Saturday, June 29, 2013











Today Amnesty International notes torture in 'liberated' Iraq:

The torture had so disfigured him that even his own mother had trouble recognizing him when she visited him in prison.
But as Ahmad ‘Amr ‘Abd al-Qadir Muhammad’s mother explained, what happened to her son behind bars is not unusual in Iraq.
"For a year I thought he was dead and then I was told that he was in prison. On my first visit I did not recognize him because of the marks of torture on him … The burn on his shoulder, the burn on his leg, the injury from a drill in his arm,” she told Amnesty International.
Her son Ahmad, a Palestinian born in Iraq, was arrested on 21 July 2006 in the Zayouna district of Baghdad, at the height of the sectarian violence that crippled the country, and held incommunicado for more than a year.
The authorities accused him of being a member of an armed group that was planning to plant explosives, and sentenced him to death 17 May 2011 after a trial marred by torture allegations.
When he saw his mother for the first time in a year, in a detention centre in the al-Baladiyat district of Baghdad, he just said:
“They tortured me to force me to ‘confess’.”
A medical examination carried out by the Forensic Medical Institute around two years after Ahmad’s arrest documented “brown large scars” on various parts of his body, congruent with his account.

The torture, the disappearances in the 'legal' system, the imprisonment of people without trial and, even more shocking, the imprisonment of people without being charged are hallmarks of Iraqi 'justice' today and they are among the issues that kicked off the 2011 protests and jump-started the ongoing protests that began December 21st.   National Iraqi News reports "thousands" turned out in Falluja and Ramadi today and notes:

Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, one of the organizers of Anbar sit-ins ,said to NINA reporter : "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction.

Iraqi Spring MC notes that speakers in Samarra sees Iran behind the 2006 attack on the al-Askari shrines and they cite US General George Casey for that assertion.   They also note Samarra protesters are calling for an independent, international investigation and state that they do not trust Nouri's government to conduct the investigation.  Alsumaria notes that the cry was also echoed at the Tikrit demonstration.  They elaborate on Casey's remarks explaining that they were made in France and that he was speaking at event sponsored by an Iranian opposition group (they probably mean the MEK).  NINA quotes Sheikh Hussein Ghazi stating in Samarra, "It has become clear in the light of what is declared by the US forces former commander in Iraq Gen George Casey, a few days ago, about Iran's implication in Samarra bombings that targeted the holy shrine of the two Imams in 2006, and the painful consequences of those bombings that have been carried out with the knowledge of the Iraqi government."  Alsumaria notes Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader, responded to a question about Casey's charges by noting that the US government repeatedly blames Iran whenever possible and -- apparently confusing Casey with either former US general (and one time top commander in Iraq) and former CIA Director David Petraeus or with Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk who's currently stationed in Iraq -- Moqtada dismissed Casey as a "womanizer."

In Falluja, National Iraqi News Agency notes, Sheikh Ghalib al-Issawi called for the closure of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad.  Iraqi Spring MC adds that many members of the media were prevented by Nouri's forces from entering the square where the sit-in was taking place.

Alsumaria reports protesters in Dhi Qar Province insist that they will continue their protests until the electricity situation is addressed.  (Electricity actually has gotten worse in the last months in Dhi Qar which is what prompted the citizens to take to the streets.)  Al Mada reports that at least 50 people turned out in Basra to protest in front of Egypt's Consulate over the death of Shi'ite cleric Hassan Shehata.  Four days ago, saleh1966 (All Voices) reported:

Some 3,000 Sunnis, led by Salafis, attacked and killed four Shiite men including senior cleric Hassan Shehata and his brother, accusing Shehata of spreading Shiism beliefs in Egypt. The attack occurred in the town of Zawiyat Abu Muslim in Giza province on the outskirts of Cairo on Sunday, al-Ahram newspaper reported.
The paper also stated that hundreds of attackers stabbed, beat and dragged the bodies of the victims. About 30 were seriously injured and four were pronounced dead by the Health Ministry.

For six months and one week, Iraqis have taken their protests public at great risk to their own safety.  The the April 23rd massacre  --  when Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in and killed adults and children -- was only the most violent example of the security forces attacking protesters.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.  Protesters have been followed home by security forces, have been harrassed by security forces, have been pursued in mosques by security forces.

But they have continued to turn out in a manner which the world press would normally applaud; however, the world press makes increasingly clear just how little they care about Iraq or Iraqis.  The Tuesday April 23rd massacre, for example, was reported after the fact by the world press.  In the days leading up to it (the Friday before at least one protester at the Hawija sit-in was killed by Nouri's forces and several were injured, the sit-in was surrounded by Nouri's forces which refused to allow them to leave; the Saturday and Sunday saw efforts by Iraqi MPs to enter the sit-in and deliver food and medicine), only the Iraqi press covered it.  No US outlet filed one story even though, by Sunday evening, even the US State Dept was taking the issue seriously and terming it a "hot spot."  Would the 53 people slaughtered have died if the world press had done their job?  Possibly not.

The world press exists to humor Nouri al-Maliki, not to hold a US-installed thug accountable.  Felicity Arbuthnot (Dissident Voice and Global Research) notes realities as she explains a popular rumor in Iraq currently:

As violence continues to rage across “liberated” Iraq under America’s puppet “Prime Minister” Nuri al-Maliki, a fair amount of it at his instigation as his troops round up and shoot demonstrators (President Jalal Talabani, who had a heart attack early in the year has vanished without trace, Vice President Tarik al-Hashimi has fled to Turkey in fear of his life) one incident arguably of note, has gone unnoticed in the Western media.
On Friday June 21st the Ba’ath Party, in a statement, said that “Party Members” had killed one of Saddam Hussein’s executioners alleging it was the balaclava masked man who placed the noose around his neck and led him to the trap door, in a videoed and multi-mobile recorded death and aftermath of further horror, ushering in the US-UK’s “New Iraq.”

The exeuctioner rumored to have been killed is also rumored to have worked for Nouri personally and to have been a relative of Nouri.

Good news, Iraq is not in the midst of a(nother) civil war (ethnic cleansing) and no civil war (ethnic cleansing) is coming because the current "crisis is manageable" -- so says Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press.  Of course, Zebari's also fudging what happened yesterday at the United Nations Security Council.  Like Zebari, I was there.   See yesterday's snapshot.  Iraq was 'removed' from Chapter VII but, despite Zebari (and other Iraqi officials) insisting 'free at last!,' Iraq was placed under Chapter VI which is only slightly better than Chapter VII.   From the UN press release:

Recognizing that the situation that now exists in Iraq is significantly different from that which existed at the time of the invasion, the Council decided that the issues of missing people and property will now be handled under Chapter VI of the Charter, which calls for a peaceful resolution of disputes.
Another key provision of the new resolution is the Council’s decision to transfer the mandate formerly assigned to the High-Level Coordinator for Iraq-Kuwait Missing Persons and Property to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Paragraph 14 of resolution 1284 (1999) requested the appointment of a High-Level Coordinator to report to the Security Council regularly on “compliance by Iraq with its obligations regarding the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains” and “the return of all Kuwaiti property, including archives, seized by Iraq.”
The new resolution terminates that measure and in turn calls on the head of UNAMI to “promote, support and facilitate efforts regarding the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains, and the return of Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, seized by Iraq.”
Further, the resolution also requests that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon consider designating the deputy chief of UNAMI covering political affairs “with the responsibility for overseeing these issues and ensuring appropriate resources for this purpose.”

Sorry to harsh the mellow but that is the reality.

The US Embassy notes a less specific but congratulatory message US Secretary of State John Kerry issued today:

Statement by Secretary Kerry: UN Security Council Decision to Transfer Chapter VII Mandate to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq

June 28, 2013
The United States congratulates the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait on successfully resolving key bilateral and international issues over the past year, which helped result in today’s milestone decision by the UN Security Council. It's testament to the commitment of two neighbors to a new relationship that we're witnessing the transfer of the Chapter VII mandate and responsibilities of the UN High-Level Coordinator for Gulf War Missing Kuwaiti and Third-Country Nationals and the Return of Kuwaiti Property to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq.
We further welcome the completion of the border maintenance work and the establishment of technical arrangements between Iraq and Kuwait as recommended by the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission. As I discussed during my visit to Kuwait yesterday, we will continue to support both Kuwait and Iraq so they continue to build further confidence and cooperation, strengthen their relationship, and enhance regional stability.

As so often happens, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr appears to be the only one paying attention to the details.  Alsumaria reports he declared today that he hoped the Iraqi government did not give away needed things to leave Chapter VII and that moving Iraq from Chapter VII to Chapter VI does not grant Iraq freedom.  He has concerns about a number of issues including the economics of the deal.  Al Mada reports that Parliament is also expressing concerns about the issue of Iraq's money held by the international community and about being shut out on the negotiations regarding the shift from Chapter VII to Chapter VI.

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Friday, June 28, 2013







Today in New York, at the United Nations Security Council, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari spoke at length about Iraq and leaving Chapter VII.  Excerpt.

Minister Hoshyar Zebari:  Mr. President, at the outset, allow me to thank you for holding this important meeting.  I should also like to express my thanks and my appreciation to the countries that sponsored this resolution and contributed to its enrichment as well as to our friends, the member of the Security Council, that voted to adopt it.  I cannot fail to express my country's gratitude to the Secretary General for his report and document S/2013/357 which contains important proposals and analyses as well as the efforts of the United Nations Mission for Assistance in Iraq -- UNAMI -- led by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. [Martin] Kolber for its efforts in fulfilling the requirements of its mandate in Iraq, as well as to the state and government of  Kuwait for it's support and assistance to Iraq to emerge from the provisions of Chapter VII.  [. . .] Mr. President, your august council is meeting today to adopt a resolution which falls within the context of a number of resolutions and measures taken by the Security Council to remove Iraq from under the provisions of Chapter VII of the United Nations' charter.  In carefully looking at the past few years, we can see how far Iraq has come along the path of constructive cooperation with the objective of enabling it to finally fulfill all of its obligations under Security Council resolutions.  Our foreign policy and international relations have mainly focused on the means of ridding the people and the country of Iraq of the burden placed by those resolutions.  Such burdens would never have been imposed on Iraq had it not been for the aggressive policies of the former regime, policies of waging wars against its neighbors and internally repressing its own people.  Those resolutions have been an obstacle on Iraq's road toward progress, prosperity and regional and international integration.  In looking back at our achievements over the past few years and Iraq regaining its international standing, as it was prior to the adoption of Resolution 661 of 1990, we take note of a crucial resolution: Resolution 1762 of 2007 which ended the mandate of the United Nations condition on Monitoring, Verification and Inspection  Commission -- UNMOVIC.  That resolution strengthened the sovereignty of Iraq and lifted the weight of political constraints from the country.  It was a resolution that paved the way for Iraq's return to the regional and international communities and contributed to the stability of our region.  That resolution represented the international community's recognition of the correct approach taken by Iraq in fulfilling its obligations in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.  It is with great pride that Iraq currently chairs the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.  This confirms the validity of the path that Iraq has taken -- particularly following the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguard Agreements for the International Atomic Energy Agency -- IAEA -- and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  Mr. President, your esteemed council further decided in its Resolution 1859 of 2008 to review those resolutions pertaining to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait and the situation in Iraq in order to identify together  the mutual obligations corresponding to the international community as represented by your esteemed council and those of Iraq.  As result the Security Council adopted three important resolutions on the 15th of December 2010: Resolutions 1956, 1957 and 1958.  According to which, all of Iraq's obligations were ended with the exception of three issues relating to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait.  Namely, one, the issue of missing Kuwaitis and property; two, the maintenance of border markers; and, thirdly, that of compensation.  With regard to the first issue, significant progress has been achieved within bilateral cooperation between the two countries.  None of that cooperation would have been achieved without serious cooperation by the Iraqi authorities.  We shall continue to do so, we shall continue that endeavor.  And we will increase the pace of that cooperation in the coming period.  Now that the issue has been moved to the provisions of Chapter VI of the charter by your latest resolution.  In regards to the second issue, the maintenance of border pillars, markers, Iraq and Kuwait have reached a mechanism through the establishment of the joint-ministerial committees and put in place the necessary measures as indicated in security Resolution 833 of 1993.  In this regards, may I refer to the letter of the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council of 6-12-2013 referring to the end of the mission entrusted to him under Resolution 833 of 1993, "Therefore, on that basis, Iraq has now fulfilled all of its obligations under that resolution."  As for the issue of compensation, Iraq is committed to pay the percentage decided by the Security Council based on the mechanism as set by the United Nations Commission on Compensation and this has been included in United Nations Security Council resolution 1956 of 2010 under the mechanism of the successor arrangement for the Iraq development fund. We, therefore, believe, Mr. President, that Iraq -- by the Security Council's adoption of this latest resolution -- Iraq has fulfilled all of its obligations as provided by Security Council's resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  We believe that today's date, June 27 of 2013, will be a landmark, a milestone, in the history of relationship between Iraq and the international community.

 That was a lengthy excerpt.  But it's a major step, the lifting of Chapter VII, and it also gives you an overview of the narrative the Iraqi government wants out there.  Iraq was placed under Chapter VII as a result of its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Today there was a unanimous vote.

All Iraq News reports the news was greeted in Baghdad with celebrations: "launching fireworks and raising the Iraqi flags in addition to organizing motorcades that spread flowers and sweets [to] citizens in Baghdad," according to a statement from Acting Mayor of Baghdad Abdul Hussein al-Murshidi.  Press TV quotes Nouri al-Maliki declaring, "Iraq is now free from the constraints imposed by the follies of the dictatorial regime."  I don't think that statement helps a great deal.  "Follies"?  Seriously, that's what you're going to call the attack on Kuwait?

And it's supposed to be a wonderful day for Iraq but, if you're honest, it's just a slightly better day.  Chapter VII did not go 'poof' and disappear.  It's been replaced with a new resolution which, as the United Nations notes, "called on the Iraqi Government to continue searching for Kuwaiti nationals and property missing since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion, but terminated provisions in earlier texts that allowed the military enforcement of the measures under Charter VII of the UN Charter. "  It's been moved from Chapter VII to Chapter VI.

After the session, Hoshyar Zebari addressed the press (and spoke in English).  "Today there was a very, very important Security Council resolution on Iraq - Kuwait relations.  And this resolution is a historical resolution for Iraq and it's a success for the United Nations and for the two countries.  In fact, Chapter VII and the sanctions on Iraq have become something of the past.  And, as I said in my statement, we are concentrating more on the present and the future in Iraq - Kuwaiti relationship."

He hailed it as "an example for other countries to resolve their disputes between peaceful means."

He hailed many things.  Not at the press conference, but in his remarks to the Security Council, he hailed provincial elections -- 2009 and the ones that have taken place so far this year.  He spoke of how provincial elections allowed the people to pick their government.  He didn't speak of the 2010 parliamentary elections.  But he did mention the planned 2014 parliamentary elections.  That was interesting.

I don't blame him for not sighting the problem plagued 2010 elections which were only resolved with a legal contract, The Erbil Agreement, which was then broken (by Nouri al-Maliki) and created the ongoing political crisis in Iraq.  One of so many crises in the country.

 Iraqiya won the 2010 elections (so one of their members should have been made prime minister if the country's Constitution had been followed and US President Barack Obama hadn't insisted Nouri al-Maliki get a second term).  The leader of Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi.  He Tweeted today:


The started and continued with disorder leading through waves of crises.

But it was a Tweet yesterday that got some attention from the Iraqi press.

The absence of cabinet bylaws and power-sharing is a couple of many abuses of the by the Iraqi PM.

Among the outlets reporting on that Wednesday Tweet Thursday afternoon were All Iraq NewsRudaw reports:

Ayad Allawi, the man who is not Iraq’s prime minister despite winning at the 2010 polls, blames the country’s violence and instability on an incompetent government, badly trained forces and a constitution that he says was forced on Iraqis by American invaders.
“All the killings and bombings are happening and the security forces aren’t able to cope, because they are unprofessional and there is no proper military hierarchy,” Allawi said in a Facebook Q&A with fans.
“The the security forces are built and run by certain political groups and the government itself admits that these forces have been infiltrated and are incapable of doing their job,” says Allawi, insisting that an army should be trained for protection of all Iraqis, not just those with certain religious or ethnic backgrounds.
Allawi, Iraq’s first prime minister after the invasion and once seen as the “strongman” who would put the country back together, has been sidelined ever since he was swindled out of his victory at the 2010 polls.
I read an incredibly stupid post at a website today.  I'm being kind and not naming it (it's not a blog, it's a website of a magazine that's been around for decades).  The post insisted that Americans all needed to focus on ____ (foreign country) and that Americans "owed it" to _____ focus on it.  Really, because US forces didn't get sent there.  They were sent to Iraq, or did the idiot forget that?  (If I named the idiot -- we have a lot of Arabic readers -- the idiot would be targeted as a Zionist because of their organization which is another reason not to name or link to the post.)   There are numerous ways to respond to that would-be Joan of Arc.  I'll offer three quickly.

1) If you want to burn at the stake, step on up, honey, but don't try to pull me with you.

2) You don't go for seconds until you've cleaned your plate.

3) Have you looked at Iraq?  If the US owes anything to another country right now, I'd argue the biggest debt -- certainly debt of attention -- is to Iraq.

I'm so tired of these people selling their new wars while refusing to even acknowledge the mess their War Hawk ways have created in Iraq.

The person has no idea what's going on in Iraq.

Others who have a slight idea argue The Erbil Agreement isn't important.

If you don't think that's important, you're suffering English press damage.  The Arabic press has never fogotten it.  Rudaw, by the way, isn't Arabic.  It's a Kurdish press. And even they are talking about it.

Most Americans have no idea about the agreement or that it exists.  Of those who do know, too many think it's unimportant.

More than anything else, The Erbil Agreement is why the US standing in Iraq is so low today.

Iraqis were even more thrilled by candidate Barack Obama than Germany or other countries.  They thought Iraq would have a friend.  This man who was opposed to the Iraq War (not quite true -- he gave a 2002 anti 'dumb war' speech but by 2004 was telling the New York Times that, had he been in the Senate in 2002, he might have voted for the resolution to go to war with Iraq). And he charmed Nouri al-Maliki in their face-to-face.

But then came the lead up to the 2010 elections.  Gen Ray Odierno was sounding warnings (he was the then-top US commander in Iraq).  He could see Nouri's State of Law potentially losing and, he worried, if that happened what happens if Nouri refuses to step down.

The White House had the ear of then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill who was a disaster and would be asked to step down from his post as a result of the 2010 election aftermath.  Chris Hill was fired, let's be really clear on that because Hill keeps popping up as an Iraq 'expert' in the media.  He was fired.  He was fired for the job he did.

Chris was whining about Odierno doing this or that.  Chris felt that Odierno got media attention and the media liked Ray better and if someone would tell mean ol' Ray Odierno to stop talking to the media, they might listen to him.

Instead of telling Chris to take the thumb out of his mouth and stop whining, Barack went along with all of Chris' demands.  And probably because Odierno's reports weren't good.

They were truthful, they were reality-based.  But they didn't make you want to smile the way Chris Hill's eternal progress reports did.  There was no reality to the report Hill passed on.

And sure enough, Nouri was a thug.  In March the elections were held and second place Nouri refused to step down.  Not for a day, not for a week.  For over eight months.  Setting the record for that time.

Though he'd lost, Nouri wasn't going to step down.  And as the stalemate continued, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Barack and told him it was time to stop listening to Chris Hill and that he really needed to listen to Ray Odierno.

This stalemate?  That's why Iraqiya wants a caretaker government in place when the 2014 elections (which could become 2013 ones if they're moved up) are held.  They don't believe Nouri will step down if he loses again.  Why would they?  He's already demonstrated once that he wouldn't.

For a little over eight months, things were at a stand still.  But Barack was still backing Nouri (Samantha Power swore Nouri was the best shot at stability in Iraq -- proving that she's not only dumb, she's deadly).  So Barack has US officials pressure the other Iraqi leaders into giving Nouri a second term.  How?  The Constitution is clear, Nouri's out.

The Erbil Agreement went around the Constitution.  It was a contract between the leaders of the political blocs.  The US officials were saying, 'Look, there's no prime minister.  Nothing's going forward, your Parliament has only had a roll call in 8 months, there are no meetings, there is no Cabinet.  Nouri has refused to budge for 8 months.  It's up to you to be the mature ones and show leadership and allow Iraq to move forward by letting Nouri have a second term.  But, in exchange for giving him this second term, you can ask for things your constituents want.  And we'll write it up and it'll be a legally binding contract with the full backing of the US government."  So the political leaders signed on.

And Nouri ran with the agreement long enough to be named prime minister and then shredded it and refused to honor any of the promises he had made in it.

This is why Iraqis lost faith with Barack.  The US government played dumb and didn't say a word.  And ever since then the political crisis has been about The Erbil Agreement and Nouri's refusal to implement this power-sharing agreement.

Last week, Sarah Montague (BBC Hardtalk) did one of her hard hitting interviews where she takes an adversarial position.  This interview was with Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya.  And what seemed to frustrate her the most was how he kept talking about "international community" when clearly he meant the US government but he repeatedly avoided naming it.

Sarah Montague:  But you were voted, your party got the most seats.

Ayad Allawi: Yes.

He went on to blame Iran and she went on to get very frustrated.  (Iran is a part of the story.)

Sarah Montague:  You chose to go into that government [Nouri's government].

Ayad Allawi:  No, we chose because the alternative, after seven months of not forming a government, we thought Iraq needs a government.  And the alternative was a power-sharing agreement between us and Mr. Maliki and the Dawa Party.  So we signed the power-sharing agreement [The Erbil Agreement] --

Sarah Montague:  Was that a mistake?

Ayad Allawi:  It was not honored, unfortunately -- neither by the Islamists, Mr. Maliki and his  nor by the international community who supported the power-sharing agreement.  But this was not honored, unfortunately.  We stayed in the Cabinet for a period of time until we saw that there were no intentions at all to implement the agreement and by then the demonstrations started in Iraq in 2011 ---

Sarah Montague:  But do you accept -- do you accept that part of the problem is that you couldn't control your own party? That, if actually, Iraqiya formed a bloc that  was together and which you could control then you could have had more influence than you chose to?

Ayad Allawi:  No, because there were some interferences from outside powers to prevent this from happening.

Sarah Montague:  You say you picked up a lot of votes -- Sunni votes -- do you recognize that they may feel let down by you now?

Ayad Allawi:  I don't think so.  We -- We tried and this was really an opportunity that the Sunnis elected a Shi'ite and this shows that they are not sectarian.

Sarah Montague:  They elected you.  And you're a secular Shia, you brought Sunnis along and you tried to reach across these sectarian divides?

Ayad Allawi:  -- know what happened and what happened was very, very clear, that there was Iranian influence on certain parties in Iraq, they were objecting to the Iraqiya taking over. They were to the extent of threatening.  And that's why I'm saying that lots of leaders tried to intervene [. . .] by explaining to Iran that this is not the way to interfere in Iraq.  But the Iranians never budged really.  And unfortunately, what went with this was the international scene, international community, agreed to Iran and we then had to agree because we can't leave the country without a prime minister --

Sarah Montague:  You say the international community, the Americans?  Are you saying the Americans should have stood up to Iran?

Ayad Allawi:  Yes, democracy. The Americans.

Sarah Montague:  Do you feel let down by the Americans?

Ayad Allawi:  They let down the political process, they let down the democratic process in doing so, the Americans.

Sarah Montague:  Realistically, what could they have done?

Ayad Allawi:  They could have used their office to not keep on pressuring us and others and the Kurds to accept Nouri al-Maliki as a prime minister.

Sarah Montague:  They should have said 'no' even though the majority of the Shi'ites --

Ayad Allawi:   They should have said that we respect the Constitution.  Iraq was still under Chapter VII.  The [UN] Security Council supported the elections and supported the results of the elections.  And then they changed their minds once Iran started to behave in a very aggressive way against Iraqiya.

Sarah Montague:  . . . [stumbles for words] It sounds as if you're saying, "Look I didn't get my way! The Americans should have put me in! And --"

Ayad Allawi:  No, no, no, no.  The Iraqi people voted me in, not the Americans.  And the Americans, unfortunately, I don't know why, they agreed to what Iran was saying, they blocked the way of Iraqiya to take over.  So this is really very simple. This is what happened.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

Just because most US outlets refused and refuse to cover what happened doesn't change the fact that Iraqis, that the Arabic region, knows exactly what happened and it's not a good view of the United States that they've been left with.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013







Also appearing before the Oversight Committee were IRS Deputy Commissioner Beth Tucker, Office of Entrepreneurial Development with the US Small Business Administration's Michael Chodos, VBA's Brad Flohr and the General Services Administration's William A. Sisk. 

US House Rep Scott Desjarlais Ms. Tucker, at the beginning of the hearing this morning, Gregory Roseman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incrimination and did not testify.  As the Deputy Commissioner of the IRS, is it your expectation that an IRS employee will appear before the Committee to testify about official action taken within the scopes of his duties at the IRS?

Beth Tucker: Sir, we expect all IRS employees to cooperate with members of Congress.

US House Rep Scott Desjarlais:  But he didn't.

Beth Tucker:  He did not.

US House Rep Scott Desjarlais:  Ms. Lerner didn't.

Beth Tucker:  Each of these individuals -- as Mr. [US House Rep Elijah] Cummings said -- invoked their Constitutional rights.

 Lerner took the Fifth before the House Oversight Committee on May 22nd.  That hearing was covered in that day's "Iraq snapshot," Ava's"Sir, I gave you the wrong information (Ava)," Wally's "Time for a special prosecutor (Wally)," Kat's "It was like Steel Magnolias at one point during the hearing" and the discussion Dona moderated at Third "Report on Congress."   It was also spoofed in Cedric's "Future employment opportunities for Lois Lerner" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR LOIS LERNER!"  Issa has announced that they will be voting on Lerner's Fifth Amendment this Friday.  When you plead the Fifth, you plead the Fifth.

Your answer is that you are not going to speak to avoid self-incrimination.  What Lerner did was deliver a lengthy statement maintaining her innocence and then invoke the Fifth.  On its most basic and pure level, that's not the Fifth Amendment.  The Committee is scheduled to vote Friday to determine what happens there.  In the meantime, they have a second IRS official who is refusing to testify about their job duties and how they carried out their job.

We're going to do one more excerpt from the hearing, I think an overall impression was created in the hearing and I think most people missed it.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: Ms. Tucker, you've been at the IRS 29 years?   

Beth Tucker:  Yes, sir. 

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  And you're Deputy Commissioner, is that correct?  

Beth Tucker:  Deputy Commissioner.  

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  How many Deputy Commissioners are there? 

Beth Tucker:  Two.  

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Is there anyone between the Deputy Commissioner and the Commissioner?

Beth Tucker: No.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: So you're right near the top?

Beth Tucker: Yes, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  One month ago, Inspector General Russell George gave the Committee information that he informed the IRS on May 30, 2012 that targeting of  conservative political groups was taking place.  In fact, if we can put that up on the screen, this is from the TIGTA timeline he gave this Committee.  And he says in that meeting, these terms were used: "tea party," "patriots," "9-12,"  And he says that there were three people in that Committee -- in that meeting.  Mr. [Doug] Shulman who's no longer with the IRS, Steve Miller who has been fired and you.  Now Mr. Shulman testified a month ago in this Committee that that was the first time he knew targeting was taking place.  Was that the first time you knew about the targeting at the IRS?

Beth Tucker:  That was the first time I was aware of the situation, yes.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: Now Mr. Miller has also, uh, -- We've also been informed through the Committee talking with Nan Marks, an employee of the IRS, that there was an internal investigation launched by Mr. Miller in March of 2012.  Did you know about that internal investigation?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: And the results of that were Mr. Miller knew about what was going on May 3, 2012.  Did you know the results on May 3rd?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: So the earliest you knew about it was the same time Mr. Shulman testified and what you're testifying to today was May 30th of last year?

Beth Tucker:  Yes, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: And you're familiar with the fact that Mr. Schulman testified in front of the [House] Ways and Means Committee in March of last year where he said this.  First, Mr. [US House Rep Charles] Boustany asked him, "Can you give us assurances that the IRS is not targeting political groups?"  Mr. Shulman said, "Yes, I can give you assurances, we pride ourselves on being a non-political, non-partisan organization."  So just two months prior to learning that targeting was going on, he gave assurances.  Now there's usually, when you give assurances, some basis for assurances.  Were you part of the basis for assurances that Mr. Shulman gave the Ways and Means Committee in March of 2012?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: You did not have any conversations with Mr. Shulman before he went and testified before the Ways and Means Committee?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  In the meeting that took place on May 30th, the meeting that's highlighted there on the TIGTA timeline, when you learned that the targeting was taking place, what was the reaction in that meeting?  Was it, "Oh, sh-sugar, we got to do something here."?  Was it, "We got to correct the record"?  What was the reaction when the three top people at the IRS learned that this was going on?

Beth Tucker:  So, if I might, uh, TIGTA, the Treasury Inspector General comes in once a month to meet with --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Cut to the chase, what was the reaction?  You find out that there's targeting of political groups, six months before an election, what was the reaction of the top three people at the IRS?

 Beth Tucker: TIGTA reported the information that they were looking into the audit and then at that point and time IRS waits for TIGTA to complete their investigation.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: That's not what they told you.  They told you "tea party," "patriot" "9-12" were identifying terms used to put groups on a list who were never given the tax-exempt status they sought and, in some cases, they'd been trying to get it for three years.  You learned that May 30, 2012.  And your reaction was, 'Oh, okay, we'll just let it keep going on and see what TIGTA comes up with'?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  I mean, earlier in your testimony to the Chairman, you said, 'You know it would be helpful if this Committee would share information with us at the IRS about the issue that's in front of the Committee today."  Well it would have been helpful if, once you got that information, you'd have shared it with this Committee. We would have liked to have -- In fact, we're the Committee that asked for the audit in the first place.  We would have liked to have known, six months before an election, May 30th of last year, that targeting was going on.  Did you instruct Russell George to share this information with the House Ways and Means Committee and with the House Oversight Committee?

Beth Tucker: Sir, my --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  No, that's a question.  Did you tell Mr. George,  'You know this is pretty important information.  We just learned today,' according to your testimony 'this is going on.'  Did you tell Mr. George, 'You know, you might want to share that with the Oversight Committee, specifically since Mr. Issa's the one who requested the audit?" 

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.  That was not my responsibility.  I have responsibility at IRS --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Let me ask you this --

Beth Tucker:  -- for our operations.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: But the point is, you were in the meeting.  The other two guys are gone.  Mr. Shulman's gone, Mr. Miller's been fired.  You're the highest ranking official at IRS in that meeting.  You knew about it a year ago.  Didn't you think it was incumbent upon you to set the record straight?  Your boss, Mr. Shulman, had just testified two months earlier and told Congress nothing was going on and he finds out two months later it is going on.  You're the highest ranking official still at the IRS.  You didn't think it was incumbent to come tell Congress what was -- what was taking place?

Beth Tucker: The TG organization does not report to me.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Why didn't you correct the record?  Why didn't you just -- Why didn't you just come to Mr. Issa and say, 'You know what? What Mr. Shulman ' -- Did you tell Mr. Shulman he should correct the record?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.  I did not.

US House Jim Jordan: Well let me ask you this.  Have you been disciplined by Mr. [Danny] Werfel for not correcting the record?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.  It's not in my purview.  

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Well you're Deputy Commissioner.  You're in the meeting.  You learned about it that day.  Right?

Beth Tucker:  Mr. George told us in his routine monthly meeting that they were doing an investigation of TEGE.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  We understand that.  All I'm asking is there's got to be some reason you didn't feel any obligation, any reason that you should come forward and set the record straight?  The Inspector General told the IRS what was going on.  You didn't feel  like you should tell us or you didn't feel that it was incumbent upon you to tell the Committee?

Beth Tucker:  Sir, at the Internal Revenue Service, we have two Deputy Commissioners that have very clearly delineated responsibilities.

Darrell Issa: The gentleman's time has expired.  The gentle lady may finish.

Beth Tucker: At the Internal Revenue Service, we have two Deputy Commissioners with very clearly delineated responsibilities. I do not have responsibility for the service and enforcement program as --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Well, Ms. Tucker, Ms. Tucker, why were you in the meeting?  If it has nothing to do with you, why did -- why did Mr. Russell George think it was important to tell us that you were in the meeting?

Beth Tucker: Mr. George and his deputies come into Internal Revenue Service every month and brief on all of their investigations --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Mr. Chairman, if I could --

Beth Tucker:  Some of which are service enforcement.

A discussion then ensues about giving Jordan thirty more seconds.  He's granted it.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  So what you're saying is Mr. Miller -- that was his area of jurisdiction. 

Beth Tucker:  That is correct.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Did you tell Mr. Miller he should come forward and tell Congress what was going on?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.  At this meeting --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Was that discussed?

Beth Tucker:  If I could please.  The meeting. TIGDA comes in once a month to the Internal Revenue Service to brief the Commissioner and the two Deputies about their audits, their open audits.  On any given meeting that they come into, they could be talking -- I mean there are lots of oversight investigations that happen at Internal Revenue Service.  Those meetings are typically TIGDA coming in and saying, "We've opened an investigation on X program.  We've opened an investigation on another program."  If it is an investigation that is under my jurisdiction -- like procurement, like the IRS budget, like our real estate portfolio, then I am the responsible party. What I am trying to convey to you is that I do not have oversight responsibility for the TEGE programs.

Unless and until someone proves otherwise, I'm going to assume Beth Tucker is telling the truth.  IF you disagree, that's fine.  But that's not even the issue right now, her being truthful at this point and time.

Tucker is obligated -- as is anyone employed by the federal government -- to report certain things.  What she was told in the meeting with George is something she had an ethical responsibility to report.  Shulman and Miller are responsible for what they did.  Tucker is responsible for what she did and for what she didn't do.

Why did no one inform? Why did no one sound off?

More to the point, why did no one blow a whistle?

I'd argue that the problems at the IRS -- which are very serious -- and the VA (ditto) go to the climate that's been created where whistle-blowers are punished and, as with Ed Snowden, hunted.  Good government can't exist without oversight.  It requires the supervision of the American people.  If everything is hush-hush and classified, don't pretend an 'informed voter' exists.  We need sunlight but the current administration has demonized those who have stepped forward.

Last month's attack on the AP was about an old story that involved a leak by someone in the administration.  It had nothing to do with a crime.  But didn't the White House and those under it respond as if it was the biggest crime in the world?

You may not like Ed Snowden, you may not like what he did.  But when he blew this whistle on Barack's spying on the American people, he informed the American people.

I don't know that the IRS scandals would exist right now if the White House hadn't -- in violation of every core belief of democracy -- signaled that this was a period of secrecy despite all the lip service to openess.  A culture of secrecy does not encourage democracy or fairness.  That's why the US was founded on the belief that an informed citizenry was among the most important elements to the country.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013







While Iraq struggles politically, with violence and everything else, the biggest interest the country seems to generate from the world outside is this June 12th YouTube video of a dog in Iraq burying a dead puppy.  Perhaps that makes some larger sense?  Around the world popular videos of pets have them bouncing or whatever, but in violence scarred Iraq a dog buries a dead puppy.  And gets about half-a-million views when the video gets posted online.

Yes,  the violence continues in Iraq, the death toll for the month mounts.  Iraq Body Count. reports 466 deaths for the month of June through yesterday.

The death toll continued to mount today.  Shannon Young (Free Speech Radio News -- link is audio and text) explains, "Three bombing attacks killed more than 30 people across Iraq Tuesday as the security situation in the country descends into another cycle of sectarian violence. The New York Times reports the deadliest attack killed 16 people and wounded more than 50 as Shiites protested insecurity with a highway blockade in the Salahuddin province."   National Iraqi News Agency notes that protesters at a Tuz Khurmatu sit-in were attacked by 1 suicide bomber with "an explosive belt" who took his own life and left many demonstrators dead or injured.  World Bulletin counts 2 suicide bombers and 71 injured.  This evening, NINA reported the final toll from medical and security sources:  27 dead and 80 injured.  All Iraq News states it was one suicide bomber combined with a mortar attack.  AFP informs, "Among the dead were a former deputy provincial governor and his two sons, as well as a former provincial councillor." Alsumaria identifies the former deputy manager as Ahmed Abdul Wahid and note that the vice president of the Turkmen Front, Ali Hashem Mukhtar Oglu,  is the other official who died.   Yasir Ghazi (New York Times)  explains, "Security forces imposed a curfew in Tuz Khurmatu and ordered people to close their shops." Of the demonstration, Xinhua explains:

The Shiite Turkomans were holding a sit-in on a main road outside Tuz-Khurmato protesting the attacks by al-Qaida militants on their Shiite community in the city, which is part of the disputed areas claimed by the Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans.
The Kurds want to incorporate areas at the edges of their current Kurdistan region into their domain, a move fiercely opposed by the Baghdad government.
The Shiite Turkomans also demand the government to help form a special force to protect their minority from the attacks that they believe to be aimed at displacing them from their homes.

DPA adds, "The demonstrators were protesting recent attacks in the city, which has a majority ethnic Turkmen population."

There was other violence as well.  NINA notes an assassination attempt on Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi: "Police told NINA that an improvised explosive device, emplaced on the side of a street in Dawaseh area, downtown Mosul, went off when the Governor's motorcade was passing, wounding four of his guardsmen; but the Governor was not hurt."  In addition to being the Governor of Nineveh, he is also the brother of the Speaker of Iraq's Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  This wasn't the first attempt on al-Nujaifi's life by a long shot, it wasn't even the first one this year.  From the April 16th snapshot:

Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi is a prominent critic of Nouri al-Maliki.  al-Nujaifi is Sunni, a member of Iraqiya and the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.
Among the politicians targeted by Nouri in the last three years?  Atheel al-Nujaifi.  It wasn't all that long ago that Nouri was demanding that al-Nujaifi resign.  (al-Nujaifi refused.)

And it wasn't even the first attempted assassination of Atheel al-Nujaifi this month.  Prior to today, there had been at least two reported attempts.   June 1st, he was targeted yet again (also a Mosul bombing).  From the June 13th snapshot, "Mainly, they report a Mosul car bombing attack on Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi.   Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds that the assassination attempt claimed the lives of 2 by-standers."

In addition to that assassination attempt,  National Iraqi News Agency notes a bombing hit a bus of pilgrims outside Hilla as they were heading to Karbala leaving 3 dead and fifteen injured, a Baghdad bombing "near an outdoor playground" [sports field] left 4 people dead and fifteen more injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and a third injured,  and 2 Baquba bombings left 6 people dead and twelve injured.   All Iraq News quotes a security source stating, "Unidentified gunmen attack this morning the Mari Church in Ameen neighborhood of southeast Baghdad and injured three policemen in charge of securing the Church."  And Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) reports,  "In Mosul, in the north, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up inside a popular cafe, killing 10 people and wounding 18." Iraqi Spring MC reports that clashes took place in Ramadi between rebels and Nouri's forces.   That's 52 reported deaths and 150 injured.

At their Facebook page, Iraqi Spring MC noted the attack on the protesters.  They've also noted an increase in the mass arrests in the last 48 hours such as in Abu Ghraib -- which was carried out by SWAT forces and the Army's 17th Division.  On the US-trained and equipped SWAT forces, NINA notes: that Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya has issued a demand for the dissolution of the SWAT forces as a result of their repeated and barbaric attack on the Iraqi civilians:

The statement said, "Such actions by these force which supposed to keep security and lives of the people, brings to mind a number of questions about the legitimacy of the so-called / SWAT / forces also about the legal and constitutional of these forces , as well as about its link with the government or just a militia and mob," stressing that / Swat / are the same forces that recently committed Hawija massacre without any brought to accountability or to justice or just deterred , according to the statement.
The coalition, held the commander in chief of the armed forces, Nouri al-Maliki full responsibility for what the coalition called a disregard for the lives of citizens, asking al-Maliki to dissolve these forces "unknown origin and legitimacy."

The April 23rd massacre referred to above is what happened when Nouri al-Maliki's federal forces stormed a peaceful sit-in in Hawija.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Among the demands of the protesters?  Release the many detained in prisons and jails who've never been charged with a crime.  Aswat al-Iraq reported today:

The Committee formed to tackle the demonstrators' demands announced here today that more than 7000 detainees were released, including 200 women.

The Committee, headed by deputy premier Hussein Shahristani, added that more than 14.000 residences were acquitted, which were covered with the regulations of Questioning and Justice formalities, as reported in a statement, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq today.

Those are Nouri's figures.  They've refused the requests of governors to release lists with names.  So the figures may be accurate or they may be false.  But any country that imprisons people without charges has a government that needs to be replaced.

Let's note another of Nouri's problems, Camp Ashraf residents now in Camp Hurriya.  Saturday, June 15th, the refugees now at Camp Liberty were attacked.  It's past time to get them moved.  Nouri is not protecting them and has no interest in it.  The State Dept issued the following yesterday:

Press Statement

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

June 24, 2013

On June 19 and June 21, two groups of Camp Hurriya residents, 27 in total, were permanently relocated to Albania. This was the third of a series of movements planned under the terms of a generous humanitarian offer by the Government of Albania to accept 210 individuals from Camp Hurriya. The United States thanks Albania for its compassion in this humanitarian endeavor. So far, 71 individuals have relocated to Albania as part of this agreement, and we look forward to additional individuals relocating as soon as possible.
The United States strongly supports the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), and the tireless efforts of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler to relocate remaining camp residents outside Iraq. We urge the Mujahedin-e Khalq leadership, and all responsible parties, to ensure full cooperation with the UNHCR relocation process so that future movements occur as expeditiously as possible.
The relocation of Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq is a humanitarian mission and vital to their safety and security. The United States renews its call on the Government of Iraq to help ensure the security of the camp in accordance with its December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations. This is a matter of extreme urgency given ongoing threats to the camp. We further renew our call on the Government of Iraq to investigate and bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the June 15 rocket attack against the camp.

Yes, it does read a lot like last week's UN statement (that we noted June 22nd).  One key difference?

The United Nations pointed out that there were over 3,000 still needing asylum outside of Iraq.  71 isn't zero but it certainly seems like a larger number than it is when you forget or 'forget' to include that over 3,000 residents are still Camp Liberty waiting for countries to agree to host them.

This does matter.  As the United Nations noted over a year ago:

The current Iraqi government has made it clear that it wants Camp Ashraf shut down and the MeK – which once fought alongside Hussein and is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization – to leave Iraq. Baghdad sees its presence, in a place which is off-limits to the government, as an affront to national sovereignty.

When the Government announced late last-year that it would be closing the camp by 31 December, many feared a repeat of the violence of April 2011, when dozens of Ashraf residents were killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces at the camp. An earlier incident in 2009 cost the lives of at least 10 residents.

Diplomatic Marathon

To prevent a similar outcome, the United Nations initiated intensive diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to extend the deadline for the camp’s closure, which he agreed to do. This provided time and space for a marathon exercise in preventive diplomacy led by Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, who has mediated between the Iraqi government and the group.

“As an impartial actor the United Nations could interact with both parties,” Kobler said.

With support from other governments, including the United States, Kobler was able to bridge the gaps between the two actors and find an agreement that both respects Iraq’s sovereignty and provides the people of Camp Ashraf with a safe and voluntary path to a more hopeful life outside of Iraq.

Since then, the US has taken the MEK off the terrorist list (September 28th).  What hasn't changed is that there's no great rush to welcome the refugees, there appears to be very little work being done on the issue at all outside of the UN.   How many more attacks on Camp Hurriya will it take before the world -- especially the United States government  -- pays attention?

The world can look away, most governments have no obligations in this matter.  It's a little different for the US government.

Approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.  As  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) has observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013









Starting with Barack Obama's War on the First Amendment.    Last month, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were, first, that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. Then came the revelation  that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. Clark S. Judge (US News and World Reports) observed, "It has been a bad few weeks for the First Amendment.  The sinister commonality to the Internal Revenue Service and AP scandals and the James Rosen affair is that each appears to have been (strike "appears ": each was) an attempt to suppress a core American right."  And that was only the beginning.

This month found the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald breaking the news about Barack's orders to monitor the phone calls of every American -- the details of the call -- who called who, length of time, etc.  These used to be called "toll slips" in the pre-digital age and the government was required to get a warrant each time it wanted the "toll slips" for one phone line.  Now it's blanket spying on everyone. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) noted Senator Bernie Sanders calling out the program:

"The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans," Sanders said. "That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people."

And, as with AP in May, it was only the first shoe to drop.   AP probably summed up the second shoe better than any other outlet reporting, "Separately, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported Thursday the existence of another program used by the NSA and FBI that scours the nation's main Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to help analysts track a person's movements and contacts. It was not clear whether the program, called PRISM, targets known suspects or broadly collects data from other Americans."

And even more details have come out over the last few days.  Tom Burghartdt (Dissident Voice) provides a thorough primer on those developments:

It now seems likely that NSA is hoovering up far more than the “telephony metadata” revealed by The Guardian’s publication of the secret FISA Court Order to Verizon Business Services.
Following-up on PRISM program reporting, The Washington Post disclosed June 15 that the Bush administration’s “warrantless wiretapping” program STELLAR WIND “was succeeded by four major lines of intelligence collection in the territorial United States, together capable of spanning the full range of modern telecommunications, according to the interviews and documents.”
“Two of the four collection programs, one each for telephony and the Internet,” Barton Gellman reported, “process trillions of ‘metadata’ records for storage and analysis in systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, respectively.”
According to the Post, “Metadata includes highly revealing information about the times, places, devices and participants in electronic communication, but not its contents. The bulk collection of telephone call records from Verizon Business Services, disclosed this month by the British newspaper the Guardian, is one source of raw intelligence for MAINWAY.”
Dropping a bombshell, although withholding supporting documents, Gellman reports that the “other two types of collection, which operate on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content. One of them intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called ­NUCLEON.”

The PRISM targeting and the spying on every American phone call were both exposed by whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  And Ed Snowden was all over the news over the weekend.

Many people couldn't stop talking about him.  Like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (here for video) who openly courted boos (and got them) as the Netroots Nation conference (largely a group of Democrats) as she called Ed Snowden a criminal.  Nancy was there courting votes (something she doesn't bother to do in district 8 of California where she doesn't even hold town halls) and, Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) reports, things got a little sticky when Mark Perkel responded to her claims, "It's not a balance.  It makes us less safe."  For that, he was escorted out of this supposed meet-up.  As he was pulled away by guards, he shouted, "It's unconstitutional! No secret courts! No secret law!"

I think the mistake Mark Perkel made was in not picking up a phone.  These days, if you want to speak your mind or sound off, you have a better chance of being heard in full by the government via a private phone call the government listens in on than through public remarks at an open forum.

AP notes that there was vocal objection to Perkel being tossed out and quotes attendee Jana Thrift stating, "We're listening to our progressive leaders who are supposed to be on our side of the team saying it's OK for us to get targeted.  It's crazy.  I don' t know who Nancy Pelosi really is."

CNN quoted Nancy insisting of Snowden's whistle-blowing, "I know that some of you attribute heroic status to that action.  But, again, you don't have the responsibility for the security of the United States.  Those of us who do have to strike a different balance."

First off,  it's not Nancy's country. The US belongs to all of its citizens and I know being a greedy huckster for money didn't allow Nancy the education she needed of the democratic experience but just because you bought a seat at the main table doesn't mean you're in charge of the event.  All Americans are responsible for the country's security.  What a stupid remark from Nancy.  Remember it the next time she's trying to build support for some pet item.  Tell her, "You have the responsibility for ___."  Second, this is just about her covering her ass.  She was briefed on all of this, she knew about the spying.  She's culpable -- legally culpable -- so of course she's going to claim it was necessary -- what crook wouldn't?

She was culpable in 2009 as well.  That's when waterboarding as a CIA practice had been taking place.  As David Espo (AP) reported, Nancy's claim for 'innocence' that time was that the CIA lied to her.  Bill Van Auken (WSWS) called out her lying as the words were flying out her mouth:

While Pelosi had given the impression that she knew nothing about this torture because the CIA failed to inform her in the 2002 briefing, it then emerged that she had been told about the active use of waterboarding in February 2003—just five months later—by her senior aide based on a subsequent briefing.
In her press conference, the House speaker claimed that at the 2002 briefing, the CIA reported that the Justice Department had issued memos arguing that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” were legal, but were “not being employed.”
Pelosi went on to acknowledge that after she was informed that the CIA was torturing suspects in February 2003, she did nothing, leaving it to her successor as the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Congresswoman Jane Harman, to write a letter to the agency “raising concerns.”
Her entire story strains credulity. Even if what she says is true and the CIA did not inform her in 2002 that it was torturing Zubaydah, did she really believe that the agency’s briefers were describing methods of torture and Justice Department memos justifying them because the Bush administration did not intend to use them?
Pelosi advanced another alibi. “Like all members of Congress who are briefed on classified information,” she said. “I have signed oaths pledging not to disclose any of that information. This is an oath I have taken very seriously, and I’ve always abided by it.”
Like all members of Congress, she also took an oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” but clearly that pledge took a back seat to defending the secrets of an agency known throughout the world as Murder Inc. Her oath would not have stopped her from denouncing torture in 2003, if she had really opposed it.

Nancy didn't claim she was lied to this time.  Which is a shame because she would have had a better chance of making that claim stick.  Dropping back to yesterday's Meet The Press (NBC) where the first segment featured journalist Glenn Greenwald.

GREENWALD:  Sure. I think the-- the key definition of a whistleblower is somebody who brings to light what political officials do in the dark that is either deceitful or illegal. And in this case, there is a New York Times article just this morning that describes that one of the revelations that he-- he-- he enabled that we reported is that the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, went before the U.S. Congress and lied outright when asked whether or not the NSA is collecting any form of data on millions of Americans. His response-- Director Clapper’s response was, “No, sir." As The New York Times said today, even Clapper has had to say that that statement was absolutely false. And the very first conversation I ever had with Mister Snowden, he showed me the folder in which he had placed the documents and labeled it, “NSA Lying to Congress,” that proved as we reported that the NSA is bulk collecting the phone records of millions of Americans indiscriminately, exactly what Clapper denied to the Congress was being done. As for illegality, The New York Times also said today that the bulk spying program exceeds the Patriot Act and there’s a FISA court opinion that says that the U.S. government, that the NSA engaged in unconstitutional and illegal spying on American citizens. That court opinion is secret, but he showed me documents discussing internally in the NSA what that court ruling is, and that should absolutely be public. 

GREGORY: With regard to that specific FISA opinion, isn’t the case, based on people that I’ve talked to, that the FISA opinion based on the government’s request is that they said, well, you can get this but you can’t get that. That would actually go beyond the scope of what you’re allowed to do, which means that the request was changed or denied, which is the whole point the government makes, which is that there is actual judicial review here and not abuse. Isn’t this the kind of review and opinion that you would want to keep these programs in line?
MR. GREENWALD: I don’t know what government officials are-- are whispering to you, David, but I know that the documents that I have in my possession and that I have read from the NSA tell a much different story which is that there was an 80-page opinion from the FISA court that said that what the NSA is doing in spying on American citizens is a violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the bounds of the statute. And it specifically said that they are collecting bulk transmissions, multiple conversations from millions of Americans, not just people that are believed to be involved in terrorist organizations or working for a foreign agent, and that this is illegal. And the NSA then planned to try and accommodate that ruling. But I think the real issue, as journalists and as citizens is, why should we have to guess, how can we have a democracy in which a secret court rules that what the government is doing in spying on us is a violation of the constitution and the law and yet we sit here and don’t know what that ruling is because it’s all been concealed and all been secret. I think we need to have transparency and disclosure, and that’s why Mister Snowden stepped forward so that we could have that.

And then came, what was for some, a shocking moment.  Toby Harnden (Times of London)  Tweeted the following about the televised moment.

    1. I was jailed by Mugabe's Zimbabwe for "practicing journalism". Is David Gregory saying Obama's America should do the same to ?

From NBC News' official transcript:

GREGORY: Final question before-- for you, but I’d like you to hang around. I just want to get Pete Williams in here as well. To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mister Greenwald, be charged with a crime? 

MR. GREENWALD: I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in anyway. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the-- the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced, being a co-conspirator with felony-- in felonies for working with sources. If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal, and it’s precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. That’s why the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a standstill, her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced. 

GREGORY: Well, the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing and of course anybody who’s watching this understands I was asking a question.

I've shared this story here before.  I'll do it again now because it goes to an accurate point David Gregory made above: The question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate.

I agree.  For example, I wouldn't have spent a very long time on the phone January 12, 2004 if a journalist had been doing the 'White House beat' on NBC's Today.  But a journalist wasn't, David Gregory was.  It was the day before Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill.  And what did we learn that day from David Gregory?

What he hoped we would learn was that O'Neill was a thief who'd stolen government documents.  And we would be outraged.

But no documents were stolen.  And what we learned was that David Gregory will report on a book without even reading it's opening pages -- its there that its revealed that O'Neill requested and received from the White House his memos and writings on discs and that's what reproduced in the book.  And we learned that David Gregory wasn't really a journalist.  He was a dummy.  A ventriloquist's dummy.  He moved his lips and said what the White House wanted him to say.  As America saw yesterday, that's still what David Gregory does and he's well paid for it.  January 14, 2004, Today cleaned up David's mess by noting that O'Neill was given copies of the documents in the book -- given copies by the White House.  David always thinks that story will be forgotten.  Not while I'm around.  (I had an advanced copy that I'd already read of Suskind's book and my mouth dropped watching Gregory lie.  I was on the phone talking to everyone I knew at Today about how outrageous David's false charges were.)

Sunday was also when Ed Snowden left Hong Kong.  Any GPS attempts other than that have failed for the press.  Matt Berman (National Journal) offered, this morning,  "If the Edward Snowden saga is a Michael Bay movie that we are all just living in, on Sunday morning it would have passed over the believability abyss. That's when Snowden, the NSA leaker turned America's Most Wanted poster-boy, took a plane out of Hong Kong, en route to Russia, where he landed around 9:15 a.m. EST. Snowden is reportedly headed from there to Havana, Cuba on Monday. Originally, it looked like he was going from there to Caracas, Venezuela. Now, it appears he's off to Ecuador."

Is he on a flight to Cuba?  Reuters says no.

Hong Kong's Standard probably gets its right when they point out that he appears to have given the press the slip.  And maybe that was the whole point?

A magician doesn't disappear by saying, "Look right here and you'll see how I pull off this trick."  He or she misdirects and redirects. It was a point that arose last week on PRI's The World (link is audio and text):

Marco Werman: Frank Ahearn knows a thing or two about privacy. He’s made a career of finding people, collecting debts, serving papers, locating spouses who’ve skipped town. Reverse-engineered, this has also made Ahearn something of an expert on disappearing, and led him to a new career helping people drop off the grid. In fact, he’s written a book on it called, not surprisingly, How to Disappear. We tracked Frank Ahearn down in Portugal. It wasn’t too hard finding you, Frank. I’m sure you could make it hard if you wanted to. Give us first your disappearing act rating for Edward Snowden, the man who leaked the NSA surveillance business. How’s he done so far?

Frank Ahearn: Zero. He’s put–first, thanks for having me–he had a, he didn’t have a plan. He just picked up and split. And the problem is he’s looking to depend on a country to take him in, and you can’t always trust that country. I think if I was him, I would have just gone totally off the grid, disappeared for good.

Werman: So how do you actually make somebody disappear? How do you help them?

Ahearn: Well, the first question you always have to [answer] is how you going to make a living where you’re going, and once we can figure that part out. The best example is like the victim of a stalker who needs to leave because her ex is going to kill her or something like that. When you’re looking for somebody or looking to find someone you always look for the information they left behind so I kind of take that information and manipulate it, change her, deviate her name maybe on the utility company, you know, different forwarding addresses, different contact information, and then using online information for disinformation. You need to make sure that the person looking for them is looking in the wrong places. So they’re looking for the information you left behind, so for example I would have them open up a bank account and give me the debit card, and I would take that debit card, send it to a friend of mine in Toronto, and every Tuesday they’d go and buy stuff at the supermarket. Plus, I’ll have you apply for an apartment at a location online. It’s important to keep the predator looking.

In Hong Kong, James Pomfret and Greg Torode (Reuters) explain, Ed Snowden contemplated various actions:

But even as he worked with his team of lawyers, Snowden also was working another angle. He had made contact with the team from WikiLeaks, the loose-knit global group committed to disclosing secrets.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told reporters Monday that his organization paid for Snowden's lodging in Hong Kong and his flight out. Assange said that Snowden was "bound for Ecuador," via Russia and perhaps other countries as well.

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