Category Archives: Spooks

Quote of the day: CIA Taliban failure admission


From a secret 2009 CIA report, Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool [PDF], just released by [who else] Wikileaks:

BLOG CIA

InSecurityWatch: Cuba, cops, Sony, war, woes


We open with the long-overdue, via the New York Times:

Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Relations

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

Hosting a sit-down with the Associated Press:

Canada hosted secret meetings between Cuba and US

Canada hosted about seven meetings between the U.S. and Cuba that helped lead to President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the two countries will establish full diplomatic relations, a senior Canadian government official said.

The meetings were held in Ottawa and Toronto from 2013 to 2014, according to the official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authority to discuss the meetings publicly.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada did not play a role in the discussions themselves.

“I don’t want to exaggerate Canada’s role. We facilitated places where the two countries could have a dialogue and explore ways on normalizing relations,” Harper told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “We were not trying in any way to direct or mediate the talks. We just wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to have the kind of dialogue they needed to have.”

Anticipating another missile crisis, presumably non-Cuban this time, via the Christian Science Monitor:

Pentagon’s floating missile defense future: a pair of billion-dollar blimps

  • The Pentagon previewed two helium-filled surveillance airships Wednesday. The giant dirigibles are expected to be deployed over the East Coast in February as the United States’ new missile defense system.

Two US military blimps flying 10,000 feet above the East Coast will act as a new missile defense system for the United States.

The giant airships, known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS within the Pentagon, will be able to scan the oceans and coastline in a 340-mile radius, or from Norfolk, Va., to Boston.

It is designed to defend against cruise missile attacks, or the sort of rogue aircraft incursions that happened during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The US military previewed the giant balloons, which cost a reported $2.8 billion, in the skies near Baltimore for the media on Wednesday. They are expected to be fully operational by February and will be integrated into the defense systems of US Northern Command, which can respond with patriot missiles in the event of an attack on the US homeland.

On to U.S. domestic issue of the day, via the Smoking Gun:

“Witness 40″: Exposing A Fraud In Ferguson

  • TSG unmasks witness who spun fabricated tale

The grand jury witness who testified that she saw Michael Brown pummel a cop before charging at him “like a football player, head down,” is a troubled, bipolar Missouri woman with a criminal past who has a history of making racist remarks and once insinuated herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal case with claims that police eventually dismissed as a “complete fabrication,” The Smoking Gun has learned.

In interviews with police, FBI agents, and federal and state prosecutors–as well as during two separate appearances before the grand jury that ultimately declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson–the purported eyewitness delivered a preposterous and perjurious account of the fatal encounter in Ferguson.

Referred to only as “Witness 40″ in grand jury material, the woman concocted a story that is now baked into the narrative of the Ferguson grand jury, a panel before which she had no business appearing.

That cop thing, much closer to Casa esnl, via the Oakland Tribune:

Berkeley: Police Department denounced at raucous City Council meeting

A smaller-than-expected crowd showed up at a rescheduled, venue-changed City Council meeting on a rainy Tuesday night, but what the gathering may have lacked in size, it more than made up in passion.

More than 50 speakers denounced, in often scathing terms, the conduct of Berkeley police and other cities’ forces that assisted them during recent, mostly peaceful protests against decisions by grand juries in Missouri and New York not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men.

But perhaps the biggest beating Tuesday was to Berkeley’s image as the most liberal city in America, a phrase used derisively by several speakers. Many painted a picture of a Berkeley not much different from Ferguson, Missouri, or the New York City borough of Staten Island, as a place where people of color as well as people with mental health issues bear the brunt of police suspicion and use of force.

“We haven’t come to grips with some of the issues that have plagued us for over 400 years in this country,” Councilman Max Anderson said during a break. “For us to have to declare, in 2014, that black lives matter, is an indictment of our failure to address the problems that beset us in this society.”

Terror ties question from StarAfrica:

Mauritania trade union wants CIA links clarified

The General Confederation of Mauritania Workers (CGTM) has demanded the government to clarify its alleged cooperation with the CIA over the presence of secret prisons in the country.

Over the last few days, some of the nation’s media have published articles, quoting [The Independent], suggesting information relating to a CIA program to build secret prisons in some countries, CGTM claimed in a statement.

According to the statement published in Nouakchott on Tuesday, the newspaper listed Mauritania among countries cooperating with the program.

For CGTM, “these practices banned by international conventions, including the Geneva Convention, must be prohibited and denounced by all those who have deep love for peace and justice.”

Old school spookery, via intelNews:

Estonian intel officer comes out as Russian spy in TV interview

Estonian authorities have charged a retired officer in the country’s internal intelligence service with espionage, after he revealed in a television interview that he spied for Russia for nearly 20 years.

Uno Puusepp retired from the Internal Security Service of Estonia, known as KaPo, in 2011. He first joined the Soviet KGB as a wiretapping expert in the 1970s, when Estonia was part of the USSR. Following the dissolution of the USSR, when Estonia became an independent nation, he was hired by KaPo and worked there until his retirement, three years ago, at which time he moved permanently to Russian capital Moscow.

Last Sunday, however, Puusepp was the main speaker in a documentary entitled Our Man in Tallinn, aired on Russian television channel NTV. In the documentary, Puusepp revealed that he was a double spy for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is KGB’s successor, from 1996 until his retirement.

And the possibly related, via RT:

Italian ex-MEP arrested, kicked out of Estonia & called Russian ‘agent of influence’

Journalist and former European Parliament member, Giulietto Chiesa of Italy, was detained by the Tallinn police due to his pro-Russian views, which make him a threat to Estonia’s national security, the country’s Foreign Ministry told RT in an e-mail.

Chiesa spent several hours behind bars after being taken into custody from his hotel in center of the Estonian capital Monday. The police told the Italian politician that he had violated a ban on entering the country imposed on him on December 13.

“Due to the current activities of Mr Giulietto Chiesa, there is a good reason to believe that he is involved in the Russian influence operations and his stay in Estonia may pose threat to Estonia’s security, its public order and public safety,” Mari-Liis Valter, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, wrote in answer to questions from RT.

On to the hack of the year, first with the Los Angeles Times:

Sony Pictures cancels Christmas Day release of ‘The Interview’

Sony Pictures Entertainment has canceled the Christmas Day release of “The Interview” after the nation’s major theater chains said they would not screen the film.

The studio said “we respect and understand our partners’ decision” and “completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatergoers.”

Regal, AMC and Cinemark — the three largest chains in the United States — decided not to screen “The Interview” starting on Christmas Day in the wake of threats made by Sony hackers, said people familiar with the decision. The chains asked Sony to postpone the release date of the controversial film.

“Due to the wavering support of the film “The Interview” by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats, Regal Entertainment Group has decided to delay the opening of the film in our theatres,” Regal said in a statement.

And it’s not just theatrical release that’s DOA, reports USA Today:

Some industry insiders speculated Sony might release the film in the video-on-demand format, but the studio tells USA TODAY there will be no further release plans of any kind.

“I think they just want to wash their hands of it,” says Matthew Belloni, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

Internal blowback, again via the Los Angeles Times:

Sony hack draws lawsuits by former employees

The massive computer breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment could test laws that require companies to protect their employees’ personal and medical information.

Lawyers representing former Sony Pictures employees have separately filed in Los Angeles two lawsuits that seek class-action status, alleging Sony Pictures Entertainment was negligent in the months leading up to the devastating hack. One of the complaints — a 45-page federal lawsuit, which seeks to represent former and current Sony employees — contends that Sony ignored warnings that its computer network was prone to attack.

Sony “failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years” and “subsequently failed to timely protect confidential information of its current and former employees from law-breaking hackers,” according to the federal complaint filed late Monday.

The other suit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, also alleges negligence and invasion of privacy of former Sony employees.

The United Press International fingers a suspect:

Reports: U.S. officials blame Sony hacking on North Korea

U.S. officials believe those responsible for hacking into Sony Pictures were working under the direction of the North Korean government, several media organizations reported Wednesday.

Sources with direct knowledge of a U.S. government investigation into the security breach told the Wall Street Journal it is believed a North Korean government hacking team known as Unit 121 is behind the attack. The sources were not identified.

CNN, also quoting unnamed sources, reported that an official announcement is expected Thursday blaming the Pyongyang-based group called Bureau 121.

The London Daily Mail covers the sadly inevitable:

State Department saw graphic Kim Jong-un death scene in ‘The Interview’ and ‘approved of it,’ hacked emails reveal

  • Sony executives hired an foreign policy analyst to consult after North Korea called the film The Interview ‘an act of war’ for depicting the assassination of Kim Jon-un
  • The consultant gave a greenlight and said the scene showing the dictator’s death could be good for Koreans – on both sides of the dividing line
  • Consultant also said he spoke about the film to US envoy for North Korean issues
  • Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton said he also talked to a ‘very senior’ official at the State Department

And from the London Daily Mail again, , another film dies:

Hollywood studio pulls the plug on Steve Carell’s new movie Pyongyang just hours after Sony scraps release of The Interview

New Regency decided to cancel production of the thriller based on graphic novel by Guy Delisle

  • Movie that was set to be directed by Gore Verbinski, with Carell playing an American living in Pyongyang
  • The cancellation comes in the wake of Sony hacking scandal

The Sony hacking scandal continued reverberating throughout the Hollywood film industry Wednesday, leading New Regency studio to pull the plug on a new film about North Korea starring Steve Carell.

The announcement was made just hours after Sony scrapped the release of the controversial Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview, which was scheduled to premiere Christmas Day.

Titled Pyongyang, New Regency’s now-defunct film has been described as a thriller based on Guy Delisle’s eponymous graphic novel about his experiences living in the totalitarian state, reported The Wrap.

Following the news that Pyongyang has been scrapped, Steve Carell tweeted to his 3.64million followers: ‘Sad day for creative expression,’ followed by the hashtag, ‘feareatsthesoul.’

After the jump, it’s on to drone anxieties and a proposed Big Apple ban, Arab Springs succeeded by what was before, a born again demand on Swedish Jews, Nigerian mutiny ends in 54 death warrants, top Afghan spook bids a sad farewell to Western boots on the ground, a plea from Pakistan to Afghanistan to help catch the butchers of children, a lethal retaliatory assault, another killer drone strike, Pakistan’s peculiarly spooky complications, and the zealot in question whose most notable prior action made a Pakistani girl a Nobel Peace Price winner, and a solidarity demonstration for the children in Berkeley, Thai police launch an international hunt for lese majeste suspects, Chinese nuclear aircraft carrier ambitions, Obama and Abe — Trans-Pacific BFFs, and a university stands up to Tojo revisionism. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, war, zones


Much ground to cover, mostly because of illness yesterday and overnight that leaves us two days worth of gleanings. So on with the show, with little preamble.

From Sky News, the deplorable:

Pakistan Militants Kill 141 In School Massacre

  • One boy describes his friends “lying injured and dead” around him as the Taliban says it wanted them to “feel our pain”

Taliban gunmen have killed 141 people, including at least 132 children, in a school attack in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Nine men stormed the army-run school while around 500 children and teachers were believed to be inside, with many students taking exams at the time.

Most of the victims of the country’s deadliest terror attack were killed in the first few hours as the gunman fired bullets indiscriminately at pupils and teachers.

A local hospital said the dead – and the more than 120 who were injured – were aged from 10 to 20 years old.

The Independent covers Cold War 2.0 in escalation:

As Russia unveils nuclear subs with underwater drones and robots, the stealth race heats up: governments pour cash into secret armies

Russia, apparently not wanting to be overshadowed by yesterday’s announcement that China has built a long-range heat ray weapon, has revealed plans for its nuclear submarines — including on-board battle robots and underwater drones.

Through small, unmanned drones in the air, to the invisible pain gun like that made by China, the race in military tech is to create weapons that can go mostly unnoticed, while at the same time managing for control on the battlefield and during civil unrest.

Russia’s new submarine takes that battle underwater, too.

The country’s new fifth generation submarines could feature drones that can be released by submarines and stay still, while the ship itself moves away. That would allow the submarine to evade anyone watching by giving the impression it has stayed in place, while only the drone has done so.

Meanwhile, a sidebar to the story most Western media devoured, via New York Times:

In Sydney Hostage Siege, Australia’s New Antiterrorism Measures Proved Ineffective

Around the time that grisly images of beheadings circulated across the world this fall, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia introduced a raft of laws in response to what he said was an increasing threat that the Islamic State jihadist group would attempt a bold act of terrorism on Australian soil.

The laws, which passed Parliament with wide support, made it an offense to advocate terrorism; banned Australians from going to fight overseas; allowed the authorities to confiscate and cancel passports; and provided for the sharing of information between security services and defense personnel. The government also deployed hundreds of police officers in counterterrorism sweeps across the country.

None of these measures prevented a man with a long history of run-ins with the law, known to both the police and leaders of Muslim organizations as deeply troubled, from laying siege to a popular downtown cafe this week and holding hostages for 16 hours. The attacker, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian immigrant, and two of the 17 hostages were killed early Tuesday amid the chaos of a police raid. The victims were identified as Katrina Dawson, 38, a lawyer, and the cafe’s manager, Tori Johnson, 34.

BBC News covers the ironic:

Sydney gunman was ‘wanted in Iran’

Iran says it requested 14 years ago the extradition of Man Haron Monis – the gunman behind the Sydney siege – but Australia refused to hand him over.

The head of Iran’s police, Gen Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, told reporters that Monis was wanted for fraud at the time.

He said Monis had fled to Australia via Malaysia in the late 1990s.

Monis and two hostages were shot dead on Tuesday morning, when commandos stormed the Sydney cafe where he had been holding captives for 16 hours.

Sky News adds that he. . .

. . .fled to Malaysia after committing fraud while working as the manager of a travel agency in 1996.

Following legal proceedings in 2000, Iran’s judiciary reportedly informed Interpol about his crime and demanded his extradition from Australia.

Australia allegedly refused to do so, saying it did not have a criminal extradition agreement with Iran.

The Daily Californian covers a Berkeley media event:

Artists claim responsibility for depictions of apparent lynchings hung from Sather Gate

On Sunday, a Bay Area collective of artists released a statement taking responsibility for the installation of the effigies.

The group identified itself as AnonArt Oakland and described its members as consisting of queer and black members. According to the statement, the group intended the project to be in “unambiguous alignment” with the affirmation of black lives and apologized for the disturbance it caused.

The statement emphasized that the images of historical lynchings remain relevant today, as the recent deaths of black men, such as Garner, illustrate the consequences of systemic racism.

“For those who think these images depict crimes and attitudes too distasteful to be seen — we respectfully disagree. Our society must never forget,” the statement read. “We apologize solely and profusely to black Americans who felt further attacked by this work. We are sorry — your pain is ours — our families’, our history’s.”

More from the Guardian:

“We are sorry – your pain is ours, our families’, our history’s,” the group wrote. But they also refused to back down. “For those who think these images no longer relevant to the social framework in which black Americans exist everyday – we respectfully disagree.”

The effigies, found hanging with virtually no context or explanation of intent, left the campus community baffled and on edge after their discovery on Saturday morning. Each cutout featured the name of a lynching victim and year of death, but only one had a modern point of reference: the words “can’t breathe” – an allusion to the last words of Garner, an unarmed black man whose July death at the hands of a white policeman has prompted protests around the US.

The group wrote that they vehemently disagreed with the suggestion that the cutouts were racist, and said they “intended only the confrontation of historical context”. The statement explained that the group meant the effigies to represent crimes that “are and should be deeply unsettling to the American consciousness”.

The collective refused to heed the call of the UC Berkeley chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, that the group responsible identify itself: “We choose to remain anonymous because this is not about us as artists, but about the growing movement to address these pervasive wrongs.” Before the collective posted its statement, Dirks had called for calm and unity, and said that regardless of intent “the imagery was deeply disturbing”.

And still more from the Washington Post:

Leigh Raiford, an associate professor of African American studies at UC Berkeley, told the Chronicle she didn’t think the effigies were intended to threaten students.

“To me this suggested a really powerful public art installation that was trying to provoke people to make a historical connection between the history of lynching, state violence against black folks and the contemporary situation that we’re faced with around police brutality and these non-indictments,” she said.

The San Francisco Chronicle covers belligerence blowback:

San Jose cop on leave over tweets on protests

A San Jose police officer was placed on leave after he posted, and later deleted, two threatening Twitter messages directed at protesters rallying against police brutality.

Officer Phillip White tweeted on Saturday, “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”

White also tweeted that he would use his “God given and law appointed right and duty to kill” anyone who threatens his family. He ended the message with the hashtag #CopsLivesMatter — a twist on the popular #BlackLivesMatter hashtag used during protests following grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for killing unarmed black men in Missouri and New York.

White later deleted his tweets, and eventually his entire account, but Buzzfeed captured screen shots of the remarks. The San Jose Police Department said it is taking “the matter very seriously” and conducting an internal investigation.

From Associated Press, influence exerted:

Police altering tactics after killings, protests

With tensions running high over the killings of blacks by police, departments around the country are changing policies and procedures to curb the use of deadly force, ease public distrust and protect officers from retaliation.

New York City plans to issue stun guns to hundreds more officers. The Milwaukee department is making crisis-intervention training mandatory. And in Akron, Ohio, police have begun working in pairs on all shifts for their own safety.

Police departments are constantly updating training. But some of the more recent measures have been prompted by rising anger toward police. And in some cases, departments are making sure to let the public know about these changes.

“It’s not a mistake or a coincidence that a lot of these departments are publicizing their training or are perhaps revamping their training guidelines and things like that in the wake of these really high-profile incidents,” said Kami Chavis Simmons, director of the criminal justice program at the Wake Forest University School of Law in North Carolina and a former federal prosecutor in Washington.

A Monday protest in the neighborhood, via the Oakland Tribune:

Oakland: Two dozen arrested in protest at police HQ

More than 250 protesters blocked Oakland’s downtown police headquarters for more than four hours Monday morning, including some who chained themselves to the front doors and one who clambered up a flagpole.

A total of 25 protesters were arrested for blocking access to a public building and obstructing or delaying a police officer, among other charges, Officer Johnna Watson said.

The mostly peaceful protest by Black Lives Matter began about 7:30 a.m. outside the police administration building at 455 Seventh St. and ended about 1:35 p.m.

By midmorning, one man had climbed a flagpole in front of the building, and police were trying to persuade him to come down. Six people chained themselves to the pole, and protesters chanted “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all.”

The bar barring, via the Los Angeles Times:

Lawyers lie down in the rain to protest killings by police

Amid calls for justice and chants of “black lives matter,” more than 100 lawyers, law students and others staged a “die-in” outside a downtown Los Angeles courthouse Tuesday, arguing that the legal system in which they operate is broken.

The group blocked a lane of traffic and clogged the walkway leading to the Hill Street entrance of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, making it virtually impossible for passing motorists and court visitors to ignore their message.

“The issue of police brutality is not about any single officer or victim, nor is it about good people versus bad people,” Priscilla Ocen, a law professor, declared over a bullhorn. “The number of unjustified homicides is a result of an entire system left too long without the leigitimate checks necessary to ensure accountability and justice.”

The Oakland Tribune covers the sadly expectable:

Fallout grows over Richmond police chief’s participation in #BlackLivesMatter protest

One week after photos of him holding a “#BlackLivesMatter” sign at a peaceful local protest went viral on social media, Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus is still grappling with the fallout — including accusations from his department’s police union that he broke the law — but says he has no regrets.

“It wasn’t the easiest statement to make,” Magnus said by phone Monday morning, “but it was the right thing to do.”

Since the small protest, Magnus has been flooded with more than 300 emails, dozens of phone calls and a flurry of messages on Twitter and Facebook. He estimated that more than 70 percent of the responses have been in support.

From the Guardian, detox for the fruit of the poisonous tree:

Supreme court: car stop was mistake, but drugs found are legal evidence

  • Rules 8-1 against driver stopped for invalid reason found to have drugs in car
  • Chief justice says officer’s error did not violate driver’s constitutional rights

The US supreme court on Monday ruled that a police officer in North Carolina lawfully stopped a car with a faulty brake light – and then found a stash of cocaine in the vehicle – even though driving with one working light is not illegal in the state.

In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled against Nicholas Heien, who had argued that the sandwich bag of cocaine found in the April 2009 search should not have been allowed as evidence when he was charged with drug trafficking because the Surry County sheriff’s department sergeant had no valid reason to stop the car.

Heien, who consented to the search of the car after he was stopped, pleaded guilty and was given a maximum prison term of two years.

After the jump, a Texas cop tasers an innocent 76-year-old, a Tennessee cop charged with rape, body cams for L.A. cops on the way, commodifying a whistleblower, torturers in white coats, cell phone interception sites in Norway prompt demands, Pyongyang tweaks Washington over torture, and on to the hack of the year with a new threat, warnings of theatrical attacks, exploding head suspicions, Sony claims high moral ground over media, Sorken gets sore, hospital gets ransom demand over stolen patient data, malware spam attacks accelerate, a data theft at UC Berkeley, corporate data theft in the cloud, Dutch fine Google for Gmail and search data consolidation for marketing, Google News completes retreats from Spain, pushing the West to intervene in Libya, t Chinese fighting for ISIS, the Syrian war continues,  Spain cracks an ISIS recruiting ring, anti-Islamic far right surges in Germany, Netanyahu’s settlement surge, a plea for troops in the Congo, A Chinese drone shootdown brings calls for a crackdown, the final Occupy Hong Kong eviction, China admits a fatal miscarriage of justice, and predictions of a Sino/American Game of Zones confrontation, and on to Japan for a Red victory of sorts, Abe sets his revisionist militarized agenda and his newly elected legislators back his play, Abe looks to Washington with details to come [but the public dissents], some things just aren’t said, Tojo fans threaten a newspaper, and hate speech aimed at Japan’s Koreans continues. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: The tragic plight of journalism


From Thomas Frank, writing at Salon about the tragic state of the Fourth Estate:

Between the crumbling of a landmark Rolling Stone story and the dynamiting of The New Republic, these have been a bad couple of weeks for journalism. But with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program on Tuesday, the whole doleful parade took a turn toward the comical.

 Chapter IV of that report describes the CIA’s efforts to twist public perceptions of its torture program by revealing certain classified information to journalists—information that was wrong, per the report, because its object was to claim great successes for the torture program where few really existed. But said information, regardless of its truth value, was still classified. That, in turn, set up an awkward dilemma for all parties: certain CIA officials wondered whether to do something about the journalists in question for reporting these great dollops of bogusness; other spooks gently suggested that they shouldn’t, since, er, the Agency leaked that stuff to them.

Behind this Keystone Cops farce was something deadly serious: Writers from some of the most reputable institutions in America were being conned into propagandizing for torture. One of the journalists named in the Senate Committee report, David Johnston of The New York Times, told the International Business Times how it worked: “Another way of saying it is they basically lied to journalists and the journalists didn’t have a lot of alternatives but to reflect their point of view in stories.”

Tis ever thus with journalistic scandals. The thing of value that we writers possess is our independence, our trustworthiness; those with power, meanwhile, scheme endlessly to utilize these things for their own ends. David Johnston implies that he was led astray by the impulse to let each side say its piece. On other occasions, straight-up financial considerations do the trick, as in the case of the op-ed writers who did favors for Jack Abramoff. Sometimes the journalists’ motives are more complicated, as in the case of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who used information provided by a Bush Administration favorite in order to persuade the world that Saddam Hussein possessed scads of WMDs.

Read the rest.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, torture, hacks, zones. . .


And so very, very much more. . .

We begin with action on the domestic front from Reuters:

Marchers in Washington, New York, Boston protest police killings

Thousands marched in Washington, New York and Boston on Saturday to protest killings of unarmed black men by police officers.

Organizers said the marches were among the largest in the recent wave of protests against the killings of black males by officers in Ferguson, Missouri; New York; Cleveland; and elsewhere. The protests were peaceful, although police in Boston said they arrested 23 people who tried to block a highway.

Decisions by grand juries to return no indictments against the officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York have put police treatment of minorities back on the national agenda.

“We’re going to keep the light on Mike Brown … on all of the victims. The only way you make roaches run is to keep the light on,” said civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network organized the Washington rally.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers umbrage taken:

Police officers across U.S. upset at being seen as brutal racists

Police officers dispatched to investigate a 911 hang-up last week in an Idaho suburb were surprised by the reaction they got from the mother of the children who’d been playing with the phone.

“She said, ‘I’ve told my kids not to talk to you because you’re the people who kill us,’ “ recalled Tracy Basterrechea, deputy police chief in Meridian, Idaho, near Boise. The mother was Hispanic and her children African-American, he said.

Police in Meridian and other cities across the country are facing an angry backlash from the public after a series of police killings of unarmed African-Americans.

From United Press International, via the Department of Implausible Excuses:

Police officer disciplined for playing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ at protest

The man who recorded “Sweet Home Alabama” coming from a Chicago police car at a protest said he knows some groups use it as “an anthem of Southern pride and those Confederate-type values.”

A Chicago police officer said he played “Sweet Home Alabama” at a weekend protest because he is a University of Alabama fan, the department said.

In a statement released Thursday, police officials said the officer faces disciplinary action. The Chicago Tribune said it was told by a source he will be suspended for 10 days if Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy approves the penalty.

Gabriel Michael, a Chicago resident who was at Sunday’s “Black lives matter” march, which protested the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, heard the Lynyrd Skynyrd song coming from what appeared to be an unmarked police car. Michael said the car was in the midst of a group of police cars following the march.

Michael videotaped the car.

“Some of the lyrics in themselves aren’t racist … but I know it’s also been co-opted by groups, maybe bigoted groups, as an anthem of Southern pride and those Confederate-type values,” Michael told the Tribune. “That’s what was so jarring to me. To hear that playing from a police car at the end of a protest against police brutality and the murder of African-Americans, it was just jarring.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers police injustice compensated:

Cobb County to pay $100K to woman arrested for ‘F-bombing’ cops

Cobb County is paying $100,000 to a woman who police arrested for shouting profanity to protest their actions.

Amy Elizabeth Barnes, a well-known political activist, sued in federal court saying the county violated her First Amendment rights and maliciously prosecuted her when it jailed her on charges of disorderly conduct and the use of abuse words to “incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

She had been shouting “Cobb police suck” and “(Expletive) the police” and raising her middle finger while riding her bicycle past two officers questioning an African-American man outside a convenience store on Easter Sunday 2012.

“Ms. Barnes’ comments to the police may have been offensive, but no one in the United States of America should be chased down and arrested for their free speech,” said lawyer Cynthia Counts, who represented Barnes in her civil and criminal litigation. “The officers argued that it was a bad neighborhood and you shouldn’t disrespect the police because it could create issues,” she added.

The Guardian again, with the cost of another case of overzealous policing:

New York woman wins $1.12m after arrest for snapping military base for website

  • Deputy sheriff allegedly said he wanted to make an example of ‘right-wingers’
  • Jailed for four days and misdemeanor trespass charge was dismissed

A New York woman who claimed she was falsely arrested outside an Air National Guard base for taking photographs for a “Support Our Troops” website has been awarded $1.12m in compensatory damages, her attorney said on Friday.

“What they took from this woman cannot be measured in money,” said prominent Long Island civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington. “There is no reason to treat another human the way they treated her.”

He said Suffolk County sheriff’s deputies humiliated Nancy Genovese after arresting her in July 2009 while she took photographs of a decorative helicopter on display outside the Gabreski Airport Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach on eastern Long Island. A deputy sheriff allegedly said he would arrest her for terrorism to make an example of other “right-wingers”, according to Brewington.

From the the Los Angeles Times, oy vey:

San Diego council aide suspended for comments about protesters

A San Diego City Council member has suspended a staffer without pay for two weeks for referring to police-conduct protesters as idiots and suggesting – in jest – that she wanted to shoot them.

The comments were made after a council meeting Wednesday in which two dozen protesters indicated opposition to the decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and New York not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men.

Children in the group wore black sweat shirts with the phrase: “Don’t Shoot.”

In the moments after the meeting, Shirley Owen, staff member to Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, reportedly told a friend that the protesters were “ … idiots” and “I wanted to shoot them.”

The McClatchy Washington Bureau poses a question:

Will police protests fade like tea party and Occupy?

Protesters may find they’ll have to channel their energy into community organizing or other non-traditional means rather than rely on the political process.

“People today see politicians as spinally challenged,” said South Carolina state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee’s Southern Caucus. “They know we ought not to see getting elected to office as the only way to change the system.”

That’s a big change from days past, making the legacy of today’s protests uncertain.

This much, though, is clear, said Shackelford: “These protests are making people think about change again.”

And from the Sacramento Bee, a look at a step in the right direction, not a panacea:

Stockton Police Department demonstrates body camera

Program notes

The Mobile Field Force Operation of the Stockton Police Department has equipped its officers with body cams for over a year now. Only two of the more than a dozen law enforcement agencies in the greater Sacramento area equip police with body cameras meant to record officers’ interactions with civilians. Andrew Seng/Aseng@sacbee.com

Drone scare from the London Telegraph:

Drones ‘could be used as flying bombs for terror attack on passenger jet’

  • Terrorists could “with impunity” fly multiple drones to take out passenger aircraft, a leading expert warns, following report into ‘near-miss’ at Heathrow Airport

Drones could be used as flying bombs by terrorists to take down a passenger aircraft, according to a leading expert, who called for improved security measures to deal with the “gaping hole” in the national defences.

Prof David H Dunn, of the University of Birmingham, said that jihadis could “with impunity” fly multiple remote-controlled unmanned aircraft into the engines of a jumbo jet, causing it crash.

Prof Dunn was speaking after it emerged that a drone flew within 20ft of an Airbus A320 as it landed at Heathrow Airport in July.

While SciDev.Net covers a drone boon:

View on Migration: Drone searches aid refugee rescues

  • Italy has cut its migrant search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean
  • A charity has been using drones to spot migrants in trouble and alert help
  • But even the Migrant Offshore Aid Station must fundraise to continue work

While Italy has scaled back its operations, a new NGO based in Malta has been assisting migrants with the help of cutting-edge technology: Schiebel camcopter drones. “We are using equipment for humanitarian reasons that — up to now — has been used almost exclusively by the military,” says Martin Xuereb, the NGO’s director.

The NGO, called the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), was launched last April by Christopher and Regina Catrambone, two entrepreneurs based in Malta who committed US$2.64 million of their own funds to the project. Since then, MOAS has been using the military grade camcopters to locate migrants in trouble on the sea, and then either alert the relevant authorities or dispatch its own rescue boats. So far 3,000 people — mainly Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers — have received help from MOAS.

“We feel this is a global problem that should be addressed globally, and not only by nation-states or international organisations; we have a moral responsibility to ensure that nobody dies at sea,” Xuereb tells me.

A Scandinavian terror scare from TheLocal.dk:

Terror threat in Denmark has increased: PET

A new report from the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) says that the number of Danes fighting in Syria and Iraq has increased, as has the risk of a terror attack.

Using a small but significant change in language, domestic intelligence agency PET has warned of a greater risk of a terror attack in Denmark.

The latest threat level assessment from PET’s Center for Terror Analysis (CTA) states that “the terror threat against Denmark is serious, but the risk of being the victim of a terror attack in Denmark is limited”.

In CTA’s previous threat level assessment, the agency called the risk of a terror attack “very limited”.

Off to the war with BBC News:

‘Hundreds’ more UK troops to be sent to Iraq – Michael Fallon

Hundreds of British troops will be sent to Iraq in the New Year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.

The deployment – to help train local forces – will be in the “very low hundreds” but could also include a small protection force of combat-ready soldiers, he said. About 50 UK troops are already training Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq.

The Ministry of Defence said the move had not yet been formally approved. An MoD spokesman said: “No decision on troop numbers, units or locations have yet been made”.

Weaponizing water with Homeland Security News Wire:

ISIS uses control of water as a tool of war

Global security analysts have warned for some time now that water scarcity due to climate change will be used as a tool of war in regions with poor government.

The on-going wars in Iraq and Syria provide the first examples of the strategic and tactical use of water as a tool of war, as militant groups operating in both countries have been using water against residents of areas they control. “ISIS has established a blueprint that can be used by other entities to take advantage of drought and water scarcity,” writes on researcher.

“For all the conversation about ISIS taking control of oil refineries, one could argue that their control of water is even more significant, as it deprives the population of a resource necessary for daily sustenance and gives the militant group significant leverage over local governments and populations.”

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, treating us like mushrooms [kept in the dark and fed with bullshit]:

U.S. providing little information to judge progress against Islamic State

The American war against the Islamic State has become the most opaque conflict the United States has undertaken in more than two decades, a fight that’s so underreported that U.S. officials and their critics can make claims about progress, or lack thereof, with no definitive data available to refute or bolster their positions.

The result is that it’s unclear what impact more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria have had during the past four months. That confusion was on display at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing earlier this week, where the topic – “Countering ISIS: Are We Making Progress?” – proved to be a question without an answer.

“Although the administration notes that 60-plus countries having joined the anti-ISIS campaign, some key partners continue to perceive the administration’s strategy as misguided,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the committee’s chairman, said in his opening statement at the hearing, using a common acronym for the Islamic State. “Meanwhile, there are grave security consequences to allowing ISIS to control a territory of the size of western Iraq and eastern Syria.”

Messaging the media with the New York Times:

Online Trail Leads to Arrest of Indian as Man Behind Posts Backing Extremists

Police in Bangalore, India, arrested on Saturday the man accused of being behind @ShamiWitness, the Twitter handle of a fervent and widely followed English-language supporter of the Islamic State extremist group.

The authorities had been on the hunt for the man, Mehdi Masroor Biswas, since Channel 4 news in Britain broke the improbable story of a clean-shaven Indian executive who it said lived a double life: spending his hours off from his food company far from any Middle Eastern battlefield cheering on the Islamic States’ advances and trying to rally Muslims from around the world to its jihadi cause.

The police said Mr. Biswas, 24, would be charged with multiple offenses, including waging war against Asiatic states.

And on to torture, first with enablers in white coats from the Washington Post:

CIA report describes medical personnel’s intimate role in harsh interrogations

As the tempo of harsh CIA interrogation of terrorism suspects increased in early 2003, an agency medical officer observed to a colleague that their role of providing an “institutional conscience and the limiting factor” for the program had clearly changed.

Medical personnel, the officer wrote in an e-mail, were becoming “the ones who are dedicated to maximizing the benefit in a safe manner and keeping everyone’s butt out of trouble.”

As described in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released this week, CIA medical doctors, as well as psychologists, were intimately involved in virtually every interrogation session to a far greater extent than was previously known.

Oops! Where failures of intelligence andmorality meet, via the New York Times:

Amid Details on Torture, Data on 26 Who Were Held in Error

The Senate Democratic staff members who wrote the 6,000-page report counted 119 prisoners who had been in C.I.A. custody. Of those, the report found that 26 were either described in the agency’s own documents as mistakenly detained, or released and given money, evidence of the same thing.

The C.I.A. told the Senate in its formal response that the real number of wrongful detentions was “far fewer” than 26 but did not offer a number. Human rights advocates who have tracked the C.I.A. program believe that considerably more than 26 were wrongfully detained. Another Yemeni client of Ms. Satterthwaite, for instance, Mohammed al-Asad, was left out of the Senate’s count, even though he languished for months in C.I.A. prisons without being questioned, was sent home to Yemen and was never charged with a terrorism-related crime.

“The U.S. caused a great deal of suffering to people who posed no threat,” said Anne FitzGerald, director of research and crisis response at Amnesty International, who visited Yemen eight times to talk to Mr. Bashmilah, Mr. Asad and others who appeared to be former C.I.A. detainees. “International standards are there for a reason — they protect everyone.”

From the Hill, a damaging admission:

Bush attorney general says CIA overstepped legal guidance

Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Friday that it appeared that the Central Intelligence Agency had overstepped Justice Department guidance offered by the agency on the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

“You know, we provided a guidance, and, you know, it was up to the CIA to comply with that guidance. As I started hearing about some of the items in the report, I became a little — I became troubled, because some of those things, some of what was being referenced appear beyond the guidance,” Gonzales said on NewsMaxTV’s “Steve Malzberg Show.
Gonzales was White House counsel when the Justice Department issued its memos on the CIA’s ability to use torture. He later became Attorney General.

He also said that the drone program — which President Obama has supported — was likely as damaging to America’s reputation abroad as waterboarding.

VICE News notes context:

CIA Torture Was No ‘Rash’ Mistake

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed this with the release of its 500-page executive summary of its $40 million report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program: broken bones stood on, forced rectal feeding, near drowning. On it went, because no one wanted to be “that guy” who said “enough.” Anyone who did was crushed.

In the polemic and fictional world of Zero Dark Thirty — and in the minds of real-life politicians — this barbarism effectively served a dangerous political requirement to find the monster in the cave: Torturing bad guys would lead us to bin Laden. Of course, as the report found, torture did not actually lead us to that prize — but let’s imagine that by some unhappy accident, it did. Would we then rest easy with the fact that American agents systematically, and with ample funding and support, became torturers? Would it have been worthwhile to waterboard, and freeze, and beat, and so much more? All for an infamous corpse in Abbottabad, tossed out the chambers of the sea.

The answer is no. We play a dangerous game in decrying torture because it is ineffective and not because it is torture. We also, in focusing on the failure of CIA torture in getting results, give an easy pass to the recent historical context that birthed the interrogation program. The widespread use of torture was a vile consequence; the problem was a paranoid national security ideology that would, did, and does justify any violation of rights and liberties under the pretext of fighting terror. To hold itself accountable in any honest way, which it will not, the US must admit that it was wrong because it perpetrated crimes. But beyond that, the country must face the fact that after 9/11, it would have done anything — torture, and much more.

The Guardian covers Old Blighty blowback:

Britain convulsed by its dirty secret in wake of CIA torture report

  • Senate report on rendition contrasts with recalcitrant UK, whose judge-led inquiry was shut down by Cameron

In September 2005, on the day the Guardian published its first edition in the new Berliner format, the newspaper informed its readers that a fleet of CIA aircraft had been using the UK’s airports during the agency’s so-called extraordinary rendition operations.

Aircraft from the 26-strong fleet had flown into and out of the UK at least 210 times since 9/11, the newspaper reported, “an average of one flight a week”, refuelling at RAF bases and civilian airports that included Northolt, Heathrow, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Belfast and – the agency’s favourite destination – Prestwick.

“It is not a matter for the MoD,” one Ministry of Defence official told the newspaper. “The aircraft use our airfields. We don’t ask any questions.”

Since then, a handful of British parliamentarians, judges, human rights activists and journalists have dragged into the public domain one piece of damning evidence after another to construct an incomplete but nonetheless disturbing picture of the UK’s involvement in the global kidnap and torture programme that was launched immediately after 9/11.

Reuters covers the Polish case:

After U.S. torture report, Poland asks what its leaders knew

The disclosure of details about the CIA’s brutal interrogation program could provide new leads for Polish prosecutors investigating how much Poland’s leaders at the time knew about a secret jail the agency was running in a Polish forest.

Prompted by a U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s “black sites” for interrogating al Qaeda suspects, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, at a joint news conference with former Prime Minister Leszek Miller, said on Wednesday he knew about the facility in Poland.

He said the CIA had denied Polish officials access to the site, a villa on the grounds of a Polish intelligence training academy, so they did not know people inside were being tortured. He said that while he and Miller knew people were detained there, they were told the detainees were cooperating willingly with U.S. intelligence and would be treated as prisoners of war.

Lawyers for former detainees say however that even if the detainees were treated as prisoners of war – which the lawyers dispute – it is illegal to detain anyone in secret, and Poland had a legal obligation to prevent this happening.

And from MercoPress, trained by the masters:

US/UK trained Brazil military in torture techniques; British were particularly sophisticated

Officials from the United States and the United Kingdom spent years teaching members of the Brazilian military how to develop and improve their torture techniques during the country’s two-decade long dictatorship (1964/1985), it was confirmed this week by the National Truth Commission, CNV, report.

According to that document the Brazilian Armed Forces’ “systematic use of torture,” which concluded that more than 400 individuals, considered to have been “subversives”, were killed or disappeared by the state, received international training to that purpose.

In effect as part of Washington’s support for anti-Communist governments in Latin America, United States trained more than 300 military officers from Brazil at the notorious ‘School of the Americas’, based in Georgia, the report says. The officers received “theoretical and practical lessons on torture,” it adds, with the intention that they could “replicate” their ideas in Brazil.

The CNV reports also reveals that the UK government shared the anti-communist crusade, and also contributed knowledge on torture techniques in training sessions with Brazilians.

Yet another intel failure, via CNN:

2003 CIA cable casts doubt on claim linking Iraq to 9/11

A recently released CIA cable casts heavy doubt on a key claim used by the Bush administration to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

It discounts intelligence that said Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 ringleaders, met with an Iraqi official in the Czech Republic a few months before the attacks.

The Bush administration — which maintained that Atta had met with Iraqi agent Ahmad al-Anian in Prague in April 2001 — had used the report to link the September 11 attacks to Iraq.

CIA Director John Brennan included a portion of the cable in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan. Levin, the retiring chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the letter public on Thursday.

The cable reads that “there is not one USG (counterterrorism) or FBI expert that…has said they have evidence or ‘know’ that (Atta) was indeed (in Prague). In fact, the analysis has been quite the opposite.”

In a 2001 interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” then-Vice President Dick Cheney said, “It’s been pretty well confirmed that (Atta) did go to Prague, and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in (the Czech Republic) last April, several months before the attack.”

After the jump, new light coming on a mysterious death, Washington rescinds demands that reporters spill their sources, a European leak prosecution, Sweden ups defense spending in Cold War 2.0, another Russian close encounter in Swedish air space, Congress grants new powers to the NSA, a German court turns down a Snowden visit to Germany, Germany says no proof NSA tapped Merkel’s cell but Spiegel stands by their story, cell phone spy gear covers the capital, Google’s NSA response, the Army gets cyberwar serious while Homeland Security extends is cyberpowers, Canada claims a Chinese hack of its research agency, a claim that Iran hacked Sheldon Adelson casinos and claims Iran is busily hacking American firms and universities, a major hacking campaign targets Russia, a Murdoch editor cops to phone hacks, on to the Sony hack, first with an executive’s future clouded, how the Game of Zones forced a Seth Rogen reedit, a Bond script and studio anti-Google strategies leaked as well as sleazy Maureen Down promises, and Sony own DDOS attacks on computers hosting the leaks, protesting Spain’s draconian new anti-protest law, Google retreats from Russia, an Argentinian Dirty War mass grave revealed, mass protests shut down Karachi, Washington hopes for North Korean talks, Hong Kong Occupy final shutdown set for Monday while Beijing hints at stronger measures ahead, the ape of Nanjing commemorated, Obama pressure on Tokyo for talks with Seoul, challenged to Abe’s Japanese militarization turned back by court, A-bomb survivors question Manhattan Project National Park plans, and your camera shake can ID you like a fingerprint. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cops, torture, hacks, & Asia


And so much more. . .

To open, there’s an ap for that via the Associated Press:

‘Driving while black’ apps give tips for police stops

A “Driving While Black” smartphone application is set for release this month, but its developers say motorists should be careful when they use it.

“Do not reach for your phone when you are talking to police,” stressed attorney Melvin Oden-Orr, who created the app with another Portland lawyer and a software developer.

Avoiding any move that could make officers think you’re reaching for a gun is just one of the tips “Driving While Black” offers. And despite its attention-grabbing name, the common-sense advice it offers applies to motorists of all races.

The app describes how people can assert their civil rights with officers, enables drivers to alert friends and family with a push of a button that they’ve been pulled over, and includes a recording function to document the interaction.

Empirical policing from MIT Technology Review:

Researchers Will Study Police Confrontations Via Body Cameras

  • UCLA scholars will analyze raw video and audio feeds to glean insights into effective policing

As more police are equipped with cameras on their bodies to capture footage of interactions with the public, a group of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been given permission to study video and audio streams from one police department to learn how best to prevent confrontations from escalating.

Police body-cams have been proposed as ways to resolve allegations of needless use of force following the police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of a New York City man during his arrest for selling cigarettes illegally.

The White House last week pledged $75 million that police departments could use to buy 50,000 body cameras as a way to help “build and sustain trust” among civilians. But whether or not cameras will resolve disputes or improve trust, they could at least provide a wider window into how policing works.

From Channel 4 News, solidarity in London:

76 arrests at Eric Garner protests in London

Program notes:

Police have arrested 76 people who were part of a mass demonstration at Westfield shopping centre in London.

On to that torture thing, first with a “what if?” from the New York Times:

C.I.A. First Planned Jails Abiding by U.S. Standards

Just six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush signed a secret order that gave the Central Intelligence Agency the power to capture and imprison terrorists with Al Qaeda. But the order said nothing about where they should be held or how the agency should go about the business of questioning them.

For the next few weeks, as the rubble at ground zero smoldered and the United States launched a military operation in Afghanistan, C.I.A. officials scrambled to fill in the blanks left by the president’s order. Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s harsh interrogation program.

They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would “be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,” C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001.

The Los Angeles Times covers the tortured semantics of somatic torture:

CIA struggled to keep rationalizing brutal interrogations, report shows

When CIA interrogators waterboarded their first prisoner, Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, on Aug. 4, 2002, they justified the simulated drowning as a vital tool to extract secrets about future attacks against the United States.

But after 20 days of round-the-clock interrogation at a secret prison in Thailand, during which Zubaydah was repeatedly waterboarded in long sessions, slammed against walls, slapped, confined in a coffin-size box for 266 hours and chained in “stress positions,” the interrogators concluded the Saudi-born operative knew nothing about new plots.

At that point, the justification changed: Officials said the brutal treatment was necessary not to extract information, but to reassure themselves that Zubaydah already had told them everything he knew.

“Our goal was to reach the stage where we have broken any will or ability of subject to resist,” the interrogators said in an email to CIA headquarters. The goal was to get to “the point that we could confidently assess” that Zubaydah did “not possess undisclosed threat information,” they said.

From the New York Times, the inevitable:

Chinese Coverage of C.I.A. Torture Report Says It Highlights U.S. Hypocrisy

The report on the C.I.A.’s interrogations of terrorism suspects, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, has received extensive coverage in China, which has long accused the United States of hypocrisy on human rights issues.

At a regular news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, said that China “consistently opposes torture.”

“We believe that the U.S. side should reflect upon and rectify its relevant behavior, earnestly obey and implement the provisions of international conventions,” he said.

Another Asia voice from the Guardian:

Afghan president condemns ‘shocking’ and ‘inhumane’ torture described in CIA report

  • Ashraf Ghani vows to defends the dignity of those who had been jailed in reminder of how impact of CIA interrogation programme still fuels anger

The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has described detailed revelations of US torture as “shocking” and “inhumane”, and demanded to know how many Afghans had been debased in grim facilities inside their own country.

The recently elected leader promised to defend the dignity of those who had been jailed, and gave notice that from the start of next year no foreign organisation would have the right to detain or torture Afghans.

“This is a vicious cycle. When a person is tortured in an inhumane way, the reaction will be inhumane,” Ghani told a specially convened news conference in Kabul. “There can be no justification for these kinds of actions and inhumane torture in today’s world.”

More tortuous spookspeak from the Washington Post:

CIA chief: ‘Unknowable’ whether ordinary interrogation would bring same intel gains

CIA Director John Brennan said Thursday that valuable information was obtained from detainees subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, but it remains “unknowable” whether conventional questioning alone could have led to the same intelligence gains.

In his first public comments since Tuesday’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA detention program, Brennan also defended the use of so-called “enhanced” techniques as the “right” response at a time when the agency believed al-Qaeda was possibly preparing another wave of terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Brennan also directly challenged some of the reports main conclusions.

Where have we heard this before?:

Rummy’s more cadaverous other half weighs in via Techdirt:

Dick Cheney Says CIA Torture Report Is ‘Full Of Crap’ — Then Admits He Hasn’t Read It

  • from the judging-a-book-by-its-cover dept

It’s no secret that those most closely responsible for the CIA’s torture program are pulling out all the stops to attack the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the program, trying out a variety of defenses from “it actually saved lives” to “it’s just a partisan hack job.” So it should come as no surprise that former Vice President Dick Cheney has been making the cable TV news appearances to help attack the report. After all, many have argued that the real person behind the torture program was Cheney and his staff — and to date, Cheney has insisted that everything that was done was perfectly reasonable and he’d do it again. Thus there’s no surprise when Cheney appears on Fox News (because, of course), to claim that the report is “a bunch of hooey” and “full of crap” and “deeply flawed” only to then admit “ I haven’t read the report.”

Wait, what?

Even the Fox News interviewer was taken aback — and Cheney must have realized how stupid he looked, because he then tried to backtrack, arguing that he hadn’t read “all 6,000 pages,” but then saying he’d read “parts of it” and “summaries.” Yes, we’ve all read “summaries.” But some of us have sat down to read the whole 500 pages (minus the redacted bits, of course). You would hope that if Cheney was going on TV to respond to questions about the report that he might have done so as well, rather than just repeating the talking points handed out to folks associated with the program. Apparently not.

More inevitability from the New York Times:

U.S. Tells Court That Documents From Torture Investigation Should Remain Secret

The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed.

The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture. The committee based its report on a review of C.I.A. documents but did not conduct any interviews.

The Justice Department materials, the court filing revealed, include 10 reports and memorandums totaling 1,719 pages — more than three times the number of pages in the Senate report released Tuesday — as well as “numerous” pages of reports on interviews with current and former C.I.A. officials.

The London Telegraph covers acts of omission by commission:

Downing Street admits: CIA torture report redacted at request of British spies

  • No 10 confirms British intelligence officials discussed redactions to torture report ‘on grounds of national security’

Key passages of report into the CIA’s torture programme were censored at the request of British spies, Downing Street has admitted, raising fears that the UK’s hand in the post-9/11 interrogation programme was covered up.

David Cameron’s spokesman admitted the Security Services asked their American counterparts to censor a US Senate report into the brutal interrogation of terror suspects at secret foreign prisons. It is understood the requests were granted.

John Brennan, the head of the CIA, tonight defended the “abhorrent” interrogation programme, saying the information helped locate Osama Bin Laden.

Mr Brennan said there was “strong concern” among foreign spy chiefs that the report was about to be made public. “Covert was something that they hoped was going to remain such,” he said.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers an Asian denial:

Thailand denies existence of CIA black site

Thailand has long been accused by human rights groups of being one of a number of countries which hosted secret prisons run by the CIA to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York

A senior Thai official on Thursday (Dec 11) flatly rejected longstanding claims the kingdom hosted a secret CIA prison after the publication of a US Senate report this week reignited controversy over Washington’s “black site” network.

Thailand has long been accused by human rights groups of being one of a number of countries which hosted secret prisons run by the CIA to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York.

But Suwaphan Tanyuvardhan, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, rejected any suggestions that the Thai government had been complicit in running any “black sites”. “There has been no such thing as a secret prison or torture facilities in Thailand. Thai officials do not do these kind of actions,” he told reporters.

More semantic persiflage from the Washington Post:

‘Learned helplessness’: The chilling psychological concept behind the CIA’s interrogation methods

Of all the harrowing accounts and chilling examples in the U.S. Senate report on CIA interrogation practices, among the most striking was that of Abu Zubaydah. One of the first detainees in the war on terror, he was also one of the most vital. Lying in a bed in Thailand, he told FBI interrogators all about Khalid Sheik Mohammed — the mastermind of the Sept. 11th attacks.

But then the CIA showed up. Its team was accompanied by a psychologist. And he wanted to conduct a test that would get “Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death,” reported Vanity Fair in 2007 in a groundbreaking story. So interrogators built a coffin and stuffed him inside it, the Senate report said, for 300 hours. He was waterboarded 83 times in 17 days. He was absolutely broken by the procedures — but not one significant plot was foiled as a result of his confessions.

Despite the failure of the interrogation methods, the psychological concept guiding them — called “learned helplessness” — lived on. With the guidance of two psychologists on contract to the CIA for $1,800 per day, the technique of stripping someone of their will would be applied to numerous additional prisoners in the coming years. Media reports have named the two psychologists: Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who in all earned $81 million in payment. They derived their approach from a well-known 1967 research paper by University of Pennsylvania psychologists.

And from the London Telegraph, more inevitability:

Russia calls for prosecutions over ‘inquisition-style’ CIA interrogation methods

Foreign ministry says “shocking” Senate report was “latest confirmation of gross, systemic human rights violations” by US authorities

Russia has called on the United States to punish those responsible for the use of “inquisition-style” interrogation methods in the “global war on terror”, as revealed in the US Senate report on torture this week.

Konstantin Dolgov, the human rights ombudsman of Russia’s foreign ministry, said the results of the “shocking” report were “the latest confirmation of gross, systemic human rights violations by the American authorities”.

The long-awaited torture report, published in 500-page summary form on Tuesday by the Senate’s intelligence committee, detailed brutal interrogation methods used by the CIA against al-Qaeda suspects

The Guardian covers the objects of the machine, free at last:

Guantánamo prisoners released to Uruguay: ‘We are so happy to be here’

Six former US detainees who were never charged with a crime, were flown to Uruguay on Sunday to begin new lives as refugees

Over the past 12 years, Ali al-Shaaban has experienced precious little human kindness. Detained in Pakistan as a suspected al-Qaida member in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks, he was transferred to the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, where he was held for more than a decade.

This week, however, the 32-year old Syrian has been the subject of a wave of affection in a country half a world away from his homeland: government officials offer him warm embraces; total strangers wave to him and offer words of encouragement.

Shaaban is one of six Guantánamo prisoners who were flown to Uruguay on Sunday to begin new lives as refugees. The six – four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian – were never charged, and were cleared for release in 2009, but the US struggled to find countries willing to receive them until the Uruguayan president, José Mujica agreed to accept them.

The Associated Press covers culture war:

US co-opted Cuba’s hip-hop scene to spark change

In early 2009, a U.S. government contractor sent a Serbian music promoter to Cuba with these covert marching orders: Recruit one of Havana’s most notorious rappers to spark a youth movement against the government.

In communist Cuba, it was a project that could have landed Rajko Bozic in jail. So when he made his pitch to team up with hip-hop artist Aldo Rodriguez, Bozic left out the part about his true intentions — or that he was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Dreadlocked, muscled and tattooed, Aldo, as he was known, was a hero in the hip-hop underground for lyrics protesting the Castro government’s grip on everyday life in songs like “El Rap Es Guerra,” or “Rap Is War,” words he tattooed on his forearm.

He and his group, Los Aldeanos, were about to unknowingly get sucked into a tug-of-war between Havana and Washington, as thousands of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press and dozens of interviews show.

A video report from the Guardian:

USAid uses Cuban hip-hop to spark youth unrest

Program notes:

Hip-hop is latest covert weapon in the US government’s attempts to unseat Cuba’s communist government.

For more than two years, the American development aid organisation USAid has been secretly trying to infiltrate Cuba’s underground hip-hop movement. Like its previous efforts, including exploding cigars, poisoned milkshakes and the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, the attempt to co-opt rappers ended in ignominious failure, new documents have shown.

Grounded, via the Los Angeles Times:

European Union bans all Libyan airlines, citing safety risk

The European Union on Thursday banned all seven Libyan airlines from operating in the airspace of the 28-nation bloc, citing threats to flight operations while the country is plagued by violent militias battling for dominance.

“Recent events in Libya have led to a situation whereby the Civil Aviation Authority is no longer able to fulfill its international obligations with regard to the safety of the Libyan aviation sector,” European Union Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement issued in Brussels.

“My priority in aviation is passenger safety, which is nonnegotiable, and we stand ready to help the Libyan aviation sector as soon as the situation on the ground will allow for this,” Bulc said.

After the jump, Spanish law formalizes immigrant expulsions and implements anti-protest fines, ISIS tries hostage corpse ransom, Cold War 2.0 on the Baltic, using the deplorable to justify the unspeakable in Old Blighty, the hack of the year yields Tinseltown tawdriness and other revelations, fighting POODLE attacks on your browser, Spanish law triggers a Google News departure, prosecution urged for Brazilian military dictatorship crimes, a legal victory for journalists in Sierra Leone, forced conversions alleged in India, freedom of information oversight defunding Down Under, a virginity test for Indonesian policewomen, North Korean kidnap leaks alleged, China memorial brings Japanese war crimes into the present, Hong Kong Occupy evicted with 247 arrests as some vow to return, China rejects a Vietnamese island claim, Washington pushes for a Japanese/South Korean rapprochement, a Hollywood film inspires a revisionist censorship cry in Japan, and Tojo nostalgia in Tokyo as Japan ups its military budget again. . . Continue reading

Berkeley protesters shut down talk by a spook


Peter Thiel is a cyberspook, a San Francisco billionaire who made a big pile on Facebook [he owns 10.6 percent of its shares] , helping PayPal go public, and from co-founding and chairing a CIA-bankrolled outfit called Palantir.

None of those key facts was included in a frothy little article in the UC Berkeley campus paper in a report resounding with outrage on a shutdown of a talk Thiel was giving to the Berkeley Forum last night when a group of anti-police violence protesters stormed into the meeting and confronted Thiel, who was promptly surrounded by his bodyguards and hustle out.

From the Daily Californian:

“We honestly didn’t think the protests would interfere,” said Pierre Bourbonnais, president of the Berkeley Forum and former marketing manager at The Daily Californian. “It’s pretty unimaginable and unfortunate. I’m in support of free speech, but this is not the right venue for that. I’m very disappointed.”

Bourbonnais said he had received calls and emails preceding the event that asked if the protests would disrupt the address.

Thiel left with his handlers as the protesters entered the auditorium, according to Bourbonnais. Protesters shouted, “No police state — no NSA!” as they stormed the stage. Bourbonnais described the protesters’ entrance as a “tug-of-war battle” between Berkeley Forum members and protesters.

One would think a reporter might wonder why protesters were calling out “No NSA,” but such a thought apparently never occurred to the Daily Cal‘s Adrienne Shih.

So why were the protesters invoking the spooky acronym?

That radical rag BloombergBusinessweek describes Thiel’s Palantir as “a Silicon Valley company that’s become the darling of the intelligence and law enforcement communities.”

More from that same article:

An organization like the CIA or FBI can have thousands of different databases, each with its own quirks: financial records, DNA samples, sound samples, video clips, maps, floor plans, human intelligence reports from all over the world. Gluing all that into a coherent whole can take years. Even if that system comes together, it will struggle to handle different types of data—sales records on a spreadsheet, say, plus video surveillance images. What Palantir (pronounced Pal-an-TEER) does, says Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner (IT), is “make it really easy to mine these big data sets.” The company’s software pulls off one of the great computer science feats of the era: It combs through all available databases, identifying related pieces of information, and puts everything together in one place.

Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantir’s technology is either creepy or heroic. Judging by the company’s growth, opinion in Washington and elsewhere has veered toward the latter. Palantir has built a customer list that includes the U.S. Defense Dept., CIA, FBI, Army, Marines, Air Force, the police departments of New York and Los Angeles, and a growing number of financial institutions trying to detect bank fraud. These deals have turned the company into one of the quietest success stories in Silicon Valley—it’s on track to hit $250 million in sales this year—and a candidate for an initial public offering. Palantir has been used to find suspects in a case involving the murder of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent, and to uncover bombing networks in Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. “It’s like plugging into the Matrix,” says a Special Forces member stationed in Afghanistan who requested anonymity out of security concerns. “The first time I saw it, I was like, ‘Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap.’ ”

Targeting Thiel also ruffled feathers at Breitbart.com, which opened its story on the incident thusly:

On Wednesday evening, in the very hall where the University of California at Berkeley had just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, demonstrators shut down a speech by billionaire tech guru–and noted libertarian–Peter Thiel.

Unlike the Daily Cal, the folks at Breitbart actually mentioned Thiel’s spooky ties way down in the eighth paragraph:

Among other distinctions, Thiel is the co-author of a book about liberal intolerance on campus. He is also one of the co-founders of PayPal, the online commerce and money transfer site, and founded Palantir Technologies, a data analysis firm that does some work in the field of national security for the government.

Note how they downplayed what Palantir actually does.

But to be honest about Palantir’s role as a critical enabler of the Orwellian panopticon state would have deleted the political purpose of the screed, namely discrediting campus protest against a hapless billionaire”libertarian.”

Never mind that libertarian means, by definition, opposing any institution targeting full expression of civil liberties. What they really meant was neolibertarian, as in using the power of the state to smash anything standing in the way of their looting of the commons with the muscle of the state to back them up, all the while paying nothing to fund the machinery of that state and shifting th financial burden onto the backs of those whose community assets they are gobbling up at rock bottom prices. While Palantir denies developing software for the NSA itself, there’s no doubt the company was launched with CIA backing, and that its software is used by the CIA, FBI, and other agencies including police departments targeted by the protests. So the only fault of the protesters may have been in their choice of one three-letter acronym instead of another.So good on you, protesters.

The bafflegab promulgated by the media makes us so mad that we can’t breathe.