Published: 12 May, 2012, 17:28
A leaked US Air Force document stipulates a drone that happens to capture surveillance images of Americans may store them for a period of 90 days. The paper appears to justify spying on citizens, as long as it is “incidental.”
The document accepts that the Air Force may not record information non-consensually; however it does state “collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent.”
The report, dated April 23 was discovered by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists and has been put online.
Data that is accidentally recorded may be stored for a period of 90 days by the Pentagon while it is analyzed to see if the subjects are legitimate targets for state surveillance. The Pentagon may also disseminate this data among other government organizations if it sees fit.
“Even though information may not be collectible, it may be retained for the length of time necessary to transfer it to another DoD entity or government agency to whose function it pertains,” states the document.
In addition, it justifies the gathering of data on domestic targets in certain circumstances. According to the paper, these include surveillance of natural disasters, environmental studies, system testing and training, and counterintelligence and security-related vulnerability assessments.
The document seems to spell bad news for civil liberties, considering the US government passed a bill in February allocating $63 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
If the bill is signed into law it will effectively allow the FAA to fill US skies with drones, a massive 30,000 predicted to be operational in US airspace by 2020.
Over 30 prominent civil rights groups in the US have rounded on the FAA and demanded that it reconsider the legislation and hold a rule-making session to address privacy and safety threats.
“Unfortunately, nothing in the bill would address the very serious privacy issues raised by drone aircraft. This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected,” said the American Civil Liberties Union in response to the legislation.
The bill has sparked fears among Americans that their civil liberties may be under threat, considering that the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been extended to carry out attacks on militants.
- Air Force Document: Drones Can Be Used To Spy On Americans (wrc559.com)
- | Wake Up: US Air Force drones can now spy on YOU! (truthaholics.wordpress.com)
Egypt has denied licenses to eight US-based non-profit groups, saying they violated the country’s sovereignty. Many states are concerned that foreign government-backed NGOs are really agents for their sponsors, rather than independent action groups.
Among the organizations banned from continuing their work in Egypt are the Carter Center for Human Rights, set up by former US President Jimmy Carter, Christian group The Coptic Orphans, Seeds of Peace and other groups.
Egyptian authorities warned that if the NGOs try to work without a license, Cairo would “take relevant measures”.
Local media speculate that the rejection may be temporary, and licenses could be granted later, after the presidential election due on May 23 and 24.
Monday’s move revives a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on foreign-funded NGOs, which recently provoked a serious diplomatic row with long-term ally US. In late December 2011, security forces raided offices of a number of groups suspected of receiving money in violation of Egyptian legislation.
In February, prosecutors charged 43 people with instilling dissent and meddling in domestic policies following last year’s mass protests, which resulted in the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. Among them were citizens of the US, Germany, Serbia, Norway and Jordan.
In March, an Egyptian court revoked the travel ban for 17 indicted Americans following Washington’s threat to withdraw $1.3 billion annual military aid to Cairo. The decision provoked a wave criticism of the ruling military council in Egypt. Many activists accused them of betraying national interests under American pressure.
But shortly after the suspected Americans left the country, Cairo’s prosecutors decided to target more people allegedly involved in the case, who were not in Egypt when the charges against their colleagues were made. Egypt asked Interpol to issue “red notices” for 15 NGO workers, including 12 Americans, two Lebanese and a Jordanian.
On Monday, Interpol’s French headquarters announced that the Egyptian request had been turned down, because it contradicted rules that strictly forbid the organization “to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”
Not so non-government
There may be a good reason why national governments in troubled countries mistrust US-funded NGOs. For instance, NATO’s intervention in Libya was partially justified by exaggerated reports of human rights organizations alleging that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces committed crimes against humanity and breached international law in other ways, reports RT’s Maria Portnaya. After the war some of them admitted to giving ungrounded reports.
Powerful NGOs like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International are supposed to be objective monitors and not take sides, but in reality they “enter into an excessively cozy relationship with for example the United States government, but also other powerful Western allies, over Libya and over other issues,” John Laughland from the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation told RT.
This is what happened in Libya and is now happening in Syria, he added.
“The equivalent, if you like, of the Libyan League of Human Rights, which is called the Damascus Centre for Human Rights, has played exactly the same role. They’ve alleged crimes against humanity. They’ve called for safe havens, and armed intervention in that country. And they are quite clear political lobbyists, who are trying to secure a military intervention against Syria along the lines of the one approved last year against Libya,” Laughland explained.
Another example is the group behind the Kony 2012 initiative. The California-based NGO Invisible Children is calling to stop the use of child soldiers and is promoting peace in the Ugandan civil war. But the same organization provided Uganda’s authorities with intelligence that led to the arrest of several regime opponents, as a US embassy cable published by WikiLeaks revealed.
“I’m willing to believe that was not the one time that Invisible Children provided information to the Ugandan authorities. What else do we not know, in terms of their relations with the Ugandan Government?” asks Milton Allimadi, Editor-in-chief of the Black Star News.
The viral video calling on a campaign to stop Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army appeared just months after President Obama decided to send 100 US military advisors to the region to help local governments remove Kony “from the battlefield”. Some human rights organizations criticized the move, saying among those receiving American aid is South Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army, which is known to exploit child soldiers just like Kony does.
NGOs are not currently held accountable for the information they publish, no matter how much collateral damage false facts may cause. Critics say some of those organizations actually pave the way for conflict rather than advocating peaceful solutions.
- Egypt Denies 8 US NGOs Permission to Operate in Country (voanews.com)
- Breaking news: the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights – MEA 2012 nominee (thoolen.wordpress.com)
- US is inciting Unrest through NGOs working under the cover of Human rights & Democracy in Egypt (jafrianews.com)
- US warns Egypt over detained NGO workers – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
For leaders of smaller nations, a meeting and a photo op with the American President in the White House is always a huge thrill. And so Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was no exception when she received the presidential treatment on February 24, basking in the glow of President Obama’s approval. The President (rightly) praised Denmark’s military contribution in Afghanistan and Libya, saying that the small Nordic country of 4.5 million people ”punches above its weight.”
As sweet as this praise must have been to the ears of the Danish prime minister, it was soon tempered by revelations that President Obama is very free with the use of this phrase. Danish television clipped together a montage showing Obama complimenting the leaders of Norway, Ireland, and the Philippines in exactly the same words, all for ”punching above their weight.” President Obama apparently has not used the expression about the British, despite the fact that he borrowed it from British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd.
The conservative Danish newspaper Jyllands–Posten noted that Obama must really be pleased with the Danes, as he said the same thing to the previous Danish prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, during his state visit last year, sitting in the very same armchairs under the same picture of George Washington. Meanwhile, an editorial in the left-of-center newspaper Politiken grumbled that it was the unfortunate Danish desire to ”punch above their weight” that had gotten the Danes involved in the Iraq war and other American affairs. The newspaper advocated that Danes stick to their own bantam weight class in the future.
The real question might be, however, whether the United States under President Obama is punching below its weight, making the contributions of others seem all the greater. From premature military withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan to selling out U.S. missile defense to the Russians and mouthing mechanical blandishments to U.S. allies like the Danes, President Obama is squandering a great foreign policy legacy.
Helle C. Dale is Senior Fellow in Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation—and a native of Denmark.
Posted in American Leadership
- The Danish Jon Stewart Schools Obama on Using the Same ‘Punch’ Lines with Every Ally (newsbusters.org)
- Punch Drunk: Danish Television Captures the President Delivering The Same Back-Handed Compliment To A Series Of “Little Countries” (jonathanturley.org)
- Danish TV Host Mocks Obama for His Rhetoric “Maybe the copy key got stuck on the presidential speechwriter’s keyboard.” (blogginghounds.wordpress.com)
March 27, 2012 | 9:30 p.m.
Standing at a podium in front of piles of pipes in Cushing, Okla., last week, President Obama unveiled an executive order meant to speed federal permitting of pipeline infrastructure, including the southern portion of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Critics immediately jumped on the move, accusing Obama of being “the rooster taking credit for the dawn” and arguing that no federal action is actually needed for that portion of the Keystone pipeline to move forward. National Journal’s Energy & Environment Insiders agree.
More than 70 percent of Insiders said that Obama’s executive order was unnecessary, with some even saying the move smacks of federal overreach.
Insiders overwhelmingly agreed that the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will run from Cushing to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, only needs local approval. States typically handle the siting of interstate oil pipelines, while the only federal involvement normally comes from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Obama’s involvement in the approval process is “not even remotely necessary,” said one Insider, arguing that Obama’s campaign likely thought it was “politically necessary to invent an executive action to [stanch] the coming decline in the polls.”
The Cushing campaign stop came just a day after Gallup released a poll showing that nearly 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. government should approve the entire Keystone project, which Obama rejected in late January.
“The Cushing event was all show … but a well-executed one,” said another Insider.
Still, by rejecting the permit for the full pipeline—which would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast—and then going full-force in supporting the southern section of the pipeline, Obama is sending out inconsistent messages to the public, Insiders said.
“This is a local permitting decision. The president getting involved looks like federal government interfering in the traditionally local decision of land-use planning—and it likely won’t actually change the permitting process, which is already under way,” said one Insider. “Not great optics—and I say this as a fan of the president.”
Even some of the 29 percent of Insiders who said the Obama administration should be involved argued that it is not legally necessary but noted that it is politically important.
“It is necessary in a political sense, to demonstrate that the administration is doing everything it can to lower high gas prices,” said one Insider. “But even without the administration’s involvement, the southern portion of Keystone will get built and, shockingly, gas prices will remain high.”
Insiders overwhelmingly agreed that the southern portion of the pipeline won’t do much for oil prices. Asked whether prices will go up or down once this piece of the pipeline is completed, 75 percent of Insiders chose “neither,” a mere 14 percent said prices would go down, and 11 percent said they would go up.
“You need to connect the hose to the spigot if you want to water the lawn,” one Insider said, arguing that only the approval of the full Keystone XL pipeline project would affect prices.
Insiders said that aside from some efficiencies in delivery, this portion of the pipeline won’t have much of an impact.
“It will only have an impact on the price of oil if investors see the construction as a sign of things to come in terms of fostering more domestic development,” said one Insider.
- Obama said ready to push partial Keystone XL approval (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Keystone XL Pipeline Has Competition – WSJ (247wallst.com)
- President Obama Promises Fast Track for Keystone XL’s Southern Leg (TRP) (247wallst.com)
- Claims Keystone XL pipeline will destroy Oklahoma historical sites is disputed (newsok.com)
- Obama Headed For Defeat in Pipeline Fight – Byron York – Townhall Conservative Columnists (gds44.wordpress.com)
Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan, Dubai’s police chief was quoted yesterday in an interview published in the Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas as saying that the Muslim Brotherhood, the main Islamist force that emerged after the Arab Spring, is plotting to take over Gulf countries.
“My sources say the next step is to make Gulf governments (their ruling families) figurehead bodies only without actual ruling. The start will be in Kuwait in 2013 and in other Gulf states in 2016,” Khalfan said.
Khalfan sparked a controversy after threatening earlier this month to arrest renowned Islamic scholar and leading Brotherhood figure, Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, for criticising the United Arab Emirates for deporting Syrian protesters.
Reacting to the developments in the UAE, Mahmoud Ghazlan, Spokesman of Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the arrest warrant for Dr Al Qaradawi, Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
Challenging the UAE establishment, Ghazlan said: “The United Arab Emirates cannot dare to arrest Sheikh Al Qaradawi. It is just a physiological war and propaganda. The cleric cannot be arrested.”
Meanwhile, the UAE government has asked the Egyptian authorities to explain its stand on the statement of Ghazlan.
Notably, Dr Al Qaradawi recently criticised the decisions of UAE government to cancel the residency permit of Syrian expatriates for staging protests against Syrian regime in Emirates and withdraw the citizenships of six Islamists who were found involved in terrorism funding.
General Secretary of GCC Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayyan also criticised Ghazlan’s account as an ‘irresponsible statement’.
He added that the statement is also against the efforts of UAE and Egypt to strengthen the bilateral relations.
Khalfan, highlighting the credibility of his statement, said his information is based on “leaks” from Western intelligence sources and said this “had been known to us.”
“If these leaks from Western intelligence were to be correct, by 2016 all Gulf rulers will be just figureheads with no actual power. I am warning Gulf states about these groups”, Khalfan said.
All of the six hydrocarbon-rich GCC member states namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been governed for centuries by ruling families.
Khalfan said the alleged plot will begin in Kuwait because “it is ready more than any other Gulf state… this is a strategy.”
Sunni Islamists made an impressive show in a February 2 snap election in Kuwait, securing more than 20 seats in the 50-member parliament.
- Obama Recruits Qaradawi (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Arab Insult News (ifaynsh.wordpress.com)
- Toulouse siege: Nicolas Sarkozy bans imams from entering France in fundamentalist crackdown (dailymail.co.uk)
- Jailed French Imam Suspected of Jihadist Plans: Sarkozy Proposes Ban on “Militant” Imams (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- France launches hunt for Islamic extremists after attacks (vancouversun.com)
- Muslim Brotherhood- History and Ideology (lettingfreedomring.com)
- Kuwait: Ahmad Mansoor, a UAE blogger denied entry (advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org)
- Syria troops shell; Muslim group wants democracy (goerie.com)
President Obama Asks Medvedev for ‘Space’ on Missile Defense — ‘After My Election I Have More Flexibility’
SEOUL, South Korea — At the tail end of his 90 minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev Monday, President Obama said that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
When asked to explain what President Obama meant, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes told ABC News that there is room for the U.S. and Russia to reach an accommodation, but “there is a lot of rhetoric around this issue — there always is — in both countries.
A senior administration official tells ABC News: “this is a political year in which the Russians just had an election, we’re about to have a presidential and congressional elections — this is not the kind of year in which we’re going to resolve incredibly complicated issue like this. So there’s an advantage to pulling back and letting the technical experts work on this as the president has been saying.”
The Obama administration did it again. Last week while Americans fumed over the fast rising gas prizes at the pump, the Obama administration told Congress that it will release up to $1.5 billion dollars in aid to Egypt. The announcement even upset stalwart Democrats like Sen. Patrick Leahy who was quick to publicly register his disappointment with the Obama decision.
Back in December, federal aid to Egypt’s military machine was contingent to a determination that the government would support the will of the people’s desire to transition from a military to a civilian government. In fact, Egypt did hold elections. However, the people elected the Muslim Brotherhood which has been laughingly described by many liberals as ‘moderate.’
Once in power, the leaders of the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood made it clear to Washington that “what was acceptable before the revolution is no longer.” That was diplomatic shorthand telegraphing that Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel was a thing of the past. Yet, this was hardly a surprise to the Obama administration which was well aware of the Brotherhood’s hostility towards the Jewish state. Despite Mubarak’s 30 years of staunch support for the peace pact with Israel, Obama turned against him. Perhaps Mubarak should have known better. When Obama delivered his famous Cairo speech in 2009, he actually invited the then outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to attend.
By supporting the rioters, Obama jeopardized the security of our srongest Arabic ally in the Middle East. Since the election, the military has been slow to grant full power to the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood. This places the United States in a no-win situation. Supporting the military is akin to sustaining a dictatorship. Supporting the Muslim Brotherhood represents a step backwards for any legitimate hope for peace.
The Muslim Brotherhood has long insisted that it really is a moderate political party. Nevertheless, it also makes the argument that while it differs with the more extremist Salafi-oriented Nour Party over the way Islamic Sharia law is applied, there is common agreement that it should be applied. The imposition of Sharia law in Egypt would pose a threat to women as well as to peace with Israel. The alleged “war on women” doesn’t register for a Democratic administration looking the other way as millions of Egyptian women lose fundamental rights.
The more serious question is this. Does the Barack Obama administration have any idea of what it’s doing? Or is this a process of just hoping for the best?
It is now clear that we are heading for a showdown in Egypt. Despite the power of the military, the only force inside the country that can mobilize a million people at the drop of the hat is the Muslim Brotherhood. In the face of popular support, the military has always backed down. This means that, like it or not, an eventual relationship between the civilian government and the military powers favors the eventual dominance of the civilian government. Indeed, while the thing that united rioters was opposition to Hosni Mubarak, only the Muslim Brotherhood had the organization and the leaders in place to take control of the government.
Sending $1.5 billion dollars of American money to retain the allegiance of the military generals may be an argument that makes sense on the short term, but sooner or later the Muslim Brotherhood will gain control of the armed forces as well as of the money we just gave them.
This is why Congress was determined to carefully monitor ties between Cairo and Washington before transferring aid. Congress wanted assurances that the pact with Israel would be maintained, that civilian government would come to power in a cooperative arrangement with the military.
Obama-style diplomacy hasn’t worked very well in the past. There are too many conflicting intersts in the Middle East with too many separate agendas. We can only hope that Obama’s tendency to confuse Cairo with Chicago doesn’t present unintended negative consequences.
Frank Mazzaglia can be reached at Frankwrote@aol.com
Source: Mazzaglia: Obama still lost in Egypt
- ‘Muslim Brotherhood plotting against GCC states’ (mb50.wordpress.com)
- U.S. making nice with the Muslim Brotherhood? (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Obama to bypass Congress, Give $1.5B of your taxes to Muslim Brotherhood (creepingsharia.wordpress.com)
- President Asshat Bypasses Congress, Gives $1.5 Billion To Muslim Brotherhood (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- Egypt military lashes out (moroccotomorrow.org)
- Obama’s Disastrous Islamist Outreach (creepingsharia.wordpress.com)
- Egypt Designates Israel Its Top Enemy – Obama Restores Military Aid (genomega1.wordpress.com)