that it will  be in a position to begin the process of writing to individuals that may be criticised at the end of the month, with letters containing the provisional criticisms to follow at the end of October.  That will be a confidential process.
The Inquiry's final report will be submitted to the Prime Minister as soon as possible after that process is complete and any representations received from individuals have been considered.
The Prime Minister replied to Sir John's letter on 17 July.

The Iraq Inquiry began held public hearings from November 24, 2009 to February 2, 2011 as it attempted to explore how the UK ended up in the Iraq War.  John Chilcot is the Chair of the inquiry. A report was expected some time ago. Of the Blair-Bush letters, The Week notes:

The letters between Blair and President George W Bush were written in 2002 and are believed to show that Blair was offering to support America if Bush decided to attack Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein long before the Cabinet or the Commons gave their assent to the war. And long before the sexed-up report on Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction and phoney intelligence were found to give the invasion a legal fig-leaf.
Chilcot is still battling to stop the correspondence being kept secret

 Christopher Hope (Telegraph of London) adds, "Sir John also wishes to highlight previously unknown correspondence between Mr Blair and Gordon Brown and other communications with US presidents. The Prime Minister said Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, was aiding the inquiry on releasing this information."


the washington post
rajiv chandrasekaran
dahr jamail



 qassim abdul-zahra

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Reuters quotes Haj Hassan, eye witness to a bombing in Mosul stating, "We used to go to this teahouse after prayers. Tonight when we got close to it we heard a big explosion inside. At first we thought it was a gas cylinder, but police told us it was an explosion. We saw smoke and flames coming out."

Violence has been coming back in Iraq for some time.  One of the few to repeatedly point it out was C.I.  Now everyone notices because it's gotten so bad.  2010 was the 'best' year in terms of the death toll.  Yet only C.I. noted the uptick in 2011.  How did the mighty press outlets miss it?

I have no idea.  But they did.

Now we're back to at least 2008 levels of violence.

It's amazing that this happens with so little attention from the press.  Not only is there a lack of desire to report on it, there's a lack of desire to ask questions about it.  Considering the billions the US State Department is spending in Iraq, you'd think that the State Dept press briefing would cover Iraq extensively.  That does not happen.  When Iraq is briefly raised by reporters, C.I. notes in the daily snapshots and that's a rare thing -- a very rare thing.

The US press helped the US government unleash all the hell that has followed in Iraq.  How dare they think they can walk away.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 17, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,rumors swirl that Nouri's hold on power is slipping, Barzani speaks of his two-year extension, Ayad Allawi calls for the government to protect the citizens of Diyala Province, the US House Judiciary Committee discusses spying, and more. 

This morning, US House Rep Ted Deutch noted he worries "about the balance between legitimate security needs and the constituationally protected rights of all Americans" and declared, "I believe it's time to rexemine the Patriot Act, insert greater accountability into the FISA court and ensure our laws cannot be interpreted behind the backs of the American public."

He was speaking at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on FISA.  The Committee Chair is Bob Goodlatte and the Ranking Member is John Conyers.  The first panel was made up of DoJ's James Cole, NSA's John C. Inglis, Office of Director of National Intelligence's Robert S. Litt and the FBI's Stephanie Douglas.  The second panel was Steptoe & Johnson, LLP's Stewart Baker, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer and CNSS' Kate Martin.

Storyteller Stewart Baker  babbled before the House Judiciary Committee and made the claim that FISA was 'constrained' under Bill Clinton and this resulted in the "wall" between intelligence and law enforcement which prevented the capture of the 9-11 hijackers.  Jamie Gorelick, tear down this wall!  Are we really back to that nonsense?  (If there was a wall, it dates back to the Reagan era.)  Baker loves fairy tales.  Let's deal with how the so-called wall allegedly caused 9-11.  From SourceWatch:

Coleen Rowley, who served as chief counsel of the FBI's Minneapolis field office, "in a 13-page memo, outlined how FBI headquarters thwarted agents' attempts to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker. The 'bombshell memo' led bureau chief Robert Mueller to reorganize the agency. Rowley testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June about the FBI bureaucracy that frustrates agents' attempts at innovative investigation and mires them in paperwork." [1]

 From Rowley's May 21, 2002 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller:

1) The Minneapolis agents who responded to the call about Moussaoui's flight training identified him as a terrorist threat from a very early point. The decision to take him into custody on August 15, 2001, on the INS "overstay" charge was a deliberate one to counter that threat and was based on the agents' reasonable suspicions. While it can be said that Moussaoui's overstay status was fortuitous, because it allowed for him to be taken into immediate custody and prevented him receiving any more flight training, it was certainly not something the INS coincidentally undertook of their own volition. I base this on the conversation I had when the agents called me at home late on the evening Moussaoui was taken into custody to confer and ask for legal advice about their next course of action. The INS agent was assigned to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and was therefore working in tandem with FBI agents.
2) As the Minneapolis agents' reasonable suspicions quickly ripened into probable cause, which, at the latest, occurred within days of Moussaoui's arrest when the French Intelligence Service confirmed his affiliations with radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and activities connected to Osama Bin Laden, they became desperate to search the computer lap top that had been taken from Moussaoui as well as conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects. The agents in particular believed that Moussaoui signaled he had something to hide in the way he refused to allow them to search his computer.
3) The Minneapolis agents' initial thought was to obtain a criminal search warrant, but in order to do so, they needed to get FBI Headquarters' (FBIHQ's) approval in order to ask for DOJ OIPR's approval to contact the United States Attorney's Office in Minnesota. Prior to and even after receipt of information provided by the French, FBIHQ personnel disputed with the Minneapolis agents the existence of probable cause to believe that a criminal violation had occurred/was occurring. As such, FBIHQ personnel refused to contact OIPR to attempt to get the authority. While reasonable minds may differ as to whether probable cause existed prior to receipt of the French intelligence information, it was certainly established after that point and became even greater with successive, more detailed information from the French and other intelligence sources. The two possible criminal violations initially identified by Minneapolis Agents were violations of Title 18 United States Code Section 2332b (Acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, which, notably, includes "creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to any other person by destroying or damaging any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States or by attempting or conspiring to destroy or damage any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States") and Section 32 (Destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities). It is important to note that the actual search warrant obtained on September 11th was based on probable cause of a violation of Section 32.1 Notably also, the actual search warrant obtained on September 11th did not include the French intelligence information. Therefore, the only main difference between the information being submitted to FBIHQ from an early date which HQ personnel continued to deem insufficient and the actual criminal search warrant which a federal district judge signed and approved on September 11th, was the fact that, by the time the actual warrant was obtained, suspected terrorists were known to have highjacked planes which they then deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. To say then, as has been iterated numerous times, that probable cause did not exist until after the disasterous event occurred, is really to acknowledge that the missing piece of probable cause was only the FBI's (FBIHQ's) failure to appreciate that such an event could occur. The probable cause did not otherwise improve or change. When we went to the United States Attorney's Office that morning of September 11th, in the first hour after the attack, we used a disk containing the same information that had already been provided to FBIHQ; then we quickly added Paragraph 19 which was the little we knew from news reports of the actual attacks that morning. The problem with chalking this all up to the "20-20 hindsight is perfect" problem, (which I, as all attorneys who have been involved in deadly force training or the defense of various lawsuits are fully appreciative of), is that this is not a case of everyone in the FBI failing to appreciate the potential consequences. It is obvious, from my firsthand knowledge of the events and the detailed documentation that exists, that the agents in Minneapolis who were closest to the action and in the best position to gauge the situation locally, did fully appreciate the terrorist risk/danger posed by Moussaoui and his possible co-conspirators even prior to September 11th. Even without knowledge of the Phoenix communication (and any number of other additional intelligence communications that FBIHQ personnel were privy to in their central coordination roles), the Minneapolis agents appreciated the risk. So I think it's very hard for the FBI to offer the "20-20 hindsight" justification for its failure to act! Also intertwined with my reluctance in this case to accept the "20-20 hindsight" rationale is first-hand knowledge that I have of statements made on September 11th, after the first attacks on the World Trade Center had already occurred, made telephonically by the FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) who was the one most involved in the Moussaoui matter and who, up to that point, seemed to have been consistently, almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents' efforts (see number 5). Even after the attacks had begun, the SSA in question was still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the World Trade Center attacks as a mere coincidence with Misseapolis' prior suspicions about Moussaoui.2
That's some of the letter.  It is not about a 'wall,' it is about people not doing their jobs.  That was too much reality for someone who chose to tell a fairy tale. 

Ranking Members John Conyers was a rare bright spot on the hearing.  He noted, for example, of the secret spaying, "If it weren't for a couple of people leaking, we wouldn't know any of this, as far as I'm concerned."

His concerns included the legality of the collecting of data, more so than "the uses to which it is put."  He declared tracking everyone in the country "for at least six years" was "probably the most disturbing aspect."

As noted Jameel Jaffer (ACLU) testified.  He has posted his prepared testimony (opening remarks) and we'll note it:

Over the last six weeks it has become clear that the NSA is engaged in far-reaching, intrusive, and unconstitutional surveillance of Americans' communications.
  • Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the NSA is tracking every single phone call made by a resident of the United States—who they called, when they called them, for how long they spoke. Until recently it was tracking ordinary Americans' Internet activity as well.
  • Under Section 702 of FISA, and on the pretext of monitoring people outside the United States, the NSA is using Section 702 of FISA to build massive databases of Americans' domestic and international communications—not just so-called metadata, but content as well.
These programs have been made possible by huge advances in the technology of surveillance, but in many respects they resemble the generalized surveillance programs that led to the adoption of the Fourth Amendment more than two hundred years ago. The FISA court orders resemble general warrants, albeit general warrants for the digital age.
That the NSA is engaged in this unconstitutional surveillance is the result of defects both in the law itself and in the current oversight system.
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act affords the government sweeping power to monitor the communications of innocent people.
  • Excessive secrecy has made congressional oversight difficult and public oversight impossible.
  • Intelligence officials have repeatedly misled the public, Congress, and the courts about the nature and scope of the government's surveillance activities.
  • Structural features of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have prevented that court from serving as an effective guardian of constitutional rights.
  • And the ordinary federal courts have improperly used the "state secrets" and "standing" doctrines to place the NSA's activities beyond the reach of judicial review.
To say that the NSA's activities present a grave danger to American democracy is not an overstatement. Thirty-six years ago, after conducting a comprehensive investigation into the intelligence abuses of the previous decades, the Church Committee warned that inadequate regulations on government surveillance "threaten[ed] to undermine our democratic society and fundamentally alter its nature." This warning should have even more resonance today than it did in 1976, because in recent decades the NSA's resources have grown, statutory and constitutional limitations have been steadily eroded, and the technology of surveillance has become exponentially more powerful.
Because the problem Congress confronts today has many roots, there is no single solution to it. But there are a number of things that Congress should do right away:
  • It should amend Sections 215 and 702 to expressly prohibit suspicionless or "dragnet" monitoring or tracking of Americans' communications.
  • It should require the executive to release basic information about the government's use of foreign-intelligence-surveillance authorities, including those relating to pen registers and national security letters. The executive should be required to disclose, for each year:
    • How many times each of these provisions was used
    • How many individuals' privacy was implicated by the government's use of each provision
    • And, with respect to any dragnet, generalized, or bulk surveillance program, the types of information that were collected.
  • Congress should also require the publication of FISA court opinions that evaluate the meaning, scope, or constitutionality of the foreign-intelligence laws. The ACLU recently filed a motion before the FISA court arguing that the publication of these opinions is required by the First Amendment, but Congress need not wait for the FISA court to act. Congress has the authority and the obligation to ensure that Americans are not governed by a system of secret law.
  • Finally, Congress—and this Committee in particular—should hold additional hearings to consider further amendments to FISA, including amendments to make FISC proceedings more transparent.
Congress should not be indifferent to the government's accumulation of vast quantities of sensitive information about American's lives. This Committee in particular has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the government's efforts to protect the country do not compromise the freedoms that make the country worth protecting.
Thank you.

Many, like Chair  Gooelatte, didn't grasp why the officials continued to insist that thei was a foreign affairs matter when it came to spying on Americans making phone calls or sending e-mails to other Americans, and both parties being inside the United States?  Many words were used to justify that, none of which made sense.

What's the take away?  US House Rep Blake Farenthold noted that the Fourth Amendment was seen as not being violated by the spying and the First Amendment was not seen as being violated by the spying so possibly the only time he has a reasonable expectation of privacy is with "a letter i hand deliver to my wife in a schiff,"

The Glens Falls Post-Star reports  on Lt Gen Robert Caslen Jr becoming the "59th superintendent" at West Point in a recent ceremony  and notes, "Caslen is a 1975 West Point graduate who has commanded at every level from company through division. Most recently, he was the Chief of the Office of Security Cooperation for Iraq."

Yes, he was.

And what should he have been most famous for in that role?

For revealing that, in the fall of 2012, more US troops were being sent back into Iraq. September 25th, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

It should have caused outrage, it should have led to outcries.

Tom Hayden did call it out.  Otherwise?

Nobody.  They were happier, apparently, to call us out for repeatedly noting it or for taking writers to task -- left writers for left websites -- when they repeated the lie of all US troops being out of Iraq. Paraphrasing one e-mailer (who is with an 'organization' supposedly against war), "You know you're not really being helpful by attacking [name deleted].  And Iraq is not the only issue in the world."

Really?  It was the issue that put your laughable organization on the map.  And I guess you think it's helpful to ignore the fact that US troops are being sent back into Iraq?  That would explain your silence and that of your organization's as well, right?

We're half way through July.  Do you realize that in two months, we'll be at the one year anniversary of Arango's report and no one wants to deal with it on the left, no one wants to acknowledge it.

It's far more important to cover for Barack than it is to tell the truth, apparently.

Arango noted a new deal was expected.

It went through December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America -- signed by both the US and Iraq.  We noted it that day and returned to the topic for the  December 10th and December 11th snapshots.  Among other things, it provides for joint-patrols (US and Iraq) in Iraq.

It would be nice if any of the above could be discussed.  Instead, our left 'independent' media that always wants you to send it money can't be bothered with covering these truths.  When it comes to Iraq, so much never gets covered.  For example, a new World Health Organization study side-steps a great deal.  IPS reports:

A long-awaited study on congenital birth defects by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Iraq is expected to be very extensive in nature. 
[. . .]
The report will not examine the link between the prevalence of birth defects and use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions used during the war and occupation in Iraq, according to WHO. A by-product of the uranium enrichment process, DU is prized by the military for its use in ammunition that can punch through walls and armoured tanks. The main problem, experts say, is that DU munitions vaporise on contact, generating dust that is easily inhaled into the lungs.
The WHO study will also not consider pollutants such as lead and mercury as factors or variables, Syed Jaffar Hussain, representative and head of mission for the WHO in Iraq, told IPS.
According to WHO, establishing a link between the prevalence of congenital birth defects and exposure to DU would require further research by competent agencies or institutions.
Discussion and preparation for the study that started in mid-2011 was conducted in the wake of reports and individual studies conducted in Iraq which found a significant increase in the prevalence of congenital birth defects, says WHO.
Previous studies also pointed at some kind of correlation between metal pollutants, possibly DU used in 2003 and 2004 during the U.S. military attacks in Fallujah, with congenital birth defects in the region.
However, the causes will not be part of the MOH and WHO study. And this is what has invited criticism from some health experts and scientists.

 Caslen had previously served as West Point's commandant, a top academy position in charge of day-to-day operations of the cadets.

Also under-covered has been the prostitution.  For years, the mainstream press insisted there were no brothels in Iraq, certainly not in Baghdad.  No brothels in a war zone?  That would be a modern first.  Of course, Off Our Backs wasn't afraid to report the truth and did report it.  There were brothels in Iraq, including Baghdad.   Wassim Bassem (Al-Monitor) reports:

Raed Qais, a worker in a nightclub, confirmed to Al-Monitor that the number of brothels in Baghdad has increased after being limited to certain areas such as Midan, Kamaliyah and Abu Ghraib. They have become active today in other areas in private homes that hold semi-discreet socializing and sex parties, frequented by clients via a network of relationships of “confidants,” their money and their entourage.
Karima Hatem admitted to Al-Monitor that she has "worked in the sex trade in Baghdad for around six years,” after a slump in demand for goods in Diwaniyah forced her to move to the capital.
Heifa Hamid also moved around five years ago from the Fawar area of Diwaniyah to Baghdad, where she works in a secret brothel in the Midan area as part of a “work team” with Hatem.

National Iraqi News Agency reports that the Kirkuk home of Ministry of Defense official Talib Mohammed was attacked leaving one of his bodyguards injured, a Baquba bombing left 3 people dead and three more injured, an armed clash in Tikrit left 3 police officers and 1 rebel dead (and one police officer injured), a bombing near a Mosul cafe left 3 people dead and twenty-one more injured, an armed attack in Ramadi left 3 rebels dead, a Ramadi atack left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Mosul bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left a third injured, an armed attack in Aljazeerah left 3 rebels dead and 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, and an attack on Sheikh Qadhban al-Jumanili's car left his wife dead and his son and another relative injured. Prensa Latina reports that the Sheik was also killed in the attack that claimed his wife and they report "three children died when a bomb exploded near the Al Suedi River, northeast of the city of Baqubah, in an attack that wounded five other children."  All Iraq News adds that a Muqdadiya bombing claimed 3 lives and left four more people injured.  Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count counts 460 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

As Adam Schreck (AP) notes the violence is taking place during the holy month of Ramadan and that you have to drop back to 2007 to find more violent deaths during this month.  Deutsche Welle notes the violence aimed at religious minorities:

Churches are now regular recipients of bomb attacks - as they have been for years. When Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako became head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq in March 2013, security authorities in parts of Baghdad were on high alert. The patriarch, however, is the leader of a congregation in decline.
In addition to many Catholics, Christians of other denominations are leaving Iraq. From what was once a group of roughly 1 million Christians in the biblical land of Babylon, a few hundred thousand remain. Iraq's other religious minorities have suffered a similar fate.
Day-to-day life is particularly difficult for Mandeans, whose religion accepts certain Old and New Testament figures - Adam, Noah, John the Baptist, for example - but rejects Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ. The religious community is based in southern Iraq, whence it traces its origins for over 2,000 years to John the Baptist. Mandeans argue that the Koran itself would define them as a "people of the book" - that is, as adhering to a religion worthy of protection. Many Iraqi Muslims see things otherwise.

Alsumaria reports that Thursday begins a three day Alkrsh, a holy time for Mandaeans which requires remaining indoors for 36 hours.  Behrooz Berenji (Mandaean in Chicago) offers more:

When it comes to the last day of the year Mandaean (Kinsa and Zhli), which means the meeting and cleansing, starting procedures and preparations are not familiar by those around sons of this community despite the fact that everyone living with each other within the unity of Iraqi society, you see their different reactions between the critic does not understand and collaborator or neutral, remains Alkrsh a mystery worthy of respect and clarity .. is the concept of social comes from the meaning of detention or i'tikaaf an Arabic term came from i'tikaaf Mandaeans in their homes 36 hours starting from sunset on the end of the year Mandaean (Kinsa and Zhli) until sunrise of the second day of the year Mandaean new, on any two nights, either the concept Mandean (Dhva Lord) Mendaúaan of the great feast that bears the stamp worldly and socially mean big event where the statement is contained (Dhva) with all the major events Mandaean (k Dhva Ed always, Dhva Hnina .... etc. ) denote the divine events make up the panel configuration and creation, and the word came specifically with the Lord on this occasion the sense of the great and great is attributed to the Lord Almighty. What is this event important to the Lord? Why is this i'tikaaf which is a feature of that event is very old, and why is a holiday for Mendaúaan? We will try to answer briefly by inference, religious texts in this regard, as stated in the Court (and two thousand Tersr Asvaks,, a thousand and twelve questions) of the preserves itself through thirty-six hours would be attributed to me I am Abu archaeologist.

As Deutsche Welle notes, many of Iraq's religious minorities flee to northern Iraq or flee Iraq period.  The refugee crisis has not disappeared just because the world's press has lost interest.  All Iraq News reports today that 1,000 Iraqi refugees arrived in Hanover, Germany today.  All Iraq News quotes Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi stating:

The return of the extremism and displacing the citizens in Diyala province will result in the sectarian conflict and destroying the social texture in Iraq.  The weak governmental performance and the accurate mechanism of the Ministry of Interior to deal with the situation in addition to the lack of the national accord and the real partnership, are the main reasons behind the unstable security situation and the increase of the terrorist attacks in Ramadan. While condemning displacing the citizens in Diyala and the other provinces, we call the government to show its stance over this dangerous issue and to exert efforts to improve it.

NINA reports, "Speaker Osama Najafi called for holding a public hearing on Thursday in parliament in order to deter violators and terrorists in Diyala province and easing tensions to overcome the crisis and stop the forced displacement of citizens in a number of areas of the province."  Alsumaria adds that the Free Patriotic Movement is joining the call as explained by their leader Massoud Zangana who states that the citizens of Diyala are in need of help.

Laith Hammoudi is an Iraqi journalist who has long reported in Iraq.  He has worked for McClatchy Newspapers and AFP, among other outlets.  He also works with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.  This is from his latest report:

The losses which Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s party suffered in the recent provincial elections stand as an indictment both of failed political alliances at national level, and also of poor economic and welfare delivery at local level, according to commentators interviewed by IWPR.
Elections were held in 12 governorates on April 20, while two more in Anbar and Nineveh were delayed to June 20 because of instability. No elections were held in the three Kurdish provinces or in disputed Kirkuk.
What really mattered to Maliki’s State of Law party was winning the nine mainly Shia governorates that constitute its power-base.
But in the event, its dominance was eroded by two other Shia parties – the Muwatin Coalition and the Sadrist Movement – plus a number of smaller groups. From a position where it controlled all nine councils through strong relative majorities – thus ensuring that its candidate was selected as provincial governor – Maliki’s party lost five and had a much reduced lead in the other four.

Nouri's power does appear to be slipping.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Nouri lives in denial and apparently cultivates it within State of Law.  All Iraq News quotes State of Law MP Sadiq al-Labban declaring that there will not be another crisis between Baghdad and Erbil.  Not only have the for-show meetings not ended the current crises between Baghdad and Erbil, but there are emerging problems.  NINA notes that Kurdistan Alliance MP Vian Dekeel is objecting to the push to pass "important and disputed laws in the House of Representatives in one basket deal." That puts them in direct opposition to State of Law.

Hurriyet reports:

The instability stems mainly from the sectarian and ethnic divides engulfing the country. The disputes between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as the Shiite-dominated central government and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), have been particularly tense over the last year. Yet, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited northern Iraq on June 10 for the first time in more than two years, and Masoud Barzani, president of the KRG, reciprocated on July 7 by visiting Baghdad. These are not just symbolic visits.
While al-Maliki’s move was considered a first step toward resolving a long-running dispute over oil and land as well as an attempt to secure Kurdish support to relieve some of the pressure his Shiite-led government is feeling from the Sunnis and the surge in sectarian violence spilling over from Syria, Barzani’s visit aimed at a much larger goal of “national reconciliation,” with an underlying strategy to move to Baghdad replacing Celal Talabani as president. Talabani’s term is finishing in April 2014, and he has been in intensive care in Germany since he suffered a stroke in December 2012.
The fact that the al-Maliki government lost its popularity after the provincial elections in April 2013 forces him to form new coalitions before the forthcoming elections in 2014. While Sunni groups accuse him because of his policies marginalizing Sunnis, mending ties with the Kurds would become the best alternative for al-Maliki.
Barzani’s term as the president of the KRG was extended two more years on June 30, with the cooperation of his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), despite others opposed the extension. The future of this cooperation between the KDP and the PUK will depend on the result of upcoming parliamentary elections in September 2013 and the health of Talabani. Thus Barzani is focusing on working with the central government to strengthen his position.

Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani declared yesterday that he would continue on as president on a temporary basis while waiting for the KRG Parliament to vote on the amendments to the Constitution -- those amendments include adding two years on to Barzani's current term.  He states that the KRG will not permit a lifetime president.

 There are several issues at play here including the current instability of Iraq.  In addition, there is the issue of disputed Kirkuk (claimed by both the KRG and the central government out of Baghdad) and the issue of oil and gas.  There is also the matter of stature.  The KRG needs a prominent voice and Barzani's stature on the world stage has only grown in the last years.

The KRG's two main political parties are the PUK and KDP.  Barzani is a member of the KDP., the most prominent member of the PUK is Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq.  Last December,   Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  His medical status is unclear and many are concerned that Kurdish power in Iraq hangs in the balance.

At a time like this, it's not a surprise that over 60% of Kurds are in favor of Jalal serving another term.  Another term is not what is being proposed.  The Constitution limits the presidents to two terms and Massoud Barzani is in his second term.  However, that was passed after he was elected to his first term and, in an attempt at fairness, the proposed amendment would give him two more years with the understanding that there will be no third term.  Al Mada notes that the PUK has called this a "reasonable move" and that Barzani will not seek a third term.

The issue of Iraq was raised today at the US State Dept press briefing which spokesperson Marie Harf handled.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The departing UN envoy, Martin Kobler, made a very sobering statement – that Iraq is sliding fast toward a civil war, and furthermore that the Iraq and Syria wars are merging together with combatants on both sides along sectarian lines taken. Do you have a comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we remain deeply concerned about the rise of violent extremism and how it further endangers the future of Iraq and all of Syria’s neighbors. We’ve spoken to that many times. The Government of Iraq has itself also expressed its deep concern about the level of violence in Syria and violent extremist elements who might seek to capitalize on the situation in Syria to foment violence in Iraq. So we would also like to make the point that the vast majorities of Iraqis – of the Iraqi people continue to reject this violence, that we are encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence, and that we have continued to explore ways to address these ongoing security issues going forward.

On Kobler, All Iraq News notes:

Iraq Permanent envoy to the UN, the Ambassador, Mohamed al-Hakim, said during the UNSC session held on last Tuesday to follow up the Secretary General's report on the UNAMI "I would like to convey the Iraqi government's request to prolong the UNAMI's mandate for one year according to the terms adopted in the Security Council's resolution No.1770 for 2007."  
"The Iraqi government called on the UNAMI to provide the logistic needs required to secure the adequate number of the observers to ensure transparent parliament elections scheduled in 2014," he added.
I stated this morning that we'd cover Kobler but we'll wait until either tomorrow or Friday.  There's not room today.  Back to the press conference, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden was briefly noted.

 QUESTION: New topic? Snowden?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Quick one. News reports allege that Mr. Snowden’s getting very close to getting asylum in Russia. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Our position on Mr. Snowden has not changed --


MS. HARF: -- that he is a wanted felon of the United States, that he needs to be returned as quickly as possible. I don’t have any updates for you on any of those reports.

QUESTION: Have the Russians told you that they are getting close to granting him asylum?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that. We continue to discuss with the Russian authorities our concerns about Mr. Snowden. We continue to say that he needs to be returned to the United States.

As US House Rep John Conyers noted today, were it not for the whistle-blowers like Ed Snowden, the spying on Americans would be unknown.  Secretly, without public discussion, the White House decides to override the First and Fourth Amendments and does so via a secret court ensuring further secrecy.  This was (and is) spying on Americans.  There's no 'foreign' aspect to it.  This is domestic spying, plain and simple.  

 the associated press