U.S. boycotts talks on Pakistan drone strike resolutionMarch 20, 2014
Pakistan is trying to push a resolution through the United Nations Human Rights Council that would trigger greater scrutiny of whether U.S. drone strikes violate international human rights law. Washington, though, doesn’t want to talk about it.
The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to “ensure transparency” in record-keeping on drone strikes and to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.” It also calls for the convening of “an interactive panel discussion” on the use of drones.
The Geneva-based human rights council held its third round of discussions about the draft on Wednesday, but the Obama administration boycotted the talks.
The White House decision to sit out the negotiations is a departure from the collaborative approach the administration promised to take when it first announced plans to join the Human Rights Council in March 2009.
The Bush administration had refused to join the body out of concern that repressive states might exercise undue influence over the council and that it would focus disproportionate attention on Israel. The Obama administration, by contrast, argued it was better to reshape an imperfect organization from within than to complain about its failings from afar.
"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement at the time. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system…. We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”
Rhetoric aside, though, the Obama administration has largely refused to supply U.N. experts with details about the classified U.S. drone program, which has killed hundreds of suspected militants in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other countries over the past decade. Independent investigators say the strikes have also killed thousands of civilians, including large numbers of women and children, a charge the White House — without providing evidence to the contrary — denies.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s current special rapporteur for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has urged the United States to provide more basic information on the U.S. program, including its own list of civilian casualties. “The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively,” he said.
Those demands are nothing new. Micah Zenko, an FP columnist and expert on drones at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalled in a recentpiece that U.N. human rights investigators have been raising concerns about the U.S. targeted killing program since Nov. 15, 2002, just 12 days after the first confirmed American strike.
Asma Jahangir, then the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asked the United States and Yemen for information the Nov. 3, 2002, missile strike, which killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi and five suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen. She also expressed concern that “an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of government.” The United States declined to comment on the specific allegations, but it challenged any suggestion that “military operations against enemy combatants could be regarded as ‘extrajudicial executions by consent of governments.’”
It remains unclear what Washington will do when the Pakistani resolution is put forward for consideration next week.
Most resolutions in the Human Rights Council are adopted by consensus, but the United States has the option of forcing a vote on the resolution.But a State Department official made it clear that the United States would not support the resolution. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the United States has in the past “regularly participated in negotiations on resolutions dealing with the need to protect human rights while countering terrorism. But this particular resolution deals solely with the use of remotely piloted aircraft.”
Full article

U.S. boycotts talks on Pakistan drone strike resolution
March 20, 2014

Pakistan is trying to push a resolution through the United Nations Human Rights Council that would trigger greater scrutiny of whether U.S. drone strikes violate international human rights law. Washington, though, doesn’t want to talk about it.

The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to “ensure transparency” in record-keeping on drone strikes and to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.” It also calls for the convening of “an interactive panel discussion” on the use of drones.

The Geneva-based human rights council held its third round of discussions about the draft on Wednesday, but the Obama administration boycotted the talks.

The White House decision to sit out the negotiations is a departure from the collaborative approach the administration promised to take when it first announced plans to join the Human Rights Council in March 2009.

The Bush administration had refused to join the body out of concern that repressive states might exercise undue influence over the council and that it would focus disproportionate attention on Israel. The Obama administration, by contrast, argued it was better to reshape an imperfect organization from within than to complain about its failings from afar.

"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement at the time. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system…. We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”

Rhetoric aside, though, the Obama administration has largely refused to supply U.N. experts with details about the classified U.S. drone program, which has killed hundreds of suspected militants in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other countries over the past decade. Independent investigators say the strikes have also killed thousands of civilians, including large numbers of women and children, a charge the White House — without providing evidence to the contrary — denies.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s current special rapporteur for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has urged the United States to provide more basic information on the U.S. program, including its own list of civilian casualties. “The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively,” he said.

Those demands are nothing new. Micah Zenko, an FP columnist and expert on drones at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalled in a recentpiece that U.N. human rights investigators have been raising concerns about the U.S. targeted killing program since Nov. 15, 2002, just 12 days after the first confirmed American strike.

Asma Jahangir, then the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asked the United States and Yemen for information the Nov. 3, 2002, missile strike, which killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi and five suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen. She also expressed concern that “an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of government.” The United States declined to comment on the specific allegations, but it challenged any suggestion that “military operations against enemy combatants could be regarded as ‘extrajudicial executions by consent of governments.’”

It remains unclear what Washington will do when the Pakistani resolution is put forward for consideration next week.

Most resolutions in the Human Rights Council are adopted by consensus, but the United States has the option of forcing a vote on the resolution.But a State Department official made it clear that the United States would not support the resolution. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the United States has in the past “regularly participated in negotiations on resolutions dealing with the need to protect human rights while countering terrorism. But this particular resolution deals solely with the use of remotely piloted aircraft.”

Full article

American Public Favors Class-Warfare, Polling Indicates
January 24, 2014

New polling from USA Today and Pew on income inequality finds that the American public broadly endorses class warfare.

Voters are less persuaded that the government can do something useful to reduce inequality than they are that the government should do something useful. Could frustration mount to a boiling point seized by a class-conscious social movement like it began to in September 2011? Time will tell, but in any case, this evidence of public consciousness embracing class warfare is good news. 

Source

Re-posting with improved images. 

Iraq war claimed half a million lives, study findsOctober 21, 2013
The number of deaths caused by the Iraq war has been a source of intense controversy, as politics, inexact science and a clamor for public awareness have intersected in a heated debate of conflicting interests. The latest and perhaps most rigorous survey, released Tuesday, puts the figure at close to 500,000.
The study, — a collaboration of researchers in the U.S., Canada and Iraq appearing in the journal PLoS Medicine — included a survey of 2,000 Iraqi households in 100 geographic regions in Iraq. Researchers used two surveys, one involving the household and another asking residents about their siblings, in an attempt to demonstrate the accuracy of the data they were collecting. Using data from these surveys, researchers estimated 405,000 deaths, with another 55,800 projected deaths from the extensive migration in and emigration from Iraq occurring as a result of the war.
The researchers estimated that 60 percent of the deaths were violent, with the remaining 40 percent occurring because of the health-infrastructure issues that arose as a result of the invasion — a point they emphasized in discussing their research, since the figure is higher than those found in previous studies.
“I hope that one of the takeaways from this paper will be that when we invade a country, there are many health consequences that aren’t directly related to violence,” said study author Amy Hagopian, program director of the community-oriented public-health practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She said approximately half those deaths were attributed to inadequate treatment for cardiovascular disease.
To conduct the household surveys, researchers worked with volunteer Iraqi scientists and improved on the methods used for similar surveys in the past. Because the survey was conducted in mid-2011, researchers were able to access more areas of the country safely. The households surveyed were chosen by a grid placed on Google Maps, and a home was selected by a quadrant in that grid from randomly generated numbers. Ultimately, the researchers were able to survey twice as many areas as previous studies and had a more random selection of homes, avoiding the past problems of home selection by the survey takers on the ground, who may have been more likely to approach homes along more-traveled streets.
The more thorough investigation may negate some of the criticism levied against past studies on Iraqi mortality after the invasion, which were published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2004 and 2006. The 2006 study in particular was a subject of scrutiny because it estimated a toll of 655,000 excess deaths, mostly violent, at a time when other surveys had five-digit death tolls.
Full article

Iraq war claimed half a million lives, study finds
October 21, 2013

The number of deaths caused by the Iraq war has been a source of intense controversy, as politics, inexact science and a clamor for public awareness have intersected in a heated debate of conflicting interests. The latest and perhaps most rigorous survey, released Tuesday, puts the figure at close to 500,000.

The study, — a collaboration of researchers in the U.S., Canada and Iraq appearing in the journal PLoS Medicine — included a survey of 2,000 Iraqi households in 100 geographic regions in Iraq. Researchers used two surveys, one involving the household and another asking residents about their siblings, in an attempt to demonstrate the accuracy of the data they were collecting. Using data from these surveys, researchers estimated 405,000 deaths, with another 55,800 projected deaths from the extensive migration in and emigration from Iraq occurring as a result of the war.

The researchers estimated that 60 percent of the deaths were violent, with the remaining 40 percent occurring because of the health-infrastructure issues that arose as a result of the invasion — a point they emphasized in discussing their research, since the figure is higher than those found in previous studies.

“I hope that one of the takeaways from this paper will be that when we invade a country, there are many health consequences that aren’t directly related to violence,” said study author Amy Hagopian, program director of the community-oriented public-health practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She said approximately half those deaths were attributed to inadequate treatment for cardiovascular disease.

To conduct the household surveys, researchers worked with volunteer Iraqi scientists and improved on the methods used for similar surveys in the past. Because the survey was conducted in mid-2011, researchers were able to access more areas of the country safely. The households surveyed were chosen by a grid placed on Google Maps, and a home was selected by a quadrant in that grid from randomly generated numbers. Ultimately, the researchers were able to survey twice as many areas as previous studies and had a more random selection of homes, avoiding the past problems of home selection by the survey takers on the ground, who may have been more likely to approach homes along more-traveled streets.

The more thorough investigation may negate some of the criticism levied against past studies on Iraqi mortality after the invasion, which were published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2004 and 2006. The 2006 study in particular was a subject of scrutiny because it estimated a toll of 655,000 excess deaths, mostly violent, at a time when other surveys had five-digit death tolls.

Full article

The moral outrage evoked to provide a rational cover for the compulsion-to-intervene—“We cannot allow the use of poisonous gases on civil population!”—is a such a sham, it doesn’t even take itself seriously. As we now know, the United States more than tolerated the use of poisonous gases against the Iranian army by Saddam Hussein. During the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1988, the United States sided with the Iraqis to quell Iranian influence in the Gulf, despite being well aware of Iraq’s liberal use of mustard and tear gas, according to declassified government reports. The United States even secretly supplied Iraq with satellite images of Iranian battlefield weaknesses to aid in the targeting of Iranian troops. Where were moral concerns then?

Noam Chomsky: Is Edward J. Snowden aboard this plane?
August 1, 2013

On July 9, the Organization of American States held a special session to discuss the shocking behavior of the European states that had refused to allow the government plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales to enter their airspace.

Morales was flying home from a Moscow summit on July 3. In an interview there he had said he was open to offering political asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the former U.S. spy-agency contractor wanted by Washington on espionage charges, who was in the Moscow airport.

The OAS expressed its solidarity with Morales, condemned “actions that violate the basic rules and principles of international law such as the inviolability of Heads of State,” and “firmly” called on the European governments - France, Italy, Portugal and Spain - to explain their actions and issue apologies.

An emergency meeting of UNASUR - the Union of South American Nations - denounced “the flagrant violation of international treaties” by European powers.

Latin American heads of state weighed in, too. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil expressed the country’s “indignation and condemnation of the situation imposed on President Evo Morales by some European countries” and warned that this “serious lack of respect for the law . compromises dialogue between the two continents and possible negotiations between them.”

Commentators were less reserved. Argentine political scientist Atilio Boron dismissed Europe as “the whore of Babylon,” cringing before power.

With virtually identical reservations, two states refused to sign the OAS resolution: the United States and Canada. Their growing isolation in the hemisphere as Latin America frees itself from the imperial yoke after 500 years is of historic significance.

Morales’ plane, reporting technical problems, was permitted to land in Austria. Bolivia charges that the plane was searched to discover whether Snowden was on board. Austria responds that “there was no formal inspection.” Whatever happened followed warnings delivered from Washington. Beyond that the story is murky.

Washington has made clear that any country that refuses to extradite Snowden will face harsh punishment. The United States will “chase him to the ends of the earth,” Sen. Lindsey Graham warned.

But U.S. government spokespersons assured the world that Snowden will be granted the full protection of American law - referring to those same laws that have kept U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning (who released a vast archive of U.S. military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks) in prison for three years, much of it in solitary confinement under humiliating conditions. Long gone is the archaic notion of a speedy trial before a jury of peers. On July 30 a military judge found Manning guilty of charges that could lead to a maximum sentence of 136 years.

Like Snowden, Manning committed the crime of revealing to Americans - and others - what their government is doing. That is a severe breach of “security” in the operative meaning of the term, familiar to anyone who has pored over declassified documents. Typically “security” means security of government officials from the prying eyes of the public to whom they are answerable - in theory.

Governments always plead security as an excuse - in the Snowden case, security from terrorist attack. This pretext comes from an administration carrying out a grand international terrorist campaign with drones and special operations forces that is generating potential terrorists at every step.

Their indignation knows no bounds at the thought that someone wanted by the United States should receive asylum in Bolivia, which has an extradition treaty with the U.S. Oddly missing from the tumult is the fact that extradition works both ways - again, in theory.

Last September, the United States rejected Bolivia’s 2008 petition to extradite former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada - “Goni” - to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. It would, however, be an error to compare Bolivia’s request for extradition with Washington’s, even if we were to suppose that the cases have comparable merit.

The reason was provided by St. Augustine in his tale about the pirate asked by Alexander the Great, “How dare you molest the sea?” The pirate replied, “How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an Emperor.”

St. Augustine calls the pirate’s answer “elegant and excellent.” But the ancient philosopher, a bishop in Roman Africa, is only a voice from the global South, easily dismissed. Modern sophisticates comprehend that the Emperor has rights that little folk like Bolivians cannot aspire to.

Goni is only one of many that the Emperor chooses not to extradite. Another case is that of Luis Posada Carriles, described by Peter Kornbluh, an analyst of Latin American terror, as “one of the most dangerous terrorists in recent history.”

Posada is wanted by Venezuela and Cuba for his role in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana commercial airliner, killing 73 people. The CIA and FBI identified him as a suspect. But Cubans and Venezuelans also lack the prerogatives of the Emperor, who organized and backed the reign of terror to which Cubans have been subjected since liberation.

The late Orlando Bosch, Posada’s partner in terrorism, also benefited from the Emperor’s benevolence. The Justice Department and FBI requested that he be deported as a threat to U.S. security, charging him with dozens of terrorist acts. In 1990, after President George H.W. Bush overturned the deportation order, Bosch lived the rest of his life happily in Miami, undisturbed by calls for extradition by Cuba and Costa Rica, two mere pirates.

Another insignificant pirate is Italy, now seeking the extradition of 23 CIA operatives indicted for kidnapping Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian cleric in Milan, whom they rendered to Egypt for torture (he was later found to be innocent). Good luck, Italy.

There are other cases, but the crime of rendition returns us to the matter of Latin American independence. The Open Society Institute recently released a study called “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition.” It reviewed global participation in the crime, which was very broad, including among European countries.

Latin American scholar Greg Grandin pointed out that one region was absent from the list of shame: Latin America. That is doubly remarkable. Latin America had long been the reliable “backyard” for the United States. If any of the locals sought to raise their heads, they would be decapitated by terror or military coup. And as it was under U.S. control throughout the latter half of the last century, Latin America was one of the torture capitals of the world.

That’s no longer the case, as the United States and Canada are being virtually expelled from the hemisphere.

Source

US air force engineer sentenced to 15 months after making assault allegation
July 18, 2013

A flight engineer, who accused the US air force of prosecuting him in retaliation for reporting a sexual assault, was dismissed from the military and sentenced to 15 months in prison on Tuesday.

Lieutenant Adam Cohen, 29, of the 18th air force, pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators, criminal offences akin to federal wiretapping, sexual harassment, and “conduct unbecoming an officer” including sexual misconduct that occurred before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law that forced gay and lesbian members of the military to keep their sexuality secret

Questions were raised about the prosecution by senators, advocates groups and the special victims counsel the air force employed to help him when he reported an allegation of sexual assault.

During the investigation into that allegation, the air force says, new information emerged which led to Cohen himself being prosecuted. Major John Bellflower, Cohen’s special victims counsel, said on Wednesday: “None of this would have happened had not Lt Cohen come forward with an allegation of sexual assault. It is because of this we are where we are today and because of that he is behind bars.”

Cohen’s 15-month sentence was considerably lower than the maximum he could have faced. Each of five charges against him, the majority of which had several sub-charges, carried a maximum potential sentence of between two and 35 years.

A dozen related charges, or parts of charges, were dropped by the government as a result of a pre-trial agreement.

Cohen told the Guardian days before his trial that he had decided to plead guilty because he did not want to face his alleged attacker in court. He also said that he expected a guilty plea would cap his potential sentence at 15 months.

After his court martial on Tuesday, Cohen was held at a military facility at McConnell air base, in Wichita, Kansas. He is expected to be transferred to a military prison.

Lt Col Linell Letendre, a legal expert for the air force, told the Guardian: “Lt Cohen pled guilty to 15 different specifications of criminal wrongdoing.”

That plea was accepted by the military judge. “The very thing he complained of, he pled guilty to and was found guilty of,” Letendre said.

Source

A retired federal judge who served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approves government surveillance is calling for reform of the court’s duties. The FISA court has come under increased scrutiny in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s disclosures for essentially crafting a secret, separate body of law that abets wholesale spying. The New York Times reported over the weekend the FISA court has become a “parallel Supreme Court,” issuing over a dozen classified rulings that allow the government to seize mass phone records and Internet data. The Wall Street Journal reports that in a series of orders dating back to the mid 2000s, the FISA court, or FISC, endorsed an expansion of the word “relevant” to mean “an entire database of records on millions of people.” On Tuesday, a former member of the FISA court broke ranks to say the secretive judicial body should be stopped from settling matters of policy. Speaking at a public hearing, former D.C. Circuit Judge James Robertson said: “Anyone who has been a judge will tell you a judge needs to hear both sides of a case. … This process needs an adversary.”
Source

A retired federal judge who served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approves government surveillance is calling for reform of the court’s duties. The FISA court has come under increased scrutiny in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s disclosures for essentially crafting a secret, separate body of law that abets wholesale spying. The New York Times reported over the weekend the FISA court has become a “parallel Supreme Court,” issuing over a dozen classified rulings that allow the government to seize mass phone records and Internet data. The Wall Street Journal reports that in a series of orders dating back to the mid 2000s, the FISA court, or FISC, endorsed an expansion of the word “relevant” to mean “an entire database of records on millions of people.” On Tuesday, a former member of the FISA court broke ranks to say the secretive judicial body should be stopped from settling matters of policy. Speaking at a public hearing, former D.C. Circuit Judge James Robertson said: “Anyone who has been a judge will tell you a judge needs to hear both sides of a case. … This process needs an adversary.”

Source

Workers to protest low pay and wage theft at federal buildings
July 2, 2013

A group representing service employees has organized a morning of demonstrations and civil disobedience at various locations throughout the capital on Tuesday to protest low pay and reported wage theft by vendors at federal buildings.

Good Jobs Nation, which represents low-wage employees of government contractors, plans to start the day with a mock trial in an intersection near the Ronald Reagan Building, according to organizers.

The group also plans to hold a press conference at D.C.’s municipal headquarters and “protests, civil disobedience” near the General Services Administration building.

Last week, Good Jobs Nation filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging wage theft by food vendors contracting with GSA. The group claims that eight franchises operating at the Reagan Building have paid employees less than the minimum wage and ignored rules on overtime pay.

The Labor Department is investigating the allegations, according to an agency spokesperson.

At D.C.’s municipal headquarters, district council members Kenyan McDuffie and Tommy Wells are scheduled to join low-wage workers and clergy in calling on President Obama to issue an executive order that would require federal contractors to pay a “living wage.”

Good Jobs Nation said it represents the interests of more than 2 million low-wage employees who work for government contractors — doing anything from greeting visitors and selling memorabilia to driving trucks and making military uniforms. The group claims the federal government has created more low-wage jobs than Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, based on research from the Demos advocacy group.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts, grants, loans, concession agreements, and property leases to large, profitable corporations that pay their CEOs millions in salaries and bonuses but pay their workers such low wages that they are unable to afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and rent,” Good Jobs Nation said in a statement.

Trade Center Management Associates, the firm that manages the Reagan Building, said in a statement last week that it would take appropriate action if the Labor Department determines that food vendors in the facility have violated federal guidelines.

Good Jobs Nation held its first demonstration in May (see above photos), when service workers at federal buildings walked off the job to protest low wages. The group also staged a protest last Tuesday, when it delivered the complaint with the Labor Department.

Source

From the ‘illegal’ houseless encampment in Portland called Right2Dream2

As the gap between the wealthy and those in poverty continues to widen, encampments like this, which provide safe, momentary housing for houseless people who need a place to sleep safely are popping up in public spaces. The city is fining Right2Dream2, $2,400 a month if I remember correctly, for providing this free service to meet needs that cannot be met by Portland’s insufficient social welfare programs. 

More photos will soon be uploaded to our minds.com account & facebook page soon. 

You can expect a much more detailed post with audio from our conversation with Right2Dream2 in the near future!

Correa blasts Washington Post editorial on Snowden case
June 27, 2013

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa today criticized a Washington Post editorial which comments on Quito’s “double standard” in connection with the request for political asylum made by former US Secret Service agent Edward Snowden, DPA reported.

“The Washington Post is accusing Ecuador of having a ‘double standard’. What a nerve!” Correa commented in his Twitter account, posing the following question to his followers: “Do you realize the power of the international media? They’ve managed to focus our attention on Snowden and the ‘evil’ countries that ‘support’ him, making us forget the terrible things about the United States and the world he brought to light.”

Following another post, Correa shared the following quote: “The world order is not only unjust, it is immoral.”

Correa also commented on the Washington Post’s statements with a popular Ecuadorian expression: “This is probably the year’s caretucada (a bare-faced lie).”

On Monday, the Washington Post published an editorial titled “Snowden case highlights Ecuador’s double standard”, underscoring the fact that Ecuador’s media law currently prohibits the divulging of secret information of the kind revealed by Snowden, who ought to be “particularly interested” in that law.

Pointing out that Ecuador’s US trade preferences expire next month, the editorial concludes that “If Mr. Correa welcomes Mr. Snowden, there will be an easy way to demonstrate that Yanqui-baiting has its price.”

Ecuador’s government is reviewing the asylum request made by Edward Snowden, who is apparently in Moscow at the moment.

“Ecuador is considering the request,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño declared in Vietnam on Monday.

Source (HAVANA TIMES)

The US just murdered a boy in Yemen: will Obama respond? A brief look at the history of this administration would indicate no!
June 21. 2013

Last night, McClatchy Newspapers published a detailed report alleging that a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed not only suspected militants, but also a ten-year-old boy named Abdulaziz Huraydan. The boy’s killing sets a grisly new milestone. This is the first reported civilian death from a drone strike since President Obama’s May 23 speech on counter-terrorism, in which he told us that the U.S. would only strike if there was a “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” A week after Obama’s speech, Secretary of State John Kerry publicly stated, “We do not fire when we know there are children or collateral … we just don’t.”

The strike occurred two weeks ago on June 9. Adam Baron, the McClatchy journalist who covered the story and who recently testified before members of Congress about his numerous drone strike investigations, told me that a number of sources confirmed to him that the child, Abdulaziz, was killed. It appears that the boy was the younger brother of a suspected al Qaida militant, and that the strike targeted the car they were traveling in.

Investigations of drone strikes are often exceptionally difficult, in part because the U.S. and other governments refuse to admit basic facts, and because of the difficulty in accessing areas where many strikes occur, security restrictions, witness fears, source reliability concerns, and the difficulty of carrying out forensic examinations. Baron, who spent the past two weeks piecing the story together, said that reporting on many of the strikes in Yemen was a “nearly Sisyphean task.” He also said that while news reports “often hit the wires within hours of strike, the dust often takes days to settle” and that initial “reported death counts are often inaccurate.”

Absent Baron’s report, there would be virtually no public record of ten-year-old Abdulaziz’s alleged killing by the United States. Numerous major outlets did not cover the strike at all. (They have also largely failed to report other strikes in Yemen since Obama’s speech.) Those that did cover the June 9 strike, including the Associated Press and Reuters, made no mention of the child, although Baron and journalist Iona Craig had reported — via twitter — early allegations of the child’s death on the very day of the strike.

The President and senior officials, after years of criticism by human rights groups and others about the targeted killing program’s secrecy, have repeatedly committed to and promised transparency. (See hereherehereherehereherehere, and here). Notably, John Brennan, during his nomination to be CIA Director, stated that if there was a mistake and the wrong person was killed, we “need to acknowledge it publicly.”

As is typically the case, however, the U.S. government is yet to say a word about the latest reported strike. Without any meaningful government transparency, the public is left guessing how to best reconcile the allegations of Abdulaziz’s death with Obama’s new killing rules and Kerry’s public statements. Are reports of the child’s death mistaken or false? Did the U.S. consider the boy a militant? Was it the Yemenis or Saudis, and not the Americans, who carried out the strike? Or, perhaps the U.S. does conduct strikes if it knows civilians may be killed?

It is difficult to know what policies, rules, or laws may have been applied to this strike in light of the government’s refusal to release its targeted killing legal memos, or to explain key terms in sufficient detail. Maybe the new killings rules published last month have not come fully into effect yet; maybe they did not apply to this strike. (Despite the publication of the killing rules, the public does not know clearly when and where they apply, for the reasons explained by Ryan Goodman and myself here). Perhaps, then, those targeting knew that the child was there, but reasonably assessed his death as lawful collateral damage under the laws of armed conflict. Or, perhaps, despite claims that drones enable unprecedented surveillance and accuracy, those targeting on June 9 just did not see that a child was also in the car; his death may have been unintended, a mistake.

This is, of course, hardly the only case of its type. Local and international journalists and human rights researchers have reported detailed allegations of past cases which raise questions about civilian harm, as well as whether the U.S. could have captured rather than killed a suspect. A brief sample of particularly troubling cases: a January 2013 strike that allegedly targeted militants, but also killed a school-teacher and a studenta November 2012 strike that led many to ask why the suspect had not been arrested; a September 2012 strike that allegedly killed 12 civilians, including three children (a case put before the U.S. Senate); an August 2012 strike that allegedly killed a cleric who only days before had given a speech denouncing Al Qaeda; a May 2012 strike that allegedly killed at least 14 people including a pregnant woman; and the well-known strike in al-Majalah in December 2009 that allegedly killed 21 children (Jeremy Scahill’s new film Dirty Wars prominently features this strike, and contains powerful interviews with survivors and community members).

These strikes all raise the same basic questions, none of which the U.S. government has publicly and adequately answered. Who are we killing? On what factual and legal basis, and according to what policies? Family members of victims, NGOs, and the UN have been asking these questions for a decade. But all too often, broad defenses of U.S. drone use simply debate straw men, and mischaracterize or ignore the specific questions and concerns raised.

The U.S. government’s continuing refusal to publicly respond to allegations undermines its stated commitments to transparency and the rule of law, and threatens core democratic and constitutional norms. The secrecy also undercuts the basic system of checks and balances, denies the American public vital information necessary to assess a program carried out in its name, permits false information to proliferate, denies remedies to victims, and sets a damaging precedent for other countries.

The specific allegations surrounding this latest strike provide an opportunity for the U.S. government to change course, and to make good on its transparency promises. The government should immediately clarify whether it had any role in the June 9 strike and, if so, provide an accounting of who was killed and why. If ten-year-old Abdulaziz Huraydan was killed, the government should publicly acknowledge this, and explain how his killing conforms to the government’s legal obligations and policy commitments.

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U.S. Agencies Said to Swap Data With Thousands of FirmsJune 15, 2013
Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said.
These programs, whose participants are known as trusted partners, extend far beyond what was revealed by Edward Snowden, a computer technician who did work for the National Security Agency. The role of private companies has come under intense scrutiny since his disclosure this month that the NSA is collecting millions of U.S. residents’ telephone records and the computer communications of foreigners from Google Inc (GOOG) and other Internet companies under court order.
Many of these same Internet and telecommunications companies voluntarily provide U.S. intelligence organizations with additional data, such as equipment specifications, that don’t involve private communications of their customers, the four people said.
Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.
Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency (0112917D), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords.
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"Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence."
This begs the question why corporations should get clearance to access to “classified” intelligence… 

Submitted by http://dashielsheen.tumblr.com/

U.S. Agencies Said to Swap Data With Thousands of Firms
June 15, 2013

Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said.

These programs, whose participants are known as trusted partners, extend far beyond what was revealed by Edward Snowden, a computer technician who did work for the National Security Agency. The role of private companies has come under intense scrutiny since his disclosure this month that the NSA is collecting millions of U.S. residents’ telephone records and the computer communications of foreigners from Google Inc (GOOG) and other Internet companies under court order.

Many of these same Internet and telecommunications companies voluntarily provide U.S. intelligence organizations with additional data, such as equipment specifications, that don’t involve private communications of their customers, the four people said.

Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.

Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency (0112917D), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords.

Read more

"Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence."

This begs the question why corporations should get clearance to access to “classified” intelligence… 

Submitted by http://dashielsheen.tumblr.com/

Today Breakthrough released its new campaign, Deport the Statue, which uses humor and satire to address the need for immigration reform. Deport the Statue is a spoof premised on the creation of a fake organization, the Legals for the Preservation of American Culture, that wants to deport the Statue of Liberty because she is an undocumented immigrant who doesn’t have papers and doesn’t qualify for the pathway to citizenship.

We have the opportunity to #TakeLibertyBackto build an America that values the freedom, dignity, and humanity of all women, men, and children who live here.

After years of advocacy, immigration reform is happening now. The U.S. Senate bill is moving fast. President Obama says he sees “no reason” reform shouldn’t be done in a matter of weeks.

We need to make sure reform happens — and that it happens right.

Reform must include protections for immigrant women like Laura who was recently deported back into the hands of a violent ex — and murdered. It must enable even those with informal employment to walk the path to citizenship. It must ensure human rights for all. With momentum on our side, we must find ways to mobilize new supporters every day. We hope you’ll explore — and share — the humorous fictional universe we’ve created and help build a larger and louder groundswell than ever.

Together we can secure reform that enables all immigrants, including women and their families, to thrive. Together we can build an America that upholds our shared values of of dignity, equality, and justice for all.

Submitted by http://breakthroughtv.tumblr.com/

robert-cunningham

The People’s Record Memorial Day Dedication

We wholeheartedly endorse Democracy Now!’s choice of their Memorial Day special. So along with this video, we would like to acknowledge and congratulate this Memorial Day, all those veterans who threw off their medals as an act against the United States’ imperialist wars during the NATO protests.

Click here for a complete list of The People’s Record’s Memorial Day dedications.

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From our 2012 Memorial Day posts.