MENA Mashup: Conspiracies, Daesh, Iraq, and Syria

Here’s Col. Wilkerson on TRNN

In tallying up the clusterf*ck that is the MENA, we need to delve into the ‘spin’ we’re being spun by the MSM…!

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out today…

NYT Trumpets US Restraint Against ISIS, Ignores Hundreds of Civilian Deaths

The New York Times this morning has an extraordinary article claiming that the U.S. is being hampered in its war against ISIS because of its extreme — even excessive — concern for civilians. “American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians,” reporter Eric Schmitt says.

The newspaper gives voice to numerous, mostly anonymous officials to complain that the U.S. cares too deeply about protecting civilians to do what it should do against ISIS. We learn that “many Iraqi commanders, and even some American officers, argue that exercising such prudence is harming the coalition’s larger effort to destroy” ISIS. And “a persistent complaint of Iraqi officials and security officers is that the United States has been too cautious in its air campaign, frequently allowing columns of Islamic State fighters essentially free movement on the battlefield.”

The article claims that “the campaign has killed an estimated 12,500 fighters” and “has achieved several successes in conducting about 4,200 strikes that have dropped about 14,000 bombs and other weapons.” But an anonymous American pilot nonetheless complains that “we have not taken the fight to these guys,” and says he “cannot get authority” to drone-bomb targets without excessive proof that no civilians will be endangered. Despite the criticisms, Schmitt writes, “administration officials stand by their overriding objective to prevent civilian casualties.

But there’s one rather glaring omission in this article: the many hundreds of civilian deaths likely caused by the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. Yet the only reference to civilian deaths are two, ones which the U.S. government last week admitted: “the military’s Central Command on Thursday announced the results of an inquiry into the deaths of two children in Syria in November, saying they were most likely killed by an American airstrike,” adding that “a handful of other attacks are under investigation.”

Completely absent is the abundant evidence from independent monitoring groups documenting hundreds of civilian deaths. Writing in Global Post last month, Richard Hall noted that while “in areas of Syria and Iraq held by the Islamic State, verifying civilian casualties is difficult,” there is “strong evidence [that] suggests civilians are dying in the coalition’s airstrikes.

Over at Moon of Alabama, b goes further… (more…)

Senate Effort to Renew NSA Spying Powers Contains Provision to Stop Next Edward Snowden

Screen shot 2015-05-26 at 5.41.33 PM

Senator Dianne Feinstein has proposed legislation to protect the National Security Agency from losing dragnet surveillance powers when Patriot Act provisions expire. But her bill would not only save spying powers but also codify into law a provision that would expressly enable the government to criminalize any national security whistleblower who may choose to follow the footsteps of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

As first reported by journalist Marcy Wheeler, the provision in Feinstein’s bill [PDF] is modeled after the Espionage Act, which President Barack Obama’s administration has aggressively relied upon to prosecute a record number of whistleblowers. (Snowden was indicted under the Espionage Act.)

The provision would prohibit “unauthorized disclosures” by an “officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States” or any “recipient of an order” issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), who “knowingly comes into possession of classified information or documents or materials containing classified information” of the US.

A person could be criminalized if they disclosed any information connected to an application to the FISA Court, an order approved by the court or information acquired under a directive issued by the court.

Knowingly communicating, transmitting and making available information to an “unauthorized person,” such as a journalist, would be criminal. Someone who “knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location,” as Snowden did before providing documents to journalists, would be violating the law as well.

Making information available to a reporter could potentially result in someone going to jail for ten years. Retaining documents at an unauthorized location could potentially result in a one-year prison sentence.

A similar provision was included in a bill introduced by Senator Richard Burr over the weekend. The bill was also drafted to protect dragnet surveillance powers.

Both Burr, a Republican who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, and Feinstein, a Democrat and former chair of the Senate intelligence committee, are powerful senators who have traditionally supported anti-leaks measures, which Senator Ron Wyden blocked in 2012.

Feinstein accused Snowden in June 2013 of “violating” his oath to defend the Constitution. She unequivocally stated, “He violated the law. It’s treason.” When Burr found about what Snowden revealed on mass surveillance, he was not concerned about the programs but rather about how a contractor like Snowden had access to so much material.

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney who has represented a number of whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake, Bill Binney, and currently represents Snowden, reacted, “Feinstein is the latest member of Congress to offer a non-compromise ‘compromise’ to replace the already-compromised USA Freedom Act. Her bill would essentially retain Richard Burr’s odious Section 215 mini-Espionage Act, imposing 10-year penalties on people like my NSA whistleblower clients Edward Snowden, William Binney and Thomas Drake, who told us what the intelligence community was really doing with the call records program.”

“The most disturbing aspect is the prospect of Congress codifying the Justice Department’s draconian use of the century-old Espionage Act into law when there’s a lot of validity that the Department has unconstitutionally applied the Espionage Act to whistleblowers.”

The provision contains no clear and present danger standard, which means it would not matter if a person knew the disclosure of information would result in no harm. The government would be under no obligation to present any evidence that a release of information caused grave damage or harmed anyone during prosecution. This would likely violate the First Amendment. (more…)

John McCain Cites Islamic State As Bigger Threat Than Climate Change

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told host Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation, the Sunday political talk show on CBS, that President Barack Obama needs to focus on the Islamic State rather than climate change.

McCain responded to a question by Schieffer on what the Obama administration could do after the fall of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria to ISIS. He advocated for a “robust strategy” as the current one was not working:

We need to have a strategy. There is no strategy. And anybody that says that there is, I would like to hear what it is, because it certainly isn`t apparent now, and right now we are seeing these horrible — reports are now in Palmyra they`re executing people and leaving their bodies in the streets.

Meanwhile, the president of the United States is saying that the biggest enemy we have is climate change.

McCain’s reference to climate change stems from what President Obama told graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on May 20 when it came to the America’s security:

Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.

Criticism of the Obama administration on facing ISIS by McCain is not new as, on May 21, he called the loss of Ramadi “a significant defeat” when speaking on the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain is the chairman of the committee.

The White House admitted the fall of Ramadi was a “setback.” Yet White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the loss of the city is a part of the “back-and-forth” military campaign.
(more…)

Single Mother Who Worked for Brink’s Says She Was Fired for Participating in ‘Fight for 15′ Protests

Brink's Security Vehicle

Darletta Scruggs, a single mother in Chicago who worked for Brink’s, was fired a week after participating in the Fight for 15 protests on April 15.

On April 21, Scruggs felt something was wrong when her company phone was turned off. She then went to work only to be told by a security guard that she would not be allowed to enter the building where she worked.

The proper procedure for termination is supposed to include a letter in the mail informing the worker that he or she is on suspension.

“I received none of that and, apparently, that notice was placed on April 21. That is not proper procedure,” Scruggs told Firedoglake.

Brink’s is a firm providing “security-related services” for thousands of businesses from banks to fast-food businesses. Such services “include include money processing, long-distance transport of valuables, vaulting and other value-added solutions.” The company did not respond to an email request for a comment on Scruggs’ termination.

Scruggs joined Brink’s in August 2014 as a “route coordinator or route logistic manager.” Essentially, she described it as an office job where tasks included customer service, scheduling or termination, albeit with limited powers.

The position was salary-paid and Scruggs was considered management by the company.

Scruggs joined drivers for routes in spite of not being trained to do so. She began to understand the frustration other workers felt when doing routes.

“It made me sympathize a little more with what the drivers and messengers would complaining about,” Scruggs said.

Since August 2014, Scruggs told Firedoglake the company began to cut benefits to workers. In one instance, vacation time was no longer based on seniority and, as a result, employees had to “earn it as they worked.”

“We started to see morale in the workplace fall and definitely an increase of anger and discontent. Of course, upper management was not very sympathetic or concerned about the issue they were bringing up,” Scruggs said.

Scruggs said her bosses would initially say such removal of benefits came from corporate. Furthermore, they cited the economy as a reason why changes were implemented.

With morale deteriorating and benefits cut, Scruggs inquired with other workers about forming a union. She was told by a few workers a union was created a few years ago only to dissolve shortly after.

Yet, Scruggs pressed on and worked with other workers to create a union. She became aware of a nationwide April 15 walkout organized by SEIU’s “Fight for 15″ campaign and told other Brink’s employees about the planned action. Workers, she noted, were interested in joining and learning more.

Management warned Brink’s employees, including Scruggs, before April 15 about unionization efforts. (more…)

Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Problem Complicating TPP

Though the US Senate was perfectly willing to surrender some sovereignty to forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), human rights advocates were able to insert a provision into the granting of fast track authority that could doom the agreement.

A provision against human trafficking was inserted into the bill which the White House worried could knock Malaysia out of TPP given the country’s longstanding problems with human trafficking. Those problems came into focus again last week when mass graves of human trafficking victims were discovered on the Malaysia side of the Malaysia-Thailand border.

With this latest grisly discovery it is going to be considerably harder for the White House to persuade Congress to take out the human trafficking provision on TPP.

Malaysian authorities said Sunday that they have discovered a series of graves in at least 17 abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar have been held. The finding follows a similar discovery earlier this month by police in Thailand who unearthed dozens of bodies from shallow graves in abandoned camps on the Thai side of the border.

The grim discoveries are shedding new light on the hidden network of jungle camps run by traffickers, who have for years held countless desperate people captive while extorting ransoms from their families.

Of course, there is an opportunity for spin here by the White House and the Malaysian government – that these latest discoveries prove that Malaysia is making a good faith effort to stop human trafficking and therefore no provision within the TPP fast track bill is necessary. But Malaysia appears to be a long way away from getting control of its human trafficking problem.

The State Department notes Malaysia is not only integrally involved in international human trafficking networks but that the country’s agricultural and domestic industries use forced labor.

Talk about racing to the bottom.

The Roundup for May 25th, 2015

And so begins today.

International Politics

Overall

– For the first time, Japan joined both the U.S. and Australia in military exercises

– An Iranian official said he hoped sanctions against Iran would be lifted by the end of the year

– A United Nations official warned more aid was needed to help those in Nepal

Middle East

– How many houses have been built in the Gaza Strip since the Israeli bombings last summer? Zero

– An Iranian general criticized U.S. presence in Iraq by saying the U.S. had “no will to fight” the Islamic State

– Meanwhile, Vice President Joseph Biden called Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reassure him the U.S. has his back; Don’t you think it’s a little strange Obama didn’t do it? Iraqis are not really happy with the U.S. at all

Asia and Oceania

– For Muslims living in Myanmar, they are being arrested for a joining a non-existent group (more…)

Late Night FDL: Cream Puff War

Grateful Dead – Cream Puff War

The Dead are set to reunite for 5 shows entitled: Fare Thee Well…

It promises to be the ultimate flashback.

This summer, the surviving members of ’60s psychedelic-rock legends The Grateful Dead will reunite for one last run to celebrate the band’s 50th birthday — and mark the 20th anniversary since the death of founding singer-guitarist and guru Jerry Garcia, who suffered a heart attack in rehab at age 53.

Dubbed Fare Thee Well, the five shows in Santa Clara (June 27-28) and Chicago (July 3-5) will see the Dead’s ‘Core Four’ — singer-guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, and rhythm devils Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart — bolstered by Phish leader Trey Anastasio (handling Jerry’s parts) and keyboardists Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby (the latter is basically an unofficial member; he’s played more than 100 gigs with them over the decades).

Want a ticket? You’ll need a miracle; they’re already going for up to $35,000 online…

Once again you’re left to your own devices, but, I’ll be back tomorrow nite…!

What’s on your mind tonite…?

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals soils itself again

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals soiled itself again after its recent shameful refusal to find Dan and Frances Keller innocent of sexually assaulting children during satanic rituals in their Austin day care center case despite not a shred of physical evidence to support the fantastical false allegations. I wrote about the Keller case here.

This time they suspended David Dow from practicing in their court for a year for missing a deadline that he did not miss. He is the founder of the Texas Innocence Network and the leading death penalty lawyer in the state. Wrongfully convicted innocent clients on death row are depending on him to save their lives. He’s the best shot they have.

Mimi Schwartz of the Texas Monthly describes what happened.

It isn’t easy to get a stay of execution; attorneys have to present the court with a substantial amount of information to win a delay, much less a new trial. For instance, in September 2014 Dow began looking into the case of Miguel Paredes, who was sent to death row for a gang-related killing in 2001. Paredes’s execution date was set for October 28, 2014. In the 39 days before the execution, Dow’s team—which was working on three other death penalty cases at the time—traveled to San Antonio (where Paredes grew up and the crime was committed) and to Livingston (where he was incarcerated in the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice). They searched for additional witnesses. They scoured Paredes’s medical, psychological, school, and prison records. They pored over the trial transcript. In doing so, they uncovered what Paredes’s lawyer had not: evidence that the killing was actually in self-defense. Dow’s team also found that Paredes had a history of mental illness and that the state had put him on powerful psychotropic medication during his trial. The jury hadn’t known any of this, and during the punishment phase, Paredes, drugged and hopeless, instructed his lawyer to waive his right to present mitigating circumstances that might spare his life.

Eleventh-hour appeals—the kind you see in the movies—no longer happen. The CCA needs time to evaluate the record and any new information. Dow filed all of his pleadings in Paredes’s case by 6:30 p.m. on October 21, 2014, in compliance with rule 11-003, which says that pleadings requesting a stay must be filed seven days before an execution date. The judges took exactly two days to deny Dow’s motion. Paredes was put to death, right on schedule.

In November, however, the CCA sent a notice to Dow asking him to appear in court on January 14 to explain why he should not be sanctioned for filing Paredes’s documents late. Dow found this mystifying; he had filed his plea after-hours on October 21, but late filings on death penalty cases are actually fairly routine. There is even a part of the rule that addresses it, which Dow had followed, explaining in his motion that he was still gathering evidence even at that late date to try to save Paredes’s life.

Dow appeared at the hearing without counsel. He explained again why the filing had been late, even though it really hadn’t been. (Instead of relying on the rule itself, the judges seemed to be claiming that Dow had been late according to an example described in the rule, which seemed to suggest that pleadings should be filed eight, not seven, days before.

He has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. God only knows what that puzzle palace will do.

They don’t like him because he’s smarter than they are and he embarrasses them.

Remember This on Memorial Day: They Didn’t Fall, They Were Pushed

Of all the world’s holidays commemorating wars, Memorial Day should be one of sober reflection on war’s horrible costs, surely not a moment to glorify warfare or lust for more wars.

By Ray McGovern

How best to show respect for the U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families on Memorial Day? Simple: Avoid euphemisms like “the fallen” and expose the lies about what a great idea it was to start those wars and then to “surge” tens of thousands of more troops into those fools’ errands.

First, let’s be clear on at least this much: the 4,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq – so far – and the 2,350 killed in Afghanistan – so far – did not “fall.” They were wasted on no-win battlefields by politicians and generals – cheered on by neocon pundits and mainstream “journalists” – almost none of whom gave a rat’s patootie about the real-life-and-death troops. They were throwaway soldiers.

And, as for the “successful surges,” they were just P.R. devices to buy some “decent intervals” for the architects of these wars and their boosters to get space between themselves and the disastrous endings while pretending that those defeats were really “victories squandered” – all at the “acceptable” price of about 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers each and many times that in dead Iraqis and Afghans.

Memorial Day should be a time for honesty about what enabled the killing and maiming of so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and the senior military brass simply took full advantage of a poverty draft that gives upper-class sons and daughters the equivalent of exemptions, vaccinating them against the disease of war.

What drives me up the wall is the oft-heard, dismissive comment about troop casualties from well-heeled Americans: “Well, they volunteered, didn’t they?” Under the universal draft in effect during Vietnam, far fewer were immune from service, even though the well-connected could still game the system to avoid serving. Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, for example, each managed to pile up five exemptions. This means, of course, that they brought zero military experience to the job; and this, in turn, may explain a whole lot — particularly given their bosses’ own lack of military experience.

The grim truth is that many of the crème de la crème of today’s Official Washington don’t know many military grunts, at least not intimately as close family or friends. They may bump into some on the campaign trail or in an airport and mumble something like, “thank you for your service.” But these sons and daughters of working-class communities from America’s cities and heartland are mostly abstractions to the powerful, exclamation points at the end of some ideological debate demonstrating which speaker is “tougher,” who’s more ready to use military force, who will come out on top during a talk show appearance or at a think-tank conference or on the floor of Congress.

Sharing the Burden? (more…)