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US drones spy on Americans – ‘incidentally’

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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.

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Is Fast and Furious the Next Watergate?

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by Alan Caruba on May 5th, 2012

When suspects in a crime are interrogated, they often develop memory loss. When the crime is running guns to drug cartels on both sides of the border, the crime involves the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer, Brian Terry, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Jaime Zapata, and countless Mexican citizens.

Katie Pavlich has written an extraordinary expose, “Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-Up” (Regnery Publishing). She is a veteran agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) who has meticulously documented a story that should result in contempt of Congress action against Attorney General Eric Holder and possibly Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano as well.

It is an appalling story of arrogance, stupidity, and the intimidation of ATF agents who dared to question and expose the operation. It is a story of deception at the highest levels of our government. Both Holder and Napolitano exhibited memory lapses before a congressional committee. Both knew about a federal government authorized gun-running operation to Mexico called “Fast and Furious.”

Pavlich reports that “Fast and Furious was closely followed by Department of Justice officials. On multiple occasions, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke met with Phoenix ATF Director Bill Newell to discuss the progress of the Fast and Furious operation. ‘There were DOJ attorneys and prosecutors who were involved in this since the beginning, giving advice,” testified ATF Special Agent Peter Forcelli.

As Pavlich details it, “Operation Fast and Furious wasn’t a ‘botched’ program. It was a calculated and lethal decision to purposely place thousands of guns in the hands of ruthless criminals.”

The operation was designed to attack the Second Amendment right of Americans to purchase and bear arms, a right considered so essential to the nation that it followed directly after the First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of the press, the prohibition of the establishment of a nationally sanctioned religion, and the right of Americans to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

We are in the grip of an administration that would restrain and erase those rights, and which engaged in a reckless and ruthless operation to achieve that goal. It is an administration that is moving toward the confirmation of a United Nations treaty that would override and eliminate the right to own and bear arms.

The facts regarding Holder’s and Napolitano’s testimony are clear:

“Eric Holder was sent five memos, personally addressed to him, in the summer of 2010 that detailed Operation Fast and Furious.” Holder claimed he first knew about the program in February 2011.

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has feigned ignorance when questioned about Fast and Furious. She claims she only found out about the program after Brian Terry was murdered.”

“She visited the White House with Eric Holder to visit President Obama just a day before Holder testified on Capitol Hill about Fast and Furious, leaving the reason for her visit blank.”

Pavlich writes, “These are the facts: There are still 1,400 Fast and Furious guns missing and ATF agents are not actively trying to track them down. Ten thousand round of ammunition were sold to cartel-linked straw buyers under the watch of the ATF. Eight hundred of the original 2,500 weapons sold through Fast and Furious have already been linked to criminal activity.”

The program, observers believer, was the deliberate effort to blame the violence in Mexico and in some cases in America on the gun shops, but those shops were intimidated into participating in Fast and Furious out of fear that ATF would take away their licenses.

After questioning ATF and Justice Department witnesses, Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa, R), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a January 31 letter to ATF officials saying, “As you may be aware, obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime. Additionally, denying or interfering with employee’s rights to furnish information to Congress is also against the law.”

On May 3rd Rep. Darrell Issa, (CA) Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent every member of his committee a 64-page draft contempt order against AG Holder, along with a 17-page memo outlining the history of the scandal. Only one attorney general has been found in contempt, Janet Reno in 1975.

Fast and Furious is redolent with memories of the Watergate cover-up.

On March 23, 2011, in a Univison interview, Obama said, “First of all, I did not authorize it” and when further pressed said, “Eric Holder did not authorize it. He’s been very clear that our policy is to catch gunrunners and put them in jail.” The facts strongly suggest otherwise insofar as Fast and Furious literally authorized a gunrunning program under the aegis of ATF.

As Pavlich noted, “Many people in ATF saw what was happening and tried to warn the bureau, but the new corrupt and arrogant culture of management had become too powerful and intimidating. Field agents who spoke up were punished for having an opinion and daring to voice it. Whistleblowers had their reputation, careers, and finances shattered.”

This culture of corruption is endemic to the Obama administration and as more and more examples become known it has been in full panic mode to suppress the truth. No matter what the outcome of the testimony of two of its top appointees, the only way to save America is to vote out President Obama in November and ensure that Mitt Romney has a Republican Congress.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

NGO crackdown: Gagging democracy or national self-defense?

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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.

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Leaked: Bin Laden not buried at sea, body moved on CIA plane to US

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Osama bin Laden (Reuters / Stringer)

The body of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was not buried at sea, according to leaked emails of intelligence firm Stratfor, as revealed by WikiLeaks.

Stratfor’s vice-president for intelligence, Fred Burton, believes the body was “bound for Dover, [Delaware] on [a] CIA plane” and then “onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda [Maryland],” an email says.

The official version is that the body of Al-Qaeda’s top man, who was killed by a US raid in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, was buried at an undisclosed location at sea in a proper Muslim ceremony.

“If body dumped at sea, which I doubt, the touch is very Adolph Eichman like. The Tribe did the same thing with the Nazi’s ashes,” Burton commented in another email. Eichman was one of the masterminds of the Holocaust by Nazi Germany. He was captured by Mossad agents in Argentina and, tried in Israel, found guilty and executed in 1962. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea over the Mediterranean.

“Eichmann was seen alive for many months on trial before being sentenced to death and executed. No one wanted a monument to him so they cremated him. But i dont know anyone who claimed he wasnt eicjhman [sic]. No comparison with suddenly burying him at sea without any chance to view him which i doubt happened [sic],” Stratfor CEO George Friedman replied.

“The US Govt needs to make body pics available like the MX’s do, with OBL’s pants pulled down, to shout down the lunatics like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck,” Burton says in another message.

In another missive Burton says Osama’s body “is a crime scene and I don’t see the FBI nor DOJ letting that happen.”

WikiLeaks began publishing Stratfor emails in late February. The archive was obtained by the hacker group Anonymous, which successfully attacked one of the firm’s servers. More than 5 million emails were apparently stolen.

Stratfor is a US-based intelligence firm called the “shadow CIA” by some media. Among its clients are several US agencies and many big companies. The company relies on paid tips from informants placed in high circles of business, government and security all around the world.

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What money? Ponzi scheme cash not too dirty for Obama & Co.

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Published: 15 February, 2012, 04:26

A number of prominent US politicians, including President Barack Obama, are refusing to comply with a federal court order that they return donations from a known Ponzi scheme. The funds amount to $1.8 million in losses for the bilked investors.

­The then-freshly inaugurated President Obama had received $4,600 for his campaign from Stanford Financial Services. Obama’s campaign then donated the sum to charity in February 2009, just days after Stanford was taken over by the US government following charges of massive fraud. Republican and Democratic national fundraising committees, along with the campaign funds of various Senators, Representatives and the President himself, all received donations from the Houston financier Allan Stanford, who is currently facing charges of masterminding the second-largest Ponzi scheme in history – totaling $7 billion, second only to Bernard Madoff‘s estimated $50 billion fraud.

Obama is now catching criticism for refusing the court’s demand that the recipients return the donated money to the defrauded investors. Kevin Sadler, a lead counsel for the investors entitled to repayment, compared the move by Obama’s campaign to taking money from “a guy who goes into a Seven Eleven and robs the store.”

Following Stanford’s arrest in 2009, his Stanford Financial Group was placed under the management of a receiver. The receiver was charged with compensating investors – some of whom lost over half a million dollars in savings. The problem was that a large portion of the money had been donated to the campaign funds of high-profile politicians.

Other notable politicians owing money to the receivership include Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). The total amount of money owed by party committees on both sides of the aisle is over $1.5 million that, so far, these committees have refused to pay back.

But some Senators and Representatives complied with the demands and returned the money they had received from Stanford. These include Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). However, the $154,000 recovered from these politicians is a mere fraction of the $1.8 million owed to Stanford’s investors.

A scarcity of legal precedents and the difficulty to prove that the money received by a campaign was known to be illicit remain major hurdles in recovering the money.

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