Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted

Mark Mazzetti and Mark Apuzzo report for The New York Times:

Kashmiri demonstrators hold up a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a demonstration against Israeli military operations in Gaza, in downtown Srinagar on July 18, 2014. The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.

The investigation began after at least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told the authorities that he had evidence that officials at United States Central Command — the military headquarters overseeing the American bombing campaign and other efforts against the Islamic State — were improperly reworking the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama, the government officials said.

Fuller details of the claims were not available, including when the assessments were said to have been altered and who at Central Command, or Centcom, the analyst said was responsible. The officials, speaking only on the condition of anonymity about classified matters, said that the recently opened investigation focused on whether military officials had changed the conclusions of draft intelligence assessments during a review process and then passed them on.”

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Why is Saudi Arabia Now Supporting the Iran Deal?

Human rights groups face global crackdown ‘not seen in a generation’

Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian:

[…] The causes of increasing restrictions are complex, say organisations that monitor civil society activity, but broadly fall into three categories.

First is the shift in political power away from the west, the main source of funding for domestic civil society groups and the base for most big international NGOs. At the end of the cold war, the US and other western countries stepped in to assist newly democratising countries and burgeoning grassroots organisations.

But, more recently, many governments in the developing and post-communist world have pushed back against what they see as western interference. “This is the end of the post-cold war period in which [the west] felt that liberal democracy and western concepts of human rights were spreading around the world, to a period in which there’s a relativisation of political values and the questioning of a common narrative,” says Carothers.

Second, governments have woken up to the power of civil society – particularly after pro-democracy uprisings in former communist states and the revolutionary wave that swept through the Middle East.

“In most countries where leaders don’t allow a lot of pluralism or democracy, they’ve learned to tame opposition political parties,” Carothers says. “But the deepest fear of repressive governments is that they wake up in the morning, open the shutters of the presidential palace, and look out to find 100,000 citizens in the square saying ‘enough!’. That’s scary and uncontrollable,” particularly, Carothers adds, when coupled with technological skill in harnessing the power of social media to organise and spread messages.

The third cause of the NGO crackdown is the proliferation of counter-terrorism measures – often promoted by the west – that sweep civil society organisations into their embrace, either inadvertently or deliberately. Legitimate measures to curb funding of and money-laundering by terrorist organisations often have a debilitating effect on NGOs.

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Jeremy Corbyn to apologise for Iraq war on behalf of Labour if he becomes leader

Ewen MacAskill reports for The Guardian:

The Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn is to issue a public apology over the Iraq war on behalf of the party if he becomes leader next month, a move Tony Blair repeatedly resisted.

In a statement to the Guardian, Corbyn said he would apologise to the British people for the “deception” in the runup to the 2003 invasion and to the Iraqi people for their subsequent suffering.

Such an apology would be important symbolically – particularly in a party where Iraq remains a sore point, 12 years after Britain joined the US in the invasion – and signal a wider departure from existing Labour’s defence and foreign policy.

The MP made a vow that suggests future UK military interventions will become rarer: “Let us say we will never again unnecessarily put our troops under fire and our country’s standing in the world at risk. Let us make it clear that Labour will never make the same mistake again, will never flout the United Nations and international law.”

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John Pilger’s Film “Cambodia Year Zero” Named One Of ITV’S Greatest Programs

CounterPunch reports:

On the 60th anniversary of the founding of ITV, Britain’s and Europe’s biggest commercial broadcaster, John Pilger’s groundbreaking film, ‘Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia’, has been named as one of the network’s 60 top programmes.

‘Cambodia Year Zero’, as it became known, was credited with alerting the world to the suffering of the people of Cambodia under the fanatical regime of Pol Pot. It raised tens of millions of dollars   for Cambodia’s children – mostly unsolicited – and became the most watched documentary throughout the world.

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Undercover Police Have Regularly Spied On Black Lives Matter Activists in New York

George Joseph reports for The Intercept:

Documents obtained by The Intercept confirm that undercover police officers attended numerous Black Lives Matter protests in New York City between December 2014 and February 2015. The documents also show that police in New York have monitored activists, tracking their movements and keeping individual photos of them on file.

The nearly 300 documents, released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Metro-North Railroad, reveal more on-the-ground surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists than previous reports have shown, conducted by a coalition of MTA counterterrorism agents and undercover police in conjunction with NYPD intelligence officers.

This appears to be the first documented proof of the frequent presence of undercover police at Black Lives Matter protests in the city of New York, though many activists have suspected their presence since mass protests erupted there last year over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner.

The protest surveillance and use of undercover officers raises questions over whether New York-area law enforcement agencies are potentially criminalizing the exercise of free speech and treating activists like terrorist threats. Critics say the police files seem to document a response vastly disproportionate to the level of law breaking associated with the protests.

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Tony Blair’s Tripoli Adviser

Tony Blair's Tripoli Adviser

Libya and the West’s moral bankruptcy

Ramzy Baroud writes for Arab News:

On April 26, 2011, a meeting that can only be described as sinister took place between the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The most pressing issue discussed at the meeting in Rome was how to deal with African immigrants.

Sarkozy, who was under pressure from his right-wing and far-right constituencies to halt immigration originating from North Africa (resulting from the Tunisian uprising), desired to strike a deal with the opportunistic Italian leader. In exchange for an Italian agreement to join a French initiative aimed at tightening border control (Italy being accused of allowing immigrants to cross through its borders to the rest of Europe), France, in turn, would resolve major disputes involving a series of takeovers, involving French and Italian companies. Moreover, Italy would then secure French support for a bid by Italian economist and banker, Mario Draghi, to become the head of the European Central Bank.

Another point on the French agenda was active Italian participation in the war on Libya, initially spearheaded by France, Britain and the United States, and later championed by NATO.

Initially, Berlusconi hesitated to take part in the war, although certainly not for any moral reasons: For example, because the war was deliberately based on a misconstrued interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 of March 17, 2011. The resolution called for an ‘immediate cease-fire,’ the establishment of a ‘no-fly zone’ and using all means, except foreign occupation, to ‘protect civilians.’ The war, however, achieved entirely different objectives from the ones stated in the resolution. It achieved a regime change, the bloody capture and murder of Libyan leader, Muammar Al-Qaddafi, and resulted in a bloodbath in which thousands of civilians were killed, and continue to die, due to the chaos and civil war that has gripped Libya since then.

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The Planned Destruction of Libya

John Wright writes for CounterPunch:

With talks between various political factions in Libya beginning in Geneva with the objective of forging a unity government in a country best by chaos and lawlessness, the West’s role in this process must be questioned given its culpability in the country’s destabilization.

Out of the many examples of Western military interventions in recent times, none has been more grievous or disastrous than NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya, which only helped turn the country into a failed state.

Unleashed under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 – a UN mandate abused to effect the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli despite its official and stated objective of ‘protecting civilians’ – NATO’s intervention in the form of airstrikes did not result in the democratic society so gushingly anticipated by those responsible and their supporters. Instead it ushered in crisis and chaos as Libyan society promptly fragmented and broke down into the tribal, sectarian, and brutal internecine conflict that has turned a once functioning state and society into a dystopia into which ISIS has gained a foothold and been able to spread its malign influence. The result has been the usual barbaric ritual beheadings of ISIS prisoners, the persecution of women and minorities, and in June the slaughter of 37 tourists in Tunisia in a terrorist attack prepared and organized across the border in Libya.

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Snowden Documents Reveal AT&T’s “Extreme Willingness to Help” NSA Domestic Spy Program

The very cosy friendship between Iraq inquiry chief and Tony Blair

Andrew Pierce reports for The Daily Mail:

Bereaved parents are disgusted their suffering is being dragged out while Sir John (pictured) gives leading figures in the inquiry, such as Mr Blair, the chance to rebut its findings – a process known as MaxwellisationWhen Tony Blair first appeared before the Iraq inquiry five years ago, the chairman Sir John Chilcot treated him with almost painful deference.

Chilcot, a crumpled figure whose opening remarks lasted seven minutes, never laid a glove on Blair, even though the former prime minister gave evidence for more than six hours.

What few people know is that the bumbling Chilcot, a retired career civil servant, could, in fact, have greeted Blair as an old friend.

The first time they met in 1997 — when Blair was still leader of the Opposition — was in a far more sedate environment. They dined together in the venerable Travellers Club in Pall Mall, where Chilcot is a member.

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John Oliver on Televangelists

Democrats Continue to Delude Themselves About Obama’s Failed Guantánamo Vow

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] In the seventh year of Obama’s presidency, Guantánamo notoriously remains open, leaving one of his central vows unfulfilled. That, in turn, means that Democratic partisans have to scrounge around for excuses to justify this failure, to cast blame on someone other than the president, lest his legacy be besmirched. They long ago settled on the claim that blame (as always) lies not with Obama but with Congressional Republicans, who imposed a series of legal restrictions that impeded the camp’s closing.

As I’ve documented many times over the last several years, that excuse, while true as far as it goes, does not remotely prove that Obama sought to fulfill his pledge. That’s because Obama’s plans never included an end to what he himself constantly described as the camp’s defining evil: indefinite detention. To the contrary, he explicitly demanded the right to continue to imprison Guantánamo detainees without charges or trial –– exactly what made Guantánamo so evil in the first place — based on the hideous new phrase “cannot be tried but too dangerous to release.” Obama simply wanted to indefinitely imprison them somewhere else.

In other words, Obama never sought to close Guantánamo in any meaningful sense but rather wanted to relocate it to a less symbolically upsetting location, with its defining injustice fully intact and, worse, institutionalized domestically. In that regard, his Guantánamo shell game was vintage Obama: He wanted to make a pretty, self-flattering symbolic gesture to get credit for “change” (I have closed Guantánamo) while not merely continuing but actually strengthening the abusive power that made it so odious in the first place.

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U.S. military cancels hearing for September 11 suspects

Reuters reports:

The U.S. military has canceled a pretrial hearing for suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a military spokesman said on Sunday, in another setback for the government in its efforts to try the five men being held at Guantanamo.

A defense department spokesman said the hearing, originally scheduled for Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, was canceled by the military judge.

“The judge cited issues that remain unresolved with regard to a claimed defense counsel conflict of interest,” said Commander Gary Ross.

News of the cancellation was first reported by ABC News.

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Neocons to Americans: Trust Us Again

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)America’s neocons insist that their only mistake was falling for some false intelligence about Iraq’s WMD and that they shouldn’t be stripped of their powerful positions of influence for just one little boo-boo. That’s the point of view taken by Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt as he whines about the unfairness of applying “a single-interest litmus test,” i.e., the Iraq War debacle, to judge him and his fellow war boosters.

After noting that many other important people were on the same pro-war bandwagon with him, Hiatt criticizes President Barack Obama for citing the Iraq War as an argument not to listen to many of the same neocons who now are trying to sabotage the Iran nuclear agreement. Hiatt thinks it’s the height of unfairness for Obama or anyone else to suggest that people who want to kill the Iran deal — and thus keep alive the option to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran — “are lusting for another war.”

Hiatt also faults Obama for not issuing a serious war threat to Iran, a missing ultimatum that explains why the nuclear agreement falls “so far short.” Hiatt adds: “war is not always avoidable, and the judicious use of force early in a crisis, or even the threat of force, can sometimes forestall worse bloodshed later.”

But it should be noted that the neocons – and Hiatt in particular – did not simply make one mistake when they joined President George W. Bush’s rush to war in 2002-03. They continued with their warmongering in Iraq for years, often bashing the handful of brave souls in Official Washington who dared challenge the neocons’ pro-war enthusiasm. Hiatt and his fellow “opinion leaders” were, in effect, the enforcers of the Iraq War “group think” – and they have never sought to make amends for that bullying.

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Iran Deal: Don’t expect much change in post-Vienna US Middle East policy

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

If and when the Iran nuclear agreement gets through Congress, many people in Washington hope that Obama will articulate a more realistic strategy for the Middle East than what we have heard from his administration in the past.

But Obama has evidently decided this is not the time to articulate anything about the region’s future that he does not see as helping to sell the agreement on Capitol Hill. The real question is whether there is a clear idea waiting to be made public when the timing is right.

If there was ever an appropriate moment for Obama to articulate an overarching post-agreement policy vision that integrated the Iran nuclear agreement into a broader strategy for dealing with a Middle East at war, it was his speech at American University on 5 August. The time and place for the speech were chosen in explicit acknowledgement of John F. Kennedy’s speech at that same university 52 years earlier. In his speech, JFK offered a vision of a transformation of US policy toward the Soviet Union and the Cold War from one of confrontation to negotiations. But instead of using that occasion to explain how US diplomacy might play a transformational role in the Middle East, Obama limited the speech to defending the Vienna agreement in the narrowest terms.

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#AlbumoftheWeek ~ asdfasdf by Katie Dey (2015)

Katie Dey’s debut is very short, clocking in at just over 20 minutes. But within that brief space of time she has produced a wonderful, weird and quite original piece of experimental pop. The first time I heard asdfasdf  I wasn’t quite sure what I’d just heard. All I knew was that I liked it, a lot. It’s easily one of the most interesting albums that I’ve come across in recent years. The type of music that Dey produces is often referred to as “bedroom pop”. More recently though it’s also been labelled as “hypnagogic pop”, a term coined by David Kennan to describe artists with a similar lo-fi approach to recording, but that don’t necessarily create the same style of music. Ariel Pink is probably the most well known in this particular corner of the music world.

Dey’s music first came to the attention of Coma Cinema’s Mat Cothran, who discovered her work via Tumblr. They soon started talking and she sent him over some demo tracks. Cothran went on to show them to someone at his label Orchid Tapes, which in turn offered to release Dey’s work. Being a big fan of the label, which has released albums in recent years by Cothran’s band Coma Cinema, as well as Alex G and Foxes In Fiction, she was understandably delighted at the opportunity to work with them. Dey had already built up a decent little following online which resulted in the first batch of cassettes selling out on the same day they were released.

READ THE FULL REVIEW…

Warnings of jihadists among Syria’s rebels came early, were ignored

Hannah Allam reports for McClatchy:

[…] By all accounts – internal memos, intelligence briefings, dispatches from the ground – conventional wisdom was that the extremists were recruiting or routing mainstream fighters, and that the loosely affiliated moderate factions known collectively as the Free Syrian Army were no match for the more disciplined and better armed jihadists.

Extensive interviews with Syria policymakers from the Obama administration, some of whom spoke on the record and others who requested anonymity so as to freely describe the administration’s behind-the-scenes debates, reveal that the Obama administration was warned early on that al Qaida-linked fighters were gaining prominence within the anti-Assad struggle.

Senior officials chose to look the other way, however, and flog a misleading narrative of a viable moderate force. Today, the same extremists have seized wide swaths of Syria and Iraq, uprooting millions of people, threatening the stability of U.S. regional allies, and sucking the United States into another open-ended conflict in the Middle East.

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The Rise and Fall of Death Row Records

Jeffrey St. Clair writes for CounterPunch:

On August 7, 2001, Marion “Suge” Knight, the 350-pound boss of Death Row records, was released from prison after serving five years on charges stemming from a 1992 assault. About the time Knight regained his freedom, a documentary film, Welcome to Death Row, about the rise and fall of his company was making the rounds looking for a distributor to show it in theaters.

Fourteen years later, as the much-hyped Hollywood biopic about NWA Straight Outta Compton is set for nationwide release, Welcome to Death Row still hasn’t had much of a public airing. The dozen or so artists who spoke on camera faced various forms of intimidation. Some received death threats. Others saw their careers sabotaged.

The story told by Welcome to Death Row is a cautionary tale about the grimy realities of the entertainment industry, one that has made billions exploiting the talents of songwriters and musicians. It’s a story of mercenary lawyers, drug gangs, and unremitting harassment by police and the FBI. In the end, although the label generated more than $400 million in sales, its top star was dead, its business manager was in jail and all the money was gone, most of it filched by white businessmen.

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We’ve Consumed More Than the Earth Can Produce This Year

Gabe Bullard reports for National Geographic:

It may feel like Christmas comes earlier each year, but there’s a less joyful day that really is moving closer on the calendar.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day when—according to estimates—the total combined consumption of all human activity on Earth in a year overtakes the planet’s ability to generate those resources for that year.

How is it measured?

“It’s quite simple,” says Dr. Mathis Wackernagel of the think tank Global Footprint Network. “We look at all the resource demands of humanity that compete for space, like food, fiber, timber, et cetera, then we look at how much area is needed to provide those services and how much productive surface is available.”

Here’s his bottom line metaphor. Earth Overshoot Day is like the day you spend more than your salary for a year, only you are all humans and your salary is Earth’s biocapacity.

Ideally, Overshoot Day would come after December 31.  It wasn’t too far off in 1970, when it occurred on December 23. But Overshoot Day creep has kicked in ever since. August 13 is the earliest yet—four days ahead of last year’s previous record.

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War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever

Lee Billings reports for Scientific American:

The world’s most worrisome military flashpoint is arguably not in the Strait of Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Israel, Kashmir or Ukraine. In fact, it cannot be located on any map of Earth, even though it is very easy to find. To see it, just look up into a clear sky, to the no-man’s-land of Earth orbit, where a conflict is unfolding that is an arms race in all but name.

The emptiness of outer space might be the last place you’d expect militaries to vie over contested territory, except that outer space isn’t so empty anymore. About 1,300 active satellites wreathe the globe in a crowded nest of orbits, providing worldwide communications, GPS navigation, weather forecasting and planetary surveillance. For militaries that rely on some of those satellites for modern warfare, space has become the ultimate high ground, with the U.S. as the undisputed king of the hill. Now, as China and Russia aggressively seek to challenge U.S. superiority in space with ambitious military space programs of their own, the power struggle risks sparking a conflict that could cripple the entire planet’s space-based infrastructure. And though it might begin in space, such a conflict could easily ignite full-blown war on Earth.

The long-simmering tensions are now approaching a boiling point due to several events, including recent and ongoing tests of possible anti-satellite weapons by China and Russia, as well as last month’s failure of tension-easing talks at the United Nations.

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The rise and fall of Arab revolutionary discourse

Ramzy Baroud writes for Japan Times:

[…] The Arab Spring has not, as of yet, achieved any of its objectives, for neither bread is available in abundance, nor is freedom any closer, nor is social justice at hand. It did, however, energize Arab elites, armies and regimes, which became more aware than ever of their own vulnerabilities.

Fear is now gripping most Arab countries that once thought of themselves as invincible and of their own people as forever docile. That realization has resulted in a massive regional conflict and political realignments, which have turned every single Arab popular revolt into a regional conflict or war that crossed borders, inspiring extremist groups and inviting yet more Western intervention and war.

The Arab world, and the Middle East in general, has not experienced such a major geopolitical upheaval since the early 20th century, when Ottoman territories were divided among old colonial European powers, all the way to War World II. The outcome of this upheaval is likely to be as earth-shattering as these past experiences, if not more, due to the popular element in these conflicts.

But one of the most defining shifts of Arab Spring priorities is the reversal of the narrative from its basic, innocent, unifying, empowering and popular articulation into a complicated, cunning, disuniting, disempowering and elitist one, where the people do not matter in the least.

Language is an essential tool if one aims to understand political priorities of any historical phase situated in time and place. The language at work in the Middle East is one that speaks of a conflict between regional rivals, utilizing sects, tribes and religions to achieve political objectives.

As for the people, they are increasingly pushed back to the margins, only to emerge briefly when state ceremonies compel them to wave flags that long ceased to hold much national meaning, and posters of rulers — smiling, triumphant and, as ever, brutal.

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When Roger Stone met Antiwar.com

Mark Ames writes for Pando:

During my research, I came across a story about how, in 1973, the GOP infiltrated and bought off California’s socialist Peace and Freedom Party, using one of the co-founders of the popular Bay Area libertarian website, Antiwar.com. It’s too fascinating a story not to share.

The Peace and Freedom Party was founded in the Bay Area in 1968, at the height of leftist radicalism and the antiwar movement, nominating Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver as the party’s candidate for president.

Nixon’s CREEP campaign operatives, including young Roger Stone, specialized in manipulating anti-establishment politics in order to help Nixon (and later, Reagan, Bush, and who knows who else). As I wrote about in my Roger Stone-Donald Trump article, the Nixon people in 1971 laid out a campaign strategy centered on exploiting and manipulating anti-establishment politics in order to destroy their real competition in the Democratic Party.

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Assange Denied the Right to Defend Himself Against Sexual Assault Allegations: Interview with attorney Carey Shenkman

U.S. Military Says It Is Committed to Fairness in Chelsea Manning Case

Roxana Hegeman reports for AP:

People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, California on 28 June 2015.The U.S. military said Thursday that it is committed to “a fair and equitable process” in the case of national security leaker Chelsea Manning and other prisoners accused of breaking rules at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth.

The response comes a day after Manning’s lawyer disclosed that the transgender Army private faces charges at an Aug. 18 hearing for allegedly having a copy of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover and an expired tube of toothpaste, among other things. The maximum penalty is indefinite solitary confinement.

The former intelligence analyst, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 of espionage and other offenses for sending more than 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks while working in Iraq. She is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking reams of war logs, diplomatic cables and battlefield video to the anti-secrecy website in 2010.

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China plans security offices inside internet firms to stop ‘illegal behaviour’

Reuters reports:

China is planning to set up “network security offices” in major internet companies and for websites so authorities can move more quickly against illegal online behaviour, the ministry of public security said in a statement.

Police should take a leading role in online security and work closely with internet regulators, the deputy minister, Chen Zhimin, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

“We will set up network security offices inside important website and internet firms, so that we can catch criminal behaviour online at the earliest possible point,” Chen said, according to the statement.

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Officials: Islamic State arose from US support for al-Qaeda in Iraq

Nafeez Ahmed writes for INSURGE INTELLIGENCE:

A new memoir by a former senior State Department analyst provides stunning details on how decades of support for Islamist militants linked to Osama bin Laden brought about the emergence of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS).

The book establishes a crucial context for recent admissions by Michael T. Flynn, the retired head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), confirming that White House officials made a “willful decision” to support al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists in Syria — despite being warned by the DIA that doing so would likely create an ‘ISIS’-like entity in the region.

J. Michael Springmann, a retired career US diplomat whose last government post was in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, reveals in his new book that US covert operations in alliance with Middle East states funding anti-Western terrorist groups are nothing new. Such operations, he shows, have been carried out for various short-sighted reasons since the Cold War and after.

In the 1980s, as US support for mujahideen fighters accelerated in Afghanistan to kick out the Soviet Union, Springmann found himself unwittingly at the heart of highly classified operations that allowed Islamist militants linked to Osama bin Laden to establish a foothold within the United States.

After the end of the Cold War, Springman alleged, similar operations continued in different contexts for different purposes — in the former Yugoslavia, in Libya and elsewhere. The rise of ISIS, he contends, was a predictable outcome of this counterproductive policy.

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The Google Search That Made the CIA Spy on the US Senate

Jason Leopold reports for VICE News:

John Brennan was about to say he was sorry.

On July 28, 2014, the CIA director wrote a letter to senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss — the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) and the panel’s ranking Republican, respectively. In it, he admitted that the CIA’s penetration of the computer network used by committee staffers reviewing the agency’s torture program — a breach for which Feinstein and Chambliss had long demanded accountability — was improper and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA.

The letter was notable in part because Brennan initially denied the January 2014 search of the Senate’s computer network even took place. And later, when it became clear that it had — and that he had known of it while publicly denying that it happened — he refused to acknowledge that it was wrong. For months, Feinstein and other committee members were clamoring for a written apology to make part of the official record.

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The Making of Leopoldo López

Roberto Lovato writes for Foreign Policy:

The Making of Leopoldo López In the nearly year and a half since street protests rocked Caracas, the U.S. press has been kind to Leopoldo López, the 44-year-old jailed leader of Venezuela’s radical opposition. He has been painted as a combination of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and his distant grand uncle, SimónBolívar, for his magnetic brand of in-your-face politics. Newsweek wrote of his “twinkling chocolate-colored eyes and high cheekbones” and called López a “revolutionary who has it all.” The New York Times published a photo of him, jaw out, fist in the air, in front of a crowd of screaming protesters and gave him a platform on its op-ed page. In New York, when the United Nations met last September, protestors rallied to show support for López, and President Barack Obama listed him among a group of political prisoners from repressive countries such as China and Egypt who “deserve to be free.” López, who has done interviews shirtless, came to embody freedom and democracy for audiences across the globe, with stars from Kevin Spacey to Cher rallying to his cause, while the hashtag #freeleopoldo rocketed across Twitter.

But in Venezuela the picture is far more complicated. López has been in jail since February 2014 on charges of arson, public incitement, and conspiracy related to the first big anti-government protest that year, on Feb. 12, 2014, which left three protesters dead and kicked off weeks of rallies, street blockades, vandalism, and violence. The charges against him, which Amnesty International has called “politically motivated,” could carry a prison sentence of 10 years. Outside the courtroom, the public debate continues to swirl between those who believe López is a freedom fighter facing trumped-up charges and those who believe he is the violent “fascista” the government of President Nicolás Maduro claims.

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To Defend Iran Deal, Obama Boasts That He’s Bombed Seven Countries

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Beyond accurately describing Iran deal opponents, Obama also accurately described himself and his own record of militarism. To defend against charges that he Loves the Terrorists, he boasted:

As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat.

I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.

By “ordered military actions in seven countries,” what he means is that he has ordered bombs dropped, and he has extinguished the lives of thousands of innocent people, in seven different countries, all of which just so happen to be predominantly Muslim.

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