Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Our Cyberwar Arms Race with Russia

U.S. at odds with Russia over cyberspace

By Judi Hasson

When it comes to the prospects of a war in cyberspace and the integrity of computer systems and the Internet, the U.S. and Russia are in a delicate tap dance.

Both are eyeing each other as adversaries, and both would like some ground rules to help ease tensions, but there is no meeting of the minds. The result is an escalation of offensive and defensive capabilities on each side, according to The New York Times.

President Obama will be in Russia this week, and cyberspace is likely to be on the agenda. The newspaper reports that Russia favors an international treaty that would help curb the cyber arms race. The U.S. disagrees, and is advocating improved cooperation among international law enforcement groups to make cyberspace more secure against criminal intrusions and military campaigns.

Even as discussions proceed, the Pentagon is planning the creation of a new military cyber command to prepare for offensive and defensive computer warfare. And Russia is certainly not the only problem. Like many other treaties around the world, the U.S. must get its allies on board before thrashing out a one-stop treaty for just one country. So what if there is a treaty with Russia? It won't stop China, or any other country from attacking when it wants an advantage.

For more on cyber diplomacy:

The United States and Russia are locked in a fundamental dispute over how to counter the growing threat of cyberwar attacks that could wreak havoc on computer systems and the Internet.

NIPA, via Associated Press

A ceremony at a Soviet war statue in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2007. The decision to move the statue from the city center to a military cemetery enraged Russia and Russian Estonians. It was followed by a crippling, monthlong siege of Estonian computer networks.

Responding to a Growing Threat
Computers, indispensable in peace, are becoming ever more important in political conflicts and open warfare. This article is the sixth in a series examining the growing use of computer power as a weapon.

Both nations agree that cyberspace is an emerging battleground. The two sides are expected to address the subject when President Obama visits Russia next week and at the General Assembly of the United Nations in November, according to a senior State Department official.

But there the agreement ends.

Russia favors an international treaty along the lines of those negotiated for chemical weapons and has pushed for that approach at a series of meetings this year and in public statements by a high-ranking official.

The United States argues that a treaty is unnecessary. It instead advocates improved cooperation among international law enforcement groups. If these groups cooperate to make cyberspace more secure against criminal intrusions, their work will also make cyberspace more secure against military campaigns, American officials say.

“We really believe it’s defense, defense, defense,” said the State Department official, who asked not to be identified because authorization had not been given to speak on the record. “They want to constrain offense. We needed to be able to criminalize these horrible 50,000 attacks we were getting a day.”

Any agreement on cyberspace presents special difficulties because the matter touches on issues like censorship of the Internet, sovereignty and rogue actors who might not be subject to a treaty.

United States officials say the disagreement over approach has hindered international law enforcement cooperation, particularly given that a significant proportion of the attacks against American government targets are coming from China and Russia.

And from the Russian perspective, the absence of a treaty is permitting a kind of arms race with potentially dangerous consequences.

Officials around the world recognize the need to deal with the growing threat of cyberwar. Many countries, including the United States, are developing weapons for it, like “logic bombs” that can be hidden in computers to halt them at crucial times or damage circuitry; “botnets” that can disable or spy on Web sites and networks; or microwave radiation devices that can burn out computer circuits miles away.

The Pentagon is planning to create a military command to prepare for both defense and offensive computer warfare. And last month, President Obama released his cybersecurity strategy and said he would appoint a “cybersecurity coordinator” to lead efforts to protect government computers, the air traffic control system and other essential systems. The administration also emphasizes the benefits of building international cooperation.

The Russian and American approaches — a treaty and a law enforcement agreement — are not necessarily incompatible. But they represent different philosophical approaches.

In a speech on March 18, Vladislav P. Sherstyuk, a deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, a powerful body advising the president on national security, laid out what he described as Russia’s bedrock positions on disarmament in cyberspace. Russia’s proposed treaty would ban a country from secretly embedding malicious codes or circuitry that could be later activated from afar in the event of war.

Other Russian proposals include the application of humanitarian laws banning attacks on noncombatants and a ban on deception in operations in cyberspace — an attempt to deal with the challenge of anonymous attacks. The Russians have also called for broader international government oversight of the Internet.

But American officials are particularly resistant to agreements that would allow governments to censor the Internet, saying they would provide cover for totalitarian regimes. These officials also worry that a treaty would be ineffective because it can be almost impossible to determine if an Internet attack originated from a government, a hacker loyal to that government, or a rogue acting independently.

The unique challenge of cyberspace is that governments can carry out deceptive attacks to which they cannot be linked, said Herbert Lin, director of a study by the National Research Council, a private, nonprofit organization, on the development of cyberweapons.

This challenge became apparent in 2001, after a Navy P-3 surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter plane, said Linton Wells II, a former high-ranking Pentagon official who now teaches at the National Defense University. The collision was followed by a huge increase in attacks on United States government computer targets from sources that could not be identified, he said.

Similarly, after computer attacks in Estonia in April 2007 and in the nation of Georgia last August, the Russian government denied involvement and independent observers said the attacks could have been carried out by nationalist sympathizers or by criminal gangs.

Computers, indispensable in peace, are becoming ever more important in political conflicts and open warfare. This article is the sixth in a series examining the growing use of computer power as a weapon.

The United States is trying to improve cybersecurity by building relationships among international law enforcement agencies. State Department officials hold out as a model the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which took effect in 2004 and has been signed by 22 nations, including the United States but not Russia or China.

But Russia objects that the European convention on cybercrime allows the police to open an investigation of suspected online crime originating in another country without first informing local authorities, infringing on traditional ideas of sovereignty. Vladimir V. Sokolov, deputy director of the Institute for Information Security Issues, a policy organization, noted that Russian authorities routinely cooperated with foreign police organizations when they were approached.

This is not the first time the issue of arms control for cyberspace has been raised.

In 1996, at the dawn of commercial cyberspace, American and Russian military delegations met secretly in Moscow to discuss the subject. The American delegation was led by an academic military strategist, and the Russian delegation by a four-star admiral. No agreement emerged from the meeting, which has not previously been reported.

Later, the Russian government repeatedly introduced resolutions calling for cyberspace disarmament treaties before the United Nations. The United States consistently opposed the idea.

In late April, Russian military representatives indicated an interest in renewed negotiations at a Russian-sponsored meeting on computer security in Garmisch, Germany.

John Arquilla, an expert in military strategy at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., who led the American delegation at the 1996 talks, said he had received almost no interest from within the American military after those initial meetings. “It was a great opportunity lost,” he said.

Unlike American officials who favor tightening law enforcement relationships, Mr. Arquilla continues to believe in cyberspace weapons negotiations, he said. He noted that the treaties on chemical weapons had persuaded many nations not to make or stockpile such weapons.

The United States and China have not held high-level talks on cyberwar issues, specialists say. But there is some evidence that the Chinese are being courted by Russia for support of an arms control treaty for cyberspace.

“China has consistently attached extreme importance to matters of information security, and has always actively supported and participated in efforts by the international community dedicated to maintaining Internet safety and cracking down on criminal cyber-activity,” Qin Gang, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.

Whether the American or Russian approach prevails, arms control experts said, major governments are reaching a point of no return in heading off a cyberwar arms race.

Monday, June 29, 2009

As Americans Struggle with College Costs, State Gives Discounted Tuition to Foreign Students

Under a new Washington State law, foreign guest workers — and their families who are in the United States — will be allowed to attend college by paying in-state tuition, even though the law does not extend that same benefit to American citizens who are from other states.

The law — which started as H.B. 1487 in the Washington State Legislature — was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on April 25 and will take effect on July 1. The new law permits foreign workers with certain work visas, including H-1B visas, to access in-state tuition benefits. The law reduces Washington's in-state residency requirement from three years to one year for foreign workers and also eliminates the requirement that students must attend a Washington State high school to qualify for in-state tuition. The new rules also provide reduced tuition to family members of certain visa holders. (WA Bill Action, 2009 Session; Seattle Times, June 22, 2009; and Bellingham Herald, June 22, 2009).

Critics point out that the law could not have come at a worse time for Washingtonians. The law is expected to contribute to a loss of revenue for the state university system. Initial estimates predict that the University of Washington will lose $430,000 in tuition revenue and that Washington State University could lose approximately $215,000. (Id.). Beyond revenue loss, others have pointed out that the law also reduces the number of educational opportunities available to Washington State residents at a time when more people are looking to return to school to obtain advanced degrees.

Critics have dubbed the bill, which was proposed by a former Microsoft executive (State Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina)), the "Microsoft subsidy bill," because the Seattle-based software company will garner the bulk of the benefit from the new law. Recognizing that this law is nothing more than a corporate welfare bill at the expense of state residents, State Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle) said: "We only allow X amount of [admission] slots for resident tuition rates and we are displacing those residents with H-1B visa holders, their families and dependents. Microsoft can well afford out-of-state tuition for its people." (Id.).

At the same time, the new law discriminates against American citizens because it does not extend in-state tuition benefits to U.S. citizens living outside of Washington State. Accordingly, under the bill, an H-1B visa holder could send a family member to a state university for a total annual cost of $7,677 during the next academic year, compared to the annual out-of-state tuition cost of $24,352 that an out-of-state American citizen would be forced to pay.

Washington State's move to reduce college costs for foreign born students comes on the heels of a recent New York Times article which concluded that American college students will have a harder time paying for college this coming school year. According to The Times, "Students looking for college scholarships are going to have a harder time this year as providers, hammered by falling investment returns and declining philanthropic support." (New York Times, June 26, 2009). The current economic climate has "led foundations, corporations, state governments and colleges themselves to reduce their support of providers of scholarships, and in recent months programs have been reduced or canceled outright. The cuts come as economic conditions make it harder for families to pay for college and as more unemployed people look for financing for retraining." (Id.).


NPI Program to Esculate Cost of HeathCare

Switch to ICD-10 should be very costly
August 25, 2008 — 10:29am ET | By Anne Zieger

National Provider Identifier (NPI)
ICD-9 Codes
ICD-10 Codes

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Health IT administrators are far from done in their struggles to implement the new National Provider Identifier number, which has proved to be every bit as troublesome as the industry predicted. But apparently, HHS was determined to raise the angst level further. With its recent announcement that it was pushing for an October 2011 deadline for the industry to switch from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10 codes, health organizations are bracing themselves for millions in additional IT and operational expenses.

ICD-9-CM codes, which are used for electronic claims processing, remittance, advice, eligibility inquiries, referral authorizations and more, have been in place for 30 years, but most other developed nations around the world use ICD-10 codes. The new code set will allow clinical IT systems to record far more specific and rich diagnostic information than ICD-9 codes, as it contains more than 155,000 codes, while ICD-9 contains only 17,000.

However, as readers can well imagine, such a switch will prove to be immensely complex, not to mention quite costly. While estimates vary from one consulting firm to another, HHS estimates the cost of the switch at $1.64 billion industry-wide, including $356 million in training costs, lost productivity costs of $572 million and system change costs of $713 million. Meanwhile, HHS has estimated that health IT vendors should take on $55 million to $137 million in initial costs as they adopt their products to the new requirements.

Then, there's the reimbursement nightmares to come. HHS admits that the switch--like the NPI cutover--could initially cause significant cash flow problems for providers because of the increased risk of payment hold-ups due to coding and systems problems. HHS is predicting that claims-error rates will rise between 6 and 10 percent of all claims at the ICD-10 implementation date, up from a normal 3 percent rate typically seen for annual updates of ICD-9. Ugh--stock up on Excedrin, folks.

To learn more about the HHS proposal:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)

Related Articles:
HHS proposes 2011 deadline for ICD-10 code adoption
CMS now says NPI must match IRS data

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CIA Crucified Prisoner in Abu Ghraib

The Central Intelligence Agency crucified a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to a report published in The New Yorker magazine.

“A forensic examiner found that he (the prisoner) had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs,” the magazine’s Jane Mayer writes in the magazine’s June 22nd issue. “Military pathologists classified the case a homicide.” The date of the murder was not given.

“No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as a result of mistreatment,” Mayer notes.

An earlier report, by John Hendren in The Los Angeles Times indicted other torture killings. And Human Rights First says nearly 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hendren reported that one Manadel Jamadi died “of blunt-force injuries” complicated by “compromised respiration” at Abu Ghraib prison “while he was with Navy SEALs and other special operations troops.” Another victim, Abdul Jaleel, died while gagged and shackled to a cell door with his hands over his head.” Yet another prisoner, Maj. Gen. Abid Mowhosh, former commander of Iraq’s air defenses, “died of asphyxiation due to smothering and chest compression” in Qaim, Iraq.

"There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable. America must stop putting its head in the sand and deal with the torture scandal." At least scores of detainees in U.S. custody have died and homicide is suspected. As far back as May, 2004, the Pentagon conceded at least 37 deaths of prisoners in its custody in Iraq and Afghanistan had prompted investigations.

Nathaniel Raymond, of Physicians for Human Rights, told The New Yorker, “We still don’t know how many detainees were in the black sites, or who they were. We don’t fully know the White House’s role, or the C.I.A.’s role. We need a full accounting, especially as it relates to health professionals.”

Recently released Justice memos, he noted, contain numerous references to CIA medical personnel participating in coercive interrogation sessions. “They were the designers, the legitimizers, and the implementers,” Raymond said. “This is arguably the single greatest medical-ethics scandal in American history. We need answers.”

The ACLU obtained its information from the Pentagon through a Freedom of Information suit. Documents received included 44 autopsies and death reports as well as a summary of autopsy reports of people seized in Iraq and Afghanistan. An ACLU statement noted, “This covers just a fraction of the total number of Iraqis and Afghans who have died while in U.S. custody.” (Italics added).

Torture by the CIA has been facilitated by the Agency’s ability to hide prisoners in “black sites” kept secret from the Red Cross, to hold prisoners off the books, and to detain them for years without bringing charges or providing them with lawyers.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, denounced the Obama administration for considering “prevention detention,” The New Yorker’s Mayer wrote. Roth said this tactic “mimics the Bush Administration’s abusive approach.”

From all indications, CIA Director Panetta has no intention of bringing to justice CIA officials involved in the systematic torture of prisoners. Panetta told Mayer, “I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt…If they do the job that they’re paid to do, I can’t ask for a hell of a lot more.”

Such sentiments differ markedly from those Panetta wrote in an article published last year in the January Washington Monthly: “We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.”

One way to discern who really runs a country is to look to see which individuals, if any, are above the law. In the Obama administration, like its predecessors, they include the employees of the CIA. Crucifixions they execute in the Middle East differ from those reported in the New Testament in at least one important respect: Jesus Christ had a trial.

Sherwood Ross a contributing editor to MWC News, is a Miami-based public relations consultant and columnist who formerly worked for major dailies and as a columnist for wire services. Reach him at sherwoodr1[at]yahoo.com.
Articles by Sherwood Ross at MWC News http://mwcnews.net/SherwoodRoss


Sunday, June 28, 2009

White House drafts executive order to allow indefinite detentions

White House drafts executive order to allow indefinite detentions

By ProPublica

Published: June 26, 2009

By Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn

The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close Guantanamo, has drafted an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that bypassing Congress could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.

After months of internal debate over how to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, White House officials are growing increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may prove impossible. Several officials said there is concern in the White House that the administration may not be able to close the facility by the president’s January deadline.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt did not directly respond to questions about an executive order but said the administration would address the cases of Guantanamo detainees in a manner “consistent with the national security interests of the United States and the interests of justice.”

One administration official suggested the White House was already trying to build support for an executive order.

“Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order,” the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should either be prosecuted or released.

The Justice Department has declined to comment on the prospects for a long-term detention system while internal reviews of Guantanamo detainees are underway. The reviews are expected to be completed by July 21.

In a May speech, President Obama broached the need for a system of long-term detention and suggested that it would include congressional and judicial oversight. “We must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can’t be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone,” the president said.

Some of Obama’s top legal advisers, along with a handful of influential Republican and Democratic lawmakers, have pushed for the creation of a “national security court” to supervise the incarceration of detainees deemed too dangerous to release but who cannot be charged or tried.

But the three senior government officials said the White House has turned away from that option, at least for now, because legislation establishing a special court would be both difficult to pass and likely to fracture Obama’s own party. These officials, as well as others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations.

On the day Obama took office, 242 men were imprisoned at Guantanamo. In his May speech, the president outlined five strategies the administration would use to deal with them: criminal trials, revamped military tribunals, transfers to other countries, releases and continued detention.

Since the inauguration, 11 detainees have been released or transferred, one prisoner committed suicide and one was moved to New York to face terrorism charges in federal court.

Administration officials said the cases of about half of the remaining 229 detainees have been reviewed for prosecution or release. Two officials involved in a Justice Department review of possible prosecutions said the administration is strongly considering criminal charges in federal court for Khalid Sheik Mohammed and three other detainees accused of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The other half, the officials said, present the greatest difficulty because these detainees cannot be prosecuted either in federal court or military commissions. In many cases the evidence against them is classified, has been provided by foreign intelligence services, or has been tainted by the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. agreed with an assessment offered during congressional testimony this month that fewer than 25 percent of the detainees would be charged in criminal courts and that 50 others have been approved for transfer or release. One official said the administration is still hoping that as many as 70 Yemeni citizens will be moved, in stages, into a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia.

Three months into the Justice Department’s reviews, several officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released.

The White House has spent months meeting with key congressional leaders in the hopes of reaching agreement on long-term detention, even as public support for such a plan has wavered as lawmakers have sought to prevent detainees from being transferred to their constituencies.

Lawyers for the administration are now in negotiations with Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) over separate legislation that would revamp military commissions. A senior Republican staff member said that senators have yet to see “a comprehensive, detailed policy” on long-term detention from the administration.

“They can do it without congressional backing, but I think there would be very strong concerns,” the staff member said, adding that “Congress could cut off funding” for any detention system established in the United States.

Concerns are growing among Obama’s advisers that Congress may try to assert too much control over the process. This week Obama signed an appropriations bill that forces the administration to report to Congress before moving any detainee out of Guantanamo and prevents the White House from using available funds to move detainees onto U.S. soil.

“Legislation could kill Obama’s plans,” said one government official involved. The official said an executive order could be the best option for the president at this juncture. Under one White House draft that was being discussed earlier this month, according to administration officials, detainees would be imprisoned at a military facility on U.S. soil but their ongoing detention would be subject to annual presidential review. U.S. citizens would not be held in the system.

Such detainees — those at Guantanamo and those who may be captured in the future — would also have the right to legal representation during confinement and access to some of the information that is being used to keep them behind bars. Anyone detained under this order would have a right to challenge his detention before a judge.

Officials argue that the plan would give detainees more rights and allow them a better chance to one day end their indefinite incarceration than they have now at Guantanamo.

But some senior Democrats see longterm detention as tantamount to reestablishing the Guantanamo system on U.S. soil. “I think this could be a very big mistake, because of how such a system could be perceived throughout the world,” Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) told Holder.

One administration official said future transfers to the United States for long-term detention would be rare. Al-Qaeda operatives captured on the battlefield, which the official defined as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and possibly the Horn of Africa, would be held in battlefield facilities. Suspects captured elsewhere in the world could be transferred to the United States for federal prosecution, turned over to local authorities or returned to their home countries.

“Going forward, unless it’s an extraordinary case, you will not see new transfers to the U.S. for indefinite detention,” the official said.

Instituting long-term detention through an executive order would leave Obama vulnerable to charges that he is willing to forsake the legislative branch of government, as his predecessor often did. Bush’s detention policies suffered successive defeats in the courts in part because they lacked congressional approval and tried to exclude judicial oversight.

“There is no statute prohibiting the president from doing this through executive order, and so far courts have not ruled in ways that would bar him from doing so,” said Matthew Waxman, who worked on detainee issues at the Defense Department during Bush’s first term. But Waxman, who waged a battle inside the Bush administration for more congressional cooperation, said the “courts are more likely to defer to the president and legislative branch when they speak with one voice on these issues.”

Walid bin Attash, who is accused of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and who was held at a secret CIA prison, could be among those subject to long-term detention, according to one senior official.

Little information on bin Attash’s case has been made public, but officials who have reviewed his file said the Justice Department has concluded that none of the three witnesses against him can be brought to testify in court. One witness, who was jailed in Yemen, escaped several years ago. A second witness remains incarcerated, but the government of Yemen will not allow him to testify.

Administration officials believe that testimony from the only witness in U.S. custody, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, may be inadmissible because he was subjected to harsh interrogation while in CIA custody.

“These issues haven’t morphed simply because the administration changed,” said Juan Zarate, who served as Bush’s deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“The challenge for the new administration is how to solve these legal questions of preventive detention in a way that is consistent with the Constitution, legitimate in the eyes of the world and doesn’t create security loopholes that cause Congress to worry,” Zarate said.

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Its content is in the public domain.


U.S. Gives Up "War on Drugs" in Afganistan

US announces big shift in Afghanistan drug policy - Gives Up "Eradication" Policy

Bloggers Note; (Of course, the "eradication" policy never worked well because it was never enforced against the BIGGEST offenders,...as usual, only the small-scale opium farmers were targeted while the larger scale producers were left alone....pretty much the same here in the U.S. with our own drug policy; Ignore the worst offenders but fill up our jails with the poorest.)


Saturday, June 27th 2009, 3:52 PM

TRIESTE, Italy - The U.S. is shifting its strategy against Afghanistan's drug trade, phasing out funding for opium eradication while boosting efforts to fight trafficking and promote alternate crops, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan said Saturday.

The aim of the new policy: to deprive the Taliban of the tens of millions of dollars in drug revenues that are fueling its insurgency.

The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told the Associated Press that poppy eradication - for years a cornerstone of U.S. and U.N. drug trafficking efforts in the country - was not working and was only driving Afghan farmers into the hands of the Taliban.

"Eradication is a waste of money," Holbrooke said on the sidelines of a Group of Eight foreign ministers' meeting on Afghanistan, during which he briefed regional representatives on the new policy.

"It might destroy some acreage, but it didn't reduce the amount of money the Taliban got by one dollar. It just helped the Taliban. So we're going to phase out eradication," he said.

The Afghan foreign minister also attended the G-8 meeting. Eradication efforts were seen as inefficient because too little was being destroyed at too high a cost, U.N. drug chief Antonio Maria Costa told the AP.

The old policy was also deeply unpopular among powerless small-scale farmers, who often were targeted in the eradication efforts.

Afghanistan is the world's leading source of opium, cultivating 93 percent of the world's heroin-producing crop.

While opium cultivation dropped 19 percent last year, it remains concentrated in Afghanistan's southern provinces where the Taliban is strongest and last year earned insurgents an estimated $50 million to $70 million, according to the U.N. drug office.

While there was no immediate comment from Kabul on Saturday, the U.S. policy shift was likely to be welcomed by Afghanistan's government.

Officials eradicating poppies have often been attacked by militants.

Afghan citizens, many of whom rely on farming for sustenance and income, would also invite new agricultural programs.

The new policy calls for assisting farmers who abandon poppy cultivation.

Holbrooke said the international community wasn't trying to target Afghan farmers, just the Taliban militants who buy their crops. "The farmers are not our enemy, they're just growing a crop to make a living," he said.

"It's the drug system. So the U.S. policy was driving people into the hands of the Taliban."

While Holbrooke did not provide the AP with a dollar figure for the new U.S. commitment, he told the G-8 ministers that Washington was increasing its funding for agricultural assistance from tens of millions of dollars a year to hundreds of millions of dollars, said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy, the current G-8 president.

Click on title above for full article;


Thursday, June 25, 2009

U.N. Human Rights Chief Criticizes Handling of Detainees

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 24, 2009; 5:14 PM

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- The U.N.'s top human rights advocate, Navanethem Pillay, on Wednesday appealed to the Obama administration to release Guantanamo Bay inmates or try them in a court of law, and said that officials who authorized the use of torture must be held accountable for their crimes.

In her most detailed statement on U.S. detention policy, the South African lawyer criticized President Obama's decision to hold some suspected terrorists in detention indefinitely without a trial. She also called for a probe into officials who participated in torture sessions or provided the legal justification for it.

"People who order or inflict torture cannot be exonerated, and the roles of certain lawyers, as well as doctors who have attended torture sessions, should also be scrutinized," Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement dedicated to victims of torture.

Pillay praised the Obama administration for committing to ban many of the harshest interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, authorized by the Bush administration, and "which amount to torture." But she said it needed to go further, providing victims of U.S. abuses with an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

"I believe we are finally starting to turn the page on this extremely unfortunate chapter of recent history, with counter-terrorism measures starting to move back in to line with international human rights standards," Pillay said. "But there is still much to do before the Guantanamo chapter is truly brought to a close."

The United States responded by highlighting the steps the administration has taken on human rights. "The Obama Administration has taken aggressive action on this issue from day one, upholding our nation's fundamental values while making the American people safer," said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations. "The President banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, initiated a review of all pending cases at Guantanamo, and ordered that facility closed within one year."

Pillay's remarks represented the clearest challenge by the U.N.'s high commissioner to Obama's decision to limit investigation into past abuses and to continue to hold some detainees who have not been charged with a crime. In May, Obama said some detainees deemed too dangerous to release might have to be held indefinitely.

"There should be no half-measures, or new creative ways to treat people as criminals when they have not been found guilty of any crime," Pillay said. "Guantanamo showed that torture and unlawful forms of detention can all too easily creep back in to practice during times of stress, and there is still a long way to go before the moral high ground lost since 9/11 can be fully reclaimed."

Pillay stopped short of addressing the Obama administration's decision to use reformed military commissions to try suspected terrorists. Human rights groups have criticized the commissions, expressing particular concern that terror suspects could be convicted and put to death on the basis of evidence obtained by torture.

Pillay said that detainees who are not prosecuted and potentially face torture if they are sent back to their own countries "must be given a new home, where they can start to build a new life, in the United States or elsewhere. I welcome the fact that in recent weeks a number of countries have agreed to take in a few people in this position, and urge others to follow suit, including first and foremost the United States itself."

Earlier this month, the Obama administration flew the first Guantanamo detainee, Ahmed Ghailani, to the United States to face capital charges for his alleged role in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. But an overwhelming majority of Republican and Democratic lawmakers have fiercely resisted allowing any more of the remaining 229 detainees at Guantanamo into the United States.

In May, the Senate voted 90 to 6 to withhold funding for the closure of Guantanamo. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said this month that the president, in authorizing the transfer of Ghailani, was ignoring the "clear desire of Congress and the American people that these terrorists not be brought to the United States." McConnell also questioned whether Obama has the authority to transfer detainees, saying, "there's an argument that existing law prohibits bringing terrorists into the United States."

Pillay offered a withering rebuke of the Bush administration counterterrorism policies, charging that they had undermined international efforts to end torture. "The terrorist acts that shook the world on 11 September 2001 had a devastating impact on the fight to eliminate torture," she wrote. "Some states that had previously been careful not to practice or condone torture became less scrupulous."

"The Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons, in particular, became high-profile symbols of this regression, and new terms such as "water-boarding" and "rendition" entered the public discourse, as human rights lawyers and advocates looked on in dismay," she added.

Pillay said that "leadership is required to end this grotesque practice." She welcomed Obama's decision, days after he was sworn in, to commit to closing Guantanamo by next January and to ban waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques.

"Equally importantly, victims of torture must be helped to recover from one of the worst ordeals that a human being can face. The physical and mental scars of torture are excruciating, the effect on families devastating, and there are often long-term socio-economic effects, including a stigma that can be extremely hard to erase. Victims of torture must be compensated and cared for -- for as long as it takes to enable them once again to lead a relatively normal life."


Monday, June 22, 2009

Neda's Martyrdom and the Pitfalls of Obama's Chronic Pragmatism


I've praised President Obama's discipline and focus, his calm demeanor. He is a thinker, reflective. He considers all angles of a problem. And he is chronically pragmatic.

There's nothing wrong with pragmatism - it's a precious commodity in a tumultuous world - but like anything else, too much of it can be a bad thing. Especially at such an inflection point in history, with climate change threatening our existence, violence and human rights abuses and hunger and disease rampant, weapons of mass carnage in the hands of despots and terrorists, and the global economy teetering on the brink of disaster while the super-rich get super-richer.

Yes, pragmatism is admirable, but give me some idealism too, give me some deep-seated moral conviction and the powerful, ground-shaking words to express it.

The new administration and congressional Democrats are displaying a clear pattern of choosing the mushy middle, that (supposedly) safe place which maintains the status quo and makes 'grown-ups' like David Brooks and ideological shape-shifters like Andrew Sullivan fawn over the president in a sickening display of obsequiousness.

On gay rights, they are choosing the mushy middle, on women's rights (speaking to a global audience) the mushy middle, on the Wall Street bailout, the mushy middle, on health care, the mushy middle. On civil liberties and secrecy, they are not even bothering with the mushy middle, but emulating Bush's extremism. And on Iran, the issue of the moment, they are eschewing a full-throated approach and hoping for the best. Maybe it's the correct strategy, and maybe it's not. I certainly don't pretend to know, though I do know that if the Iranian regime prevails, which it likely will, Republicans will have a field day blaming Democrats for being too tepid in defense of a democratic uprising.

In a recent post about the Bi-Partisan Repudiation of the Left, I asked:

If GOP strategist Mike Murphy is right that we're approaching a Republican "ice age," then shouldn't the Obama administration and congressional Democrats move solidly and unapologetically to the left and seize the chance to enact progressive policies across the board?

The incessant drive to the 'pragmatic center', wherever that is, the desire to please an elusive and ephemeral audience, that worship of moderation, results in the squandering of a unique moment: with Republicans on their electoral heels and Democrats in control, this is the time for bold progressive stances and the unabashed embrace of core Democratic principles. This is not the time for wishy washy policies that seem politically smart but will in fact lead to the impression of an administration and a party devoid of convictions.

One of the most heart-stopping aspects of the Iran protests is the apparent caught-on-tape slaughter of a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan. Writing for TIME, Robin Wright provides context and adds a note of caution about the circumstances:

A gruesomely captivating video of a young woman -- laid out on a Tehran street after apparently being shot, blood pouring from her mouth and then across her face -- swept Twitter, Facebook and other websites this weekend. The woman rapidly became a symbol of Iran's escalating crisis, from a political confrontation to far more ominous physical clashes. Some sites refer to her as "Neda," Farsi for the voice or the call. Tributes that incorporate startlingly upclose footage of her dying have started to spring up on YouTube. Although it is not yet clear who shot "Neda" (a soldier? pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything.

No matter what the precise details, this awful video is a jarring dose of reality, reminding us of the mortal threat on the ground in Iran and the raw courage of those who confront injustice and are willing to give their lives for a noble cause. I had the misfortune of witnessing several Neda's during my years in Beirut, young men and women who sacrificed everything to defend their land and their loved ones. One lesson I learned is that seeing human savagery and suffering up close, we understand that our distance from other people's pain is an illusion - when one person suffers, we all do.

It's beyond tragic that we need symbols like Neda to wake us up to the heinous crimes perpetrated against women and children (and men and boys) in every corner of the world, that a 'viral' video depicting the horrific pain that people endure is the only way we summon the necessary focus and will and outrage to finally tackle the profound injustices that grip the globe.

Sometimes - most of the time - a calm, measured approach is the right one, but there are times when we need bold acts that emanate from our core, thunderous words to condemn evil and injustice, steely-eyed confidence that doing the right thing is better than doing the pleasing thing. We are living in those times.

Neda reminds us that some things are worth sacrificing for, that the ills of the world are viscerally real, that what is needed most is moral clarity and the unbending will to right what is wrong, even if it isn't the most politically pragmatic thing to do.

In Frank Rich's words:

Maybe you don't want to tilt at windmills, but sometimes you do want to do battle with fierce and unrelenting adversaries.
Follow Peter Daou on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peterdaou


Monday, June 15, 2009

Commending Un-Common Courage for a Common Cause

The issue of torture and "enhanced interrogation tactics" has been all over the news recently. But no one is saying much about the brave members of the Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAGs) who refused to carry out orders to torture detainees at Guantanamo and other prisons, and who spoke out in defense of basic human rights.

I just signed a letter of commendation applauding select JAGs for their "Uncommon Courage" and hope you will too. Check out their stories at http://www.commoncause.org/JAGstories and sign the letter at http://www.commoncause.org/JAGthanks (click on title above to go to orignal article with operating links to these sites.) The letter is going to be delivered on the 4th of July, so please sign it today and let other folks know about it too. Thanks!

Americans Against Torture;

Governor Schwarzenegger "Happy" Illegal Aliens Receive Taxpayer-Funded Benefits

Last week, in an interview with the Sacramento Bee, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected the idea that taxpayer funded benefits for illegal aliens played a significant role in the state's budget deficit. (Sacramento Bee Video). The governor claimed that illegal aliens were being used as a "scapegoat" for the state's more fundamental problems and went so far as to praise the benefits that illegal immigrants bring to the state. (San Francisco Chronicle).

Many states around the country are facing tough economic times, but California's budget picture is particularly grim. California is currently facing an estimated $24 billion budget deficit, one of the largest the state has ever seen. (Sacramento Bee, June 12, 2009). As the state government grapples with trying to balance its budget, taxpayers have pointed to reducing services to illegal aliens as a possible subject of reform and source for budget savings.

In a study on the impact of illegal immigration on the state of California done by FAIR in 2004, the estimated population of 2.8 million illegal immigrants then living in California cost the state's taxpayers an estimated $10.54 billion a year, nearly half of the current budget deficit. (FAIR's Cost Study of Illegal Immigration to California, 2004). This amount has only increased as the illegal immigrant population is now estimated to be 3.2 million, a 10% increase above the 2004 estimate. (See FAIR Media Press Release). California taxpayers pay for a variety of services for illegal aliens including social services such as education, medical care, and incarceration of criminal aliens.

During his interview with the Sacramento Bee, Governor Schwarzenegger claimed that taxpayers had to foot the bill of these services due to federal mandates. The governor was, at best, only partially correct in his claim. California has made the decision to provide benefits to illegal aliens above and beyond what is required by federal mandates. These policy choices have contributed greatly to California's widening budget deficit and have also made California an enticing destination for illegal immigrants.

For example, according to the RAND Corporation and the Pew Foundation respectively, somewhere between 59% and 68% of the 3.2 million illegal aliens in California lack health insurance. (Pew, RAND). This has placed a huge strain on the health care system in California. (See "California Health Care Guide"). In addition, according to one analysis, California is spending billions of dollars on health care for illegal aliens including $775 million on Medi-Cal, $536 million for emergency services, and $59 million for prenatal care (not including $108 million for new-born deliveries as the newborns are citizens). (LA Times).

In addition, California taxpayers are also subsidizing the cost of college for illegal aliens who are allowed to pay the in-state tuition at California's public universities, while United States citizens from other states are forced to pay the higher out-of-state tuition rate. This form of discrimination violates federal law and is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). (Martinez vs. Board of Regents). Legislation has been introduced in Congress (the DREAM Act) that would legalize the practice of discriminating against American citizens by giving tuition breaks to illegal aliens that are not also available to all citizens. (FAIR legislative analysis of the Dream Act).

California residents recently defeated a series of measures in a special election that would have increased taxes to balance the budget. Following this defeat, Governor Schwarzenegger declared that the only other option will be to cut funding for certain services. Instead of continuing to underestimate the cost illegal immigration has played in his state's budget crisis, the governor should prioritize the needs of California residents who are citizens by cutting benefits to illegal aliens.


DHS Suspends Provision Designed to Prevent Marriage Fraud

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last Tuesday, June 9 that it was delaying for two years the enforcement of a rule designed to prevent marriage fraud. (DHS Press Release, June 9, 2009). Under current law, a citizen may petition for a green card on behalf of his or her alien spouse. In cases where the citizen and the alien have been married for less than two years, the alien is issued a "conditional" green card for a period of two years. If the citizen-spouse dies before the couple has been married for two years, the alien, and the alien's minor children are subject to removal. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the "conditional" status is designed to make sure that an immigrant can "prove that [they] did not get married [fraudulently] to evade the immigration laws of the United States." (USCIS website). According to another source, "The only way Congress could figure out how to detect potentially fraudulent marriages was to put a two year limit on green cards issued to spouses in marriages that were less than two years old." (Heather Poole, PC).

The new DHS policy seeks to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting the alien spouse (and minor children), even though they no longer have a living sponsor who is an American citizen or familial ties to the U.S. Estimates suggest that the impact of the new directive will be relatively small; however, these estimates do not take into account the additional impact of so-called "chain-migration" as a result of the widowed alien eventually being permitted to petition for his or her relatives to come to the United States. (The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2009).

Last week's announcement raises questions as to whether Congress will pursue legislation to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit surviving spouses to remain indefinitely in the U.S. after the citizen spouse dies in order to seek a green card. (DHS Press Release, June 9, 2009). Legislation such as this was considered in the previous Congress. (See House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Markup and H.R. 6034 Legislative Text). Immigration attorney and Bender's Immigration Bulletin editor Dan Kowalski told The Wall Street Journal that the new directive "hedges [President] Obama's bets: If comprehensive [immigration] reform advances, this will help pave the way. If not, at least he can say he tried." (The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2009).


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some Press at Last! Iran Elections / Furor

Ahmadinejad dismisses violent protests over Iran's disputed election as 'not important'

By ANNA JOHNSON and NASSER KARIMI , Associated Press

Last update: June 14, 2009 - 9:40 AM
TEHRAN, Iran - Protesters set fires and smashed store windows Sunday in a second day of violence as groups challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election tried to keep pressure on authorities. Anti-riot police lashed back and the regime blocked Internet sites used to rally the pro-reform campaign.

Ahmadinejad dismissed the unrest — the worst in a decade in Tehran — as "not important." He said Friday's vote was "real and free" and insisted the results showing his landslide victory were fair and legitimate. Along Tehran's Vali Asr street — where activists supporting rival candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi held a huge pre-election rally last week — tens of thousands marched in support of Ahmadinejad, waving Iranian flags and shouting his name.

Mousavi released his first statement since two days of violent protests began, calling on authorities to cancel the election. He said that is the only way to restore public trust. Mousavi, who has accused authorities of election fraud, urged his supporters to continue their "civil and lawful" opposition to the results and advised police to stop violence against protesters. He has claimed he was the true winner of the election.

The violence spilling from the disputed results has pushed Iran's Islamic establishment to respond with sweeping measures that include deploying anti-riot squads around the capital and cutting mobile phone messaging and Internet sites used by the Mousavi's campaign.

There's little chance that the youth-driven movement could immediately threaten the pillars of power in Iran — the ruling clerics and the vast network of military and intelligence forces at their command — but it raises the possibility that a sustained and growing backlash could complicate Iran's policies at a pivotal time.

President Barack Obama has offered to open dialogue after a nearly 30-year diplomatic freeze. Iran also is under growing pressure to make concessions on its nuclear program or face possible more international sanctions.

Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday he has doubts about whether the election was free and fair, as Ahmadinejad claims. He said the U.S. and other countries need more time to analyze the results before making a better judgment about the vote.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said his country is "very worried" about the situation in Iran, criticizing the Iranian authorities' "somewhat brutal reaction" to the election protests.

So far, Mousavi has issued mixed signals through his Web site before it was shut down. He urged for calm but also said he is the legitimate winner of Friday's election and called on supporters to reject a government of "lies and dictatorship." He has not been seen in public since a news conference shortly after polls closed.

In a second day of clashes, scores of young people shouted "Death to the dictator!" and broke the windows of city buses on several streets in central Tehran. They have burned banks, trash bins and piles of tires used as flaming barricades to block police.

Riot police beat some of the protesters with batons while dozens of others holding shields and motorcycles stood guard nearby. Shops, government offices and businesses closed early as tension mounted.

In a news conference, Ahmadinejad called the level of violence "not important from my point of view" and likened it to the intensity after a soccer match.

"Some believed they would win, and then they got angry," he said. "It has no legal credibility. It is like the passions after a football match. ... The margin between my votes and the others is too much and no one can question it."

About a mile away from Ahmadinejad's news conference, young Iranians set trash bins, banks and tires on fire as riot police beat them back with batons.

"In Iran, the election was a real and free one," said Ahmadinejad. "The election will improve the nation's power and its future," he told a packed room of Iranian and foreign media.

Ahmadinejad also accused foreign media of launching a "psychological war" against the country.

Iranian authorities have asked some foreign journalists — in Iran to cover the elections — to prepare to leave. Nabil Khatib, executive news editor for Dubai-based news network Al Arabiya, said the station's correspondent in Tehran was given a verbal order Sunday from Iranian authorities that the office will be closed for one week.

No reason was given for the order, but the station was warned several times Saturday that they need to be careful in reporting "chaos" accurately.

Iran restored cell phone service that had been down in the capital since Saturday. But Iranians could not send text messages from their phones, and the government increased its Internet filtering in an apparent attempt to undercut liberal voices. Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter were also not working.

The restrictions were likely intended to prevent Mousavi's supporters from organizing large-scale protests. But smaller groups assembled around the city. About 300 Mousavi supporters gathered outside Sharif University, chanting "Where are our votes?"

About a dozen riot police used batons to disperse about 50 Mousavi supporters standing outside his campaign quarters.

On Saturday, Mousavi, a 67-year-old former prime minister, released a Web message saying he would not "surrender to this manipulation." Authorities responded with targeted detentions, apparently designed to rattle the leadership of Mousavi's "green" movement — the trademark color of his campaign.

The detentions include the brother of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami and two top organizers of Iran's largest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front: the party's secretary-general and the head of Mousavi's youth cyber campaign. Mohammad Reza Khatami and the two party activists were released Sunday.

Several others linked to Mousavi's campaign remained in custody, but the full extent of the arrests were not known.

Tehran deputy prosecutor, Mahmoud Slarkia, told the semi-official ISNA news agency that fewer than 10 people were arrested on the charge of "disturbing public opinion" through their "false reports" on Web sites after the election. He did not mention any names.

Iran's deputy police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that about 170 people have been arrested for their involvement in Saturday's protests. He said 10 of those arrested were "main planners" and 50 were "rioters." The others were arrested for being at the site of the clashes, he said. Some of the detained were active in Mousavi's campaign headquarters or had relations with foreign media, he said.

"Police will not allow protesters to disturb the peace and calmness of the people under the influence of foreign media," Radan said on state television, which showed footage of the protests for the first time Sunday.

Mousavi's newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, or the Green Word, did not appear on newsstands Sunday. An editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the paper never left the printing house because authorities were upset with Mousavi's statements.

The paper's Web site reported that more than 10 million votes in Friday's election were missing national identification numbers similar to U.S. Social Security numbers, which make the votes "untraceable." It did not say how it knew that information.

"Don't worry about freedom in Iran," Ahmadinejad said at the news conference after a question about the disputed election. "Newspapers come and go and reappear. Don't worry about it."

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, closed the door for possible compromise. He could have used his near-limitless powers to intervene in the election dispute. But, in a message on state TV on Saturday, he urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, calling the result a "divine assessment."



Click on title above to see: Slide Show: Iran is Burning;

Friday, June 12, 2009

Postal workers sue US Over UnFair Labor Practices

US Postal Service Workers File Labor and Wages Class Action

The US Postal Service (USPS) is facing a class action lawsuit brought by employees who allege the government agency has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The claim alleges that the USPS required work in excess of 8 hours per day and 40 hours per workweek without overtime compensation. And, the plaintiffs claim that the USPS overburdened the carrier's routes and required them to finish the route regardless of whether or not it could be completed within 8 hours.

The complaint states that the employees "had overtime disallowed, had time improperly changed by a supervisor, been required to work through lunch to complete their route, and worked while off-the-clock and/or worked overtime and not been paid." And, the plaintiffs allege that in order to avoid harassment and possible disciplinary action, they work unpaid overtime.

The proposed class includes people employed by USPS as non-exempt postal carriers in the Southwest Area -- comprised of Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma -- at any time in the past 3 years.

Damages are being sought for unpaid wages owed, including interest and liquidated damages and penalties, and other costs. Each plaintiff and class member is reportedly seeking damages in excess of $10,000 during the relevant time.

US Postal Service Labor and Wages Class Action Legal Help
If you or a loved one has suffered damages in this case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to a lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.

Click on title above for legal help and a free evaluation of your possible case



Thursday, June 11, 2009

Indigenous Peruvians Killed While Protesting Bad Trade Deal w / U.S.

Thousands of indigenous people in Peru face extreme violence as they protest new laws passed to implement the U.S.-Peru FTA. Urge Speaker Pelosi and House trade committee leaders to intervene and end the Peru FTA-related violence.

As you're reading this, thousands of indigenous people in Peru face extreme violence, and the Wall Street Journal reports that 30 indigenous protestors were killed while demonstrating against new laws passed to implement the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement that give foreign oil, gas, mining and timber firms access to their Amazonian homelands.

In the pre-dawn hours of June 5, Peruvian military police staged a violent attack on a group of indigenous people camped out on a peaceful blockade of a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of the northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and live ammunition. Violence and protests have continued all week.

Urge Speaker Pelosi and House trade committee leaders Charles Rangel and Sander Levin today to intervene and end the Peru FTA-related violence against these indigenous communities.

Thousands of you took action in October of 2007 when we urged Democratic leaders to oppose the Peru FTA because its extreme foreign investor rules would give new incentives for foreign corporations to exploit huge sections of the Peruvian Amazon.[1] Peru's indigenous leaders were well aware that the FTA's grant of expansive rights for foreign investors would direly threaten their communities. We joined with them to strongly oppose the agreement. Now, as they block roads and sit in to protect their communities and lands, they need our help.

Take action today to stop the Peru FTA-related murders of indigenous people in Peru. After you've taken action, please tell a friend.

Since April, communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting the Peru FTA implementation laws that have triggered an unprecedented rush of extractive industries into Peru's Amazon Rainforest. Over 30,000 indigenous people have taken to blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories. Peruvian President Alan Garcia's government passed these laws under "fast track" authority he had received from the Peruvian congress to enact laws that implement the U.S.-Peru FTA.

A June 8 Wall Street Journal story sums up the situation from the corporate perspective:

"The protesters are demanding that the government backtrack on decrees that the indigenous groups say would weaken their traditional communal land system by breaking up land into parcels of private property. The García government has been moving aggressively to grant concessions for oil and natural gas exploration in the Amazon.

Analysts say giving in to protester demands would make Mr. García seem weak and cast a cloud over a recently signed free-trade agreement with the U.S. Following the pact, the government enacted laws that opened up indigenous lands to development, changes that the indigenous groups oppose."[2]

When we were campaigning against the Peru FTA, even we couldn't have predicted that the FTA and its harmful foreign investor provisions could be used to destroy the Amazon so quickly. But indigenous leaders know that passage of these new laws - and final implementation of the agreement - means destruction of their communities, livelihoods and health.

Please contact Speaker Pelosi and House trade leaders Rangel and Levin today and urge them to lead the way to a peaceful solution to the FTA protests in Peru - saving lives and helping to protect the endangered Amazon rainforest. Then, ask your friends to do the same.

Thanks for all that you do,
Bill Holland
Deputy Director, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Latest Torture Cover-Up Scam


The Latest Torture Cover-Up Scam
by James Bovard

The Obama administration appears increasingly devoted to covering up the worst crimes of the Bush era. CIA chief Leon Panetta formally objected to federal judge Alvin Hellerstein, who was considering releasing detailed information on 92 videotaped CIA torture sessions of detainees.

Panetta asserted that releasing the written information “could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security by informing our enemies of what we knew about them, and when, and in some instances, how we obtained the intelligence we possessed.”

Panetta sounds like the only person on Earth who is not aware that the U.S. government has already effectively admitted that it used torture on detainees to squeeze out confessions, true, false, or whatever.

The CIA chief told the judge that the “disclosure of explicit details of specific interrogations” would provide al-Qaeda “with propaganda it could use to recruit and raise funds.” Panetta described the information at issue as “ready-made ammunition.”

And who manufactured this ammunition? The CIA and Bush administration officials who ginned up legal opinions authorizing war crimes. But according to Panetta, the CIA would be the victim. Panetta warned that disclosing the documents would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” of the CIA employees involved in the “extreme interrogation” process.

Apparently, people who inflict torture under U.S government orders are entitled to their good name, regardless of how many innocent people they kill. It is ironic to see such solicitude for the rights of individuals who may have violated the Geneva Convention. Perhaps privacy rights are the only rights that government respects any more. But the only people who are entitled to privacy are those who followed orders and committed horrendous crimes.

Panetta also asserted that his request to suppress all the evidence was “in no way driven by a desire to prevent embarrassment for the U.S. government or the CIA, or to suppress evidence of any unlawful conduct.”

Panetta neglected to add that he would sell the judge the Brooklyn Bridge for only $29.95.

The Obama administration’s objections to letting Americans learn the truth about CIA abuses is only the latest chapter in a cover-up that has lasted most of this new century.

In 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on the U.S. treatment of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration, scorning federal law, largely rebuffed the request. On September 15, 2004, Judge Hellerstein condemned the feds: “If the documents are more of an embarrassment than a secret, the public should know of our government’s treatment of individuals captured and held abroad.” The judge was outraged at the Bush administration’s bogus invocation of “national security” to deny providing information. Hellerstein gave the feds a 30-day deadline to provide the information.

But the feds effectively ignored Hellerstein’s deadline — as they did most of the other judicial deadlines that have arisen from the torture scandal. If all the photos and all the memos had been revealed in October 2004, voters might have denied Bush’s quest for a second term.

The latest stonewalling is especially appalling because it comes from a president who promised transparency and openness when he took office earlier this year. Instead, the Obama team is crafting a rule that might justify covering up any government atrocity.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s national security program, observed that the Obama administration’s position is the same as asserting that “the greater the abuse, the more important it is that it should remain secret.”

The torture scandal sheds far more light onto the soul of American politics than the rhetoric of any politician. In a speech six weeks ago at CIA headquarters, Obama declared:

“What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and ideals even when it’s hard.”

This is the same “invoke American values” defense that President George W. Bush used in 2004 and 2005 after the torture scandal first erupted. It is deluging people with national flattery as a substitute for ceasing national disgraces. But hot air is no substitute for hard facts. James Bovard serves as policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation and is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy (Palgrave, 2006), Terrorism and Tyranny (Palgrave, 2003), Lost Rights (St. Martin’s, 1994), and six other books.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

U.S. man evades jail time in 'mysterious' case of spying for Israel

By Reuters

Tags: Ben Ami Kadish, spy, Pollard

An 85-year-old former civilian employee of the U.S. Army was fined but avoided prison time on Friday after earlier pleading guilty to giving classified documents to Israel in the 1980s, in a case the sentencing judge said was "shrouded in mystery."

Court documents showed that Ben-Ami Kadish, who was fined $50,000 but spared prison time, reported to the same handler as Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel in the 1980s and triggered a scandal that rocked U.S.-Israeli relations.

"Why it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish is shrouded in mystery," U.S. District Judge William Pauley said during the sentencing hearing in Manhattan federal court. "It is clear the [U.S.] government could have charged Mr. Kadish with far more serious crimes."

Kadish pleaded guilty in December to acting as an unregistered agent of Israel. He was arrested in April 2008 on four counts of conspiracy and espionage. The spying charge, dropped under a plea deal, had carried a possible death sentence.

"I am sorry I made a mistake," a frail-looking Kadish said during the sentencing hearing. "I thought I was helping the state of Israel without harming the United States."

The judge said he gave a lenient sentence due to Kadish's age and infirmity, but said Kadish had committed "a grave offense" and had "abused the trust" of the United States. For much of the hearing, Kadish sat slumped in his chair with heavy eyelids. At one stage, he had to be shaken awake by his lawyer.

Prosecutors had recommended no prison time as part of the plea deal. They said between 1980 and 1985 Kadish provided classified documents, including some relating to U.S. missile defense systems, to an Israeli agent, Yosef Yagur, who photographed the documents at Kadish's residence.

Yagur also was Pollard's main Israeli contact. Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to spying for Israel in 1986. Israel gave Pollard citizenship in 1996 and acknowledged he was one of its spies in 1998.

During the hearing, the judge questioned a prosecutor as to why it took so long to charge Kadish when the telephone records on which the case was based were available in the mid-1980s.

"There is no mystery behind it, it's just what happened," said prosecutor Iris Lan, who explained she understood it took the FBI that amount of time to assemble the evidence.

The judge also questioned Kadish's lawyer about how Kadish was able to earn $104,000 in 2007 when he does not work. His lawyer said it was from investments.

Kadish was born in the United States but grew up on a farm in Palestine before the founding of the modern state of Israel. He served in the British and U.S. armies in World War II.

From 1980 to 1985, Yagur asked Kadish to obtain classified documents, which Kadish retrieved from the U.S. Army's Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey, according to a sworn statement by Kadish. Kadish said he kept up a friendship with Yagur after 1985.

"While Kadish knew he was aiding Israel, an ally to the United States, he also knew his crime compromised the national security," the judge said.

article; http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1088991.html

Could the two be connected?
Israel Behind 9/11 Attacks? Click on title above to read more;

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Project "Echelon" Exposed

project echelon is joint U.S-anglo listening system that enables
the government to spy on just about all communication systems.
Since it it is based in the U.K.it can used to spy on americans
without obtaining a warrant. The complete info is at wikipedia.

> > From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
> >
> > ECHELON is a highly secretive world-wide signals intelligence and
> > analysis network run by the UKUSA Community (otherwise described
> > the "Anglo-Saxon alliance") [1]. ECHELON can capture radio and
> > satellite communications, telephone calls, faxes, e-mails and
> > data streams nearly anywhere in the world and includes computer
> > automated analysis and sorting of intercepts .
> >
> > History
> >
> > Reportedly created to monitor the military and diplomatic
> > communications of the Soviet Union and its East Bloc allies
during the
> > Cold War in the early sixties, ECHELON is today believed to also
> > search for hints of terrorist plots, drug-dealers' plans, and
> > political and diplomatic intelligence. But some critics claim the
> > system is also being used for large-scale commercial theft and
> > invasion of privacy.
> >
> > In May 2001, the European Parliament produced a report on ECHELON
> > which, among other things, recommended that citizens of member
> > routinely use cryptography in their communications to protect
> > privacy. In the UK, the government introduced the Regulation of
> > Investigatory Powers Act which gives authorities the power to
> > that citizens hand over their encryption keys, without a
> > judge-approved warrant. In April 2004, the European Union decided
> > spend 11 million EUR developing secure communication based on
> > cryptography � the SECOQC project � a system that would
> > be unbreakable by ECHELON or any other espionage system.
> >
> > ECHELON monitoring of mobile phones in Pakistan was reportedly
used to
> > track Khalid Shaikh Mohammed before he was arrested in Rawalpindi
> > March 1, 2003[citation needed].
> >
> > US intelligence agencies are generally prohibited from spying on
> > people inside the US, and other Western countries' intelligence
> > services generally faced similar restrictions within their own
> > countries. There are allegations, however, that ECHELON and the
> > alliance were used to circumvent these restrictions by, for
> > having the UK facilities spy on people inside the US and the US
> > facilities spy on people in the UK, with the agencies exchanging
> > (perhaps even automatically through the ECHELON system without
> > intervention). The proposed US-only "Total Information Awareness"
> > program relied on technology similar to ECHELON, and was to
> > the extensive sources it is legally permitted to survey
> > with the "taps" already compiled by ECHELON. It was cancelled by
> > U.S. Congress in 2004.
> >
> > It has been alleged that in 2002 the Bush Administration extended
> > ECHELON program to domestic surveillance. This controversy was the
> > subject of the New York Times eavesdropping expos� of December,
> > [4] [5] [6] [7].
> > [edit]
> >
> > Organization
> >
> > The members of the English-speaking alliance are part of the UKUSA
> > intelligence alliance that has maintained ties in collecting and
> > sharing intelligence since World War II. Various sources claim
> > these states have positioned electronic-intercept stations and
> > satellites to capture most radio, satellite, microwave, cellular
> > fiber-optic communications traffic[citation needed]. The captured
> > signals are then processed through a series of supercomputers,
> > as dictionaries, that are programmed to search each communication
> > targeted addresses, words, phrases or even individual voices
> > needed].
> >
> > Each member of the UKUSA alliance is assigned responsibilities for
> > monitoring different parts of the globe. Canada's main task used
to be
> > monitoring northern portions of the former Soviet Union and
> > sweeps of all communications traffic that could be picked up from
> > embassies around the world. In the post-Cold War era, a greater
> > emphasis has been placed on monitoring satellite, radio and
> > traffic originating from Central and South America, primarily in
> > effort to track drugs and non-aligned paramilitary groups in the
> > region. The United States, with its vast array of spy satellites
> > listening posts, monitors most of Latin America, Asia, Asiatic
> > and northern China. Britain listens in on Europe and Russia west
> > the Urals as well as Africa. Australia hunts for communications
> > originating in Indochina, Indonesia and southern China. New
> > sweeps the western Pacific.
> >
> > Supporters stress that ECHELON is simply a method of sorting
> > signals and is just one of the many arrows in the intelligence
> > community's quiver, along with increasingly sophisticated bugging
> > communications interception techniques, satellite tracking,
> > through-clothing scanning, automated biometric recognition systems
> > that can recognize faces, fingerprints & retina patterns.
> >
> > The U.S. communications-intelligence agency is the National
> > Agency (NSA), which is headquartered at Fort Meade, just outside
> > Washington, DC. Although the NSA budget is classified[8], as of
> > the agency was estimated to have a global staff of roughly 38,000
> > a budget of approximately US$3.6-billion[9]. The UK equivalent
> > organisation is the Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ
> > near Cheltenham. Further, smaller organisations exist to provide
> > communications technology and expertise (e.g. Her Majesty's
> > Communication Centre HMGCC).
> >
> > By comparison, Canada's communications-intelligence operations are
> > conducted by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), a
> > of the Canadian Department of National Defence. It has a staff of
> > people and an annual budget of $110 million CAD[citation needed].
> > CSE's headquarters is the Sir Leonard Tilley Building on Heron
Road in
> > the nation's capital of Ottawa, Ontario, and its main
> > intercept site is located on an old armed-forces radio base in
> > Leitrim, just south of Ottawa.
> >
> > On July 6, 2000 the BBC published an article called Echelon: Big
> > brother without a cause? that said:
> >
> > Critics accuse the United States' intelligence community and its
> > English-speaking partners of waging what is in effect a new Cold
> > At stake are international contracts worth billions of dollars,
and at
> > the disposal of the spymasters is an intelligence gathering
system of
> > immense power. The Echelon spy system, whose existence has only
> > recently been acknowledged by US officials, is capable of
hoovering up
> > millions of phone calls, faxes and emails a minute. Its owners
> > the system is dedicated to intercepting messages passed between
> > terrorists and organised criminals. But a report published by the
> > European Parliament in February alleges that Echelon twice helped
> > companies gain a commercial advantage over European firms. Duncan
> > Campbell, the British intelligence expert and journalist who
wrote the
> > report, raises the prospect that hundreds of US Department of
> > "success stories", when US companies beat off European and
> > commercial opposition, could be attributed to the filtering
powers of
> > Echelon. Echelon evolved out of Cold War espionage arrangements
set up
> > by the US and UK in 1948, and later bringing in Australia, Canada
> > New Zealand, in their capacity as Britain's Commonwealth
partners. The
> > biggest of Echelon's global network of listening posts is at
> > Hill, North Yorkshire, where about 30 "giant golf balls" called
> > radomes litter the landscape. The system also boasts 120 American
> > satellites in geostationary orbit. Bases in the five countries are
> > linked directly to the headquarters of the secretive US National
> > Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort Mead, Maryland. The
> > system's superpowerful voice recognition capability enables it to
> > filter billions of international communications for whatever key
> > or word patterns are programmed in. Mr Campbell believes that
when the
> > Cold War ended, this under-employed intelligence apparatus was
put to
> > use for economic gain. "There's no safeguards, no remedies, " he
> > "There's nowhere you can go to say that they've been snooping on
> > international communications. It is a totally lawless world." The
> > journalist, who has spent much of his life investigating Echelon,
> > offered two alleged instances of US snooping in the 1990s, which
> > says followed the newly-elected Clinton administration's policy of
> > "aggressive advocacy" for US firms bidding for foreign contracts.
> > first came from a Baltimore Sun report which said the European
> > consortium Airbus lost a $6bn contract with Saudi Arabia after NSA
> > found Airbus officials were offering kickbacks to a Saudi
> > The paper said the agency "lifted all the faxes and phone-calls
> > between Airbus, the Saudi national airline and the Saudi
> > to gain this information. Mr Campbell also alleges that the US
> > Raytheon used information picked up from NSA snooping to secure a
> > $1.4bn contract to supply a radar system to Brazil instead of
> > Thomson-CSF. The US strenuously denies passing on commercial
> > information to individual US firms, saying that there are clear
> > to prevent it. But former CIA director James Woolsey, in an
article in
> > March for the Wall Street Journal, acknowledged that the US did
> > conduct economic espionage against its European allies, though he
> > not specify if Echelon was involved. However, he poured scorn on
> > Campbell allegations that the US was using its technological edge
> > gain unfair advantage in international business. "We have spied
on you
> > because you bribe," the ex-CIA boss wrote. "(European) products
> > often more costly, less technically advanced or both, than (their)
> > American competitors'. As a result (they) bribe a lot." But that
> > not an argument that will have much influence among concerned
> > countries, which are currently investigating the threat or
> > posed by the world's most powerful intelligence-gathering machine.
> >
> > "The United States will occasionally have the United Kingdom keep
> > an eye on individuals in this country [meaning inside the US],
> > the understanding that if Britain turns up any interesting
tidbits, it
> > will slide them across the table." - from the book, "CHATTER:
> > Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping"
> >
> > [edit]
> >
> > Hardware
> >
> > According to an article in UK's Techworld, Echelon may be similar
to a
> > Texas Memory Systems SAM supercomputer, which incorporates a solid
> > state disk (SSD) and a digital signal processor (DSP)[11].
> >
> > Margaret Newsham claims that she worked on the configuration and
> > installation of some of the software that makes up the ECHELON
> > while employed at Lockheed Martin, for whom she worked from 1974
> > 1984 in Sunnyvale, California and in Menwith Hill, England[12]. At
> > that time, according to Newsham, the ECHELON system was based on a
> > VAX, and code named P415 . Its two main programs were called
> > and SIRE. A satellite named VORTEX would intercept communications.
> > Alongside VORTEX were NEXUS, SCOUT, and NOSTRADAMUS, widely
reputed to
> > be the first satellite deployed with a 64-bit processor.
> >
> > Jonathan Meier, in his acclaimed biography, has stated of his
time at
> > the NSA that:
> >
> > "Conjecture and speculation were rampant on the [ECHELON]
> > even internally. Truthfully, very few individuals were privy to
> > logistics involved."
> > [edit]
> >
> > Ground stations
> >
> > Some of the known or suspected ground stations belonging to or
> > participating in the ECHELON network include the following:
> > [edit]
> >
> > The largest and best-attested ground stations
> >
> > * Fort Meade (Maryland, US) (headquarters of NSA)
> > * Geraldton (Western Australia, Australia)
> > * Menwith Hill (Yorkshire, UK)
> > * Misawa Air Base (Japan)
> > * Morwenstow (Cornwall, UK)
> > * Pine Gap (Northern Territory, Australia - close to Alice
> > * Sabana Seca (Puerto Rico - US)
> > * Shoal Bay (Northern Territory, Australia)
> > * Sugar Grove (West Virginia, US)
> > * Yakima (Washington, US) Map
> > * Waihopai (New Zealand)
> > * Tangimoana (New Zealand)
> > * Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt (Western Australia,
> > Australia - close to Exmouth)
> >
> > [edit]
> >
> > Various other ground stations
> >
> > The following are various intelligence gathering stations of US
> > intelligence agencies and armed forces or their allies.
> >
> > * Alert (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada)
> > * Agios Nikolaos (Cyprus - UK)
> > * Bremerhaven (Germany - UK)
> > * Buckley Air Force Base (Colorado, US)
> > * RAF Chicksands (Bedfordshire, UK)
> > * Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean - US-UK)
> > * Digby (Lincolnshire, UK)
> > * Elmendorf Air Force Base (Alaska - US)
> > * Feltwell (Norfolk, UK)
> > * Fort Gordon (Georgia, US)
> > * Gander (Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada)
> > * Gibraltar (UK)
> > * Griesheim (near Darmstadt, Germany - US)
> > * Guam (Pacific Ocean, US)
> > * Karamursel (Turkey - US)
> > * Kunia (Hawaii, US)
> > * Leitrim (south of Ottawa, Canada)
> > * Malta (Malta - UK)
> > * Masset (British Columbia, Canada)
> > * Medina Annex (Texas, US)
> > * Osan Air Base (South Korea, US)
> > * Rota, Spain (Spain - US)
> > * Scampton (Lincolnshire, UK)