Today’s coverage from the world of spies, politicians, militarists, and the merely criminal opens with this from BBC News:
Pope Francis warns on ‘piecemeal World War III’
A “piecemeal” World War III may have already begun with the current spate of crimes, massacres and destruction, Pope Francis has warned.
He was speaking during a visit to Italy’s largest military cemetery, where he was commemorating the centenary of World War I.
“War is madness,” the Pope said at a memorial to 100,000 Italian soldiers at Redipuglia cemetery near Slovenia.
The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the conditionally belligerent:
Americans ready for military action – for now
A nation furious about the beheading of two Americans is eager for military action. At least for the moment. And at least for the kind of low-risk military action now planned.
But the moment could change. As history in Iraq and the Middle East shows, the campaign against the Islamic State might not go as planned. Allies could prove unreliable. The enemy could adapt. The U.S. might have to send in its own troops. And the image could _ could _ change from two U.S. citizens being beheaded to American GIs coming home without limbs.
The country has little patience for an extended campaign involving American combat troops and casualties. Years of prolonged, inconclusive U.S. fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Vietnam, linger in the public American psyche.
From Fox News, semantic disagreement:
White House, Pentagon contradict Kerry, say US ‘at war’ with ISIS
The White House and Pentagon acknowledged Friday that the U.S. “is at war” with the Islamic State — contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry and others who a day earlier refused to use that term, prompting criticism from lawmakers that the administration was downplaying the conflict.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby used almost identical language when pressed by reporters Friday whether or not the expanded military operation against the terrorist group is in fact a war.
“In the same way that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates … the United States is at war with ISIL,” Earnest said.
From the New York Times, another human sacrifice:
ISIS Video Shows Execution of David Cawthorne Haines, British Aid Worker
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released a video Saturday of the third beheading of a foreign hostage, a British aid worker. The execution was a clear message to Britain, a vital ally of the United States as it builds an international coalition to target the militant group, which has made stunning advances across Syria and northern Iraq in recent months.
The video shows the aid worker, David Cawthorne Haines, kneeling on a bare hill under the open sky, in a landscape that appears identical to where two American journalists were killed by the group in back-to-back-executions in the past month. In the moments before his death, the 44-year-old Mr. Haines is forced to read a script, in which he blames his country’s leaders for his killing.
“I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution,” he said. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State.” He added: “Unfortunately, it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”
From MintPress News, a reminder:
How The West Created ISIS
… with a little help from our friends
Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS/IS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday, in his much anticipated address, he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.
“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”
Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).
Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.
Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region and UK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.
The Associated Press sounds another alarm with a familiar name:
al-Qaida’s Syrian cell alarms US
While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.
At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.
But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.
The Hill covers the predictable:
Senators: Curbing NSA could help ISIS
Critics of a proposal to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) say the rising threat of terrorism in the Middle East should give lawmakers pause as they consider harnessing the government’s spy powers.
The bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would handicap American intelligence officials at a crucial moment, they say, and make it harder to track terrorists around the globe.
Supporters of the bill — including top legal and intelligence officials in the Obama administration — deny that it would hamper the country’s ability to track groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They say that it’s a practical response to the uproar over the NSA programs that were exposed by Edward Snowden last summer.
Vice News plays catchup:
The NSA Has Revealed New Details About Its Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden’s Emails
Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden’s available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency’s vast surveillance programs.
According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.
In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA’s associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a “comprehensive” investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs “would be expected to be found within the agency.” Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a “original classification authority,” which means he can classify documents as “top-secret” and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he’d raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden’s account and emails “obtained by restoring back-up tapes.” He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with “NSA affiliates” with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.
TV3 News Auckland covers contested Kiwi claims:
Key hits back at Greenwald’s claims of mass surveillance
The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.
John Key was responding to the arrival of journalist Glenn Greenwald, with thousands of documents taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that he says prove New Zealanders have been subjected to wholesale spying by the Government.
Mr Key has always said that he would resign if that was proven, but tonight he’s launched a counterattack.
Mr Greenwald claims he will produce evidence that could take down the Prime Minister, but just a short while ago Mr Key hit back and upped the ante big time, promising to get ahead of Mr Greenwald and declassify top-secret documents that will prove him wrong.
Mr Key has repeatedly denied spy agency the GCSB conducts mass surveillance of New Zealanders, even saying he would resign if it were prove, and he was standing by that today.
From Ars Technica, seeking a memory hole patch:
Senator demands US courts recover 10 years of online public records
- “Restore access,” lawmaker says of docs purged because of computer upgrade issue.
The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the federal bureaucracy to restore a decade’s worth of electronic court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history.
“Wholesale removal of thousands of cases from PACER, particularly from four of our federal courts of appeals, will severely limit access to information not only for legal practitioners, but also for legal scholars, historians, journalists, and private litigants for whom PACER has become the go-to source for most court filings,” Leahy wrote Friday to US District Judge John D. Bates, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO).
From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sadly familiar story:
Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties
A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned. The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame it, “institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet,” providing for harsher penalties for incitement or “glorification” of terrorism conducted online. Furthermore, the bill (in Article 9) allows for “the possibility for the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites inciting or apologizing for terrorism” without distinguishing criteria or an authority to conduct the blocking.
Apart from specific concerns that the bill treats online speech as distinct from other speech, other provisions are just as problematic. For example, while Article 4 refers to “provocation aux actes de terrorisme” or “incitement to terrorism”—a clearly defined legal concept—it also refers to “apologie du terrorisme” or “apologizing” or “glorifying” terrorism, implying a condemnation of opinions alone rather than any overt acts, as Reporters Without Borders points out. La Quadrature du Net’s mini-site on the bill addresses further concerns (in French).
Anti-terror laws have been used in various countries around the world to prosecute individuals for their speech about unpopular ideas. In the United States, the prosecution of Tarek Mehanna—a young Muslim who translated and posted material referred to by prosecutors as “Al Qaeda propaganda”—involved the use of conspiracy and so-called “material support” laws. In Ethiopia, anti-terror laws have been used to silence journalists and are currently being used to prosecute the dissident Zone9 Bloggers. And the list goes on.
From Davis, California, via the New York Times, buyer’s remorse:
Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town
The police department of this modest college town is among the latest California beneficiaries of surplus military equipment: a $700,000 armored car that is the “perfect vehicle,” the police chief told the City Council, “to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.”
It is well maintained, low-mileage and free, the chief, Landy Black, said in explaining why the department had augmented its already sizable cache of surplus matériel, including rifles, body armor and riot helmets, with an MRAP: a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.
But the City Council directed Chief Landy last month to get rid of it in the face of an uproar that had swept through this community, with many invoking the use of similar equipment by the police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
From the New York Times again, tax farming reconsidered:
Mistrust Lingers as Ferguson Takes New Tack on Fines
On Tuesday, the City Council decided to abolish fines that are routinely issued if a defendant fails to show up for court, repeal a “failure to appear” law that led to many incarcerations, and give people a month to come forward and void their warrants. It also created a special docket for defendants who have difficulty making payments on outstanding fines and moved to establish a civilian review board to oversee the Police Department, which is under investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
Residents and experts said that while the actions were significant, the problems many drivers face across St. Louis County, where a patchwork of municipal courts enforce an array of ordinances, were so widespread that Ferguson alone could not fix them. Many African-Americans, who are pulled over at higher rates than whites, face traffic fines that, if not paid, can land them in jail.
So the trust level was not high in court and at the police clerk’s window in Ferguson this week.
From the Guardian, another Ferguson revelation:
Ferguson video shows witness saying Michael Brown’s hands were raised
- Footage of two construction workers moments after black teenager’s fatal shooting appears to support other witness accounts
Video of the moments after black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, indicates that a witness on the scene said the unarmed 18-year-old’s hands were raised when he was killed.
The cell phone footage, released by CNN, of two construction workers at the scene early last month appears to support accounts by other witnesses that Brown was retreating or surrendering when he was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, legal experts said on Friday.
The video shows one of the men raising his hands immediately after the fatal shooting and shouting, “He had his fuckin’ hands up.”
From the London Daily Mail, notable mostly because the victim was white:
Family’s outrage at cops who violently arrested a father of two for ‘appearing intoxicated while taking care of his kids’… but actually has a TERMINAL ILLNESS that makes him look that way
- Jeffrey Banes, 39, was arrested in West Virginia by four cops who left him choking on his own blood while subduing him
- His family says Banes’ illness, Huntington’s disease, can make it seem as if he’s intoxicated because it affects his motor functions
- The violent arrest was captured on camera
And then there’s another arrest caught on camera, raising some interesting questions by an insanely idiotic form of pranking certain to lead to violent deaths should it continue. From RT America:
Swatting prank sends real life SWAT teams after gamers’ opponents
Online gamers are falling victim to a new prank known as swatting. The practice involves pranksters calling police with fake emergencies, resulting in heavily armed SWAT teams busting down gamers’ doors looking for hostages. California is among the first states to propose legislation formalizing a punishment for such fake distress calls, but many are worried the penalties may go too far. RT’s Marina Portnaya takes a look at the trend and the controversy surrounding it.
From Reuters, about damn time:
Next for Corporate America: Body wires and wire taps?
Wall Street executives may have personally escaped the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice but executives at companies accused of foreign bribery schemes may not be so lucky.
Prosecutors say they are clearly shifting away from only big corporate settlements in such cases and are beginning to target more individuals. The numbers are not eye-popping. But officials say the results are encouraging and these cases may provide road maps for other financial fraud prosecutions.
“Certainly…there has been an increased emphasis on, let’s get some individuals,” said Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.
Reuters again, with a loathsome threat:
Foley family says was ‘threatened’ by U.S. official over ransom: ABC
The family of murdered American journalist James Foley says it was threatened by a U.S. official who warned that family members could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors, ABC News reported on Friday.
ABC News quoted Foley’s mother and brother as saying a military officer working for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council had told them several times that they could face criminal charges if they paid a ransom.
The White House refused to discuss conversations that the family had with officials, but said they involved people from different government branches, including the White House, the FBI, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department.
After the jump, with self-censoring cameras, the dance floor panopticon, Nazi nastiness in Germany, metadata revelations, a Crimean underwater warrior handover, a new malware threat, a stalemate in Pakistan, an anti-terror treaty sought, Down Under underwater hesitation, America’s pro-Japanese remilitarization push continues, Tokyo goes for the metadata, an American spy light justification, A Washington concession to Beijing, and a dispute over prisoners. . . Continue reading