Tag Archives: CIA

July 9, 2015 US Managed to Make Afghanistan the World’s Top Heroin Exporter

By Jack Balkwill
July 9, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Afghan Brigadier General Abdul Sama was accused recently of smuggling over 40 pounds of heroin.

It should come as no surprise that an Afghan general was caught smuggling heroin, the surprise is that any high official in that country should be charged with a crime for profiting from the trade in illegal drugs while under the watchful eye of American forces.

Under American occupation, Afghanistan quickly became the world’s leader in opium production, producing over 90% of the world’s supply. The Taliban had almost shut down opium production prior to the US invasion in 2001 to the chagrin of international drug runners, and no doubt the international banking industry, which earns big profits laundering billions of dollars in illegal drug money annually. Illegal drugs account for about 8% of all international trade.

Few Americans are aware of the long history of the CIA’s running illegal drugs internationally, thanks to the untiring efforts of the mainstream press. Were citizens aware, few would be surprised that heroin production has skyrocketed under US occupation of Afghanistan.

The tragic case of journalist Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News is a case in point, and represents perhaps the widest-known attempt at suppressing the story of CIA drug-running endeavors, with the mainstream US press shamelessly and dutifully attacking Webb for attempting to expose the inconvenient truth.

That truth: in the 1980’s, the CIA was actively shipping cocaine from Central America into the USA using its own “airline” in order to earn money to circumvent a Congressional ban on continued support for the terrorist Contras, a Reagan-administration-backed counterinsurgency seeking to overthrow democracy in Nicaragua on behalf of US ruling interests. Webb lost his job, and was blackballed from his profession for telling the truth and eventually either was murdered or committed suicide from the pressures our corrupt system can apply against a citizen who blows the whistle.

Former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official Michael Levine wrote that he discovered heroin was being smuggled into the USA inside the bodies of US troops who had died in Vietnam during the sixties. After reporting this ghoulish information, he was transferred and told that it was a CIA operation and he should shut his mouth about it.

After being transferred to South America, Levine then reported on massive cocaine smuggling and was again told to shut his mouth as it too was a CIA operation and he should go along with the program.

Levine eventually realized that much international drug smuggling into the US appears to be under the control of the CIA, and he was wasting his time, so resigned from the DEA.

Levine states without hesitation that “The CIA has long been a major supporter of the people and organizations responsible for supplying drugs to this country. Time and time again, I discovered that various people against whom we were trying to build a case were regarded as assets by the CIA. Of course, at that time those ‘assets’ were described as allies in the Cold War, but my DEA sources tell me that this remains the case even now that the Cold War is over.”

The US government pretends to care about eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, while production soars to record levels. Can this be an accident?

The largest marketplace for illegal drugs continues to be the United States, despite a decades-long so-called “war on drugs.” Can this be an accident?

And can it be an accident that between 2002 and 2013, the 11 years that the US has been occupying and fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, ?

Recall that when the government wanted to stop the recent anti-banker democracy movement known as “Occupy,” it did so in a matter of months, showing clearly where its priorities and capabilities lie. As was exposed in ThisCantBeHappening!, the Obama Administration coordinated efforts nationally with individual cities, where tear gas, beatings, pepper spray, jailing and other tactics were used to deny the right of the people to peaceably assemble. There was even a bizarre plot in Houston to have leaders of the small Occupy movement there murdered using “suppressed rifle fire” –- a plot the FBI knew about, but did nothing to prevent. (Apparently that plan, whose conspirators were never identified publicly, was called off because Occupy famously had no “leaders” who could be targeted.)

That the US government cannot similarly crack down successfully on the annual importation of billions of dollars worth of illegal drugs should cause anyone not comatose to at least question the system.

Our motto should be “Leave no bankster behind.” We know they do buy our politicians, with President Obama having received a record amount of campaign funding in 2008 from the banking industry shortly before he pushed through the massive bailout on their behalf.

As long as international banking makes billions of dollars from the illegal narcotics trade, we can expect the “war on drugs” to be as much of a fraud as the profitable “war on terrorism,” whose contractors also supply those who run our government with massive campaign financing, ensuring we will not soon run out of either drugs or acts of terror (the latter mostly contrived by government agents and paid informants).

Jack Balkwill is an activist journalist in Virginia. He wrote this article exclusively for ThisCantBeHappening! Jack can be reached at mailto:libertyuv@hotmail.com

Human Experimentation: a CIA Habit

By DavidSwanson
June 17, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

CHUCKMAN_CIA_TORTURE_RACKThe Guardian on Monday made public a CIA document allowing the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research.”

Human what?

At Guantanamo, the CIA gave huge doses of the terror-inducing drug mefloquine to prisoners without their consent, as well as the supposed truth serum scopolamine. Former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman has documented the CIA’s torturing people, sometimes to death, and can find no explanation other than research:

“[Why] were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they’d been taken into custody? Even if they’d had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it ‘America’s battle lab.’”

Non-consensual experimentation on institutionalized children and adults was common in the United States before, during, and even more so after the U.S. and its allies prosecuted Nazis for the practice in 1947, sentencing many to prison and seven to be hanged. The tribunal created the Nuremberg Code, standards for medical practice that were immediately ignored back home. Some American doctors considered it “a good code for barbarians.”

The code begins: “Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity.” A similar requirement is included in the CIA’s rules, but has not been followed, even as doctors have assisted with such torture techniques as waterboarding.

Thus far, the United States has never really accepted the Nuremberg Code. While the code was being created, the U.S. was giving people syphilis in Guatemala. It did the same at Tuskegee. Also during the Nuremberg trial, children at the Pennhurst school in southeastern Pennsylvania were given hepatitis-laced feces to eat.

Other sites of experimentation scandals have included the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, and Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. And, of course, the CIA’s Project MKUltra (1953-1973) was a smorgasbord of human experimentation. Forced sterilizations of women in California prisons have not ended. Torture by Chicago police has for the first time just resulted in compensation for victims.

If we are, at long last, to put such contemptible behavior behind us, it will require breaking some bad habits.

Congress has busily re-banned torture a number of times in recent years. Now it must drop that charade and instead demand that the Attorney General enforce the anti-torture statute, which made torture a felony before George W. Bush ever became president.

It’s good of John Oliver to denounce torture. And he’s right to go after the lies told about torture in popular entertainment. But he’s also spreading the false idea that it’s legal. “We checked,” he says, reporting that his crack team of investigators discovered that the only ban on torture is found in an executive order written by President Obama. This is dangerous nonsense. The U.S. was a party to the Anti-Torture Convention and had made torture a felony under the anti-torture statute and the war-crimes statute before George W. Bush ever became president.

Since then, Congress has repeatedly “banned” torture. But, just as the U.N. Charter’s ban on war actually legalized certain wars, purporting to replace the total ban in the Kellogg-Briand Pact with a partial ban, these Congressional efforts (such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006) have actually legalized certain cases of torture, replacing (at least in everyone’s mind) the total ban already existing in the U.S. Code and in a treaty to which the U.S. is party.

The latest “ban” proposal from Senator McCain and friends, would create exceptions in the form of those in the Army Field Manual, and advocates maintain that step number two would be to reform that manual. But if you skip both steps and acknowledge the existence of the anti-torture statute in the U.S. Code, you’re done. The proper task is to press for its enforcement.

Oliver’s mistake, like virtually everyone else’s, is based on two myths. One, torture began with Bush. Two, torture ended with Bush. On the contrary, torture has been around in the United States and elsewhere for a very long time. So has the practice of banning it. Torture is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In fact, under international law, torture can never be legalized and is always banned.

Myth number two is also wrong. Torture has not ended and won’t as long as it’s not punished.

An attorney general can be questioned and threatened with impeachment until our laws are enforced. A new website created Monday let’s you email Congress to demand that it do just that.

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Mock America in 9/11 Trial

By Kevin Ryan
June 14, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.

Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.

fbicia_300The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA ad FBI, would not be contradicted by defendant testimony. More was needed, however, as previous disclosures showed that the CIA was controlling audio feeds from the courtroom, bugging the rooms where the accused met with their lawyers, and censoring the lawyers. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of confidential defense team emails were provided to the prosecutors.

The military trial of these men was never expected to bring justice. But the absurd actions taken by the CIA and FBI have made the whole thing seem ludicrous, mocking the U.S. justice system. Why would these measures be needed and tolerated if the defendants were actually involved in 9/11? The reasons include that:

  • The charges against the defendants were largely established based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. That was after the agency misled the 9/11 Commission about the existence of the records.
  • Bin al-Shibh and KSM were both originally identified by the first torture victim, Abu Zubaydah. However, the government now says that Zubaydah was never associated with al Qaeda at all and therefore he could not have known what the government previously said he knew. In other words, the arrest and torture of Bin al-Shibh and KSM were initiated by way of a fictional account attributed to Zubaydah.
  • 9/11 Commission leader Lee Hamilton suddenly can’t recall anything about these torture victims or his use of their testimony (441 times) in the 9/11 Commission Report.
  • KSM’s behavior prior to 9/11 was reported to be very different from that of a Muslim. He enjoyed go-go dancers and drinking parties and was said to be dangerous to nothing but his own bank account. The playboy lifestyle of KSM was similar to that of alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta, who seemed to be protected by U.S. authorities and might have been an intelligence asset.
  • One of the defense team lawyers resigned from the Army in protest of what was happening. He accused the U.S. government of “stacking the deck against the defense” and conducting a “show trial.”

One reasonable explanation for why the CIA and FBI have gone to such great lengths to control this trial is that the agencies are trying to cover-up their own role in 9/11. Much has been learned that suggests the CIA and FBI were involved. For example:

Whatever the reason for the antics, the military trial of these men has become an absolute farce leading American society farther down a path of tyranny. It sets a precedent in which the CIA and FBI can be suspected of crimes against the nation and then charge others with those crimes using secret evidence. The accused can be held in seclusion for thirteen years until agents of the CIA and FBI insert themselves as defense team members, ensuring total control from start to end.

At the same time, the press never notices that such an obviously fake trial would not be needed if there were actually any legitimate evidence against the accused. All things considered, this trial is not only a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of 9/11 and brings shame upon the American people.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.

Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.

fbicia_300The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA ad FBI, would not be contradicted by defendant testimony. More was needed, however, as previous disclosures showed that the CIA was controlling audio feeds from the courtroom, bugging the rooms where the accused met with their lawyers, and censoring the lawyers. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of confidential defense team emails were provided to the prosecutors.

The military trial of these men was never expected to bring justice. But the absurd actions taken by the CIA and FBI have made the whole thing seem ludicrous, mocking the U.S. justice system. Why would these measures be needed and tolerated if the defendants were actually involved in 9/11? The reasons include that:

  • The charges against the defendants were largely established based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. That was after the agency misled the 9/11 Commission about the existence of the records.
  • Bin al-Shibh and KSM were both originally identified by the first torture victim, Abu Zubaydah. However, the government now says that Zubaydah was never associated with al Qaeda at all and therefore he could not have known what the government previously said he knew. In other words, the arrest and torture of Bin al-Shibh and KSM were initiated by way of a fictional account attributed to Zubaydah.
  • 9/11 Commission leader Lee Hamilton suddenly can’t recall anything about these torture victims or his use of their testimony (441 times) in the 9/11 Commission Report.
  • KSM’s behavior prior to 9/11 was reported to be very different from that of a Muslim. He enjoyed go-go dancers and drinking parties and was said to be dangerous to nothing but his own bank account. The playboy lifestyle of KSM was similar to that of alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta, who seemed to be protected by U.S. authorities and might have been an intelligence asset.
  • One of the defense team lawyers resigned from the Army in protest of what was happening. He accused the U.S. government of “stacking the deck against the defense” and conducting a “show trial.”

One reasonable explanation for why the CIA and FBI have gone to such great lengths to control this trial is that the agencies are trying to cover-up their own role in 9/11. Much has been learned that suggests the CIA and FBI were involved. For example:

Whatever the reason for the antics, the military trial of these men has become an absolute farce leading American society farther down a path of tyranny. It sets a precedent in which the CIA and FBI can be suspected of crimes against the nation and then charge others with those crimes using secret evidence. The accused can be held in seclusion for thirteen years until agents of the CIA and FBI insert themselves as defense team members, ensuring total control from start to end.

At the same time, the press never notices that such an obviously fake trial would not be needed if there were actually any legitimate evidence against the accused. All things considered, this trial is not only a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of 9/11 and brings shame upon the American people.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.

Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.

fbicia_300The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA ad FBI, would not be contradicted by defendant testimony. More was needed, however, as previous disclosures showed that the CIA was controlling audio feeds from the courtroom, bugging the rooms where the accused met with their lawyers, and censoring the lawyers. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of confidential defense team emails were provided to the prosecutors.

The military trial of these men was never expected to bring justice. But the absurd actions taken by the CIA and FBI have made the whole thing seem ludicrous, mocking the U.S. justice system. Why would these measures be needed and tolerated if the defendants were actually involved in 9/11? The reasons include that:

  • The charges against the defendants were largely established based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. That was after the agency misled the 9/11 Commission about the existence of the records.
  • Bin al-Shibh and KSM were both originally identified by the first torture victim, Abu Zubaydah. However, the government now says that Zubaydah was never associated with al Qaeda at all and therefore he could not have known what the government previously said he knew. In other words, the arrest and torture of Bin al-Shibh and KSM were initiated by way of a fictional account attributed to Zubaydah.
  • 9/11 Commission leader Lee Hamilton suddenly can’t recall anything about these torture victims or his use of their testimony (441 times) in the 9/11 Commission Report.
  • KSM’s behavior prior to 9/11 was reported to be very different from that of a Muslim. He enjoyed go-go dancers and drinking parties and was said to be dangerous to nothing but his own bank account. The playboy lifestyle of KSM was similar to that of alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta, who seemed to be protected by U.S. authorities and might have been an intelligence asset.
  • One of the defense team lawyers resigned from the Army in protest of what was happening. He accused the U.S. government of “stacking the deck against the defense” and conducting a “show trial.”

One reasonable explanation for why the CIA and FBI have gone to such great lengths to control this trial is that the agencies are trying to cover-up their own role in 9/11. Much has been learned that suggests the CIA and FBI were involved. For example:

Whatever the reason for the antics, the military trial of these men has become an absolute farce leading American society farther down a path of tyranny. It sets a precedent in which the CIA and FBI can be suspected of crimes against the nation and then charge others with those crimes using secret evidence. The accused can be held in seclusion for thirteen years until agents of the CIA and FBI insert themselves as defense team members, ensuring total control from start to end.

At the same time, the press never notices that such an obviously fake trial would not be needed if there were actually any legitimate evidence against the accused. All things considered, this trial is not only a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of 9/11 and brings shame upon the American people.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

“USA Freedom Act”: A fig leaf for illegal spying

By Patrick Martin
June 4, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

In the wake of Senate passage of the USA Freedom Act, signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday evening, the corporate-controlled American media has gone into overdrive to portray the legislation as a major effort to curb mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, the largest single component of the vast US intelligence apparatus.

In fact, the bill—which has received the endorsement of the Obama administration and war criminals such as CIA Director John Brennan—is not an effort to curtail the vast and illegal activities of the US intelligence agency, but rather a means of ensuring that these activities can continue, now with a pseudo-legal foundation that has been explicitly endorsed by Congress.

Just as Obama barred prosecution of CIA officials for torturing prisoners, and prosecution of Bush administration leaders for waging war in Iraq based up lies, there will be no accountability for more than a decade of illegal spying on the American people. On the contrary, the program of mass surveillance of telecommunications and the Internet, directed against the democratic rights of the entire population of the globe, will intensify.

The bill makes only one significant, largely cosmetic, change in the hundreds of government spying programs directed against the American people, transferring responsibility for the retention of telephone metadata from the NSA back to the telecommunications companies. The telecoms are required to run NSA queries through their databases once the searches are approved by the FISA court, a longstanding rubber stamp for the US security services.

As the British-based Financial Times noted, the bill is “a much less significant change in the way the intelligence community actually operates” than the political furor surrounding it would suggest. “The surveillance legislation reform still leaves the US intelligence community with formidable legal powers and tools to collect data and other online information,” the newspaper continued, adding that intelligence officials regarded the legislation as damage control required after Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive and unconstitutional NSA spying.

The American media, however, treated the legislation as an historic watershed, a reversal of the build-up of state security powers that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Washington Post headlined its analysis, “Congressional action on NSA is a milestone in the post-9/11 world.” The Wall Street Journal ran the headline, “Congress Reins In NSA’s Spying Powers,” over a story reporting that “the Senate voted to curb the collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, the first significant retrenchment of government spying powers since the 9/11 attacks.”

The most overstated and effusive presentation of the bill came in the New York Times, the principal shaper of liberal public opinion and a slavish supporter of the Obama administration. Its account was headlined, “US Surveillance in Place Since 9/11 Is Sharply Limited.” That the bill affected only one of hundreds of intrusive surveillance programs went unmentioned.

The news analysis claimed, “The legislation signaled a cultural turning point for the nation, almost 14 years after the Sept. 11 attacks heralded the construction of a powerful national security apparatus. The shift against the security state began with the revelation by Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, about the bulk collection of phone records. The backlash was aided by the growth of interconnected communication networks run by companies that have felt manhandled by government prying.”

This paragraph includes a mass of falsifications and distortions. First, the “powerful national security apparatus” was in existence well before September 11, 2001—indeed, the role of the CIA, NSA and FBI in permitting and even directly facilitating the terror attacks, which allowed the US government to go forward with a long-planned program of militaristic aggression, including invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, raises many troubling questions.

The “shift against the security state” prompted by Snowden’s revelations was a shift in popular opinion, not a change in the policies of either Congress or the Obama administration, both of whom defended the intelligence apparatus and demanded Snowden’s arrest and prosecution for treason. And Snowden revealed far more than the bulk collection of phone records, releasing tens of thousands of documents on myriad illegal NSA spy programs directed at both the American population and the entire world.

Nor did American companies play any significant role in opposing government spying. On the contrary, Snowden’s revelations included the exposure of collaboration by Google, Microsoft and dozens of other Silicon Valley giants, and well as the entire telecommunications industry, with the build-up of an American police-state apparatus.

The Times article notes the admission by the NSA that the telephone metadata collection program had played no role in thwarting any terrorist attack. But it then fails to ask the most obvious question: If the telephone metadata program has never been effective against terrorism, why are the NSA, the CIA, the Obama administration and the leadership of Congress so adamant about defending it and preserving it, with whatever modifications are needed to give the illusion of “reform”? What is this data really being used for?

The only politically serious answer is that the US government is creating a vast database of the social and political views and associations of the American people, to be used to direct its repression when a mass movement erupts from below, against the capitalist system.

These efforts have not been halted for a single day, either by the supposed “shutdown” of the telephone metadata on May 31, or by the planned transfer of the program from the NSA to the telecoms in six months. The US military-intelligence apparatus, by far the largest and most powerful in the world, is the main threat to the democratic rights of the American people. No amount of media propaganda and peddling of illusions in “NSA reform” can disguise this reality indefinitely.

There are, unfortunately, indications that Edward Snowden himself may be among those taken in by the pretense of surveillance “reform.” Snowden addressed an Amnesty International conference in London Tuesday, before the final Senate vote, speaking by video link from Russia, where he remains in exile. Referring to the legislation, he told the group, “This is meaningful, it is important and actually historic that this has been refuted, not just by the courts, but by Congress as well and the president himself is saying this mass surveillance has to end.”

Snowden is dangerously naïve, and misled by his associates in such groups as Amnesty, the Guardian newspaper, and the ACLU, who share a liberal political outlook imbued with illusions in the democratic pretensions of American imperialism, and particularly in the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. Despite his courage in exposing the extent of NSA spying—and the considerable, continuing threat to his own physical security—Snowden is taking an entirely credulous approach to the maneuvers of official Washington.

He argues, “For the first time in recent history we found that despite the claims of government, the public made the final decision and that is a radical change that we should seize on, we should value and we should push further.” The actual course of events is far different. The “public” was entirely excluded from the decision-making process. The military-intelligence apparatus called the shots. The Obama administration and Congress took their marching orders. The USA Freedom Act, like the USA Patriot Act before it, serves the interests of the emerging American police state.

Snowden reacted with revulsion to the massive NSA spying campaign, out of sincere democratic convictions. But the growth of a surveillance state is not simply the product of post-9/11 paranoia, or even the drive for power on the part of individual politicians, generals and intelligence officials. The growth of a police-state apparatus proceeds, as it were, organically, out of the extreme levels of social inequality in American society, and endless wars. In other words, the military-intelligence apparatus is not the cause, but one malignant manifestation, of a deep-rooted and historic crisis of American capitalism.

Whatever the gestures to civil liberties made by Obama—while he continues drone-missile assassinations, Guantanamo, and the whole panoply of American militarism—the American ruling class he serves has no intention of diminishing the repressive powers of the state machine that exists to defend its property and wealth.

There is a profound political lesson here. Courageous individuals like Snowden and organizations like WikiLeaks can make important exposures. But only the working class, in the United States and internationally, can put an end to the ongoing attacks on democratic rights. This requires the building of a mass revolutionary movement, based on a socialist and internationalist program, and directed at the defense of all the social and democratic rights of working people.

 

 

Sovereignty, Sedition and Russia’s Undesirable NGOs

By F. William Engdahl
May 31, 2015
New Eastern Outlook

 

54323423111On May 23, 2015 Russian President Vlaldimir Putin signed into law a new bill from the Duma that now gives prosecutors power to declare foreign and international organizations “undesirable” in Russia and shut them down. Predictably US State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, said the United States is “deeply troubled” by the new law, calling it “a further example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world.”

Under the new law Russian authorities can ban foreign NGOs and prosecute their employees, who risk up to six years in prison or being barred from the country. The EU joined the US State Department in calling the law a “”worrying step in a series of restrictions on civil society, independent media and political opposition.” The George Soros-funded NGO, Human Rights Watch, condemned the law as did Amnesty International.

As with many things in today’s world of political doublespeak, the background to the new law is worth understanding. Far from a giant goose-step in the direction of turning Russia into a fascist state, the new law could help protect the sovereignty of the nation at a time it is in a de facto state of war with, above all, the United States and with various NATO spokesmen who try to curry favor with Washington, such as Jens Stoltenberg, its new Russophobic civilian head.

Russia has been targeted by political NGO’s operating on instructions from the US State Department and US intelligence since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the beginning of the 1990’s. The NGOs have financed and trained hand-picked opposition figures such as Alexei Navalny, member of a group called Russian Opposition Coordination Council. Navalny received money from the Washington NGO National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an acknowledged front for CIA political dirty tricks in their “weaponization of human rights and democracy” project.

Prior to the new NGO law, Russia had a far softer law—actually based on an existing US law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)—that requires foreign-financed Russian NGOs to merely register as agents of a foreign country. Called the Russian Foreign Agent Law, it went into effect in November 2012, after US NGOs had been caught organizing numerous anti-Putin protests. That law requires non-profit organizations that receive foreign donations and serve as the instrument of a foreign power to register as foreign agents. The law was used to audit some 55 foreign-tied Russian NGOs, but to date has had little effect on the operations of those NGOs such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.

The NED

The case of NED is illustrative. The NED is a huge global operation that, as its creator, Allen Weinstein, who drafted the legislation establishing NED, said in an interview in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” In fact NED was initially the brainchild of Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, Bill Casey, as part of a major “privatization” of the CIA. NED’s budget comes from the US Congress and other State Department-friendly NGOs like George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

The NED has sub-units: National Republican Institute, which is headed by Senator John McCain, the man who played a key role in the 2014 USA coup d’etat in Ukraine. The National Democratic Institute, tied to USA Democratic Party and chaired now by Clinton Secretary of State and Serbian bombing advocate, Madeline Albright. The NED Board of Directors includes the kernel of the Bush-Cheney neo-conservative warhawks like Elliott Abrams; Francis Fukuyama; Zalmay Khalilzad, former Iraq and Afghan US ambassador, and architect of Afghan war; Robert Zoellick, Bush family insider and ex-World Bank President.

In other words, this “democracy-promoting” US NGO is part of a nefarious Washington global agenda, using weaponized so-called Human Rights and Democracy NGOs to get rid of regimes who refuse to click their heels to commands of Wall Street or Washington. NED has been at the heart of every Color Revolution of Washington since their success toppling Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 2000. Their coups installed pro-NATO presidents in Ukraine and Georgia in 2003-4, attempted to destabilize Iran in 2009, ran the Arab Spring operations to redraw the political map of the Middle East after 2011, and more recently HongKong’s “Umbrella Revolution” last year to embarrass China. The list goes on.

NED in Russia today

Inside Russia, despite the foreign agents law, the well-financed NED continues to operate. Since 2012 NED doesn’t disclose names of organizations in Russia they finance, something they did previously. They only name the sector and rarely activities that they financing. Moreover, there is no Annual report for 2014, a critical year after the CIA coup in Ukraine when Washington escalated dirty tricks against Moscow and de facto declared a state of war against the Russian Federation by imposing financial sanctions designed to cripple Russia’s economy. In every US Color Revolution to date, the USA institutions, Wall Street banks and hedge funds always try to create economic chaos and use that to stir political unrest, as in Brazil today against BRICS leader President Dilma Rousseff.

What the NED is spending millions of American taxpayer dollars for in Russia is highly revealing. In their online abridged report for 2014 NED reveals that among numerous projects in Russia they spent $530,067 under a category, Transparency in Russia: “To raise awareness of corruption.” Are they working with Russian prosecutors or police? How do they find the corruption they raise awareness of? That naturally also has a side benefit of giving Washington intimate details of corruption, real or imagined, that can be later used by its trained activist NGOs such as Navalny groups. An American NGO financed by US Congress, tied to the CIA and Victoria Nuland’s State Department decides which Russian companies are “corrupt”? Please…

Another category where the Washington-financed NED spends considerable sums in Russia today is labeled Democratic Ideas and Values: $400,000 for something called “Meeting Point of Human Rights and History–To raise awareness of the use and misuse of historical memory, and to stimulate public discussion of pressing social and political issues.” That sounds an awful lot like recent attempts by the US State Department to deny the significant, in fact decisive, role of the Soviet Union in defeating the Third Reich. We should ask who decides what are “pressing social and political issues,” the NED? CIA? Victoria Nuland’s neo-cons in the State Department?

Shoe on other foot

Let’s imagine the shoe on the other foot. Vladimir Putin and the Russian FSB foreign intelligence service decide to set up something they call a “National Enterprise to Foster American Democracy” (NEFAD). This Russian NEFAD finances to the tune of millions of dollars the training of American black activist youth in techniques of swarming, twitter riots, anti-police brutality demos, how to make Molotov cocktails, use of social media to put the police in a bad light. Their aim is to put spotlight on human rights abuses of US Government, FBI, police, government, institutions of public order. They seize on an obscure ambiguous incident in Baltimore Maryland or Chicago or New York and send Youtube videos around the world, twitter messages about the alleged police brutality. It doesn’t matter if the police acted right or wrong. Thousands respond, and march against the police, riots break out, people are killed.

Dear readers, do you imagine that the US Government would permit a Russian NGO to intervene in the sovereign internal affairs of the United States of America? Do you think the FBI would hesitate one second to arrest all NEFAD persons and shut down their operations? This is just what the US Congress-financed, CIA-backed, National Endowment for Democracy is doing in Russia. They have no business at all being anywhere in Russia, a sovereign nation, nor for that matter in any foreign country. They exist to stir trouble. The Russian government should politely show them the door, as truly undesirable.

In October, 2001, days after the shock of the attacks on the World Trade towers and Pentagon, the Bush Administration passed a bill that essentially tears up the Bill of Rights of the American Constitution, one of the finest constitutions in history. The USA Patriot Act as it was cynically named by its sponsors, permits the US Government among other things to conduct “surveillance of suspected terrorists, those suspected of engaging in computer fraud or abuse (sic!), and agents of a foreign power who are engaged in clandestine activities.” Another provision of this Patriot Act allows the FBI to make an order “requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

There was barely a peep of outrage over this de facto USA police state law, a law which is now up for renewal in Congress. The fact that the NED stopped showing who they give money to in Russia proves they have something to hide. NED is the heart of the “Weaponization of Human Rights” operations by CIA and US State Department to do regime change in the world, so they can get rid of “uncooperative” regimes. As I stated in a recent Russian interview on the NED, shortly before this new law was enacted, I am astonished that Russia has not made such a law long ago when it was clear those US NGOs were up to no good. The NED is indeed an “undesirable” NGO, as are Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Open Society Foundations and the entire gaggle of US-government-fostered human rights NGOs.

 F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

US House passes surveillance “reforms” aimed at codifying illegal spying

By Thomas Gaist
May 15, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

In the latest episode of the political theater known as “surveillance reform,” the US House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act Wednesday, by a vote of 338 to 88.

If approved by the Senate, the bill would modify and reenact Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, a main legislative pillar of the police-state measures put in place since 9/11. The act is currently set to expire on June 1.

The legislation passed by the House would supposedly protect telephone metadata records from government snooping by requiring them to remain stored on the servers of the major telecommunications companies rather than on government servers. The NSA could then demand access with an approval from the FISA court based on a given “selection term.”

As some analysts have noted, a single such “selection term” could be used to call up millions of communications records. The legislation would not even nominally address any of the other mass spying programs revealed over the past year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Obama administration has given the legislation its enthusiastic support, hoping that it will give a pseudo-legal fig leaf to its unconstitutional activities.

The bill’s passage comes one week after a federal appeals court ruling held that bulk telephone metadata collection, an activity which the government has engaged in systematically for at least a decade, is illegal.

The political and media establishment are promoting the Freedom Act as a major blow against illegal domestic spying.

In comments Wednesday, John Conyers, Democratic Senator from Michigan, declared that, “a vote in favor of this bill is a vote to end dragnet surveillance in the US.” Senate Democrat Harry Reid touted the act as “a chance to take bipartisan action that protects civil liberties.”

The Freedom Act “ends the federal government’s bulk collection of phone metadata from millions of law-abiding citizens,” Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz claimed.

Leading capitalist media outlets have lavished similar praise, with the Los Angeles Times proclaiming in its headline, “House votes overwhelmingly to end NSA’s mass collection of phone records.”

This is lying on an impressive scale, even by Washington’s standards. Taken at face value, the reforms contained in the legislation amount to nothing more than minor modifications of a single component of the vast spying machine erected by the US ruling class.

The current version of the bill may not even pass the Senate, where it will reportedly face opposition from some Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, who claim that the legislation will hamper necessary surveillance operations against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups.

Senator McConnell favors instead a “clean extension” of the Patriot Act that would simply leave the bill as it is currently written. This position faces problems, however, since the federal appeals court ruled that the current language of the Patriot Act does not allow for the program that the government wants to keep in place.

If the bill does pass, existing surveillance powers laid out in Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333 would still provide the NSA and other security agencies with expansive authorizations to continue with their totalitarian surveillance programs. Any consideration of amendments addressing the 2008 FAA and Executive Order 12333 was preemptively blocked by the House Rules Committee before the bill even arrived on the floor.

The experiences of the past decade leave no room for doubt about the determination of the ruling class and its political servants to abolish the most basic democratic rights. As early as 2001, the Bush administration secretly developed warrantless wiretapping programs, which included granting of access by US intelligence agents to virtually all communications passing through AT&T servers.

The US government today collects not just phone metadata but also audio recordings of virtually all voice communications worldwide, in an effort to comprehensively record and analyze the political views, relationships and most intimate personal matters of the population. On a daily basis, NSA and other federal agents sift through vast data archives accumulated by a spectrum of warrantless wiretapping and data mining programs set up over the past decade—“Processing it All,” “Exploiting it All,” and even “Sniffing it all,” as an agency motto displayed on PowerPoint slides leaked by Edward Snowden boasted.

Last week, new revelations confirmed that NSA translates the content of huge quantities of audio communications into searchable text.

The entire US political system is implicated in crimes carried out as part of a conscious class agenda to strip the US and world population of their democratic rights. The US Congress itself has sanctified the development of the surveillance programs, passing the FISA 1978 legislation, which created a secret parallel court system specifically devoted to approving mass spying operations, and later passing the USA Patriot Act, as well as a package of amendments to the FISA legislation in 2008.

Don’t Grade Justice on a Warped Curve: Assessing the Case of CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

By Norman Solomon
May 15, 2015
Global Research

 

sterling-sitting-side-courtroomYes, I saw the glum faces of prosecutors in the courtroom a few days ago, when the judge sentenced CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling to three and a half years in prison — far from the 19 to 24 years they’d suggested would be appropriate.

Yes, I get that there was a huge gap between the punishment the government sought and what it got — a gap that can be understood as a rebuke to the dominant hard-line elements at the Justice Department.

And yes, it was a positive step when a May 13 editorial by the New York Times finally criticized the extreme prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling.

But let’s be clear: The only fair sentence for Sterling would have been no sentence at all. Or, at most, something like the recent gentle wrist-slap, with no time behind bars, for former CIA director David Petraeus, who was sentenced for providing highly classified information to his journalist lover.

Jeffrey Sterling has already suffered enormously since indictment in December 2010 on numerous felony counts, including seven under the Espionage Act. And for what?

The government’s righteous charge has been that Sterling provided information to New York Times reporter James Risen that went into a chapter of his 2006 book “State of War” — about the CIA’s Operation Merlin, which in 2000 provided Iran with flawed design information for a nuclear weapon component.

As Marcy Wheeler and I wrote last fall:

“If the government’s indictment is accurate in its claim that Sterling divulged classified information, then he took a great risk to inform the public about an action that, in Risen’s words, ‘may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.’ If the indictment is false, then Sterling is guilty of nothing more than charging the agency with racial bias and going through channels to inform the Senate Intelligence Committee of extremely dangerous CIA actions.”

Whether “guilty” or “innocent” of doing the right thing, Sterling has already been through a protracted hell. And now — after he has been unemployable for more than four years while enduring a legal process that threatened to send him to prison for decades — perhaps it takes a bit of numbness for anyone to think of the sentence he just received as anything less than an outrage.

Human realities exist far beyond sketchy media images and comfortable assumptions. Going beyond such images and assumptions is a key goal of the short documentary “The Invisible Man: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling,” released this week. Via the film, the public can hear Sterling speak for himself — for the first time since he was indicted.

One of the goals of the government’s assault on whistleblowers is to depict them as little more than cardboard cutouts. Aiming to dispense with such two-dimensional portrayals, the director Judith Ehrlich brought a film crew to the home of Jeffrey Sterling and his wife Holly. (On behalf of ExposeFacts.org, I was there as the film’s producer.) We set out to present them as they are, as real people. You can watch the film here.

Sterling’s first words in the documentary apply to powerful officials at the Central Intelligence Agency:

“They already had the machine geared up against me. The moment that they felt there was a leak, every finger pointed to Jeffrey Sterling. If the word ‘retaliation’ is not thought of when anyone looks at the experience that I’ve had with the agency, then I just think you’re not looking.”

In another way, now, maybe we’re not truly looking if we figure that Sterling has received a light sentence.

Even if the jury’s guilty verdict was correct — and after sitting through the entire trial, I’d say the government didn’t come close to its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt — an overarching truth is that the whistleblower(s) who provided journalist Risen with information about Operation Merlin rendered a major public service.

People should not be punished for public service.

Imagine that you — yes, you – did nothing wrong. And now you’re headed to prison, for three years. Since the prosecution wanted you behind bars for a lot longer than that, should we figure you got a “light” sentence?

While the government keeps harassing, threatening, prosecuting and imprisoning whistleblowers for public service, we’re living in a society where corrosive repression continues to use fear as a hammer against truth-telling. Directly countering such repression will require rejecting any claim or tacit assumption that government prosecutors set the standard for how much punishment is too much.

Norman Solomon’s books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and coordinates its ExposeFacts project. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org, which has encouraged donations to the Sterling Family Fund. Disclosure: After the guilty verdict, Solomon used his frequent-flyer miles to get plane tickets for Holly and Jeffrey Sterling so they would be able to go home to St. Louis.

Seymour Hersh exposes official lies about Bin Laden killing

By Niles Williamson
May 12, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Nearly four years since the US Special Forces raid that resulted in the murder of Osama bin Laden, an extraordinary political exposure by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published Sunday in the London Review of Books has torn the mask off the official narrative by the US government.

The wealth of details laid out in Hersh’s article calls attention to the reality that nothing that any government official says on the record can be taken as the truth, and that the mainstream media operates as an echo chamber for official lies. Hersh asserts that the accounts given by President Barack Obama and members of his administration “might have been written by Lewis Carroll,” author of Alice in Wonderland.

White House photo-op of Situation Room during operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden

Among the claims exposed as fabrications are that the CIA torture program contributed to the discovery of bin Laden’s hideout; that the raid was carried out without the knowledge of the Pakistani government; that the Special Operations team intended to take bin Laden alive, and only killed him after he resisted; and that bin Laden was given an Islamic burial at sea from the carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Hersh writes that the 2011 operation to kill bin Laden was initiated in August 2010 after a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer walked into the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to give the CIA bin Laden’s location in return for the $25 million bounty the US government had placed on the Al Qaeda leader’s head in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In its broadcast Monday night, NBC News said that it had independently confirmed that Pakistani intelligence sources had given bin Laden’s location to the CIA in 2010—perhaps the most important claim made in Hersh’s report, and a devastating refutation of the official Obama administration cover story.

The Al Qaeda leader’s location was not discovered via the CIA’s torture program, as depicted in the propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty. This claim and the film were used to bolster public support for the CIA’s illegal operations and further reinforce the Obama administration’s concocted narrative about the killings.

The walk-in told the CIA that bin Laden had lived with several of his wives and children undetected in the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan from 2001 until 2006 when his location was betrayed by local tribesman bribed by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

Bin Laden was then transferred to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was held as a prisoner of the ISI. The residence was less than two miles from the Pakistan Military Academy and a 15-minute helicopter ride from Tarbela Ghazi, an ISI covert operations base.

Bin Laden’s location in a headquarters town of the Pakistani military, crawling with security agents, has always been the weakest link in the official US narrative of the operation that killed the Al Qaeda leader. Hersh’s account provides a far more convincing explanation of why bin Laden was in Abbottabad—he was being held under house arrest by the Pakistani authorities while they discussed his fate with their American paymasters.

According to the retired US official interviewed by Hersh, Saudi Arabia was financing bin Laden’s upkeep in Abbottabad and worried that if the American government discovered that he was being held by the ISI they would force him to give up the details of the Saudi monarchy’s support for Al Qaeda. The Pakistanis in turn worried that the Saudis might provide the US with information on his location, sparking a conflict with the US. These relationships demonstrate the fraud of the “war on terror,” since bin Laden was being housed and financed by two of the leading US allies in the alleged struggle against Al Qaeda.

In fact, Saudi Arabia has longstanding ties with Al Qaeda, and members of the Saudi monarchy—likely with the knowledge of sections of the US state—financed and supported the hijackers who participated in the September 11 attacks.

Hersh’s source makes absolutely clear that it was the intention of the Obama administration from the outset to kill bin Laden, and that this was enthusiastically supported by all concerned, the Pakistanis and the Saudis, for the time-honored reason that “dead men tell no tales.” The raid against bin Laden’s compound, blessed by the ISI, was nothing less than a hit ordered by Obama, the executioner-in-chief. The informant had told the CIA that bin Laden was in poor health and would not put up any resistance.

The retired official stated that the operation against bin Laden “was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.” A former Seal commander told Hersh, “We were not going to keep bin Laden alive—to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, ‘Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.’”

The Obama administration has maintained since the assassination that killing bin Laden was seen only as a last resort, and that the primary mission was to capture him alive.

According to Hersh, the US commandos moved into the compound unopposed. There was no firefight as claimed by US officials. Using explosives to blow open steel security doors, the Special Forces operatives methodically made their way to the third-floor rooms where bin Laden was living. The Al Qaeda leader retreated to his bedroom where two of the Navy Seals opened fire with their automatic rifles, cutting his body to pieces. The commandos did not shoot in self-defense, the gravely ill bin Laden never reached for an AK-47, and he never tried to use one of his wives as a human shield.

Hersh writes that “a carefully constructed cover story would be issued” following the killing of bin Laden, in part to avoid revealing the role of the Pakistani state in providing the US with information about his location. A week after the killing, “Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border…. It was understood by all that if the Pakistani role became known, there would be violent protests….”

The White House decided to announce bin Laden’s assassination on the night that it happened, however, in part due to the fact that a US helicopter had crashed in bin Laden’s compound, making the operation impossible to hide. The announcement—which Hersh describes as a “series of self-serving and inaccurate statements”—also provided the White House with an opportunity to rally support for the expansion of militarism abroad and the assault on democratic rights within the US.

The claim that bin Laden’s body was subsequently given a proper Islamic burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson is also exposed as a lie. Instead, what remained of bin Laden’s bullet-riddled body, including his head, which is described as having “only a few bullet holes in it,” was unceremoniously tossed into a body bag. On the commandos’ helicopter trip back to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, pieces of the body were dropped over the Hindu Kush mountains.

Hersh has come under immediate attack from the mainstream media for his reliance on anonymous sources. Such criticism means little coming from a media that relies consistently on anonymous government and intelligence sources to push the official line in the “war on terror” and in support of US provocations from Ukraine to the South China Sea. In the eyes of the government stenographers in the corporate-controlled media, Hersh’s main sin is that he uses anonymous sources to challenge the official narrative rather than regurgitate it.

Based on the historical record, Hersh is a far more reliable witness than the innumerable millionaire anchor-persons and pundits who serve as apologists for American imperialism. He was the first journalist to expose the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. In 2013-2014, he published two devastating exposures of the US claims that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, demonstrating that it was far more likely that the US-backed “rebels” were responsible.

It is far from certain that Hersh has provided the final accounting of the events that led to bin Laden’s death. While it relies chiefly on the account of a single anonymous retired senior intelligence official corroborated by other unnamed intelligence officials in the US and Pakistan, his narrative is a far more robust and believable story than the account spun by the propaganda of the Obama administration and the corporate media.

 

The author also recommends:

The killing of Osama bin Laden: Obama’s “historic moment”
[4 May 2011]

Ex-CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling sentenced to three years in prison

By Thomas Gaist
May 12, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 42 months in prison Monday by Eastern District of Virginia Judge Leonie Brinkema, after being convicted in January on nine counts relating to his alleged disclosure of national security information to the New York Times.

Sterling had been threatened by prosecutors with a jail sentence of more than 20 years for allegedly passing classified information about “Operation Merlin,” an operation launched by the CIA in 2000 aiming to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program using dirty tricks, including the provision of flawed nuclear bomb blueprints.

Sterling refused to apologize or admit guilt after the sentence was read, according to the Guardian.

For allegedly assisting New York Times journalist James Risen to expose the CIA’s involvement in large-scale industrial sabotage, Sterling was convicted on nine counts of violating the Espionage Act, a federal law passed in 1917 and used to target and silence opponents of the First World War.

In recent years, the Obama administration has repeatedly used the Espionage Act to prosecute government employees who reveal information about the government’s activities, often of a criminal character, to the press.

Before sentencing Monday, the Justice Department attorneys launched vociferous attacks against Sterling, pressing for the harshest possible sentence and denouncing the former government employee for his “crimes.”

US government prosecutors demanded a “severe” and “substantial” sentence, including 20-25 years imprisonment. Sterling was “vindictive,” “selfish,” and acted out of “pure spite,” US attorneys claimed in a document submitted to the court Monday.

Sterling’s actions had “made the agency appear hapless, even reckless, in its handling of the program,” a US government memo previously stated, suggesting another possible motivation for his aggressive prosecution.

Major figures within the US ruling elite, including former CIA Directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, and former Vice President Dick Cheney, have been implicated in “leaks” of classified information during the past decade, without facing any official reprimand, let alone jail sentences.

On the other hand, Sterling, a man whose supposed “crime” was speaking to a journalist at the “newspaper of record” about an illegal and reckless geopolitical provocation involving attempted sabotage of nuclear weapons production, is now to be locked away for more than three years.

The ferocious assault against whistleblowers and investigative journalists spearheaded by the Obama administration has gone into overdrive in recent years. Last year saw an “unprecedented rise” in reports of retaliatory measures against whistleblowers emanating from the federal government, with a total of some 5,200 incidents, according to the US Office of Special Counsel.

The US ruling class has clearly been shaken by the emergence of growing opposition from within the lower levels of the state, including figures such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

For their combined efforts, which exposed historic US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the erection of a vast spying apparatus by the US National Security Agency (NSA), Manning and Snowden have both faced the full wrath of the US elite.

Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence in military prison. Snowden remains in exile in Russia, unable to return to the United States, where he is threatened by either a sham trial or state murder.

Lesser known whistleblowers have also received substantial jail sentences, including John Kiriakou and Stephen Kim, who received 30-month and 13-month sentences respectively. In each incident, US attorneys sought to exploit the cases to establish new precedents expanding the government’s power to punish those who reveal state secrets and crimes.

In the lead up to Sterling’s trial, the Justice Department sought to utilize the ex-CIA employee’s connection to Risen to assert its authority to forcibly seize the names of confidential sources from investigative journalists.

Risen has faced years of threats and harassment by the federal government for his research, publication of aspects of which was suppressed in 2003 by the editorial leadership at the New York Times at the behest of the Bush administration. As recently as last year, the Obama Justice Department was continuing to threaten Risen himself with jail time in an effort to force him to reveal his sources, including the source connected with his reporting on Operation Merlin.

Risen declared in an interview with the New York Times last year that President Obama is “the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

Obama gave CIA free rein for drone assassinations in Pakistan

By Bill Van Auken
April 28, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

d1e48-american-decline-statue-of-libertyThe killing of US and Italian aid workers Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto in a January 2015 drone strike stemmed, at least in part, from a secret order by President Barack Obama exempting the Central Intelligence Agency drone war in Pakistan from restrictions supposedly imposed on drone attacks in other countries.

According to current and former US officials quoted by the Wall Street Journal Monday, the administration tightened the rules governing drone warfare in 2013, but issued a secret waiver allowing the CIA an essentially free rein in carrying out its murderous campaign in northwestern Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, near the Afghan border.

President Obama made an extraordinary public admission of US responsibility for the killing of the two Western hostages in a White House announcement last Thursday. In the course of his remarks–which he cynically boasted were proof of an “American democracy, committed to openness”–Obama stated that the deadly operation last January had been “fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region.”

What he left concealed was the fact that the guidelines for “the region” were at odds with the formal rules existing everywhere else.

The US president outlined these rules in a speech delivered at the National Defense University in May 2013, insisting that drone strikes would be ordered only against alleged “terrorists” posing “a continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” and only under conditions of “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.”

These purported restrictions were made public as part of the administration’s effort to lend a veneer of legality to a state assassination program that is in flagrant violation of both international law and the US Constitution. The American president arrogated to himself the power to order the killing of anyone- including American citizens- without charges, much less trials. In his speech, Obama acknowledged that he authorized the killing of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed in a subsequent US drone strike.

The reality is that the supposed restrictions have been observed nowhere in the world. In Somalia and Yemen, just as in Pakistan, strikes have claimed the lives of numerous civilians, while the targets selected for remote-control murder posed no “imminent threat” to the US.

In Pakistan, however, the CIA’s covert drone program was relieved of even the pretense of observing such constraints. Initially, the rationale was the need to eliminate forces opposed to the US occupation of Afghanistan, which was supposed to end last year. Now, with the occupation extended, the unfettered drone warfare is continuing.

Not only is the CIA under no obligation to ascertain that the targets pose an “imminent threat” to the American people, it does not have to identify them at all, carrying out “signature strikes” in which behavior observed from an altitude of 50,000 feet– military aged men traveling in a convoy or carrying weapons, for example– is sufficient reason to take human lives with Hellfire missiles.

The deaths of Weinstein and Lo Porto were the result of such a “signature” attack. While the CIA concluded that someone at the compound where they were held was an Al Qaeda leader, they did know the identity of the person they were trying to kill.

Such strikes have taken a massive toll in human life. According to a recent study by the British-based human rights group Reprieve, US drone missile strikes aimed at killing 41 supposed terrorists took the lives of a total of 1,147 men, women and children. In the attempt to assassinate one Pakistani militant, Baitullah Mehsud, the CIA carried out seven separate strikes, killing a total of 164 people.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has tallied 383 drone strikes against Pakistan alone between 2004 and the beginning of 2015, killing and maiming thousands of civilians.

Yet Thursday’s apology for the deaths of two Westerners was the closest the Obama administration has ever come to acknowledging civilian casualties inflicted by the CIA drone war. In his “democratic” and “open” announcement last Thursday, Obama stated only that “a US counterterrorism operation… in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region accidentally killed Warren and Giovanni.” No mention was made of the agency responsible, the CIA, or the weapon used- a drone.

This was no accident. According to the Journal report, whether or not to acknowledge the CIA’s role was the subject of a dispute within the administration, with the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department insisting that such an admission would threaten the continuation of the CIA program and provoke a conflict with the Pakistani government.

Others– the Journal names Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper– insisted that disclosing the CIA’s role was necessary if the administration was to maintain the pretense of “transparency” that Obama promised in his speech two years ago.

The decisive argument, according to the Journal’s account, was that of the US Attorney General’s office, which “warned Mr. Obama that publicly disclosing the CIA’s role in this case would undermine the administration’s standing in a series of pending lawsuits challenging its legality.”

Among these cases is that of Kareem Khan, whose 17-year-old son, Zahinullah Khan, died instantly, along with his uncle Asif Iqbal and another man identified as Khaliq Dad, a stonemason, when a Hellfire missile fired by a CIA drone tore through their home in the North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan in 2009. The family had no involvement with Al Qaeda or any other militant group.

A senior judge in Pakistan last month ordered the opening of a criminal case in connection with the drone killings against former CIA Islamabad Station Chief Jonathan Bank and ex-CIA legal counsel John Rizzo. The charges are murder, conspiracy, terrorism and waging war against Pakistan.

The case could also set the stage for a multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit against the CIA and the US government by the relatives of the many more Pakistani civilians reportedly killed in drone strikes.

The drone strikes constitute war crimes under international law, which bars the arbitrary deprivation of human life and extrajudicial executions. The role of the CIA, which under international law is not a legal combatant, but rather a kind of state-run Murder, Inc., itself makes these strikes criminal.

For all of these reasons, the Obama administration is compelled to maintain a veil of secrecy over its drone assassination program.