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Why Did Obama Drink The Kool Aid On Syria War? Greece Reverses Stance on Closing TV Station, Iran Votes. “Moderate” Leads, Latest on Snowden

June 15th, 2013 - by:

Greece Gives in on Public Broadcasting–Sort of

Victory? Greek prime minister backtracks on decision to close public broadcaster

•Earlier: ERT, Greek state TV, continues to broadcast after being shut down

Our Next War?

Syria: Reactions To US Decision to Arm “Rebels”

•BBC: Syria condemns chemical weapon ‘lie’

Syrian officials reject claims of chemical weapons use as “a caravan of lies”, hours after the US said it would give the rebels “direct military aid”.

•CNN Video: Assad Supporters Deny Chemical Warfare Charge

•Matthew Schofield, ICH Sarin Gas Use Doubted
Experts Don’t See Evidence

While the use of such a weapons is always possible, they’ve yet to see the telltale signs of a sarin gas attack, despite months of scrutiny.

•What the US Says: White House Statement on Syrian Chemicals Weapons -Full Text; Statement by Ben Rhodes

Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria.

•AP: By arming Syria rebels, US drawn into proxy war

President Barack Obama’s decision to begin arming Syria’s rebels deepens U.S. involvement in a regional proxy war that is increasingly being fought along sectarian lines, pitting Sunni against Shiite Muslims, and threatening the stability of Syria’s neighbors. Arming the rebels is bound to heighten U.S. tensions with Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

…WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration hopes its decision to give lethal aid to Syrian rebels will prompt other nations to beef up assistance, now that the U.S. has cited evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people. But the international reaction Friday ranged from flat-out disbelief of the U.S. intelligence assessments to calls for negotiation before more weapons pour into the vicious civil war.

The administration now says it has “high confidence” that President Bashar Assad’s forces have killed up to 150 people with sarin gas. Although that’s a tiny percentage of the approximately 93,000 killed in the civil war so far, the use of a chemical weapon crosses President Barack Obama’s “red line” for escalating U.S. involvement in the conflict and prompted the decision to send arms and ammunition, not just humanitarian aid and defensive non-lethal help like armored vests and night goggles.

•Franklin Lamb, Op-Ed News: “Obama was apparently serious earlier about a negotiated diplomatic settlement pre-Qusayr and there were even some positives signs coming from Damascus, Moscow, and even Tehran John Kerry claimed. But that has changed partly because Russia and the US have both hardened their demands. Consequently, the Obama administration has now essentially thrown in the towel on the diplomatic track. This observer was advised by more than one Congressional staffer that Obama’s team has concluded that the Assad government was not getting their message or taking them seriously and that Assad’s recent military gains and rising popular support meant that a serious Geneva II initiative was not going to happen.

In addition, Obama has been weakened recently by domestic politics and a number of distractions and potential scandals not least of which is the disclosures regarding the massive NSA privacy invasion. In addition, the war lobby led by Senators McClain and Lindsay Graham is still pounding their drums and claim that Obama would be in violation of his oath of office and by jeopardizing the national security interest of the United States by allowing Iran to essentially own Syria once Assad quells the uprising.”

•Politico: The White House’s plan to step up American involvement in Syria might be the very thing its top military commanders has been warning against for months – a foray into a long, messy war.

•NYT: Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, said he was “baffled” by Mr. Obama’s decision to become more deeply involved. “What exactly is our objective?” he asked. “It’s not clear to me that every nondemocratic government in the world has to be removed by force.”

The Syria war is a struggle for power, not democracy, he said. “Is that something we should be engaged in?”

•WorldCrunch: “The West Uses Lies To Unleash Wars…” The Bashar Al-Assad Interview (May 20, 2013)

•NYT: Syria Presses Aleppo Attack; Rebels Size Up U.S. Vow of Aid

•Demo In London Today Protests Aid To Syrian Rebels

Iran Election

•Latest: M&G/SAPA/AFP: Iran elections: Rowhani gets clear lead

With results in from 10% of the polling stations, Hassan Rowhani has a clear lead, with 49.87% of the vote in Iran’s presidential election.

•NY Times–Sat Morning: “TEHRAN — Iranian officials spent Saturday tallying votes in the nation’s presidential election, with a surge of interest apparently swinging the tide in the favor of the most moderate candidate. With a fraction of the vote counted, the moderate candidate, Hassan Rowhani, was holding a strong lead, but it was uncertain whether he would exceed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff next week.

•News 360: Iran awaits presidential election result

•Press TV: Polls close in Iran’s presidential and city and village council elections

Spy World

•Glenn Greenwald: Snowden’s Worst Fear Not Realized

“In my first substantive discussion with Edward Snowden, which took place via encrypted online chat, he told me he had only one fear. It was that the disclosures he was making, momentous though they were, would fail to trigger a worldwide debate because the public had already been taught to accept that they have no right to privacy in the digital age.

Snowden, at least in that regard, can rest easy. The fallout from the Guardian’s first week of revelations is intense and growing.”

Surveillance Exposed 14 Months Ago on Democracy Now: No One was Interested

•China Daily: US should ‘explain hacking activity’

•A Chinese View: Whistleblower Welcome In China

•Wired: China Is The New Supercomputing Superpower

China’s Tianhe-2 is expected to be named the world’s most powerful supercomputer on Monday. And the U.S. won’t have anything close to competitive for at least 3 years.

•News Republic: Obama Decision to Arm Syrian Rebels Has Nothing to Do With Alleged Chemical Weapons Use

•NR: Risk Of US Arms Falling Into Wrong Hands In Syria Rises With Weapons Type

*Slate: What Happens When You Defy a Secret Government Order?

•Washington Post: Facebook Says It Received 10,000 Requests

Facebook said Friday that it had received as many as 10,000 requests for data from local, state and federal agencies over the last six months of 2012.

The release of the figure came as the company said it is pressing for permission from the U.S. government to release more information about what data it hands over to the National Security Agency.

•The Atlantic: Russ Feingold Tried To Warn Us

•••My News Dissection on AlJazeera.com: What we are learning – or should be – from the spying scandal
Revelations about NSA spying on US communications should allow us to join the dots from previous disclosures.

How ironic. The current NSA spying story broke just as President Obama was huddled on an out-of-the-way estate in California with China’s Xi Jinping to discuss US cyber-security concerns.

The administration had been claiming that a secret Bejing-based cyber military unit had been targeting US companies and government agencies. They insisted they had evidence and would confront the Chinese with it.

To most Americans, it seemed like an open and shut case. “China Bad; US Good,” was the conclusion most here reached – or already held, given years of coverage of how China used the internet to spy on and muzzle free expression.

In all the acres of that coverage, there were few reminders that it was a US company, the San Jose-based Cisco Systems, that helped the Chinese build their “Great Firewall”.

It was then reported that the NSA was also spying on China spying on us.

At the same time, in an unexpected moment of, shall we say, karmic justice, the gates of Washington’s national security top secret gulag were breached by an unlikely junior online tech specialist working for one just component of a small army of private contractors involved in a massive surveillance program on a global scale.

As whistleblower Edward Snowden’s identity and his treasure-trove of unauthorised documents poured into the public eye – thanks to the courage of the Guardian newspaper in Britain – but not a complicit American press, the storyline changed.

Suddenly it was the US, not China, that was seen as the world’s biggest security aggressor.

Before his two-day summit in the desert with Xi, Obama insisted that only “modest encroachments on privacy” by the NSA were needed to protect “the homeland” – a Bushian term still in use. Perhaps that explains a later report on the tech blog Slashdot that “the NSA spies more on America than China”.

With civil libertarians on the left and libertarians on the right praising Snowden’s courage – he himself was a supporter of conservative Ron Paul – newspaper mainstream pundits started blasting him, perhaps because their papers had failed to break the story.

Then, the US press came in for more criticism – echoing concerns raised by Snowden himself and related by filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has been producing videos with the world’s currently most famous whistleblower du jure.

She recounted: “I can say from conversations I had with [Snowden] after that, I think he had a suspicion of mainstream media. And particularly what happened with the New York Times and the warrantless wiretapping story, which as we know was shelved for a year.”

With Snowden now seemingly on the run – in Hong Kong or elsewhere – the US press has piled on for a rabbit hunt, featuring article after article quoting officials on why he is a traitor. There is a snotty elitism to the putdowns citing his unimpressive educational background.

Snowden quickly became the media focus – if only because, once again, an individual’s transgression is sexier to cover than an analysis of the institutional leviathan behind the chase.

And yet that institutional and interconnected infrastructure has emerged as well – a profile of scores of booming tech contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton who reportedly hired this high school drop-out for more than $200,000 a year, funded by a fat government contract.

We also learned most of the big internet brands played along, without disclosing anything, silenced by secrecy or being complicit due to a simple desire to stay on Washington’s good side. Only Google seems to be fighting back, but after the fact. So much for all the sanctimonious privacy codes they all promote.

Clearly that old military-industrial complex, first condemned by President Eisenhower in 1960, now has expanded into a far larger behemoth, incorporating digital media, co-opting the internet, integrating the intelligence community, winning over Congress and the press, and giving the president even more power to launch cyber-wars and to target whomever he wants.

Colleen Rowley, the former FBI agent who made the cover of TIME Magazine for her 9/11 whistle-blowing revealed that this was another Obama-sanctioned initiative with deep roots in Cheney-Bush paranoia

“The recent disclosures… should make us realise that John Poindexter’s plan for ‘Total Information Awareness’ never died: It merely went underground and changed its name.

“When the TIA idea was first proposed by the Bush administration after 9/11, along with a ‘Big Brother’ all-seeing eye logo, it was widely considered a crazy notion, resulting in an outcry. That data collection plan, which involved indiscriminate spying on Americans, was quickly squelched – at least publicly.

“The truth, however, was that it was reborn under dozens of massive data collection and surveillance programs within each of our 16 highly secretive intelligence agencies, under a variety of cute acronyms.”

Alongside the escalation of surveillance and spying, the administration built its own paramilitary capacity and action army – reportedly run from the White House. Writer Fred Branfman who exposed Vietnam-era secret bombing, links all of this to:

•A fleet of 700 drones, operating from a growing number of secret bases. worldwide

•The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) consisting of thousands of troops operating in dozens of nations
The first unit of American assassins in US history, who have illegally murdered many… and, according to Afghan President Karzai, helped strengthen the Taliban and destabilise his government

•More whistle-blowers and journalists have reportedly been prosecuted under Obama than during the Bush-Cheney years, and,

•Branfman says, US executive branch agencies have “increased paramilitary training and equipment, and created secret police spying operations in thousands of states and cities around the nation”.

•He also cites earlier reporting in the Washington Post by Priest and Arkin, who revealed that the executive branch had created “a jaw-dropping 1,074 federal government organisations, and nearly two thousand private companies involved with programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, in at least 17,000 locations across the United States – all top secret”.

In short, this incident is an outgrowth of an industry with high-paying jobs while the nation’s economic growth remains static. The only stimulus is for the spooks.

This scandal should be a perfect “news peg” to help us connect the dots between what is being exposed today and how it relates to what we should have known, if we had been paying attention to earlier piecemeal disclosures.

Unfortunately, the dirty details of all this are downplayed by a public that has been conditioned by constantly reinforced fears of terrorism, coupled with a rationalisation of more powers for a government that is always pictured, whatever its frequent screw-ups, as interested only in protecting the public.

As Peter Hart wrote in the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting blog: “So if media don’t pursue a given story, it’s because the public has decided it’s not interested, or tacitly approves of a government policy of indeterminate scope?

“That’s true, unless you think the public either already knows all of this – or that they shouldn’t.”

•NR: Obama to defend U.S. surveillance programs in G8 talks, White House says

•Political Scientist Michael Brenner: “The Audacious Challenge That Confronts Us”

The latest exposure of the Obama administration’s cavalier violation of Americans’ civil liberties underscores the audacious challenge that confronts us. That audacity is matched by our leaders’ pattern of deceit and dishonesty. The nation has been repeatedly lied to by high officials who do not show a decent respect for the rights and opinions of the citizenry.

President Obama’s declaration that he “welcomed a debate …a conversation” on matters that he has moved heaven and earth to keep out of public view – and whose public discussion he has rejected on grounds of overriding national security concerns -is the latest case in point. At almost the same moment, National Intelligence Director General James R. Clapper was before the Senate Intelligence Committee denouncing with vehemence the revealing of the NSA programs whose mere exposure, he argued, would “cause irreversible harm to national security.” Earlier, in March, Clapper had committed perjury before the committee in lying outright that “there was no program to collect information on American citizens.”

The Congressional chorus meanwhile stressed that anyway everybody had assumed these activities were going on for years. Logically, if that everyone includes any sentient conspirator, then the practical effect on Americans’ security should be zero. Still, Senator Diane Feinstein – chair of the Intelligence Committee – pronounced the leak “an act of treason” – which, under the law, warrants the death penalty. So did most other solons.

So, we now find ourselves shorn of habeas corpus rights (as stipulated in the National Defense Authorization Act – 2012), liable to assassination by the arbitrary judgment of anonymous officials, the prerogative of journalists to speak with office-holders without explicit prior approval from higher authority branded a criminal activity by the Attorney General, all of our correspondence seized and open to surveillance by intelligence agencies, and legal appeals to test these actions in the courts blocked by specious claims of executive privilege.

This stunning jettisoning of principles and practices we thought ingrained in our political culture, as much as they were hallowed in our Constitution, has met with either approval or acquiescence by almost the entire political class. That reaction is as serious an indictment of our democracy as is the egregious behavior itself. How did we come to this pass? Unless we answer that question, the cause of resistance is lost since it is crystal clear that we no longer can rely on our instincts to protect and defend American liberties.

•Wayne Madsen Report: There is an NSA-CIA hybrid agency that may explain Snowden’s involvement in SIGINT and HUMINT

The media is quoting a number of intelligence “insiders” who are questioning NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s involvement in National Security Agency (NSA) signals intelligence and meta-data mining programs like PRISM and CIA human intelligence (HUMINT) operations.

However, the U.S. intelligence “insiders” may be trying their best to cover up the operations of a little-known hybrid NSA-CIA organizations known as the Special Collection Service (SCS), known internally at NSA as “F6,” and which is headquartered in Beltsville, Maryland in what appears to be a normal office building with a sign bearing the letters “CSSG” at its front driveway off of Springfield Road. Adjacent to the CSSG building is the State Department’s Beltsville Communications Annex, known internally at the State Department as SA-26 and part of the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service, which also handles encrypted communications to CIA stations around the world.

CSSG is listed in area phone directories as Communications Systems Support Group, 11600 Springfield Road, Laurel, Maryland, 20708-3528, with a phone number of (301) 210-1776.
“1776,” in this case, is the farthest thing from the ideals of founders like Thomas Jefferson, who developed his own encryption code, still known as the “Jefferson cipher,” in order to encode messages sent between the covert revolutionary Committees of Correspondence.

The SCS uses the State Department’s secure communications satellite channels to communicate with SCS covert electronic eavesdropping facilities embedded in U.S. diplomatic embassies and missions abroad. One of the SCS units is located at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Snowden said he was responsible for maintainingnetwork security at the mission.

According to the list of key foreign service officers at U.S. diplomatic posts, dated 2008, mission is located at 11 Rte de Pregny, 1292 Chambesy in Geneva. While Snowden worked at the mission, the ambassador was Warren Tichenor and the deputy chief of mission was Mark Storella. Other diplomats assigned to the mission when Snowden was assigned to it included:David Gilmour, Anne Coughlin (the Regional Security Officer),Mark G. Bandik (USAID), David Reimer, Lisa Myers,Louis Nelli, Nance Kyloh, Ritchie Miller, Kathy J. Beck (Internal Revenue Service), Don Greer, Doug Wells, Ann Chick, Jeffrey D. Kovar (FBI Legal Attaché), and Michael Klecheski (Political Officer).

Evidence is mounting that Snowden was working for the SCS in Geneva. The Swiss Foreign ministry has confirmed that Snowden was declared by the U.S. State Department as an “attaché” assigned to the mission from March 2007 to February 2009. Snowden’s name would not necessarily appear on the State Department’s diplomatic list because it only specifies “key” foreign service officers and not normally Diplomatic Telecommunications Service personnel, of which Snowden was likely one. In 2009, Snowden left the CIA to work for Dell Computers and thereafter went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton as a contractor for the NSA at “NSA Hawaii,” the Regional security Operations Center located at Kunia on Oahu and which is responsible for eavesdropping on the Asia-Pacific region….

•Reuters: Assange Says Britain Loyal to US in Leaker Case

•PopSci: What Glenn Greenwald Got Wrong

Tech types are outraged by the media’s misinterpretation of some of the aspects of the (very technical) PRISM story–but the mistakes, if they are even mistakes, don’t detract from the seriousness of the scandal.

•News Republic: House votes to block Obama plan to close Guantanamo

Watch Fair TV: FAIR TV: Pundits Attack Snowden, Maddow’s Misinformation, WaPo Op-Ed Sales Job

And

•Independent: Mandela: When is it time to let go?

As Mandela enters his seventh day in intensive care, there were more prayer sessions in South Africa and there are more articles by those resigned to let him go–even as there have been some better medical reports.

•Pulse: Ambien Can Improve Your Recall, But Only For Unhappy Memories

•Digg: Can We Stop Paying For The ‘Happy Birthday’ Song Already?’

The copyright on the world’s most popular song? It’s a scam, lawsuit argues.

•••Thats The News Dissector blog for today. Please see the updated Mediachannel.org. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org