Monday, June 17, 2013

The spying scandal continues


Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Predator of the United States" went up yesterday morning.

And the spy? 

Kimberly Dozier (AP) reports trashy Barack goes on Charlie Rose's PBS program tonight and insists his program "is transparent."

Does he not know the meaning of the term "transparent"?

I'm wondering because a "transparent" program not only wouldn't have required Ed Snowden to expose it but also wouldn't require the closed door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Davidson (CounterPunch) has a good take on Senator Dianne Feinstein:

If they are part of the “select” group of Senators and Congresspersons associated with the intelligence agencies they will absorb their secretive orientation as well. Take Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who is head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  She has insisted on the need and the worth of massive spying by the NSA whereby the “megadata” of almost everything that goes through the internet, and a lot that goes through the phone lines, is collected and stored, placing all content in a state of ready availability to the government if it chooses to look at it. She, and others like NSA Director James Clapper, claim that this enormous gathering up of personal data has helped “foil multiple terrorist plots” against Americans and others. Those who have made public this secret process are, according to Feinstein, “traitors.”
In a real sense, Feinstein has metamorphosed into the loyal citizen of a bureaucracy that has relegated to itself the right to define both security and the public’s need to know. It does not appear to concern Feinstein that this bureaucracy is determined to function in a way that will allow no viable accountability to anyone beyond its own community.

Yep, that's DiFi, the idiot who forgot her oath to the Constitution but is happy to call others "traitor."

The spying scandal is serious and it's not going away.

Sooner or later, cowardly Barack is going to have to come back to the United States and face the people.  He can only hide out for so damn long.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, June 17, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Catherine Ashton visits the KRG, as does Brett McGurk, the Camp Ashraf refugees get attention as a result of yet another attack on them, whistle-blower Ed Snowden speaks today, US President Barack Obama's decision to openly arm the so-called 'rebels' in Syria meets with disapproval, CODEPINK plans an NYC action against The Drone War for this Saturday, and more.

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) broke the news: two weeks ago about the NSA collecting metadata on all Americans phone calls and then the news that the NSA and FBI were using PRISM, a program collecting data from the internet -- video, photos, e-mails, you name it.  Ed Snowden is the whistle-blower who exposed the programs.  Today, at the Guardian, he participated in an online discussion.  Among those asking questions were AP's Kimberly Dozier:

Kimberly Dozier @KimberlyDozier
US officials say terrorists already altering TTPs because of your leaks, & calling you traitor. Respond? 


US officials say this every time there's a public discussion that could limit their authority. US officials also provide misleading or directly false assertions about the value of these programs, as they did just recently with the Zazi case, which court documents clearly show was not unveiled by PRISM.
Journalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source? Then ask how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that, and ask yourself if it was worth it. Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.
Further, it's important to bear in mind I'm being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.

Kimberly Dozier's AP report on Snowden's chat is here.  Asked by Ryan Latvaitis about his advice to other potential whistle-blowers, Snowden replied, "This country is worth dying for."  That's not the talk of a Benedict Arnold, those are the words of someone concerned about democracy and the Constitution.  In response to a question from the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman, Snowden denied supplying the Chinese government with classified information.

On CBS This Morning today, Senate weakling Dick Durbin showed up to try to pretend he was finally on the job.

Charlie Rose: Britain's Guardian reports [. . .] the NSA spied on Russia's president and other foreign leaders at a G20 summit in London in 2009.

Norah O'Donnell:  Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is here, he's the number two Democrat in the Senate and Chairman of the Subcommittee that overseas funding for intelligence.  Senator, good morning.

Dick Durbin: Good morning. 

Norah O'Donnell:  The news today is that the head of the NSA is going to release new details where more than a dozen plots, terrorist plots were foiled in the US and other countries.  Is that enough to quiet some of the privacy concerns?

Little Dick Durbin: I think it's an important development and I'm glad they're doing it.  And this is an issue I've been on for years, I've offered admnents on the floor of the Senate and in the Judiciary Committee to try to narrow the gathering of information to what we need and not more. Uh, and now we're going to take a closer look.  What I need to know on these cases, if we had known the suspect and gone after those phone records after some suspicion could we have come up with the same information?  Rathter than the approach that's being used -- gather everything, hold everything, wait to see if maybe Charlie Rose's name is going to pop up at some point in the future so you can go back in phone records of four or five years ago?  Can you gather that information as needed with suspects?  Or do you have to gather all of that in advance?  That's the key question.

Charlie Rose: You say you've been working on this for a long time --

Little Dick Durbin:  I sure have.

Charlie Rose:  Has there been push back and resistance on security grounds and therfore no changes have been made?

Little Dick Durbin:  That's right.  Initially, under the PATRIOT Act, the provision I supported was there and it protected -- 

Charlie Rose:  Do you expect anything to change now?

Little Dick Durbin:  It can.   It depends on the appetite of the American people for privacy.  It's an interesting thing because you get different things in these polls -- 

And we'll stop mincing  Dick Durbin there because he's not cute and for a man his age and girth to act that way is really disgusting.  When Durbin was 18, The Four Seasons had a number on hit with "Walk Like A Man" -- at what point will Durbin?  Polls, he said.

He doesn't know a poll any better than the bulk of the press.  CNN has a new poll out.  It's shocking.  If you don't know how to read a poll.  The findings of this poll?  They were there weeks ago if you're educated in the social sciences, if you're actually educated, you knew to look at the independents when the press started polling.  That is always your clue.  This is not anything I invented with any alleged wisdom.  These are the basics of polling.  We've explained it and explained it -- most recently June 13th.  The press needs to learn how to interpret polls.  There's really no point in an 'insta poll' of asking people the weekend of revelations what they think.  Most haven't decided and most are attached to their partisanship.  The only value of those 'insta polls' is the numbers for the independent voters.  We're not going to review it again today, I'm getting tired of spoon feeding.

Regardless of Barack's very bad polling numbers, Little Dick Durbin did not take an oath to uphold a poll, he took an oath to uphold the Constitution.  Is that confusing to him?  If it's confusing, he needs to resign because he's clearly not qualified to hold office.  "I sure have" been working on this for a long time, he boasts.  Then he's done an awful job.  It shouldn't be that difficult.  As Senator Mark Udall Tweeted yesterday:

Americans deserve to know govt's secret interpretation of US laws. Govt overreach is never good.

A comment left to the CBS News report is worth noting (and thanks to the CBS News friend who passed it on):

linkicon reporticon emailicon
ByrdSong says:
This country won't spend a few million to build a simple computer system to manage the VA claims to care for and compensate our wounded veterans of two illegal and totally unnecessary wars, yet it will spend untold billions building a top secret system to spy on, collect, store and peruse information on every person in this country. And yet many out here call Snowden and Bradley traitors. Go figure.

Go figure indeed.  Last week, I sat in a House Judiciary Committee hearing listening to FBI Director Robert Mueller lie that if they had the NSA spying program prior to 9-11, it would have prevented 9-11.  And people accepted this as fact on the Committee.  Despite the fact that the recent bombing in Boston stands out most infamously for the fact that the FBI never shared details with Boston authorities.  As Scott Shane and Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) reported last month, "The F.B.I. did not tell the Boston police about the 2011 warning from Russia about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two brothers accused in the Boston Marathon bombings, the city's police chief said Thursday during the first public Congressional hearing on the terrorist attack."  That had the program but nothing got shared then so stop lying to the American people, Robert Mueller.

Yesterday, Peter Eisler and Susan Page (USA Today) hosted a video chat with NSA whistle-blowers Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe  and with Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project.  Excerpt.

Susan Page:   All of you raised your objections to NSA programs in the extent of the surveillance that they involved for months or years before they erupted publicly.  With Edward Snowden, he went directly to the news media with his story.  Based on your experience, did he have another effective option? 

William Binney:  Well, I mean, we tried to stay, for the better part of seven years, inside the government.  Trying to get the government to recognize the unconstitutional, illegal activity that they were doing, openly admit that, and define ways that would be legal and Constitutionally acceptable to achieve the ends that they were after.  And that just failed totally because no one in Congress, we couldn't get anybody in the courts and certainly no one in the Inspector General's Justice Dept  didn't pay any attention to it.  And so all of the efforts we made just produced no change whatsoever.  All it did was continue to get worse and expand. 

Susan Page:  So he did the right thing?

William Binney: Yes.  Yes.  I think he did.

[. . .]

Thomas Drake:  There is a bottom line though.  The government unchained itself from the Constitution as a result of 9-11 and in the absolute darkest of secrecy, at the highest levels of government, approved by the White House, NSA became the executive agent for a surveillance program, extraordinarily broad surveillance program that turned the United States of America effectively into a foreign nation for electronic dragnet surveillance and it started with phone numbers.

Ed Snowden is the reason this conversation -- this overdue conversation is taking place.  Not Dick Durbin.  Ed Snowden risked a great deal to raise this issue.  The editorial board of the Guardian noted last night:

In unmasking himself as the leaker of the files showing the uses and abuses of western intelligence, Edward Snowden called for a wider public debate. He suggested that the public was sleepwalking into a surveillance society through a lack of knowledge about what was being done in their name. President Obama, reacting in a measured way to the fact of the leak, also welcomed the opportunity to have such a debate.
A meaningful debate cannot be held without information. Snowden's case is that almost no one – not ordinary citizens, not the press, not the courts, not even congress – is in a position to discuss the reasonable balance between security, privacy and openness because they are denied the full and true facts. From Snowden's vantage point – reading a great deal of source material – he believes the US National Security Agency "routinely" lies to congress.

Let's move over to the IRS scandal where apparently everyone's competing for Idiot of the Day.  Let's start with US House Rep Elijah Cummings.  He is the Ranking Member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  The Chair is Darrell Issa.  Cummings and Issa are in conflict.  Cummings feels that since Issa is releasing transcripts to the press -- transcripts of interviews with IRS employees -- that the transcripts should be public and should be public right now.   That part actually makes sense -- and would even if the press wasn't seeing them.  The government needs to stop sitting on information and start informing the citizens what is going on.

Where Cummings is being stupid?  Josh Hicks (Washington Post) reports that Cummings is releasing his own excerpts "The Cummings release revealed that a self-described 'conservative Republican' in the agency’s Cincinnati office elevated the first tea party case to Washington, seeking guidance."  If tomorrow, which could happen, a Democrat in the Cincinnati office is found to have done something untoward, the "Demcorat" does not matter, the "Republican" does not matter.  The IRS is not supposed to be politicized nor are low level officials capable of carrying off political targeting.  Cummings is attempting to politicize the scandal and he needs to stop doing that.  It undercuts his overall argument and it sets him up to look very foolish if a minor member in the scandal turns out to be a Democrat or someone who donated or campaigned for Democrats.  It's not smart.  He also looks stupid when he makes statements about the White House not being involved.  A) Why is he reinforcing that possibility to begin with?  B) It makes it appear that his only interest is whether or not the White House was involved when the American people have made clear in polls that they find the targeting of political groups outrageous.  Is he serving the American people or the White House?  Since every member of the House who chooses to remain in Congress is up for re-election next year, he might want to concentrate a little more on how he is seen?

Was Cummings responding to Fox News reporting?  I have no idea but for him to make such a stupid move (and it's gravely stupid, you don't stake out a position like that until all the interviews are done), it seemed possible.  So I went to Fox News and found more stupidity in this article.  They bill it as a Fox News report and, at the end, offer that "The Associated Press contributed to this report."  If it's not entirely AP,  Fox News needs to do some firings because of the errors in the article that repeatedly downplay the actual events.   Take Lois Lerner who pleaded the Fifth and refused to testify before Congress.  That alone makes your character in question.  Lerner was not going to be asked whom she slept with or if she was a member of the Communist Party or the mob.  She was going to be asked about how she did her job.  A government employee who pleads the Fifth rather than answer those type of questions is questionable for that reason alone.  The press has no problem dragging whistle blowers' names through the mud but a government employee -- whose entire career is public as a result of being a government employee -- that takes the Fifth is off limits?

Apparently so, "Lerner is the IRS official who first disclosed the targeting at a legal conference May 10."  Is that how we tell the story now?  She lied in her disclosure at the ABA conference and, as we know now, she also planted the question with a friend.  That too goes to the character of Lois Lerner.  It's amazing the mud Ed Snowden's dragged through while the joke that is Lois Lerner gets a pass."

A version of the AP article with Stephen Ohlemacher's name attached to it can be found here. It's the height of stupidity.  And pair it with Tamara Keith's nonsense for NPR that we called out last week.  The key takeway of Tamara's article is that she found a connection to DC.  This is a major detail because IRS officials testifying to Congress have repeatedly blamed it on lower level officials in Cincinati.  At one point, the idiot states, "There's a second employee, Elizabeth Hofacre who, for six months, worked on these Tea Party cases. And she was actually working with a tax law specialist in Washington, D.C., and she talks about being frustrated about how long it took him to respond."  Who is the tax law specialist?  She never mentions his name.  Nailing down the specifics was apparently too much reporting for Tamara.   If Tamara was referring to IRS official Holly Paz (the IRS's director of rulings and agreements), that's especially sad because Paz's attorney told USA Today's Gregory Korte that Paz has been placed on administrative leave.  Korte has the best report on the IRS scandal.  He notes Paz insists that "tea party" was, she thought, just short hand and that it could require to any number of groups -- even liberal ones.  Is that true?

It's not hard to prove it true or false.  Paz states she personally worked on 30 cases.  So examine Holly Paz's cases -- are they a split (to any degree) of liberal groups and conservative ones (and are the liberal groups not liberal ones that called out Barack)?  If not, Holly Paz lied.  Regarding Paz's claims, Korte points out:

But Elizabeth Hofacre, the agency's emerging issues coordinator in Cincinnati when the targeting began, has told investigators that she kicked out any progressive groups that other agents tried to put in with the Tea Party cases. She said she understood the term to mean conservative or Republican groups. "I was tasked to do Tea Parties, and I wasn't — I wasn't equipped or set up to do anything else."

(To AP's Stephen Ohlemacher's credit, he does note that Paz's testimony contradicts what IRS officials have claimed and he leads with that unlike Tamara Keith last week.)

Today Al Mada notes Iraq's ranking on a new list -- Global Firepower's ranking of the world's military power.  Out of 68 countries, Iraq comes in 58th  which is good news for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki . . . if Mongolia decides to attack.  Global Firepower breaks down the various strengths of each country.  Here for Iraq.  Among other things, it notes of IRaq:

Defense Budget:  $5,568,000,000 [2012]
External Debt:  $50,790,000,000 [2011]
Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:  $58,960,000,000 [2012]
Purchasing Power Parity:  $129,300,000,000 [2012]

And yet Iraqis live in squalor.  The public works areas have never been fixed -- electricity, drinkable water, etc.  But a ton of money gets spent on military hardware.  For a military that's used against Iraq's own people.

Yesterday Iraq was slammed with violence and at least 51 people were killed.  Iraq Body Count counts 260 dead so far this month, through Sunday.   All Iraq News notes Nouri blamed foreign countries today for yesterday's violence.   Al Mada adds that he basically issued a fatwa on Israel.

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes the US Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement which included, "We mourn the loss of life and stand firmly with the Iraqi people who seek to live in peace and who reject cowardly acts of terrorism such as this."  Yesterday, Alsumaria reported Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi said the violence underscores the continued weakness of the security forces and goes to the state of disorder and confusion in Iraq.  All Iraq News noted cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr holds al Qaeda in Iraq responsible.  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq released the following statement:

Baghdad, 16 June 2013 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, strongly condemns the latest wave of car bomb attacks that targeted crowded areas in several Iraqi cities during rush hour, killing and injuring dozens more innocent people. كوردى
“Less than a week after a string of similar attacks, Iraqis are hit by another round of deadly and remorseless acts of terrorism,” Mr. Kobler said.
“Nothing can justify such despicable and heinous crimes, targeting innocent people going about their daily business,” the UN envoy added. He once again called all Iraqi political leaders to sit together with good faith and determination, to address all pending problems that the country continues to face. 
Mr. Kobler extends his deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the wounded.

Of course, the weight of a statement from Kobler means much less than it might have 8 days ago.  It's been announced that Kobler's been reassigned to the Congo.

Violence on Saturday resulted in the US State Dept issued the following:

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 15, 2013
The United States strongly condemns today’s brutal, senseless, and utterly unacceptable rocket attack on Camp Hurriya that killed and injured camp residents.
At the highest levels, we have personally urged the Government of Iraq to render all possible medical assistance to the victims and ensure the safety of the camp’s residents, consistent with its commitments and obligations. We’ve also called on the Government of Iraq to investigate this attack and bring the terrorists responsible to justice.
We are consulting with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to ascertain the full extent of this unprovoked terrorist attack.
No matter the circumstances, on this point we remain absolute: the United States remains committed to assisting the Government of Iraq and UNAMI in implementing the December 25, 2011 agreement to quickly relocate the residents of Camp Hurriya outside Iraq. We must find a permanent and long term solution that ensures their safety.

Alsumaria reported a mortar attack on Camp Liberty  left 4 of the former Camp Ashraf refugees dead and twenty-two people injured (16 were Iranaian and Ashraf refugees, 6 were Iraqi).

 Approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.  When Bully Boy Bush was in office, they were protected and remained at Camp Ashraf.  That all changed when Barack Obama was sworn in as US President in January 2009.

Since then there have been four major attacks on the residents counting today's attack.    July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Since then they've been moved to Camp Liberty which hasn't offered any additional protection.  In addition to today's attack, February 9, 2013, they were attacked with as many as 10 dead and fifty injured.

Sunday, the United Kingdom's Foreign Office issued the following statement on the attack:


Responding to the news of the attack on Camp Liberty in Iraq, FCO Minister for Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, said:
I strongly condemn the attack on Camp Liberty that took place in Iraq yesterday. The British Government calls on the Government of Iraq to fully investigate the attack and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
We also call on the Iraqi Government to do all that they can to ensure the security and safety of the residents of Camp Liberty.

Violence didn't just take place over the weekend.  Today?

Kareem Raheem, Kamal Naama, Isabel Coles and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report a Taji restaurant bombing claimed 7 lives and a Taji minibus claimed 2 lives and left seven injured, a Falluja suicide bomber detonated himself in front of Falluja's police headquarters killing 3 people (in addition to the suicide bomber). "A bloody end to a simple meal," this Reuters video notes of the Taji restaurant bombings.    Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes the Falluja attack also left thirty people injured.  In addition, All Iraq News notes a Mosul bombing injured one police commander, and they note that the Taji restaurant bombing didn't just claim 7 lives lives, it also left 23 people injured.  National Iraqi News Agency reports an armed attack on a Hilla restaurant left 3 dead and one person injured, and a Tikrit bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injuredAll Iraq News adds 1 barber, Saman al-Shuwayil, was shot dead by assailants on motorcycles in Sadr City.

Earlier this month, Suha Audah award winning report on Iraqi women athletes was carried by CNN:

Filing nervously into a sports hall in Mosul, northern Iraq, around 20 girls prepared to practice gymnastics. Compared to their male counterparts at Mosul University's Faculty of Sport, their number is small. Another difference is that the gates to the sports hall were locked behind them and an announcement made that the hall was exclusively allocated for women.
Liqaa Abdul Muttalib, a rhythmic gymnastics trainer says the facilities are not ideal: "There are pillars in the hall which limit free movement and rotational flips. This hall was initially designed for physical fitness."
Behind another locked gate Ammar Shihab was coaching the university's recently formed five-a-side female football team.
"Women's participation has shrunk following the 2003 events," said Shihab. "However, this did not prevent women from exercising and participating in sports tournaments. Our women's football team took part in the tournament that took place in Syria in 2010."
All Iraq News reports the Kurdistani Weight Lifting Union announced today that they will be hosting the women's championship July 4th in Sulaimaniya city.  Also in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG President Massoud Barzani received a visitor.  KUNA reports European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton visited the KRG and spoke with Barzani about issues including oil and Syria.   National Iraqi News Agency cites a statement released by Barzani which notes he declared in the meeting that the Kurdish people desire democracy and coexistence; however, "the problems in Iraq result from non-commitment to the principles of partnership and coexistence."  He and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani also stressed to Ashton "that the Region's oil policy is not in conflict with Iraq's Constitution."  And it's not.  Nouri promised the White House in early 2007 he would get a national oil and gas law passed.  It's six years later, Nouri was supposed to have done that in 2007.  He couldn't pull it off then, hasn't been able to since.  Which means there's no law the KRG is in violation of.
On the issue of oil, AFP reports that Chevron Oil signed an oil exploration contract with the KRG yesterday -- their third oil exploration contract with the KRG.  Also on Sunday, the KRG notes, President Barzanni met with Deputy Secretary of State Brett McGurk.  It's really something how Brett has that title but no mention of him at the State Dept.  Remember, his nomination to be US Ambassador to Iraq went down in flames.  Yet, that's the last he existed according to the US State Dept.  As the photo of him with Barzani makes clear, he exists, he is in Iraq and he's being billed as a deputy Secretary of State.   Gus Taylor (Washington Times) reported yesterday:

Battered by scandals surrounding security failures in Benghazi and allegations of criminal activity by diplomats, the State Department is taking over the sensitive process by which background checks are given to locals hired to work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest and most expensive diplomatic post in the world.
The process is presently handled by a private security company contracted to the Pentagon. But a recently circulated contract solicitation indicates that the firm conducting the vetting -- and the budget for the process -- is being shifted to the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Let's hope they do a good job because, as we noted June 10th, Arabic social media is not kind to Brett McGurk and the US government needs to be very sure they're protecting him.  It's really not safe for him to be in Iraq. 

On Monday, Al Mada notes, Catherine Ashton arrived in Baghdad and met with Nouri and, All Iraq News adds, she met with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: What hasn't worked as well was the attack on Iraq which was based on false assumptions and which has created a situation that is very unstable and continues to deteriorate.  The intervention in Libya by the British and French with our backing hasn't worked out so well and the French and the British haven't been very effective. We're now pointed toward something similar but more dangerous in Syria because Syria is inter-locked with Iran.  That poses problems from the global economy, that will effect the interests of Japan and China.  We should be building an international coalition to impose some kind of a solution.  We should be serious in negotiations with the Chinese and the Russians, involve the Japanese as well because they are influential -- so are the Indians, incidentally, who are dependant on energy.   Instead, we are essentially engaging in mass propaganda, promoting this as a democratic war.  Who is fighting for democracy?  Qatar and Saudi Arabia are fighting for democracy? This is a sectarian war waged with great brutality by both sides.  And I repeat that 93,000 were killed in the civil war -- they weren't killed just by the Syrian regime.  There are two sides to that struggle and neither one is waging it in a particularly attractive fashion.

That's Zbigniew Brzezinski speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe (video is at Information Clearing House). You can consider that an establishment view (he served in Jimmy Carter's administration).  A view from the academic world?   Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) weighed in yesterday:

President Obama's move to increase the public flow of arms to selected Syrian rebels is probably his worst foreign policy decision since taking office. It is basically the Afghan surge decision redux: long months of grueling internal deliberation about whether to escalate military commitments resulting in an "Option C" policy choice which pleases nobody and which few think will work. At least the Afghan surge came with an expiration date.

A representative of the people?   Former US House Rep Ron Paul has a column today at on the topic:

Setting aside the question of why 100 killed by gas is somehow more important than 99,900 killed by other means, the fact is his above explanation is full of holes. The Washington Post reported this week that the decision to overtly arm the Syrian rebels was made “weeks ago” – in other words, it was made at a time when the intelligence community did not believe “with high confidence” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.
Further, this plan to transfer weapons to the Syrian rebels had become policy much earlier than that, as the Washington Post reported that the CIA had expanded over the past year its secret bases in Jordan to prepare for the transfer of weapons to the rebels in Syria.
The process was identical to the massive deception campaign that led us into the Iraq war. Remember the famous quote from the leaked “Downing Street Memo,” where representatives of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration discussed Washington’s push for war on Iraq?

An activist with a long track record?  Tom Hayden has a column at ZNet reviewing many of the issues before offering this conclusion:

Peace and progressive movements are somewhat divided at this late hour. There is no consensus even on whether the undemocratic dictator Assad should go, for example. Or whether anyone has the capacity to organize a cease-fire, partition, and interim arrangements for stabilization and humanitarian assistance. Or whether the war can only be settled realistically when one side “wins” and tries to impose a cold peace. 
But further war only makes the war worse. Denying the president, Congress, and the war lobby a popular mandate is not only possible, but would be a significant restraint in complicating the path of escalation. As the bloodbath expands, it will once again be critical for domestic progressive groups – the AFL-CIO, NAACP, Sierra Club, etc. – to decide where they stand: in the fray or on the sidelines? After all, Obama’s promised turn to “nation-building at home” is on the line.
Lyndon Johnson’s fatal mistake was in believing he could deliver on pledges of both “guns and butter.” He learned too late that he could not. Domestic progressives will be completely out of line with their constituents’ priorities if they remain silent as another president is pushed into war.

It's a very strong column from Hayden.  One that calls on all his life's experiences and works.  People should read it.

Barack's Drone War never ends but we never seem to have time to note it here.  CODEPINK has an action this Saturday in NYC and we'll note it in today's snapshot and, if I can work in The Drone War into a snapshot this week, we'll note the action again then:

when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.
where:  the Cube at Astor Place
contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462,, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237,
(video documentation available) 
On Saturday, June 22, at Astor Place, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a group of men and women will create a Drone Zone similar to those where the U.S. is terrorizing small villages in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.
"Crossing Guards", 15 or so (women and men), each with a white, crossing guard diagonal sash, will be staged about 10 paces apart around a small area of Astor Place at Lafayette, next to The Cube... to produce "the zone." They stand silent, as cautionary figures... looking much like crossing guards might if so instructed. The guards are holding upright and steady 8 foot PVC poles. On each pole is a sign that reads: "DRONE ALERT!  YOU HAVE ENTERED A DRONE ZONE. PLEASE BE PREPARED TO TAKE SHELTER QUICKLY."  On top of each pole is mounted a mini-speaker emitting a low audio track of a drone continuously buzzing (as drones do flying over a Pakistani village), sourced from iPods or smart phones in their pockets.
If questioned by citizens, each crossing guard will have pink 4 x 6 cards to hand out. On one side is a brief description of life in Yemeni, Pakistani, Somali, Afghani village that suffers the tremendous stress and trauma from 24-hour drone surveillance, as well as potential strikes or crashes. On the other side of the card is a brief description of the CODE PINK Drone Theatre Project itself. Also, a list of on-line sites for more information about armed drone surveillance, targeted killings, and drone proliferation.
This action will be repeated again and again in New York City and elsewhere throughout the summer
NB: There will be video documentation of the project for use for television and online sites and other press locations..
Joan Wile, leader of Grandmothers Against the War, has stated "This project – silent street theatre – asks passersby to reflect on the condition of drone tormented and threatened populations. Perhaps it will also project the blowback of drones ultimately aimed at us."
when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.
where: the Cube at Astor Place
contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462,, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237,
admission: none




the associated press

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