Thursday, July 25, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, a new report asserts Nouri is contemplating martial law and more, some in Parliament want to initiate a protective government, Ed Snowden remains in Russia, the poll about the huge shift is actually a poll revealing no real shift and no real poll, some members of the US Congress try to end the illegal spying while others embrace it, and more.
The Press Trust of India notes, “”The US is not asking for ‘extradition’, but simply the return of Mr Snowden. We have sent many people back to Russia,” ambassador Michael McFaul wrote on Twitter.” Michal McFaul is an idiot who is openly hostile to Russia and has been for decades so it’s another one of Barack’s failed appointments. Extradition is the term. “Return” is not the term. McFaul is not only an idiot, he’s also a liar (a fairly common trait, many would say, among those who were Hoover Institute fellows). He knows the difference. Ed Snowden is in another country and the US government wants him in the US to charge him with crimes. Russia is being asked to participate in extradition. Just because McFaul is one of the few ambassadors Barack’s appointed who didn’t buy his seat doesn’t mean that he has integrity.
Snowden is whistle-blower Ed Snowden who remains trapped in a Russian airport as an elderly man mocks him on TV, as outlets claim the American public is turning against him and as the US Senate contemplates measures against Russia. What is going on?
A great deal, but first reality, Ed Snowden is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting. At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work. Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden’s revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora. US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a “secret court order” had been used to collect information on American citizens “whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.” Sanders went on to say, “That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans.” The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported, was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, “People want to keep the homeland safe.” The spin included statements from Barack himself. Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, “Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move.” Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that “we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about.” Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that “the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.” The more Barack attempted to defend the spying, the more ridiculous he came off. Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reviewed Barack’s appearance on The Charlie Rose Show and observed of the ‘explanations’ offered, “None of that actually explains why this program is necessary. If there’s a phone number that the NSA or the FBI gets that is of interest, then they should be able to get a warrant or a court order and request information on that number from the telcos. None of that means they should be able to hoover up everything.” As US House Rep John Conyers noted, “But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else. You’ve already violated the law, as far as I am concerned.” Barack couldn’t deal with that reality but did insist, in the middle of June, that this was an opportunity for “a national conversation.” He’s always calling for that because, when it doesn’t happen, he can blame the nation. It’s so much easier to call for “a national conversation” than for he himself to get honest with the American people. And if Barack really believes this has kicked off “a national conversation” then demonizing Ed Snowden is a really strange way to say “thank you.”
An elderly man mocks him? David Letterman, the true definition of ass — actually the true definition of ass with nose hair. Up close, David Letterman’s nose hair is probably his most distinguished characteristic and, no, that’s not a plus. Last night the angry, bitter and, yes, highly sexist, talk show host decided the thing to do was a skit mocking Ed Snowden (again mocking, actually). That’s because David is incredibly stupid. That’s why women have long complained about their treatment on his show and why CBS is eager to move Letterman to the door. Long after he’s forgotten — and he’s no Johnny Carson — Ed Snowden’s revelations will have still made a difference and maybe that’s what pisses Dave off the most these days? No, what pisses him off the most is that his staid and dull CBS program is a lousy way to end the career especially when compared to NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman — a program that actually found him offering some cultural significance. But that’s when Merrill Markoe was in charge of the smiling creation known as “Dave” and not the hack writers Letterman pays on the cheap these days. Today, tired, old Letterman has all the significance and cachet of Shecky Greene. Attacking Ed Snowden in skits only ensures that he fades all the quicker.
The US Senate isn’t fading away anytime soon (“sadly,” some may add). But Press TV reports they’re “considering possible trade sanctions against Russia” should it grant asylum to Ed Snowden. Having failed at his efforts to kill the Winter Olympics, Senator Lindsey Graham is now pushing this because, clearly, nothing matters more to the citizens of South Carolina than this issue. See, things are perfect in South Carolina and — Oh, wait, unemployment has gone up. Well, at least your seat is safe and — Oh, wait. David Sherfinski (Washington Times) reports that a significant conservative challenge is mounting against you for the 2014 GOP primary. Well, at least you’ll be known as the senator obsessed with Russia. Certainly, the unemployed and those fearful of becoming unemployed will be thrilled with your focus on that. Reuters reports, “A US Senate panel voted unanimously Thursday to seek trade or other sanctions against Russia or any other country that offers asylum to Edward Snowden. The 30-member Senate Appropriations Committee adopted by consensus an amendment to a spending bill that would direct Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with congressional committees to come up with sanctions against any country that takes Snowden in.”
Which brings us to the poll. After weeks and weeks of attacks from MSNBC (and Letterman), ABC and the Washington Post want to do a new poll and how it was shopped around, the results. Or, if you know a damn thing about polling, the ‘results.’ I really hoped someone else would do the work this time but we can only wait so long.
Question 13 is the one that everyone’s zoomed in on. Well, no, they haven’t. That would require work. They’ve zoomed in on what has been billed as the results of the poll but it’s question 13. The false claim is presented by Jon Cohen and Dan Balz (Washington Post) when they insist, “In the new poll, 53 percent say Snowden should be charged with a crime, up 10 percentage points in a month.” They at least fail to lead with that — probably because they realize it’s trumped up and not reality. Gary Langer (ABC News) opens with, “Public attitudes have shifted against Edward Snowden, with more than half of Americans now supporting criminal charges against the former security contractor who’s disclosed details of surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency.” Out of the mouths of idiots.
So what’s the reality?
As always, go to the raw data. There you’ll find the question: “A former government contractors named Edward Snowden has released information to the media about intelligence-gathering efforts by the U.S. National Security Agency. Do you support or oppose Snowden being charged with a crime for disclosing the NSA’s intelligence-gathering efforts? Do you fell that way strongly, or somewhat?”
First up, the question has changed since June. When you alter the wording — which they admittedly did (follow the note by the asterisk), you can’t claim you’re measuring the same thing. So let’s lose the notion that the respondents in both polls are responding to the same question. And since the new phrase is a charged one that benefits the administration, let’s really stop comparing the June and July results — whores can continue to compare them because whores busy their bodies so much that their minds never have time for actual thought.
The reality is 36% favor prosecution, 19% oppose it (in the case outlined in the question). Somewhat? The case is known. If you have an opinion on either side, you have a strong opinion, you have a firm one. This story didn’t just emerge yesterday. When you add the somewhats you get 36%. That’s the figure of people who feel they have to give an answer but don’t really have an opinion and they need to be lumped in with the 11%. That gives you 47% of Americans have no opinion.
If you think Ed’s action warrant criminal prosecution, you have a strong feeling. If you think (as I do) that Ed doesn’t deserve to be criminally prosecuted, you have a strong feeling. Those of us in the two camps know where we stand. The 47% of Americans do not.
There are numerous reasons why Americans now feel more ‘fogged’ about the issues involved than they did a month ago. This can include the attacks from MSNBC as well as the near daily attacks by the State Dept (I believe there have been only two State Dept press briefings that did not demonize Ed) and by the White House. It can also include, and this is probably the largest effect, the reports on Ed that divorced his presence in Russia from the actual story (of revelations by him and the government’s demonization of him). I would also include a chunk in there (small but significant) for China and Russia in terms of fears of Americans that he’s going to reveal state secrets to those two governments. That’s not going to happen and probably within six to eight weeks that small chunk of people responding based upon that will be an even smaller chunk and no longer significant.
We’ve taken on polls here since 2004. You can check our online record, there are no mistaken interpretations here thus far. We’ve taken on polls with results we agreed with as well as with results we opposed. It has nothing to do with either (though I’m more inclined to explore a poll whose ‘reported’ ‘results’ raise my eyebrows). The analysis above is what the data says. People may like it or they may hate it but that’s the reality of the data. It’s a real shame that common sense is in such short supply at ABC where they try to run with a finding that’s both extreme and false. At least the Washington Post, running with the same finding, didn’t lead with it.
I would further add that when taking responses in the United States, you do so in the native tongue. If you’re speaking — as they were in administering the poll (again, look at the raw data) — in Spanish, I think you’re poll is clouded. Why? Because you’re presenting this as a national security issue, that’s what your poll is doing. If a respondents isn’t comfortable responding in English, that usually means they hail from another country. Asking a person who has immigrated questions about national security in a host country can alarm the respondent. This is a polling no-no. You do not know where the person hails from, you do not know if they left their country of origin due to safety concerns, you do not know how safe they feel their answers are, you do not know if they are a resident who can be deported. Any of these factors can result in a respondent giving a false response to a poll on US national security issues and government spying. The entire poll is flawed and those administrating it wasted everyone’s money.
The spying took place and it will now continue. The Voice of Russia (link is audio) noted this development.
Crystal Park: Despite the major public uproar caused by Edward Snowden’s revelation the NSA is spying on Americans’ phone records, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has announced the controversial program has been renewed for another three months. Since Snowden’s bombshell, President Obama and other government officials have defended the NSA program as a necessary tool to fight terrorism. They have not, however, released the legal reasoning to justify the surveillance, and energy is clearly building in Congress to narrow its scope and challenge its legality.
Crystal Park discussed the issues with the ACLU‘s Patrick Toomey. Excerpt.
Patrick Toomey: The fact that the NSA disclosed the extension of the order, we think, was a self-serving strategy to show that the court has not been shaken in its confidence and its reasoning in support of the program and that it reauthorized the phone record collection of all Americans’ phone calls despite the public uproar that’s followed Mr. Snowden’s disclosures. But I would note for the public that the NSA has not yet revealed the legal reasoning that stands behind the program, the court order is still secret that the FISA court has not released that order to the public and, therefore, the public has no way of really scrutinizing the legal interpretations that went into it.
Crystal Park: Sure, the Americans are not going to know the nitty gritty and the legality of the program but do you think that this is a precedent that Edward Snowden has set just by revealing the fact that the program exists and the NSA realizes that they have an angry public to answer to? Do you think that, in one way, this is something good that has come out of the revelation from Edward Snowden?
Patrick Toomey: We certainly think it’s good that the public is learning more. You know, it is unfortunate that the NSA’s hand was forced in this way and we don’t believe that their commitment to transparency goes anywhere beyond really what they view as mere necessity in their management of public relations. They clearly do not want to be having this discussion. They think that the debate over the legality of this program should be off the table. We are glad that Mr. Snowden has spurred this debate but we really hope that it will produce much more transparency than just the NSA’s disclosure that the program itself has been extended. We really want the public to have an open debate about the balance between national security and their liberties. And that debate is still developing and still really needs to happen in a public way.
Crystal Park: So, Patrick I assume that you believe the only reason why the NSA has come out to announce the program has extended is simply because of what happened with Edward Snowden, otherwise they wouldn’t have done such a thing.
Patrick Toomey: That’s exactly right. I think that apart from that, it would not have come out.
Last night, the US House of Representatives had a chance to end the spying. They failed to do so. BBC News reports:
In a 205-217 vote, lawmakers rejected an effort to restrict the National Security Agency’s (NSA) ability to collect electronic information.
The NSA’s chief had lobbied strongly against the proposed measure.
The vote saw an unusual coalition of conservatives and liberal Democrats join forces against the programme.
A fact sheet on the amendment noted:
The Amash-Conyers amendment ends NSA’s blanket collection of Americans’ telephone records. It does this by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation.
The amendment has three important practical effects. First, it ends the mass surveillance of Americans. The government no longer is authorized under Sec. 215 to hold a pool of metadata on every phone call of every American. Second, the amendment permits the government to continue to acquire business records and other “tangible things” that are actually related to an authorized counterterrorism investigation. The government still has access to this tool under the amendment, but it’s forced to comply with the intent of Congress when it passed Sec. 215. Third, the amendment imposes more robust judicial oversight of NSA’s surveillance. The FISA court will be involved every time NSA searches Americans’ records, and the court will have a substantive, statutory standard to apply to make sure the NSA does not violate Americans’ civil liberties.
What steps would the government take to collect records if the Amash-Conyers amendment were enacted? The government would have to provide facts to the FISA court to show that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought (1) are relevant to an appropriately authorized national security investigation and (2) pertain to the person (including any group or corporation) under investigation.
We know that the government can use that process effectively in its investigations because it already does. Based on the government’s public statements, it appears that the government routinely goes to the FISA court for Sec. 215 orders for tangible things pertaining to persons under investigation. If the government uses non-bulk collection for other Sec. 215 orders, there is no good reason why the government needs bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata.
Shaun Waterman (Washington Times) also notes the vote:
Top intelligence officials from the Obama and Bush administrations, along with senior House lawmakers from both parties, succeeded Wednesday in heading off the first legislative challenge to the domestic snooping program exposed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Arrayed against them was an equally odd cross-section of the political spectrum. Tea party libertarian Republicans and Democratic civil rights advocates — generally at odds — were united behind an amendment to a must-pass defense spending bill that would defund the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records.
@RepJohnConyers Floor Speech on Amendment Ending the #NSA’s Mass Surveillance of Americans http://democrats.judiciary.house.gov/press-release/conyers-floor-statement-amendment-ending-nsa%E2%80%99s-mass-surveillance-americans …
@DailyBeast – @RepJustinAmash, @RepJohnConyers, and the Mavericks Fighting For Your Civil Liberties http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/25/amash-conyers-and-the-mavericks-fighting-for-your-civil-liberties.html …
Of the vote, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) offers:
The amendment failed, unfortunately, but the 205-217 vote showed that many in the House were willing to buck party leadership in favor of the American public’s demands to see the NSA powers curbed.
Public [opinion] is overwhelmingly against the NSA’s surveillance, but it takes a long time for it to trickle into the halls of Congress, and even longer to find its way into the Senate. That the Amash Amendment managed not only to get a hearing but to come within a hair’s breadth of passing is an encouraging sign that public sentiment is starting to get noticed on this issue.
Today, Ed Snowden was yet again a topic in the US State Dept press briefing. Marie Harf was the spokesperson handling the briefing.
QUESTION: Do you have any – do you have an update on Edward Snowden, anything new?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update. It’s still our belief that he’s in the transit lounge at the Moscow Airport, and nothing new on that.
QUESTION: And the Senate bill that was passed yesterday about getting the State Department to advise lawmakers on punishments for asylum-seekers, where are you on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that, but I’m happy to look into it and get back to you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
[. . .]
QUESTION: Can we have one on Snowden?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday, and I think even before the U.S. was seeking clarity – I mean, how long does it take to seek clarity? Can we get – did you get any clarity from the Russians about what they plan to do?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been in discussions through appropriate channels, as you know, with the Russians on this. We continue to make the point that he needs to be returned to the United States. I think the clarity that Jen mentioned yesterday was in reference to his current status, because yesterday when we were down here, there was a lot of question if he was leaving or not. It is our belief, it is our understanding, that he is still in the transit lounge of the airport. So, yes, we do have clarity on that.
QUESTION: And what is Russia’s intent?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: And do you know what Russia is saying that it wants to do? I mean, or is it telling you?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to read out private diplomatic conversations or speculate on what their intent is. We’ve made it clear what our position is, that he needs to be returned to the United States to face these charges as soon as possible.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I think the U.S. has given Russian citizens, about 2,500 Russian citizens, asylum automatically. I think the number for China is, like, 40,000. These are numbers from the Justice Department. Do you have some empathy with Moscow considering this case is deep as it is, considering so many thousands of their nationals have been given asylum here?
MS. HARF: Well, what we said to the Russians is what we will continue to say, that he is a U.S. citizen accused of very serious felony charges. This – we’re not comparing this case to any other. He needs to be returned to the United States, where he will be afforded a free and fair trial.
I would also underscore that we are asking Russia to build on our cooperative history of working together on law enforcement issues, particularly in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. So we continue to press this with the Russians, and will do so going forward.
QUESTION: But there are two – specifically two Russians that are considered – that Russia considers terrorists who came to the United States. I believe they are Chechens. I gave the names – I’m sorry I don’t have them right with me, but I gave them to the State Department yesterday.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And they’re specifically saying that these guys are terrorists, and the United States did not extradite them; therefore, why do you expect us to extradite anyone back to you? So, could we get an answer to that?
MS. HARF: Let me double-check on the names. I know that you gave them to us, and I’ll check on where that stands.
But again, we are not comparing this to any other case. We’ve been clear with the Russians that he is a U.S. citizen wanted on very serious charges here, and he needs to be returned to the United States. But I can check on those, Jill. I know you gave those to us. I’ll check on that for you.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Jen mentioned that there were hundreds of Russians who have been returned back to Moscow at their request, and I asked for some more details. Do you have those details?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional details for you on that today. I’m happy to provide them as we get them.
QUESTION: And also, I thought yesterday the clarity that was being sought was whether Russia had actually issued him with a document that would allow him to leave the transit lounge.
MS. HARF: I think what Jen said was that we were seeking clarity on his current situation, because there were a lot of conflicting reports about whether he had left or was leaving or was looking for certain documents. Again, he is – remains in the lounge at the airport, so we have clarity on where he is, and we will continue to make our case with the Russians.
QUESTION: Do you know whether Moscow has actually issued him with this document that would allow him to leave?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any details on that for you.
Ed Snowden was also noted on Democracy Now! today (link is text, audio and video) as guest Jeremy Scahill noted that the White House attempts war on the press in foreign countries as well as they attempted to block the release of journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye from a Yemeni prison. Excerpt.
Shocking news was reported in Iraq today but there was no effort by the US press to pick it up nor was there any effort to ask a single question about Iraq in today’s State Dept press briefing. Dar Addustour reported that certain elements of the Iraqi government (these would be Nouri and pro-Nouri elements — that goes unstated in the article) are considering a six-point plan that these elements state will address the rising violence and curtail it. The plan will do no such thing. What it will actually do, if implemented, is inflame tensions even further and cause the slow building civil war to erupt in raging flames. So what’s Nouri’s plan?
This is not a plan for stability. It is a plan to carry out mass killings and to do so as far away from the world’s eye as possible. And the most shocking thing may be that the western press hasn’t even noted this report.
In this already tense climate, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Parliament is contemplating what is being termed a government of salvation which would call for the resignation of Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in an effort to reduce violence and to address the political crises. The plan is said to be discussed by members of Iraqiya, Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc and the Turkmen Front. All Iraq News reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is stating that a salvation government is not possible and that, “The current government will not resign because the remaining time of its term is very short. We need a national agreement and to nominate the security ministers and to have a transparent revelation of what is going on in the country.”
Former Prime Minister Ibrahiam al-Jaafari spoke of Nouri today. Kitabat reports he called out Nouri’s recent verbal attacks on Moqtada and maintains that Nouri’s remarks are an effort to create a crisis which will help distract from the two prison breaks this week. Alsumaria notes that, in a press conference today, Speaker of Parliament al-Nujaifi noted that a Parliamentary commission is investigating the prison breaks and will have findings to release by this Sunday. Alsumaria also notes that the Human Rights Commission of Iraq is stating the prison breaks are a “disgrace” and a stain for Nouri. All Iraq News notes that Nouri is supposed to meet later today with Osama al-Nujaifi.
HOFFMAN: The stereotype is that terrorists attack, you know, innocent civilians, soft accessible targets. When you’re hitting a prison, you’re talking about – at least in theory – one of the most hardened target sets within a country. And when you could hit two of them simultaneously and successfully, that’s very worrisome.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Worrisome not just because of the sophistication of the attacks, but also because the prison breaks provided the group with hundreds of new recruits.
MYRIAM BENRAAD: I’m Myriam Benraad. I’m research fellow in Middle East studies at Science Po Paris Center for International Research and Studies.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Benraad has been writing about Iraqi prisons for nearly a decade, and she says this operation is a little different from what happened in Yemen, because this time, the men who escaped were ordinary recruits.
BENRAAD: They’re mostly Salafists, some of them known for being former insurgents. There’s no real figure, high-level figure of al-Qaida in the prisons.
In other (or possibly related) news, Dar Addustour reports that State of Law’s Haider al-Abadi and Citizen bloc MP Aziz Okkaily got into a physical altercation in Parliament on Wednesday.
Outside of Parliament, violence continues as well. Iraq Body Count counts 759 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month through yesterday. Earlier today, National Iraqi News Agency reported 2 suspects were shot dead in Mosul, a Kirkuk car bombing left six police officers injured, an attack on the Peshmerga in Erbil left 1 taxi driver dead and four security elements injured, and a home in Basra that allegedly sold alcohol was bombed. This evening the violence continued. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinana Salaheddin (AP) report that a Noufel cafe was bombed resulting in 16 deaths and twenty people being injured and a cafe near Baghdad was bombed leaving 2 people dead and six injured. Xinhua adds, “In a separate incident, a truck driver and two companions were shot dead by gunmen while they were travelling in their truck loaded with foodstuff in Adheim area, about 60 km north of Baquba, the source said.”
Yesterday, the United Nations noted:
The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) until 31 July 2014 so it can continue to advise and support the country, which has been hit by the worst violence in years, to progress on the path to stability and development.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body also called on the Government of Iraq to continue to provide security and logistical support to the Mission, and on Member States to continue to provide it with sufficient resources.
Further, the Council decided that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq and UNAMI shall continue their mandate with regard to overseeing outstanding issues relating to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The mandate renewal comes amid an upsurge in violence and terrorist acts that have targeted mainly civilians and civilian infrastructure in Iraq, resulting in high civilian casualties at levels not seen since 2008, according to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on UNAMI.