Category Archives: USA

U.S. Secret Service seeks sarcasm-spotting software

Gemma Karstens-Smith reports for the Toronto Star:

Of course Secret Service agents need a hand separating wisecracks from security threats.

Instead of searching for their sense of humour, however, the U.S. agency is looking for software to help them understand sarcastic remarks on social media.

It’s no secret that governments keep track of what’s happening on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but Canadian experts are wary about whether or not sarcasm-detecting software will help security agencies keep citizens safe.

“I’m skeptical,” said Tamir Israel, a lawyer for Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa. “There’s a limit to what an algorithm can do, I think, is really what it comes down to.”

A tender document posted Monday shows the Secret Service wants to buy software that has the ability to “detect sarcasm.”’

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Clinton and the Coup: Amid Protests in Honduras, Ex-President on Hillary’s Role in His 2009 Ouster

‘In Honduras, as many as 25,000 people marched Friday demanding the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. The protests come six years after a coup ousted Honduras’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. In an exclusive interview, Zelaya talks about the new protest movement, the fallout from the 2009 coup, and Hillary Clinton’s role in his ouster. “On the one hand, the Obama administration condemned the coup, but on the other hand, they were negotiating with the leaders of the coup,” Zelaya said. “And Secretary Clinton lent herself to that, maintaining that ambiguity of U.S. policy to Honduras, which has resulted in a process of distrust and instability of Latin American governments in relation to U.S. foreign policies.” While the United States publicly supported Zelaya’s return to power, newly released emails show Clinton was attempting to set up a back channel of communication with Roberto Micheletti, who was installed as Honduran president after the coup. In one email, Clinton referenced lobbyist and former President Clinton adviser Lanny Davis. She wrote, “Can he help me talk w Micheletti?” At the time, Davis was working for the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, which supported the coup. In another email, Thomas Shannon, the State Department’s lead negotiator for the Honduras talks, refers to Manuel Zelaya as a “failed” leader.’ (Democracy Now!)

Obama In Africa: Interview with Horace Campbell

Democracy Now! recently spoke with Horace Campbell, professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He has written extensively on African politics. His new piece for CounterPunch is called “Obama in Kenya.” He is also the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. (Democracy Now!)

Obama in Kenya: Why the Horn of Africa Matters to Geopolitics

Juan Cole writes for Informed Comment:

EastAfricaMapPresident Obama’s visit to Kenya is of course personal, though he has been there before both as a civilian and as a senator. But it does also have a geopolitical and economic dimension.

Kenya is a country of roughly 46 million people, about the same as Spain. But its nominal gross domestic product is only $70 billion a year (Spain’s is 1.4 trillion). But its economy has been growing impressively, with 6% growth expected this year despite a downturn in coastal tourism because of terrorist incidents and a drought that has hurt agriculture.

[…] Kenya’s strategic position derives in part from its abutting the Horn of Africa to the north, off the coast of which is one of the world’s most important trade routes, linking the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and thence the Mediterranean and Europe through the Suez Canal.

[…] Africa is also increasingly an arena of competition between the United States and China. China invested $5 billion in infrastructure projects in Kenya, and has twice the volume of trade with Africa as the United States does.

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In Ethiopia, Obama and the United States stand in China’s long shadow

Omar Mohammed and Lily Kuo report for Quartz:

China’s_investment_flow_to_Africa_Investment_Value_%_of_it's_global_share_chartbuilderWhen US president Barack Obama speaks in front of the African Union in Ethiopia today (July 28), he will address the delegation at the organization’s new, shiny headquarters—built by the Chinese.

The symbolism aptly demonstrates the challenge that America faces in Africa. While the president is beloved on the continent, he and the US are increasingly competing with China for influence. Delegates listening to Obama may be reminded of another speech given at the African Union last year. Then, Chinese premier Li Keqiang told leaders that he expects his country’s trade with the continent to double by 2020, with investment quadrupling t0 $100 billion.

China has paid special attention to Ethiopia, the fastest growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa, which has expected GDP growth of over 10% this year alone. Much of this growth is being driven by China, whose total investment in the country has reached almost $17 billion, according to data from the Heritage Foundation.’

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Documents Published by WikiLeaks Reveal the NSA’s Corporate Priorities

Bill Blunden reports for Truthout:

Cyber espionage“We are under pressure from the Treasury to justify our budget, and commercial espionage is one way of making a direct contribution to the nation’s balance of payments.” – Sir Colin McColl, MI6 Chief

For years public figures have condemned cyber espionage committed against the United States by intruders launching their attacks out of China. These same officials then turn around and justify the United States’ far-reaching surveillance apparatus in terms of preventing terrorist attacks. Yet classified documents published by WikiLeaks reveal just how empty these talking points are. Specifically, top-secret intercepts prove that economic spying by the United States is pervasive, that not even allies are safe and that it’s wielded to benefit powerful corporate interests.

At a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton accused China of “trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America.” Clinton’s hyperbole is redolent of similar claims from the US deep state. For example, who could forget the statement made by former NSA director Keith Alexander that Chinese cyber espionage represents the greatest transfer of wealth in history? Alexander has obviously never heard of quantitative easing (QE) or the self-perpetuating “global war on terror,” which has likewise eaten through trillions of dollars. Losses due to cyber espionage are a rounding error compared to the tidal wave of money channeled through QE and the war on terror.’

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Dodd-Frank’s 5th Anniversary Passes, But Should We Celebrate? Interview with Gerald Epstein

Five Years Later, the Unfulfilled Promise of Dodd-Frank

Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams:

With several key promises of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act still unfulfilled, “Americans cannot be comforted that Wall Street will not wreak havoc again,” according to a new report from the watchdog group Public Citizen.

“Five years after President Barack Obama signed this legislation, Dodd-Frank remains largely incomplete,” said Bartlett Naylor, Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate and author of the report, Dodd-Frank is Five: And Still Not Allowed Out of the House (pdf), published Tuesday.

“Major portions of the law have yet to be codified into specific rules,” Naylor explained. “Many enforcement dates are set well into the future, and certain rules are not yet being implemented and enforced to the fullest extent of the law.”

Dodd-Frank, signed into law five years ago Tuesday, “promised that America would never again be held hostage by banks that are too big to fail, but that promise remains unfulfilled,” Public Citizen said in a statement. “Instead, industry-captured regulators and members of Congress hungry for campaign contributions from Wall Street continue to delay and dilute the law.”‘

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UK Police Confirm Ongoing Criminal Probe of Snowden Leak Journalists

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

A secretive British police investigation focusing on journalists working with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents remains ongoing two years after it was quietly launched, The Intercept can reveal.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service has admitted it is still carrying out the probe, which is being led by its counterterrorism department, after previously refusing to confirm or deny its existence on the grounds that doing so could be “detrimental to national security.”

The disclosure was made by police in a letter sent to this reporter Tuesday, concluding a seven-month freedom of information battle that saw the London force repeatedly attempt to withhold basic details about the status of the case. It reversed its position this week only after an intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws.

Following Snowden’s disclosures from the National Security Agency in 2013, the Metropolitan Police and a lawyer for the British government separately stated that a criminal investigation had been opened into the leaks. One of the London force’s most senior officers acknowledged during a parliamentary hearing that the investigation was looking at whether reporters at The Guardian had committed criminal offenses for their role in revealing secret surveillance operations exposed in the Snowden documents.’

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Iran deal is about staving off the coming oil shock

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle Easy Eye:

[…] George Friedman, founder and CEO of private US intelligence firm Stratfor – which operates closely with the Pentagon and State Department – forecasted the US-Iran détente four years ago.

His prescient assessment of its strategic rationale is worth noting. Friedman explained that by reaching “a temporary understanding with Iran,” the US would give itself room to withdraw while playing off Iran against the Sunni regimes, limiting Iran’s “direct controls” in the region, “while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage”.

“This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it,” wrote Friedman.

Ultimately, though, the US is betting on the rise of Turkey – hence the latter’s pivotal role in the new anti-IS rebel training strategy, despite Turkey’s military and financial sponsorship of IS.

For the US, “the longer-term solution to the balance of power in the region will be the rise of Turkey,” which would “counterbalance Iran and Israel, while stabilising the Arabian Peninsula.” This will eventually generate “a new regional balance of power”.

Crucially, this regional balance of power would operate under the overarching sway of US military pre-eminence.

As Stephen Kinzer has pointed out, a US-Turkey-Iran axis would enhance the US ability to police Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Pakistan from a distance, while safeguarding oil and gas transportation routes to Europe.

But both Friedman and Kinzer missed another critical factor in these geopolitical considerations: the prospect of a global oil shock.’

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Gareth Porter on the Iran Deal: ‘Media Have Been Applying a False Narrative to the Entire Issue’

Gareth Porter was interviewed recently about the Iran deal on FAIR’s CounterSpin:

Gareth Porter: Well, of course there is a great deal that the media are missing about the background of this, because of the fact that the media have been basically applying a false narrative to the entire issue of the Iran nuclear program for so long, and that means that they are missing essentially the entire true history of the program.

In my focus on one particular issue, I don’t mean to suggest that this is by any means the only problem with the news media interpretation or take on the Iran nuclear deal. But what I thought was particularly appropriate at this point is to look back and see, how did the US come to the point where it was ready to negotiate a deal on the nuclear program with Iran? And the answer to that is certainly not something that you will learn from reading the news media accounts.

I’ve been following this for some years now, and what struck me about the relevant history here is that, in fact, if you go back to the 1990s, the people within Iran who are part of this very strong, the most powerful political faction in the country, really, the Rafsanjani faction–named after the former President Rafsanjani, who wanted to integrate Iran into the global capitalist economy, and realized that their only hope for doing that was to reach some kind of an agreement with the United States–really began in the late 1980s and early 1990s to engage the United States diplomatically and politically. And what happened was that the United States was simply not interested, either under the George H.W. Bush administration or the Clinton administration, and certainly not the George W. Bush administration.

Why did the United States not take any interest in diplomatic engagement with Iran? Because, at that point, Iran was simply too weak, and the disparity in power with the United States was simply too great. The United States government did not see any compelling strategic reason to have a negotiating process with Iran.

In my book, I point out quite precisely in the very early 1990s, when the Bush administration at that time basically shifted a policy that had been planned to be carried out by the White House to reciprocate a gesture by Rafsanjani in helping to release US hostages in Lebanon, by essentially making some public concession or gesture to Iran, and instead of doing that, in the wake of the victory over Iraq, the administration decided that they didn’t really need Iran at all in their plans for the Middle East, and simply embarked on a new period of hostility toward Iran. So that was the beginning of this 25-year period, essentially, of the US being much less interested in reaching agreement with Iran than Iran was.

That’s been misunderstood, because Iran has not simply said, United States, we’ll do whatever you want to have an agreement with you. They wanted the United States to lift the sanctions. And that was the primary issue for many years, and the United States wasn’t willing to do that. So it was not really until the second Obama administration that the United States really deigned to enter into a fundamental negotiating process with Iran. Up until that time, the posture of the United States was: We will put pressure on Iran to force it to give up  its nuclear program. Or, we’re really not interested in doing that; we will just carry out regime change, as was the case with the Bush administration.

What I’m really talking about here is the impact of the vast disparity in power between the United States and Iran, and how that has shaped the history of the whole question of the diplomatic engagement between the two countries.’

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW…

The Spirit of Judy Miller is Alive and Well at the New York Times, and It Does Great Damage

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

One of the very few Iraq War advocates to pay any price at all was former New York Times reporter Judy Miller, the classic scapegoat. But what was her defining sin? She granted anonymity to government officials and then uncritically laundered their dubious claims in the New York Times. As the paper’s own editors put it in their 2004 mea culpa about the role they played in selling the war: “We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.” As a result, its own handbook adopted in the wake of that historic journalistic debacle states that “anonymity is a last resort.”

But 12 years after Miller left, you can pick up that same paper on any given day and the chances are high that you will find reporters doing exactly the same thing. In fact, its public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regularly lambasts the paper for doing so. Granting anonymity to government officials and thenuncritically printing what these anonymous officials claim, treating it all as Truth, is not an aberration for the New York Times. With some exceptions among good NYT reporters, it’s an institutional staple for how the paper functions, even a decade after its editors scapegoated Judy Miller for its Iraq War propaganda and excoriated itself for these precise methods.

That the New York Times mindlessly disseminates claims from anonymous officials with great regularity is, at this point, too well-documented to require much discussion. But it is worth observing how damaging it continues to be, because, shockingly, all sorts of self-identified “journalists” — both within the paper and outside of it — continue to equate un-verified assertions from government officials as Proven Truth, even when these officials are too cowardly to attach their names to these claims, as long as papers such as the NYT launder them.’

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Anti-Iran Deal AIPAC Spin-off Relies on Iranian Ex-Terrorist Group

Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib writes for LobeLog:

CFNFI NCRI c2 640When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared war on the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers signed last week in Vienna, it put its money where its mouth is. AIPAC, Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobby reportedly plans on spending $20 million over the next two months urging Congress to vote against the deal. But its efforts at a full frontal attack on the accord, inked by the P5+1 (the US, China, France, Russia, the UK, and Germany) and Iran is leading to some politically awkward alliances.

As part of its efforts to kill the deal with a congressional vote, AIPAC launched a 501c4 advocacy group called Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran. The group, according to The New York Times, was “formed with the sole mission of educating the public ‘about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal,’” said spokesman Patrick Dorton. The Times reported that the $20 million budget would go to ad buys in as many as 40 states as well as other advocacy.

Now that the campaign is taking shape, the AIPAC spin-off appears to be relying on a typical, if troubling, ally of American groups and individuals opposed to diplomacy with Iran. Namely, two items on the website of Citizens for a Nuclear Iran, one of which was later removed, featured an exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

The MEK makes a cameo appearance in the television ad crafted by Citizens For a Nuclear Free Iran, the well-financed AIPAC spin-off, as well as on a now-removed news items on the group’s “Press Room” webpage—indicating that Nuclear Free Iran recognized a PR misstep by promoting the group.’

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Iran Deal: Obama Acts for America’s Interests

Eric Margolis, author of American Raj, writes:

shutterstock_274494032Barack Obama is the first American president to stand up to the Israel lobby since Dwight Eisenhower ordered Israel to withdraw from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in 1956-57.

Freed of re-election concerns and the need for vast amounts of cash, President Obama finally made the decision to put America’s strategic interests ahead of those of Israel by making peace with Iran. This was a huge accomplishment: the United States has waged economic and political warfare against the Islamic Republic since its creation in 1979.

Iran now looks likely to join Cuba in getting paroled from prison. Both refused to bow to Washington and paid a very heavy price that left them semi-crippled economically and isolated.

Unless the Israel lobby and its yes-men in Congress manage to block the nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers, Tehran will be re-integrated into the world economic system and reassert its regional power. Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of oil and a principal supplier to China and Japan.

Iran’s gradual return to unrestrained oil exporting may well spook markets that are already facing a severe glut of inventory that has driven down energy prices everywhere. So much for fears of “peak oil.”

It’s now time to begin dispelling the miasma of lies about Iran promoted by neoconservatives and their house media.’

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Is the ‘military option’ on Iran off the table?

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, writes for the Baltimore Sun:

[…] Looking for changes in official public statements was my bread and butter during a long tenure as a Kremlinologist. So on Wednesday, as I watched Mr. Obama defend the deal with Iran, I leaned way forward at each juncture — and there were several — where the timeworn warning about all options being “on the table” would have been de rigueur. He avoided saying it.

“All options on the table?” The open-ended nature of this Bush/Cheney-esque bully-type warning is at odds with Western international understandings spanning more than three and half centuries — from the treaties of Westphalia (1648), to the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) to the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal to the UN Charter (1945). Try raising that with Establishment Washington, though, and be prepared to be dismissed as “picky-picky,” or as quaint and as obsolete as the Geneva Conventions. Undergirding all this is the chauvinism reflected in President Obama’s repeated reminders that the U.S. “is the sole indispensable country in the world.”

But in the wake of last week’s accord with Iran in Vienna, it is possible now to hope that the “military option” is finally off the table — in reality, if not in occasional rhetorical palliatives for Israel.

Most Americans have no idea of how close we came to making war on Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration. Nor do they know of the essential role played by courageous managers of intelligence who, for the first time on the Iran nuclear issue, supervised a strictly evidence-based, from-the-bottom-up National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that concluded in November 2007 that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed that work.’

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Missed Calls: Is the NSA lying about its failure to prevent 9/11?

James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, writes for Foreign Policy:

On March 20, 2000, as part of a trip to South Asia, U.S. President Bill Clinton was scheduled to land his helicopter in the desperately poor village of Joypura, Bangladesh, and speak to locals under a 150-year-old banyan tree. At the last minute, though, the visit was canceled; U.S. intelligence agencies had discovered an assassination plot. In a lengthy email, London-based members of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, a terrorist group established by Osama bin Laden, urged al Qaeda supporters to “Send Clinton Back in a Coffin” by firing a shoulder-launched missile at the president’s chopper.

The same day that Clinton was supposed to visit Joypura, the phone rang at bin Laden’s operations center in Sanaa, Yemen. To counterterrorism specialists at the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland, the Yemeni number—967-1-200-578—was at the pinnacle of their target list. They monitored the line 24/7. But at the time, the agency now claims, it had no technical way of knowing who was placing the call. The culprit, it would later be revealed, was Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the men bin Laden had picked months earlier to lead the forthcoming 9/11 attacks. He was calling from his apartment in San Diego, California.

The NSA knew about Mihdhar’s connection to bin Laden and had earlier linked his name with the operations center. Had they known he was now reaching out to bin Laden’s switchboard from a U.S. number, on the day an al Qaeda-linked assassination plot was planned, the agency could have legally obtained an order to tap the San Diego phone line. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in fact, approves eavesdropping on suspected terrorists and spies in the United States. By monitoring Mihdhar’s domestic calls, the agency certainly would have discovered links to the 9/11 hijackers living on the East Coast, including Mohamed Atta.

It’s likely, in other words, that 9/11 would have been stopped in its tracks.’

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Anonymous Weighs in on TPP

Mass Shootings on the Rise in the US: Interview with Mark Follman

‘On Thursday, a gunman opened fire on two separate military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The rampage left four marines and the gunman dead and at least three people injured. The Tennessee shooting came as a jury in Colorado announced its verdict in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Almost exactly three years ago, on July 20, 2012, James Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. On Thursday, the jury found him guilty of 165 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Holmes now faces a lengthy sentencing process which could result in the death penalty.’ (Democracy Now!)

A Wizard at Prying Government Secrets From the Government

Ravi Somaiya writes for The New York Times:

When the reporter Jason Leopold gets ready to take on the United States government, he psychs himself up by listening to the heavy metal bands Slayer and Pantera.

Mr. Leopold describes himself as “a pretty rageful guy.” He argued recently with staff members at his son’s preschool because he objected to their references to “Indians” and they objected to his wearing family-unfriendly punk rock T-shirts to school meetings.

Mr. Leopold, 45, who works for Vice News, reserves most of his aggression for dealing with the government. He has revealed about 20,000 pages of government documents, some of them the basis for explosive news stories. Despite his appearance — on a recent day his T-shirt featured the band name “Sick of It All” — his secret weapon is the opposite of anarchic: an encyclopedic knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act, the labyrinthine administration machine that serves it and the kind of legal judo often required to pry information from it.

His small office, just off the kitchen in his home here, is littered with envelopes from various branches of the government and computer disks filled with secrets. His persistence has led to numerous revelations — some in documents that have been released exclusively to him, and others in documents that have been released to multiple reporters after pressure has been brought by Mr. Leopold.

They have included a series of disclosures from Guantánamo Bay; racist emails from the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department released after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer and the subsequent racial unrest in the city; and some details of unreleased Central Intelligence Agency memos on torture (another report was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December).’

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Julian Assange on Wikileaks’ Comeback: “We Are Drowning in Material”

Julian Assange was recently interviewed by Michael Sontheimer for Spiegel:

Spiegel: Mr. Assange, WikiLeaks is back—releasing documents proving United States surveillance of the French government, publishing Saudi diplomatic cables and posting evidence of the massive surveillance of the German government by US secret services. What are the reasons for this comeback?

Assange: Yes, WikiLeaks has been publishing a lot of material in the last few months. We have been publishing right through, but sometimes it has been material which does not concern the West and the Western media—documents about Syria, for example. But you have to consider that there was, and still is, a conflict with the United States government which started in earnest in 2010 after we began publishing a variety of classified US documents.

Spiegel: What did this mean for you and for WikiLeaks?

Assange: The result was a series of legal cases, blockades, PR attacks and so on. With a banking blockade, WikiLeaks had been cut off from more than 90 percent of its finances. The blockade happened in a completely extrajudicial manner. We took legal measures against the blockade and we have been victorious in the courts, so people can send us donations again.

Spiegel: What difficulties did you have to overcome?

Assange: There had been attacks on our technical infrastructure. And our staff had to take a 40 percent pay cut, but we have been able to keep things together without having to fire anybody, which I am quite proud of. We became a bit like Cuba, working out ways around this blockade. Various groups like Germany’s Wau Holland Foundation collected donations for us during the blockade.

Spiegel: What did you do with the donations you got?

Assange: They enabled us to pay for new infrastructure, which was needed. I have been publishing about the NSA for almost 20 years now, so I was aware of the NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance. We required a next-generation submission system in order to protect our sources.

Spiegel: And is it in place now?

Assange: Yes, a few months back we launched a next-generation submission system and also integrated it with our publications.

Spiegel: So we can expect new publications?

Assange: We are drowning in material now. Economically, the challenge for WikiLeaks is whether we can scale up our income in proportion to the amount of material we have to process.’

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Endless enemies: How the US is supporting the Islamic State by fighting it

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

‘[…] So on the pretext of fighting Assad, the US armed and funded extremist Syrian rebels through its regional allies, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, which went on to spawn the “Islamic State”.

The US is now intent on fighting Assad’s enemy, IS, in turn bolstering Assad.

Simultaneously, Assad’s ambiguous strategic and energy relationship with IS is empowering the movement, and the US is coordinating with Assad to execute airstrikes against Assad’s chief regional enemy, IS.

But, the US is still working with its allies to arm a coalition of “moderate” rebels to fight both IS and Assad.

That “moderate” coalition, however, includes al-Qaeda’s Syria arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is being supported due to its rivalry with IS. Yet al-Nusra maintains tactical alliances with IS, while other FSA “moderates” also coordinate with IS to counter Assad, to the point that Western, Gulf and Turkish supplies to “moderates” are at risk of being systematically diverted to al-Nusra and IS.

If you have difficulty understanding this, don’t worry. I don’t understand it either. But what’s clear is that the ever shape-shifting US war on al-Qaeda, IS and Assad, is propping up al-Qaeda, IS and Assad.

On top of all this, the general Syrian population is increasingly cognisant of these contradictions, and disillusioned about the US-led strategy and its motives, not to mention angered at ongoing civilian casualties from airstrikes. That, too, is driving ordinary people into the arms of extremists.

It doesn’t really matter whether you think all this is a result of incompetence or conspiracy, or a bit of both. The upshot is unequivocal: This strategy is not going to eliminate terrorism or make us safer. On the contrary, it is a perfect recipe for endless war.’

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Retired General Wesley Clark Calls for Internment Camps for “Radicalized” Americans

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

Retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Friday called for World War II-style internment camps to be revived for “disloyal Americans.” In an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts in the wake of the mass shooting in Chatanooga, Tennessee, Clark said that during World War II, “if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.”

He called for a revival of internment camps to help combat Muslim extremism, saying, “If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”’

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The Rise of the New Crypto War

Eric Geller reports for The Daily Dot:

James B. Comey, Jr., the seventh director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is afraid of the dark.

“The law hasn’t kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public safety problem,” Comey said in an Oct. 16, 2014, speech at the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington, D.C., think tank. He called the problem “going dark.”

As more and more criminals presumably “go dark” by encrypting their phones and email accounts, federal agents are finding it increasingly difficult to intercept their communications. The spread of easy-to-use encryption software and the eagerness with which tech companies promote it have deeply troubled the FBI. But on that unusually warm October day, Comey also wanted to vent about another frustration: He felt that the bureau’s proposed solution was being distorted.

“There is a misconception that building a lawful intercept solution into a system requires a so-called ‘backdoor,’ one that foreign adversaries and hackers may try to exploit,” Comey said. “But that isn’t true. We aren’t seeking a backdoor approach. We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law.”

He only used the word twice, but by strenuously denying that he wanted one, Comey had set off a fierce debate about the secret law-enforcement data-access portals known as backdoors. In the months that followed, Comey, his deputies at the FBI, and his counterparts at other agencies would face relentless questioning and criticism from skeptical members of Congress, exasperated security researchers, and outraged privacy groups. Despite Comey’s protestations, many feared that the agency once known for its disturbing reach and systemic abuses of power in the era of J. Edgar Hoover was seeking a return to that fearsome omniscience in the digital age.

The debate over backdoors has pitted Comey and other national-security officials against America’s biggest tech companies, which have fired off letter after letter warning the government not to undermine encryption and the increasingly powerful security tools built into their products. It has strained relations between an obscure but important government technical body and the security industry that used to consider it a trusted partner. And it has infuriated the cryptography experts and civil-liberties activists who have spent decades beating back government efforts to weaken the encryption that is now vital to all aspects of online life.’

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CIA and Mandela: Can the Story Be Told Now?

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting wrote in December 2013:

Back in 1990, FAIR (Extra!, 3/90) noted that the media coverage of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison failed to mention there was strong evidence that the CIA had tipped off South African authorities to Mandela’s location in 1962, resulting in his arrest.

So with coverage of Mandela’s death dominating the media now, can the story of the CIA’s role in Mandela’s capture be told? Mostly not.

The link between the CIA and Mandela’s capture–reported by CBS Evening News (8/5/86) and in a New York Times column by Andrew Cockburn (10/13/86)–was almost entirely unmentioned in media discussions of his death.

There were a few exceptions. MSNBC host Chris Hayes mentioned it on December 5 (“We know there’s reporting that indicates the CIA actually helped the South African police nab Mandela the first time he was captured”). On Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show (12/7/13), Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman brought it up.’

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Report: US to Give Israel Massive Increase in Military Aid for Iran Deal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Israeli media are quoting officials familiar with the situation as saying there are quiet talks going on between the Obama Administration and Israel’s new far-right government on a “massive compensation” boost in military aid for Israel’s acquiescence on the civilian nuclear deal with Iran.

The deal is expected to be spun in the US and Israel as a huge boost in military aid to keep Israel’s “competitive advantage” over Saudi Arabia after that nation buys new US weapons, though Israel of course isn’t on particularly bad terms with the Saudis to begin with.

In return, Israel would be allowed to keep publicly complaining about the Iran deal, but would privately tone down their efforts to undermine the deal.’

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U.S. Wants Drones in North Africa to Combat Islamic State in Libya

Gordon Lubold and Adam Entous report for the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. is in talks with North African countries about positioning drones at a base on their soil to ramp up surveillance of Islamic State in Libya in what would be the most significant expansion of the campaign against the extremist group in the region.

The establishment of such a base would help eliminate what counterterrorism officials described as one of the last and most pressing intelligence “blind spots” facing U.S. and Western spy agencies. Washington and its allies are seeking to contain the expansion of Islamic State beyond Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led military campaign against the group is already under way.

“Right now, what we are trying to do is address some real intelligence challenges,” a senior administration official said. A base in North Africa close to Islamic State strongholds in Libya would help the U.S. “fill gaps in our understanding of what’s going on” there, the official added.’

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Iron Man and Transformers Were Censored by US Military For Getting Too Close To The Truth

Counter Current News reports:

‘It sounds almost unimaginable, but it isn’t the script of a new Hollywood movie: the Pentagon has literally forced movie producers to turn villains into heroes, add U.S. Military rescues, as well as changing scenes that they deem “sensitive.”

Producers and directors say they are literally being forced to re-write scripts. If the United States Department of Defense deems their content ­inappropriate, the changes are strongly “suggested.”

The relevant files about this military involvement in Hollywood, from the California-based Department of Defense Entertainment Liaison Office were released after a Freedom of Information Act request by Bath University’s Dr Matthew Alford, whose research focuses on the relationship between entertainment, political power, and propaganda in the United States.’

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Retired General: Drones Create More Terrorists Than They Kill, Iraq War Helped Create ISIS

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testifies during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee February 4, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to examine threats to the U.S. from all around the world.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in a forthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that U.S. soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.

Flynn, who in 2014 was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.

But his enthusiasm for the application of force doesn’t extend to the use of drones. In the interview with Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan, set to air July 31, the former three star general says: “When you drop a bomb from a drone … you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Pressed by Hasan as to whether drone strikes are creating more terrorists than they kill, Flynn says, “I don’t disagree with that.” He describes the present approach of drone warfare as “a failed strategy.”

“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general says. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”’

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Richard Nixon and the National Security State

Tom Engelhardt writes in his superb introduction to Tim Weiner’s piece on Richard Nixon:

Let me give you a reason that’s anything but historical for reading Tim Weiner’s remarkable new book, One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon. Mind you, with the last of the secret Nixon White House tapes finally made public some 40 years after the first of them were turned over to courts, prosecutors, and Congress, this will undoubtedly be the ultimate book on that president’s reign of illegality.

Still, think about the illegal break-in (or black-bag job) at the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist committed by a group of Nixon White House operatives dubbed “the Plumbers”; the breaking into and bugging of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex; the bugging, using warrantless wiretaps, of the phones of administration aides and prominent media figures distrusted by the president and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger; the slush funds Nixon and his cronies created for his reelection campaign; the favors, including ambassadorships, they sold for “donations” to secure a second term in office; the privatized crew of contractors they hired to do their dirty work; the endemic lying, deceit, and ever more elaborate cover-ups of illegalities at home and of extra-constitutional acts in other countries, including secret bombing campaigns, as well as an attempt to use the CIA to quash an FBI investigation of White House activities on “national security grounds.” Put it all together and you have something like a White House-centered, first-draft version of the way the national security state works quite “legally” in the twenty-first century.

As a bonus, you also get a preview of the kinds of money machinations that, with the backing of the Supreme Court four decades later, would produce our present 1% democracy. The secret political funds Nixon and his cronies finagled from the wealthy outside the law have now been translated into perfectly legal billionaire-funded super PACs that do everything from launching candidate ad blitzes to running ground campaigns for election 2016.

Read Weiner’s new book — he’s also the author of a classic history of the CIA and anotheron the FBI — and it turns out that the president who resigned from office in disgrace in August 1974 provided a blueprint for the world that Washington would construct after the 9/11 attacks. If Weiner’s vision of Nixon is on the mark, then we never got rid of him. We still live in a Nixonian world. And if you need proof of that, just think about his infamous urge to listen in on and tape everyone. Does that sound faintly familiar?’

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Hillary Clinton: Capital’s Plan A

Elizabeth Schulte writes for Jacobin:

Hillary Clinton with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.“Economic inequality.” “Robber barons.” “Champion for everyday Americans.” “Feminist.” It’s almost as if Hillary Clinton’s campaign team has started believing what Republicans say about her.

Clinton’s campaign staff is working overtime, shipping her out to Iowa in a van — stopping at Chipotle along the way — to show how well she relates to ordinary Americans. But the people whose opinions really matter in the presidential election know better.

As one Wall Street lawyer put it, “If it turns out to be Jeb vs. Hillary, we would love that and either outcome would be fine.”

Indeed, if Clinton talks today about economic inequality while she throws her crown into the ring, she has a long and loyal relationship with money and power. Among the top ten contributors to her 2008 campaign were employees from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup, Morgan Stanley, and Lehman Brothers — institutions that can all benefit from a few friends in high places.’

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