September 18, 2014 archive

US Middle East Presence Just Making Things Worse

While Congress is holding hearings on whether or not President Barack Obama’s current plan to contain ISIS and assist so-called moderates of the rebel Syrian army, the CIA expressed its doubts on what the agency most likely perceives as an encroachment on their not so covert operations to train these un-vetted rebels that has been going on for a year in Jordan. That was reported earlier this week by Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim and Sam Stein:

One Democratic member of Congress said that the CIA has made it clear that it doubts the possibility that the administration’s strategy could succeed.

“I have heard it expressed, outside of classified contexts, that what you heard from your intelligence sources is correct, because the CIA regards the effort as doomed to failure,” the congressman said in an email. “Specifically (again without referring to classified information), the CIA thinks that it is impossible to train and equip a force of pro-Western Syrian nationals that can fight and defeat Assad, al-Nusra and ISIS, regardless of whatever air support that force may receive.”

He added that, as the CIA sees it, the ramped-up backing of rebels is an expansion of a strategy that is already not working. “The CIA also believes that its previous assignment to accomplish this was basically a fool’s errand, and they are well aware of the fact that many of the arms that they provided ended up in the wrong hands,” the congressman said, echoing intelligence sources.

Probably for all the wrong reasons, the CIA is right. President Obama’s plan is not just doomed to failure but may well make matters worse.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Ann Cury, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his doubts about the strategy and condemned ISIS


“Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?” Rouhani said.

“If they want to use planes and if they want to use unmanned planes so that nobody is injured from the Americans, is it really possible to fight terrorism without any hardship, without any sacrifice? Is it possible to reach a big goal without that? In all regional and international issues, the victorious one is the one who is ready to do sacrifice.

“Maybe it is necessary for airstrikes in some conditions and some circumstances,” he added. “However, air strikes should take place with the permission of the people of that country and the government of that country.”  [..]

Asked about the extremists’ beheading of American James Foley and Steven Sotloff and Briton David Haines, Rouhani said ISIS’ actions are at odds with Islamic tenets.

“They want to kill humanity,” he said. “And from the viewpoint of the Islamic tenets and culture, killing an innocent people equals the killing of the whole humanity. And therefore, the killing and beheading of innocent people in fact is a matter of shame for them and it’s the matter of concern and sorrow for all the human and all the mankind.”

But he also took issue with the American-led coalition, saying members include nations that helped ISIS with weapons and training.

At emptywheel, Jim White, noticed what the MSNBC article failed to mention

Rouhani told the NBC that the US-led coalition against the ISIL group was not a serious movement and added that US had been present in the region since 2001 to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan but it not only did not solved the terrorism problem but exacerbated the crisis.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has emphatically stated that foreign ground troops are not needed or wanted

Al-Abadi praised the U.S. aerial campaign targeting the militants who have overrun much of northern and western Iraq and carved out a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border, saying it has helped efforts to roll back the Sunni extremists.

But he stressed that he sees no need for the U.S. or other nations to send troops into Iraq to help fight the Islamic State.

“Not only is it not necessary,” he said, “We don’t want them. We won’t allow them. Full stop.” [..]

The comments provided a sharp rebuttal to remarks a day earlier by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American ground troops may be needed to battle Islamic State forces in the Middle East if President Barack Obama’s current strategy fails.

And the insanity will continue

I’m a liar, A Liar, A LIAR!

CIA’s John Brennan Refuses To Tell Senate Who Okayed Spying On The Senate

by Mike Masnick, TechDirt

Mon, Sep 15th 2014

As you may recall, over the past few months, there’s been a rather big story brewing, concerning how the CIA spied on Senate staffers. Specifically, after having explicitly promised not to do so, the CIA snooped on a private network of Senate staffers who were putting together the giant $40 million report on the CIA’s torture program. The CIA tried to spin the story, claiming that they only spied on that network after realizing that those staffers had a document that the CIA thought it had not handed over to the staffers (they had), believing that perhaps there had been a security breach. However, when read carefully, the CIA’s spin actually confirmed the original story: the CIA, against basically all of its mandates and the basic concept of the Constitutional separation of powers, had spied on the Senate. While both the Senate and the CIA asked the DOJ to investigate, eventually the DOJ said the matter was closed and there would be no prosecutions.

At the end of July, the CIA finally came out and admitted that it had spied on the Senate, and effectively admitted that CIA boss John Brennan had flat out lied about it back in March. The CIA’s inspector general then revealed that the spying went even further than people had originally believed. This raised even more questions, but with Brennan “apologizing” and Senator Dianne Feinstein saying that she was satisfied with the apology, it seemed like this unfortunate incident may have been over and done with.

Apparently not. Last week, in the latest meeting concerning the torture report redactions, apparently some Senators asked Brennan to reveal who authorized the spying on the Senate staffers, and Brennan refused to tell them, leading to a bunch of very angry Senators — which may create some further issues, given that the Senators are supposed to oversee the CIA.

The McClatchy report suggests that in the meeting, Brennan “raised his voice at Feinstein.” Senator Levin noted that the CIA’s response to this whole thing is bogus, because even if there is an independent investigation (set up by the CIA) going on, it doesn’t mean that Brennan himself gets to shirk his responsibility to answer questions coming from the Senate committees that oversee his activities.

Of course, the big question is, what will the Senate do about this other than make a lot of noise? Brennan seems to be banking on “absolutely nothing,” and he may be right.

Clapper changes his story on false statements to Congress on bulk collection

By Meredith Clark, NBC News

09/18/14 11:33 AM

It’s a problem when the director of National Intelligence can’t seem to get his story straight.

Speaking Thursday at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington, D.C., James Clapper said that the intelligence community has not willfully violated the law, an assertion which documents and information from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden contradict.

But last year, in an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, Clapper took a different approach to his tense March 2013 exchange with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. When Wyden, a Democrat, asked if the NSA gathers “any type of data at all on millions of Americans,” Clapper responded “No,” and “not wittingly.” After a Guardian report contradicted that statement, Clapper said he gave the “least untruthful” response to a complicated question.

Wyden’s office confirmed that not only had Clapper received Wyden’s questions in advance, but that he had been offered the chance to amend his answer after the public hearing, but did not do so. Wyden has been a leader in legislative efforts to reign in NSA spying.

Clapper Denies Lying, Announces New Ethics Policy

By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept


An unapologetic James Clapper bristled at accusations of misconduct in front of a trade group today, announced that he intends to continue serving as national intelligence director through the rest of the Obama presidency, and released a new “National Intelligence Strategy” (.PDF) that includes a “Code of Ethics” that seems disconnected from the reality of intelligence collection as revealed by Edward Snowden.

Speaking in public, but in a friendly setting, Clapper mocked the notion of intelligence collection without risk, the potential for embarrassment or invasion of privacy. He snidely called it “Immaculate Collection.” (see NBC video.)

“While we’ve made mistakes, to be clear, the IC [intelligence community] never willfully violated the law,” he insisted.

And he complained bitterly of being “accused of lying to Congress.”

Clapper flat-out lied to Sen. Ron Wyden during a Senate hearing in March when he said the NSA does not wittingly “collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

Clapper has previously said he “responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no.”

On Thursday, he said he had been falsely accused of lying “because of a mistake and trying to answer on the spot a question about a specific classified program in an unclassified setting.”

His audience was made up mostly of contractors who do, or want to do, business with the intelligence community. One question from the audience: “You have a very supportive private sector in front of you. What is your most pressing need?”

Clapper said his people have failed to come up with ways to continue accessing critical intelligence without the sort of bulk data collection that was disclosed by Snowden.

“If you have ideas of how we can find the needles without having the haystacks, I’m all ears,” he said.

And I’ll lie again.


On This Day In History September 18

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 18 is the 261st day of the year (262nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 104 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.

The Breakfast Club (Science and Tech Thursday)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIf I may be forgiven a little meta, be careful what you wish for.

I had opined to that group of us who put these together I found it easier with a theme and suggested some including Science and Technology to which the universal response was- “What an excellent idea, why don’t you do that?”

They kind of missed my point but being a ‘follow me’ type of leader I’m prepared to show how it can be done.

As always I don’t feel constrained by any particular format other than my own so I’ll start out with your quote

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

-Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science Oriented Video!

Science/Tech News

Busy Days Precede a March Focusing on Climate Change

By LISA W. FODERARO, The New York Times

SEPT. 17, 2014

The run-up to what organizers say will be the largest protest about climate change in the history of the United States has transformed New York City into a beehive of planning and creativity, drawing graying local activists and young artists from as far away as Germany.

“This is the final crunch, the product of six months of work to make the People’s March a big, beautiful expression of the climate movement,” said Rachel Schragis, a Brooklyn-based artist and activist who is coordinating the production of floats, banners and signs.

The march, organized by more than a dozen environmental, labor and social justice groups, is planned to wend its way through Midtown Manhattan along a two-mile route approved by the city’s Police Department last month. It will start at 11:30 a.m. at Columbus Circle, then move east along 59th Street, south on Avenue of the Americas and west on 42nd Street, finishing at 11th Avenue and West 34th Street.

Organizers say it is impossible to predict how many people could show up. But 1,400 “partner organizations” have signed on, ranging from small groups to international coalitions. In addition, students have mobilized marchers at more than 300 college campuses, and more than 2,700 climate events in 158 countries are planned to coincide with the New York march, including rallies in Delhi, Jakarta, London, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro.

In New York, organizers are expecting 496 buses from as far away as Minnesota and Kansas to bring marchers.

“The most useful gallon of gasoline anyone will ever burn is the one that gets them to the march,” Mr. McKibben said. (By contrast, all floats will be pulled by biodeisel-powered cars and trucks or by hand, organizers said.)

Science/Tech Blogs

The Obligatories, News, and Blogs below.

Late Night Karaoke

TDS/TCR (Democrats of Convenience)


I’m your Pusherman

Our moderate anti-Assad Syrian allies and Arab coallition members times the square root of negative 1, raised by the power of our real Canadian girlfriend, equals 200 hours of extraordinary rendition.

I assure you TMC gets that one because she doesn’t have the problem with trig identities I do and I watched all 6 seasons of Northern Exposure even the sucky ones without Dr. Joel.

The real news, as well as this week’s guests below.