June 9th News Digest

Humiliating the Client

The new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, called for an end to U.S. drone strikes in his country. Two days later Washington kills nine people in North Waziristan in a drone strike, as if deliberately thumbing their nose at Sharif and putting him in his place. The corner stone of international law – national sovereignty – is a privilege not due to Pakistan in U.S. eyes.


The missile strike, on a compound near the Afghan border on Friday evening, was the first US drone attack in Pakistan since Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday. There was no information about the victims.

In his inaugural address, Sharif called for an immediate end to US drone strikes.

Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs said the demand for an immediate halt to the attacks was repeated on Saturday.

“It was conveyed to the US chargé d’ affaires that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strikes, which are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasised.”


“The drone attacks that are being carried out for years now shall stop now,” Sharif said. “If we respect the sovereignty of other nations, these nations shall also respect the sovereignty of our country. We will devise a unanimous agenda to address the issue of drone attacks.”

North Waziristan

Bush’s Fourth Term

Even Ari Fleischer sees Obama as a continuity of Bush. No doubt Bush would have been a continuity of Clinton were it not for the opportunities presented by 9/11. The fundamental shared commitments are rarely acknowledged in the corporate media. The two party system is a sophisticated form of thought control designed to contain democracy, a variation on divide and rule. Also, Obama is concealing not only government spying programs but even the rationale for them. An amazing through the looking glass concept. Perhaps the next step is to classify the attempt to conceal the rationale for the spying – it begins to look like a hall of mirrors.


“Drone strikes. Wiretaps. Gitmo. O is carrying out Bush’s 4th term,” former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a message on Twitter, referring to Obama. .…

Meanwhile, Obama has fought legal attempts to force the government to disclose Justice Department opinions that provide the legal basis for NSA surveillance programs.

Turkish Protests

You know the protests are serious when even the football hooligans unite and join in.


The fans of the city’s three football clubs – Besiktas, Galatasaray, and Fenerbahce – have buried their deadly rivalries to link arms in “Istanbul United”.


Supporters of Fenerbahce football club used an overturned car as a barricade at Taksim Square

Supporters of Fenerbahce football club used an overturned car as a barricade at Taksim Square

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is Dead


“The fact that there would be so much data collected on U.S. persons has got to be mind-blowing,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The sense we have now is that the system of checks and balances has simply collapsed.” ….

…NSA surveillance program. Although approved by a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, some legal experts said the effort could have violated the law and perhaps the constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Written at a time when memories were fresh of the British barging into the private homes of colonists and seizing whatever they wanted, the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause and specific investigatory targets.

“You’ve completely undermined the purpose of the Fourth Amendment,” said Laura Donohue, a Georgetown law professor.

Idealists in Power?

The Sunday NYT has a photo of the “idealist” Samantha Power walking the halls of power arm in arm with Susan Rice, Obama, and the National Security Advisor. The Times framing is all wrong of course. Her book “A Problem From Hell” was not “highly critical” of the U.S. except within tightly constricted parameters that took it for granted that the U.S. government is a force for good in the world (and only question is how strongly it should act to spread its goodness). Similarly, their “idealism” was always of a sort that was quite flattering and amenable to the power elite.


Alex Wong/Getty Images - National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; Obama; Susan Rice; and Samantha Power

Alex Wong/Getty Images – National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; Obama; Susan Rice; and Samantha Power

Ms. Rice has repeatedly and publicly castigated herself for her failure to push harder for intervention to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda while serving on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. It was Ms. Power who provided damning evidence, in a 2001 article in The Atlantic Monthly, that Ms. Rice had asked in a Washington teleconference whether characterizing the mass slaughter as “genocide” might hurt the Democrats in midterm elections.

Ms. Power, then teaching at Harvard, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her highly critical portrait of America’s repeated failure to stop mass atrocities, “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.” In the Obama administration, Ms. Power has served in the N.S.C. job Ms. Rice once held, running the office that deals with multilateral organizations and human rights.

The two have become allies and close friends; their bond forged through shared interests and the difficulty women face handling the White House boys’ club, said one former official.

“Five years ago you might not have been able to predict where they are now,” said Edward C. Luck, dean of the School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego and a former senior United Nations adviser on peacekeeping issues. “They were both idealists, but they have both become practical idealists. Time in government does that to you.”

If confirmed, Ms. Power would come to the United Nations at a critical juncture. A new peacekeeping force taking shape in Congo has been given extraordinary powers to pursue and kill guerrillas, and those expected to be deployed in Mali might soon find themselves embroiled in a shooting war against affiliates of Al Qaeda.

“There is a lot of concern that the Security Council is stumbling into pushing peacekeeping too far, just as it did in the Balkans,” said Richard Gowan, a peacekeeping expert at New York University. Beginning with her work in Bosnia as a reporter, Ms. Power saw how peacekeeping operations could backfire when overstretched, he said. “She understands clearly what happens when you start trying to do intervention on the cheap.”


A totally innocuous past comment from Power about Israel gets put through the reality-detached filter of Washington politics and the NYT surveys it with a straight face. The Israeli establishment is forced to step in to quell the lunatics.


[Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington] added: “Samantha Power and I have worked closely over the last four years on issues vital to Israel’s security. She thoroughly understands those issues and cares deeply about them.”

Mr. Oren’s comments could quell the lingering effects of comments that Ms. Power made before entering government about American policy toward Israel. Among other things, she said the United States would need to make a “mammoth” commitment to secure a Palestinian state — a move that could mean alienating American Jews, a group she described as having “tremendous political and financial import.”

This totally banal comment is the source of the controversy. In case anyone had lingering attachments to Power, who was never the human rights champion she was painted to be, they need only look at her current allies.

Ms. Power has several prominent Jewish defenders, including Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law School professor, and Joseph I. Lieberman, the former Connecticut senator.

Some pro-Israel leaders said they viewed Ms. Power’s remarks as the indiscretions of a young woman in an academic milieu. They said her work in the Obama administration, where she was a senior director in the National Security Council, had been consistently supportive of Israel and the American-Israel alliance.

Ms. Power has also cultivated American Jewish groups, meeting in 2011 with 40 leaders of these groups, where she expressed regret for some of her remarks and defended herself in emotional terms against charges that she had an anti-Israel bias.

“Her views came out of the political and cultural environment she was in at the time,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “But that’s in the past. She’s matured and moved on, and I look forward to working with her at the U.N.”


U.S. Spying Program Has Even Worse Implications for Those Outside U.S.

The surveillance program is an excellent opportunity for ruling class solidarity through the sharing of intelligence on internal dissidents. The Stasi comparison raised in this Reuters article is very pertinent.


Revelations of a huge, secret U.S. Internet spying programme have raised awkward questions for allies, forced to explain whether they let Washington spy on their citizens or benefited from snooping that would be illegal at home.

U.S. officials have confirmed the existence of the secret programme, codenamed PRISM, which according to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper has given them access to emails, web chats and other communications from companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

U.S. law puts limits on the government’s authority to snoop at home but virtually no restrictions on American spies eavesdropping on the communications of foreigners, including in allied countries with which Washington shares intelligence.

That means Washington could provide friendly governments with virtually unlimited information about their own citizens’ private communication on the Internet.

Britain’s foreign secretary took to television on Sunday to reassure Britons that London’s own spies had not circumvented laws restricting their own activity by obtaining information collected by Washington.

In Germany, sensitive to decades of snooping by East German Stasi secret police, the opposition said Chancellor Angela Merkel should do more to protect Germans from U.S. spying and demand answers when President Barack Obama visits this month.


The Whistleblower

Edward Snowden evidently is one of those doddering fogies unwilling to get with the times and accept the East German model of the surveilled life.


Edward Snowden was interviewed over several days in Hong Kong by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

A: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” .…

Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?

A: “That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.

That last bit should raise serious doubts for anyone who imagines these programs are really about national security as it is commonly understood – the threat it seems, is at home, as far as the government is concerned.

This is the society that we live in:

My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with …

I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They [the authorities] will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night.” .…

I do not expect to see home again, though that is what I want.”

Rape is a nuisance but hacking HS football is really serious business

The Anonymous-affiliated rapist investigator Deric Lostutter is looking at up to a decade in prison for the terrible crime of allegedly hacking a high school football team’s website. So much for the favorite movie trope of FBI-local cop mutual dislike – the FBI appears to be doing the dirty work of corrupt small town big men.


He was referring to the federal agents who raided his home in Winchester, Kentucky, and carted off his computers and XBox.

A 26-year-old corporate cybersecurity consultant, Lostutter lives on a farm with his pit bull, Thor, and hunts turkeys, goes fishing, and rides motorcycles in his free time. He considers himself to be a patriotic American; he flies an American flag and enjoys Bud Light. He’s also a rapper with the stage name Shadow, and recently released a solo album under the aegis of his own label, Nightshade Records.

“As I open the door to greet the driver, approximately 12 FBI SWAT team agents jumped out of the truck, screaming for me to ‘Get the fuck down!’ with M-16 assault rifles and full riot gear, armed, safety off, pointed directly at my head,” Lostutter wrote today on his blog. “I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house.”

According to the FBI’s search warrant, agents were seeking evidence related to the hacking of RollRedRoll.com.

Lostutter believes that the FBI investigation was motivated by local officials in Steubenville. “They want to make an example of me, saying, ‘You don’t fucking come after us. Don’t question us.”

If convicted of hacking-related crimes, Lostutter could face up to 10 years behind bars—far more than the one- and two-year sentences doled out to the Steubenville rapists. Defending himself could end up costing a fortune—he’s soliciting donations here. Still, he thinks getting involved was worth it. “I’d do it again,” he says.


Ethiopian Protests

A large democracy protest occurred on June 2nd in the capital of one of Washington’s most important African allies, the repressive Ethiopia. Though of obvious import in the U.S. given the implications for U.S. policy towards backing a repressive regime, one could be forgiven for having not heard about the display of public dissent given the absence of news coverage.


Thousands of people marched in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday in a rare show of protest. Demonstrators carried pictures of jailed opposition leaders and chanted slogans calling for respect of the country’s constitution. It was Ethiopia’s first mass protest since 2005, when election-fueled unrest left around 200 people dead.


The Eternal Wisdom of Thomas Friedman

“I strongly disagree with what Hawking did. Israelis should be challenged not boycotted. (After all, Palestinians are also at fault.)”



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