Federal judge criticises FBI for alleged witness tampering in Oklahoma City bombing lawsuit
April 8, 2015
The judge will appoint a magistrate to look into the matter of a former operative set to testify that the bureau was not thorough in its inquiry during the trial
A federal judge in Utah admonished the FBI on Thursday for not properly investigating witness-tampering allegations against the agency, and suggested he will probably appoint a magistrate judge to look into the matter.
US district judge Clark Waddoups stopped short of finding the FBI in contempt of court Thursday, but he said he may still level sanctions against the agency at a later date.
Justice Department attorney Kathryn Wyer objected to the decision, saying an investigation from the bureau’s office of inspections showed no tampering occurred between the FBI and a former government operative who was set to testify in a trial from a lawsuit claiming the agency failed to search its files for additional videos of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The lawsuit was filed by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who believes there is video showing Timothy McVeigh was not alone in detonating the bomb in Oklahoma. He believes the presence of a second suspect would explain why his brother was flown to Oklahoma months after the bombing. His brother died in a federal holding cell.
The case reached trial because the judge was not satisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations after the lawsuit was filed in 2008. The judge also cited the public importance of the possible tapes.
Waddoups grilled Wyer about why the investigation took so long to complete and why they didn’t turn in recordings of phone conversations between the witness and the FBI agent.
Wyer accused of Trentadue of speculation, making things up and coming up with imaginary premises. When Wyer suggested Trentadue was bringing up issues that don’t matter to the case, Waddoups interrupted her and issued a stern response.
“This is a very important issue that goes beyond whether or not the initial search in response to the FOIA request was adequate,” Waddoups said. “This goes to the integrity of the legal process.”
He said the bureau’s report left too much ambiguity about what happened for him to determine if the allegation is true.
Wyer explained that the report was delayed because of internal government bureaucracy. She said officials are willing to hand over recordings but added that some include law enforcement materials. She contended no further investigation is necessary.
A ruling from Waddoups is pending regarding the FOIA case. Trentadue wants to be able to do his own search of FBI archives.
Associated Press in Salt Lake City
Friday 14 November 2014 16.40 GMT Last modified on Friday 14 November 2014 16.55 GMT
Find this story at 14 November 2014
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
RCMP files on Tommy Douglas remain secret: SCOC
April 19, 2013
OTTAWA – Secret RCMP files on Tommy Douglas will remain secret, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday.
The Court dismissed a request by Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill to force Library and Archives Canada to release a large part of the file on the former Saskatchewan premier and founding leader of the federal NDP.
By Brigitte Pellerin, Parliamentary Bureau
Find this story at 28 March 2013
Copyright © 2013, Canoe Inc.
Supreme Court won’t hear appeal in Tommy Douglas case: Canadian Press reporter fought to have 1,149-page RCMP file on Douglas made public
April 19, 2013
The Supreme Court said it won’t hear an appeal by a Canadian Press reporter who wants a 1,149-page RCMP file on Tommy Douglas made public.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ended an effort by The Canadian Press to lift the shroud of secrecy over an intelligence dossier compiled on socialist trailblazer Tommy Douglas.
The high court has denied reporter Jim Bronskill leave to appeal in his case to have information in the Douglas file made public.
The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 28, 2013 1:33 PM CST Last Updated: Mar 28, 2013 10:32 AM CST
Find this story at 28 March 2013
© The Canadian Press, 2013
Fight over secret Tommy Douglas file goes to top court ‘It is about the balance between history and security’
April 19, 2013
The Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to settle a seven-year battle to lift the shroud of secrecy over a decades-old intelligence dossier on former NDP leader Tommy Douglas.
The Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to settle a seven-year battle to lift the shroud of secrecy over a decades-old intelligence dossier on socialist trailblazer Tommy Douglas.
Jim Bronskill, a reporter with The Canadian Press, is seeking leave to appeal the case to the country’s highest court.
According to Bronskill’s lawyer says it’s not just about gaining access to the file.
In essence, the top court is being asked to be the final arbiter on whether national security should trump the public’s right to see historical documents.
“It is about the balance between history and security and when national security information can and should be withheld,” Paul Champ said in an interview.
“Our simple position is that information that’s gathered for intelligence or national security should not be hidden away from Canadians for all time. At some point, that information can and should become available to historians and journalists and the Canadian public so that we can better understand our history.”
In 2005, Bronskill applied under the Access to Information Act to see the intelligence file compiled by the now-defunct RCMP Security Service on Douglas, a former Saskatchewan premier, father of medicare and first federal NDP leader.
Library and Archives Canada, which is now in possession of the file, eventually released just over 400, heavily redacted pages from the 1,142-page file. Bronskill launched a court challenge after the federal information commissioner agreed with the government that most of the file should remain under wraps.
More than 300 pages released last year
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which replaced the Mounties’ security service and advised Library and Archives on release of the Douglas file, has argued strenuously against full disclosure.
Although some information in the file dates back almost 80 years, the agency maintains uncensored release of the dossier would reveal secrets of the spy trade, which could jeopardize the lives of confidential informants and compromise the agency’s ability to conduct secret surveillance.
Last year, just days before the case was heard in Federal Court, the government released more than 300 additional pages from the file.
‘Hundreds of documents about Tommy Douglas – some over 70 years old – will be permanently withheld from the Canadian public.’
—Lawyer Paul Champ
Nevertheless, Justice Simon Noel subsequently ruled that Library and Archives failed to take into account its mandate to preserve historically significant documents and make them accessible to Canadians when responding to Bronskill’s access request.
Having painstakingly reviewed all the pages in the file, Noel attached an annex to his judgment, listing the page numbers which contained information he believed should be further disclosed.
The government appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal which, after hearing three hours of legal arguments last October, issued a brief oral ruling overturning Noel’s decision.
While the panel of three justices agreed that the historical value of documents should be a factor in considering access requests, it also struck down Noel’s annex.
Canadian history ‘seriously damaged’
In an application seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, Champ argues that the Federal Court of Appeal ruling means “hundreds of documents about Tommy Douglas – some over 70 years old – will be permanently withheld from the Canadian public.”
Moreover, he says it means access legislation “will continue to be interpreted in a manner that generally restricts disclosure of historically significant documents. The study of Canadian history, and its salutary influence on the practice of democracy, is seriously damaged by this result.”
Champ also argues the appeal court should not have so “lightly overturned” Noel’s ruling, given the amount of time he’d spent personally reviewing the Douglas file.
The government has 30 days in which to respond to Champ’s application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Canadian Press Posted: Dec 9, 2012 1:36 PM ET Last Updated: Dec 9, 2012 1:34 PM ET Read 360
(Chris Schwarz/The Canadian Press)
Find this story at 9 December 2012
Copyright © CBC 2013
RCMP spied on Tommy Douglas, files reveal
April 19, 2013
RCMP spies shadowed Prairie politician Tommy Douglas for more than three decades, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Press.
A newly declassified file on Douglas shows the Mounties attended his speeches, dissected his published articles and, during one Parliament Hill demonstration, eavesdropped on a private conversation.
The RCMP’s file on Tommy Douglas, shown after re-election in November, 1965, contains articles noting Douglas’s concern about rumours of RCMP surveillance of Canadians.
Douglas, a trailblazing socialist committed to social reform, drew the interest of RCMP security officers through his longstanding links with left-wing causes, the burgeoning peace movement and assorted Communist party members.
In the late 1970s, as the veteran politician neared retirement, the Mounties recommended keeping his file open based on the notion “there is much we do not know about Douglas.”
The 1,142-page dossier, spanning nine volumes, was obtained by the Canadian Press from Library and Archives Canada under the Access to Information Act.
Personal files compiled by the RCMP’s security and intelligence branch can be released through the access law 20 years after a subject’s death. Douglas died of cancer at age 81 in February 1986.
Widely hailed as the father of medicare for championing universal health services, the influential Saskatchewan politician was voted the greatest Canadian of all time in a popular CBC contest two years ago.
Daughter Shirley married fellow actor Donald Sutherland. Their son, Kiefer Sutherland, stars in the hit television series 24.
A Baptist minister, Douglas entered politics upon seeing the toll the Great Depression took on families.
Attracted attention in 1939
It appears he first attracted the RCMP’s attention in February 1939 when, as a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation MP, Douglas urged a group of labourers in downtown Ottawa to push for legislation beneficial to the unemployed.
An RCMP constable quietly attended the session, filing a secret two-page account to superiors.
A few years later, Douglas became leader of Saskatchewan’s Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, soon heading up the first socialist government in North America.
As premier, he ushered in public auto insurance, guaranteed hospital care and a provincial bill of rights.
‘Setting people to spy on one another is not the way to protect freedom.’
— Tommy Douglas
The RCMP file reflects Douglas’s interest in anti-war causes, including opposition to nuclear weapons and criticism of UN policy on Korea.
There are also occasional references to allegations that the CCF harboured members with Communist ties.
Douglas was chosen leader of the federal New Democratic Party in 1961 and served for 10 years. The rise to national prominence only fuelled interest in his political associations.
In late 1964, the RCMP received a letter alleging that Douglas had once been an active member of the Communist party at the University of Chicago, where he had done postgraduate studies.
A top secret memo from a senior RCMP security officer to the force’s deputy commissioner of operations indicates there was no reliable information to substantiate the tip.
“We have never asked the FBI for information on the matter because of Douglas’ position as leader of a national political party.”
During a March 1965 rally on Parliament Hill, an RCMP constable “observed a meeting” between Douglas and missionary peace activist James Endicott.
A report notes that Endicott, after congratulating Douglas on his speech, mentioned he had recently been to Saigon, where war would soon boil over.
Douglas asked: “How are things down there?”
Endicott replied: “Terrible, just terrible.”
The secret report records their plans to have lunch the next week, duly noting later that no “information could be obtained” as to whether the meal took place.
Comments about Pearson
In May 1965, a confidential source provided information for an account of Douglas’s appearance at a Communist party meeting in Burnaby, B.C.
The NDP leader took aim at Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson for not opposing U.S. actions in southeast Asia.
“Douglas states that Australia has already ‘been taken in’ and is sending troops to Vietnam,” the memo reads. “He stated that he [Douglas] will fight with every drop of blood in his body against the Vietnam affair.”
The file contains articles noting Douglas’s concern about rumours of RCMP surveillance of Canadians, though there is no indication the politician suspected he was being watched.
“Setting people to spy on one another is not the way to protect freedom,” he wrote while NDP leader.
RCMP security and intelligence officers amassed files on 800,000 Canadians and actively monitored thousands of organizations, from church and women’s groups to media outlets and universities.
More than 650 secret dossiers in ‘VIP program’
Markings indicate Douglas’s file is one of more than 650 secret dossiers the RCMP kept on Canadian politicians and bureaucrats as part of a project known as the “VIP program.”
While many of these files were destroyed, some with historical significance have been retained by the Library and Archives.
Last Updated: Monday, December 18, 2006 | 9:39 AM ET The Canadian Press
Find this story at 18 December 2006
© The Canadian Press, 2006
Long-ago wiretap inspires a battle with the CIA for more information
April 19, 2013
Paul Scott, the late syndicated columnist, was so paranoid about the CIA wiretapping his Prince George’s County home in the 1960s that he’d make important calls from his neighbor’s house. His teenage son Jim Scott figured his dad was either a shrewd reporter or totally nuts.
Not until nearly 45 years later did the son learn that his father’s worries were justified. The insight came in 2007 when the CIA declassified a trove of documents popularly called “the family jewels.” The papers detailed the agency’s unlawful activities from long ago, including wiretapping the Scott home in District Heights. The operation even had a code name: “Project Mockingbird.”
Jim was floored: The CIA really did eavesdrop on Dad.
Now Jim, 64, a retired Navy public relations officer who lives in Anne Arundel County, is waging an operation of his own against the agency. For the past five years, he has sought to declassify and make public any documents Langley might still have on his father and why he was wiretapped.
So far, the CIA has released to Jim a handful of intriguing documents. But Jim has been trying to compel the agency to cough up more. A federal declassification review panel is reviewing Jim’s case and could decide as soon as this month whether to direct the CIA to release more Mockingbird documents.
“I don’t have any animosity for the CIA,” said Jim, whose father died at the age of 80 in 2001. “I respect what they do. But they make it extremely difficult for the average citizen to interact with them. It makes me wonder what they are still trying to hide about my father.”
Not eager to share
It’s not easy penetrating one of the world’s most secretive organizations.
Tourists can’t just show up at its famous headquarters, let alone wander into its museum or browse the gift shop that sells CIA T-shirts and tchotchkes. Even former spies-turned-memoirists need agency approval for their manuscripts before publication and often can’t reveal seemingly harmless or boring details about their careers.
For ordinary people — academics, journalists, relatives of former employees — extracting agency information can be tough. They can file Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests or mandatory declassification review requests. But the CIA usually isn’t eager to part with much, said Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.
“I have a number of requests with the CIA that are more than five years old,” said Aftergood, who has sued the agency a handful of times for documents.
“The message they’re sending is, ‘If you want our attention, sue us,’ ” he said, calling it “a time-consuming and resource-demanding effort.” He usually loses.
Todd Ebitz, an agency spokesman, said the agency received more than 5,400 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests, along with mandatory declassification review requests, in fiscal 2012 . The agency doesn’t keep track of how many of those requests come from ordinary citizens, rather than journalists, academics or nonprofit groups.
Since 1995, he said, the CIA has released more than 10 million pages of declassified material. The agency also has used its discretion to release more than 100,000 pages of CIA material, including documents from the family jewels. But just because documents are old doesn’t mean they can be made public.
“CIA information that is decades old may still be sensitive when it mentions methods, techniques or sources which, if they were revealed, could harm our nation’s security or place someone’s personal security at risk,” Ebitz said. “The agency works diligently to make public information no longer requiring protection, releasing what we can and withholding what we must in the interest of national security.”
The CIA declined to comment on the specifics of Jim Scott’s case. But Tom Blanton, director of the George Washington University-based National Security Archive, questioned the agency’s refusal to release the documents about Jim Scott’s father: “There’s nothing truly secret about the wiretapping of Paul Scott now.”
“What this is really about,” Blanton said, “is bureaucracy and power.”
In June 2007, Jim read about the CIA’s decision to release the family jewels. The collection of long-secret documents revealed details about the agency’s activities from the 1960s and 1970s, including a failed assassination plan against Cuba’s Fidel Castro, a Watergate burglar’s search for an expert lock picker, and illegal wiretaps of reporters.
To Jim’s shock, two of the wiretapped journalists were his father, Paul, and his writing partner, Robert S. Allen, who died in 1981. The men once wrote a syndicated column, the “Allen-Scott Report,” that appeared in 300 newspapers. Their column often contained national security scoops, including exclusives about Soviet aid to Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis.
Jim called his mother about the wiretap revelations. She reminded him about the time he complained about hearing strangers’ voices on a phone call with a high school classmate.
“I had heard some clicking in the background,” Jim said, laughing. “I heard someone say, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just two kids talking about homework assignments.’ As a teenager, you kinda just blow that stuff off.”
Once the family jewels were posted online, “I couldn’t go to sleep that night, reading the documents,” Jim recalled. “What startled me was the level of seniority that approved this operation.”
The wiretap on his father was described in only three released pages, each stamped with the words “SECRET” and “EYES ONLY.” Every sentence seemed more tantalizing than the next.
Between March 12, 1963, and June 15, 1963, phone bugs were installed at the Allen and Scott homes and their Capitol Hill office. But this was no rogue operation: CIA Director John McCone approved the operation “under pressure,” the documents said, from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. And Kennedy planned it with Robert McNamara, the defense secretary and Vietnam War architect.
The wiretap identified many of the reporting team’s sources: a dozen senators; six congressmen; 11 congressional staffers; 16 “government employees,” including a staff member at the White House and some at the vice president’s office; and “other well-placed individuals,” the documents said.
The journalists actually got more classified information than they could use, the documents noted, and passed the leftovers along to rival reporters.
But several pages were fully or partly redacted. Jim felt teased. Why, he wondered, did the CIA keep those pages secret after so many years? Are the names of all their sources hidden behind the redactions?
“It felt like a half-written Vince Flynn or Michael Connelly novel,” Jim said. “I wondered how much my dad knew about being surveilled. What was going through his mind? He had to be fearful. It felt like this was a chapter in his life we knew little about, and the release of [more] documents could shed some light.”
So, in 2008, the son filed his first Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA.
Clues from the FBI
Twelve months later, the agency mailed Jim a packet of partially redacted memos about Paul. None touched on the 1963 Mockingbird wiretap, though there was an intriguing account of a visit his father made to South Africa in 1968 to interview a captured Russian spy.
“The CIA gave me stuff that I didn’t know even existed,” Jim said, “but I just wanted to know what articles triggered the wiretap.”
In early 2009, Jim requested the wiretap documents for a second time. “Isn’t it safe to assume that most, if not all, of the key players complicit in this operation are deceased?” he asked in a letter to the CIA.
That summer, the CIA rejected his appeal, ruling that the information still required secrecy.
Meanwhile, Jim had pursued a second route: the FBI.
To his surprise, the bureau was more than happy to play along. Throughout 2011, FBI documents arrived at Jim’s home in waves, packed with new revelations.
Jim learned, according to one FBI memo, that his dad truly alarmed the government at a Feb. 6, 1963, news conference in which he asked Defense Secretary McNamara several questions about Cuban weapons. Paul used precisely the same information in his questions that was contained in secret Navy documents. And the Navy, according to the bureau memos, wanted the FBI to find out who his source was.
But someone very senior at the bureau expressed reservations in a letter to Robert Kennedy that referred to his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Although the FBI official seemed alarmed by “Allen-Scott Report” pieces — published from December 1962 to February 1963 in, of all places, the now-defunct Northern Virginia Sun — he didn’t want the bureau involved.
[A] covert investigation will become known and I understood the President does not want it to become known. [I]t would be far more effective to have the Defense agencies interview people in their own agencies rather than an outside civilian agency do it because there is always a certain amount of resentment . . .
Very truly yours, JEH, John Edgar Hoover, Director
“I was elated when I read all this. These are some heavyweight people,” Jim said. “I figured that I am getting this from the FBI, and it’ll just be a matter of time before the CIA sheds some light as well.
Waiting for word on appeal
But Jim never gained any traction with the CIA.
By Ian Shapira, Published: March 3
Find this story at 3 March 2013
© The Washington Post Company
Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders
April 19, 2013
Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show.
The administration has said that strikes by the CIA’s missile-firing Predator and Reaper drones are authorized only against “specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks on Americans.
“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”
Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy, however, show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn’t adhere to those standards.
The intelligence reports list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as “other militants” and “foreign fighters.”
In a response to questions from McClatchy, the White House defended its targeting policies, pointing to previous public statements by senior administration officials that the missile strikes are aimed at al Qaida and associated forces.
Micah Zenko, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, who closely follows the target killing program, said McClatchy’s findings indicate that the administration is “misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”
The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare.”
McClatchy’s review is the first independent evaluation of internal U.S. intelligence accounting of drone attacks since the Bush administration launched America’s secret aerial warfare on Oct. 7, 2001, the day a missile-carrying Predator took off for Afghanistan from an airfield in Pakistan on the first operational flight of an armed U.S. drone.
The analysis takes on additional significance because of the domestic and international debate over the legality of drone strikes in Pakistan amid reports that the administration is planning to broaden its use of targeted killings in Afghanistan and North Africa.
The U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy covered most – although not all – of the drone strikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011. In that later period, Obama oversaw a surge in drone operations against suspected Islamist sanctuaries on Pakistan’s side of the border that coincided with his buildup of 33,000 additional U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. Several documents listed casualty estimates as well as the identities of targeted groups.
McClatchy’s review found that:
– At least 265 of up to 482 people who the U.S. intelligence reports estimated the CIA killed during a 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al Qaida leaders but instead were “assessed” as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists. Drones killed only six top al Qaida leaders in those months, according to news media accounts.
Forty-three of 95 drone strikes reviewed for that period hit groups other than al Qaida, including the Haqqani network, several Pakistani Taliban factions and the unidentified individuals described only as “foreign fighters” and “other militants.”
During the same period, the reports estimated there was a single civilian casualty, an individual killed in an April 22, 2011, strike in North Waziristan, the main sanctuary for militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
– At other times, the CIA killed people who only were suspected, associated with, or who probably belonged to militant groups.
To date, the Obama administration has not disclosed the secret legal opinions and the detailed procedures buttressing drone killings, and it has never acknowledged the use of so-called “signature strikes,” in which unidentified individuals are killed after surveillance shows behavior the U.S. government associates with terrorists, such as visiting compounds linked to al Qaida leaders or carrying weapons. Nor has it disclosed an explicit list of al Qaida’s “associated forces” beyond the Afghan Taliban.
The little that is known about the opinions comes from a leaked Justice Department white paper, a half-dozen or so speeches, some public comments by Obama and several top lieutenants, and limited open testimony before Congress.
“The United States has gone far beyond what the U.S. public – and perhaps even Congress – understands the government has been doing and claiming they have a legal right to do,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Notre Dame Law School professor who contends that CIA drone operations in Pakistan violate international law.
The documents McClatchy has reviewed do not reflect the entirety of the killings associated with U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, which independent reports estimate at between 1,990 and 3,581.
But the classified reports provide a view into how drone strikes were carried out during the most intense periods of drone warfare in Pakistan’s remote tribal area bordering Afghanistan. Specifically, the documents reveal estimates of deaths and injuries; locations of militant bases and compounds; the identities of some of those targeted or killed; the movements of targets from village to village or compound to compound; and, to a limited degree, the rationale for unleashing missiles.
The documents also reveal a breadth of targeting that is complicated by the culture in the restive region of Pakistan where militants and ordinary tribesmen dress the same, and carrying a weapon is part of the centuries-old tradition of the Pashtun ethnic group.
The Haqqani network, for example, cooperates closely with al Qaida for philosophical and tactical reasons, and it is blamed for some of the bloodiest attacks against civilians and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. But the Haqqani network wasn’t on the U.S. list of international terrorist groups at the time of the strikes covered by the U.S. intelligence reports, and it isn’t known to ever have been directly implicated in a plot against the U.S. homeland.
Other groups the documents said were targeted have parochial objectives: the Pakistani Taliban seeks to topple the Islamabad government; Lashkar i Jhangvi, or Army of Jhangvi, are outlawed Sunni Muslim terrorists who’ve slaughtered scores of Pakistan’s minority Shiites and were blamed for a series of attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including a 2006 bombing against the U.S. consulate in Karachi that killed a U.S. diplomat. Both groups are close to al Qaida, but neither is known to have initiated attacks on the U.S. homeland.
“I have never seen nor am I aware of any rules of engagement that have been made public that govern the conduct of drone operations in Pakistan, or the identification of individuals and groups other than al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban,” said Christopher Swift, a national security law expert who teaches national security affairs at Georgetown University and closely follows the targeted killing issue. “We are doing this on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis, rather than a systematic or strategic basis.”
The administration has declined to reveal other details of the program, such as the intelligence used to select targets and how much evidence is required for an individual to be placed on a CIA “kill list.” The administration also hasn’t even acknowledged the existence of so-called signature strikes, let alone discussed the legal and procedural foundations of the attacks.
Leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees say they maintain robust oversight over the program. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., disclosed in a Feb. 13 statement that the panel is notified “with key details . . . shortly after” every drone strike. It also reviews videos of strikes and considers “their effectiveness as a counterterrorism tool, verifying the care taken to avoid deaths to non-combatants and understanding the intelligence collection and analysis that underpins these operations.”
But until last month, Obama had rebuffed lawmakers’ repeated requests to see all of the classified Justice Department legal opinions on the program, giving them access to only two dealing with the president’s powers to order targeted killings. It then allowed the Senate committee access to all opinions pertaining to the killing of U.S. citizens to clear the way for the panel’s March 7 confirmation of John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism chief and the key architect of the targeted killings program, as the new CIA director. But it continues to deny access to other opinions on the grounds that they are privileged legal advice to the president.
Moreover, most of the debate in the United States has focused on the deaths of four Americans – all killed in drone strikes in Yemen, but only one intentionally targeted – and not the thousands of others who’ve been killed, the majority of whom have been hit in Pakistan.
Obama and his top aides say the United States is in an “armed conflict” with al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban, and the targeted killing program complies with U.S. and international laws, including an “inherent” right to self-defense and the international laws of war. Obama also derives his authority to order targeted killings from the Constitution and a Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution empowering the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those who perpetrated 9/11 and those who aided them, they say.
Time and again, the administration has defined the drone targets as operational leaders of al Qaida, the Afghan Taliban and associated groups plotting imminent attacks on the American homeland. Occasionally, however, officials have made oblique references to undefined associated forces and threats against unidentified Americans and U.S. facilities.
On April 30, 2012, Brennan gave the most detailed explanation of Obama’s drone program. He referred to al Qaida 73 times, the Afghan Taliban three times and mentioned no other group by name.
“We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing,” Brennan said.
To be sure, America’s drone program has killed militants without risk to the nation’s armed forces.
The administration argues that drones – in Brennan’s words – are a “wise choice” for fighting terrorists. Over the years, the aircraft have battered al Qaida’s Pakistan-based core leadership and crippled its ability to stage complex attacks. And officials note it has been done without sending U.S. troops into hostile territory or causing civilian casualties “except in the rarest of circumstances.”
“Any actions we take fully comport to our law and meet the standards that I think . . . the American people expect of us as far as taking actions we need to protect the American people, but at the same time ensuring that we do everything possible before we need to resort to lethal force,” Brennan said at his Feb. 7 Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing.
Caitlin Hayden, national security spokeswoman for the White House, said late Tuesday that the Brennan speech is broad enough to cover strikes against others who are not al Qaida or the Afghan Taliban. While she did not cite any authority for broader targeting, Hayden said: “You should not assume he is only talking about al Qaida just because he doesn’t say ’al Qaida, the Taliban, and associated forces’ at every reference.”
Some legal scholars and human rights organizations, however, dispute the program’s legality.
Obama, they think, is misinterpreting international law, including the laws of war, which they say apply only to the uniformed military, not the civilian CIA, and to traditional battlefields like those in Afghanistan, not to Pakistan’s tribal area, even though it may be a sanctuary for al Qaida and other violent groups. They argue that Obama also is strengthening his executive powers with an excessively broad application of the September 2001 use-of-force resolution.
The administration’s definition of “imminent threat” also is in dispute. The Justice Department’s leaked white paper argues the United States should be able “to act in self-defense in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.” Legal scholars counter that the administration is using an exaggerated definition of imminence that doesn’t exist in international law.
“I’m thankful that my doctors don’t use their (the administration’s) definition of imminence when looking at imminent death. A head cold could be enough to pull the plug on you,” said Morris Davis, a Howard University Law School professor and former Air Force lawyer who served as chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo Bay terrorism trials.
Since 2004, drone program critics say, the strikes have killed hundreds of civilians, fueling anti-U.S. outrage, boosting extremist recruiting, and helping to destabilize Pakistan’s U.S.-backed government. And some experts warn that the United States may be setting a new standard of international conduct that other countries will grasp to justify their own targeted killings and to evade accountability.
Other governments “won’t just emulate U.S. practice but (will adopt) America’s justification for targeted killings,” said Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. “When there is such a disconnect between who the administration says it kills and who it (actually) kills, that hypocrisy itself is a very dangerous precedent that other countries will emulate.”
A special U.N. human rights panel began a nine-month investigation in January into whether drone strikes, including the CIA operations in Pakistan, violate international law by causing disproportionate numbers of civilian casualties. The panel’s head, British lawyer Ben Emmerson, declared after a March 11-13 visit to Pakistan that the U.S. drone campaign “involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”
The administration asserts that drones are used to hit specific individuals only after their names are added to a “list of active terrorists,” following a process of “extraordinary care and thoughtfulness” that confirms their identities as members of al Qaida or “associated forces” and weighs the strategic value of killing each one.
Yet the U.S. intelligence reports show that 43 out of the 95 strikes recorded in reports for the year ending in September 2011 were launched against groups other than al Qaida. Prominent among them were the Haqqani network and the Taliban Movement of Pakistan.
The Haqqani network is an Afghan Taliban-allied organization that operates in eastern Afghanistan and whose leaders are based in Pakistan’s adjacent North Waziristan tribal agency. The United States accuses the group of staging some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Kabul, including on the Indian and U.S. embassies, killing civilians, and attacking U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. But the Obama administration didn’t officially designate the network as a terrorist group until September 2012.
Its titular head is Jalaluddin Haqqani, an aging former anti-Soviet guerrilla who served as a minor minister and top military commander in the Taliban regime that sheltered al Qaida until both were driven into Pakistan by the 2001 U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. U.S. officials allege that the group, whose operational chief is Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, closely works with al Qaida and is backed by elements of the Pakistani army-led Inter-Services Intelligence spy service, a charge denied by Islamabad.
At least 15 drone strikes were launched against the Haqqani network or locations where its fighters were present during the one-year period ending in September 2011, according to the U.S. intelligence reports. They estimated that up to 96 people – or about 20 percent of the total for that period – were killed.
One report also makes clear that during the Bush administration, the agency killed Haqqani family women and children.
According to the report, an undisclosed number of Haqqani subcommanders, unnamed Arabs and unnamed “members of the extended Haqqani family” died in a Sept. 8, 2008, strike. News reports on the attack in the North Waziristan village of Dandey Darapakhel said that among as many as 25 dead were an Arab who was chief of al Qaida’s operations in Pakistan, and eight of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s grandchildren, one of his wives, two nieces and a sister.
The U.S. intelligence reports estimated that as many as 31 people were killed in at least nine strikes on the Pakistani Taliban or on locations that the group shared with others between January 2010 and September 2011. While U.S. officials say the Taliban Movement of Pakistan works closely with al Qaida, its goal is to topple the Pakistani government through suicide bombings, assaults and assassinations, not attacking the United States. The group wasn’t founded until 2007, and some of the strikes in the U.S. intelligence reports occurred before the administration designated it a terrorist organization in September 2010.
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Posted on Tue, Apr. 09, 2013
Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: April 10, 2013 05:09:02 AM
WASHINGTON — ]
Find this story at 10 April 2013
Drone Strikes Don’t Just Target al-Qaida Leaders
April 19, 2013
Members of Grandmothers Against the War, Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies, and other groups hoist a model of a drone in the air as they protest the U.S. military’s use of drones during an “April Days of Action” demonstration, April 3, 2013, in New York. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
According to a new investigative report by McClatchy, the Obama administration doesn’t stick to their own standards on drone use in the Middle East.
The news may not come as a surprise to some, given the number of deaths attributed to drones since 9/11. Those numbers—as many as 3,581 killed in Pakistan, including as many as 884 civilians and 197 children, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism—stand in contrast to the administration’s very strict official standards for drone attacks. The administration, as a refresher, has previously said that the CIA’s Predator and Reaper drones are only used against “specific senior operational leaders of al-Qaida and associated forces” involved in 9/11, and currently plotting attacks on Americans.
“Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy … list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as ‘other militants’ and ‘foreign fighters.’ ”
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at 10:40 AM Slate.com
Find this story at 11 April 2013
© 2013 The Slate Group, LLC.
US drones target low-level militants who pose no threat: Top secret documents show that half of those killed in a year were ‘unknown extremists’
April 19, 2013
The US government was accused of hiding the truth about its drone programme after leaked intelligence files revealed that it was targeting unidentified militants who posed no immediate threat to the United States.
Despite President Barack Obama’s public promise that the CIA’s armed Predators and Reapers were only firing on those suspected of plotting against America, top-secret documents show that in one year alone almost half of those killed were simply listed as “unknown extremists”.
The documents, obtained by US news agency McClatchy, also reveal Pakistan’s intelligence agency was co-operating with the US at the same time as its government was condemning drone strikes on its soil.
“There is now mounting evidence that the Obama administration is misleading the American public – and the world at large – about the drone war it is waging in Pakistan,” said Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer working with the British human rights charity Reprieve.
“The reports show a significant number of the strikes have nothing to do with al-Qa’ida. Instead, they may have been a quid pro quo exchange between two countries’ spy agencies. The result is that the US often doesn’t know who it is killing.”
The US has come under increasing international pressure to open up its decision-making process to scrutiny following claims that the drone programme has killed hundreds of civilians among an estimated death toll of 2,500, predominantly in Pakistan and Yemen. Preparations are in place to transfer more control of the programme from the CIA to the Pentagon, in a move said to herald greater transparency.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Find this story at 10 April 2013
‘Kissinger Cables’ Offer Window Into Indian Politics of the 1970s
April 10, 2013
The “Kissinger Cables,” a collection of U.S. diplomatic cables released on Monday by WikiLeaks, contain some fascinating revelations about the political scenario in India in the 1970s. Here are the five great insights about India in the WikiLeaks release:
India’s first nuclear test was possibly motivated by political considerations:
According to this cable, sent from New Delhi to the Department of State, India’s first nuclear test on May 18, 1974, was motivated by domestic politics. The cable says that the nuclear test had been done at a time when the Indian government was tackling an economic slowdown, increasing discontent and rising political unrest.
“We are inclined to believe that this general domestic gloom and uncertainty weighed significantly in the balance of India’s nuclear decision,” reads the cable sent on the date of the nuclear test. “The need for a psychological boost, the hope of recreated atmosphere of exhilaration and nationalism that swept the country after 1971 – contrary to our earlier expectation – may have tipped the scales.”
The cable adds that the U.S. Embassy was not aware of any recent military pressure on the Indian government, and that the decision to demonstrate nuclear capability may also have been driven by a need to regain its position in international politics, where India “has felt it had been relegated to the sidelines with its significance ignored and its potential role downplayed.”
Rajiv Gandhi might have acted as the middleman for a Swedish airplane manufacturer:
During his stint as an Indian Airlines pilot, Rajiv Gandhi might have acted as a middleman for the Swedish company Saab-Scania, which was trying to persuade the Indian Air Force to buy its Viggen fighter aircraft. This cable, dated Oct. 21, 1975, says that a Swedish Embassy official had informed the U.S. Embassy that the “main Indian negotiator” for Saab-Scania is Rajiv Gandhi while the French company Dassault’s chief negotiator was the son-in-law of the then Indian air marshal, Om Prakash Mehra. The cable added that Indira Gandhi did not want to purchase the British Jaguar because of “her prejudices against the British.” The Swedish diplomat “expressed irritation at the way Mrs. Gandhi is personally dominating negotiations, without involvement of Indian Air Force officers.”
“The Swedes here have also made it quite clear they understand the importance of family influences in the final decision in the fighter sweepstakes,” said another cable, dated Feb. 6, 1976. “Offhand we would have thought a transport pilot not the best expert to rely upon in evaluating a fighter plane, but then we are speaking of a transport pilot who has another and perhaps more relevant qualification.”
In 1974 India returned 195 prisoners of war to Pakistan, originally wanted by Bangladesh for war crimes trials:
This cable sent from Islamabad on May 17, 1974, reveals that after the Bangladesh-India-Pakistan agreement signed on April 9, 1974, India returned the last Pakistani prisoners of war from India, including 195 prisoners originally wanted by Bangladesh for war crimes trials. “Bhutto and Minstate Aziz Ahmed have hailed the April 9 agreement as a major move toward a durable peace with India, but the continuing drumfire of anti-India comment in the media reflects the strong emotional suspicion of India still prevalent here,” the cable reads. The cable adds that even in the top leadership in the Pakistani government, there is “exasperation” over what they perceived as India’s continuous efforts to hamper Pakistan from obtaining military supplies. While the U.S. diplomat foretold a thawing of relations between the two countries, he said “continuing mutual suspicion” would hinder diplomatic efforts.
Indira Gandhi said she was proud that she “resisted pressures to destroy Pakistan in 1971″
In an analysis of India-Pakistan relations after the 1971 war, a cable sent from the U.S. Department of State says that Indira Gandhi felt that she showed restraint during the war. “Mrs. Gandhi was proud, and we believe sincere, in explaining she resisted pressures to destroy Pakistan in 1971,” reads this cable, dated March 1, 1974. “We believe that she wants détente on the subcontinent and she feels she made concessions at Simla to achieve this. She also insists – plausibly we think – that further disintegration of Pakistan would not be in India’s interest.” The cable says that while Pakistan’s recognition of Bangladesh improves the short-term prospects for better India-Pakistan relations, there is continued suspicion on both sides. The document argues that while India feels that Pakistan must “adjust to Indian power and influence” there is little likelihood of that happening in the near future.
April 8, 2013, 7:07 am
By NEHA THIRANI BAGRI
Find this story at 8 April 2013
Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company
“The Kissinger Cables”: Three Years After “Collateral Murder,” WikiLeaks Explores U.S. Diplomacy
April 10, 2013
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has just published “the Kissinger Cables,” 1.7 million U.S. diplomatic and intelligence documents from 1973 to 1976 that include many once-secret memos written by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. While the documents have been available to the public at the National Archives, WikiLeaks has created a searchable online database to allow anyone in the world to quickly search them. WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange reportedly did most of the work creating the database from his refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London. WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson joins us to discuss the documents’ release. Hrafnsson also comments on the recent anniversary of the release of the “Collateral Murder” military video, which shows U.S. forces killing 12 people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters employees, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. After WikiLeaks obtained the video, Hrafnsson met with family members of the victims in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks is back in the news today. The website has just published 1.7 million U.S. diplomatic and intelligence documents from 1973 to 1976. The project is being dubbed the “Kissinger Cables.”
While the documents have been available to the public at the National Archives, WikiLeaks has created a searchable online database to allow anyone in the world to quickly search through the trove of documents. The archive includes many once-secret memos written by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The release has already made front-page news in India. One document posted online by WikiLeaks indicates former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi acted as a middleman in the ’70s for a Swedish company that was looking to sell fighter jets to the Indian air force.
WikiLeaks posted the documents in a new database called the Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy, or PLUSD. WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange reportedly did most of the work creating the database from his refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he is holed up seeking to stop his extradition to Sweden because he’s concerned about then being extradited to the United States.
To talk about the significance of the latest trove of documents, we go to Washington, D.C., to talk to Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesperson for WikiLeaks. He’s a former investigative journalist who was named Icelandic journalist of the year three times.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Kristinn. You are about, as we go to broadcast, to hold a news conference at the National Press Club. Talk about what you are announcing and what this trove of documents is all about.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, this is a very important trove of documents, the 1.7 million documents that you mentioned in your introduction, that we have merged together with the 250,000 embassy cables that we published previously under—in the Cablegate project. This is a—these new documents are from the period 1973 to 1976. You said these documents were already accessible, but they are actually quite difficult to get to for the general public. And anybody that can go online and try to find these documents will find out quickly that it’s very hard to access them. So, in our view, the inaccessibility and the difficulty of accessing them is a form of secrecy, in a way, so we found it important to get it to the general public in a good searchable database, and that’s what we have done in this project. It covers a very interesting and turbulent period in our contemporary history and is shedding a light on foreign relations in the Kissinger era.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Kristinn, if you could explain—as you said, these are not documents that haven’t been available to the public, so that’s different than the other troves of documents that WikiLeaks released—you know, the [Iraq] War Logs, as well as Afghanistan, as well as what is called the State Department cables—but most people don’t have a way of really going through them. You’re talking about 1.7 million documents. So explain what it is that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks did.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, what we have is created a database which is easily searchable, and people can access them—the general public, as well as journalists and academics—without any problems. It has shown the credibility that we have in handling huge databases. This is what we’ve been working on for quite some time now. This is a part of our commitment to make accessible historical documents that are hard to find for the general public.
One element of all this is to keep in mind that there has been a trend in the last decade and a half to reverse previously declassified policy. A policy set out, for example, by Clinton in the mid-’90s was, a few years later under Bush, reversed. It was revealed in 2006, for example, that over 55,000 documents that were previously available had been reclassified by the demand of the CIA and other agencies. And it is known that this program continued at least until 2009. So, it is very worrying when the government actually starts taking back into behind the veil of secrecy what was previously available. It doesn’t really increase the trust in government. So, now at least you have all these documents available, and they will be available in the future.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, talk about—you’re an investigative journalist—what you found most significant about these documents, the content of the documents. You know, in the United States, when talking about either Bradley Manning or Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, it’s always about the process or what they did, but rarely, unlike other countries which have, you know, front-page news, like, for example, in India right now, Rajiv Gandhi, what the documents show about him acting as a middleman for a Swedish military company. Talk about these revelations in the documents, Kristinn.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, the revelations are coming out as we speak and will come out in the next few days. We did cooperate with 18 media organizations around the world in analyzing these documents, and they found terrific stories. I hesitate to steal their headlines before they publish it. It will come out in the next hours and days. There are documents there that shed light on the U.S. relation regarding—with regard to dictatorships in Latin America. I just talked yesterday with a Brazilian journalist who had been diving into this, and it is extremely important what is revealed there. Keep in mind that just recently the Brazilians decided to come to terms with their period of dictatorship after President Dilma set up a truth commission. So, there’s a lot of things from this period that has not been reconciled with and come to terms with, and these documents are really helping this effort in these countries.
AMY GOODMAN: During Bradley Manning’s pretrial hearing earlier this year, he spoke about the so-called collateral video—”Collateral Murder” video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq that occurred on July 12th, 2007. He admitted for the first time being the source of the leaked tape. Bradley Manning described the video as “war porn” and said the crew’s lack of concern for human life and concern for injured children at the scene greatly bothered him. This is the video shot in July 2007 that Manning referenced. It shows U.S. forces killing 12 people, including two Reuters employees, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. This is video that was taken, not by peace activists on the ground, but by the Apache helicopter itself, the video on board the helicopter.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: I have individuals with weapons.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: You’re clear.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Alright, firing.
U.S. SOLDIER 3: Let me know when you’ve got them.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Let’s shoot. Light ’em all up.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Come on, fire!
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’.
U.S. SOLDIER 4: Hotel, Bushmaster two-six, Bushmaster two-six, we need to move, time now!
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Alright, we just engaged all eight individuals.
AMY GOODMAN: Reuters driver Saeed Chmagh, who was 40 years old and has four children, survived that initial attack. He’s seen in the video trying to crawl away as the helicopter flies overhead after the first attack. U.S. forces again open fire when they notice a van pulling up to evacuate the wounded Saeed Chmagh.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: The bodies.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Where’s that van at?
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Right down there by the bodies.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: OK, yeah.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse. We have individuals going to the scene, looks like possibly picking up bodies and weapons.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Let me engage. Can I shoot?
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Roger. Break. Crazy Horse one-eight, request permission to engage.
U.S. SOLDIER 3: Picking up the wounded?
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Yeah, we’re trying to get permission to engage. Come on, let us shoot!
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: They’re taking him.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.
U.S. SOLDIER 4: This is Bushmaster seven, go ahead.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Roger. We have a black SUV—or Bongo truck picking up the bodies. Request permission to engage.
U.S. SOLDIER 4: Bushmaster seven, roger. This is Bushmaster seven, roger. Engage.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: One-eight, engage. Clear.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Come on!
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Clear. Clear.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: We’re engaging.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Coming around. Clear.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Roger. Trying to—
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Clear.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: I hear ’em—I lost ’em in the dust.
U.S. SOLDIER 3: I got ’em.
U.S. SOLDIER 2: Should have a van in the middle of the road with about 12 to 15 bodies.
U.S. SOLDIER 1: Oh yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield! Ha ha!
AMY GOODMAN: That, again, the video that was taken that was on board the Apache helicopter. It was July 12th, 2007, released three years ago, on April 5th, 2010, released by WikiLeaks and dubbed the “Collateral Murder” video. Kristinn Hrafnsson, you went to Iraq afterwards. Can you talk about what you did there?
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, I went to Iraq before we released this video. I thought it was very important that we would be able to analyze the situation on the ground, locate the victims and identify them. And so, after working by remote for a little, short period, I did fly to Baghdad with my producer and cameraman, and we arrived about three days before the release of the video, on April 5th, 2010. We were able to establish that the driver of the minivan, Matasher Salah Tomal, a 42-year-old father of four, was simply passing by the scene, driving his two children to a special tutoring. We interviewed his widow. We met with the children, Sayad and Doaha, who were eight and 12 at the time, who were still bearing the scars from this attack and, of course, the trauma of losing their father in the incident. In my mind, this attack on the minivan is a clear war crime. But it has never been investigated as such. And it should be, because the people on the ground there, those killed and the families of the victims, still have not seen any justice because of this incident.
AMY GOODMAN: Of course, right now Julian Assange is holed up in the London embassy of Ecuador. Kristinn Hrafnsson, you’re an investigative journalist. Can you talk about the significance of what is happening to him now? Clearly, he is very productive there. If he steps foot outside, he’ll be arrested by British authorities and sent to Sweden. But can you talk very briefly—and we’re going to talk about this with our next guest, as well—but as you got off to the National Press Club to hold your news conference, talk about both Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, Julian Assange has been in the embassy since June 19th, so it’s been quite a time. We are still hoping that there will be some progress very soon. And there is some indication that he will be freed, and I hope that happens very soon. Meanwhile, he is in a fairly good spirit and is still, of course, working as a leader of our team, and working on a new project, as the one that we are releasing today.
With reference to Bradley Manning, of course it’s appalling that he has been held in pretrial confinement for 1,048 days. No soldier in our contemporary history has been held in such a long period of time without trial, and it’s unheard of. Of course, you mentioned that he recently plead that he was the source of this information, which, of course, I cannot confirm, because it’s our policy that the best way to guard our sources is not knowing them. But it is interesting that even though he has—has this plea, the prosecution is still going ahead with very serious charges of treason, basically aiding the enemy, which carries the maximum of the death penalty, which, in my mind, is an indication that this is a persecution, rather than a prosecution, against Bradley Manning.
AMY GOODMAN: I know that you have to leave to go to the news conference to speak to the press. Are you concerned, Kristinn, coming to this country, that you, too, could be arrested? And have you been questioned by the grand jury that we understand is impaneled in Virginia to investigate WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, that others have been called before?
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: I have not been questioned, and I have not been harassed in any way, but I assume that information has been gathered about me. This investigation is unheard of in scope. More than 40,000 documents have been gathered in the investigation. A lot of our people have been harassed at the borders here, and they have been spied upon. We know that. We have confirmation on that. So, this is a very serious, ongoing investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: Kristinn, the Kissinger Cables that you have now—that you’re announcing the release of, at least a documented database form of them, one of the reports in the Indian paper that have already been published, so you can discuss it, is about Rajiv Gandhi, the former prime minister of India, being a middleman for a Swedish military company. Talk about the significance of this. What exactly did he do?
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: I have to admit that I’m not familiar with the details of that story, so I don’t want to go into that in much details.
AMY GOODMAN: OK.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: And I should be actually going to the National Press Club to host the conference.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, the last question, the last question. The quote of Henry Kissinger: “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: That is a quote from a meeting, minutes from a meeting in Turkey, where he was talking to his Turkish counterpart. And it is a quite interesting quote and shows maybe the spirit of how he was conducting the foreign policy of this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t we end on that quote one more time? It was a quote of the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, March 10th, 1975: “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.” Kristinn Hrafnsson, I want to thank you for being with us. We will cover your news conference in the National Press Club and hope to speak to you again soon.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Thanks for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Spokesperson for WikiLeaks. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. But we’re staying on this subject. When we come back, we’ll be joined by Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament who played a critical role in WikiLeaks. She has now come to this country to speak about both WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning. Stay with us.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Find this story at 8 April 2013
WIKILEAKS SPECIAL PROJECT K: THE KISSINGER CABLES
April 10, 2013
‘Investigative journalism has never been this effective!’ – Publico
The Kissinger Cables are part of today’s launch of the WikiLeaks Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), which holds the world’s largest searchable collection of United States confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications. As of its launch on April 8, 2013 it holds 2 million records comprising approximately 1 billion words.
WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange stated: “The collection covers US involvements in, and diplomatic or intelligence reporting on, every country on Earth. It is the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published.”
THE KISSINGER CABLES
“The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.” — Henry A. Kissinger, US Secretary of State, March 10, 1975: http://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/P860114-1573_MC_b.html#efmCS3CUB
The Kissinger Cables comprise more than 1.7 million US diplomatic records for the period 1973 to 1976, including 205,901 records relating to former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. Dating from January 1, 1973 to December 31, 1976 they cover a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence. They include more than 1.3 million full diplomatic cables and 320,000 originally classified records. These include more than 227,000 cables classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and 61,000 cables classified as “SECRET”. Perhaps more importantly, there are more than 12,000 documents with the sensitive handling restriction “NODIS” or ‘no distribution’, and more than 9,000 labelled “Eyes Only”.
At around 700 million words, the Kissinger Cables collection is approximately five times the size of WikiLeaks’ Cablegate. The raw PDF data is more than 380 Gigabytes in size and is the largest WikiLeaks publication to date.
WikiLeaks’ media partners will be reporting throughout the week on their findings. These include significant revelations about US involvements with fascist dictatorships, particularly in Latin America, under Franco’s Spain (including about the Spanish royal family) and in Greece under the regime of the Colonels.
The documents also contain hourly diplomatic reporting on the 1973 war between Israel, Egypt and Syria (the “Yom Kippur war”). While several of these documents have been used by US academic researchers in the past, the Kissinger Cables provides unparalled access to journalists and the general public.
Most of the records were reviewed by the United States Department of State’s systematic 25-year declassification process. At review, the records were assessed and either declassified or kept classified with some or all of the metadata records declassified. Both sets of records were then subject to an additional review by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Once believed to be releasable, they were placed as individual PDFs at the National Archives as part of their Central Foreign Policy Files collection. Despite the review process supposedly assessing documents after 25 years there are no diplomatic records later than 1976. The formal declassification and review process of these extremely valuable historical documents is therefore currently running 12 years late.
The form in which these documents were held at NARA was as 1.7 million individual PDFs. To prepare these documents for integration into the PlusD collection, WikiLeaks obtained and reverse-engineered all 1.7 million PDFs and performed a detailed analysis of individual fields, developed sophisticated technical systems to deal with the complex and voluminous data and corrected a great many errors introduced by NARA, the State Department or its diplomats, for example harmonizing the many different ways in which departments, capitals and people’s names were spelt. All our corrective work is referenced and available from the links in the individual field descriptions on the PlusD text search interface: https://search.wikileaks.org/plusd
RECLASSIFICATION ATTEMPTS THWARTED
The CIA and other agencies have attempted to reclassify or withhold sections of the US National Archives. Detailed minutes of US State Department meetings show that these attempts, which originated under the Bush II administration, have continued on through until at least 2009. A 2006 analysis by the US National Security Archives, an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at George Washington University, found that 55,000 pages had been secretly reclassified.
The censorship of the US National Archives was thrown into stark relief in November last year when the Archive censored all searches for ‘WikiLeaks’ from its records. See http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/11/03/us-national-archives-has-blocked-searches-for-wikileaks/
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ publisher, said: “The US administration cannot be trusted to maintain the history of its interactions with the world. Fortunately, an organisation with an unbroken record in resisting censorship attempts now has a copy.”
Sun Apr 7, 2013 21:00 EST
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CIA must admit existence of drone programme, appeals court rules
April 10, 2013
US court rules that CIA must give fuller response to ACLU’s lawsuit seeking access to records on drone attacks
The civil liberties group brought its suit under the 1966 Freedom of Information Act. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP
In a rebuke of government secrecy, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the CIA must give a fuller response to a lawsuit seeking the spy agency’s records on drone attacks.
The CIA’s claim that it could neither confirm nor deny whether it has any drone records was inadequate, because the government, including Barack Obama himself, has clearly acknowledged a drone programme, the court said.
The ruling was unanimous from a three-judge panel of the court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union is likely a long way from getting access to CIA records. Its lawsuit now heads back to a trial court, where the CIA could invoke other defenses against the records request.
The civil liberties group brought its suit under the 1966 Freedom of Information Act.
Obama and his senior advisers call the aerial drone programme essential to US attacks on al-Qaida militants in countries such as Yemen. The strikes have at times ignited local anger and frayed diplomatic relations.
Initially, the CIA said security concerns prevented it from even acknowledging the existence of records. The ACLU countered that government officials had already acknowledged the drone programme in public statements from 2009 to 2012.
The question became whether the statements by Obama, former CIA director Leon Panetta and former counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, now the CIA chief, amounted to an official acknowledgment.
Judge Merrick Garland wrote for the appeals court that it would be a fiction to pretend otherwise.
guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 March 2013 16.56 GMT
Find this story at 15 March 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
Obama’s secrecy fixation causing Sunshine Week implosion
April 10, 2013
Even the most loyal establishment Democrats are now harshly denouncing the president for his war on transparency
During Sunshine Week, Democratic loyalists attack president Obama over his excessive secrecy Photograph: Bbc
When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, his pledges of openness and transparency were not ancillary to his campaign but central to it. He repeatedly denounced the Bush administration as “one of the most secretive administrations in our nation’s history”, saying that “it is no coincidence” that such a secrecy-obsessed presidency “has favored special interests and pursued policies that could not stand up to the sunlight.” He vowed: “as president, I’m going to change that.” In a widely heralded 2007 speech on transparency, he actually claimed that this value shaped his life purpose:
“The American people want to trust in our government again – we just need a government that will trust in us. And making government accountable to the people isn’t just a cause of this campaign – it’s been a cause of my life for two decades.”
His campaign specifically vowed to protect whistleblowers, hailing them as “the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government” and saying that “such acts of courage and patriotism. . . should be encouraged rather than stifled.” Transparency groups were completely mesmerized by these ringing commitments. “We have a president-elect that really gets it,” gushed Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, in late 2008; “the openness community will expect a complete repudiation of the Ashcroft doctrine.” Here’s just one of countless representative examples of Obama bashing Bush for excessive secrecy – including in the realm of national security and intelligence – and vowing a fundamentally different course:
Literally moments after he was inaugurated, the White House declared that “President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history”. Obama continues even now to parade around as a historically unprecedented champion of openness. In a 2010 speech, he said “I will not stop fighting to open up government” and then praised himself this way: “we have put in place the toughest transparency rules in history: in history.” Right this very minute, on the White House website, Obama is quoted this way: “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government” because “transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.”
This week is Sunshine Week, created by transparency and civil liberties groups and media outlets as “a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information”. The White House blog on Wednesday said that “we celebrate Sunshine Week – an appropriate time to discuss the importance of open government and freedom of information” and quoted the president this way: “Openness will strengthen our democracy, and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
Along with others, I’ve spent the last four years documenting the extreme, often unprecedented, commitment to secrecy that this president has exhibited, including his vindictive war on whistleblowers, his refusal to disclose even the legal principles underpinning his claimed war powers of assassination, and his unrelenting, Bush-copying invocation of secrecy privileges to prevent courts even from deciding the legality of his conduct (as a 2009 headline on the Obama-friendly TPM site put it: “Expert Consensus: Obama Mimics Bush On State Secrets”). Just this week, the Associated Press conducted a study proving that last year, the Obama administration has rejected more FOIA requests on national security grounds than in any year since Obama became president, and quoted Alexander Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney for its national security project, as follows:
“We’ve seen a meteoric rise in the number of claims to protect secret law, the government’s interpretations of laws or its understanding of its own authority. In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration.”
Re-read that last sentence in italics. Most of those policies have been covered here at length, and I won’t repeat them here. But what is remarkable is that this secrecy has become so oppressive and extreme that even the most faithful Democratic operatives are now angrily exploding with public denunciations.
Let’s begin with John Podesta, who was previously the chief of Obama’s transition team as well as Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House, and now runs the highly Obama-loyal Center for American Progress. During that 2008 transition, Podesta vowed that the Obama administration would be “the most open and transparent transition in history.” Perhaps out of embarrassment that his own vows have been so flagrantly disregarded, Podesta has an amazingly scathing Op-Ed in the Washington Post this morning about Obama’s refusal to release even the legal memoranda purporting to vest him with assassination powers. This language is striking indeed given Podesta’s central role in the Democratic establishment:
“The Obama administration is wrong to withhold these documents from Congress and the American people. I say this as a former White House chief of staff who understands the instinct to keep sensitive information secret and out of public view . . . But protecting technical means, human sources, operational details and intelligence methods cannot be an excuse for creating secret law to guide our institutions. . . .
“In refusing to release to Congress the rules and justifications governing a program that has conducted nearly 400 unmanned drone strikes and killed at least three Americans in the past four years, President Obama is ignoring the system of checks and balances that has governed our country from its earliest days. And in keeping this information from the American people, he is undermining the nation’s ability to be a leader on the world stage and is acting in opposition to the democratic principles we hold most important. . . .
“The law that directs our government’s activities should not be kept secret. All branches of the people’s government have the right to know the rules and standards under which the other branches act. Congress has the power to oversee the conduct of the executive branch, and lawmakers must be permitted to use it. As Woodrow Wilson wrote: ‘The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function.’ . . . .
“[W]e cannot lead if the American people are kept in the dark. We cannot lead if the world does not know the principles and laws that guide us, or if others can credibly say that our commitment to a government of the people, by the people and for the people is simply window-dressing, or that we sacrifice our constitutional principles when it is expedient.”
Meanwhile, Politico this morning reports on an acrimonious meeting between Obama and various Democratic senators in which they accused Obama of adopting the secrecy obsession of the Bush administration. Apparently, the charge was led by Jay Rockefeller, one of the Senate’s most faithful advocates of the National Security State and the rampant secrecy behind which it operates; Obama’s secrecy, evidently, is too much even for him:
“Two Obama administration officials, who asked not to be named, confirmed Rockefeller raised the drone oversight issue with the president at the session. . . . While Obama defended his handling of the issue, he told his former Senate colleagues he understood their concerns about being left out of the loop on such sensitive decisions, senators said. The president noted that he would have ‘probably objected’ over the White House’s handling of this issue if he were still a senator, they said. But, according to the sources, he noted his viewpoint changed now that he occupies the Oval Office — not a room in a Senate office building. . . .
“During a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing Tuesday just before the meeting with Obama, the senior senator from West Virginia railed against the administration’s secrecy and publicly charged that it amounted to a return to the Bush approach. . . . ‘It’s a terrible situation,’ a clearly irritated Rockefeller said during the annual hearing focusing on global threats to the US. . . . Rockefeller also charged that after Brennan was confirmed, the administration clammed up again and ‘went directly back to the way they were from 2001-2 to 2007’. As for the legal memos shared after two years of requests, Rockefeller said there was ‘nothing in them which is a threat to anybody.'”
To justify his conduct, Obama “tried to assure his former colleagues that his administration is more open to oversight than that of President George W. Bush”, saying: “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here.” This excuse Obama used – I used to object to these things when I was a Senator but see it differently now that I’m president – is one that is frequently heard from his followers, but more important, is what Bush supporters always said would happen once a Democrat became president: that, with the secret information you get in the Oval Office and the need to Keep Us Safe™, a Democratic president would realize that Bush and Cheney were right all along about many of the policies which Democrats spent eight years so harshly denouncing. Given that Obama himself is now expressly saying this (“he noted his viewpoint changed now that he occupies the Oval Office”), doesn’t he and his party – as I’ve asked many times before – owe a heartfelt and sincere public apology to Bush and Cheney for bashing them so harshly for policies which Obama now not only adopts but has come to explicitly defend?
Then we come to this morning’s New York Times Op-Ed by the always-great Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler and Floyd Abrams, the self-proclaimed First Amendment champion who represented the New York Times in fighting off the Nixon administration’s attempts to prevent publication of the Pentagon Papers leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. While Benkler has been a vocal defender of WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning, Abrams has been a critic of both. Nonetheless, those two united to warn the nation of the grave dangers posed to whistleblowing and a free press from the wildly excessive prosecution of Manning:
“If successful, the prosecution will establish a chilling precedent: national security leaks may subject the leakers to a capital prosecution or at least life imprisonment. Anyone who holds freedom of the press dear should shudder at the threat that the prosecution’s theory presents to journalists, their sources and the public that relies on them.
“You don’t have to think that WikiLeaks is the future of media, or Private Manning a paragon of heroic whistle-blowing, to understand the threat. . . . [W]hat could be more destructive to an informed citizenry than the threat of the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole for whistle-blowers?
“So yes, we continue to disagree about what to make of Private Manning and WikiLeaks. But we agree that WikiLeaks is part of what the Fourth Estate is becoming, that the leaks included important disclosures and that their publication is protected by the First Amendment no less than the publication of the Pentagon Papers was.
“Private Manning’s guilty plea gives the prosecution an opportunity to rethink its strategy. The extreme charges remaining in this case create a severe threat to future whistle-blowers, even when their revelations are crystal-clear instances of whistle-blowing. We cannot allow our concerns about terrorism to turn us into a country where communicating with the press can be prosecuted as a capital offense.”
So here we have not Republicans but the most loyal establishment Democrats denouncing Obama’s secrecy obsession in the harshest of terms. “President Obama is ignoring the system of checks and balances that has governed our country from its earliest days.” He is “acting in opposition to the democratic principles we hold most important”. “The administration clammed up again and went directly back to the way they were from 2001-2 to 2007.” “What could be more destructive to an informed citizenry than the threat of the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole for whistle-blowers?”
This hardly means that Democrats are now ready to pose meaningful challenges to Obama’s radical policies: to release the OLC memos would be simply to disclose the White House’s claimed justification for the powers it has seized, and would not mean there would be meaningful opposing to those powers. Still, secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power and transparency is a necessary (though not sufficient) antidote; as Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler: “Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 March 2013 13.41 GMT
Find this story at 14 March 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
The Other Bradley Manning: Jeremy Hammond Faces Life Term for WikiLeaks and Hacked Stratfor Emails<< oudere artikelen
January 14, 2013
A federal judge has refused to recuse herself from the closely watched trial of jailed computer hacker Jeremy Hammond, an alleged member of the group “Anonymous” charged with hacking into the computers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor and turning over some five million emails to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Hammond’s lawyers had asked Federal Judge Loretta Preska to recuse herself because her husband worked for a client of Stratfor, and himself had his email hacked. Hammond’s supporters say the Stratfor documents shed light on how the private intelligence firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. He has been held without bail or trial for more than nine months. We speak with Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, about Hammond’s case. [includes rush transcript]
Find this story at 27 December 2012