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Bernie Sanders to NSA: Spying on Hill? Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter Friday to the director of the National Security Agency asking if the agency is spying or has ever spied on members of Congress.
The Vermont independent said he was "deeply concerned" about the NSA's collection of information on Americans and called reports that the agency listens in on foreign leaders "disturbing."
"I am writing today to ask you one very simple question," Sanders wrote in the letter addressed to NSA Director Keith Alexander. "Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials? 'Spying' would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business." (Politico)
Just Two Words From Apple On The NSA's iPhone Hacking Show How The Tech Community Now Hates The NSA If Walmart or McDonald's began describing the Obama Administration as an unconstitutional threat to the privacy of its customers, it would be front page/holy-cow news.
But that's what is happening in Silicon Valley right now, with America's biggest tech companies.
The most interesting two words in Apple's official statement today on the news that the NSA can put spyware on 100% of Apple's products, including the iPhone, are these: "malicious hackers."
The company said it was unaware of the NSA's hacking program, called "DROPOUTJEEP," and that it was working to end the breach. But note that Apple's statement went out of its way to portray the U.S. government as a security threat:
We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them. (Business Insider)
Waterboarding, prolonged stress positions, placed in a box and subjected to extreme noise: CIA's rendition of two terror suspects in Polish jail revealed Two terror suspects 'were transferred to a prison in Poland and tortured' -- Both men say they were brought to the country in December 2002 -- Allegations include being told their families would be sexually abused -- Poland has been accused of human rights abuses - Lawyers for two terror suspects currently being held by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay have accused Poland of human rights abuses.
They say they fell victim to the CIA's program to kidnap terror suspects and transfer them to other countries as they allege that they were tortured in a remote Polish prison.
The case marks the first time Europe's role in the CIA's 'extraordinary rendition' of terror suspects has reached European Court of Human Rights.
Lawyers for two terror suspects currently being held by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay accuse Poland of human rights abuses
Lawyers for two terror suspects currently being held by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay accuse Poland of human rights abuses
One of the cases concerns 48-year-old Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who currently faces terror charges in the U.S. for allegedly orchestrating the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in 2000, a bombing in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17 sailors and wounded 37. (UK Daily Mail)
The Real Crisis Is Not The Government Shutdown The inability of the media and politicians to focus on the real issues never ceases to amaze.
The real crisis is not the “debt ceiling crisis.” The government shutdown is merely a result of the Republicans using the debt limit ceiling to attempt to block the implementation of Obamacare. If the shutdown persists and becomes a problem, Obama has enough power under the various “war on terror” rulings to declare a national emergency and raise the debt ceiling by executive order. An executive branch that has the power to inter citizens indefinitely and to murder them without due process of law, can certainly set aside a ceiling on debt that jeopardizes the government.
The real crisis is that jobs offshoring by US corporations has permanently lowered US tax revenues by shifting what would have been consumer income, US GDP, and tax base to China, India, and other countries where wages and the cost of living are relatively low. On the spending side, twelve years of wars have inflated annual expenditures. The consequence is a wide deficit gap between revenues and expenditures.
Under the present circumstances, the deficit is too large to be closed. The Federal Reserve covers the deficit by printing $1,000 billion annually with which to purchase Treasury debt and mortgage-backed financial instruments. The use of the printing press on such a large scale undermines the US dollar’s role as reserve currency, the basis for US power. Raising the debt limit simply allows the real crisis to continue. More money will be printed with which to purchase more new debt issues needed to close the gap between revenues and expenditures. (Paul Craig Roberts)
Tom Clancy's Powerful Foresight Into a Post-9/11 World -- The late author helped America anticipate for this era of war, but he also gave hope. In an appreciation of science fiction and its authors, Philip K. Dick once noted of the genre, "It's not just 'What if?' It's 'My God; what if?'" When I learned of the death of novelist Tom Clancy at age 66, those words immediately came to mind. To understand Clancy and his legacy, it's useful to remember a time when we didn't casually toss around terms like "SEAL Team Six" and "radiological bomb," and the only people who worried about the threat of "NBCs" were network-television execs.
The power of Tom Clancy is that he gave us a glimpse into a post-9/11 world from the relative comfort of the 1990s. He described the astonishing might of the world's militaries, and of the power that generals wield only for want of an enemy. He didn't just tell you about a fighter jet; he let you fly it. He didn't just quantify the destructive power of an atomic bomb; he blew up the Super Bowl. Restraint was never his specialty, and if it seemed like he was sharing details on par with number of bolts in an aircraft carrier, it's because you could almost see him having so much fun while he was writing. He was a geek with a restless imagination, and vast swaths of his prose are like an applied version of Jane's Defense Weekly. (The Atlantic)
NSA stores metadata of millions of web users for up to a year, secret files show
Vast amounts of data kept in repository codenamed Marina -- Data retained regardless of whether person is NSA target -- Material used to build 'pattern-of-life' profiles of individuals - The National Security Agency is storing the online metadata of millions of internet users for up to a year, regardless of whether or not they are persons of interest to the agency, top secret documents reveal.
Metadata provides a record of almost anything a user does online, from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords. This can be used to build a detailed picture of an individual's life.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the NSA keeps only the content of messages and communications of people it is intentionally targeting – but internal documents reveal the agency retains vast amounts of metadata.
An introductory guide to digital network intelligence for NSA field agents, included in documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes the agency's metadata repository, codenamed Marina. Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system.
• What is metadata? Find out with our interactive guide (London Guardian)
NSA Utah Data Center: frequently asked questions -- Intelligence » What happens there, why Utah and the Mormon query. With the opening of the National Security Agency’s Utah Data Center, The Tribune’s staff has compiled a list of common questions and their answers.
• Is someone at the Utah Data Center going to be reviewing my Internet and phone history?
All indications are no. First, we’ll give you the obligatory NSA refrain that it does not spy on Americans. Regardless, the Utah Data Center is a storage facility. Your digital footprint, or part of it, may reside there, but any analysis of whether your search engine queries for rifles or the latest BYU football news represents a national security threat will be done at other federal facilities by personnel who can remotely access the information stored in Bluffdale. The Utah Data Center is expected to have only 200 employees; not enough to sort through the records of the average American.
• How is the NSA going to sort all those records?
That remains to be seen. If the NSA has the name of a potential terrorist, technology is sufficient to find that person’s digital history. The trick is identifying terror suspects based on what they do online or on the phone before they commit a crime or associate with terror suspects and that is where the NSA is waiting for technology and mathematics to catch up. Private contractors have said the NSA has purchased Cray XC30 supercomputers. Industry officials say those machines can run up to 1 million Intel Xenon core processors simultaneously, enabling speeds of up to 100 petaflops. One petaflop is about one thousand trillion calculations per second. But it doesn’t matter how fast you can calculate if you don’t have the right algorithm. The NSA, other government agencies and private-sector scientists are racing to build new data-mining algorithms, drawing on a blend of mathematics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and database theory. In March, President Barack Obama announced a $200 million research initiative across seven federal agencies to advance techniques for data mining. This issue hits on one debate about the NSA and its intelligence-gathering. Critics have said the agency is collecting more data than it can manage and far, far more than can ever be useful. (Salt Lake Tribune)
N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens - Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.
The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.
The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing. The documents do not describe what has resulted from the scrutiny, which links phone numbers and e-mails in a “contact chain” tied directly or indirectly to a person or organization overseas that is of foreign intelligence interest. (New York Times)
Sandy Hook Shootings -- Call to Release Lanza's psychiatric drug history Despite a formal request from AbleChild, a Parent's Rights organization, citing numerous state and federal laws supporting the release of Adam Lanza's toxicology results and medical records, Connecticut Medical Examiner, H. Wayne Carver, M.D., arbitrarily denied the request. The request is not without merit—31 school related acts of violence including school shootings have been committed by individuals under the influence of, or in withdrawal from psychiatric drugs documented by 22 international drug regulatory agency warnings to cause violent reactions.
The M.E.'s decision to withhold the information is at odds with Connecticut law, the State's Constitution, federal law and the United States Constitution. In response, AbleChild has filed an appeal with the State's Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) for the release of the records and, if necessary, is prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While state and federal legislators are pouring hundreds-of-millions of dollars into increased mental health treatment for school-age children, the question that has yet to be answered is what drove the alleged shooter, Adam Lanza, to become a killer. And, more to the point, one which can only be answered by the M.E., is whether Lanza, yet another in a long line of school shooters, was under the influence of psychiatric drugs.
This is not an unimportant question given the history of the numerous adverse effects associated with prescription psychiatric drugs and which, is well-documented by international drug regulatory agencies reporting that prescription psychiatric drugs can cause violent, aggressive, psychotic, suicidal and even homicidal behavior. (Able Child)
Confirmed: Navy Yard Shooter Was On Anti-Depressant Trazodone -- Drug linked to previous mass shooting despite Washington Post declaring it "safe" It has been confirmed that Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis was on the anti-depressant drug Trazodone, providing yet another example of a connection between psychiatric drugs and mass shootings.
In verifying that Alexis was prescribed Trazodone by the Veterans Affairs Office, the Washington Post published a brief article downplaying the danger of the drug, quoting Miami physician Gabriela Cora who stated (almost too eagerly), “Honestly, it’s a very safe drug to use.”
However, the drug has been linked to a number of murders, including one mass shooting.
Trazodone is sold under the brand names Desyrel, Oleptro, Beneficat, Deprax, Desirel, Molipaxin, Thombran, Trazorel, Trialodine, Trittico, and Mesyrel. Although not strictly a member of the SSRI class of antidepressants, it shares many of the same properties and also serves to increases the amount of serotonin in the brain.
Despite the Washington Post’s attempts to portray the drug as being safe, it is linked with a whole host of side-effects including suicidal tendencies, panic attacks, depersonalization and anger. Symptoms of Trazodone withdrawal include aggression and violent behavior. (Prison Planet)
Radios failed during Navy Yard attack, emergency responders say Radios for federal firefighters and police officers failed during Monday’s mass shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard, according to union representatives for first responders.
Union officials said police and firefighters resorted to using their cellphones and radios from D.C.’s emergency responders to communicate with each other during the attack.
Anthony Meely, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Naval District Washington (NDW) Labor Committee, said police officers who were first on the scene at the Navy Yard had trouble communicating with others in the force via their radios.
Initially, officers found that their radios were working. But as they ventured deeper into the building where the shooting took place, their equipment stopped functioning.
After the first shootout with the gunman, one officer found his radio’s battery was dead, while another officer could not receive a signal from his radio and was unable to call for help. That forced them to use an officer’s cellphone to call others outside the building, according to Meely. (The Hill)
Aaron Alexis Carved 'My ELF Weapon' on the Stock of his Shotgun -- Were ELF waves used to trigger Aaron Alexis to go on a rampage? Officials involved in the investigation of the Navy Yard shooting, have come forward with new insights on the weapon that was used in the shooting. Alexis had carved the words ‘My ELF weapon’ on his Remington 870-Express-Tactical shotgun. ELF stands for ‘extremely low frequency’, and usually refers to communications or weather.
For those who are familiar with this technology, it is well understood that this is used in programs such as H.A.A.R.P. It has also been reported by several government whistle blowers, and even political activists that they suspected a ‘ELF weapon’ was being used on them.
The report about the carvings is most interesting, because it seems to confirm the claim made by Alexis that 3 men were following him using an ELF weapon while he was in his hotel room. He even filed a report to the Newport, Rhode Island Police stating these claims. Aaron stated he had to change his hotel 3 different times because these people were using the microwave machine on him. (IntelliHub)
Navy Yard shooter was on Antidepressant Trazodone—How many more drug induced shootings until lawmakers wake up? It took less than 48 hours to learn that Washington Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, is another in a long line of psychiatric drug-induced perpetrators.
The New York Times has reported that while in Providence Rhode Island on August 23, 2013, and again, five days later, in Washington, D.C., Alexis had been prescribed Trazodone, an antidepressant that carries an FDA black box warning for suicide, and is documented to cause mania and violent behavior.
Now, twelve innocent people (plus the shooter) are dead at the Washington Navy Yard. Yes, these senseless deaths are sad, tragic, and incomprehensible. And it is time to point the finger at those who are responsible.
Because lawmakers, both at the state and federal level, refuse to address the enormous amount of information revealing the connection between violence and prescription psychiatric drugs, mass shootings, like the massacre which occurred at the Washington Navy Yard, will continue.
Despite 22 international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, violence and even homicidal ideation, and dozens of high profile shootings/killings tied to psychiatric drug use, there has yet to be a federal investigation on the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. (Citizens Commission on Human Rights International)
Navy Yard: Swat team 'stood down' at mass shooting scene One of the first teams of heavily armed police to respond to Monday's shooting in Washington DC was ordered to stand down by superiors, the BBC can reveal.
A tactical response team of the Capitol Police, a force that guards the US Capitol complex, was told to leave the scene by a supervisor instead of aiding municipal officers.
The Capitol Police department has launched a review into the matter.
Aaron Alexis, 34, killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
"I don't think it's a far stretch to say that some lives may have been saved if we were allowed to intervene," a Capitol Police source familiar with the incident told the BBC. (BBC)
Trazodone antidepressant, used by Aaron Alexis, described as 'very safe' Trazodone, the drug that officials say Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was prescribed by Veterans Affairs, is a a generic antidepressant that is seldom used anymore to treat depression but is widely prescribed for insomnia, experts said.
“We use Trazodone to help people sleep,” said Gabriela Cora, a physician and longtime practicing psychiatrist in Miami. The drug is considered safer than many other widely prescribed sleep medicines because it doesn’t cause addiction and doesn’t require increased dosing over time, said Cora, a former researcher on mood and anxiety disorders at the National Institutes of Health. (Washington Post)
Aaron Alexis Had 'Secret Clearance,' Employer Says About Washington Navy Yard Suspect Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old suspect in Monday's shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, had "secret" clearance and was assigned to start working there as a civilian contractor with a military-issued ID card, his firm's chief executive told Reuters.
"He did have a secret clearance. And he did have a CAC (common access card)," said Thomas Hoshko, CEO of The Experts Inc, which was helping service the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as a subcontractor for HP Enterprise Services, part of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Alexis, of Forth Worth, Texas, is suspected of opening fire at the Naval Sea Systems Command building in the Washington Navy Yard in a shooting that left 13 people dead, including the shooter. (Reuters)
DHS internal report: Navy Yard shooting has 'no known connection to terrorism' “[Metropolitan Police are] responding to reports of shots fired at the Washington Navy Yard Base,” the DHS report reads. “The Base in [sic] on lockdown. It remains an active scene and the subject is not in custody. Multiple units responding including SWAT unit at this time. Subject allegedly has multiple weapons. 3 victims at this time. Shots were reported to be fired in Building 197, the cafeteria, on the base. Additional street closures include the 11th St Bridge and M Street are closed between 2nd and 4th Streets,SE. All outbound flights out of DCA are on hold by FAA as a result of this incident.” (The Daily Caller)
Former NSA and CIA director says terrorists love using Gmail Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden stood on the pulpit of a church across from the White House on Sunday and declared Gmail the preferred online service of terrorists. As part of an adult education forum at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hayden gave a wide ranging speech on "the tension between security and liberty."
During the speech, he specifically defended Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which provides the legal basis for the PRISM program. In doing so, Hayden claimed "Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide," presumably meaning online service rather than the actual provider of Internet service. He added: "I don't think you're going to see that in a Google commercial, but it's free, it's ubiquitous, so of course it is." - At one point, Hayden expressed a distaste for online anonymity, saying "The problem I have with the Internet is that it's anonymous." But he noted, there is a struggle over that issue even inside government. The issue came to a head during the Arab Spring movement when the State Department was funding technology to protect the anonymity of activists so governments could not track down or repress their voices.
"We have a very difficult time with this," Hayden said. He then asked, "is our vision of the World Wide Web the global digital commons -- at this point you should see butterflies flying here and soft background meadow-like music -- or a global free fire zone?" Given that Hayden also compared the Internet to the wild west and Somalia, Hayden clearly leans toward the "global free fire zone" vision of the Internet. (Washington Post)
Tri-City hockey crowds to be taped for U.S. security research Hockey fans at the season opener of the Tri-City Americans will have a chance to help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security improve its facial recognition capabilities.
Video will be taped by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at the Sept. 21 game in a portion of the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
It is planned to be used by the U.S. government to test the capabilities of facial recognition software that is available or in the prototype stage.
Eventually, state-of-the-art facial recognition technologies could be used to identify terrorists and criminals in public areas, according to the national lab in Richland. The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate works to make technology available to agencies ranging from local police offices to the U.S. Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Tri-City Herald)
A Plea for Caution From Russia -- What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance. (New York Times)
U.N. rights team aims to probe chemical weapons in Syria: del Ponte U.N. human rights investigators hope to get into Syria soon to try to find out who carried out apparent chemical attacks and other war crimes, Carla del Ponte, of the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria, said on Monday.
Del Ponte gave no time frame for a visit but said that the team was in touch with U.N. chemical weapons inspectors and awaited their findings from the scene of an August 21 poison gas attack. She said the rights team's work would continue whether or not the United States carried out mooted punitive military strikes against the Syrian government over the attack.
"We are in touch with Syrian authorities to enter and we are on the right track," she told the Swiss Press Club in Geneva.
U.N. human rights officials declined to comment on how any air strike might affect a possible visit, but stressed the need for conditions to be right for the team to conduct their work.
The commission's confidential list of suspected Syrian war criminals was "getting longer", she said, but gave no details.
Del Ponte said Syria had sent a "positive signal" by letting U.N. chemical arms inspectors go to Damascus to collect samples in suburbs allegedly attacked with toxic substances on August 21, which are now being analyzed in European laboratories. The arms inspectors were not mandated to apportion blame for the attack.
That would be the job of the human rights investigators, said del Ponte, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor. The Geneva-based team has more than 20 experts, some of them specialists in military and ballistics issues. (Reuters)
Obama administration had restrictions on NSA reversed in 2011 The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.
In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
Together the permission to search and to keep data longer expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress. The administration’s assurances rely on legalistic definitions of the term “target” that can be at odds with ordinary English usage. The enlarged authority is part of a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to surveillance: collecting first, and protecting Americans’ privacy later. (Washington Post)
Kerry portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.
At congressional hearings this week, while making the case for President Barack Obama's plan for limited military action in Syria, Kerry asserted that the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution.
"And the opposition is getting stronger by the day," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Ted Cruz: U.S. not 'Al Qaeda's air force' Sen. Ted Cruz called President Barack Obama’s efforts to authorize military intervention in Syria a public relations move, saying the U.S. military shouldn’t be “Al Qaeda’s air force.”
The Texas Republican said Tuesday on TheBlaze that while he’s glad the president listened to calls from him and others to bring the issue to Congress, America shouldn’t get involved and risk helping terrorists in the rebel forces.
“We certainly don’t have a dog in the fight,” Cruz said, calling it a civil war in Syria. “We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as Al Qaeda’s air force.” (Politico)
EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack -- Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group. Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents.
Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News.
Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.
Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.
The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.” (Mint Press News)
The Program (video) It took me a few days to work up the nerve to phone William Binney. As someone already a “target” of the United States government, I found it difficult not to worry about the chain of unintended consequences I might unleash by calling Mr. Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower. He picked up. I nervously explained I was a documentary filmmaker and wanted to speak to him. To my surprise he replied: “I’m tired of my government harassing me and violating the Constitution. Yes, I’ll talk to you.”
Two weeks later, driving past the headquarters of the N.S.A. in Maryland, outside Washington, Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004.
“The decision must have been made in September 2001,” Mr. Binney told me and the cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “That’s when the equipment started coming in.” In this Op-Doc, Mr. Binney explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on this country. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. He is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying. (New York Times)
Taken -- Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing? On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”
They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.
He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.
No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.
Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.
The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)
The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services. (The New Yorker)
Administration says it's serious about privacy, defends NSA programs The Obama administration says it takes privacy criticisms over its surveillance programs seriously while defending them to Congress and the U.S. public.
Obama met Thursday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers -- both critics and supporters -- to discuss surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. Also, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was on Capitol Hill to answer House lawmakers' questions in a classified briefing before the August recess, The Hill reported.
"Today's meeting was constructive and the President committed that he and his team would continue to work closely with the Congress on these matters in the weeks and months ahead," the White House said in a statement.
"We will continue to work through the August recess on proposals to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections to further build the confidence of the American public in our nation's counterterrorism programs," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. (United Press International)
New York woman visited by police after researching pressure cookers online -- Long Island resident said her web search history and 'trying to learn how to cook lentils' prompted a visit from authorities but police say search was prompted by tipoff A New York woman says her family's interest in the purchase of pressure cookers and backpacks led to a home visit by six police investigators demanding information about her job, her husband's ancestry and the preparation of quinoa.
Michele Catalano, who lives in Long Island, New York, said her web searches for pressure cookers, her husband's hunt for backpacks and her "news junkie" son's craving for information on the Boston bombings had combined somewhere in the internet ether to create a "perfect storm of terrorism profiling".
Members of what she described as a "joint terrorism task force" descended on Catalano's home on Wednesday.
Catalano was at work, but her husband was sitting in the living room as the police arrived. She retold the experience in a post on Medium.com on Thursday. She attributed the raid largely to her hunt for a pressure cooker, an item used devastatingly, allegedly by the two Tsarnaev brothers, in Boston, but also used by millions across the country to prepare vegetables while retaining most of their nutrients.
The story later took on a different complexion when police finally explained that the investigation was prompted by searches a family member had made for pressure cooker bombs and backpacks made at his former workplace. The former employer, believing the searches to be suspicious, alerted police. Catalano said the family member was her husband. (London Guardian)
My Life in Circles: Why Metadata is Incredibly Intimate One of the most disingenuous arguments in the aftermath of the NSA spying revelations is that the American people shouldn't be concerned about the government hoovering up its sensitive information because it's only metadata--or a fancy way of saying data about the data.
"This is just metadata," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein assured the American people, referring to the NSA's bulk collection of Americans call records. "There is no content involved." President Obama and his national security officials have made similar assurances.
Feel better? You shouldn't and here's why.
A tool developed by MIT Media Lab proves how intrusive the collection and analysis of metadata is over time, especially for those who are overly reliant on email as their main method of communication. Dubbed "Immersion," the tool analyzes the metadata--From, To, Cc and Timestamp fields-- from a volunteer's Gmail account and visualizes it. (American Civil Liberties Union)
Snowden's surveillance leaks open way for challenges to programs' constitutionality The recent disclosure of U.S. surveillance methods is providing opponents of classified programs with new openings to challenge their constitutionality, according to civil libertarians and some legal experts.
At least five cases have been filed in federal courts since the government’s widespread collection of telephone and Internet records was revealed last month. The lawsuits primarily target a program that scoops up the telephone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies.
Such cases face formidable obstacles. The government tends to fiercely resist them on national security grounds, and the surveillance is so secret that it’s hard to prove who was targeted. Nearly all of the roughly 70 suits filed after the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping was disclosed in 2005 have been dismissed.
But the legal landscape may be shifting, lawyers say, because the revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor and the principal source of the leaks, forced the government to acknowledge the programs and discuss them. That, they say, could help plaintiffs overcome government arguments that they lack the legal standing to sue or that cases should be thrown out because the programs are state secrets. A federal judge in California last week rejected the government’s argument that an earlier lawsuit over NSA surveillance should be dismissed on secrecy grounds. (Washington Post)
7 Ways The Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization There were signs that President Barack Obama might rein in the mass militarization of America's police forces after he won the White House. Policing is primarily a local issue, overseen by local authorities. But beginning in the late 1960s with President Richard Nixon, the federal government began instituting policies that gave federal authorities more power to fight the drug trade, and to lure state and local policymakers into the anti-crime agenda of the administration in charge. These policies got a boost during Ronald Reagan's presidency, and then another during President Bill Clinton's years. Under President George W. Bush, all of those anti-drug policies continued, but were supplemented by new war on terrorism endeavors -- yet more efforts to make America's cops look, act and fight like soldiers.
But Obama might have been different. This, after all, was the man who, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, declared the war on drugs an utter failure. As Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum wrote in a 2011 critique of Obama's drug policy:
Obama stood apart from hard-line prohibitionists even when he began running for president. In 2007 and 2008, he bemoaned America’s high incarceration rate, warned that the racially disproportionate impact of drug prohibition undermines legal equality, advocated a “public health” approach to drugs emphasizing treatment and training instead of prison, repeatedly indicated that he would take a more tolerant position regarding medical marijuana than George W. Bush, and criticized the Bush administration for twisting science to support policy -- a tendency that is nowhere more blatant than in the government’s arbitrary distinctions among psychoactive substances.
Indeed, in his first interview after taking office, Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, said that the administration would be toning down the martial rhetoric that had dominated federal drug policy since the Nixon years. "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," Kerlikowske told The Wall Street Journal. "We're not at war with people in this country."
This was an notable break from previous administrations. Rhetoric does matter, and for a generation in the U.S., cops had incessantly been told that they were in a war with drug offenders -- this, in a country where about half the adult population admits to having smoked marijuana.
Unfortunately, while not insignificant, the change in rhetoric has largely been only that. The Obama administration may no longer call it a "war," but there's no question that the White House is continuing to fight one. Here's a quick rundown of where and how Obama's policies have perpetuated the garrison state: (Huffington Post)
Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic -- Public Says Investigate Terrorism, Even If It Intrudes on Privacy
Overview A majority of Americans -- 56% -- say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority -- 41% -- say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government’s monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted June 6-9 among 1,004 adults, finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy.
Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.
These opinions have changed little since an ABC News/Washington Post survey in January 2006. Currently, there are only modest partisan differences in these opinions: 69% of Democrats say it is more important for the government to investigate terrorist threats, even at the expense of personal privacy, as do 62% of Republicans and 59% of independents. (Pew Research Center)
Michael Hastings Rips Obama Drone Speech Journalist Michael Hastings had very harsh words for President Barack Obama on Saturday morning.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki," Hastings ripped Obama's recent foreign policy comments, saying the president had bought into the Bush administration's neoconservative worldview.
On Thursday, Obama gave a major national security speech in which he defended the use of drone strikes as a key counterterrorism tool. Hastings said the speech marked a reversal in Obama's thinking.
"If you compare this speech to the speech he gave in Cairo, in 2009 or his Nobel Prize speech, you see almost a total rejection of the civil rights tradition that President Obama supposedly came out of... and just an embrace of total militarism," Hastings said.
"That speech to me was essentially agreeing with President Bush and Vice President Cheney that we're in this neo-conservative paradigm, that we're at war with a jihadist threat that actually is not a nuisance but the most important threat we're facing today," Hastings continued.
You can read the full text of Obama's speech here, and watch a video of Hastings' remarks above. (MSNBC)
FBI: Agents died in fall from helicopter off Va. coast Two members of the FBI’s elite counterterrorism unit died Friday while practicing how to quickly drop from a helicopter to a ship using a rope, the FBI announced Monday in a statement.
The statement gave few details regarding the deaths of Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw, other than to say the helicopter encountered unspecified difficulties and the agents fell a “significant distance.”
A law enforcement source told The Pilot the incident happened about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. The official blamed bad weather for the incident and said the agents – members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, based in Quantico – fell into the water. The official said he believed the agents died as a result of the impact rather than drowning.
Glenn McBride, a spokesman for the state medical examiner’s office, said it could be months before his staff can release a final cause and manner of death for the two agents. He said they must wait for the results of routine toxicology tests.
According to a Navy official, the agents were using a ship the FBI had leased from the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. No Navy personnel were involved in the exercise, the Navy official said. - Last month, the team was involved in the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. And in February, it rescued a 5-year-old boy held hostage for six days in an underground bunker in Alabama. (Hampton Roads)
World Unites Against the Illuminati: Professor Griff on Fire! Infowars.com presents our groundbreaking interview with rap artist Professor Griff of Public Enemy.
Professor Griff lists Obama's lies, describes why hip hop stars are in the White House and breaks down some of the world's deadliest corporations.
Griff has always been an outspoken voice in the hip hop community and by combining forces with Alex Jones and Infowars, he attempts to break the public's mass-media induced coma. (Prison Planet)
The Truthseeker: Boston Bombing What You Aren't Told - Triggers pulled on 4th, 2nd & 1st Amendments distracted by flag waving; clunky FBI propaganda; and unleash the War on Bathtubs. Seek truth from facts with former Marine Corps officer James Fetzer, editor of Storyleak Anthony Gucciardi, the Corbett Report's James Corbett, Questioning the War on Terror author Kevin Barrett, Boston eyewitnesses, and Fmr. Rep. Ron Paul. (Russia Today)
Tamerlane Tsarnaeva recruited via the Georgian Foundation ~ One of the organizers of the terrorist attack in Boston, studied at the workshop held in conjunction with the Georgian special services Americans At the disposal of "Izvestia" has documents Counterintelligence Department Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, confirming that the Georgian organization "Fund of Caucasus", which cooperates with the U.S. non-profit organization "Jamestown" (the board of directors of NGOs previously entered one of the ideologists of U.S. foreign policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski), was engaged in recruiting residents North Caucasus to work in the interests of the United States and Georgia.
According to the reports of Colonel Chief Directorate Counterintelligence Department Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia Gregory Chanturia to the Minister of Internal Affairs Irakli Garibashvili, "Caucasian fund" in cooperation with the Foundation "Jamestown" in the summer of 2012 conducted workshops and seminars for young people of the Caucasus, including its Russian part. Some of them attended Tsarnaev Tamerlane, who was in Russia from January to July 2012.
"Caucasian fund" writes Tchanturia was established November 7, 2008, just after the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, "to control the processes taking place in the North Caucasus region." Accordingly, the Department of the Interior Ministry counterintelligence case was brought intelligence operations called "DTV". Main purpose is to recruit young people and intellectuals of the North Caucasus to enhance instability and extremism in the southern regions of Russia. (Izvestia)
Boston bombing suspect cites U.S. wars as motivation, officials say The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.
From his hospital bed, where he is now listed in fair condition, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has acknowledged his role in planting the explosives near the marathon finish line on April 15, the officials said. The first successful large-scale bombing in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era, the Boston attack killed three people and wounded more than 250 others.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, said Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police as the two attempted to avoid capture, do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.
Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.
Obama has made repairing U.S. relations with the Islamic world a foreign policy priority, even as he has expanded drone operations in Pakistan and other countries, which has inflamed Muslim public opinion. (Washington Post)
Chambliss: Law enforcement agency may have had info about Boston bombing in advance Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss told Channel 2 Action News late Tuesday afternoon that a law enforcement agency may have had information in advance of the Boston bombings that wasn't properly shared.
"There now appears that may have been some evidence that was obtained by one of the law enforcement agencies that did not get shared in a way that it could have been. If that turns out to be the case, then we have to determine whether or not that would have made a difference," Chambliss said.
Though Chambliss would not get into specifics on the information or whether or not the bombing could have been prevented, he told Channel 2 Action News that they will find out if someone dropped the ball.
"Information sharing between agencies is critical. And we created the Department of Homeland Security to supervise that. We created the National Counter Terrorism Center to be the collection point for all of this information, and we're going to get to the bottom of whether or not somebody along the way dropped the ball on some information and did not share it in a way that it should have been shared." (Associated Press)
EXCLUSIVE: Chinese carjack victim of Boston bombers only escaped when they stopped for Red Bull... and they didn't kill him because he 'wasn't American'
Man carjacked by Boston bombing suspects says he was able to escape after Dzhokhar ~ Tsarnaev went into a store for Red Bull and chocolate bars
~ The victim, a Chinese man in his early 20s, ran to a gas station nearby, where he was told a cashier that his captors had a bomb and guns - A man taken hostage by the alleged Boston bombers after he was car jacked was able to escape after they stopped to buy cans of Red Bull at a gas station, MailOnline can reveal.
The carjacking victim, whose name has not been revealed, has told authorities that being Chinese almost certainly saved his life, saying that the brothers told him they would not kill him because he was 'not American.'
The victim was able to jump out of the car and flee while Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, looked to buy cans of the energy drink and chocolate bars.
From interviews with the staff at both gas stations and court records, MailOnline has been able to piece together the frantic events of the early hours of last Friday.
The terrifying sequence of events began when Tamerlan carjacked a Mercedes SUV car at gun point barely 40 minutes after MIT campus police officer Sean Collier was killed as he sat in his patrol car.
Tamerlan jumped into the passenger seat of the Mercedes and told the driver: 'Did you hear about the Boston explosion... I did that.' (UK Daily Mail)
Police State on Display The Boston Marathon bombing has already demonstrated the best and the worst of America for all the world to see.
First, let’s talk about the best. When the bombs detonated, despite the shock and the horror of the blown-off legs and arms, and the blood on street and sidewalk, and without knowing what else might be coming, ordinary citizens jumped into action to try and help the gravely wounded and the dying. Average people with no experience in this kind of mayhem stepped up without hesitation to care for strangers, applying tourniquets, carrying people who couldn’t walk to hospital tents, or just holding a hand and calling for help.
People pored over their cellphone photo records and camera files, looking for photos that could help identify the killers. Without their volunteer actions, the police and federal agencies would have had no clue who they were looking for. With them, it was quick work pinpointing and identifying the two men who appear to have placed the two bombs.
Later, while police failed to catch one of the brothers suspected of having been a bomber, despite placing all of metropolitan Boston under a kind of martial law, it was a citizen who, after the so-called “lock-down” of the city had been lifted, spotted the suspect and alerted police.
Now for the worst.
Let’s start with the martial law. Okay, it wasn’t a declaration, but with police and the Mayor ordering everyone in Boston and its suburbs to stay inside and lock their doors, “answering only to police,” it was virtually the same thing. (Nation of Change)
Suspects Roused by Jihadist Thought ~ Brother Says They Were Motivated by Muslim Anger at U.S.; Fireworks May Be Source of Explosives The investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing yielded two revelations Tuesday: The surviving suspect said he and his brother were inspired by jihadists online, and the brothers bought two large pyrotechnic devices that could shed light on how they built their explosives.
Authorities have been trying to piece together how and why the brothers accused of the April 15 bombing carried out their plans. In limited communication with federal investigators, including handwritten answers, surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said he and his older brother acted alone and without the help of any terrorist group, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The two were acting as jihadists, motivated by Muslim religious anger at the U.S., the surviving brother told interrogators, these officials said.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told investigators that the brothers were self-trained and self-indoctrinated, and were striking back at the U.S. for killing Muslims. His statements and other evidence have led U.S. authorities so far to believe that the bombers weren't part of a larger terror group, though no firm conclusions have been made. (Wall Street Journal)
Bombing Suspect's Aunt Talks To Infowars: She Claims Set Up Maret Tsarnaeva was contacted for an interview by Dan Dicks Infowars Correspondent and editor of PressForTruth.ca. He had scheduled an interview with her but when he arrived she was hesitant about conducting an interview.
He sent us the number and David Knight contacted her for a pre-interview and to schedule an interview with Alex Jones. That pre-interview was recorded on video. Alex then talked to Maret twice on the phone as she was now unwilling to conduct an interview. She felt people were listening to her phone and she made a point to say she was not being threatened. Alex wrote notes from the meeting and prepared this report. (Prison Planet)
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